Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

One Day To Go: Biden And Trump Prepare For High-Stakes Debate; Behind The Scenes Of CNN's Presidential Debate; CNN Debate Puts Swing State Georgia Front And Center; Bloomberg: Document Mistakenly Posted On Supreme Court Site Shows 6-3 Vote To Allow Emergency Abortions In Idaho For Now. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 26, 2024 - 16:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: About this softball, but it's not the best softball.


It's more about the cause and what's really the best is the camaraderie, the trash talk.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And the camaraderie comes first.


SANCHEZ: But there's competition gets heated up there.

KEILAR: Kind of hilariously intense. And there is, like I said, a lot of trash talk. I don't know. I think the bad news babes might win again. We'll see.

SANCHEZ: See some good form out there. Look forward to hearing about the results.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now. Go press!


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: The stage is set. The stakes could not be higher.

Welcome to THE LEAD live from CNN's campus in Atlanta, Georgia, where final preparations are underway for tomorrow's historic presidential debate right here on CNN.

I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Jake Tapper.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will be here tomorrow night, the most important event of this election cycle.

So far, here's a glimpse at the stage where the two men will face off the first time in history, a sitting president and a former president will debate. I just walked the debate stage and I'll bring you an insight look in just moments. But first, we're going into details about how those last-minute

preparations are actually playing out. CNN's MJ Lee and Kristen Holmes start us off here in Atlanta.

MJ, let's start with you.

From Biden world right now, what are they doing in these last 24 hours?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, for right now, team Biden, it is all about fine tuning those last final details. We know that the president has been at Camp David with his team of advisers, hunker down on those informal and formal sessions that really culminated in those full run-throughs that began on Monday.

And I am learning that Bob Bauer, the presidents attorney, has been standing in for Donald Trump, just as you did back in 2020, he's been using a podium. The president has been as well, other a tab been playing the role of Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, all with the exercise and the goal of trying to give the president really the experience of everything that he could experience in those 90 minutes.

But at the same time, the Biden in team has been really paying close attention to what President Trump and his aides have been saying about their own prep, really dismissing the idea that they have been spending a lot of time, dismissing the idea that they have even had formal sessions.

And one Biden adviser that I just spoke with basically said they're not buying it. They've seen all the reporting, the references to all of the time that a Trump is spending clearly on a debate prep, including this reference to President Biden back when he was vice president debating Paul Ryan and this adviser said that is clearly an example of the fact that they are clearly in doing debate prep and could actually be on Thursday the most prepare that he has been in any debate heading.

Now, the Biden team has also taken note of the fact that they've done really a 180 at the Trump team on expectation setting, saying that the president is senile and weak, and then all of a sudden thing that he is going to be really formidable on the debate stage on Thursday, obviously, no matter where the bar is, they would like to over-perform and clear that bar.

MATTINGLY: And, Kristen, you've been reporting so much over the course of the last week about kind of behind the scenes battle on some level that's been playing out of advisers that want to hold Trump to focus on the issues, issues where they're clearly leading versus grievances, but we don't know how he's actually going to go.

Do we have a sense of who's going to win that ongoing debate?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think no one's going to know who's going to win that ongoing debate until Thursday. But I do want to bring up something that MJ actually fundamentally agree with the Biden he camp on this, this idea of the Donald Trump is not preparing is preposterous. Now, his team is not using the word preparation, but that's likely because of who their candidate is. He doesn't want to think that he has to prepare.

But we know that his senior advisers have been watching old debate clips. They have brought it up in calls with reporters. We know that Donald Trump himself has had the number of these policy sessions. They don't have the traditional format that they have with the Biden campaign. There's no one filling in for Biden. There's no one filling in for the moderators are not hosting these mock debates.

But they are talking to Donald Trump on a regular basis about how exactly to handle this debate. Now, when they go over what the issues are and what they want dollars hold Trump to talk about, there are three main points that they want Donald Trump to focus on. They want them to focus on the economy, particularly inflation immigration, as well as crime. They believe based on recent polling that these are the issues of Donald Trump does better than Joe Biden.

Now, they are prepping him for questions on abortion, as well as democracy, particularly his role in January 6 and things he has said in the past about January 6 and since that insurrection on Capitol Hill, but they are hoping for him to continue to pivot back to those three main issues.

