Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Biden Campaign Believes Florida In "Winnable" In November; HHS: Hospitals Need Written Patient Consent Before Invasive Exams; Blinken In Paris For Talks On Ukraine And Gaza. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oregon is restoring criminal penalties for hard drugs, including fentanyl, meth, and heroin. Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs in 2020 but since then, opioid deaths have tripled there. Under the new law, people caught with small amounts of these drugs could face six months in jail.

The last living survivor of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor has died. Lou Conter was serving as a Navy quartermaster on the main deck during the 1941 bombing. In an autobiography, Conter recalled how a powerful explosion lifted the battleship 30 to 40 feet out of the water. He helped rescue injured crew members and recovered bodies in the days following the attack. He was 102 years old -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What a wonderful life.

So, winnable. That is how the Biden campaign has now labeled Florida, and they're pointing to abortion as the reason behind this new confidence.

Florida's State Supreme Court just paved the way for one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. The justices -- they upheld Florida's ban on abortion after 15 weeks and that triggers an even more restrictive six-week ban, which state lawmakers approved last year. And the whole issue is likely to go to voters in November.

Let's get to CNN's Arlette Saenz who is at the White House for us with much more. Arlette, what is behind -- is it really just the abortion issue that is behind this news strategy and this confidence if you will of the Biden campaign?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a few elements to this, Kate, but the Biden campaign believes that they do see an opening in the state of Florida in large part due to the issue of abortion.

In a campaign memo released last night by campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, she outlined how they believe Florida is winnable, especially when it comes to the issue of reproductive rights. They see the fact that voters will be deciding in November, in Florida, whether to approve a state constitutional amendment relating to abortion rights. They believe that is something that can really galvanize voters heading into November's election. It's something that they've long stressed across this campaign as they believe abortion rights -- reproductive rights will really push a lot of women, Independent, and moderate voters to the ballot box for Biden.

We've heard the campaign talk about potential ballot initiatives on the ballots in states like Arizona and Nevada, and they believe that this could also help them in a state like Florida.

The campaign manager argued that this decision from the Supreme Court yesterday relating to the abortion ban in the state -- it really amounts to a total abortion ban across the southeast is something that she argued. If you take a look there, the southeast has some of the most stringent limits when it comes to abortion access, including in battleground states like Georgia and North Carolina as well.

But many have longed believed that Florida would be a longshot for President Biden to win against former President Donald Trump. We have seen Trump perform better than Democrats there in the past two election cycles, beating Hillary Clinton by about 112,000 and beating Biden by an even bigger margin of 371,000 votes. Of course, there have also been Republican governors in the statehouse there for quite some time now.

But the Biden campaign is also pointing to another fact that they believe that there are cracks in Trump's coalition and they've pointed to the fact that Nikki Haley was able to secure 155,000 votes in the Florida primary even after she had dropped out.

We have seen the Biden campaign make these overtures to Nikki Haley's supporters. They ran a new digital ad that started over the weekend. They've been talking to potential donors that they could bring from -- over from Haley world.

So these are all elements that the Biden campaign sees that could be in play for them in Florida in November with abortion rights and reproductive rights really being at the top of that list.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and let's see if the Biden campaign starts spending some serious money there in Florida to make this happen.

It's good to see you, Arlette. Thank you -- Sara.


Joining us now, CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover, and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. Thank you both for being here.

Of course, we're going to start with Florida -- the abortion ban. The Supreme Court approving a six-week abortion ban. The Biden administration is going ham on this. They are trying to win Florida and they think they can with this one issue.

How do you see it, Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, PBS "FIRING LINE": I think this is an issue that the Republicans just can't get right. They are so stuck in their own purity test and ideological rigidity that they have not figured out that no matter what red state is thrown in front of them, no matter how conservative the base is, when you put this to a popular vote, Republicans lose.

It has happened in Kansas by 18 points. It happened in Ohio. It's happened by proxy in Virginia and in Kentucky, and in three other states. Seven states total.

This is -- I mean, we're talking -- it's like Sisyphus. They just keep pushing the boulder up the hill and it keeps coming down and crushing them. And until they learn that and until they understand where really the majority of women are in this country -- and frankly, a big chunk of Republican women -- they will continue to lose on this issue.


