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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Biden: Supreme Court Immunity Decision Means "Virtually No Limits To What A President Can Do"; NY Times: Trump Moves To Overturn Manhattan Conviction, Citing Immunity Decision; Biden Addresses Trump Immunity Decision As He Seeks To Calm Democrats About Age, Health After Poor Debate; Poll After Debate Finds 72 Percent Of Voters Say Biden Should Not Be Running; Pres. Biden Wages Bid To Save Reelection Campaign; Steve Bannon Begins Four-Month Federal Prison Sentence On Contempt Of Congress Violation. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 20:00   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: So imperative is he the best candidate to run the baton through November, that is something he must prove and prove again. Because, again, Thursday night set this party and many voters into so much unease again one speech will not undo Thursday but this is what they're trying to do to make this about Donald Trump.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: And we'll be watching all of that, MJ appreciate the new reporting tonight thank you for sticking around through this as well Jeff, Van, always good to have all of you with us. Thank you for your insight.

Thanks to all of you for joining us this evening. I'm Erica Hill. Stay tuned, AC360 starts right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, President Biden addresses the nation after the Supreme Court hands down a ruling for the ages giving the former president a level of immunity from January 6 charges and blurring the line critics warn between presidents and kings.

Also tonight, new reporting how long some Democrats close to the president have been concerned about his condition as the calls for him to get out of the race continue and his supporters push back hard.

And later, one of the former president's senior advisors and January 6 agitators, Steve Bannon, reports to prison. Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Just minutes ago, President Biden who once chaired the Senate Committee in charge of vetting Supreme Court nominees had this to say about today's historic ruling on presidential immunity.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity that fundamentally changed for all practical purposes. Today's decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do. This is a fundamentally new principle and it's a dangerous precedent.


COOPER: The president's comments obviously come in the midst of political turmoil with a lot of questions about his health and fitness for office, we have new reporting by Carl Bernstein on that shortly. But first the ruling by the Supreme Court. It certainly delays Jack Smith's January 6 case against the former president potentially affects any state election interference cases against him and there's the larger precedent it sets which President Biden just underscored.

Here's Chief Justice Roberts writing for a 6-3 conservative majority today, "The president therefore may not be prosecuted for exercising his core constitutional powers and he is entitled at a minimum to a presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts."

In the immediate sense, this means sending the Trump election subversion case back to the trial judge for her to determine subject to further appeal which parts of the indictment cover official acts. But in a larger sense as the president just mentioned this ruling sets a new standard for all presidents in the future which critics including the courts three dissenters say fundamentally and destructively reshapes the power of the presidency.

Here's how Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it, quote, "The court effectively creates a law-free zone around the President, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the Founding." Fifty years ago former president - a former president said this and shocked people when he did.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.


COOPER: Shocking then, an open question now. Joining us as former Trump attorney James Trusty; former federal judge, Nancy Gertner; best-selling author and Supreme Court biographer, Jeffrey Toobin; former federal judge, Shira Scheindlin; and CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod.

Jeffrey Toobin, let's start with you. What's your reaction to how the president framed this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's a big, big victory for Donald Trump. It means that the January 6 case, the case before Judge Chutkan in the District of Columbia is, at a minimum, delayed until after the election but I think will never be tried. Because if you look at how Chief Justice Roberts framed the issue, he said that all official conduct is not only off-limits for prosecution but there can't even be any evidence presented about official conduct.

And the definition of official conduct is so broad that it seems to eat up the entire indictment in my view of - in the January 6 case. So I think either Judge Chutkan or an appeals court or the Supreme Court will wind up dismissing the January 6 case because it involves official conduct.

COOPER: Judge Gertner I saw you kind of shaking your head ...


COOPER: ... about that, but I want to read you part of Sotomayor's dissent where she lists potential illegal conduct by a future president could be shielded from prosecution by the ruling orders, she says, "Orders the Navy's SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold on to power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for pardon? Immune." Is she correct?

GERTNER: There's no question that it has been inoculated, official acts have been inoculated, that even as to the non-official acts, even to the private actors, so, you know, the state electoral officials that Trump called you have to prove that there's no danger of intrusion on the authority of the executive branch. In other words the bar they have said is quite high.

There's still some room. I don't agree with Jeff.


But one of the things that's going to happen is that they've created such a complex factual test that even as Judge Chutkan says this is in and this is out, it'll go up to the Court of Appeals, it'll go up to the Supreme Court and it will never be tried and that I agree.

COOPER: Judge Scheindlin?

SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: Well, it'll never be tried if Trump wins the presidency because he'll dismiss the case, so that's the first way ...

GERTNER: Right, right ...

SCHEINDLIN: ... it'll never be tried, because it's not going to get tried before the election. There's too much to do in the district court to sort out where each charge falls. It is - is it in the court constitutional, is it on this outer perimeter where it's only presumptive immunity, we have absolute immunity and presumptive immunity. But is there any real difference, because the government would have to just prove it so there's an awful lot of immunity.

