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Biden Takes Swing At Trump's Stamina At Event With Obama, Clinton; Fed Judge: Trump Attacks Against Judge "Very Troubling"; Biden: "Not Going To Give Up On" WJS Reporter Evan Gershkovich. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 15:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: At a time when the 2020 Democratic coalition is showing signs of fraying, last night, President Biden brought out the big guns to show the party is fully behind him. His two Democratic predecessors, former presidents Obama and Clinton, flanking him on stage for a record-setting fundraiser. They brought in $26 million in this effort to have Biden join them as a two-term president.

But inside the event, and also outside, pro-Palestinian protesters calling out Biden for his handling of the war in Gaza. So the Democratic division's still apparent at the high-profile gathering.

We have CNN Political Director David Chalian here for some expert analysis on this. How much would you read into this show of force, but also this record haul?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, the show of force is designed for the record haul, right?

KEILAR: That's right.

CHALIAN: I mean, so - I - so that was the most important thing from the Biden campaign's perspective to accomplish last night with adding $26 million into the coffers and expanding this fundraising advantage over Trump that the Biden team has. Though the Trump campaign notes they've got a big Florida fundraiser coming up where they think they're going to bring in $33 million, so we'll see about that.

But clearly the Biden team has been raising a ton more money than the Trump and larger Republican effort. And the other piece that the show of force is designed for is to rally the Democratic faithful, to feel good about Joe Biden being the nominee, getting behind him. You know so much of what we've talked about in the lead up to this campaign season has been pieces of the Biden coalition that haven't quite shown up in force in the polling so far that he had back in 2020 when he won.

And I think part of the design of bringing the Democratic superstars all together on the stage is to make Democrats feel good about the Biden effort and that it is time to enthusiastically get on board. KEILAR: And it's a united front that Trump cannot replicate on the Republican side, for sure. Biden taking a couple swipes last night at Trump's literal fitness. He implied he's old and out of shape. And here he was joking about Trump's stamina.


STEPHEN COLBERT, MODERATED BIDEN FUNDRAISER: Donald Trump, as far as we can tell, has just been trying to win a third championship at his own golf course. My question to you, sir, can voters trust a presidential candidate who has not won a single Trump International Golf Club trophy? At long last, sir, have you no chip shot?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, I'd be happy to play. I told him this before when he came into the Oval when he was being - before he got sworn in, I said, I'll give you three strokes if you carry your own bag.


KEILAR: He does not carry his own bag. Not that you would expect a president to. But I think what is most telling about that clip may be the fact that this is what the Biden campaign wanted us to see, because we didn't have cameras inside. This was a closed fundraiser and so they're choosing the moments that they release. What do you make of them choosing this one?

CHALIAN: Yes, they allowed us to have an editorial presence in the room to see what was going on, but they wouldn't allow news cameras to capture this footage and play what we would choose to play. So you're right, I looked at that and said, oh, this is the first clip they're putting out, a clip of the president mocking his opponent and it fits.

I mean, with what we've been seeing from Joe Biden and his team far more aggressively going after Trump at every turn this campaign season.


This is different than, as you know, Hillary Clinton handled it in 2016 and even different than how Joe Biden handled Donald Trump four years ago in 2020. They are, yes, setting the stakes for this election. Joe Biden was asked about that, too. They released that clip later about democracy being at stake from his perspective.

But to release this clip first about the mocking, he tweeted about this Trump club trophy thing last week. The campaign spokespeople put out very sort of denigrating messages about Trump and aggressively drawing the contrast, because they believe that is their ticket to galvanizing Democrats around this effort is putting Trump front and center, both as a serious threat as they see him, but also as somebody unfit for the office.

KEILAR: Yes, we'll have to see if it works. It can be dicey at times, but clearly they think that it's a winner for them.


KEILAR: David, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Brianna. Kristin?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN HOST: Well, in a highly unusual move, a sitting federal judge is criticizing Donald Trump's attacks on a judge. Over the last two days, Trump went on a social media tirade, attacking not just the judge overseeing his hush money case, but really going after the judge's daughter as well after being issued a gag order.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton spoke to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, calling Trump's attacks problematic and a threat to America's justice system. Here's a clip.


JUDGE REGGIE WALTON: It is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law when judges are threatened and particularly when their family is threatened. And it's something that's wrong and should not happen.

I can't get into someone's mind to say whether they appreciate the impact that they're doing, but I would think that he's any reasonable thinking person would appreciate that when they say things that can sometimes resonate with others. And I think that's particularly true when you have somebody who has status in our society and they make certain statements. It can cause people to act on those statements, even if they don't necessarily intend for someone to do so.


