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Justices to Hand Down Immunity Ruling; President Biden Will Continue to Fight; Democrats Have Serious Conversations Regarding Biden. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 09:00   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a live look at the Supreme Court, where we are now standing by for a huge and potentially history defining opinion to be handed down by the court. Shortly, the court will rule on Donald Trump's immunity claim, we believe, in special counsel Jack Smith's federal election subversion case. How the court answers is highly critical to not only several legal matters in Trump's life, but also the future of immunity for all presidents.

CNN's Joan Biskupic has more on today's ruling.

You are watching for this to come down. Now, are we certain that this is going to come down today? We have been waiting for this throughout the course of this Supreme Court session.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It will, Sara. And I am about to leave my little post here in our D.C. bureau and run over there because at 10:00 sharp - this is a very punctual Supreme Court - 10:00 sharp Eastern Time, the justices will take the bench. They will read excerpts of the final opinions of this term with the last being, I'm sure, this immunity decision.

We don't know yet who will - who has written it. There's a strong chance that it's the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, who would have kept this very important case for himself.

And just to remind everyone what's at stake here, the question is going to be at bottom, will former President Donald Trump be subjected to any kind of criminal prosecution for election subversion for what he did back in 2020 after Joe Biden validly won the White House. Will he be subjected to any kind of trial before the 2024 election comes this fall.

Lower courts had rejected Donald Trump's claim that he should be absolutely immune from any kind of prosecution because of the power of the presidency. They had rejected it with a lower appellate court saying, "for the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump with all the defenses of any other criminal defendant, but any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer protects him against prosecution."

Now, Sara, I should say that as much as lower court judges completely shut the door on Donald Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court, as it heard oral arguments back in April, suggested that they were going to go deeper and look at the specific activities at issue here that are part of the four charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith on behalf of the Justice Department and the united - all of the United States people here against the former president.

And that will mean that when they rule, they could offer a new set of standards for the lower court judges to go deeper into the kind of activities there - that are alleged here. Are they activities that could be deemed a part of Donald Trump's official conduct and therefore shielded from any kind of prosecution, or would they have been private acts that he took as candidate Trump that would definitely not enjoy immunity.

So, there will be a lot to look at and hopefully we will be able to tell how realistic it is that Donald Trump would be subjected to trial.

But also, Sara, just stepping back a little bit further and thinking about the separation of powers, whatever the justices do today will apply to all presidents down the road. And I have to say, this is the, you know, first time since I'd say the 2000 case of Bush v. Gore, that these justices are in the position to really determine what could happen in a presidential election.

A lot at stake, Sara.

SIDNER: Do you have any sense of how they're going to rule? We have heard, of course, the arguments. We have heard some of the questions that some of the judges had been asking back in April. Do you have a sense of where they're going?

BISKUPIC: OK, I presume that Chief Justice John Roberts is going to try to get as unanimous a decision as possible. And this is a very splintered court. So, he had a very tall order before him. But I think that he's going to try to do something that is not - that maybe offer some broad strokes on some of the issues I just mentioned and doesn't go into areas that could automatically cause some splintering among justices who are on the margins.

I, you know, pass cases, Sara, of challenges to the president - the offices of the presidency back in the Nixon years, back with Bill Clinton, those Supreme Courts were able to come together unanimous to sort of bridge their own ideological and political divide. And if John Roberts can pull it off here, what we're going to be getting is a ruling that offers new standards, but then leaves it to the trial judge in this case to actually determine some of the key questions, resolve those questions as Donald Trump could possibly be put to trial.


SIDNER: Yes. Whatever happens, this could be one of the most consequential decisions that this court has made since overturning Roe versus Wade.

Thank you so much, Joan Biskupic.

BISKUPIC: Definitely, Sara.

SIDNER: I know you're going to be running down to court now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, with us now, CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck and Franita Tolson, dean and chair of the USC School of Law.

Steve, first to you.

General consensus that the court will likely rule there is some concept of presidential immunity. The real question then is how they will describe when there is immunity. What are you looking for here?

JOHN VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, John, ii think that's right. And it's not just a question of whether we get a specific test in whatever the Supreme Court hands down today. At the oral argument in April, Justice Neil Gorsuch talked about the importance of writing a rule for the ages.

John, I think there's also the question of whether the justices then at least try to apply that test to the four charges against former President Trump, or whether they leave that for the lower courts, for Judge Chutkan, in the first instance. John, that's going to have a lot to say about how quickly things move after today's ruling. Are we going to get guidance from the Supreme Court about the specific application of whatever it says to the case of former President Trump, or are they just going to say, here is the test. You lower courts, you go deal with it, which, of course, is going to take even more time.

