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Trump Spreads Grievances On Easter; GOP Dodges Questions On Trump Posting Hog-Tied Biden Video; Biden Looks To Boost Black Voter Support In Wisconsin; Today: U.S. And Israel Holding Virtual Meeting On Rafah; Thousands Of Protesters Call For Netanyahu To Resign. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 11:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

New questions this morning about Donald Trump's extreme rhetoric. Will his incendiary comments lead his party to ruin for a contrast? Take a look at President Biden's Easter message calling for peace, security and dignity for people around the world. Trump's message this past weekend was unsurprisingly Trumpian, he railed against the quote, crooked and corrupt legal system unleashed his millions of followers on a federal judge's daughter and shared this far right op-ed equating his legal troubles with the crucifixion. It all comes after he posted this video depicting the President, President Biden that is being hog- tied in the back of a pickup truck when pressed. Republicans once again refused to condemn Trump's actions.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I think everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric, the language. And you know, obviously social media has become a vehicle by which to bludgeon people. I just think at the end of the day, the former president, current president, and on down all of us have a responsibility to check our language, to watch what we're saying.


ACOSTA: Joining me now is John Bolton. He's the former UN ambassador and national security adviser under Donald Trump.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us this morning. You were national security adviser. When the former president shares a video of the President, the current president being hog-tied, what's your response to that?

JOHN BOLTON, FMR UN AMBASSADOR: Well, I think it's unacceptable commentary for a responsible person. But we've known for eight years now Trump's not a responsible person, he doesn't behave in a normal fashion. And you would have expected by now that the electorate would have rejected that kind of behavior, decisively and clearly and yet, it hasn't happened. I can't explain it. I'm the first to admit it.

But -- but simply saying, we don't like what he says, you know, also feeds into his narrative that it's a -- it's a real problem. I think there are other reasons for a lack of civility and American political discourse. Trump is not the only one, that's for sure. But he's a major factor. And it's -- it's as bad now as I can remember.

ACOSTA: And just to follow up on that, I mean, we've seen violence take place after a Trump has used his rhetoric in different ways, whether it's a questioning the results of the election or whipping people up on January 6. I mean, there are other examples, obviously. Do you have a concern that there might be a security issue for the President, for President Biden, when the former president is sharing stuff like that?

BOLTON: Well, you know, there's an argument about whether violence in movies contributes to violence in society. I think it's a hard argument to make. I think in Trump's case, though, because there are people who are excessively loyal in the way they follow Him, that it's possible it could trigger behavior.

I think -- I think you have to look at it more specifically, again, a normal person, a responsible candidate, might acknowledge that this risk existed, but don't count on Trump doing it, that's for sure.

ACOSTA: And when he's equating, when he's putting out posts that equates his legal troubles with the crucifixion, you are his National Security Adviser. Does he have a messianic complex?

BOLTON: I think that gives him too much credit. I mean, I think -- I think he sees himself as the -- as the ultimate victim. And in a perverse transformation of the parties, he's trying to make Republicans, people believe that they're the ones being victimized because he is, this is a long way from Ronald Reagan's, it's morning in America approach to campaigning. It sure doesn't look like Jack Kemp (ph). It looks like the party of grievance, which I think is -- is -- is not the Republican Party. That is not the way to win elections for the right kind of Republican Party.


ACOSTA: And I did want to ask you about this. I'm sure you saw this CBS' 60 minutes is reporting that -- that Havana syndrome, that mysterious illness has plagued a lot of national security employees of the U.S. government. 60 minutes is reporting that it's somehow linked to Russian intelligence. We should note, CNN has been investigating the specifics of this report, we last reported that the U.S. intelligence community can't make a link between these cases, and a foreign adversary. You were national security adviser, when some of this was cropping up. The Kremlin denies it.

What's your take on all this, Mr. Ambassador? Is there something to this? Might the Russians be behind it?

BOLTON: Yes. Look, when I was a national security adviser, I was briefed on this. I was very concerned about it. I did then and do now think that there's very likely some hostile adversary behavior here, whether it's Russia or China, maybe somebody else more than likely Russia. I don't think the government frankly, when I was there, took it seriously enough. I don't think they've taken seriously enough since then I commend CBS for going after it, I think you should continue to go after it too. Because the danger that the Russians or any adversary could actually perfect this kind of weapon, the damage it could do to our troops, to high level government officials in a time of crisis is very, very concerning.

And I just think people swept that aside too quickly. Some of the people who were affected, actually were National Security Council staff when I was there. And the idea that these people had some kind of psychosomatic experience was not credible to me. So, I think we've just got to keep looking.

