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Trump Ally: "Chaos is our Friend"; Trump Team Lays Low; Trump's Legal Team Plans to Use Immunity Decision in Their Favor; Biden-Harris Relationship in the Spotlight. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 05, 2024 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We should know. But public has a right to know this sort of thing. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for joining us.


SCIUTTO: Coming up, "chaos is our friend." Next, the mood from inside the Trump campaign, as the former president makes the rare decision to lay low to some degree and let someone else have the spotlight.


SCIUTTO: The Trump campaign is very much leaning into the turmoil surrounding the Biden camp. And in a rare move, the former president appears to be laying relatively low. There were no public events on Trump's schedule for the Fourth of July. Sources are saying his team's strategy is to let Biden be the story. A Trump ally tells CNN, "chaos is our friend."

CNN's Elena Treene joins me now. Elena, what more can you tell us about the Trump campaign strategy right now regarding Biden?


ELENA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, exactly right, Jim. I mean, Donald Trump is being uncharacteristically quiet this week, spending the week at his golf course in New Jersey. And luck. Yes, he is attacking the president as well as the vice president. But for the most part, Donald Trump's team tells us they want this story and the hand wringing within the Democratic Party right now about whether or not Biden is fit to serve for another four years to take center stage.

Now, I can tell you they're also watching with the rest of America what's going to happen. I think they didn't really anticipate how real of a possibility that Biden could potentially step aside was. I remember on Monday, I was getting frantic calls from all corners of Trump world asking, you know, is this a real thing? What's going to happen? Is he going to step down? So, they're very much, of course, into the dark and trying to plan how this impacts their own campaign. And when I talked to Trump's team, they say, you know, despite us, for months, arguing that Biden would likely have to step down at the convention, I think you remember that taunting that they've been doing from the former president himself, now, they actually are arguing that they're unsure if any other candidate would be easier to beat. They still want Biden to be at the top of the ticket.

They also argue, though, that regardless of who potentially could replace him or what's going to happen with the Democratic Party, they still think that the same issues that they are running on, where Donald Trump polls higher than Joe Biden, the economy, immigration crime, all of those will still apply to whoever is on the ticket. But I think they're sitting back and watching with the rest of America. I can also tell you they're going to be watching Biden's interview later very closely and responding to that in real time. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, and listen, the fact that they say they want Biden to stay on, it means that they do see some vulnerability from other potential Democratic challengers, vulnerability for Trump himself. Elena Treene, thanks so much for joining.

Let's turn now to Donald Trump's remaining criminal cases. Today, we are learning more about how the former president's legal team is planning to use this week's, that's right, it was this week's Supreme Court immunity decision in their favor. His legal team is right now zeroing in on this particular part of the ruling. "If official conduct for which the president is immune may be scrutinized to help secure his conviction, even on charges that purport to be based only on his unofficial conduct, the intended effect of immunity would be defeated."

Trump lawyers want to use that part of the decision to fight off all the criminal charges against him. Joining me now to discuss exactly how this would work in a court of law, former federal prosecutor Alyse Adamson. Alyse, good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: Alyse, there were a lot of lines in this decision that seemed to give -- first of all, raise the standard for prosecuting a president for the narrow categories that the court allowed going forward, but also seemed to provide paths for defense teams at least to raise that language to, well, defend the president or try to get his cases thrown out. Tell us about this particular line here. How does this impact the existing prosecutions of the former president?

ADAMSON: Yes. This is the line that allows Trump's defense team to make arguments in the Mar-a-Lago case and now attack the jury verdict in the hush money case. And essentially, what it's saying is that prosecutors are now precluded from introducing evidence of conduct that could be called an official act to prove a case. And so, that would be for conduct that was purely private. Any conduct that could then be considered an official act can't be used as evidence against the president. So, for example, in the hush money case in New York, there was testimony from Hope Hicks about conversations that occurred with the former president after he won the election. And so, now, the question is, would prosecutors have been precluded from introducing that? So, Judge Merchan, for instance, now has kind of a tough question to answer. And, you know, the opinions kind of ambiguous.

So, was the conversation -- could that be considered an official act? Was it on the outer perimeter of his official duties? And if it was, would that have -- it would have been excluded, would it materially impacted the jury's deliberation? So, that is an extremely hard analysis.

SCIUTTO: The other piece in there was, was Roberts' language restricting the evidence you can use in such cases and saying that testimony or other evidence in his executive role, in effect, could not be presented, which would take out a whole host of testimony and communications that have formed at least part of the basis of the existing criminal cases. I wonder, I mean, how would a prosecutor prove potential or alleged criminal activity if you can't use evidence like that?


ADAMSON: Yes, that's kind of what I was getting at. So, it's not just the official acts which are now going to be presumptively immune, which is a very hard presumption to rebut. But then, they're not going to be allowed to be used as evidence. And like we were just saying with the Hope Hicks hypothetical, but answer is they're not going to be able to.