BERMAN: Dean Tolson, to that point, how directly involved do you expect this court really wants to get?

FRANITA TOLSON, DEAN AND CHAIR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW: I think it's hard to tell. I do think the chief justice is looking at the overall landscape in some ways because just last week the court found in favor of a January 6th defendant. A few months ago the court found that the state of Colorado couldn't keep former President Trump off the ballot in enforcement section three of the 14th Amendment. So, it is entirely possible that the chief justice, or whoever's assigned the opinion, wants to write an opinion where the court is not as hands-on as one might think.

And, of course, to Steve's point, this goes to, you know, how they apply whatever standard they come up with today and how that affects how things move in the lower courts.

BERMAN: Steve, its July 1st. I had to look to make sure I'm right about this. It's July 1st. didn't the special counsel asked the Supreme Court to first get involved with this and weigh in back in January. And if in the end what the court's going to do is kick it back to the lower courts here, do they really need to wait seven months to do that? VLADECK: Yes, John, it's a fair question. I mean I think there's no

doubt that the Supreme Court could have moved faster in this case. I mean Franita mention the Colorado ballot disqualification case. The court moved a lot faster to resolve that dispute.

I think the key point though is, the court is still moving relatively quickly. I mean the court moved much faster, for example, then President Trump had asked the court to move when they agreed to take this case. Trump hadn't even formally appealed yet. So, you know, I think there's going to be a lot of dissatisfaction no matter what the Supreme Court says today with how slow the court moved, with what the court says, with how much it leaves for the lower court. I think that's understandable.

Part of the problem is that I think, you know, to Joan's point from before, it really doesn't seem like the court is of one mind given how the oral arguments went in April, in contrast to Clinton versus Jones, in contrast to the Watergate tapes case, where what made the court's decision so resounding and so impactful was that justices from across the ideological spectrum, justices appointed by presidents of both parties, joined in one opinion.

John, no matter what happens at 10:00 this morning, I don't think we're getting that.

BERMAN: So, Dean Tolson, one of the things I will be looking for here is how much of a definition the Supreme Court chooses to get into over what is an official act because that is something that has been litigated at every level of some of these January 6th cases and continues to be an issue, frankly, in a lot of aspects of governance versus politics issues.

TOLSON: And to be clear, even if the court finds that the president is immune for official acts, immune from criminal liability, that doesn't mean that candidate Trump wins, right? Because, at the end of the day, it's hard to see the post 2020 - November 2020 acts as being official acts, right? So, spreading false claims of election fraud, persuading state officials to change their slate of electors based on these false claims. The infamous call to the secretary of state of Georgia to find 11,780 votes, which is at issue in the Georgia election interference case. It's really hard to think about these as official acts. Although president - former President Trump is claiming that those fall under the category of official acts.

So, while the definition might be somewhat gray following the Supreme Court decision, I do think that it is a tough sale to look at this as acts of a president as opposed to acts of a candidate.


BERMAN: I guess what I'm asking, Dean, is - is, will the Supreme Court leave it gray? Isn't this a good opportunity to make it a little more black and white? What actions a president or a chief of staff, or someone who works at the White House, what actions they can take that are governmental or presidential and what actions they think are purely political or as a candidate?

TOLSON: It's hard to come up with a rule that's absolutely black and white, especially if the court articulates a standard and kicks it back down to the lower courts. Just by definition, the lower courts will have some influence over how that definition develops, all right? So, I don't think we will - and this is true of most Supreme Court rules - I doubt that we'll have a rule that clarifies things to the point where the president is absolutely certain that they're free of criminal liability.

Now let's be clear, the president is already laboring in a system where impeachment hangs over the president's head, right? So, it's not as if the president doesn't face some repercussions for his or her actions. It's just that now we may get a rule that imposes some constraints on the president or not, right? But it will not be black and white.

BERMAN: And, Steve, I've got to let you guys both go here, but what are the chances - or how could the court rule that would somehow allow this case to go to trial before Election Day?

VLADECK: Yes, John, I think the more the court says, the faster this moves. And so the more we get a majority opinion that says not only what the test is going forward, but how it might apply to the four charges against former President Trump, the easier it will be for the lower courts to move ahead quickly.

John, in contrast, the less the Supreme Court resolves today, the less clarity we got about the four charges against former President Trump, you know, the slower this is going to be and I think the less likely it is that this trial happens before election day. And then depending upon the results of the election, perhaps ever.