Does that mean they'll win Florida? Well, I'm not so sure about that. Many other factors will be at play.

SIDNER: Right. It's a single --

HOOVER: But this will be a factor that drives asymmetrically Democrats and, quite frankly, freedom-loving Floridians to the polls.

SIDNER: All right.

Let's listen to how abortion rights advocates in Florida reacted to the Supreme Court approving this six-week ban.


LAUREN BRENZEL, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, FLORIDIANS PROTECTING FREEDOM: We are thrilled that Floridians will have the opportunity to reclaim their bodily autonomy and to gain freedom from this government interference by voting yes on Amendment Four this November. We're not saying that anybody has to ideologically align with abortion. We're saying that politicians shouldn't be the determiners of that decision. They shouldn't interfere with patients and medical providers.


SIDNER: So, Joe, since there is a measure on the ballot this November that could change the law, do you think voters will pay as much attention? Will they go with their initial gut even after this law -- or, sorry, even after the Supreme Court made the six-week ban legal?

JOE TRIPPI, SENIOR ADVISER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, (via Webex by Cisco): Absolutely. I mean, I think this is a real game-changer. Look, I had my doubts about whether Biden could be competitive but I thought it was going to be closer than last time already.

And with this, there's a couple of other factors going on here. I mean, first of all, the six-week ban is literally in the 20s in terms of their support in Florida. I mean, it -- only about 20 percent of Floridians support the six-week ban that Gov. DeSantis signed. So you have that.

The second thing is Rick Scott is not the most exciting nor popular Senate candidate that the GOP, as an incumbent, is putting up. And you have Debbie Mucarsel-Powell on the Democratic side, who I just think is -- has just gotten a ton of support coming in now with money, and that's going to make that Senate race very competitive. She has a real shot.

And I think -- but -- that those two boats lifting up can help Biden. If Biden can keep it within single digits, I think she wins the Senate seat, which is really important. But I also think he -- I think this puts both North Carolina and Florida in play where they have weak statewide candidates on the Republican side and this issue is going to be really important.

SIDNER: So you said -- you're basically saying look, down-ballot, there could be some serious implications for this if not for the president himself.

Margaret, I want to talk to you about what's been happening in court. It's obviously a place where Donald Trump also campaigns because he has to be there. He's been slapped with an expanded gag order. But there's also this litany of witnesses whose names we haven't heard much until now or when he was in office and it brings us back to a time.

You've got Hope Hicks, his former press secretary. You have Kellyanne Conway. You have Michael Cohen, his former attorney who has turned on him. You've got David Pecker, the head of American Media who had squashed stories in the Enquirer to keep Donald Trump from having to face these salacious accusations by both a former Playboy playmate who said she had an extramarital affair with him, and Stormy Daniels, herself, is all on the witness list.

What does this do politically? Does this take us back to a time when Donald Trump was in office to show the chaos that was going on?

HOOVER: I think for folks who have not been focused on the contrast because we have been focused on a Republican primary -- with a fulfilled Republican primary. Now that the field is winnowed and now that we essentially have our two presumptive nominees, the contrast between Donald Trump and the cast of characters that he has around him, right -- policy is personnel -- versus who Joe Biden has around him I think will come into even further relief as we progress in this campaign.

And I think you're right. We'll begin to see that now. Begin to see and be reminded of, really, the rhetoric and -- not just the rhetoric, the leadership and the -- and really, the cast of characters that Donald Trump has around him, which he presumably will bring back but probably not even in as high of a caliber and quality as he did the first time.

I mean, I actually think, Sara, the cast of characters who are around him that won't be back and that also refuse to endorse him, like Vice President Mike Pence. SIDNER: Right.

HOOVER: Like his defense secretary Mark Esper. I mean, those are the characters that won't be going in with him. That won't be holding the guardrails of our democracy together.

So you're right to point out who is in court this week and why.

SIDNER: Interesting.

I want to go to you, Joe. We had RFK talking with Erin Burnett last night and he had a lot to say about which presidential candidate is a greater threat to democracy. He made the argument that President Biden is.