How can they prove these cases? It's going to be very difficult. And I think that's what Jack Smith's team is grappling with right now. Because after the case goes back to Judge Chutkan, and I'm talking about the election subversion Jan. 6 case, even after Judge Chutkan makes the decision about which official acts are going to be struck from the indictment, which acts are going to be considered private and can stand, then the question is, how can prosecutors prove it if there's so much evidence that is going to be precluded?

And I don't think there's a good answer to that question. And I can tell you, I worked at DOJ. When you are assessing whether or not to bring a case, you have to have enough evidence to prove it. And so, we have to wait for those rulings. Jack Smith's going to have a hard decision to make. Is there going to be enough admissible evidence given this extremely broad ruling for the case to survive?

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's hard to see how you prosecute alleged criminal activity going forward by a president -- sitting president, Alyse Adamson, thanks so much for joining.

ADAMSON: Thanks so much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, putting pressure on Biden to bow out. The donors and Democrats looking ahead to a possible Kamala Harris run for the White House. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SCIUTTO: Today, CNN is learning that inside many top Democratic circles, talk has already moved on from President Biden to Vice President Harris. Several officials say Democratic politics are starting to reshape around her, despite her insistence that Biden remains the nominee. CNN's Brian Todd has a closer look at how their relationship and her role has evolved.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Our president, Joe Biden.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The public face of Kamala Harris relationship with Joe Biden started on a contentious note.

HARRIS: I'm going to now direct this to Vice President Biden.

TODD (voice-over): At a Democratic primary debate in 2019, Harris challenged Biden for working with segregationist senators in the past, telling Biden it was hurtful to her.

HARRIS: You also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.

TODD (voice-over): Harris would later drop out of the 2020 race before a single vote was cast. But she'd impressed Biden enough with her toughness that he asked her to run with him.

BIDEN: Is the answer yes?

HARRIS: The answer is absolutely yes, Joe. And I'm ready to work. I am ready to do this with you.

TODD (voice-over): Harris fought hard with Biden through a bruising campaign and emerged as the first woman, the first black American, and the first person of South Asian descent to hold the office of vice president.

HARRIS: We did it, Joe.

TODD (voice-over): But there were setbacks early in the administration. In 2021, after Biden assigned Harris to handle relations with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America to help address the immigration crisis, Harris gave an awkward, heavily criticized answer in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt.

HARRIS: We've been to the border. We've been to the border.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: You haven't been to the border. HARRIS: And I haven't been to Europe. I mean, I don't understand the point that you're making. I'm not discounting the importance of the border.

TODD (voice-over): CNN reported that year that the president's team was annoyed with that and with other fumbling answers she gave about the border crisis. But CNN also reported that Harris team had its own complaints that the president's aides were leaving her exposed.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: It was like the other side where people were complaining there was too much being put on her plate that wasn't setting her up to succeed.

TODD (voice-over): But since Roe versus Wade was overturned in 2022, it's been Harris who has emerged as a key voice for the administration on reproductive rights.

HARRIS: This is a fight for freedom, the fundamental freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body and not having her government tell her what to do.

TODD (voice-over): She's also been one of the president's fiercest defenders since last week's disastrous debate performance.

HARRIS: Look, Joe Biden is our nominee. We beat Trump once and we're going to beat him again.

TODD (voice-over): A Harris biographer says those who've run against Kamala Harris have underestimated her at their own peril.

DAN MORAIN, AUTHOR, KAMALA'S WAY, AN AMERICAN LIFE: She won statewide three times in California. That's no small feat. You don't do that if you're a lightweight.

TODD: In recent days, Donald Trump and his MAGA surrogates have stepped up their attacks on Harris. Trump in a Truth Social post calling her "laughing Kamala Harris." Harris biographer Dan Morain points out candidates usually don't do that unless they're worried about their potential opponent.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SCIUTTO: Last night, the vice president stood by the Biden side during 4th of July celebrations. Traditionally, it's just the Biden family who watches the fireworks display from the White House balcony. We're joined now by co-founder and CEO of Axios, Jim VandeHei, and White House reporter for The Washington Post, Tyler Pager. Good to have you both on. Thanks so much for joining.

Jim, let me begin with potential next steps here. In a new article, Axios writes that replacing Biden would be "messy and wildly unpredictable, but highly doable." So, tell us what that looks like if Biden were to step down and is it as simple as him saying Harris is the candidate, Harris has my delegates, Harris gets the war chest? JIM VANDEHEI, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, AXIOS: It's certainly a lot easier for Democrats if it is Harris. If Biden blesses her, says, she has my full endorsement, then she could take over his money, can take over his campaign operation. In all likelihood, from our reporting, the Clintons would follow suit, the Obamas would follow suit, most of the Congressional Black Caucus would follow suit. Jim Clyburn has already said as much. Bennie Thompson, another long-time congressman, has told us as much.


That'd be very formidable. Not unbeatable, but very, very formidable. There are a lot of Democrats out there, particularly those involved in putting together the DNC would like to see a more open process. If they have that process, what's been under discussion is maybe having five regional debates between the moment that Biden says, I'm out of here, and the actual convention and then, let people, let the delegates at the convention pick it even if it goes many rounds and it's super messy. The belief is it could be messy, but everybody will be paying attention to free media.