BERMAN: Steve Vladeck, Dean Tolson, I have to say, every time I get to speak to people like you, I actually wish I had followed through and gone to law school. Appreciate your time this morning.


SIDNER: All right, First Lady Jill Biden promising this morning her husband is going to keep fighting, even as calls grow for him to step aside after his dismal debate performance. Could there be a campaign shakeup in the future?

In hours, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon will head to prison, but his plans for a big final broadcast outside those prison walls, interrupted. We'll explain.

And Hurricane Beryl barreling down as a category four storm initially. It's just now a category three. Where this extremely dangerous storm is heading.


[09:16:42] BERMAN: This morning, the first lady is defending her husband. She says, quote, "we will not let those 90 minutes define the four years he has been president." Of course, she is talking about his shaky debate performance Thursday night.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez at the White House this morning with the latest.

Priscilla, what are you hearing here?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is still an attempt here to try to calm nerves, especially amid anxiety and concerns within all corners of the Democratic Party still days after Thursday night's debate.

Now, we know that the president huddled with his family over the weekend at Camp David, where his family continued to encourage him to stay in the race and showed their support. Advisers also telling CNN that the conversations were really focused on how the family can continue to help him in the race, not whether he should reconsider his candidacy.

Of course, his family is crucial. They have been really important and influential when it comes to the president's decision-making about running for office and re-election. Now, the president himself has also been collecting data and public polling and anecdotally, again, as they still grapple with that immediate fallout from the debate. There has been anxiety among donors. The president had fundraisers over the weekend where he tried to quell some concerns, again acknowledging that he had at a bad debate night, but also noting that he would continue to fight hard.

And the allies - his allies have taken to the airwaves to continue to make this argument and especially keep the focus on the difference between the two records of the candidates.

Take a listen to what Chris Coons, a longtime ally of the president, said this morning.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): We need to remind the American people of who Joe Biden is, a strong and capable president with an incredible record and a good heart who can tell the truth and get the job done in sharp contrast to who Donald Trump is, a man who on that stage just viewed chaos, anger, vengeance, and lies.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): We don't have time for this - this hand-wringing. We have less than five months till an election. We have less than two months to the convention. We need to double down on organization right now, not on worrying about what happened during a 90-minute debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ALVAREZ: So, you could see there how allies are trying to move on from this. Interestingly, Coons also said that the president should be out there more often in unscripted moments and sort of showing how he can be energized. And in the first post-debate ad that was released this morning, that's what the campaign also focused on, the North Carolina post-debate rally that the president did where he was more forceful and energized instead of showing any clips of him on the debate stage.

So clearly the campaign continues to be under scrutiny. There are still calls that they are making privately. And notably, John, there was a fundraising email where they also put out polling of what other Democrats - or how other Democrats would fare against former President Donald Trump, making the point that President Biden is still best suited to be his contender.

BERMAN: Yes, that polling was interesting. The fact that they released that polling I think is the most interesting thing, as much as what the numbers show.

Priscilla Alvarez, great to see you. Thanks so much.


SIDNER: All right, to continue this conversation, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategists Maria Cardona, and former Trump 2020 director of strategic communications, Marc Lotter.

Thank you both for coming in this morning.

We just heard from Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We also heard this weekend from Representative Jamie Raskin, who said there are serious, very honest and rigorous conversations taking place at every level in the party concerning Joe Biden's presidential bid.


So, Maria, to you first. Is it a bigger political mistake to keep President Biden or to try and run some of the names being brought up by Democrats. I'll show you the list here. So far there are about ten names that are being bandied about.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that what we need to do is focus on the choice ahead because, Sara, the reality is, is that Joe Biden is our nominee. He went through a whole process, a whole primary process, which, as you know, is pretty complicated from a rule standpoint. He got all of the delegates. And what we can't do now is pretend that we can now undergo a whole new process with a whole new crew of people.

Joe Biden is our nominee. He is the one who is best suited and best positioned right now to beat Donald Trump. Everyone else that you just showed on the screen, they are great for their states and for the positions that they are in right now, but they are not well-known nationally, Sara. It would be almost impossible to mount a campaign for any one of them between now and November where they could raise the money, put in the infrastructure, do everything that they would need in order to beat Donald Trump. That's just a reality.

And so that's why you hear Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senator Coons, and even Jamie Raskin at this point understands that what we need to do as a party if we want to beat Donald Trump is focus on the choice at hand. A good man, a decent man, an accomplished president, who had a bad night, versus a bad man with a putrid character who lied every single time he opened his mouth during that debate, wants to destroy our Constitution, get rid of our democracy, be a dictator on day one, is a convicted felon, wants to take away our rights and freedoms. That is still the contrast.