Now talking about what version of Donald Trump that you're getting, Donald Trump himself seems to have had some time to actually reflect on his own behavior and pass debates. One of those interesting things we heard with this rather candid interview in "The Washington Examiner" where he said that he was too aggressive, that he interrupted Biden too much back in 2020, that people really told him that at the time.


So it goes to show you how his preparation is going, but I do think that Donald Trump is prepared for Biden to show up on Thursday. The Biden campaign is not wrong. Donald Trumps team has been tempering expectations. They went from saying he couldn't string a sentence together to saying that he was a formidable opponent and talking about the fact that that he's going to show up on Thursday.

Obviously, they are level setting here as we head into this very critical debate.

MATTINGLY: No question about that. Guys, thanks so much.

My panel is here now.

MJ just made a really good point. I don't think you're just randomly watching 2012 or 2012 vice presidential debates just because, right? I mean, it's great. Love Paul Ryan, love, love Vice President Biden, but probably not pulling that up unless you're preparing for something.

Jamal, they both have been doing great reporting all week. There's a lot of what's being said publicly. Tell me what's happening in these final 24 hours behind the scenes, you've been in those rooms? JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I've helped prep a few

candidates of my life for some of these debates, even one of them with Ron Klain before. One of the things that you -- not President Biden, but another candidate. One of the things that you want to focus on is you're not talking to the moderators, you're talking to the people who are at home watching.

So don't get too caught up in the back-and-forth with the moderator because you want to make sure that as a candidate, you could talk people who are there.

They also want to make sure they're going to be focusing on the pivots, and then what's the broader strategy here? And not just the tactics of the lines, but at the candidate knows the strategy, they can always make their own pivot and get right back to it.

Remember this, neither one of these candidates were here on the college game day set. It feels like neither one of these candidates has played preseason ball, right? Donald Trump didn't do any primary debates. President Biden hasn't done any primary debates.

So both of them have some practice to do. I don't buy that Donald Trumps not doing any of it. Both of them has some practices do to make sure they don't flub this very big opportunity.

MATTINGLY: I am so excited to try and make Scott Jennings put a buckeye on his head.


MATTINGLY: You know, to the points, Scott, can you actually make changes this late in the game? Like are there things that you can tell somebody at this point that can actually have a positive effect? Have you ever seen that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it would be a mistake to try to make huge structural strategic changes so late after you've been thinking through -- I mean, you look at the strategy of these two guys. You've got Joe Biden, technical, in a conference room, absorbing material. You've got Donald Trump, the former champion out there, he's a vibe player. He's out there trying to get the vibe working with his crowds, working with his advisors.

At this point, to try to change a 78-year-old man or an 81-year-old man this late in the game I think would be a huge mistake.

I do think both of them though, must at this moment the absorbing, this may be the most consequential 90 minutes of their political careers. This might be the most consequential 90 minutes of modern American political history.

And if I can just say, it's happening on CNN. The slama in Atlanta is coming tomorrow night. They used to have wrestling in this place back here, and we're going to see a throw down. Two guys who are spoiling for each other, you don't want to miss.

We got the best anchors. We got the best analysts, and we have Phil, and it's going to be an incredible show. Incredible.



MATTINGLY: You left me out, you left me out.


SIMMONS: On that point very briefly.


SIMMONS: On that point, one of the things you want to do in these preps is somebody's job in that prep is going to be maybe it's Ted Koffman's (ph), somebody's job is to try to see President Biden off. I'm trying not to use the room I'm thinking of.


SIMMONS: But they want to get him mad because they want him to be mad and they get that out in the prep session, not get it out on TV.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. I think Bob Bauer acknowledged that he had that effect in 2020s, is redoing that role again.

Jeff, I wanted to spell the rules. The structure of what's about to happen, but Scott's point is not hyperbolic. The import of tomorrow night, we always talk, this is the biggest thing since X, it's the biggest.

ZELENY: Right.

MATTINGLY: This is huge.

ZELENY: It is huge. And that's why they both wanted to have a debate in June. We should point out this is so unusual. It is going to be June 27 tomorrow. It is a couple of months before debates normally are, the fact that they're debating at all.

One thing I think they can perhaps change on the fly. They have their eye on the Supreme Court. We saw the Supreme Courts potential ruling. It was leaked on the abortion case, but there are other real live rulings tomorrow that could impact the debate.