Then, we get the private conduct. But as we've all said in the private conduct, you can't use the evidence of the protected conduct which makes it impossible to try the case. So it's really a very bad opinion in that in one sentence I would like to summarize. They should write at the end of it, this case is precedential only for this case.

GERTNER: This is like in Bush v. Gore.

SCHEINDLIN: Exactly, and should not be a precedent for any other purpose ... GERTNER: Right, right ...

SCHEINDLIN: ... but this case, that would have been at least honest.

GERTNER: I also think that they were creating this incredibly complex test to justify the amount of time they spent on the case. They said that over and over again, well, you know, we have to remand for this complicated factual test. The district court didn't go into this. The district court didn't go into it, because what the district court was saying and the Court of Appeals was saying is I don't know what the meets and bounds of immunity are in the next case, but we know that it doesn't apply here ...

COOPER: Jim ...

GERTNER: ... and that's all they had to say.

COOPER: Jim Trusty, The New York Times is reporting that according to a person with knowledge of the matter Trump began an effort today to throw out his recent criminal conviction in Manhattan and postpone his upcoming sentencing citing the Supreme Court ruling. Trump's lawyers sent a letter to the judge seeking permission to file a motion to set aside the verdict. Do you think that that would be successful.

JAMES TRUSTY, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Yes, I don't know. I mean everything that seems to happen in New York with President Trump seems doomed from the start, so I'm not convinced that pre-presidential activity is going to be the type of thing that Judge Merchan looks to and decides we have to revisit the issue of immunity.

Similarly, I think the Mar-a-Lago case is going to be more difficult to be affected by this because it talks about post-presidential activity. But, you know, at the heart of this Anderson, you know, this is what lawfare brings. You know, when you have prosecutors who pre- select their target and creatively inventively look for evidence to try to justify unique types of charges, it puts pressure on the courts to fight back against the notion of lawfare.

And so at the heart of it Justice Sotomayor in her dissent says exactly what Mike Dreeben said during oral argument for the government that prosecutors don't bring political cases, that there's all these checks that are in place where we don't need to immunize the president. And the reality is this court, the majority of this court is not blind to the context of all of these inventive lawfare moments. So they look at it and they say that might have been the model for a long time, but that kind of trust in the system when it comes to prosecutors is gone now.


TOOBIN: But the question is, you know, is it lawfare to respond when a president for the first time in American history tries to overturn the legitimate results of an election. Yes, it's an unusual case that was filed by the Justice Department here. But this was an unusual circumstance that Donald Trump brought on so the idea that that, you know, that's somehow bad for the legal system I think has things backwards, Jim.

GERTNER: And they ...

SCHEINDLIN: Well, I know you talked about less respect for prosecutors, what about for the High Court? I think the public's perception that the High Court is neutral is gone, that they are a fair body is gone. They have looked completely politicized and the six three spit - split drove the nail in.

GERTNER: It's also very dangerous because what it looks like is the six justices repaid the efforts to get them on the court. I don't mean it physically repaying but clearly they are delivering. Also, with respect to the classified documents case, there is nothing about that, that was - that suggests improper prosecutorial discretion. He had boxes of classified documents, end of discussion. If they did not go after him for that, that would have been troubling.

COOPER: Jim, is this - did you expect this? Is this ruling kind of more in Trump's favor than you expected or pretty much what he thought?

TRUSTY: No, it's pretty much what I thought. I know that the attorneys for President Trump were kind of shooting for the stars and settling for the moon when they said absolute immunity kind of the king can do no wrong version. They didn't get that, but they got something that's obviously very helpful on the January 6 inventive prosecution.

And before we leave the point about Mar-a-Lago, there's a credible allegations sworn to, to a district court judge like a couple of my colleagues here, that says that Jay Bratt, one of the attorney - the lead attorney literally extorted Walt Nauta's attorney to get his cooperation dangled a judgeship in front of him.


So let's not pretend that everything is so clean and tidy when it comes to the conduct of the government and the prosecution in the Mar- a-Lago case. There's much to be explored there and I think a lot of it is getting explored.

COOPER: Judge Scheindlin, what - I mean what about the guardrails for the presidency moving forward?

SCHEINDLIN: Are there any guardrails for the presidency moving forward after this decision? It seems to me that a president, not most presidents, but a president could do exactly what he or she wants even if it's a criminal act, so long as it can be couched as an official act. And that's what scares me so much.

GERTNER: Right. Or using the trappings of power to accomplish what he wants. And I hate to say this, but that's what Orban was doing in Hungary. He didn't you know rescind the constitution using the trappings of power to accomplish what you want and that's what Trump did.