And I believe, at the end of the day, that the American people will focus on and will choose a president that has given them the accomplishments he has for the past three and a half years and they're not going to let a 90-minute debate eclipse all of that.

SIDNER: Marc, with all of the criticism aimed at Biden's performance, polling doesn't necessarily show that Donald Trump got this big boost from voters. How is he going to use this, you think, as his campaign goes forward, the issues with the debate and all the clips and so forth?

MARC LOTTER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Well, I think that most people in the polls prior to the debate showed that the majority of the American people thought that Joe Biden wasn't mentally up to the job. So, this just reinforced an existing narrative.

But the underlying foundation of this campaign is not going to change. Joe Biden got record high inflation, gas prices we can't afford, 12 million illegal immigrants into our country. We've got women being raped and murdered by those illegals. All of that happened on Joe Biden's watch. That's why Donald Trump is actually performing 11 points better now than he was at this point in 2020.

And the debate is just going to reinforce what people already thought is that Joe Biden's presidency is not good for them.

SIDNER: Maria, can - can a candidate win - let's put that poll back up that you just mentioned, Marc. Can a candidate win when 72 percent of people polled say he does not have the mental and cognitive health to serve as president?

CARDONA: When you put what the actual choice is in front of the American people, absolutely. Because, look, we have had polls from the very beginning of this race where it has shown that the vast majority of the American people don't want either candidate, Sara. But, guess what, this is the candidates that they have. And so right now the choice is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And what I will say to my good colleague here on the other side of the aisle is that, what this debate also highlighted is how draconian, how horrific, it will remind people what happened the last four years that Donald Trump was in office, when he ripped babies from the arms of their mothers. And now he wants to make sure that women do not have the right to have bodily autonomy and make decisions over their own bodies. He wants to pit immigrants against black people. He wants to pull this country apart by the seam.

And if you look at what the dials showed the night of the debate, Sara, I was on CNN Espanol doing analysis and on Univision and Telemundo this happened as well. The audience heard the debate through translators and every single dial of independents, Latino independents, they moved toward Biden, every single one of them, because they could not fathom somebody like Donald Trump having another four years in the Oval Office who believes that Latinos and immigrants poison the blood of the country.


They don't want to see their families ripped apart yet again. And I think the black audiences as well, when the president talked about black jobs, well, what does that even mean? You saw black voters also move toward President Biden after the debate.

So, that's the choice at hand. And so I believe at the end of the day, again, like I said before, the American people will not pull the lever for a convicted felon who is only in this for himself and to stay out of the prison.

SIDNER: Marc, I do want to ask you about this same poll that talking about mental acuity and you heard all the things that Maria brought up, that Trump made 30 plus false claims, including this doozy, saying that Democrats and every legal scholar wanted Roe versus Wade overturned, which is an insane sentiment. Are you hearing any concern among Republicans about Trump's mental acuity when you look at that poll, 49 percent of Americans are concerned about that, saying he should not be the president because he's not mentally fit.

LOTTER: Absolutely not. The American people saw strength in Donald Trump on that debate stage. They saw weakness and a feeble leader in Joe Biden. It's the reason why we have wars raging in the Middle East and in Europe, which Joe Biden was president when both of those started. We had peace when we had Donald Trump in the White House.

They also know that Donald Trump has a record of success on the economy with low inflation, low gas prices and a secured southern border. And not all the gaslighting in the world from Democrats is going to change the fact that on the policies, the American people overwhelmingly support a return to the America first policies that Donald Trump brought because they worked.

SIDNER: All right.

CARDONA: But, Marc, the economy was in a freefall when Donald Trump left office. He lost millions of jobs. A million and a half Americans died because of what - the irresponsibility of him denying the science of Covid. Americans will remember that. They will remember -

LOTTER: More Americans died under Joe Biden's watch of Covid with vaccines than under Donald Trump.

CARDONA: They will - they - they will remember - they will remember everything that they lost under Donald Trump. LOTTER: They do remember. They do remember and they want Donald Trump back.

CARDONA: And so -

SIDNER: OK, guys, I think the latest polling actually shows them in a dead heat.

CARDONA: That's right. Exactly.

SIDNER: So, we will have to see what the American voters do.

Maria Cardona and Marc Lotter, thank you for the conversation.

CARDONA: Thank you, Sara.


BERMAN: All right, this morning, the presidency, as we know it, hangs in the balance. We are standing by for a pivotal Supreme Court ruling.

And it just a few hours, Steve Bannon will be a federal inmate. We have new reporting on what he is planning to do before beginning his prison sentence.