So events could change, but the reality is, one thing that sitting presidents often struggle with is information overloaded.


ZELENY: Ronald Reagan did in 1984. Barack Obama didn't practice as much as he should have been in 2012. But so, President Biden, who played cleanup duty in that vice presidential -- when he was vice president, is aware of that. But look, the rules are important, the fact that there is no audience.


ZELENY: The fact that the microphone that is perhaps the open question they've been practicing with this, unlike last time the microphone will not be on. So President Biden and former President Trump cannot interrupt one another necessarily on mic, but can they still do it to rattle them?


So the rules are interesting, but the no audience so key.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, to be clear, and we already talked about this shortly. I'm going to take you behind the scenes, show all of this, how it actually works. We did this earlier today, it's invaluable to watch to understand how this is all going to work out.

The campaigns have seen it. The campaigns understand the rules, the structures that campaigns have all agreed to the rules and structures.

Do you think it benefits one side or the other when there's no audience, when there's a mute operation?

MITCHELL: I think, you know, a lot of people believe that this benefits Biden because we know Trump feeds -- he's, again, he said he's a vibes candidate. He's going to feed off the crowd as he has in the past, but he won't have a crowd to feed off. He won't have supporters in the audience cheering him on if he make controversial or bombastic statements.

And then again Trump is the one who more than, more likely it was more likely to over top Biden four years ago when they debated. So, but at the same -- in the same vein, if Biden is not having his strongest night, I think the rules could come back and be seen as a detriment to him because then he wont have an audience to feed to -- feed off of. He won't have some of that energy.

They're both kind of going to be on their own. And so much of this debate is riding on which version of these candidates show up tomorrow. That to me is the biggest wildcard both for Biden and Trump what version of them shows up? What version of them have prepared -- have they prepared for, and what version of them are they able to present to America?

MATTINGLY: And it could not be more critically important.

Guys, stick around. We have a lot more to get to when we all need to try and reach Scott Jennings' energy level right now, which I am so very here for.

Well, we noted, ready for a sneak peek? I'm going to take you to CNN's debate stage, show you how it looks, demonstrate key component of how will work. You won't want to miss this special access.

Stay right here.




MATTINGLY: Welcome to the set of the CNN presidential debate.

We want to give our viewers a sense of the rules of the debate so that when they watch it, they can understand how President Biden and President Trump will be engaging with each other.

Tomorrow night just after 9:00 p.m. Eastern, President Biden will enter from the right side of your screen. President Trump will enter from the left side of your screen.

The podiums are eight feet apart. Directly across from them -- the moderators, CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

Now, a reminder that this is a television studio. There's no audience. Candidates will have two minutes to answer questions and one minute for responses and rebuttals.

At the moderator's discretion, there may be an additional minute for follow-ups, clarifications, or responses. So how does a candidate know how much time is left to speak? Attached to the cameras in the studio and in the candidate's field of view or the timing lights.

When the light show yellow, there are 15 seconds left and candidates answer or response. When the lights flash red, there are five seconds left, and when the display is solid red the time is up. At that point, the candidate's microphone will be turned off and the other candidate will have their microphone turned on.

My colleague, Victor Blackwell has more on that.


If we go behind the podiums, you can see two green lights. When they're on, they signal to the candidate his microphone is on. When the green lights are off, they signal to the candidate, his microphone is off.

Now, I want to give you a sense of what it will look like for viewers at home if a candidate whose microphone is off, interrupted candidate whose microphone is on. So I'm standing at one podium and I'll ask Phil to come in and take the other podium.

And so let's say I'm answering a question. My light is green and I'm speaking. Phil's microphone is off and his green lights are not illuminated. He's going to interrupt me as I'm speaking. And this is what it will sound like.

My volume remains constant while fills interruption can be difficult to understand. MATTINGLY: Let's try the opposite. My microphone is now on. Victor's

microphone is off and he's going to interrupt me. My volume remains constant while Victor's interruption can be difficult to understand.

Now, CNN's production team has shared this demonstration with the campaigns earlier today, and we're sharing it with you our viewers, so everyone fully understands how tomorrow night will work.

Now, we should know by agreeing to participate in this debate, both campaigns and candidates have also agreed to bide by these rules.

The CNN presidential debate airs live tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.


BLACKWELL: I'm back now with the panel.