ACOSTA: And do the Russians have this kind of capability? What do you make of the technology that was apparently used in some of these instances?

BOLTON: Well, it's -- it's a matter of dispute what it was. But we know that the Russians have used directed energy efforts against our embassy in Moscow in -- in years past. The speculation this time on 60 Minutes was it was acoustical devices. I think directed energy is probably more likely.

But -- but this is the kind of thing if they are out thinking that it's, and we're not prepared to -- to have adequate defenses or develop our own offensive capability to -- to deter them, I think we could be put at a serious disadvantage. This sounds like something our adversaries have tried before. And I just think we gave up too easily. The bar was too low when this first came up.

ACOSTA: And just quickly, finally, what should the administration do if it is found to be Russia that's behind this?

BOLTON: Well, I think certainly, we need to take stronger steps against them than -- than just talking about how serious this is. I mean, I think this administration is too deterred by Moscow already. And if we find they've been, I think they're experimenting on Americans. I think that's where these attacks have come from. At least that's what the evidence points to. And I think we need to make it clear, it's unacceptable, and it would tell me we need that capacity to.

ACOSTA: All right. Ambassador John Bolton, as always, thank you so much.

BOLTON: Thanks for having me.

ACOSTA: All right. In the meantime, ahead of tomorrow's primary in Wisconsin, President Biden is facing headwinds with Black voters, they were key to his slim victory in 2020. Now there are signs that Trump is making inroads and threatening to chip away at this key part of president's winning coalition.

CNN's Isaac Dovere has the details. Isaac, how big of a concern is this inside the Biden campaign? I mean, I have to think you're not they -- may not want to say it out loud. But they are internally concerned.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: It's a major concern. Look at look at the CNN exit polls, 2016, 8 percent of Black voters going for Donald Trump, 2020, 12 percent, there have been some recent polls that show higher numbers in that, looking that way for this year's election. But the bigger concern is Black voters staying home, opting out of the process entirely. The President himself has been really focused on this, Vice President Kamala Harris is going to be focused on this more and more over the year, she's going to be doing a special tour of the country talking about economic opportunity for Black men. But there's also a lot going on in the campaign, really rethinking how to approach Black voters.

I was in Milwaukee talking with people there on the ground about what they're doing. And what they said to me is some of the ways that they've been reaching out, community organizing, changing that up, asking volunteers to just start texting people directly from their phones. They've reached 50 percent of the people that they've reached that way, did not get contacted by any campaign in 2020 or 2022. Those are huge numbers for the Biden campaign to try to tap into. And they need it because though it's Milwaukee, Wisconsin, very close date, the closest date in 2016 and 2020, and -- but one after the other.

And in all of these places around the country, pretty much every battleground state that President Biden is hoping to win and needs to win for second term is a place where there's a concentration of Black voters, Detroit in Michigan, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Charlotte in North Carolina, Atlanta in Georgia. That's why this is on their minds.


ACOSTA: Yes. And North Carolina is definitely on the Biden campaign.

DOVERE: For sure.

ACOSTA: (INAUDIBLE) as a state everybody has to watch in the coming days. Isaac, as always, great reporting. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss more now with CNN political commentators, Bakari Sellers and Shermichael Singleton.

Bakari, let me start with you first. What do you make of all this? I mean, we hear from the Biden campaign, we're not worried about the polls, the polls will be fine. The poll that counts is election day and so on. But I mean, they, as Isaac was saying they are concerned about this very key part of Biden's winning coalition.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think that -- that both things can be true, the polls at this point in time aren't really worth the paper that they're written on. However, some polls can show you if they're warning signs or blinkers that need to be on in your campaign and one of those is with Black voters. There's not much concern that Black voters are going to vote for Trump, I think you've seen some very misguided reporting on this belief that all of a sudden Donald Trump is going to take on 20, 25 percent of the Black vote, he's just not. But there is a concern, as Isaac said that Black voters will choose the couch and simply stay at home for a very long period of time. Black voters in particular Black women have carried the Democratic Party. And there is some sense of fatigue and a question of resources coming to our you know, our respective communities.

And so, Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, everybody running up and down the ballot have to meet these voters where they are, and not tell them why they shouldn't vote for Donald Trump, but tell them why they should vote for Joe Biden again.

ACOSTA: Yes. Shermichael, what's going on here?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, look, I think that a lot of African-American voters to Bakari's point are not happy or satisfied with what they've seen this past four years from President Biden, we saw that they could not pass a George Floyd Justice and Policing Act in the United States Senate. A lot of African-American younger voters in my age group in a millennial, we're really hopeful that you will see more in terms of Student Loan Forgiveness, which we know most economists argued would really benefit African-American young individuals, and particularly as we really look at the wealth disparities between Black Americans and white Americans. So, I think on some very consequential issues, a lot of African- Americans don't feel that the President really met his mark.

