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Team Biden Puts Finishing Touches on Tonight's Address; Alabama Governor Signs IVF Protection Bill; Storms in the South, Rain & Flooding in New England. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 07, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Thursday, March 7, right now on CNN THIS MORNING.


President Biden preparing his State of the Union speech. It's a high- stakes moment in his rematch with Donald Trump.

Plus, Alabama's governor is signing an IVF protection bill. Critics say it might not go far enough.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone died. I mean, you've got to take responsibility.


HUNT: A juror explains why he found the "Rust" movie set armorer guilty after Alec Baldwin was given a gun with live rounds in it.

All right, 6 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Capitol Hill, the scene of all the action tonight for the president's State of the Union address.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you here.

Game on. The rematch that most Americans don't want officially kicks off tonight when Joe Biden delivers a State of the Union address that could set them up for four more years or make his road to reelection tougher.

He is expected to highlight the accomplishments of his first term while warning the country about the existential threat to the nation that he believes Donald Trump presents.

The president's challenge: convincing voters who are concerned about his age and stamina that he's fit for another term. Trump, fresh off a near-sweep on Super Tuesday that forced Nikki Haley

out of the race, is challenging the president to a debate and vowing to deliver a running play by play on social media during the State of the Union address.

Let's bring in our panel on this important morning. Democratic Congressman Pat Ryan of New York is here. Sarah Longwell, Republican strategist and executive director of the Republican Accountability Project. And former ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton joins us. Ann, I'm so honored to have you here. Thank you so much.


HUNT: Let's just start with the big picture here. You have covered, I understand, State of the Unions back to Gerald Ford.


HUNT: I started doing them in George W. Bush's administration.


HUNT: So I think you've got, you know, the table over all of us in terms of having seen it all. How consequential do you think this speech is for President Biden, considering the stakes of the 2024 election?

COMPTON: Well, they're -- they're always important. They're important for the country to hear, but they don't really rock our world. I really do think the best years for State of the Union are presidential election years, because you not only have a president incumbent up there, but you've got a candidate who really has to woo the American voters and say, hey, you know, I'm your guy; trust me, I got this.

And that -- that's the takeaway that he wants most of the -- most of the public to be able to get from that.

HUNT: Yes, of course.

Let's play a little bit. We showed -- we showed some of this a little earlier, but I want to show it again. Because the thing that we've been reporting here, that our reporters at CNN are hearing is that Democrats really want more fire from President Biden, right? They want more of that passion that people say that they see in private but that doesn't seem to make its way out in public as much. They think it could counteract some of these concerns about his age.

There was a moment at the State of the Union last year that sort of showed what -- what -- what we understood to be an off-the-cuff reaction by President Biden, where he really kind of came out on the top of that interaction. Watch this.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security sunset. I'm not saying it's a majority.


BIDEN: Contact my office. I'll give you a copy. I'll give you a copy of the proposal.


HUNT: So that of course, Marjorie Taylor Greene, congressman, standing up.

Now, the leadership at the time urged them not to do this, Republican leadership. They've apparently urged them not to do this again this year. You were on -- you were in the audience for that.

What do you expect from Republicans tonight? And how does that play into what President Biden is trying to accomplish?

REP. PAT RYAN (D-NY): I wish I could say I expected civility, but I think my colleagues -- I mean, the far-right has taken over the Republican Party, certainly in the House. And not only are they wrong on policy, not only are they divisive and dangerous, they're just rude.

And I think the American people respond -- the American people see that. And when the president called them on that, both the style but also the substance, and said we and I are going to fight to protect Social Security and Medicare. And you've got the plan on paper to sunset it and privatize it. When he called them on that, that -- that was an important moment. And I think we'll see more of that.


And that contrast is so stark between the Republican Party of today, who wants to take away our critical rights and freedoms and make it harder for folks to afford to live in America right now.

HUNT: Sarah Longwell, and you talk to voters all the time about what they're looking for. And obviously, there's the content of the speech that we were just, you know, talking about, the policies.

But there's also the performance aspect. And for Joe Biden, that may be the thing that matters the most.

What do you hear from voters about what the risks are, what they're looking for from him, and kind of the balance of do they expect him to be bad, and it'll be better if it's good, or do they expect it to be good? And like, if he's bad, that's bad.


Here's where they are. Right? So Republicans have done one thing that I think is a little bit of a mistake, which is that they have set the bar at dementia, right? They tell their voters that Joe Biden has dementia. And so he can clear a dementia bar, and that's probably a win. And even better if he does what he did last time.

Like, I understand why Democrats are saying you need to have a fiery speech. I think the stakes are enormous for him this time, because the age is such a concern; and that is left, right, and center. Right? Age is a concern across the board.

They just need to know this guy is with it. He can fight. He can still -- he can still do the job. And I think, you know, Republicans have done him a bit of a service by setting that bar so low. So he just really needs to clear it.

