Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Today: Trump Hits Campaign Trail In Virginia After CNN Debate; Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA) Discusses His Take On Last Night's Debate Between President Joe Biden And Former President Donald Trump; Trump's Legal Team Expects To Use Supreme Court's January 6 Ruling To Try To Get Case, Evidence Tossed. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 15:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: From the debate stage to the campaign trail, soon former President Trump expected to deliver remarks at his rally in Chesapeake, Virginia. Speaking for the first time since last night's debate watched by some 48 million people.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: President Biden also holding campaign events today. He's currently on his way to New York after rallying in North Carolina, where he gave a high energy speech before a crowd of supporters.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. I know like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up.

I give you my words of Biden, I would not be running again if I didn't believe with all my heart and soul, I can do this job.


KEILAR: That high energy appearance, of course, in stark contrast to what we saw last night in the CNN debate. As we cover both candidates on the trail today, we want to start with CNN's Kristen Holmes following former President Trump in Virginia.

Kristen, what should we expect when he addresses the crowd?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are told that he's going to address the debate last night. Remember, we actually haven't heard from the former president almost at all. There have been rumor and speculation that he might come to the spin room, he might do some interviews after the debate.

But when I asked the senior advisor last night, if he'd be doing that, they said, why would we end on that note when we already feel like we've ended on a high note. They believe that they won last night's debate for a number of reasons. It's not just because we have seen from Democrats or because of what we have seen on social media, but it's actually because of Donald Trump's performance. Because remember, they were pretty concerned and nervous going into the debate. There were a lot of questions as to whether or not Donald Trump could stay on message.

They had spent days preparing the former president, drilling down that what he had to do was just talk about several issues that he pulled ahead of President Joe Biden on and they believe that he delivered. Now, whether or not the American people, the American voters believe that Donald Trump won last night's debate, just a reminder, the former president views everything in terms of winners and losers.

Now, while some of his allies that I've spoken to say they hope that, yes, he takes the victory lap, but that he spends most of his time focused on the issues. We are not on a debate setting today. We are in a rally full of rabid Trump supporters whose energy he will be feeding off of. So really unclear how far he'll go when he goes after Biden over the debate.

HILL: Yes. It will certainly be interesting to see. Kristen, I appreciate it. I cannot not acknowledge ...

KEILAR: That's right.

HILL: ... that Lionel Richie is a very interesting choice at that rally there in terms of campaign music. I love Lionel, but it is bleeding through ...

HOLMES: I do too.

HILL: ... that I feel like we had to acknowledge it.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is ...

HOLMES: It's really slowing the pace down right now.

HILL: One would imagine. One would imagine. Thank you, my friend.


CNN's Arlette Saenz covering the Biden campaign in New York, as we noted, the President making his way there, of course, after that rally in North Carolina, where it was a very different Joe Biden than what we saw on the stage last night. What are you hearing at this hour from the campaign?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, President Biden was very clearly attempting to have a reset out - on the campaign trail with that North Carolina rally, but it still comes as there are questions about what his path forward will be in the race. So far, Biden - the President himself and his advisers have shown that there are no signs of him backing down from this 2024 race, even as there are some Democrats in private who are questioning whether he should remain at the top of the ticket.

But President Biden stepped on that campaign stage in Raleigh, North Carolina, really offering a much more fiery and impassioned performance, perhaps something that his advisers had hoped he would demonstrate on the debate stage last night, instead of the halting and stumbling performance that happened to play out for millions of viewers last evening on television.

Now, President Biden was also quite forceful in his attacks against Trump during this North Carolina rally, painting him as a direct threat to democracy. He even tried to use or he did use some lines that he had tried to deploy last night in the debate, but once fallen flat when he was on that stage.

But President Biden also acknowledged some of his own struggles with the debate. Take a listen to how he framed this for voters.


BIDEN: I know I'm not a young man to state the obvious. I don't walk as easy as I used to. I don't speak as smoothly as I used to. I don't debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know. I know how to tell the truth.