TOOBIN: Trump's lawyers got more than what they asked for. SCHEINDLIN: Yes.


TOOBIN: Because you remember that question in the D.C. Circuit with Judge Pan said, you know, if a president orders an assassination with SEAL Team 6, is that a crime? Everybody thought that was a crime. It's not a crime in this - as a result of this opinion, because it's part of his official acts as commander in chief of the military.

COOPER: David Axelrod, just on the politics of the President - President Biden coming out today, speaking - using a teleprompter and not taking questions, what message do you think the President and his campaign are trying to send with that address?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look this is, you know, the problems that the President has are - have been well discussed and they're going to be discussed further about his acuity and stamina and so on. There are major problems with President Trump and they're all - they all circle around this notion of a guy who doesn't recognize rules and laws, and norms and institutions who doesn't respect guardrails, and now guard - further guardrails have been removed.

We've heard what the president has said along the way in this campaign, President Trump, about what he would do if he would - if he came back about retribution, about vengeance. You know, now it seems like he's getting a green light to use the tools of his office to do just that.

So I think what Biden was trying to do was sort of re-center the race on that, whether he's successful, one press conference isn't. But this issue certainly is center-cut for why he says he's running and why he thinks it's important.

COOPER: Yes. David Axelrod, Jim Trusty, Judge Gertner, Jeffrey Toobin, Judge Scheindlin, thank you. We'll be back with David Axelrod in a moment. Next, more on the drama around the President and questions about his fitness to stay in the race, Carl Bernstein, has new reporting on that.

And later, Steve Bannon goes to prison and the circus that came before.



COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) brief remarks and I provided another data point for anyone trying to assess his physical and mental state from a distance. Tonight though, after a weekend of calls for him to bow out of the race and sharp rebuttals from his supporters, we have some new reporting from Carl Bernstein, CNN Political Analyst, and author, and legendary journalist.

So Carl, according to people you've been talking to, what are you hearing?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, these are people, several of them who are very close to President Biden who love him, have supported him and been - among them are some people who've raised a lot of money for him. And they are adamant that what we saw the other night, the Joe Biden we saw is not an - a one-off, that there have been 15, 20 occasions in the last year and a half when the president has appeared somewhat as he did in that horror show that we witnessed.

And what's so significant is the people that this is coming from and also how many people around the president are aware of such incidents, including some reporters incidentally, who have witnessed some of them. But here we see tonight, as these people say President Biden at his absolute best, and yet these people who have supported him, loved him, campaigned for him, see him often say that in the last six months particularly there has been a marked incidence of cognitive decline and physical (INAUDIBLE) ...

COOPER: What I wonder about is the people who were, you know, working with him at Camp David allegedly in this intensive debate prep, if there were concerns there about this and I don't know if you have any - got any word about that but how anybody involved in that debate prep - I mean, didn't anybody see something that's (INAUDIBLE) ...

BERNSTEIN: Well, the debate prep was supervised by Ron Klain who has been with President Biden for many years. And people I've talked to have all been to Ron Klain in the last year to say we have a problem. We have a problem such as we saw the other night, that there have been numerous instances where the president has lost his train of thought, can't pick it up again, there was a fundraiser at which he started at the podium and then he became very stiff according to the people there as if it were almost a kind of rigor mortis and set in ...

COOPER: This was reportedly - allegedly in June of 2020.

BERNSTEIN: This was June of - this was a year ago almost exactly at the old Four Seasons Restaurant on Park Avenue. And he became very stiff and a chair had to be brought for him to do the latter part of the event. I think that what these folks are saying and have been saying for a while is, yes. He's great when we see him as we have tonight, but he also has these inexplicable moments that we are very concerned about. And you, Ron Klain, and the first family, we need to talk about this. And they've been pushed back repeatedly whenever it's been brought up.

COOPER: And are there - did your sources tell you about topics he's particularly engaged in or are there ...


BERNSTEIN: Not only - and it's not just these same people, there is no question, I have heard for two years how sharp Joe Biden is in his National Security meetings. He has special briefing books on Ukraine, on the situation in Gaza that go down into very detailed military reports. He has an absolute command of the facts. He's sharp as can be. You see the evidence of his being the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, of his work as vice president on foreign relations.

So we're clearly dealing with two sets of one person and it really needs to be explored according to the people I'm talking to and I think an awful lot of major Democrats believe this including some who have made statements to the contrary. But this is a problem that's not going to go away, unless it's explicable. Does this mean doctor's reports? I mean, obviously it'd be great if we could have real doctor's reports from both candidates. Well, that's not going to happen.

COOPER: Yes. Carl Bernstein, stay with us.

I want to bring in CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod, is back, CNN commentator and former Georgia Republican lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, is with us as well, and so as Ashley Etienne, who served as communications director for Vice President Harris, also joining us former Wisconsin governor 2016, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker.

