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Trump Makes Play For Working-Class Michigan Voters; CNN Poll Of Polls Shows Trump's Lead Undiminished; Sen. Menendez Pleads Not Guilty To Bribery Charges. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 27, 2023 - 11:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Donald Trump is skipping tonight's debate in California. Instead, he is going to Michigan to speak with auto workers. New this morning. The Biden campaign launched his first anti- Trump campaign ad to greet Trump in Michigan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he stands with auto workers. But as President Donald Trump passed tax breaks for his rich friends while automakers shuttered their plants and Michigan lost manufacturing jobs, Joe Biden said he'd stand up for workers and he's delivering. Passing laws that are increasing wages and creating good-paying jobs. Manufacturing is coming back to Michigan.


BERMAN: CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Clinton Township, Michigan. A state which promises to be a battleground once again, Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. I mean, you think we were already in a general election. We haven't even started our Republican primaries. But this is really the clearest signal that we've had from Trump's team that they are looking ahead to that general election.

Now, when he lands on the ground here, he's not expecting as warm of a welcome from union leaders as President Biden got yesterday. But he is expected to be well-received here where we are in Macomb County. This is a county that went for him both in 2016 and in 2020, and not by small margins.

And when we talk to the Trump advisors, we asked about that pushback from these union leaders who have really gone out against former President Trump saying that he is only pro-business. His administration was anti-union -- anti-worker.

And they say that they believe that it's possible to drive a wedge between the union leaders and the rank and file. And that's what we're going to be watching for tonight. Who actually comes out here tonight? We are told that it's going to be union members, both past and current, and that includes auto union workers -- that includes auto union workers and their families as well. So, big question. Why exactly are they coming out? What is driving them to support Donald Trump?

And the other thing to note here is that he is appearing at a non- union shop. Now, one of the things he's going to be talking about, and he's started to talk about this recently, is when he goes after Joe Biden, he hits him for electric vehicles -- Biden's push to have an electric vehicle fleet. And that's what we're hearing tonight as part of why this location was chosen. Because this president of Drake Enterprises, where he'll be speaking, literally said in an interview that if cars were to go electric, that he would be put out of business. So, it gives you some insight there.


The other thing, John. He's going to be focusing a lot on the economy. One of the points that his advisors have really hit home -- hit hard at me this morning, the idea that this wouldn't be happening. The strike wouldn't even be happening if this was Trump's economy that this is all about the inflation, the economy under Biden.

BERMAN: All right. Kristen Holmes, waiting there in Clinton Township for Donald Trump's arrival, thank you so much for being with us. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: So, why is Donald Trump skipping the debate? Set all other dynamics aside, look no further than the polls. The latest CNN poll of polls released shows that Donald Trump maintains a huge lead. 58 percent support among likely Republican primary voters in this polling average.

The candidate closest to Trump isn't really close at all right now, as you can see. Ron DeSantis is his dick -- is a distant second with 15 percent support. And all the rest, still in single digits.

Joining me now from Simi Valley, California, where tonight's debate will take place, CNN Political Director David Chalian. So glad you're there, David. So, the polls reinforced the reality that we have been seeing in this primary, which is Donald Trump has a big lead. What does that mean, though, for a second Trump-less stage?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. And as you noted, why is Donald Trump not showing up? Yes, because of the big lead in the polls but also because his lead has gone up since not showing up in that first debate.


CHALIAN: So, that is evidence that the Trump campaign has received that they feel they don't need to be here. But as you note, there is still a real opportunity for candidates not named Trump in this battle. Yes, they are far back but they are in a battle for second place to try and consolidate support and emerge here as a Trump alternative, even if a -- one that is far behind Trump at this moment in the polls.

And that's what this opportunity presents. An opportunity for millions of Republican voters to tune in and hear from these candidates directly. As you know, Kate, Donald Trump dominates not just the polls but the national narrative -- the headlines. And this is an opportunity for the other candidates to get into that information flow directly to voters.

BOLDUAN: So, the candidates clearly all hope they can still beat Donald Trump. But does polling or anything else quite frankly, David, offer any glimmers of hope that that is still possible?

CHALIAN: Look. Here's the reality. If you're a candidate not named Trump -- not named Trump, you have a theory of the case, which is that if you can draw blood in some fashion in the early States of Iowa or New Hampshire, you can change the dynamic of the race.