FISHER: And Kaitlan Collins joins us now. So, Kaitlan, you know it is just so rare for a sitting judge to speak publicly, let alone on an active case. Why do you think he did it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and not only rare for them to speak publicly, but especially in a cable news interview, you just don't see this happen very often. And that kind of speaks to, I think, the gravity of the moment that we're in. And I think it's important to note that this judge is not overseeing Trump's case in Washington. He is a sitting U.S. district judge there. He is a federal judge there. That's what makes this all the more remarkable. But he's not the person handling Trump's election interference case that's on hold right now in Washington.

But he did feel this need to come out, Kristin, and speak publicly because of just what we've been seeing happening. The context that we are now living in. And Trump's attacks this week on Judge Merchan here in New York are all the more remarkable because he has only upped them after the judge affirmed that, yes, he will be going to trial in a few weeks.

But what Trump is doing lately is kind of going around that gag order to attack the only people who aren't covered in it, which is the judge himself, the district attorney, but also naming the judge's daughter in this. Because she's worked in - for Democratic campaigns before, essentially arguing that because the judge has - that as his daughter, that Trump himself can't get a fair campaign.

And so we spoke to Judge Walton about this just because he's someone who knows what this is like. He's obviously been on the bench for decades. He's someone I should note was appointed by both Bush presidencies for different judgeships. And so it just speaks to the moment that we're in, that a federal judge felt the need to come out and talk about what he believes this is a threat to the judiciary because these threats obviously come with consequences. They aren't just in this vacuum of Truth Social because he was essentially arguing to me that even if Trump doesn't intend for his words to cause violence, that that is not always the case. And we've seen that happen with judges just recently.

Some judges have had members of their family killed by people who are targeting them or targeting their family members because of who they were.

FISHER: Kaitlan, one of the things that Judge Walton told you is that he's personally received a greater number of threats since he himself was sitting on several January 6th cases. Did he tell you what those threats were or are and any idea where they're coming from?

COLLINS: So I think this was one of the most remarkable parts of the interview because he's someone who - he's in Washington, so he's had a lot of the January 6th cases come before him. And he said that basically it was so rare for him to get threats before in decades that he was on the bench that, yes, he had gotten them from time to time. But he said that he had completely noticed an increase ever since he started hearing the cases of these January 6th defendants. And he talked about that inquiries.

And he also kind of knows what Judge Merchan is going through because he himself has had his daughter targeted to where they said things like the - implied that they knew what the address was. They said names.


And essentially, he was saying that you kind of always have that fear in the back of your head. And he was saying it shouldn't impact the job that you do, that it shouldn't impact your judgment, that everyone should be treated fairly in the court of law. But he was talking about, A, the moment that we're in and just how much this has increased and how much this has changed.

But B, also, that these are very real threats that these people are living with on a day-to-day basis and just what that means to them. And I think that's really what stands through in him speaking out in such a rare moment.

FISHER: I imagine that this is going to do little to get Trump to tone down his rhetoric, but I'm curious what you think.

COLLINS: It's only - what we saw last night after I posted that he was going to be on the show last night, was you saw a lot of people in Trump's circles complaining that a sitting judge was coming out, instead of kind of looking at the moment and contemplating what it meant that he was coming forward, a sitting federal judge, and felt the need to speak out about these threats to the judiciary and how they are potentially hindering our justice system. Because he was essentially arguing, if you can't have a functioning judiciary where people feel like they can do their jobs without the potential threat of physical violence, he was saying that it's a threat to democracy in the United States, that it could mean tyranny in the United States.

If you can't have judges who go to work and feel like they can do their jobs. We've seen a lot of criticism of that, though, from people in Trump's circle. It's not surprising, really, because they're criticizing this judge for breaking a norm by going out and speaking on cable news. But, of course, we see Trump break norms every single day, attacking the daughter of the judge who is going to be presiding over his criminal trial, something I should note even his own attorneys wish he would stop doing.

FISHER: That is such a great point, and it was such a great interview.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Brianna?

COLLINS: Thank you.

KEILAR: Well, not the news on inflation that we want to hear. The Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge ticking higher last month, reversing some recent progress. And this means the Fed is even further from achieving its goal of 2 percent inflation, but it is in line with expectations.

Let's bring in Richard Quest, CNN Anchor and Business Editor At Large.

