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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Presidents have Immunity from Criminal Prosecution When Performing Official Acts; Donald Trump's Legal Team Challenges Convictions in Hush Money Case Based on Supreme Court Presidential Immunity Ruling; Some Democrats Questioning President Biden's Fitness to Remain Democratic Presidential Nominee for 2024; Biden Warns About Trump, Power of Presidency after Immunity Ruling. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 02, 2024 - 08:00   ET



TIM HEAPHY, FORMER LEAD INVESTIGATOR, JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: Yes, that's the question Judge Chutkan will have answer. The special counsel will argue, Kate, that the vast majority of the conduct was undertaken in his role as a candidate for office, not as president. And Justice Roberts's opinion actually explicitly says there are things that the president does that are not official, that are undertaken in his role as a political candidate. This is the argument that Mark Meadows made in the Georgia case, arguing for immunity there, and the judge there rejected the argument that all of that campaign activity was official. And I think you'll hear the very same argument in front of Judge Chutkan.

Most of what is alleged in the special counsel's indictment, the special counsel will argue, I think persuasively, is not official conduct but its rather activity that the president did as a candidate for reelection, not in his official capacity as president.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you both for coming on. It really was good to see you inherit and hear from you today.

A new hour of CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are we seeing the first cracks among congressional Democrats in their support for President Biden? A new statement just made on CNN.

And with the Supreme Court's new ruling, Donald Trump plans to try to overturn his New York criminal conviction.

A category five hurricane breaking records and bearing down on new targets.

And kind of a glass half empty, glass half-full at the same time. A teenager accidentally shoots himself in the leg. Not great. But lessons in first aid helped him save his own life.

I'm John Berman with Sara Sidner, who just touched her own toes, and Kate Bolduan. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, fallout and fear -- new threats, new warnings. The Supreme Court has spoken, the president now enjoys absolute immunity when engaged in official acts. The concerns spelled out in nine words from dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote "The president is now a king above the law." A blistering dissent after the court's conservative majority delivered Donald Trump a huge immunity win.

We are already seeing what is going to happen next, because Trump is reposting the idea of political retribution, and he's getting his lawyers geared up to use the decision to overturn his state hush money conviction just days before sentencing.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz leads us off here. Katelyn, there's been plenty of response from Donald Trump. He has gone on social media praising this decision. Have we heard anything from Special Counsel Jack Smith?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: We have not yet, Sara, but that is something we are very much expecting to hear because there's going to have to be interpretations of this Supreme Court ruling that now gives the president some level of core immunity around that office. And this is an argument that Trump's team is going to be making in lots of different courts, not just in the coming days, in hearings and proceedings, very likely before Judge Tanya Chutkan in D.C., where that D.C. immunity case, or I'm sorry, the election subversion case that Donald Trump is facing that this immunity decision came out of. That is going to be moving forward. So we'll here from them there.

And then there are the other cases in Florida, this question of immunity has come up. There Judge Aileen Cannon is very likely to look at it there as well.

And then in New York, we're already starting to hear from a different set of folks, the New York lawyers for Donald Trump. They have taken a letter to the judge overseeing that case where Donald Trump was convicted by a jury previously and has his sentencing set for next week. They're arguing that it should be thrown out because there were things that were brought into that trial, tweets when Donald Trump was president, ledgers from the White House, Hope Hicks testimony, she was an adviser to Trump when he was the president, those things were in trial and should have been taken out. They're going to be arguing things like this to the judge up there in New York.

Here's Will Scharf, one of Trump's attorneys last night on CNN.


WILL SCHARF, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: What we have in New York is a situation where a substantial number of official acts of the presidency, things that we believe are official acts, were used as evidence to support the charges in that New York trial. We believe that that corrupts that trial, that that indicates that that jury verdict needs to be overturned. And at the very least deserve a new trial where those immune acts will not come into evidence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

POLANTZ: So we're probably going to have to see how the state prosecutors in New York are going to respond to that as well, and if there's any ability for Donald Trump to push his sentencing back, as his team also indicated they would very much like to do. It's set for next Thursday. Sara?