So David, I mean supporters of the president continue to say, look, it was a bad performance in a debate which makes it sound like it was an anomaly. What Carl is reporting about is a number of incidents of - according to the people he's talked to, which - I mean, is it just about a bad debate performance?

AXELROD: Well, I don't think that's the way the public viewed it, obviously. You look at polls and the numbers have further deteriorated as to whether people think he has the fitness to serve I think down to 27 percent in a poll that was released by CBS on Sunday.

So, you know, the problem with his performance wasn't just that it was a very bad performance but it was a bad performance that confirmed people's fears about his capabilities. And you know the whole goal I assume of doing the debate was to dispel those concerns and yet it ended up doing the opposite.

And so, you know, President Obama and other presidents have had bad debates, but it's only - you know, the reason this is so damaging is because it goes to the main concern that people have. It's not about his decency, it's not about his identification with people. I don't think it's about his experience for sure. It's just about stamina and acuity. And on that particular night in front of that vast audience, he didn't display it.

COOPER: Gov. Walker, you're supporting Donald Trump, do you think Joe Biden will be the Democratic candidate for president?

SCOTT WALKER, (R) FORMER WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: I do, I mean, like I said a long ago, I think Joe Biden looking at his crew would gnaw his arm off before he gave up the presidency. Bottom line is he's seeking this for decades. And as many of your panelists have said in the past, it's really tough to make that change, you know, delegates are legally in many states obligated to vote for him at least in the first round. There's all sorts of campaign finance issues.

I think just as an American not as a Republican, it was sad what we saw the other night if it continues, you know continue, to be sad and tragic. My advice for President Trump is going forward don't draw attention to it. American people can see it. Instead, talk about how you're going to do things that make their life better, more affordable, safer, more secure and let the public see what they can see with their own eyes.

COOPER: Do - Ashley, I mean you worked on Biden's 2020 campaign. You worked communications for Vice President Harris. The difference between Biden 2020 debates and this last one is obvious. How can the President reassure people who watched him with pain and fear on that debate stage?

ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VP HARRIS: I mean I think he actually did it on Friday. I think he actually doubled down on it tonight. But here's the narrative that ...

COOPER: But those are teleprompters.

ETIENNE: No, absolutely they are, but you know he still looks strong and with it even on those teleprompters. And, you know, there are times in which --


ETIENNE: ... many elected officials, even former President Trump has not looked strong on a teleprompter. But here's the thing that I think that is - that's being lost and I'd like to go back to what Axe said, and that is Trump also reinforced the negatives about him.

You know, he had none of the challenges that Joe Biden did, but still also underperformed. He - you know, he didn't raise nearly as much money, $6 million short of what Joe Biden raised during the actual debate. Joe Biden's raised $33 million since that point. The push polls show that Independents and new - Nikki Haley voters didn't like his response to January 6, didn't like the fact that he lacked substance and lacked a vision. In addition to that, you know, they also felt like they couldn't trust Donald Trump.


So he actually didn't do himself any favors either and I think that's a narrative that's also being lost in all of this discussion about President Biden.

COOPER: And Geoff, you're a Republican who's endorsed Biden. I'm wondering what you make the defense that many top Democrats are making for him.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's no other way to call it than Thursday was an unmitigated disaster on so many fronts and there's only one way to explain it. They're age-related issues. And these are conversations that happen all across America in homes with aging parents and grandparents whether or not they should drive, whether or not they should handle their own finances.

That inner circle has really got to deep dive and make sure they're giving them honest truths and understanding the gravity of this situation. But politically speaking this 10 percent in the middle that, you know, I certainly find myself in that will determine this next election outcome are a hundred percent totally up for grabs again trying to figure out how do we get through this Donald Trump disaster, how do we find somebody.

And Democrats have a very difficult job in front of them. They've either got to figure out a way to crisis management their way through Joe Biden's performance on Thursday or they got to go figure out the messy sloppy process of picking a candidate that's more centric. If they can get through that and get to convention and actually present somebody that's more moderate, game on, I think there's a huge chance to take Donald Trump and his circus and beat him.

COOPER: Gov. Walker, I'm wondering what you make of - I don't know, if it's hand wringing or you know freak out or real fear among Democrats about what they saw in Joe Biden on that debate stage. I mean, for Donald Trump, you know, many of his top National Security folks and former chief of staff and cabinet officials are not endorsing him again and they have concerns about his fitness. How do you view what the - how the Democrats are handling this?

WALKER: Well, I mean it's fitting before this segment started, you had the man who helped expose the cover-up of Watergate now talking about what many of us believe has been the cover-up the state of mind of President Biden for the last couple of years, at least last year in particular. And I think that's the big fear out there.