Richard, what does this mean when it comes to interest rate cuts?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Oh, I don't think it changes it one jot, for the simple reason that we're talking here not so much about a headline number per se, one month versus the next, but where the trajectory of the way rates are coming down. Now, we had a very steep fall. And what has essentially happened is that there's been a moderation in that fall.

Prices are still going up, but they're not going up as fast. So don't think of this as being prices falling. Prices are still going up. They're just not going up as fast, but they're still going up. And I think this number tells the Fed that they have to be obviously extremely cautious about cutting too quickly and sending everybody off to the races.

But because the trajectory is in the right direction, I think we're still on for a June cut and probably two more before the end of the year. This was expected. There are 1,001 reasons why that go delve deep into the minutiae of the numbers.

KEILAR: And Richard, one thing that jumps out here is consumers, they are spending, even though recent economic data pointed to a bit of a slowdown. How significant is that?

QUEST: It's both a good and a bad. They are still spending and two thirds plus of the economy is consumer spending. You and me buying everything that we've ever wanted. However, how are we spending it?

Well, we've gone through a lot of the money that we put aside for - during the pandemic, the pandemic boom, if you will. That bucket list of - a lot of that's gone. And we're now starting to see savings depleting, going down quite a lot. And you're starting to see credit card debt. Well, we're not starting, we have seen credit card debt rising, defaults rising, people getting into trouble with these higher interest rates.

And don't forget, when rates start to come down, they're not going to come down so fast that you're really going to notice it that much. You just won't have to - you just won't be going up anymore. So I think on this consumer issue, we need the consumer. The consumer is there, but there's a double edge to it as to where the money is coming from and how much trouble people could be getting into.

KEILAR: All right. Richard, thank you for taking us through that. We appreciate it. Richard Quest, as always.

Three hundred sixty-six days behind bars, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich marking one year in Russian detention, wrongfully detained. What we know about the efforts to get him out.

Plus, Maryland's governor with new details on how it's getting one of the busiest ports on the East Coast back in business after that deadly bridge collapse.

And when she drops a new album, well, the world sits up and they take notice. Beyonce's new songs are starting conversations about more than just music. We'll have those stories and much more coming up on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.




FISHER: Moments ago, President Biden said that he's not going to give up on imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. Today marks just one year since Russian agents arrested him on espionage charges. Gershkovich, the Journal and the U.S. government all strongly denied the allegations.

A Moscow court has actually lengthened Gershkovich's detention until June 30th. And even though he still has not been formally tried, Russia has not yet provided any evidence to back up its claim that Gershkovich was a spy.


A Kremlin spokesperson says that talks about a possible prisoner exchange are ongoing but must be done in absolute silence. Let's turn now to CNN's Kylie Atwood.

And you know, Kylie, today, President Biden really repeated that the U.S. is committed to bringing Gershkovich home. But what else is the administration saying on this one-year anniversary?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Resounding calls from across the board, President Biden, the Secretary of State, lawmakers on the Hill, all calling for Evan Gershkovich to be released. I want to read to you a piece of the Secretary of State's statement today.

Blinken saying, "People are not bargaining chips. Russia should end its practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals for political leverage and should immediately release Evan and Paul." Paul, of course, is Paul Whelan. That other American who's wrongfully detained in Russia has been for more than five years now.

What we'll watch to see over the next 90 days is if there is any room for a deal to come to fruition, because U.S. officials say that they're hopeful that in this pre-trial detention period that has just been extended, there could be some sort of deal. But we'll have to watch and see if there's actually forward movement in that direction.

FISHER: I mean, a year in prison in the Russian penal system is a long time. What more do you know about how Gershkovich has been spending his time?

ATWOOD: Well, you have to imagine it's brutal, right? But when you hear from family members and friends of Evan, they say that he's not wallowing. When we see him show up in court, he's oftentimes smiling, laughter at times. And when he's in jail, they say that he's trying to be active with his time, as much as he can, of course.

He's meditating. He's writing a lot of letters to his friends, to his family members. He is reading books. So he's really trying to keep himself busy. And one of his friends who spoke with CNN, she lives in Moscow, and she said that he's actually spending more time consoling them in these letters than they are consoling him.

FISHER: Wow. Well, hopefully he doesn't have to spend too much more time consoling anyone and he gets out. Kylie Atwood, thank you. Brianna?

KEILAR: The Wall Street Journal is marking a bleak anniversary by leaving its front page largely blank, a huge hole representing the stories that Evan Gershkovich never wrote because of his detention. The Journal's headline reading in part, "His story should be here. The crime: Journalism."