SCIUTTO: I mean, you could argue it's already very messy, right, to a large degree. Tyler, I want to quote from your latest piece, this in "The Washington Post," saying the following, in recent days, Biden's top advisers have accepted that they have a short window to reassure a broad swath of the Democratic Party that he is fit for office or face a significant push for him to step aside.

I mean, the fact is, he's already facing a significant shift -- a significant push, rather, I wonder what the pieces are from the Biden administration's view of that short window. How they use that short window beyond this interview tonight?

TYLER PAGER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, nothing is more critical than the president's interview today with George Stephanopoulos, not only for voters, but for those key party officials, lawmakers, governors, and donors who are very carefully watching that interview to see if he's able to recover. And I think a lot of them are not optimistic that he is able to do so, but he has made clear that he sees a path forward, and they were giving him that space to do so.

But I think there is broad agreement within the party that there is a very small window for him to do so. And many people are pessimistic about a path forward for him. And I think if this interview does not go well, the floodgates will start to open more publicly. I think we've seen a lot of people in private saying they are ready for the president to step aside. But I think we will see a lot more in public into early next week when the Hill returns from recess and we start to see some more polling suggesting that the path forward is very grim for the president.

SCIUTTO: Jim, to that point, Van Jones said something quite similar on the air when I was speaking to him a couple of nights ago, he said that the public posturing from the Biden campaign and other Democrats, including the governor, saying we're all behind him is quite different from what's happening behind the scenes, the private conversations, panic, open discussion of replacing Biden on the ticket.

My question to you, Jim, is, does that consideration pierce Biden himself, the Biden family and his tight inner circle, or is it outside that circle where that consideration is already taking place?

VANDEHEI: Yes, I can't stress enough the distance between those people who are related to Joe Biden and on his payroll and the rest of the Democratic Party. They've been very, very careful, Hunter Biden in particular, of making sure that those people who are going to try to persuade him to get out of the race don't have facetime with him. Very few people, a lot of complaints of longtime friends, members of Congress who can't get through to the president to have that conversation with him.

If those poll numbers, particularly in swing states that weren't on the map, Minnesota, Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, if it starts to look like things are cratering or it looks like swing state senators or House members in toss up districts seeing those numbers decline, that pressure is going to mount.

And to be honest, I don't know that it matters that he has a Sterling performance or not tonight, because everyone saw that debate, everyone saw the various responses. And I would say Democrats are more alarmed at the responses to the debate now than they were to the debate itself, blaming it on 11-day old jet lag, or blaming it on Ron Klain or the staff or blaming it on a cold as opposed to just saying, no, that was a really alarming moment, everybody saw it and you have to address it much more forthrightly.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and to be frank, they're not equivalent, right? I mean, a debate watched by tens of millions of people next to your opponent is different from a one-on-one interview. Tyler, some Democrats, as Jim was saying, are already moving away from President Biden, most of them in private, and wondering who Harris' running mate might be.

Axios is saying -- and by the way, it's not just Axios saying this, they talk about governors such as Pennsylvania's Shapiro, Kentucky's Beshear, North Carolina's Cooper, Illinois' Pritzker. I wonder in these conversations, is attention being focused on candidates who might help bring a key swing state, right? Because that would bring up someone like a Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, a state Democrats need.

PAGER: Yes, I think in conversations I've had with a lot of lawmakers and donors, there's a lot of wish casting about their dream ticket. But I think a lot of the logistics of those conversations are not going to happen until the president steps aside.

The campaign is not doing polling about their -- president takeover -- they're very focused on the president's --


SCIUTTO: We might have lost -- we lost Tyler's -- we lost the end of your thought there, Tyler, but I saw where you were going there, that they're waiting for that serious consideration, including polling, which can, let's be frank, tip your hand as to what your preferences are.

Jim VandeHei, Tyler Pager as well, thanks so much to both of you and a happy 4th.

VANDEHEI: Thank you. You too.

SCIUTTO: New this morning, the U.S. added 206,000 jobs in the month of June. That was above analysts' expectations by about 10,000, 16,000. The unemployment rate did tick up slightly to 4.1 percent. That is the highest since November 2021. Though job growth continues to be strong, wage growth cooled, average hourly earnings rose a tenth of a percentage point in June, so up but not by a lot.

The overall job market remains strong. Last month marked the 42nd consecutive month of job growth, the fifth longest employment expansion on record in this country.

Coming up, 30 seconds from death. An elite Australian Navy diver's life is changed in an instant.


PAUL DE GELDER, DISCOVERY SHARK WEEK EXPERT: This is actually where I got attacked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right here? This close to the bridge?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was the arm first?

DE GELDER: No, it was one bite.


DE GELDER: Yes, because my hand was by my side, and it took all my hamstring and my hand off in the same bite.


SCIUTTO: Good lord. Paul De Gelder joins me next hour to talk about how he has turned this experience into a way to champion shark conservation.