But the performance is way more important than the substance, because people are not that -- some in the far left, but like, swing voters aren't as mad at him on the substance. They're worried about whether or not he can do the job.

HUNT: Yes. And I mean, what do you see in terms of the stakes for his performance? Are they higher than they typically are for a president giving this address?

COMPTON: Well, they're different in that you kind of -- this year, you have two incumbents. We have two presidents who are -- who are going to be meeting again in the rematch.

And Vice [SIC] -- President Biden has been through this before, and he knows those reactions. And he ought to be prepared to, again, bring on that, I'm the guy you can trust. And I would assume he's -- he's -- he's prepared for that.

But this kind of antagonism in the House and the antithetical choirs of applause and booing and everything, it's been around for a while. And I think Americans are really kind of tired of it.

HUNT: Do you agree?

LONGWELL: I don't know about that. I think -- I think we've hit a different moment in politics, where I hear now -- you certainly heard it from Republicans for a long time. They wanted a fighter. They chose Donald Trump, because he went hard and mixed it up and went after their enemies.

And now I hear from Democrats all the time they're like what they get frustrated with, with Joe Biden is that they feel like he's not enough of a fighter. He's not out there enough taking swings.

And so I saw reports the other day that Biden said his strategy is to go for the jugular on Trump. And I think that's the right thing to do. Offense. They need to go on offense now.

HUNT: What do you think, Congressman? Do you agree?

RYAN: I think folks are frustrated and worried. And it is about being a fighter. But it's who are you fighting for and what are you fighting for? I mean, it's so clear and so stark in a contrast: Trump is just about himself.

I mean, in every dimension: about himself and about taking us backwards. President Biden and the party are about the American people, reminding it is literally we the people.

HUNT: So why don't Americans see it that way? I mean, the president's approval rating is at, like, historic lows. And he's losing in national polls to Donald Trump. Granted, some of those polls have flaws. But in "The Washington Post" poll, for example, in 2020, he was never losing to Trump by a significant margin; and he's got a tougher road this time. Why?

RYAN: No disrespect to the pollsters and all the experts. I've been in a few tough races. I've -- every single time, the polls have been wrong in --

HUNT: In your races?

RYAN: Every single time.

HUNT: Fair enough.

RYAN: Both of my tough races last year, I was supposed to lose, and I won. And I think it's the difference of do you talk to voters and real people on the ground, or do you kind of get over -- overly focused on these numbers and polls that, increasingly in today's communications were, like, don't work.

I think one of President Biden's unique strands is he has this, like, deep connection to real people. And when that comes through, and when he talks about stories, and when he talks about what he's delivering, when he talks about why he thought to lower insulin prices, for example, down to $35 and the stories of that, that connects with people. And I think we will see that again from him tonight.

HUNT: I want to show a little bit of one -- yesterday, Nikki Haley dropped out of the presidential race. She did not endorse Donald Trump, but she did talk about what she thinks Donald Trump needs to do if he wants to win the general election. Watch Haley.


NIKKI HALEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it, who did not support him. And I hope he does that. At its best, politics is about bringing people into your cause, not turning them away.



HUNT: So Ann, I mean, that message does seem to me to speak to the people you talk about, who might be tired of the instability on the floor of the House, right? The people that voted for Nikki Haley, who are saying, We don't want Donald Trump.

What could the president do tonight to try to win over those Haley voters?

COMPTON: Well, be more ecumenical. Be broader appeal, more to people who -- not just on party politics but on what actually ought to happen.

And when you look in the gallery tonight, Mrs. -- Mrs. Biden has -- Dr. Biden has all of these people sitting around her. The woman who had to leave Texas to get an IVF procedure [SIC] or --

HUNT: Abortion.

COMPTON: Abortion. And there's an IVF woman, as well, who had to leave the state.

So I think if -- he can try to appeal to everything except the die- hard Trump -- Trump supporters.

HUNT: Right.

COMPTON: And of course, you know, Trump, when he did his last State of the Union, when he finished, and it was pretty partisan, Speaker Pelosi stood behind him and quietly --

HUNT: I remember that.

COMPTON: -- took his advanced text and tore it into pieces.

HUNT: Most partisan (UNINTELLIGIBLE), too.

COMPTON: Those moments make -- make an evening.

HUNT: Final last word.

LONGWELL: Yes, here's what Joe Biden should do. He -- he put out a great statement yesterday where he said, Nikki Haley voters, we want you, because right now that stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who's saying, I don't want you. You're permanently barred. Hey, did you like Mitt Romney? Well, then I don't like you.

If he's going to play the politics of subtraction, Joe Biden should play the politics of addition and say, You are welcome in this tent.

HUNT: Fair enough. All right. Thank you, all. Stay with me, please. We're going to chat again in just a moment.

Ahead, deputy White House press secretary Olivia Dalton joins me for an inside preview of the president's State of the Union address.