Obviously, I didn't teleport back here. We did that a little bit earlier, but was fascinating for me, one, I'm a visual learner. So going through it actually understood better how this was all going to work.

But I want to make something very clear when the mic was on and one mic was muted. We were actually talking and we were talking at the same level. We'd been talking when the mic was on. That wasn't some trick. We weren't using different mics are different lobes or anything like that. That's how the system was working, which I thought was really interesting.

Scott, you've been through so many of these. When you watch that, eight feet apart, obviously, they have the mute buttons as well. The process, the time for which he can speak, what stood out to you?

JENNINGS: It's going to help Trump. I mean, remember what had there were two debates in 2020. In the first debate, Trump couldn't stop, his mouth runneth over. And I think he knows that, but everybody's memory hold this, but the second debate they did have muted mics, he was under control. I think he actually won that debate, but by then it was too late.

Now, he's in the drivers seat and only has to do is show up and turn in a credible performance that shows plausibility here. And I think this -- I think this one rule is going to help him do it. The audience and all that, I don't care about. But the muted mics may keep him appearing to be more under control even when he gets enraged to something Biden says.

SIMMONS: Well, Phil, the reason that -- the reason that the debate came so late was because Donald Trump had COVID three days before the first debate, he lied about it on stage. He pulled his mask out and said, oh, if I needed my mask, I'd use it.

He had COVID, so he couldn't have the debate and he refused to do a virtual one. So that didn't happen by accident. Listen, I think when we see this debate, the first 30 minutes here

matter the most. That's you're probably going to get the most of your audience paying attention, that first 30 minutes.


And when that happens, you're going to see the president, Joe Biden, make the contrast points. I've been hearing about which is that Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans want to control people's lives and Joe -- and Joe Biden wants to give people the freedom to make their own choices. That is a fundamental point that you're going to hear out of Democrats.

MATTINGLY: So, Tia, obviously, the Democratic operative believes Joe Biden is going to win. The Republican operative thinks it definitely helps.

MITCHELL: Unsurprisingly.

MATTINGLY: That should help, I didn't tell you?

JENNINGS: No, I'll tell you -- I think genuinely, I have no idea because of something that was said earlier, who knows which versions are going to show up? I'm genuinely curious.

Now, Jamal's in the tank, but I'm here -- I'm here to listen and learn and become an educated voter.



MITCHELL: I will say the demonstration that you all gave about the muted mics to me, there is a risk for Trump if those if he does get muted a lot and he starts to get frustrated, if he starts to attack the moderators, which something we've seen him doing in the lead up to the debate. I think that is a risk. So he's got to train on again, staying on message, staying focus, but also staying calm if he does go over time, if he does get muted.

I think for Biden the risk is that level of expectations, the fact that by and large, people are saying Trump can win if he just gives plausible, coherent answers, whereas the bar is much higher for Biden, people expect him to have more substance. So already there's uneven expectations as far as the actual meat and potatoes of what we expect to hear from the tomorrow. And so, to me, that makes it harder for Biden to meet the expectations because his bar is higher.

ZELENY: So, I had a question for you. When candidate Victor Blackwell was talking, could you hear him and was it distracting to you? Because that is one thing I wonder, even though the mic might be off, what if either one of the candidates are still talking and then they sort of look over even though the audience can hear -- the candidate likely can, right?

MATTINGLY: Yeah, at least in my experience and look, I am a trained professional, having people yell in my ear on a regular basis. So it didn't bother me that much, but you can absolutely hear him because when you are on that stage, standing next to one another, you're standing next to one another and talking. It just doesn't carry with the mic.

ZELENY: And despite all of this, I mean, I think mics are interesting, audience is interesting, the reality is the substance of this will shine through and one -- I think the biggest difference from four years ago, audience mics is the record. If you watch the debates from four years ago, which I've watched, both of them very carefully again, last week, he was all about Trumps record.


ZELENY: This time it is about President Biden's record.

So, his ability to sort of escape the curse of other first-term presidents and defend his record, and then pivot to his opponent is key here, but it's about his record on the inflation and economy and immigration. So that perhaps is the biggest difference as he tries to contrast things.

This is a piece on a lot of things in his life. He's never been a sitting president at a presidential debate.

JENNINGS: But not only is the pressure on him, on his record because he the president, the pressure is on politically because he's losing this race. The forecasters say Donald Trump has a better chance to win this race today. So not only do you expect more at him -- I thought your point was excellent -- but he's losing this race. It's why they scheduled this debate in June to change the trajectory of it. The pressure is on the president.