What do you make of what you heard, and do you think this is going to have some real implications here?


TRIPPI: Look, I think RFK Jr. is nothing but a spoiler that was set up to hurt Joe Biden. There's no question in my mind that half of the money to his super PAC comes from a major Trump supporter who gave millions to Trump -- Trump's super PAC. It's not an accident.

Steve Bannon has been out there pushing him to run for president from the get-go for almost two years now. There's not an -- and it's not an accident at all.

And I think, yeah, there are implications because in these states -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania -- the six or seven states where literally 14,000 votes or 44,000 votes can make a difference. There's no way RFK Jr. has any shot at the presidency but he can be the spoiler that the Trump campaign needs to end up in the White House.

SIDNER: Joe Trippi, Margaret Hoover, it's a pleasure. Thank you both.

HOOVER: Thank you.


BERMAN: All right. This morning, Donald Trump is waking up $1 billion poorer, at least on paper, after shares of his media company, whose main product is the Truth Social platform, I should say -- it plunged more than 20 percent. The company just went public a week ago. And when the markets open shortly, the question is could it plunge even more?

CNN's Matt Egan is with us. That's a big drop in one day, Matt.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: John, it is a big drop and it is a sign that gravity may finally be kicking in here. Look, this stock had been going to the moon, right? It was pumped up by momentum and hype. Fundamentals didn't seem to matter until now, maybe, right?

This company lost over a fifth of its value in one day alone. That is a massive loss. And this is why we say that these are paper gains, right?

Now, Donald Trump still owns a massive stake here. It's valued at $3.8 billion but that is down sharply by $1 billion from just the previous trading day. And listen, these gains -- they could vanish in an instant when you're talking about a stock that is as volatile as this one.

Now, the trigger was the fact that Trump Media -- they released their 2023 results and let's just say they were not perfect. Now, they lost $58 million. Not totally shocking because we're talking about a startup. But look at this. Just $4.1 million in revenue. That is tiny, especially because this is a company valued in the billions of dollars.

Some context. It's actually very much in line with another digital media company that has been in the spotlight, The Messenger -- the one that flamed out earlier this year. Look at that. The losses are similar. The revenue is right in line. Of course, The Messenger ended up just shutting down a few weeks after posting these results.

Now, I'm not saying that's going to happen here. But still, this shows why a lot of people say that this is meme stock and that this company looks like a bubble.

BERMAN: Futures right now?

EGAN: Futures are down. The stock has done about three or four percent in premarket trading so there could be more losses to come here. And look at this stock chart. I mean, it spiked back up --


EGAN: -- in January and went up again as the company went public, but sharply lower in the last few days.

BERMAN: All right. So, futures down. We're going to be watching this very closely throughout the morning. A billion dollars gone yesterday and could lose even more this morning.

EGAN: He could. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Matt Egan, thank you very much -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Stand by to see the news on that one coming in later this -- later in the show.

Hospitals across the country, meantime, are facing new guidelines this morning. They must obtain written consent now before patients undergo sensitive exams, like pelvic and prostate exams. The new guidance was just issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

And CNN's Jacqueline Howard has much more on this. And, Jacqueline, hospitals have long needed consent from patients for exams, so what is driving the new guidelines?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's right, Kate. These new guidelines really reiterate that getting that consent is required.

And the reason why HHS officials just sent a letter to teaching hospitals and medical schools with this new guidance is because recently, some media reports have surfaced that have revealed that, in some cases, patients have been subjected to these sensitive, intimate exams while they were under anesthesia without their consent and with any prior discussions about the exams being performed. And in some cases, these exams were performed for teaching purposes to demonstrate to medical students how to conduct an exam.

But in a letter to teaching hospitals and medical schools, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote, quote, "Informed consent is the law and essential to maintaining trust in the patient- provider relationship and respecting patients' autonomy."

So moving forward, you need to have that written consent from a patient.

And also, the Office for Civil Rights investigates complaints alleging that patients' protected health information was used or disclosed to medical trainees in violation of HIPAA for teaching purposes. So the Office for Civil Rights also looks into whether disclosing a patient's health information to a medical school student or a trainee is in violation of HIPAA laws as well.


