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CNN This Morning

New Poll Shows President Biden's Current Approval Rating at 39 Percent; Former Vice President and Current Republican Presidential Candidate Mike Pence Interviewed on His Recent Criticisms of Former President Trump. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 08:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Thursday morning, everyone. So glad you're with us. We have a lot of news to get to and great interviews ahead this hour.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: No question about that, very big interviews, including former Vice President Mike Pence. But we have some numbers, too.

HARLOW: Some really startling new CNN polling out just this morning, and the numbers are rough for President Biden. Biden's approval rating has sunk to 39 percent, and in head-to-head head match-ups, Biden is virtually tied with his Republican rivals. One of those candidates is former Vice President Mike Pence. He will join us live on set in moments.

MATTINGLY: And one of Donald Trump's aides is now flipping on him. The Mar-a-Lago I.T. worker who was threatened with prosecution in the classified documents case is now cooperating with the special counsel's office.

HARLOW: And a murderer's daring escape all caught on tape. Wait until you see this video for the first time showing exactly how that Pennsylvania fugitive broke out of prison and is still on the lam this morning. This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.

MATTINGLY: Good morning, everyone. We do have a lot to get to do this morning, numbers and interviews. Just hours from now, also, President Biden will be heading off to meet with the world leaders at the G20 summit in India. But he is facing a whirlwind of issues as he embarks on that major foreign trip. Here at home, fears of a government shutdown, their rising. Just a few weeks left to reach a deal with House Republicans. Those House Republicans are digging in.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department says that the president's son will be indicted after his plea deal for tax crimes and a felony gun charge that collapsed. On Capitol Hill, House Republicans are strategizing and gearing up for a potential impeachment inquiry. This all comes as Biden is asking Congress for more emergency funding for Ukraine in its desperate fight against Russia, even though recent polls suggest Americans' support may be waning.

And U.S. officials are sounding the alarm about Kim Jong-un's alleged plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and possibly supply weapons for their ongoing war.

HARLOW: And President Biden is waking up to some very rough poll numbers that could spell trouble for his re-election hopes. This is brand-new CNN polling out this morning. This is what it shows. Here is your headline. His approval rating, Biden's approval rating has sunk to 39 percent. And a majority of Americans think his policies are making the economy worse. In a head-to-head match-up, Biden is down or virtually tied with leading Republican presidential candidates, and this is notable, Nikki Haley is up in a hypothetical matchup against Biden by six points. Donald Trump is up by one. Mike Pence is up by two.

BLACKWELL: Well, former Vice President Mike Pence hoping to close the gap in the polls between he and his former boss. He called him out directly by name and by ideology on the campaign trail in New Hampshire yesterday.


MIKE PENCE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The growing faction would substitute our faith in limited government and traditional values with an agenda stitched together by little else than personal grievances and performative outrage.

Republican populists would blatantly erode our constitutional norms. A leading candidate for the Republican nomination last year called for the, quote, termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.

The truth is, the Republican Party did not begin on a golden escalator in 2015. Long before that day it was forged and defended and defined as the conservative party in America.

I mean the truth is, Donald Trump, along with his imitators, often sound like an echo of the progressives they seek to replace.


MATTINGLY: And joining me now is former vice president, and Republican presidential candidate, Mike Pence.

Sir, thank you for taking the time. Welcome.

MIKE PENCE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. Good morning, Phil.

MATTINGLY: The decision to do this and the decision to do it now reflects what I've heard from many Republicans who have been in the party a long time, like yourself. Why did you decide now was the time for that speech?

PENCE: Well, Labor Day is behind us. We spent a good several days in New Hampshire, town hall meetings. But, you know, Republicans now are sorting out not just - not just who will lead our party, and be our standard bearer in 2024, but what we'll stand for. And I thought it was important to seize that moment at St. Anselm College and really lay out what I think is a - is a clear choice for Republicans, whether we're going to continue on the path of those time honored conservative principles, of a strong national defense, American leadership on the world stage, limited government, fiscal responsibility and reform, a commitment to the right to life and values, or whether we're going to follow what I call the siren song of populism, unmoored to conservative principles.

And my former running mate, frankly, some of his imitators in this field are increasingly walking away from all those same principles, Phil. And I -- I want people to know that I'm the most consistent, the most qualified, the most tested conservative in this race. And if I'm the standard bearer, we're going to lead forward a future for our party and for our country, grounded in principles that have always made America strong and prosperous and free.