Now, I don't know if that's true. We'll see if that's true. But I do know, there aren't really other theories of the case available to candidates running 30 or 40 points back.

So, if you look at the CBS poll that came out yesterday from early States, Iowa, and New Hampshire, you can see why these other candidates believe there is a path. Which is that you see, yes, there's a quarter of the Republican electorate in those two early states that are locked into Trump, only Trump, that's all they'll consider. But then there's like a third that says they don't want to consider Trump.

And actually, Kate, the plurality, if you see in the 40s in both Iowa and New Hampshire in this CBS poll, you see are -- yes, they'll consider Trump, but they are also considering other options. So, if you take the Trump and others category, and the non-Trump category, that's a significant swath of Republican voters that are at least available or potentially open to these other candidates.

BOLDUAN: You know Nikki Haley is one candidate that we have seen and are seeing real movement around. And she saw a bump after the first debate and has seen gains since. What is it that she's doing differently, David, that you see -- what does that mean that she could do then tonight to try to push that path forward?

CHALIAN: Well, one thing we do see Nikki Haley doing is sort of keeping an eye on a general election appeal while she's also battling for the heart and soul of the conservative movement in the Republican nomination race. And that could be that sort of broader approach, whether it is on issues of abortion or other issues where she tries to present something that doesn't lock her in to a position that would be hard to get away from if she is the Republican nominee. Could be part of that.

Also, she's the only woman on the stage. That's an immediate differentiator. She's obviously got skills and is a good communicator. So, yes, you note some traction for Nikki Haley after the first debate.


CHALIAN: But again, traction to where? Traction to be in this conversation in this hunt for second place.

BOLDUAN: Yes. After tonight, do you think there is one question that Republican voters will have answered after a second debate?

CHALIAN: That's a good question, Kate. I don't imagine that tonight is going to change the dynamic and all of a sudden, Donald Trump won't be as dominant a front-runner tomorrow as he is today.


But I think these are not definitive moments. I think these are part of a conversation that these candidates are continuing to have with these Republican primary voters specifically in the early states. So, some questions will get answered for those voters. I don't think that means they're going to stop shopping and lock into a choice after tonight's debate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, not decisive, but learning more about these candidates because people -- they -- these candidates need it just as much as Republican voters need to learn more as well. It's good to see, David. Glad you're there. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Police are on the hunt for a suspect they say is armed and extremely dangerous. He's accused of killing tech CEO Pava LaPere, who was just 26 years old. The alarming warning now being issued by police in that case. That's ahead.



BERMAN: All right, we have breaking news. Senator Bob Menendez, we learned, just pleaded not guilty to all three of the counts he faces. This is part of the federal bribery charges that came against him last week. His co-defendants also pleaded not guilty.

We're just getting new details about his bail agreement. So, let's get to Paula Reid outside the courthouse. Paula.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We're getting live updates from our colleague Lauren del Valle in the courtroom. They just went through the terms of release for the senator and his wife.

The senator will be released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. Now, he has to surrender his personal passport and travel documents but he can keep his official passport. And he is allowed to travel for anything related to his official duties as a U.S. senator.

Now, his wife is being released on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond that is being secured by her personal residence in New Jersey. Now, she has far more strict limitations on her ability to travel. She can travel to certain parts of New Jersey, New York, Washington, DC, and Florida but if she wants to do any other traveling, she may be able to get permission to do that. But she has to ask the government.

Now, as you noted both the senator and his wife through their attorneys entered pleas of not guilty during today's arraignment. We expect they will come out. It's unclear if he will speak when he comes out of federal court in just a few minutes here.

BERMAN: So, has to surrender his personal passport but not an official one. He had to step down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I mean, is it conceivable that he still does foreign travel as a sitting U.S. senator while he's facing federal indictment?

REID: It's certainly possible. It's something that the court says would be allowed if he had some sort of trip. Just in terms of optics, it is unlikely that we would see him, for example, go to Egypt because part of the accusation here is that he was passing sensitive information along to the Egyptian government.

But yes, there is, of course, sometimes foreign travel involved in their work as a U.S. senator. And the court is saying, look, that is something we'll allow, that personal travel. He has to hand over his passport, and then abide by the terms of his release as this trial goes forward.

BERMAN: Now, what about discovery? The next big step would be when Bob Menendez and his legal team can actually see the evidence compiled against him. And that might be a moment which spurs some kind of consideration or decision, Paula.

