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Biden Campaign Releases New Ad Ahead Of Trump Michigan Visit; Trump Ramps Up Border Rhetoric; Biden Emphasizes Abortion Access; Intense Storms To Bring Possible Tornadoes, Damaging Winds, Hail; U.S. Has Not Yet Seen Israel's Operational Plans For Rafah. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 15:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Former President Donald Trump back on the campaign trail, taking his message on immigration and border security to two key states that he lost in 2020, while the Biden campaign is zeroing in on the issue of abortion, hoping that it could help them flip states they haven't won in years.

And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there will be an investigation after an Israeli airstrike killed seven World Central Kitchen workers as they were delivering food to starving civilians in Gaza. The nonprofit says they had coordinated their movements with the Israeli army.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus, an important forecast, 10s of millions of people in the path of severe storms. Tornado watch is in effect right now in multiple states.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: After months bracing for a hypothetical Biden-Trump rematch, today we're seeing that general election matchup kick into full gear. Former President Trump is in the middle of a Midwest swing after spending several weeks forgoing the campaign trail, and he's hoping to blast through Joe Biden's 2020 blue wall, primarily by ramping up his inflammatory rhetoric on immigration and targeting Biden's border policies.

But President Biden has been equally relentless going after Trump on abortion restrictions. A new campaign ad today laying into Republicans on reproductive rights as Democrats turn to a new battleground in the fight over abortion access, Florida.

Let's start with CNN's Kristen Holmes, who is in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Kristen, explain the significance of this return to the trail coming in these two states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. Michigan and Wisconsin are two critical battleground states, and they're also states that Donald Trump won in 2016, lost in 2020 and really believes or at least his team believes, that he needs to win them in order to take back the White House in 2024.

So what we know now is that Donald Trump is currently in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As you said, he's really leaning in to his anti-immigration rhetoric. As you mentioned, Biden really trying to hit on reproductive rights to carry him to the White House. Donald Trump's team believes that this anti-immigration, talking about Biden failing at the border, is what's going to carry him potentially to the White House.

Now, Wisconsin itself is a very interesting state. Trump lost by a very thin margin. I talked to a senior advisor who called this state a must-win state for the former president and for his team. They say they're building out a robust, volunteer-driven, aground game here. And if they're talking about support for the former president or people who are enthusiastic, it is interesting to see here today. It is sleeting outside. They're expecting about a foot of snow, and there are hundreds of hundreds of people lined up to get into this rally.

Now, part of that might be the fact that Donald Trump hasn't set foot in this state since 2022. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has visited this state. He got a number of surrogates in this state, but it really goes to show you just how critical Wisconsin is going to be in that 2024 election.

KEILAR: Yes, and he's got these two paths. He's on the campaign trail, but there's this legal track that is happening in tandem. And it's in full view, Kristen.

HOLMES: It is, Brianna. And what we're going to see in just about a week, if this trial date holds, April 15th, is that he's going to be in court some days and on the campaign trail in other days. Now, that's going to look like Wednesdays being on the campaign trail or fundraising, as well as Saturdays, because those are the only days he's not going to be in court. And you're really going to actually see this dynamic between Donald Trump leaving the courtroom and going on the campaign trail.

Remember, up until now, almost all of his court appearances have been voluntary. They are not going to be voluntary once that criminal trial begins.


Those are going to be mandatory. So that's when you're actually going to see him going from the courthouse to the campaign trail in a forced way that he has to do.

KEILAR: All right. Kristen Holmes, live from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Thank you for that. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Let's get the White House perspective on this with CNN's MJ Lee. MJ, there is a new Biden ad that is specifically targeting Trump on reproductive rights. Meantime, the White House is also focused on Florida, where the Supreme Court there decided that they would approve the wording of a constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The White House apparently believes that will help them potentially win the Sunshine State.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we've, of course, seen some pretty blunt language coming out of this White House. President Biden saying that this decision by the Florida Supreme Court was outrageous and extreme. Vice President Kamala Harris saying that women there now confront the cruel reality of either putting their lives at risk or having to travel potentially hundreds or thousands of miles to get the health care that they need.

The Biden campaign, for its part, is obviously using this to make one more fresh push on the issue of abortion rights access. This, of course, is not a new strategy. We've heard both the White House and the campaign talking about this for months as an issue that they believe is politically potent. They think that it is one that will help mobilize voters and that they saw that happen in 2022, in 2023. We also are seeing a new ad coming out of the Biden campaign.