MATTINGLY: I think my question is, you know, the inflection point you talk about, this moment for the party, you know, you look at our most recent polling in terms of the issues itself. You know, your consistency on conservatism I think is unquestioned, whether you agree or disagree with where you are ideologically. But in terms of who would be the best candidate to handle the economy, Trump is at 69 percent, immigration, 65 percent, Ukraine, 63 percent, government overreach, 59 percent.

Isn't this war over and your side lost?

PENCE: Well, I don't - I know there's - there's many in the media, Phil, that - that would like to declare this over. But I -- Labor Day is really when campaigns begin, pimary campaigns. And, you know, we were in Salem, New Hampshire, a big crowd turned out. A number of us candidates were there.

I've been stopping into places across Iowa and New Hampshire where I think Republican primary voters, caucus goers in Iowa, are just now really beginning to focus their attention.

But what's driving all of this is, of course, what you saw this morning here in CNN's latest poll. Joe Biden has weakened this country at home and abroad. The American people are done with the failed policies of President Joe Biden. And now I think Republican primary voters and, frankly, you know, many independents and many Democrats around the country are looking for that leader and looking for that agenda that will really restore our economy and ensure our national security in generations to come.

MATTINGLY: You invoked President Ronald Reagan repeatedly over the course of yesterday. He was kind of the, to some degree, singular Mount Rushmore for conservatism for the last several decades.

I want to play something for you from back in 2016.



PENCE (September 6, 2023): I came to the Republican Party because of Ronald Reagan.

We can emulate his dignified and civil way of carrying himself as president.

PENCE (July 19, 2016): I have a sense of this man. I have a sense of his heart. I have a sense of his hands on style of leadership. And for all the world he reminds me of Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump may have achieved great heights in business and industry and in the world of entertainment, but his heart is with everyday Americans.


MATTINGLY: Obviously, the first sound was from last night. The second was from 2016. I think my question is, do you regret the comparison or drawing comparisons between Trump and Ronald Reagan back then?

PENCE: No, not in the least. You know, when Donald Trump asked me to be his running mate, we sat down, and we talked about his vision for America.

MATTINGLY: Were you wrong then, back then?

PENCE: Oh, look we - in 2016 Donald Trump promised to govern as a conservative. And many people believed that when he chose me, someone that had been in the conservative movement since the days of Ronald Reagan, it was evidence of the sincerity of his purpose.

And, Phil, we did govern as conservatives. I mean we stood strong on the world stage. We rebuilt our military. We stood with our allies and stood up to our enemies and we achieved extraordinary security.

And, frankly, with regard to growth in the economy, we cut taxes, rolled back regulations, unleashed American energy. We could have done a better job on fiscal responsibility and reform, but I was always hopeful we would get there. And, of course, we stood without apology for the right to life.

But what I said yesterday in New Hampshire is that both Donald Trump and many of his imitators in this field are walking away from those very same principles. They didn't begin with Ronald Reagan.


PENCE: And actually, I think, as Ronald Reagan often said, they - they came from the heart of a great nation. And I'm proud of the record of the Trump/Pence administration. It was a conservative record.

MATTINGLY: Well, I understand that.

PENCE: But I think Republican primary voters have a choice to make whether we're going to stay on that conservative agenda or whether we're going to drift off to the populism that many are giving voice to today.

MATTINGLY: I think I -- where I struggle with what you're saying right now is, Trump, in 2016, was not a conservative principles through and through candidate. Even on issues -- you know, abortion was tough. He eventually got to kind of where you are. Wasn't there in the beginning.

When -- in the administration, his trade policy is a complete anathema to what most conservatives have been pushing on trade for a long period of time. On several fronts it was almost his willingness to diverge away from what had been traditional ideology, which was a draw. And I think a constant frustration where I was, covering lawmakers on Capitol Hill, were probably more aligned with you. So, I think that's where I get stuck. I don't understand how you can say he's dramatically different now than what he was back in '16 on the policy side.

PENCE: Well, Phil, I just -- tune in. Turn up the volume. Because the message is changing right now. It really is. And not just the president, but some of his - you know, some of the other candidates in the field.

MATTINGLY: Did he ever care about policy? That was always kind of the question, though, did he actually care about policy? Was that ever the reason that he was elected president in the first place?


PENCE: Well, I think -- I think we were - we were elected in 2016 to turn this country around after - after the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression under Barack Obama and to turn back this kind of rising tide of socialism that, of course, has all come of age under Joe Biden and a party largely driven by the philosophies of Bernie Sanders.

Look, we ran on that agenda. And I'm incredibly proud of the fact the Trump/Pence administration was a conservative administration.