REID: Look. It's possible. He -- so far, he remains defiant even as more than half of his senate colleagues, Democrats, are calling for him to resign. He points to the fact that he previously faced a corruption case from the Justice Department. He was not convicted. And he insists that prosecutors have gotten out over their skis here.

But if you look at the allegations laid out in this indictment, the evidence that has already been made public, it is damning. Particularly those accusations about sharing sensitive information with a foreign government, perhaps against U.S. interests. For someone who is a sitting U.S. senator, chairing the Foreign Relations Committee, that is a grave accusation. So, I think going forward, going to be a lot more questions about particularly that aspect of the case.

Now, he may learn more about the evidence that the government has during that process of discovery. But I think his constituents and certainly his colleagues are curious to learn more about that. Was he targeted by foreign intelligence?

So, was he especially vulnerable, they thought? Is there some sort of counterintelligence investigation here? All questions that we're looking at since these charges were filed.

BERMAN: Yes. And to be clear, we've got no reason to expect that Bob Menendez would enter any kind of plea deal. But when there are plea deals, they are often after discovery when a defense team has a chance to dig through all of that evidence. Paula Reid, outside the court in Manhattan here, thank you so much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And coming up for us, a new space record. The NASA astronaut who is now back on Earth after spending more than a year in space. We have that awesome return for you.



BOLDUAN: All right, welcome back, everyone. We have learned that the court has officially adjourned in terms of the arraignment of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez facing a slew of bribery charges. This was his first court appearance. We're looking at here.

This is a live picture outside the court. You can see the cameras, trained on the door, the microphones set up waiting to see if the senator comes out with his legal team, and what he could say when that happens.

Paula Reid is outside there with us. Paula, what more are we learning?

REID: Well, Kate, just a few moments ago, attorneys for the senator and his wife entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of both of them. And then the judge has laid out the rules in terms of their release. The senator has been released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. He has been asked to surrender his personal passport and other travel documents but notably, he can keep his official passport and conduct any travel related to his official role as a U.S. senator.

Now, his wife has been released on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond. That is being secured by her personal residence in New Jersey. But she is going to be more limited in her ability to travel.


She has some permission to travel in specific areas in New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Florida. If she wants to travel anywhere else, she may be able to do that. But she's going to have to get permission from the court.

Now, the big question is whether the senator will address the assembled media here outside the federal court in New York. He has been quite outspoken over the past few days, remaining defiant as more than half of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate are calling for him to resign. So, he should be leaving court anytime now. And we're just watching to see if he's going to answer some more questions about these accusations.

SIDNER: Paula, there are other defendants in this case as well as we wait for him to potentially come and speak to the public. He has already said many, many things about this case. He talked a lot to the public about the money that was found in his jacket pockets and elsewhere.

He has not talked about some of the things like the gold bars and the car that is in the indictment. Do you have any sense of what happened to the others -- defendants who are in court right now as we wait for him to potentially talk with us?

REID: So, yesterday, one of his co-defendants that had their hearing today, he was joined by two of his co-defendants. They're currently working out the specific details of the release for them. It appears based on notes we're getting really quickly from our colleagues here in the courtroom that they are going to have far more restricted terms of their release. Those details are just coming out.

But it'll be really interesting to see if the senator wants to address cameras or if he's going to not answer questions. I think most good lawyers with a client in this particular situation would certainly prefer that they not take questions after a federal arraignment. Now, they did not talk to the press.

But the senator has been talking quite a bit over the past few days. So, there's a lot of reporters assembled here. One or two protesters. Pretty tame so far. But that's what we're going to be waiting to see now over the next few minutes if he will take questions as he exits this federal court hearing.

BERMAN: And there is a political reason why he may want to say something, if not a legal reason. Lawyers may say, say nothing. But since we really last heard from him at length, somewhat 20-- 27 now? 27 Democratic senators have come out and called for him to step down and he has said he won't.

But really, the totality of what is facing him among his own colleagues has presented itself in the last 24 hours. So, he may choose this moment right here to address that issue. It has to be daunting to be a member of the U.S. Senate when you know that a majority of members in your own party in your chamber do not want you there. Again, we're looking at these live pictures outside the --

REID: Yes, not a good feeling at all. I'm sure his lawyers --

BERMAN: I'm sorry, Paula. I think we're going -- we're looking at these live pictures outside the federal courthouse. We're going to take a quick break. Our coverage continues next on "INSIDE POLITICS."