Joining us now is Joshua Yaffa. He's a friend of Evan Gershkovich, and he's a contributing writer at The New Yorker.

You wrote, Joshua, an article about Evan being detained shortly after it happened. And here we are. It's been a year now. What's on your mind today?

JOSHUA YAFFA, FRIEND OF EVAN GERSHKOVICH: Both how quick and long a year is, frankly. You mentioned this article I wrote the day or day after Evan was detained. I couldn't imagine that a year later we'd be having this conversation, that I would have gone out into the streets of Berlin, Brandenburg Gate, with friends and colleagues of Evan's today with a banner declaring "Free Evan."

It's scary how fast a year can go and to think that that's a year of Evan's life he'll have spent in Russian prison. It's also equally scary to think of how slow a year can be, especially when you're the one waking up every day in that Russian jail cell. And all of Evan's friends, colleagues today, remarking, reflecting on this anniversary, telling each other, we hope we don't have to do this again for his sake, of course, for our sake. But we hope this is the only anniversary we'll have to mark with Evan in jail.

But it's a reminder of how time passes and how that can go so quickly, yet also so excruciatingly slowly.

KEILAR: Also on the front page of the Journal is an article talking about the things he's missed. He is now 32. He was 31 when he was wrongfully detained. And he leads a vibrant life, normally, of traveling, of friends and family and he's missed out on all of that. What we have seen, Joshua, is these images of him in court, including recently last month. And he has so often, in court, appeared defiant.

As you see him in these court appearances, what stands out to you?

YAFFA: The thing that strikes me every time, amazes me, is that usually, without fail, at every court hearing, at least once, he cracks a smile. He's smiling. There's something that he finds funny. There's some joke he makes to those in court, his jailers, effectively, Russian officials, himself. But we don't know exactly. It's hard to say. But there's something that Evan's able to find, find a moment of humor, a moment of lightness, a moment of humanity and that just speaks so highly and so precisely about Evan's character, that he retains this vital sense of life, optimism, a sense of humor.


He's someone who can make anybody laugh, anybody feel at ease. That's what makes him such a great journalist. That's what made him such a great reporter. He could have this natural rapport and natural ease with people and found some commonality, humor, in situations when you would least expect it. And he's really proving that's still the case now, when he's found himself in unimaginable circumstances, the circumstances that I don't know how I would react. I don't think most people watching would know how they would deal with spending one year in a Russian prison awaiting charges or trial for a crime you didn't commit.

But the fact that Evan's able to be in court and clearly be himself with a smile, with a laugh, is really amazing.

KEILAR: He looks not like he's looking at people detaining him, but the way he might look at you as a friend or a member of his family. And that's sort of the gaze that we see. We just heard from President Biden. He said, we're not going to give up. What more do you think the U.S. government needs to do to get Evan released?

YAFFA: Well, we've heard time and again from President Biden, those in the State Department and others that there is a process that the U.S. is pursuing. I think it's fair to, well, the U.S. government officially considers Evan wrongfully detained. That's a designation that was made very early on in his detention. But he's effectively a hostage because we see on the other side, Putin, the person holding him hostage effectively, has now made clear in an interview with Tucker Carlson and other venues that he's holding out for an exchange, that Evan is being held so as to trade him for others in - Russians that Putin wants back, held in Western custody.

And so we believe and know that there is a process ongoing. That process, by definition, however frustrating it is for those close to Evan, especially for his family, I know is - happens with a necessary degree of opacity. We may not know what's happening until the moment, hopefully very soon when Evan is on his way home.

One can only hope that despite a climate, of course, of worsening relations, you and your viewers know full well, especially post- Ukraine invasion, the kind of relationship the United States and Russia have that nonetheless, on something like this, the two sides are able to find common ground. We know they're working on it. We know the U.S. administration is devoting resources to it. And let's hope that those resources continue, that attention remains, this remains a priority, and that where there's a will, there's a way. And that way hopefully will be found without us having to face a second anniversary of this kind.

KEILAR: Yes, we hope it doesn't even get close to that.

Joshua Yaffa, thank you so much for being with us. We're so sorry for what you are going through as you stand vigil in a way for your friend who is detained. Thank you.

YAFFA: Thank you.

KEILAR: So we just got an update from Maryland's governor about salvage efforts there at the Baltimore Bridge collapse. These are live pictures coming in. You can see the conditions there, pretty choppy, pretty tough. We're going to talk about when the governor thinks the port could reopen next.