You speak about trade. President Trump did introduce the - the notion of fair trade as a part of free trade, but we also went out there and worked hard. I traveled the country to canvas and develop support for what became the largest trade deal in American history, the USMCA. We re-did our trade deal with South Korea.

You know, and with regard to national security, it may be one of the biggest --

MATTINGLY: He sat down with Kim Jong-un. He had the Helsinki press conference with President Putin.

PENCE: Right.

MATTINGLY: Some of his moves in terms of trying to remove troops from certain places that I - I just can't fathom was in line with where you are on national security issues. None of those things are things that the Congressman Mike Pence that I covered long ago, when we were both much young, I think would have supported. You didn't say anything publicly at the time, which was your approach, and I think was widely understood as your approach.

PENCE: Well, Phil, what was there to say? We had the largest increase investment in our national defense since the Reagan administration. We held our allies in Europe responsible for their commitment to live up to our common defense. And before we left office, our NATO allies were spending more than $100 billion more in our common defense. We renegotiated our - our common defense agreement with South Korea.

And, of course, we unleashed our military. They took down the ISIS caliphate. Fifty-eight cruise missiles twice into Syria. We took down Qasem Soleimani. We demonstrated the ability to use American force. We strengthened our American military.

But what I hear from the former president, and, frankly, from others, whether it's war raging --

MATTINGLY: Yes, how - how do you think the message has changed to some degree?

PENCE: Well - well, it's -- it's war raging in eastern Europe. I hear the former president saying, we'll end it in a day. The - the only way you end the war in Ukraine in a day, Phil, is by giving Vladimir Putin what he wants, which - which Vivek Ramaswamy -

MATTINGLY: And do you think (INAUDIBLE) do that?

PENCE: Vivek Ramaswamy's idea is to do just that, let - let Putin keep what he's taken and promise Ukraine will never join NATO. And then he adds to that a willingness to let China have Taiwan after 2028. And, incomprehensibly, Vivek, who's a - who's a good man. I met him a couple of years ago. He's a good family man. He - he actually said we wouldn't use military force to defend Israel in an attack by Iran.

I - I mean - but - but this is the populous strain and the pulling back from American leadership on the world stage that was not how - how we operated in the Trump/Pence administration. We - we were strong. We had a strong military. We stood with our allies. We stood with Israel as no administration literally in my lifetime had done.

And - and - and I believe that now we're hearing a withdrawal from American leadership in the world. We're - we're - we're being told that we have to make a choice between solving problems here and home in the wake of the failed policies of the Biden administration.


PENCE: Or leading in the world. And as -- as I've said many times, you know, anybody that says that we can't solve the problems here at home and be the leader of the free world has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth.

MATTINGLY: We're running out of time, but I do want to ask just one thing. Given the fact five plus years of your loyalty to - to the former president, what -- how is it possible that you're - you've been so unflinching and never broke with him while in office, no matter what he did, including issues that very clearly you ideologically would have disagreed with. How are you the best messenger for this message at this moment in your party?

PENCE: Well, I honestly believe that when people look at the long scope of my career, and you - you've known me for a long time, even though my - my hair has gotten a lot lighter than yours has in those years, look, I was - I was vice president of the United States. I'm incredibly proud of that record. But we don't elect - we don't elect co-presidents in America. And I - and I'm proud of the fact that - that most Americans know me as that loyal vice president standing alongside the president when we rebuilt our military, we revived our economy, we stood for the right to life and values. But - and -- and I stood loyally with him until a day came that my oath to the Constitution required me to do otherwise.

But what I hope in the course of this campaign is that Americans come to know me a little bit more like you do, that I was - I was a conservative governor that showed you can, you can cut taxes and balance budgets, as we did in the state of Indiana, expand educational choice and even reform health care. And I hope people know me as a - as a conservative leader in the Congress that fought the big spenders in my own party.

Look, we - we've got a national debt the size of our nation's economy. We've got to have leadership in the White House that knows how to get Congress off the dime, take on the big challenges facing our nation, particularly our national debt. And I want people to know I'm the most qualified, the most proven, the tested, the most experienced conservative in the race.


MATTINGLY: It was important remarks. As you noted, a critical time, people tuning in, post-Labor Day.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, we appreciate your time, sir. Thank you for coming in.

PENCE: Thank you, Phil.

HARLOW: Yeah, really great. Really great to have the vice president here in the studio. Welcome back anytime. Meantime, this news Mar-a- Lago IT worker news that he has flipped on former President Trump in the classified documents probe. We'll ask one of Trump's lawyers from his second impeachment trial. What could that mean for Trump's legal strategy? That's next.