And a mysterious find off the coast of Alaska. The Pentagon trying to figure out if it's a spy balloon.

Plus, this.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly three weeks since a state Supreme Court ruling that embryos are children, Alabama lawmakers pushed across the finish line a law to protect IVF clinics and patients. I'll break down how it works and where exactly it falls short.

We're live from Montgomery, Alabama, with that story, next.



HUNT: All right. Alabama's governor just hours ago signing a new bill to protect IVF in her state after its Supreme Court ruled embryos are people, throwing the fertility industry into turmoil.

IVF clinics and advocates say the bill does provide adequate legal protection but does not address the issue at the heart of the Supreme Court's decision.

Joining us now from Alabama is CNN's Isabel Rosales.

Isabel, thanks so much for being here. What does this bill accomplish? And what do critics say it doesn't?

ROSALES: Kasie, good morning to you. Speed was clearly the priority for lawmakers here after that state Supreme Court ruling just sparked public outrage.

This was a Republican-dominated legislature that push this bill across the finish line. And it was a Republican governor that signed it into law.

So let's dig into it: what it does and does not do. This is a law designed to protect those who are receiving or providing IVF by offering them civil and criminal immunity.

So this is very crucial, because IVF clinics routinely dispose of frozen embryos that are nonviable or are unwanted. This law applies immediately, and it applies retroactively.

So now let's go into what it doesn't do. It does not address when life begins. This question of personhood, as you said, is at the heart of this Alabama Supreme Court ruling that embryos are children. This does not answer that.

Let's now go into the three clinics that paused IVF treatments in the wake of that Supreme Court ruling, state Supreme Court ruling, starting with the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Mobile Health. This is the same clinic involved in that case that went to the state's highest court.

It said it will not resume services. Mark Nix, the CEO of Infirmary Health, telling CNN they need legal clarification as to the extent of immunity that they have. Also telling us, quote, "At this time, we believe the law falls short of addressing the fertilized eggs currently stored across the state and leaves challenges for physicians and fertility clinics trying to help deserving families have children of their own."

Then there's Alabama Fertility. Dr. Mamie McLean, telling us that they are set to resume IVF treatments as early as today or tomorrow.

And then there's the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They were the first to pause IVF treatments. They say that they are working to move promptly to resume IVF treatments -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Isabel Rosales for us on this incredibly important story. Isabel -- Isabel, thank you very much for that.

And still ahead here for us, the president's son invited to a public House hearing. Will he RSVP?

Plus, new this morning, the mug shot of the armorer just found guilty in the Alec Baldwin movie shooting.



HUNT: Welcome back. We're learning more about why jurors found "Rust" movie armorer Hannah Gutierez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday.

The trial stemmed from the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the movie set in 2021.

One juror spoke out just after the verdict, saying that the decision hinged on a single factor: safety.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much very unsafe conditions, and it was obvious.

There was a lot of the safety issues that she could have paused work, stop, cleared it all up. And just never did.


HUNT: Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for firearm safety and storage on the movie set. She faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

She was acquitted on a charge of evidence tampering.

The movie's lead actor and co-producer, Alec Baldwin, who pointed the gun that killed Hutchins, goes on trial in July for involuntary manslaughter.

All right. Let's get another check on your weather this morning. Flood threats in New England today, severe thunderstorms in the South. Check out the water in Charleston, South Carolina. Yikes.


Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us now with more. Allison, what do we have today? ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A little bit more rain,

unfortunately, but there is light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of folks, especially in the Northeast. We've just got to get through the rest of the day today.

Still, some pretty heavy rain across Maine, stretching down into Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as Massachusetts. That's why we still have have a lot of those flood watches in effect for today. And even some of the flood warnings, because an additional one to three inches is still expected.

Keep in mind, that's on top of one to two inches that has already fallen across several of these areas, not to mention since the beginning of the year.

Take a look at this. How much of a surplus a lot of these areas have. Providence looking at half a foot of rain above what they normally would see this time of year.

But by tonight, the bulk of that moisture finally exits out over the open Atlantic. Well get a little bit of a break before that next system you can see starting to spread there begins to arrive in the Northeast by this weekend.

The rest of today, another concern is going to be a developing series of severe thunderstorms for several states here in the Southern Plains. Large hail, damaging winds and even a tornado or two are also possible. Oklahoma City, Wichita, and down through Dallas.

It's all part of this particular system here off to the North and then a secondary system down to the South. That's going to be a big concern for flooding across the Southeast. It's very slow-moving, and we'll have a tremendous amount of moisture, giving us a moderate risk for cities like Atlanta and Birmingham for the flooding as we go into the weekend.

HUNT: All right. Allison Chinchar for us. Allison, thank you very much.

And up next here, almost go time. A live look at the White House just hours ahead of President Biden's State of the Union.

Plus, the Supreme Court revealing exactly when it will hear Donald Trump's claim of absolute immunity.