SIDNER: There are so many potential repercussions from this decision. It was an enormous decision, one that we have not seen before. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much for going down all of the different cases and what may just happen. Kate?

BOLDUAN: There's also new reporting this morning on how both President Biden and Donald Trump's campaigns and are hoping to energize their bases off this historic moment. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has much more on this. He's joining us now. Jeff, what are you hearing from your sources? Is the crisis growing or fading within the Biden campaign and among Democrats?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Good morning. It is definitely not fading as President Biden is waking up in the White House today. There are many Democrats who are still wondering how seriously both the president and his top advisors are taking their concerns. There was all this talk over the weekend about sort of really taking a hard look at things. There are very few signs that the president himself and his top advisors are reconsidering or listening to the anger and concerns from Democrats.

On a phone call last night with top donors, Jen O'Malley Dillon, the campaign chair, was telling people, I'm told, she said we are clear- eyed about this. We're not Pollyannaish. But then went on to say the president's health is fine. She said his health is probably better than most of the health of the members of the National Finance Committee who are on this call, which certainly does not indicate a level of seriousness that they are considering things.

But I am told this morning that the Biden team will be looking at new polls and data that is coming in this week, likely tomorrow, to assess the damage on the Democratic ticket. How much is this going to impact House races? How much is this going to impact Senate races? We know there is a broad scale panic among some Democratic House members, particularly in swing states and other difficult districts, about all of this.

And there is just a sense, is the president sort of reconsidering or at least looking at this carefully, or is he simply digging in and in a bunker of his own?

BOLDUAN: And it also, kind of the broader question that this gets to, right, is which base, which side, which voter base does this impact more? Obviously, both are trying to energize -- you can think of it two ways, right? Energize the base or stop the bleed, or at least make sure people don't stay home. Is there a sense now, even though it is very early, which side this likely motivates more?

ZELENY: Look, I think on the losing side of any argument, and certainly Biden fans and supporters and Democrats who would have been on the losing side of the Supreme Court argument, that certainly is a motivating factor. And we heard that from the president last night when he returned to the White House from his weekend at Camp David. He set the stakes of this very high. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She said in every use of official power the president is now a king above the law. With fear for our democracy, I dissent, end of quote. So should the American people dissent. I dissent.


ZELENY: So certainly the president there essentially reading from Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent and saying he dissents as well. But Kate, what this does, it certainly raises the stakes of the election, but it also, that is one of the things that is fueling some concern among Democrats. If this election is truly as consequential, if democracy is truly on the ballot, is he the strongest candidate?

Now, on the other side of this, Donald Trump and his supporters have had a very good run of days here. From the debate last Thursday, certainly not a flawless performance by any means as he was giving one misstatement after another, but a stronger performance than Joe Biden. But that Supreme Court ruling yesterday and all of its legal effects here, now trying to essentially a hold or change his New York conviction, this certainly has Donald Trump supporters in a very pleasant and happy mood this morning.

Of course, we should point out, four months from Election Day this week, a lot could happen. But first and foremost, all eyes today are on Democrats and the Biden campaign. Are they going to make any moves? As of now, zero evidence that they are giving in or really even listening are considering any of these concerns from Democratic officials, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And you make a great point. The unknown is how this looks and feels 72, 24 hours out. There's no way of knowing how that compares to how this looks and feels two months from now. But still, you can't wait to decide on strategy until then. That's for sure.

It's great to see you, Jeff. Thank you. John?

BERMAN: All right, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston is with us now. And in this vein, Mark, one of the things we've all been looking for, visible cracks between Democratic members of Congress or elected officials, and the Biden campaign or Biden White House.