SIMMONS: Phil, it's not just about record. It's also about judgment and one of the things when you're picking a president, we know about the economy was going to be an issue. We know about jobs, we know about some of the social issues. But what we don't -- there are things that we don't know about, things that could be bubbling underneath the surface right now, nobody in 2019 knew that COVID was coming.

So we pick a president because they have judgment in a moment of crisis and they're going to take action that nobody else in the country can take to protect our families.

We saw Donald Trump had to do that in 2019, 2020. He did in 2021. He didn't do a good job. And the American public is going to have to think about that.

MATTINGLY: Can I ask you about that? Because my question, you make a great point about the first 30 minutes being critical.


MATTINGLY: But so too is how people perceive a performance. Like there's no doubt there are a lot of very substantive issues that, A, will be addressed tomorrow night and, B, there are wide divergences in terms of policy positions on them. And that's critically important. But it's also helped people it.

That judgment issue, how -- what does the president have to do to convey that to the public in a way that connects?

SIMMONS: Well, one thing is going to be, I think present himself as the person that most people genuinely think is a good guy trying to do the right thing. And I think he's got to maintain an even keel. Let Donald Trump do what he wants to do.

Now, what might be a problem is we won't have a moment that I'm sure Jeff Zeleny, remember as well, like when Al Gore in 2000, who I've worked for in 2000, was sighing all the time off camera and that still -- I still have scars on that, right?

JENNINGS: OK, buddy.


JENNINGS: A Bush staffer over here.

SIMMONS: So, you won't have a moment like that where the non-verbal actions of a candidate -- sorry, the verbal actions of the candidate getting in the way, or the non-verbal action, like George Bush Sr. checking his watch in the debate was also seem to matter and that debate.

JENNINGS: The judgment thing, by the way --



JENNINGS: If this comes up and I agree, I think Biden might go that direction. I think where Trump has to go where Joe Biden got sucked underwater, Afghanistan, August 2021, he went underwater. He's never come back up.

If I were Trump, I'd go back to that and rile him on that.

MATTINGLY: That's certainly been an issue that they've been talking about in prep on the Biden side, I know that as well.

All right. Guys, stick around.

We got a lot more to get to, including one Jeff Zeleny doing his best work out in the field. We'll have it for you, shortly.

Battleground state is Georgia. We're here right now. Joe Biden won by just under 12,000 votes in 2020. So how are voters feeling? Jeff Zeleny is going to ask them, as our coverage continues live from Atlanta.


MATTINGLY: Well, there's a reason this debate is in Georgia and it's not just because of our beautiful surroundings, CNN birthplace. [16:30:07]

Remember this?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


MATTINGLY: Yes, that requests is still an integral piece of evidence in Georgia's election subversion case against former President Trump. But it also demonstrates just how close the race for the swing state of Georgia was in 2020.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny just checked in with Peach State voters.


ZELENY (voice-over): Mariama Davis is busy in her Atlanta boutique, hopeful for the summer ahead.


ZELENY: When you ask her that age-old question in politics --

Are things better for you than they were four years ago?

Her deliberate answer is telling.

DAVIS: I mean, with the loan forgiveness and that definitely better. But things aren't, you know, might be just a little slight increase, but they feel pretty much the same.

ZELENY: It's not worse?

DAVIS: It's not worse. It's not worse.

ZELENY: While it's hardly the slogan President Biden is running on, it taps into a sentiment often expressed by supporters like Davis.

She manages The Beehive, a small business like so many on an economic roller coaster.

DAVIS: If people have a choice to buy eggs or food and gifts, we still expect them to buy food for their families but like I said, our doors are still open. So we're grateful for that.

ZELENY: She's also grateful the president is seeking a second term, and as high hopes for his chances in Georgia where Biden defeated Donald Trump by 11,779 votes out of 5 million cast, the closest margin of any battleground.

KELVIN KING, GEORGIA REPUBLICAN VOTER: A good candidate on either side maybe able to sway voters in Georgia.

ZELENY: Kelvin King, a conservative Republican leader, backed Trump in 2016 and 2020.

KING: Thank you for fighting for all Americans.

ZELENY: While he believes Biden is vulnerable on inflation, immigration and more, he said a Trump victory here is hardly guaranteed.