SAENZ: And we're told that Biden's campaign team is actually having an all-staff meeting at headquarters this afternoon. That is something that typically plays out on Fridays, but now it's taking on additional significance in the wake of this debate. Now, Biden's advisers have spent part of the day working the phones with Democratic lawmakers and donors, trying to ease some concerns.

And President Biden actually just got some major backup from his former boss, former President Barack Obama, who posted on social media, quote, "Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is about someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself."

It's an interesting reference, as President Obama actually floundered in his own first debate against Mitt Romney back in 2012. I was actually on hand 12 years ago with Joe Biden when he had to go out and do cleanup duty for President Obama. So it's interesting the dynamics at play this time around.

But President Biden is now on his way here to New York City. He will be appearing at The Stonewall Inn, a historic site of the gay rights movement, and also attend a fundraiser a little bit later this afternoon or this evening with LGBTQ supporters. And it comes at a time when the Biden campaign is at least trying to highlight one bright spot from last night. The campaign says they brought in $14 million on debate day and this morning, trying to highlight some of that grassroots fundraising momentum.

But there will be questions going forward about whether the President can maintain that fundraising boost at a time when there are some concerns within the Democratic Party about whether he should remain at the top of the ticket. HILL: Arlette, appreciate it. Thank you. And joining me now is Democratic congressman, Robert Garcia of California, who is on the Biden campaign National Advisory Board.

Good to have you with us this afternoon. There is this day after debate, a hangover, if you will, that is plaguing the Biden campaign. A lot of conversations happening, many of them behind closed doors. I was struck by something, though, that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote, saying if this is the best performance they could summon from him, it's time for Joe Biden to keep the dignity he deserves and leave the stage at the end of his term, put the country before himself.

Is the President putting himself above the country?

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): I mean, absolutely not. I mean, Joe Biden is one of the most committed public servants we have ever had in this country. He has served this country honorably, not just as president, but as vice president, as a senator. He loves his country and he proves it every single day.

I mean, what we have in front of us is a clear binary choice. We saw that last night. I was in Atlanta. I saw the President. I saw him greeting his supporters. He is somebody that is out there telling the truth. And what we had in Donald Trump is someone that told lie after lie after lie. And I know that he wasn't able to be fact-checked on the spot, but he is being fact-checked now.

And as we can see, he lied in almost every single case to the American people. The American people are going to want someone that is being honest, that has a record, that is a good person, and that is not a criminal, and led literally an attack on the Capitol.

HILL: In terms of those falsehoods, you're right. Our own fact- checking, 30 false claims from former President Trump. President Biden had nine. Are you concerned, though, that the President in real time was not able or unwilling to push back against those lies coming from Donald Trump in the moment?


GARCIA: I mean, look, my personal opinion is that debate moderators should be pushing back on lies. I know that wasn't the format of the debate. But I think that President Biden was there to talk about his record and to push back on Donald Trump. And he - what he focused on was lowering prescription costs, talking about insulin, the lowering cost of insulin that he got, talking about his accomplishments, ensuring that people remember that he is the candidate that supports a woman's right to choose, and reminding the country about Donald Trump's role, horrific role, in the attack on the Capitol and in the insurrectionists that he now supports.

So Joe Biden did that. I understand that he had a raspy voice. But like I've told folks, who cares? We have a choice this November between someone that's a good person, a good president with a real record of results, and someone that has brought shame on the presidency, that is a convicted felon, in my opinion, also a traitor to this country.

And so Joe Biden is working hard to get elected. We just saw him in North Carolina, the energy and fire he brought to that rally. And he's going to do that every single day until the election.

HILL: It was a stark ...

GARCIA: We're behind him a hundred percent.

HILL: It was a stark contrast, what we saw this afternoon. That is clear. And some of the lines that we heard from him, some of the delivery, we were having this conversation with historians, would have made perhaps for a more forceful closing argument for the President last night.

I'm curious, this though, at the end of the day, what we saw last night, that really is a moment for the American people. The debate is for the voters to watch, to your point, to make their decision based on what they saw. I just want to play for you what some voters told CNN in reaction to the debate last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that his mental acuity is a lot better than Biden's. Biden seems to be very tired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm concerned he was hesitant, very not cognitive. Seemed like his data, he was missing his numbers, so very concerning. That's somebody I don't think that needs to lead our country.