And we may have just seen, if not a full crack, but like a hairline fissure on CNN earlier this morning. Kasie Hunt was talking to Congressman Mike Quigley from Illinois, Democrat, an ardent Biden supporter, who Kasie asked, what do you think? Should Biden consider getting out? And Quigley's response was, "What I'm stressing is it has to be his decision, but we have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn't just a horrible night." He then continued, "But I won't go beyond that out of my respect and understanding for President Biden, a very proud, proud person who was served our country extraordinarily well for 50 years." He said, "I just want him to appreciate it this time how much an impact, not just on his race, but on all the other races coming in November." Again, that's Mike Quigley. That's a big supporter of President Biden there who really did just seem to crack the door open a little bit to the possibility of urging President Biden to get out. What do you think?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: John, I would argue that it's even more than a crack, because Quigley is somebody who is, Congressman Quigley, somebody who is very well-respected within the parties. He's not bombastic. He's not somebody who goes out there and tries to capture headlines. But this is exactly what I'm hearing right now. Just got off the phone this morning with two Democrats. We have a lot of power here in town, and they're on opposite sides of this right now. We're seeing a Democratic Party in this crisis right now about how do we move forward? What is the best option? And right now, they don't see a great option.

And in fact, this is where we're going to start seeing where the blame game starts being passed around. We've certainly seen the Biden campaign come out against some of their own surrogates and have been very critical of some of the assessments that they have said publicly about the debate this morning, same thing I've heard. But at the same time, John, there are all these Democrats who say it's time to go. And then who will be blamed if Joe Biden does stay on the ticket if he were to lose -- a lot of what ifs -- if he were to lose, who is going to blame for that?

BERMAN: And there's also something that's sort of developed over the last 12 hours or so, which is the bedwetting backlash backlash, if you will. You've had Biden loyalists pointing the finger at some of the Democrats who question the debate performance, saying you're a bed wetter, so a backlash against the bedwetting. But now there's a backlash against that. Peter Wells from Vermont was saying, hey, wait a second here. These are legitimate concerns. You're not helping yourself by attacking us. Help us help you. Paul Begala, a few minutes ago on CNN, I mean, as loyal a Democrat as there is, saying it's stupid to call people bedwetters right now. There's a lot of criticism here, Mark.

PRESTON: Because, no doubt, you need all of your support. And to the point of not having Congress here in Washington this week, that was a good thing for Joe Biden in the sense that you have a lot of Congress folks together, you have a whole town full of reporters. They're asked a lot of tough questions. They didn't have to necessarily face that.

What they are going to face though is what Paul was saying earlier. They're going to be going and walking in 4th of July parades. They're going to be meeting with their constituents. More importantly, they're going to be meeting with the Democrats that have helped elect these congresspeople back home. And if they start getting an incredible amount of pressure, it really is a fight to survive fight, right? So if you're a congressperson, you feel like Joe Biden is going to cost you your election, then you're going to come out publicly and say that he probably needs to step aside.

BERMAN: So the Biden campaign, though, might come forth saying, we've got 127 million reasons why you should stick behind us. This new fundraising number for Juen, they got a lot of cash, which is good for the campaign, but also a complicating factor, right, because, again, if were in this hypothetical West Wing world where someone else ends up trying to get the nomination, not as easy for them to use this money, is it?

PRESTON: No, it isn't, because of how the federal election laws are set up and who can actually be on the ticket. Look, I think that they could be able to get around that. There are ways, as much as -- let me just say this, John. There doesn't seem to be anything set in stone in our laws anymore. So I'm sure that the Democrats could get around it if they had to do it. But more important politically, could you imagine if Joe Biden decided to say, look, I'm stepping aside, and then you had the likes of Gavin Newsom or Gretchen Whitmer or anyone else come in and try to take on Kamala Harris, who is the first African American vice president. I mean, imagine the split in the party there where you have African American constituents, even the likes of James Clyburn, who helped Joe Biden get elected, like really is credited with making that happen, could you imagine the internal fights that would happen if there were some kind of battle for the Democratic nomination in just a few weeks before their convention?

BERMAN: It would be something. To be clear, actually, Vice President Harris has the clearest path to using that money. It would be clear she could probably use it however she wanted to. Everyone else more complicated. But as you said, what's a campaign finance law at this date anyway? Mark Preston, great to see you this morning. Appreciate it. You and I need to pool our resources and buy the Celtics. Sara?



SIDNER: It is going to cost a heck of a lot of money.

All right, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling the Supreme Court consumed by a corruption crisis after the immunity ruling, she is now vowing to file Articles of Impeachment.

Plus, the Biden administration is taking steps to protect millions of American workers from extreme and potentially deadly heat.