KING: We have new Republicans who are excited about President Trump. We have some Republicans that are not.

ZELENY: It's one of the biggest questions of the race. Can Trump capitalize on Biden's challenges?

The former president's campaign has started opening offices across the state, like this one in Marietta. But Trump has yet to bury the hatchet with the popular Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

TRUMP: Let me tell you, this guy's a disaster.

ZELENY: Who refused to give in to Trump's demands to overturn the election, which made Georgia and early epicenter of criminal charges against him.

KING: Re-litigating is not going to drive people to the polls, at least not the folks in the middle, the folks that we need. By focusing on today and tomorrow is really where we need to be.

ZELENY: Georgia is among the battlegrounds Trump is trying to win back, along with Arizona, while also picking up Nevada, which he lost twice. Biden could lose all three and still win reelection if he holds the blue wall of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and a single electoral vote in Nebraska.

To keep all pathways open, Democrats are making big investments in Georgia, with a dozen offices.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will gather, we will organize, we will build community, we will build coalitions.

ZELENY: That frame coalition is a pressing challenge facing the Biden campaign.

When we met Kerry Singleton last year, he was disappointed Biden hadn't achieved all of his promises.

KERRY SINGLETON, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Just as we hold Trump accountable, you know, we have to hold Biden accountable.

ZELENY: After hearing the president deliver a commencement address at Morehouse College last month and focusing on his November choice, he sees it differently.

SINGLETON: My disagreements previously do not matter as much as the two people that we have as choices here. And to me, present -- former President Donald Trump just isn't an option whatsoever.

ZELENY: Back at The Beehive, Davis is optimistic for the fall and for her status quo sounds just fine.

DAVIS: You know what you're getting with Joe Biden. He doesn't pull any punches. He's a straight shooter and I'm happy to see more of the same.


ZELENY (on camera): So, the fact that Georgia was a battleground four years ago actually came as a surprise to both sides. This time, that's not the case. The Biden campaign has more than a dozen offices open, nearly 75 staffers on the ground, Phil, that is one of the big differences here.

The Biden campaign is spending money to Trump campaign is not yet, but when you talk to voters, it is not a done deal for Donald Trump here by any means. This is a conservative state there are some open minds. Look to the suburbs here. A lot of Nikki Haley support in the suburbs around Atlanta.

So, President Trump has a case to make as well as does President Biden. Everyone we talked to, they'll be tuning into debate. They say they're interested to see these contrasts

MATTINGLY: Yeah, a lot of people looking for a lot of answers as they kind of weigh, I don't really want to, but I guess I have to kind of moments, I guess on some level.


You know, Tia, to that point ground operations, what money is being spent here in the state, I think Trump folks feel good about Georgia and the direction it's headed. But is that a problem for them? Do they need a more expansive ground operation?

You work for "The Atlanta Journal Constitution". You know this place, and what matters here.


So we know that Trump's pathway to victory goes through Georgia, as Jeff outlined, Biden can lose Georgia and still become president. If Trump loses Georgia, it just doesn't bode well for his overall pathway to victory.

But that being said, right now, Democrats are -- have staffed up way more across Georgia, have opened up more offices. They opened it -- opened offices first.

Now, yes, the Trump campaign is starting to open up field offices. They're doing events all week just like the Biden campaign is. But the Biden campaign is more present.

The question is, are people watching? Are they listening? That's why tomorrow's debate is so important because there are a lot of people who -- if they're listening to conservative meeting -- conservative media, or if their social media algorithms are feeding you know, pro- Trump messaging. It has appealed. We know two some low propensity voters, Black male voters in general. We also know some anti Biden messaging has appeal to younger voters and voter other voters of color.

But when they actually hear, here from the candidates, then the question is, can Trump breakthrough in a way to get people to actually show up in vote for him. The question for Biden is, can he break through in a way that gets them off the sidelines? That's what we're hearing, particularly from black voters, is that there is a risk that because they don't like either candidate, they won't hold their nose and vote for Trump. They'll just stay home.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, and obviously, the Biden campaign in senior roles, people who know how to win Georgia elections. Quentin Fulks being one of them, principal deputy campaign manager.

I want -- I want to make a turn here on a policy front because I do want to talk about this. We got new video today of Evan Gershkovich, obviously, "The Wall Street Journal" journalist who's detained in Russia wrongfully. There was no evidence for any of the things he's been charged for. He's a great reporter.