Now, I will say this, I'm not convinced, just like Bakari, that you'll see 25 percent of African-Americans, all of a sudden voting for a foreign President Donald Trump. But as you did see in the reporting from Isaac, 2016 to 2020, saw a 4 percent increase, is it mathematically possible to see a 2 or 3 percent increase, particularly among Black men? I certainly think within those margins, it's possible depending on what type of targeting and engagement you see come from the Trump campaign.

ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, Bakari, I mean, as Isaac was saying a few moments ago, when you talk about places like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte, the Biden campaign, I mean, you might be able to speak to this. They are really very focused on North Carolina this time around, a lot of folks might say, well, what's going on there? That's actually I think, doable for Joe Biden this summer, depending on how this campaign goes.

But as you know, Bakari, it just takes a sliver here, a sliver there, it may come down to several thousand votes in one of these key states, especially with an RFK Jr. and Cornel West on the ballot, you just don't know how it's going to break down.

SELLERS: That's true. I mean, there's a great deal of concern. And you're right about the state of North Carolina. I think watching the results from North Carolina, early in the night, we'll be able to tell you and project what's going to happen in that race. North Carolina is very unique. You call it, you have places like Charlotte, you have Greensboro, you have Winston-Salem, you have the Research Triangle where there are loads of Black voters, particularly Black men. But there's also another strain of Black voters that doesn't get talked about often, we got to do a better job just identifying them. But that's rural voters, rural Black voters, particularly along the coast of North Carolina are going to be very important in this race.

The White House understands that and one of the things that they're doing differently than past campaigns. And I give all praise to Julie Rodriguez, who is just amazing. Without Julie Rodriguez, I'm not sure this campaign is actually going in a straight line. But -- but they've -- they've been focusing early on -- on messaging, meeting people where they are for a long period of time. You know, a lot of times my white progressive friends that run these campaigns, they start wooing Black voters at high school football games after Labor Day, just saying come vote for us again. And that's just not the way you do it. People are tired of that type of outreach.

So, what the campaign is doing now is brick by brick early on, showing individuals and telling individuals why you should vote for us.

ACOSTA: You know, Shermichael, I mean, one of the problems that Donald Trump has, though, is he's made these series of just racist statements earlier this year. He said that criminal indictments, were boosting his appeal to Black voters. I mean, he -- I mean, we could talk about Joe Biden eating up percent here or percent there.

SINGLETON: Yes, yes.

ACOSTA: He needs to make, you know, make contacts with constituencies that he had in his -- in his corner the last time around. Trump seems to have a much higher hurdle, just based on some of the things that he's -- I mean just over the weekend. He's got -- he's reposting an image of the President --


SINGLETON: Yes, yes.

ACOSTA: -- the current president being hog-tied in the back of a pickup truck.


ACOSTA: Or doesn't matter who you are, what you are. That is offensive to just about everybody or --


ACOSTA: -- or should be.

SINGLETON: -- I just talked about that Saturday with Alisyn --


SINGLETON: -- Camerota. It is a problem, right. But I think, again, when you look at African-American voters in particular, I think they're principally concerned about issues just like every other voter, from the economy to education, have a safe communities, safer streets, a better access to health care. And if you're a Black man, I think Black men really do want economic sustainability. They want to see a ladder for them to be able to climb economically so that they can provide for themselves, their families, their communities. And I think whomever articulates that best case, is going to be the individual that sees those numbers on their side.

Now to Donald Trump, the idea that because he's facing these criminal indictments, as somehow makes him palatable to Black men, is such an insult. And I've tried to tell a lot of my Republican friends, this is not how you target Black men talk about the issues, not mainly the --


ACOSTA: What do you think (ph)?

SINGLETON: I think a lot of them will say the President's being the president, we're going to do the campaign work on the ground. And you do see, Jim, a difference from the President -- President's rhetoric to the actual campaign operation, which is sending out a drastically different message from what you see on Truth Social coming from the former president

ACOSTA: Yes. Bakari, I mean, I just think that it's a pretty high bar when you're making these kinds of comments. And, you know, we could talk about well, Biden has to do this, Biden has to do that. I mean, that's -- that's a tough hill to climb.

SELLERS: Yes, but like I said earlier, Biden's not competing with Donald Trump, for those votes for the same reason that you said. I think the people -- the problem is people know who Donald Trump is. We know him to be xenophobic. We know him to be racist. He said those things. He said those remarks, we become decently desensitized. If you go out and say, did you hear what Donald Trump just said this week in the barbershop? Nobody's really going to care about that, because that's kind of faked (INAUDIBLE).