The American people saw firsthand in all the three elections I've won statewide here in Wisconsin, I always said the most potent political arguments are the ones people inherently know to be true. The other challenge that I think he has and that President Trump if he's going to win has to capitalize is the economy, high prices. It's not only a number one issue for everyday families, Young America's Foundation where I'm at, we just released a poll literally today and amongst college students nationwide, the number one issue is the economy. That's not a good issue for Joe Biden and if Donald Trump can again stop attacking Biden and just start focusing on how he's going to help people get the economy going again, get prices down, get people back to work, he wins.

COOPER: Carl, I just want to get your reaction on the Supreme Court's ruling on presidential immunity. Obviously, given all your focus on Nixon, you're reporting during Watergate and the parallels between, you know, Nixon and this ruling.

BERNSTEIN: Well, the parallels are that Donald Trump has gone much farther in his criminality than Richard Nixon did. If you look at what occurred on January 6th, an attempted coup by the incumbent president of the United States to hold on to office after a free and fair election, so there's that comparison to begin with.

And then you have the enabling by a Supreme Court, including two justices who shouldn't be on that court in terms of handling these cases, who should have recused themselves, Thomas and Alito. So you have a terrible situation in which any future president of the United States, but especially a Donald Trump who knows, we keep using the expression guardrails, he's never seen a guardrail, that the court has now enabled presidents to have this extraordinary executive authority that is nowhere in the Constitution itself.

Let me say one more thing though about this discussion that we're having about President Biden and these two aspects of them. It's - what's so striking to me is how many descriptions I heard from these Democrats that fit with what we saw the other night, including three meetings by which one of these people was at, in which the president quote was not strong physically or mentally, appearing weak, frail, unsteady, very tentative talking at whispers at times, closed his eyes a lot. There has been a marked deterioration in recent months.

Somehow, it is up to journalists, it is up to Democrats, it is up to the Bidens to let us find out what occurred here and is it just something that's passing or is it something endemic.

COOPER: Carl Bernstein, thank you. Gov. Scott Walker, thank you. David, Geoff and Ashley, stick around.


Up next. more on the hard numbers, new polling out. Harry Enten joins us to break it down. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Moments ago, we heard from President Biden, his first time speaking to the nation since last week's debate from the White House. Despite his campaign efforts to control the damage from that performance, new polls suggest the debate did, in fact, hurt his standing among voters.

Joining me now to break down some of those numbers is CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. So what do the polls say about this notion brought forward by the president's defenders that his age was also considered an issue four years ago?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: You know, if you look at the polling now compare it to it was pre-debate and compare it to was four years ago, it just not even on the same planet, Anderson. If you ask voters now, does Biden have the mental fitness in fact to be president, those numbers are incredibly low.

The percentage who say he does not have the mental fitness, look at this, 72 percent say he does not have the mental fitness in order to be president right now. That's up from 65 percent pre-debate. But compare that to four years ago, the percentage of voters who said that Biden was too old, it was 36 percent. That's half the level that we're looking at right now.


These numbers are not anywhere close to being the same. Four years ago, voters for the most part thought Joe Biden was with it. He could handle the job as president. You look at those numbers now, the fact is voters do not even see them on the same planet. They don't think Biden's with it. They do not believe he has the mental fitness to be president.

And I have to be honest with you, I don't know how he wins with the numbers that we see right now. There is no precedent for the numbers that we're seeing right now for someone running for president, letting alone getting a nomination. These are the types of numbers when you combine them with some of the numbers that we're seeing post-debate that show him trailing Donald Trump, these are the types of numbers that could end a campaign if he can't turn them around.

COOPER: There is some comparison being made between Biden's first debate performance and Ronald Reagan's. And there were questions raised after Reagan's first debate performance. He came back with a second better one.

ENTEN: He came back with a second better one. But the fact is, if you look at the numbers that Ronald Reagan had after that first debate, the percentage of voters who said that Ronald Reagan was too old, look at this, it was just 27 percent. It was 27 percent.

Age was an issue at 27 percent. Now --

COOPER: That was after the first debate.

ENTEN: That was after the first debate. That wasn't before the first debate, that was after the first debate. And I averaged two polls there. So it's not like we're just looking at one number back in '84. We're looking at two polls averaging together. There's 27 percent who said that Ronald Reagan was too old.

Now, that number for Joe Biden, who says that he doesn't have the mental fitness to be president, is well more than double. It's 72 percent. Ronald Reagan was able to recover in that second debate because voters were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The fact is, voters might have been willing to give Joe Biden the benefit of the doubt going to the first debate. But afterwards, I don't see it.

COOPER: All right. Harry Enten, thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Back with me now, David Axelrod, Geoff Duncan, Ashley Etienne. I mean, David, you look at that -- those numbers, those are very alarming. Certainly for, you know, for Democrats, for, you know, Independents who are looking for a candidate.