The former president has tweeted about or posted about this, saying he could get him out. I know the Biden administration has been working intensively behind the scenes, to get him out.

In this debate, does this come up? What's the position of both and what does it say about the broader foreign policy?

SIMMONS: Yeah, I'm sure foreign policy is going to come up because he's the president of the United States and again, he's the only person, in this case he, is the only person in the country who really has responsibility for the foreign policy of the United States.

The one of the questions people I think will be faced with is that it's hard to get anything done in the world without friends and allies. And we can think about how Donald Trump conducted himself when he was president, sort of sticking his finger in the eye as some of the allies, threatening NATO, telling people he wouldn't show up to defend them. I mean, he's already made noises about Ukraine and how do we solve that? That may be more favorable to Russia.

So recently, we saw Putin and Kim together, those are two people Donald Trump seems to have a lot more affinity for, while Joe Biden was at the G7 with some of our traditional allies, like France and Great Britain and Italy.

But the question is, do you want a president who feels more comfortable with Vladimir Putin and Kim, or one who feels more comfortable with Italy and France and Great Britain.

MATTINGLY: That's a decent frame.


JENNINGS: That's patently ridiculous. I think -- I think, first of all, this is not a foreign policy election. I mean, it's about food prices. It's about immigration, it's about crime, it's about abortion.

And foreign policy will come up in this debate. I'm sure, but for the average voter, it's a personal election, like what's going on in my life?

That having been said, what Donald Trump is going to say is, you know, we were told the adults were back in charge, and Joe Biden shows up and Russia goes into Ukraine. We've got war in the Middle East. We've got hotspots all over the world, immigration has gotten worse. It's absolute chaos on domestic and foreign policy.

And so I think the way he's going to use it is to say, this guy told us he was going to calm the world down. And it's only gotten more chaotic. I'm the one they respect.

I think that's -- it'll be a broader argument. But for Donald Trump, it's like they respect me. They don't respect him. That's what people are running wild.

MATTINGLY: And I do think at least on one level, we can agree, everyone can agree on both sides, Evan Gershkovich should be released.

JENNINGS: Today, today.

MATTINGLY: It needs to happen immediately.

Guys, stick around. We got a lot more to get to.

What to watch for it tomorrow night and the key things you haven't actually heard about yet, don't blink. We've got a lightning round. Zeleny loves lightning rounds, as THE LEAD airs live in Atlanta, Georgia, ahead of tomorrow's debate. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: We're back with our politics lead. Just over 24 hours to go until the very first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle right here on CNN.

We are here. We want to do a lightning round. There's been a lot of talk about a lot of different issues.

When you look at what's about to happen tomorrow, what have you not heard us all talk about over the course of the last several days, do you think will be important?

SIMMONS: You know, one of the issues that is -- that comes up a lot from the Trump side attacking President Biden is around crime. And Democrats have been spending a lot of time over the last couple of weeks talking about the drop in crime. Crime is down 40 percent this year.

President Biden also talking about the fact that when the Republicans had a chance to do something about crime, it's been $15 billion to save police officers in cities, they all voted no on the ARP, on the American Rescue Plan. They all voted against that $15 billions for cops.

So I think if crime comes up, President Biden has something to say that clearly goes back to the MAGA power control that might be a little different than Trump wants to talk about.


JENNINGS: I do think crime is going to be a topic. I'm kind of interested in whether or not people bring folks to Atlanta for the debate to exemplify some of the violent crime that's going on in the country. We've got a number of stories right now where illegal immigrants have raped, tortured, murdered, kidnapped people around this country. Donald Trump and his campaign and the Republicans are going wild about this right now.

I'm wondering if as an offshoot of the immigration debate and the crime debate, you could see people show up here and attest to the fact that you can put charts and graphs and press releases and people's faces, that doesn't mean much to the families of crime victims that is going on right now.

SIMMONS: By the way, there is no evidence that immigrants commit more crime.

MITCHELL: There is evidence that shows that they commit crimes at a lower rate than people who are made of citizens, native-born Americans. So I think on that note, there have been mass shootings that don't even make national news.

There was one in Manatee County, Florida, just a couple of days ago. And when you talk about gun violence and homicide rates, yes, it's easy to point out undocumented immigrants. They're very easy focus, but there's a bigger issue that either candidate could speak to if they want to.