MATTINGLY: This morning we're learning new information in the federal case over former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents. A Mar-a-Lago IT worker has struck a cooperation agreement with the special counsel's office and agreed to testify. And in exchange, you will not be prosecuted.

CNN Sara Murray has been following every step of this case. Sara, people are fascinated by the idea of flipping witnesses. What

does this actually mean for this case and for Jack Smith, the special prosecutor?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is interesting because we have seen other employees for the former president charged alongside him, Walt Nada, and Carlos De Oliveira. They've been using attorneys who are paid for by the Trump Pac, and we've seen them stay in the fold. That is not what's happening for Yuscil Taveras.

He now has gotten another attorney. He is now cooperating with prosecutors. Basically, he was threatened with the potential charges and agreed to change his tune. Again, this is someone who was talking to other employees about the surveillance footage at Mar-a-Lago. Prosecutors say that there was an effort to try to destroy that footage.


And here, Yuscil Taveras is referred to as Trump employee number four. He's in a conversation with Carlos De Oliveira, the property manager. It says De Oliveira told Trump employee four that the boss, presumably Trump, wanted the server deleted. Trump employee four responded that he would not know how to do that and that he did not believe he would have the right to do that.

Trump employee four told De Oliveira that Dal Avera would have to reach out to another employee who was a supervisor of security for Trump's business organization. De Oliveira then insisted to Trump employee four that the boss wanted the server deleted and asked, What are we going to do? So even in this indictment, you see the sort of reticence of Yuscil Taveras to go along with this plot to try to destroy this surveillance footage.

And now he is officially someone who is cooperating with prosecutors again to avoid charges in this case. Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it was clearly something the prosecutors have been looking for. Now they have it. Sara Murray, great reporting as always.

HARLOW: Okay, let's talk a lot more about this and many newer legal issues facing the president. Senior Legal Analyst, former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Elie Honig is with us at the table. Also joining us, David Schoen was one of the attorneys who represented Trump during his second impeachment trial. Great to have you both here.

Elie, let me just begin with you on the significance of Yuscil Taveras cooperating here.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, it's a good win for prosecutors. He was the person identified in the indictment as Trump employee four. It's clear that some of the information in the indictment, some of the allegations, are based on testimony that they got from him. But important to know, that Mr. Taveras employee four, did not have

direct contact with Donald Trump. He had direct contact with the De Oliveira. Now, that's still useful for prosecutors, but Taveras is not going to be able to say, Donald Trump told me to do this. He's going to say, this other guy told me that Trump wanted me to do this. Still useful for prosecutors, but not necessarily game.

HARLOW: Okay, David, we often hear people say, "Sorry, I can't answer your questions. I can't talk advice of counsel, or I'm not going to testify right. Because of counsel." That is not apparently the case with Donald Trump, who told Hugh Hewitt that he would testify. I just want people to listen to this sound.


HUGH HEWITT, HOST OF THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW: If you have to go to trial, will you testify in your own defense?


HEWITT: You'll take the stand

TRUMP: That I look forward to.


HARLOW: Not only would he, he would look forward to it. Is that something that you would recommend in any of these pending cases?

DAVID SCHOEN, TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER DURING THE 2ND IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Well, listen, I think in my view, it's always the client's decision. I think the law recognizes that also, and whenever someone's life or freedom is at stake, I think it's very important for that person to make the decision. Donald Trump has wanted to testify before. He wanted to testify in the E. Jean Carroll case.

Lawyers have counseled him otherwise. It's prudent advice for any defendant generally. But I think Donald Trump believes he's a great communicator. He has proven to be a great communicator, and so I would expect him to testify.

HARLOW: Okay, you would expect him to testify. I really want to get into now what I am fascinated by, and that is this argument over the 14th Amendment and whether it means that former President Trump is disqualified from even being on the ballot in states to run for President.

The Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, wrote a really interesting and compelling op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about this. The headline is, I can't keep Trump off the ballot. And, David, went into his legal rationale and reasoning.

Why? The best line, by the way, is at the end, where he quotes country music singer Luke Bryan, fellow Georgian, who says, quote, most people are good, and then he says, Most of the time they will get it right. Trust the voters. Do you think he's right on the law there? SCHOEN: I think he's right, number one, on policy, by the way, the next line is, most mamas qualify for sainthood. That's the best line of the song.


HARLOW: I can concur David.