AXELROD: Yes, there's no question about it, Anderson. As I said in the last block, he was -- they were looking forward to this debate to kind of restart this campaign, set aside these issues about his fitness. And they've been exacerbated.

And remember, you know, you mentioned Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan had a prodigious lead at the time of that first debate. He was a popular president. People were feeling positively about the country. None of those things exist right now. So this is a big gaping wound.

And, you know, the president, listen, one of the things that disturbed me was I was on the other night with Mitch Landrieu, my good friend, Mitch Landrieu, who --

COOPER: Who is coming on shortly.

AXELROD: -- whom I have deep respect. OK, so maybe he's listening. And he said what the first lady said, which is we're not going to allow 90 bad minutes to erase three and a half years of great work. That's not really what elections are about. They're not about the last four years, they're about the next four years.

And what the president lost in that debate wasn't just the ability to erase concerns, but also the ability to draw a sharp contrast with Donald Trump about what the -- what America would look like under each of their presidencies. And that was a big missed opportunity. This isn't about the last four years.

I think the president's done a great job in many, many ways. And he should be proud of that. That's not the question on the table. The question is, is he up for the next four? And that question was made much more significant with that debate performance.

COOPER: Ashely, just -- I mean, there's been now a lot of discussion about would any kind of -- if the president decided not to continue, what -- I mean, what would even be possible? Is it even possible for -- to not have President Biden be the candidate?

ETIENNE: Well, I mean, you know, in hindsight, it was actually quite genius to have this debate in June because there's still a lot of time left on the clock for the president to prove himself. But I also think that, you know, we have the saying in politics that every crisis creates an opportunity.

And I think this is an opportunity for the party to do what it's probably been needing and secretly wanting to do, which is to not pull any punches on this issue anymore, to not make apologies anymore and to actually start to activate all of our assets.

That's the governors, that's the other elected officials, that's the vice president, in particular, to start activating those folks to sort of wrap them around the president, to actually get them out into the country to make this argument about the principles that are on the line, the stakes that are on the line and start to appeal to a greater swath of the voters in the American public.

So that's sort of how I see this is like there's still some time left for the president. But also it really gets us in a position and a posture where we're activating our assets much earlier than we ever have in any presidential campaign.


I, like others, have done maybe four presidential campaigns and it's usually not until two or three weeks out where we start to activate people like former President Obama. But now is the time and I think that's what the party is now sober about and is going to start to take those steps. And that's very encouraging.

COOPER: Geoff, you're a Republican who's endorsed the -- President Biden, but you know about campaigning. I mean, getting all the surrogates in the world out there, does that work if people have a fundamental belief that the candidate is, I mean, according to those poll numbers, a large majority of people polled don't believe he's up to the job?

DUNCAN: There's no other way to describe this in the perfect storm if you're a Republican that wants somebody other than Donald Trump, right? Between the debate performance, the Supreme Court, all of the technical details that continue to fall in Donald Trump's favor, this is a perfect storm and I worry about the next four years if Donald Trump wins.

And as a card-carrying Republican, I don't know who the bench is. I don't know who the donors are in the Democratic Party. I'm just hoping and praying they get it right. I'm just loaning myself into this for one vote so that I can get my party back, take the next four years to rebuild a GOP 2.0, something that I'm proud to hand off to my kids, something that I'm proud to tell the rest of the world that we're able to gravitate towards civility and honor and bipartisanship on so many important issues.

That's the only reason why I'm here. And I'm confused, I'm struggling to figure out what's the best step. I just hope the Democrats get it right going forward.

COOPER: David, I mean, essentially now is the stance for those who are rallying around, you know, the president. Look, it's a binary choice and, you know, this is what it is. And like it or not, you got to make a choice or, you know, stay home or vote for a third party Kennedy, but this is a binary choice. And if you really believe America's at risk, you're just going to have to accept your doubts about the president.

AXELROD: That certainly is the argument. The question is, will it be effective enough? As I said before, he started off behind before this debate and this is going to make it that much harder to close the gap. I think people are going to be looking closely at polls in the next week to see if there's evidence of erosion.

There was a poll in New Hampshire today that showed him two points behind Donald Trump. He won the state by eight last time. He was up 10 in a poll in the same state, the same poll in December. Those kinds of things are going to be looked at closely, like doctors look at blood tests and MRIs in the next week to try and figure out where this thing's at.

But let me just say this. You asked, is it possible to swap out candidates? This is entirely in the president's hands. And what he has to think about is what's best for himself and the country. I think he's, you know, proven himself to be a great patriot all his career. He's dedicated himself to this country. And he has to ask himself the question, do I think I can win this? Might someone else have a better chance? And given the stakes, should I make a move here? And, you know, I hope he's getting good information and good guidance, but only he can make this decision. And if he decides to move forward, yes, I think a lot of Democrats will rally behind him because the stakes are so large.