We know Biden likes to talk about gun control, gun safety, the way Democrats describe it.

I think another issue that I'm sure Biden is going to want to drive home is the whole theme of saving democracy. We know that it polls, it's not necessarily the number one driver of a voter like the economy, but it is a big -- a big concern of voters.

And we know oh, that Donald Trump has said some problematic things, even leading up to this election about whether he support the results if he were not to be the victor on election night. And I think the Biden team thinks that's the winning messaging. And I think they're going to try to force Trump to answer tough questions about January 6 and about accepting the outcome of elections.

ZELENY: Just real quick on empathy. We've seen President Biden, he's a very empathetic figure. We've seen that.

One thing he's sort of struggled with is feeling people's economic pain. So what is his answer to that question? Are you better off than you were four years ago, but particularly balancing his accomplishments and what he thinks the economy looks like by the numbers, but actually what people are feeling?

He's struggled sort of showing that he understands people's economic pain. What's his answer on that tomorrow? I know it's been one he's been practicing a lot, I'm told.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. No, I think that's definitely true.

We are terrible at a lightning round. So I'm going to -- you can give me one name and 30 seconds. We have left.

Scott, you jarred something in my brain, if you could bring one person, if you're the Biden campaign or for the Trump campaign? Who do you bring?

JENNINGS: I would bring any of the family --

MATTINGLY: That's more than one name.

JENNINGS: No, I would bring any -- any family member of someone who has suffered a violent crime action in this -- Rachel Morin, Nungaray. I mean, these people have suffered at the hands of a policy decision. I would have them in Atlanta, Georgia.

SIMMONS: Liz Cheney.

MITCHELL: Shaye Moss, or Ruby Freeman, the former Fulton County election workers.

ZELENY: I don't think I can top that. That's pretty good. I mean, Barack Obama is clearly not going to come, but he's still very popular here in Georgia and in the party. And maybe could save as vice president, as vice president saved him back in 2012.

MATTINGLY: The number of 2012 vice presidential debate references -- I think tops the number references during that debate at some point.

Thank you guys very much. It's been wonderful.

Coming up, what the Supreme Court may have inadvertently revealed after accidentally posting a document to its website.

We're going to be right back from Atlanta, the site CNN's presidential debate. It's tomorrow night. Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: Well, major Supreme Court cases could come down just hours before former President Trump and President Biden take the stage tomorrow. But today, the Supreme Court mistakenly posted a consequential ruling on its website. And, they took it down according to Bloomberg.

CNN's Paula Reid is back in D.C.

Paula, what exactly happened here? Because we've been waiting for the answer to how this case was going to go down.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you and me both, Phil. Well, this is wild because the Supreme Court has acknowledged that it briefly and inadvertently uploaded a document to the court's website, but that the actual opinion has not been released will be released in due course.

But this document that was spotted by Bloomberg law shows a six to three decision siding with the Biden administration in one of the most closely watched cases this year. This is a case out of Idaho and here, the court will continue to allow a abortions to be performed in the state of Idaho and it is necessary to stabilize a woman and not forcing doctors to wait until that woman's life is at risk, which is what the Idaho law would have required.

But this decision based on what we've seen here, it leaves a lot of question, questions unanswered. It does not give any sort of clear ruling about what happens in other states, where there are conflicts between a state law about abortion and federal law. In fact, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, she said that this is not a victory because doctors will still be in the dark about what the law requires.

Now, the bursting thing here is that this is the second leak of a major abortion-relate d ruling out of the Supreme Court. But this one comes just one day before the CNN debate, arguably the most crucial moment in the 2024 presidential election race. So far, the Supreme Court has little bit of a backlog of opinions.


There are approximately ten that are outstanding and it's not clear. It this one would have come out before the debate.

Now, the justices are expected to release more opinions tomorrow and Friday, and unless they do ten over the next 48 hours, they could also be releasing these opinions on Monday. So, again, a lot of questions about this inadvertent release and the timing.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. There's something going on tomorrow that might -- the decision is made actually play into that.

Another big day tomorrow for Paula Reid, great reporting as always. Thank you.

And as I noted, we are just one de away in the first general election presidential debate right here on CNN. Jake Tapper for and Dana Bash will moderate. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m.

The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".