So all of this is explained in this letter that HHS just sent out to hospitals and it looks like they're really cracking down on the practice of performing exams like this without consent moving forward, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's great that it's being clarified.

Thank you, Jacqueline, and thanks for laying it out for us.

HOWARD: Thanks for having me.


SIDNER: All right. Thank you, Kate.

Overnight, Iran vowing to retaliate, blaming Israel for an attack that killed several top Iranian military commanders.

Also, there is a substantial risk of significant long-track tornadoes later today. Who should be on alert and where.



SIDNER: We've got new pictures for you this morning of Secretary of State Antony Blinken meeting moments ago with the French defense minister. He is in Paris right now for critical talks on Ukraine and how to stop Israel's war with Hamas from escalating into a full-scale regional conflict -- a possibility that some analysts say is growing more likely after yesterday's airstrike on the Iranian Embassy complex in Syria. The attack killed at least seven people, including a top commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Iran is blaming Israel and vowing retaliation.

The New York Times is reporting this morning that Israeli officials have acknowledged that Israel carried out the attack. CNN can't confirm that or the claims from Iran at this hour.

CNN's Nic Robertson is joining us now from London. These meetings in France just took on some serious urgency as you see what is happening in the region.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah. When the strike happened on the Iranian consulate in Damascus yesterday, high- value targets to Iran killed there. They're saying that there will be retribution and that they will be decisive. Also saying that they hold the United States accountable as well.

The place that you can expect this tension between Israel and Iran to go up would be along the northern Israeli border with Lebanon's -- with Israel's -- Iran's proxy, Hezbollah, there. So if there was to be an increase in tensions that's where you would see it.

And, of course, the French president has a history of diplomatic political engagement in Lebanon. He speaks to the leadership there. So not that he can have a massive calming effect but he can and France can writ large have some impact to try to deescalate those tensions that clearly ramped up yesterday.

But, of course, this meeting with Sec. Blinken, the defense minister, and the foreign minister this afternoon -- this evening, Paris time -- meeting with President Macron -- yes, it's about -- it's going to be about Gaza and about tensions in the Middle East, but also about Ukraine. About talking about the issue that both countries share much industry. You know, France, the fifth-largest investor in the United States and employs 740,000 U.S. workers. So talking about those ties and commonality and wanting to end the war in Ukraine, holding Putin to account for it

But this is more, I think, than just a handshake. So there's platitudes because I think there's a nudge in there -- a sort of a gentle diplomatic nudge. Because in Europe, there's a sense that France isn't doing as much as, say, Germany to help contribute and support Ukraine in the war against Russia.

And over the weekend, France announced that they would give several hundreds of used armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine and supply some more surface-to-air missiles that Ukraine needs. But you get the sense in the language and statements around this visit the United States is saying that France is an important leader in Europe. And it's important that they're at the forefront of showing support, and solidarity, and supplies, and military equipment, and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

So I think this -- I think in the meetings, there will be something of a nudge there as well to keep that up and maybe do more.

SIDNER: Nic Robertson, thank you so much for your reporting.

John, a lot of the focus is obviously going to be what happened in Gaza, and I'm sure this will be brought to us as well.

BERMAN: Yeah, absolutely. The death of four -- seven aid workers, I should say, from World Central Kitchen.

With us now, retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Phillip Breedlove. General, thank you so much for being with us.

This is where the attack happened in Gaza. I wanted to put this up on the screen so people could see it. This is one of the vehicles from the convoy from World Central Kitchen. You can see on the roof here their logo clearly marked there. You can also see a hole now in that roof where the people inside were killed.

General, I do understand that war is confusing. That it is difficult at times to know who is who. But how does something like this happen when Israel knows that World Central Kitchen is operating there? When World Central Kitchen says they had informed Israel of the presence of this convoy.

GEN. PHILLIP BREEDLOVE, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR, SAM NUNN SCHOOL AT GEORGIA TECH, (via Webex by Cisco): Well, first of all, thanks for having me on this morning.