As you noted, Boris, this is not the first time that they have used this issue for a political ad. The first ad, you might remember, featured an emotional testimonial from a woman who talked about her inability to get access to abortion. But this new ad from the campaign is notable because it starts with Donald Trump.

Basically, this is the campaign trying to place the full blame on Donald Trump for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And then you see President Biden speaking directly to camera. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's running to pass a national ban on a woman's right to choose. I'm running to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again so women have a federal guarantee to the right to choose. Donald Trump doesn't trust women. I do. I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.


LEE: Now, one state where this ad is going to run digitally, at least for now, is the state of Florida. There's no question this is a very, very difficult state for the Biden campaign. But even the fact that the campaign is now saying that this is a state they see as being in play for them, it does just get more to the moment that we are in for the campaign. They are feeling like they want to capitalize on the momentum that they feel like they have, particularly after State of the Union and the fundraising that they've been able to do.

So that's really what this is about, capitalizing on this moment, both in Florida and just nationally, as well as they are seeing Donald Trump get caught up in these legal fights and really unable to travel in the way that President Biden has over the last few weeks.

SANCHEZ: MJ Lee, live for us from the White House. Thanks so much, MJ.

KEILAR: All right, let's talk about this now with CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. Can we - let's start with this blue wall. Is Biden really vulnerable there, Ron?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. The blue wall the phrase that I coined in 2009 referred to the 18 states that voted Democratic in every election from 1992 to 2012. Trump famously dislodged three bricks from the wall, continuing our musical metaphors. In 2016, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Biden won them all back in 2020.

In fact, Democrats have shown a lot of strength in all of them since 2016, now holding the governorship in all three states.

Brianna, in 2016 and 2020, if you count down the states from the most Democratic to the most Republican, each time Wisconsin was the 270th Electoral College vote. It was the 270th for Trump in '16, and then conversely, the 270th for Biden in 2020.

This time, Wisconsin actually looks a little better, as does Pennsylvania for Biden, than Michigan. Michigan looks like what might be the toughest place for Biden to defend, the weakest link in that wall for Democrats, both because of the discontent over his policy in Gaza and the Arab American community, but also because Trump is making a very strong play for blue-collar auto workers around the idea that the transition to the electric vehicles will decimate the industry and their jobs.

SANCHEZ: Yes, a divisive issue, no question about that.

Ron, let's talk about Florida for a moment, because in the last midterm election, we saw a dominating performance by Republicans. Ron DeSantis beat his opponent by roughly 20 percentage points. Before that, you had two wins for Donald Trump. I believe he won in 2020 by roughly three points, a little bit over three points.


The White House is now saying that Amendment 4, this question of enshrining abortion rights in the Constitution, gives them an opening in the Sunshine State. Is that real, or is that just an attempt to try to get the Biden, or rather, the Trump team to spend more money and focus more and divert resources to Florida?

BROWNSTEIN: I think it's more likely the latter, Boris. I think Florida is very difficult still for Democrats, and it reflects the - some of the complexities in the politics of abortion that aren't always fully discussed. It's true that in virtually every state, there is a majority in polls who believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

And in fact, when voters have been able to vote directly on it, even in red states like Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio, they have voted to support abortion rights. But the electoral impact of abortion is more nuanced. There's no question that in 2022, it was a very powerful issue for Democrats in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where, by the way, it is a huge challenge for Trump in 24, as well as places like Arizona. But in red-leaning states that actually banned abortion, it was not a silver bullet for Democrats. What we saw, for example, in Florida in 2022, is that one-third of voters who said - who basically described themselves as pro-choice, still voted for DeSantis. It wasn't enough to overcome their inclinations to vote Republican on other issues, like crime or immigration.

Whereas in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, only about one-sixth to one-quarter of voters who said they were pro-choice voted for the Republican gubernatorial candidates. So this was a very powerful issue for Democrats in kind of swing terrain and blue-leaning terrain. But by itself, I think we saw very clearly in places like Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, it was not enough to overcome the usual Republican lean of GOP-leaning voters.

KEILAR: Ron, I know we've been paying attention, obviously, to the political landscape for some time now. But I wonder if the same can be said for most voters. Is this the time when they're really starting to tune in?

BROWNSTEIN: It's a really good point. I mean, I think, obviously, there is a highly partisan portion of the electorate that is tuned in every day and is deeply engaged in this ongoing struggle between the parties that has really ramped up pretty much since Obama's election.