COOPER: David Axelrod, Geoff Duncan, Ashley Etienne, thank you very much.

Up next, the aforementioned Biden-Harris campaign, co-chair Mitch Landrieu joins us. We'll be right back.



COOPER: We're talking tonight about new reporting on President Biden's cognitive ups and downs by Carl Bernstein and all the political drama since his debate performance last week. Joining us now is Mitch Landrieu, national co-chair for the Biden-Harris campaign and former New Orleans mayor. Mayor Landrieu, good to have you.

So David Axelrod was on the program just a few moments ago.


COOPER: He referenced something you said last week after the debate that basically we're not going to let 90 bad minutes erase three and a half years of great work. Axelrod said, you know, it isn't just about the last four years. The question is, is he up for the next four? Is he?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, let me say this. I thought the president's statement tonight was very strong. It was the right statement, as has been the case with Joe Biden. And he reiterated why he ran for office, which was to save democracy. He reminded us that President Trump tried to upend the peaceful transition of power and that he was standing between anarchy and democracy, and he was going to continue to do that.

I've heard David made that argument a number of different times. Of course, how well you do in a debate doesn't really relate to how well you run a presidency. So just to answer my friend's --

COOPER: But that is the question --

LANDRIEU: -- challenge of a good friend --

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead. Go ahead.

LANDRIEU: We've had this -- but let me say that we've had this argument many times. Let's put aside the fact that Joe Biden created 15.5 million jobs and Donald Trump lost 2.5, that we have the lowest unemployment rate, or that he passed four of the biggest pieces of legislation.

I don't know why people would want us to ignore that the president, President Biden, actually was in office and did an incredible job. But if you want to talk about the future, I think the president laid out what the future will look like if this radical Supreme Court decision is allowed to stand and Donald Trump is allowed to sit in the presidency again.

Democracy is at stake. So the thing --

COOPER: Right.

LANDRIEU: -- that Joe Biden is going to do in the next four years is protect our democracy. That's a critically important thing, because this Supreme Court, Donald Trump's Supreme Court, has now eviscerated a woman's right to choose. It has limited people's right to vote.

It has now allowed the president to stand above the law, and Joe Biden's going to stand in the middle of that. He's going to build a better and stronger economy --

COOPER: I get all that.

LANDRIEU: -- so that people can continue to work hard.

COOPER: So I get all that and you're making a good --

LANDRIEU: Why do you all -- I don't understand that you all keep dismissing --

COOPER: No, because 72 percent of voters said Biden lacks the mental --

LANDRIEU: But, no, but wait a minute --

COOPER: 72 percent of voters said Biden lacks the mental health for the presidency after the debate. That's up from 65 percent before the debate and 36 percent in June of 2020. That's, obviously, I would think, a huge concern for you.


LANDRIEU: Anderson, I'll make -- there's no question that it's a huge concern. But President Biden, when he gets knocked down, gets up again. And a lot of people in America think Donald Trump is a threat to democracy. Joe Biden is the only person that's ever beat Donald Trump. And so we have a binary choice.

You can elect Joe Biden who's a good guy that understands honesty, decency, dignity, who actually gets stuff done, who fights for the American people. Or you can be for Donald Trump, who you know is like a walking crime syndicate. I mean, I understand that you want to talk about Joe Biden's debate performance but you now know, because your network broadcasts this, that when Donald Trump was talking, if his lips were moving, he was lying. And when he wasn't lying, he was actually doubling down on election denial. He was talking about the insurrection not being a bad thing. And he was talking about using his power to hurt people. The American people have to make a choice. And the Supreme Court today, Donald Trump's Supreme Court, has made it clear that the only thing that's going to stop Donald Trump for eviscerating democracy is voting in a couple of months.

COOPER: I totally get that, and I understand the binary choice argument. And that's clearly what it's going to have to come down to unless the president changes his mind about running. It's going to be a binary choice. Obviously, there's third party candidates, but anybody who wants to decide who's actually going to be the president has a binary choice.

I guess the question is, are so many -- will people just be turned off by that? And a lot of people just vote and by staying on the couch, and that will lead to a win by the former president.

LANDRIEU: Well, the American people have to make a choice. You know, I find it really curious that nobody's calling for Donald Trump to step off the ballot to save democracy given the fact that he's a convicted felon 34 times and has a number of different judgments against him --

COOPER: Well I get plenty --


LANDRIEU: Well, that when -- well there you go. Then they're going to have a choice to make. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, has conducted himself well. He's working hard. He's going to be an equally good president in his second term as he is in his first.

And the people of America have a real clear choice to make. And they're going to have to make it. And I believe Joe Biden is standing in between Donald Trump and the evisceration of democracy, which is why he ran in the first place.