HILL: So those were swing state voters. They're from the state of Michigan. Are you concerned that Joe Biden lost votes last night?

GARCIA: No. Look, the election is still months away. Joe Biden is going to work really hard to win every single vote, especially in swing states. And there have been other focus groups, other conversations last night where actually Joe Biden excelled. We saw that happening with groups of Latino undecided voters, where Latinos actually believe that Joe Biden came out on top of the debate, that he spoke to their issues versus someone that, of course, attacks immigrants, attacks Latinos, and doubled down on xenophobic rhetoric again last night, essentially saying that we've somehow uncivilized the country.

I mean, this is someone that has called Latinos rapists and murderers. And so as an immigrant myself, I take offense to that and want to ensure that we support someone that's always stood up for our community, but also the country at large. And so there's going to be different polls and focus groups. What really matters is moving forward. We had our best fundraising hour on record from grassroots supporters post-debate.

That tells you the grassroots is with Joe Biden. We're with Joe Biden. He's our nominee, and I look forward to the weeks ahead.

HILL: Congressman Robert Garcia, appreciate your time this afternoon. Thank you.

GARCIA: Thank you.

HILL: A key ruling from the Supreme Court paving the way for a number of January 6th rioters to have their cases reopened. So what does that mean for hundreds of defendants and potentially for former President Trump?

Plus, outrage in Oklahoma after schools are ordered to incorporate the Bible and the Ten Commandments into their lessons at public schools. Those stories and more ahead at this hour, CNN NEWS CENTRAL continues.



KEILAR: This just in, former President Trump's legal team planning to file motions to try to get federal obstruction counts against the former president dismissed. They're basing it on that ruling today from the Supreme Court that says the Justice Department overstepped by filing obstruction charges against hundreds of people who rioted at the Capitol on January 6th. The decision is already prompting at least some of those cases to be reopened.

HILL: Today on social media, in reaction, Trump declaring the decision was a, quote, "big win." Joining us to discuss, Marcus Childress, former January 6th Committee investigative counsel, and John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel.

Marcus, as you sat down, you were saying to us that you feel this is a soft blow, perhaps, but maybe not as big a deal as some people are making it out to be. Donald Trump and his legal team think this is a very big deal and could be very helpful to them.

MARCUS CHILDRESS, FORMER JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: Look, whenever the Trump team has an opportunity to make a filing, right, to try to cast some doubt on the overall investigation, they're going to do so. When I go back to what we were talking about before, like the practicality of today's decision, most of the folks who have been charged or pled guilty to crimes from January 6th also pled guilty to other crimes, such as Fischer was charged with, for example, trying to get into the Capitol violently, attacking law enforcement officers.

So it's not just the 1512(c)(2) charge, there's other charges that prosecutors can still move forward with without including this exact charge and still argue in sentencing some pretty aggravating facts to hold these folks accountable from January 6th.

KEILAR: It's really important to note that, John, that there are so many of these defendants, the vast majority of them, who are facing other charges. But in this particular case of Trump, if he is able to get something dismissed here, the political impact of that, how he is going to puff that up, that's going to be huge. I mean, what do you think about that?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's very unlikely he's going to get it dismissed. As Marcus said, it's very - it's a very limited ruling. It's been over-read and overplayed in the media so far. People haven't really gone in to the granular level of looking at the impact of this.


And it's going to be very nominal, even on those who have pled guilty. For example, many of them had in their plea that if this ruling went against the existing law, that would not change their status. So they could be charged again.

So there's a lot of anticipation this could come down. This has been out there during the prosecution of many of these January 6th cases. Jack Smith was certainly aware of it when he filed his indictment. And I think his indictment is going to withstand any test. So we'll see, but that's where I think the consensus is going to fall.

HILL: We've been looking at so many of these opinions coming out of this court and where they're falling, of course, along ideological lines. This one is not as cut and dry when you look at that 6-3 vote. John, what does that tell you and - about moving forward and also just about the decision itself?