But the decisive slice of the electorate, Brianna, are those who are, by definition, the least engaged. I remember a pollster in a presidential campaign after a losing presidential campaign once saying to me the bitter irony of this whole process is that the voters with the most influence are those who pay the least attention and are the least engaged.

And we probably still have months to go before the last few points of voters who are probably who are probably pretty down on Biden and the economy, but also with residually negative images of Trump ultimately have to sort that out. And I suspect we're going to see a certain amount of volatility until the end, because those voters paying the least attention are probably pretty heavily overrepresented in what are now - what political professionals call the double haters camp, people who are negative on both sides.

And I don't think we have any idea yet how they are going to weigh their offsetting discontents with both Biden and Trump.

SANCHEZ: Ron, I think you might have just coined a new term, the decisive slice. It sounds like a book title or like a documentary about who gets the last slice of pizza.

Ron Brownstein, thanks so much. Appreciate your perspective.

BROWNSTEIN: We'll see if it lasts as long as the blue wall did, thanks.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Ron.

Right now, more than 75 million Americans are in the path of severe storms from the southeast all the way up the East Coast, that system already unleashing powerful tornadoes. And Kentucky's governor, Andy Beshear, just declared a state of emergency after a 90 mile per hour twister touched down in that state.

KEILAR: In Ohio, our affiliate there in Columbus is reporting that crews had to rescue two people from a river as storms were rolling through the area. And then in Indiana, strong winds caused part of a home to just flip over.

SANCHEZ: Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the conditions from the CNN Weather Center.

So, Chad, which areas are most at risk?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, all the way down to Alabama and Georgia. So it's a large swath of the U.S. east of the Mississippi really for today. The problem is we would love to see storms that are already firing and just raining. That's not happening. What are we seeing? We're seeing sunshine, clear skies, warming the ground. That warm ground warms the air. The air rises. And the potential for stronger and stronger storms, the longer it takes for these storms to go is what we're watching.


We certainly don't want this to wait till 5 or 6 o'clock in the real heat of the day. That's when the storms could really fire. You want them to fire earlier, so that the hail is smaller and the potential for rotation is smaller. But this is a waiting game and I'm not seeing good things on this waiting game, because I'm not seeing storms really begin to go and cloud the atmosphere, cool down the atmosphere.

There are showers. There was some damage overnight. There was a hundred thousand people in West Virginia without power because of the wind. But we're waiting for this almost what we call a loaded gun situation, where the atmosphere just sits there and waits and waits and then all of a sudden later on this afternoon and into this evening, the storms get big, they start to rotate, and we'll have tornadoes on the ground. We'll keep watching.

SANCHEZ: A lot to keep an eye on, Chad Myers from the Weather Center, thank you so much.


KEILAR: Still to come, military officials say an investigation into the Israeli airstrike that killed at least seven aid workers has reached "the highest levels," as Israel's top general vows to personally get involved, we have a live report from Jerusalem.

SANCHEZ: And later, voters in an Oklahoma City election head to the polls to decide whether a council member linked to white nationalism will get to keep his seat. A fascinating story, those and many more coming up on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.


KEILAR: The White House says it still does not have a clear picture of Israel's plans for its Rafah offensive, even after a high stakes virtual meeting between senior officials Monday. As the IDF presses on with its mission, this afternoon, the White House said it is outraged that seven World Central Kitchen workers were killed in an Israeli strike on Monday.

Today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the Israeli military unintentionally struck innocent people. And the IDF is pledging a full investigation as the U.S. calls for an impartial investigation.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Jerusalem with more on this.

Jeremy, are Israeli officials giving any details about how this happened?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, Israeli military officials acknowledged that it was Israeli forces that carried out the strikes on these three World Central Kitchen vehicles, but they are not explaining why at this stage, saying that they are conducting a serious investigation into the matter, acknowledging the tragedy of this incident. But very few answers so far from the Israeli military about how this could have happened.

Keep in mind that two of the three vehicles from the World Central Kitchen were clearly marked as belonging to that humanitarian aid organization, one of the most prominent aid groups in Gaza, which has even cooperated with the Israeli military itself to build that pier off the coastline, off of Gaza's shore.

One of the missiles that struck this - one of the vehicles - actually went right through the logo of the World Central Kitchen that was on the rooftop of one of these vehicles. And they were struck separately, it appears, each vehicle at least a half a mile apart, three vehicles along this coastal road in Gaza that has been used repeatedly for humanitarian aid missions.