COOPER: Do you expect to see president -- I mean, look, President Biden came out tonight reading off teleprompter. Clearly, he was on point. And, you know, it was as good an appearance as you could possibly have. Do you think that is what we are going to be seeing more of less, you know, off the cuff remarks, I mean, more sort of organized appearances?

LANDRIEU: Well, I want to make two points. One, Anderson, you interviewed the president yourself for 45 minutes. He didn't have any notes. Nobody was telling him he answers to the question --

COOPER: Yes, he did -- it was a great conversation.

LANDRIEU: -- right, it was that believable interview that you did.

COOPER: I -- and I -- correct.

LANDRIEU: So you, yourself, who's a credible -- I understand. I'm just saying you as a credible journalist can -- in an objective way say that, you know from personal experience that Joe Biden is fine. Now, Joe Biden left the debate and went to North Carolina and you saw him do an incredible job. And of course, tonight he did as well.

So I can -- you can continue to expect Joe Biden, as you have seen him in the last month, standing on the shores of Normandy with world leaders, traveling back and forth with world leaders, coming to the United States, campaigning and all the battleground states. You will see him out there doing that. And I'm sure that he's going to be available as he has been and he'll continue to make the case to the American people.

COOPER: I will say -- I said in my interview was, I think, in November or December, and it was a very intimate, personal interview. And I thought he was extraordinary in it, in his ability to talk about things that no president has ever talked about, about the loss of family members and about grief.

But, again, the debate performance obviously has raised questions, which, you know, and that was many months ago. So I think the questions are totally valid, you know, and certainly you -- clearly this is not the debate performance you guys wanted.

LANDRIEU: Anderson, let me be very clear about this. The president did not do a good job the other night during the debate. He actually acknowledged that himself. He talked about that the next day. Nobody's defending that performance. It was a bad performance. We've seen this many times.

I heard you guys talking about the Obama, the Reagan, and everybody wants to say that it's different. But a debate performance does not a great president make. And the president has had four years of receipts. He has got a great team of people that have been with him from the beginning.

One of the things that was mentioned during the debate that Donald Trump tried to put lipstick on a pig was the fact that 40 of his 44 cabinet members have now said --


LANDRIEU: -- they would not vote for him and are asking us not to vote for him. And that his vice president, who was in the midst of that insurrection, whose life was almost lost, also said, I'm not going vote for him.

COOPER: Yes. That's -- well, that is certainly true. Mitchell Landrieu, I appreciate your time as always. Thank you.

Up next, former Trump Senior Strategist Steve Bannon reports to federal prison.



COOPER: Trump adviser Steve Bannon reported federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut today and was a circus. Our Kara Scannell has more.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP SENIOR STRATEGIST: Are you prepared to fight? Are you prepared to give it all? Are you prepared to leave it all on the battlefield?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Conservative strategist Steve Bannon walking into federal prison, his home for the next four months for defying a congressional subpoena seeking answers about January 6th.

BANNON: I stand with Trump and the Constitution, and I will never back off that ever.

SCANNELL (voice-over): The political right-wing firebrand has had a tumultuous relationship with Donald Trump, but his fealty to the former president and the MAGA movement has been unwavering.

BANNON: If you do not believe the 2020 election was stolen, you're not at the railhead of this movement. That is the original sin of what's happened in modern politics.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Bannon first landed on Trump's radar as the head of Breitbart News, which led to a top spot for him on the campaign. Trump's election victory launched Bannon and his nationalist views into the White House, where he served as chief strategist. But his strident populist posture and blowback inside the West Wing for grabbing too many headlines led to his ouster in August of 2017.

BANNON: I think I'm a street fighter. Donald Trump's a fighter. I'm going to be his wingman outside for the entire time.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Bannon did just that. He started the War Room podcast in 2019 to counter Trump's first impeachment hearings. After Trump lost the 2020 election to Biden, Bannon used his podcast to foment protests. Behind the scenes, he pushed for right-wing members of Congress to block the certification of the election.

The day before the attack on the Capitol, on his podcast, Bannon predicted chaos on January 6th.

BANNON: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen, OK? It's going to be quite extraordinarily different.

SCANNELL (voice-over): The comments drew the attention of the January 6th committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe, and we'll use the tools at our disposal to get that information.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Bannon was subpoenaed for documents and testimony. He refused to comply and was indicted on contempt of Congress charges. After a trial, Bannon was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison.

BANNON: I'm a political prisoner. I feel great about it. It won't change me. It will not suppress my voice.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Bannon's multiple attempts to stay out of prison ended last week when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case. And as Bannon entered prison, where he'll be known as inmate 05635-509, he said he had no regrets.

BANNON: I'm actually proud of what I did and I would have felt terrible if I didn't do it.


BANNON: I don't mind going to prison today.

SCANNELL (voice-over): Karis Scannell, CNN, Danbury, Connecticut.


COOPER: And that's it for us. The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now. See you tomorrow.