And as you said, war is confusing. The fog of war are the words that people who talk about it always use. And I must also add that while they were warned about this, we are told -- the Israelis were -- remember that this is the proclivity of all Iranians and the Iranian proxies to hide themselves amongst the innocents. To mix and mingle with the innocents. Live in the buildings and vehicles of the innocents. And that way, they expect not to be attacked.


So I think we will find out more into the future about why and how this actually happened.

BERMAN: We will, and it is being investigated. We have heard nothing so far of any Iranian or Hamas fighters being hidden within this World Central Kitchen convoy.

Obviously, war is also often fought beyond just the grounds of the battlefield. There's a strategic component where world opinion matters also.

What does this do to world opinion, which was already difficult for Israel, General?

BREEDLOVE: It's incredibly difficult for Israel and this, of course, is again, one of the tactics of the Iranians. They have no hope of winning a war against Israel on the ground, yet they attacked Israel in the most dastardly way in order to invoke this response, which has gone so far.

And so, I think that while we are so thoughtful for the actual people of Gaza -- the Palestinians -- we know that these Hamas terrorists have an intention to do what is exactly happening. To raise world opinion against Israel because Hamas knows they can't beat Israel but they can get the world to do what Hamas can't do to affect their goals.

BERMAN: I want to ask quickly what happened in Syria, which was this strike which destroyed -- the video is not working here -- which destroyed a building in downtown Damascus that had several Iranian al Quds Force officials and military officers there.

How is it that you think that Iran might respond to this attack?

BREEDLOVE: Well, before we talk about that, just -- it's important to remember that all roads start in Iran and all roads end in Iran when it comes to terrorism in this part of the world.

Now, what is clear is Iran will try to strike back. And at the top of this clip you talked about the possibility of the -- all the black flags in the valley below the northern parts of Israel -- the Golan Heights. These are now outposts that can fire pretty capable missiles into Iran. So I'm sure -- or into Israel. So I'm sure we'll see some attacks from there.

But more importantly, as you also have mentioned before this, this could spread outside of the combat zone. Iran may try to reach out and touch very important places outside of even Israel. And so, we all have to be on the alert.

BERMAN: All right.

General Phillip Breedlove, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Big portions of the country are facing severe weather today. Over four million people are under winter weather alerts. That's across the Great Lakes and the Northeast. Parts of Michigan and Wisconsin could see up to a foot of snow. And honestly, by April, it feels like most everyone is ready to be done with snow.

Millions more are under a tornado watch with storms moving through the southeast and up the East Coast.

CNN's Elisa Raffa is tracking all of this for us. A rough day for so many, Elisa.

ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're looking at a potentially dangerous day ahead and this is day two of the dangerous storms. We had some dangerous storms yesterday evening and overnight with at least three tornadoes reported so far, in parts of Oklahoma. We also had tennis to softball-size hail reported over parts of Texas and Oklahoma as well.

This is the current tornado watch that's in effect for Louisville and southern Indiana there, and parts of Kentucky. This goes until noon Central Time where we have a line of storms that's coming through and we could get some of these storms to rotate. We've been watching tornado warnings all morning for some of these storms that have the capability of twisting and spinning.

Now, as we go through the day today, this threat is only going to increase. We have a level four out of five moderate risk from Columbus to Cincinnati down towards Louisville. And we're looking at the likelihood of strong tornadoes -- long-track tornadoes that are on the ground for a while, very large hail up to the size of softballs, and damaging winds.

This is the tornado risk today. This is, again, not just a risk of tornadoes but a risk of strong tornadoes at EF-2 or greater. So this could be incredibly dangerous. We're looking at a significant severe weather outbreak likely also coming with some flooding rains. A flood watch in effect for the same areas as well. So something that we'll have to keep watching.

As you look into the afternoon and evening here after about 2:00-3:00, storms really start firing up. And you see these kind of little freckled pieces here. These are some of the supercells that could dump some of these pretty strong tornadoes. That will continue as we go into the afternoon.

Then cold air comes in behind this and look at the snow that comes in for the Great Lakes and parts of the northeast, like you mentioned. We've got some ice and snow that could come in on the back side of this.