And an incredible advancement in prosthetics. Check this out, new bionic leg that links up to the user's brain. We will discuss, coming up.


[08:20:12] SIDNER: This morning, we are looking at all of the major ways as the

Supreme Court's historic ruling on presidential immunity will impact not only Donald Trump's legal cases, but the future of all American presidents.

With us now to discuss is CNN legal analyst, Norm Eisen and CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali.

Thank you, gentlemen for coming in on this really consequential day.

Norm, first to you.

We know the expression, no person is above the law. We say it all the time. It is part of just conversation.

Did the court just decide that actually there is someone above the law, the president.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sara, even the majority in this reprehensible opinion that represents a fundamental break with two- and-a-half centuries of American tradition pays lip service to the idea they write.

Of course, no one is above the law, but then they claim allowing the president to do things like commit political assassinations has no legal redress. Well, what's the meaning of their proclamation that a president is not above the law if he can engage in those kinds of conduct?

This is one of the worst opinions in American history from the Supreme Court, a number of members of whom have fatal conflicts, they were involved in the -- they have spouses or other involvement, Alito and Thomas, in the underlying conduct and they have indeed put the president above the law for certain actions.

SIDNER: This is for official acts. They were very specific. It is not personal actions, but official acts.

Tim, I want to get to you about what this means for the role of the presidency moving forward? Because it was based on Donald Trump's case and directly affects him, but it affects all presidents going forward, correct?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Indeed, and I think Donald Trump is the beneficiary of a struggle among constitutional experts over the effects of the pushback against the imperial presidency in the Cold War.

The court's majority includes people who were in administrations that faced -- that were in the midst of scandals. They are veterans of the George W. Bush administration, of the Reagan administration.

In many ways, the conservative majority seemed to be arguing some very old cases in an attempt to remove the Sword of Damocles, the possibility of criminal prosecution over future presidents, but in doing so, they have opened the door to presidential abuse of power. If you think about the ways in which Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson,

John F. Kennedy -- I want to make clear this is not a partisan problem, this is a presidential problem.

The way in which they use National Security to authorize wiretaps, for example, the case of Nixon breaking into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, the ways in which they use their core constitutional authorities to abuse presidential power. You can see that yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court opens the door and actually protects future abuse of power by presidents.

SIDNER: Tim, because you brought it up, I want to show the audience something that was sort of a joy to sort of go back in history and look at what happened with Nixon and really dig down into that.

I want to let people here what Nixon said when he was asked a question about whether a president and what they do if they're allowed to do something illegal in the course of their job, that would be illegal to anyone else, but the president.

Here is how President Nixon responded when he was interviewed by Mr. Frost.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal --


NIXON: Exactly.


SIDNER: When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.

So in this context, with what the court has decided, Norm, does this mean that Nixon basically would have been able to do what he did, completely legally without any recourse?

EISEN: You could have had substantial portions of Richard Nixon's wrongdoing that drove him from office because it was conducted from the Oval Office using his official advisers to engage in break-ins, a wide variety of other illegal activity.


It would have been impossible to prosecute.

Essentially what the Supreme Court majority, again, including terribly conflicted justices who have no business sitting on this case under any standard of judicial ethics, what they've done, Sara, is rewrite American history.

It goes all the way back to the founding American idea. We overthrew King George III because we did not want a ruler to have this kind of absolute immunity, and the Supreme Court has now altered that.

And we have to be honest that we are facing a major party political candidate who has said he wants to be a dictator on day one, he wants to assert autocratic powers.

They've just given him a license for dictatorship within the purview of official acts, that should be extremely alarming and it makes this momentous election really a referendum on the future of American democracy.

SIDNER: And Norm, of course, you have the justices saying, look no president should be prosecuted for doing their job whether it is saying, look, we are going to send people to war or something else, but there are some real big questions that we will all be asking as to what constitute an official act and who gets to decide that, we will discuss that more in the days ahead.

Norm Eisen and Tim Naftali, thank you both so much for your insight -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Hurricane Beryl is the earliest Atlantic storm on record to carry winds of 160 miles per hour. This Category 5 storm, it is on the move. We have an update on its track. We will be right back.