World Central Kitchen says that they informed the Israeli military of the movements of this convoy beforehand. And so, clearly, something very, very wrong appears to have occurred. And obviously, this is drawing international outrage. It is not the first time that the Israeli military has actually struck an aid convoy, but it does appear to be at least one of the first instances of foreign aid workers being killed in these instances. Six of the seven World Central Kitchen workers who were killed here are foreign nationals, one of them is a dual American-Canadian citizen. The others are British, Australian and Polish nationals.

One of the workers was a Palestinian. He was the driver and translator for this group. The Israeli prime minister, in a sign of how seriously he understands the international uproar is around this, speaking directly about this in a video statement, calling this a tragic incident, saying that his force has unintentionally struck innocent people, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Jeremy Diamond, live for us in Jerusalem. Thank you for that report. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Let's discuss all of this with CNN Political and Global Affairs Analyst, Barak Ravid.

Barak, thanks for being with us. Great to see you.

I want to ask about the result of this airstrike on the World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers. Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, alerted Israeli defense forces to "maintain an open and transparent line of communication with international organizations like the WCF. He also ordered the creation of a joint situation room to try to coordinate distribution of aid in Gaza. I'm surprised those things weren't happening already.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, the problem with this incident was not miscoordination. The problem is also that there was no line of communication. That was not what happened. The movement of this convoy was coordinated with the IDF. This convoy moved on a road that is a humanitarian corridor that the IDF knows that cars that are driving on this road are carrying humanitarian aid. The IDF is a partner of the World Central Kitchen in its work in Gaza.


It gives security to the boat that is coming from Cyprus and delivering the aid.

It's not some rogue group that started delivering aid in Gaza. It was all coordinated. And this is why the claim that this was "unintentional" raises a lot of questions.

SANCHEZ: To that point, Barak, what are you hearing from your sources inside the Israeli government about the investigation that the world has been promised will come following this incident? The White House, through John Kirby, the spokesperson of the National Security Council, essentially said that he wants it to be thorough, he wants it to be transparent and he wants accountability. Given what you just laid out, is that really possible?

RAVID: I think, and I spoke to several U.S. and Israeli officials who were concerned that this investigation will result in the same result of many previous investigations, that there is an investigation, but at the end, nobody - it's nobody's fault, okay? Nobody knows who gave the order. Nobody did anything wrong.

It was the aid workers that maybe killed themselves. And I think I heard a lot of Israeli officials today that were highly frustrated by the fact that somebody in the IDF, most likely a very senior officer, at least a colonel - you need at least a colonel to approve such a strike.

So somebody did approve it on a quite high level in the IDF. And there's a lot of frustration that such a thing happened when it's clearly, clearly against all the rules of engagement.

SANCHEZ: That is stunning. I'm wondering, Barak, among officials you've spoken with, is there significant concern that this kind of attack is going to further erode public sentiment and global support for Israel?

RAVID: I think we're sort of like beyond that point by now. Obviously, it's not that this strike is going to improve Israel's image abroad. And obviously, it's going to most likely increase the international pressure, especially because you have nationals from at least four countries that were killed in this incident. The Israeli ambassador to London was summoned. The Polish foreign minister called the Israeli foreign minister of the U.S. We heard what John Kirby said.

So obviously, it's going to increase the pressure on Israel. But I think what we saw in this incident, and we have to say it openly and directly, this shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. There were previous incidents with the same results, but there were no foreign nationals, so nobody cared or people cared less. Three Israeli hostages were killed by Israeli soldiers because of the exact same reason. There is not enough of respect and full implementation of the rules of engagement in Gaza by IDF soldiers.

SANCHEZ: The timing is also significant, because as you're pointing out, that there is increased pressure and at least the rhetoric coming from the White House, they recently announced this huge deal, the biggest deal for military aid, sending these fighter jets to Israel and the teens, billions of dollars for these fighter jets. So it doesn't seem like just the rhetoric is going to change the attitude of the IDF, right?

RAVID: Again, I think the problem is that there's a disconnect between the IDF leadership that sits in the IDF headquarters and gives orders and procedures to the forces on the ground, and the forces on the ground and the field commanders who apparently are not fully implementing the orders. And I think this is something that we saw from day one of this war. We are six months in. It's not that there's no improvement. We see a deterioration in the way that the forces on the ground are not implementing the orders that they get from the IDF command.

SANCHEZ: Barak Ravid, always appreciate your expertise and your perspective on these matters. Thanks for being with us.

RAVID: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Still ahead, the Dow tumbling hundreds of points over concerns about when the Fed might cut interest rates. We're tracking a wild ride on Wall Street when we come back.