DEAN: Well, it tells you this is not a really a constitutional-based case. It's a statutory interpretation where some justices rely on their approach to interpret statutes. Others rely on their experience in reading of the statute. So I think that's why you had the very practical difference in the - not being a straight partisan decision in this instance.

KEILAR: And Marcus, the big case, of course, that we are really watching for is going to be this immunity case that the Supreme Court has to speak on. The President has said that he has broad immunity because of what happened on January 6th as he tries to get things dismissed in the election subversion case federally. What are you expecting?

CHILDRESS: So, look, I went to the argument and followed the briefs pretty closely. I don't expect the Supreme Court to say that the president - former president has absolute immunity. And if we're being realistic, I expect there to be some type of line and some type of test that's going to require the lower court to try to determine which facts fall within that bucket of conduct (ph) that can be charged and which facts fall outside that bucket.

And I think just how extensive the test requires the lower court to have to make those determinations will be kind of how this case plays out moving forward before the election.

HILL: So it will also, you know, to your point, John, how - if perhaps that is the directive, right, given to the lower court that will have potentially a large impact once again on the timeline here and how things can move forward, John. How much do you think Jack Smith is preparing for that?

DEAN: I'm sure he's totally prepared for it and the potential of what could be some sort of mini trial when the case is remanded back to Judge Chutkan. I think also that he's hell-bent on trying to get this case to trial in some form, even if it's just a mini trial, before the election so that people can understand what was going on here.

They really don't have anywhere near the vision of the evidence he's got and the January 6th Committee, in fact, collected. So I think this is a - the immunity case is likely to have some sort of test and that test will be, could be played out before the election.

KEILAR: Do you think that's the case?

CHILDRESS: Yes, I imagine. I think it'll be - I think there's evidentiary hearings in every criminal case and the evidentiary hearings allow you to see the prosecutor's theories, allows you to see a lot of the evidence, the witnesses that will be called and the attorneys often give proffers of what these witnesses would say.

And so if there is a test, as John just said, that the Supreme Court gives and Judge Chutkan has an evidentiary hearing of that nature, I mean you'll see a lot of the prosecutor's theories.

KEILAR: But you think it - this could play out actually before the election?

CHILDRESS: I think an evidentiary hearing, if the Supreme Court rules that way, could definitely play out before the election and just like the statement of facts and the indictment really lays out a very comprehensive conspiracy, the evidentiary hearing could do it in much more specificity.

HILL: So, Norm Eisen wrote about that earlier this week saying he actually hopes and thinks that's what should happen. How much of that information do we end up getting as the American public if this, quote unquote, "mini trial" does take place?

CHILDRESS: I mean you'll get a full picture of what prosecutors are alleging and the evidence that supports each allegation. The only difference is that you won't have a jury there to hear the witnesses say it themselves and you won't have a jury there actually looking at the documents. But normally, you know, in an evidentiary hearing, you're allowed to get a little bit more extensive than you are in the actual court before a jury, where the court and the judge will keep you kind of contained to not violate a defendant's rights.

So I think you can be a lot more extensive in a way that the media and the American public can have a good idea of what crimes were alleged and what supports those actual crimes.

HILL: It'd be interesting to see. Marcus Childress, John Dean, good to have you both. Thanks. In the words of our next guest, public schools are not Sunday schools. Just ahead we're going to speak with one of the groups now vowing to fight back after Oklahoma's education, head of education ordered all schools to incorporate the bible into their lesson plans.

And U.S. officials sounding the alarm as COVID-19 cases rise in more than three dozen states. We'll take a look at the regions now seeing the biggest jumps.



KEILAR: All schools in Oklahoma are now required to incorporate the Bible and the Ten Commandments into their curriculum. The state superintendent of schools just issued a memo declaring a Bible must be present in every classroom for grades five through twelve and that teachers must teach from it. And this is effective immediately.


The mandate is sparking outrage from religious freedom advocates. We have Rachel Laser, the President of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State with us here.