SCHOEN: But I think he's right as a matter of policy, fundamentally. I don't know that he would hold himself out as a legal scholar. There are terrific arguments on both sides of this question. The two professors who wrote the University of Pennsylvania Law Review article spent a lot of time and thought going into this.

They recognized there are problems with their argument. They dismiss those problems. Ultimately, I agree with those who oppose their point of view legally. I think there are many reasons why this 14th Amendment doesn't apply to the President. First of all, I think that article Two, section One, sets out the qualifications for president.

Those are exclusive. I think the text of the language supports that argument. I think they had an opportunity to charge under 23 80 insurrections. They didn't do that. I think this would render the second impeachment trial a nullity. I think their interpretation is subject to great abuse.

They talked about indirect support, qualifying to disqualify someone they consider a broad range of conduct. I don't think that was what was intended. There are a number of other arguments, legal arguments, against it. So, it's a serious argument, I'm afraid. Also, when we see different states taking different positions on a presidential election, that in itself is problematic.


HARLOW: Elie, the text that David is pointing to here, and this could very likely go up all the way up to the Supreme Court, they'll have to interpret the Constitution as they read it. How do you read did?

HONIG: I'm not buying this 14th Amendment argument. I think this is what happens when law professors go crazy.

HARLOW: You think this is crazy?

HONIG: I do and here's why. There is no enforcement mechanism. The Constitution tells us nothing about how this works. Who gets to make this incredibly grave decision was a former official.

HARLOW: Their argument is not even question because they argue it's clearly laid out.

HONIG: Right, but that's a ridiculous argument. They're saying, okay, we're just going to have individual secretaries of state unilaterally deciding yes. In my view, even though Donald Trump's never been charged with insurrection, I think he did commit insurrection. Therefore, he's off the ballot and the American voters can't choose for or against him.

That is anti-democratic, and that is also a made-up process. That's not in the Constitution. That's not in any law. Congress is at 150 years. They haven't passed the law. The problem with this whole provision is nobody's told us how it works.

You can't make it up now and apply it three years in the past, because you know what? That would violate a different portion of the 14th Amendment due process. I'm not buying this argument. I think it's creative. I give him credit for creativity. Doesn't work.

SCHOEN: Elie's position is supported by an 1869 case, Griffin's case. The law review writers address that they just say, well, it was wrongly decided. Justice Chase, Supreme Court justice, sat on that case and he made clear there has to be some mechanism. Congress has to act. It's not self-executing.

HARLOW: Can I ask you finally, David, about something that we're watching? And that is John Eastman, who's here. One of the codefendants is talking. He went on Laura Ingraham; he spoke with her last week. He's still making claims that are unfounded, like Pence could've you know, certified the election in a different way.

He could have paused the certification of Biden's, win, et cetera. Eastman's attorney was on CNN with Caitlin Collins last night, and she asked him about the strategy of Eastman doing these interviews. I want you to listen to this exchange.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Are you worried that those comments could be used by prosecutors against your client? Have you advised him not to speak publicly?

CHARLES BURNHAM, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN EASTMAN: We made a decision a long time ago in this case. Our view is Dr. Eastman is innocent. He has nothing to hide. He's clearly innocent, and we've made the decision. That risky though it certainly may be, to be as open as we can with journalists such as yourself and with anyone who wants to talk to us. For the most part, we're happy to talk to them.

COLLINS: So, it is potentially risky for him to be speaking publicly, you think?

BURNHAM: Oh, sure.


HARLOW: That was a really interesting exchange. That attorney in particular of Eastman's is quite candid on these issues. David, I wonder what you think. You said it's always up to the client.

SCHOEN: It's always up to the client whether I was specifically to testify in the trial against that person. But I do believe that's up to the client. Here, though, there's a big difference between has maintained his innocence and that he has nothing to hide, and speaking voluntarily and publicly on the facts of his case.

It's his right. I believe in transparency, but I'm a big fan of Kaitlan Collins, and she made a very strong point about it. I don't think Elie Honig would let his client speak like that, and I think he's a wise lawyer.

HARLOW: I do all I could to say we are all real big fan of Kaitlan Collins on this program. You're exactly right. I appreciate the debate, the discussion. David and Elie. Thanks very much.

MATTINGLY: Well, the Hunter Biden case is heading for indictment. The president's son could be charged in the case by the end of the month. Why the Justice Department first in course. That's next.

HARLOW: Also, potential showdown between the White House and House Republicans over funding for the war on Ukraine. That fight could be around the corner. New reporting next.