SINGLETON: Yes. That's true.

SELLERS: OK. That's -- that's the fundamental problem. And so, Joe Biden has to articulate Joe Biden's message. You can't win races in this country anymore by telling any -- any voter how bad the opposition is, people know that already.

ACOSTA: All right. To be continuing to keep this conversation going. That's for sure. The couch that is definitely a force to be reckoned with this time around. Bakari, Shermichael, guys, thanks so much.

SINGLETON: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: I really appreciate it.

SELLERS: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Before we go to break, it's a dramatically change the conversation in a positive direction. The White House is hosting the annual Easter Egg Roll. There's the Easter bunny next to -- it's like two Easter bunnies there bookending the President and First Lady as they address folks at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Always a fun event. We'll see if we get a live report out of there here with the President and First Lady you're saying and just few minutes.

Stay with us. Back in a moment.



ACOSTA: A developing story we're following this hour. Gaza Civil Defense says at least 300 bodies have been found at the Al-Shifa hospital after an intense two weeks siege by Israeli forces. CNN, we should know cannot independently verify those numbers. Israel has said it went into the hospital because armed militants were using it. Today high-level virtual talks are expected between the U.S. and Israel about potential military operations in Rafah. U.S. official tells CNN that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be leading the U.S. side.

And CNN political and global affairs analyst, Barak Ravid joins us now. Barak, give us some context on these talks and why they're being held virtually I guess, there were going to be some person to person talks. But I guess current events got in the way. Tell us more.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL & GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. Well, you know, you remember that those meetings was supposed to take place last week, with Benjamin Netanyahu canceling the departure of these very delegation a day before as sort of a protest to the U.S. decision not to veto a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of all hostages. Netanyahu was very upset and use this U.S. decision as a pretext for cancelling the delegation only to restore the talks about the delegation a day later. And in order to save face, this was the solution, it was found that on the one hand, there will be a meeting, will be a virtual one on a secure video conference call.

But on the other hand, Netanyahu will be able to say that he didn't send a delegation to Washington, but I think this is only the first meeting. A follow up meeting is already in the works next week in Washington in-person at the White House.

ACOSTA: Yes. But Barak, I mean, you know, Netanyahu is kind of drawing a line in the sand, almost doubling down over the weekend, saying that there can be no victory over Hamas without a military operation in Rafah, that doesn't exactly set the table for sort of open-minded talks between U.S. and Israeli officials.

RAVID: Well, you know, I don't know about you, I tend to not take every word Netanyahu is saying is the most credible thing in the world. He has a quite long track record of not being the most credible person in the world. And when I look at the last two months, yesterday was the fourth time, OK in two months that Netanyahu said that he approved the operation in Rafah. If a world leader says that he approved an operation four times, but the operation still didn't happen, you know, that raises a lot of questions on whether there's real intention to go forward with the operation or that it's very convenient for domestic political reasons to continue on floating this idea every other day.


ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, and that leads me to this question, we saw Melissa Bell talking about this in the previous hour. We're seeing these anti-Netanyahu demonstrations coming back. There are some in Israel today. What do you think of that? Is that -- is it possible that we're coming back to a place where he is sort of teetering on the edge of being forced out of power? What's going on?

RAVID: Well, I'm not sure I would go that far. But --


RAVID: -- definitely what we saw over the weekend was a significant increase in the protests against Netanyahu, the biggest demonstrations since October 7th, calling for elections, calling for Netanyahu to resign. This something we haven't seen for a long time, because the Israeli public, went out to the streets before the war, failed that while the war was going on, it wasn't the right thing to do. But now when you see people changing their minds and saying, no, you know, we -- we sat quietly, we were focused on the war, our kids, our brothers, our sisters were fighting, but now six months later, we think it's time to, you know, have a political change in the country. And we start seeing those things more and more.

ACOSTA: All right. Barak Ravid some fascinating developments. Thanks for the insights as always, we appreciate it.

RAVID: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right, some breaking news. And a CNN from South Carolina disbarred attorney and convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh was just sentenced in federal court to 40 years in prison. This comes after he pleaded guilty last year, nearly two dozen charges of conspiracy fraud and money laundering. He's already serving 27 years after pleading guilty in state court similar crimes. And that's in addition to the two life sentences he received last year for the murders of his wife and 22-year-old son. Of course, we'll be following on all of that and bring you those developments as they come in as we learn more.

Stay with us ahead for that.

Still ahead this hour, if you drive up a drive thru in California today. The person flipping your burgers, serving your meal doing that very hard work will be making at least $20 an hour.

We'll talk about that. Next.