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Biden Fundraiser with Obama and Clinton; Pandemic Looms over Rematch; One Year of Detention for Gershkovich; Rep. Seth Moulton (D- MA) is Interviewed about Congress; Alabama Democrat Wins with Abortion Message. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 06:30   ET





SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": That's right, President Biden is set to appear at Radio City Music Hall with former President Barack Obama, and they definitely know how to sell it.

ON SCREEN TEXT: Radoi City. An evening with Obama. Featuring Joe Biden.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: OK, There will actually be three presidents at tonight's New York City fundraiser. Former President Clinton will also be in attendance. Organizers say that the event already has raised $25 million.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House with more.

Arlette, good morning.

That was a joke, but it kind of pokes at some of the current president's insecurities perhaps around former President Obama. That said, it does seem to be all hands on deck tonight. What do we expect?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kasie, this is really a unique moment in presidential politics as you have the current sitting president teaming up with two former presidents to take on another former president, former President Donald Trump. And tonight these donors will get a taste and a preview of what this general election fight will look like as President Biden, former President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton are on stage at Radio City Music Hall for this high dollar fundraiser that so far the campaign says has brought in more than $25 alone.

If you take a look at Biden's fundraising advantage over Trump, he already has about $71 million in the bank. That's just in his campaign account. It's about double that when you factor in the Democratic Committee's as well. Then for Trump, he has $33.5 million. So really this will help advance the president's fundraising agenda as he's looking to gear up his operation to take on Trump in November.

But really this speaks to a high-stakes moment also for the involvement of the former presidents. Advisors I've spoken with from - for both Biden and Obama have said that they want to strategically deploy Obama going into the election. They feel fundraising is a big way to see it. We likely won't see him on the campaign trail though until the fall as early voting gets started.

HUNT: All right, Arlette Saenz for us at the White House.

Arlette, thank you.

Our panel is back here.

Start with the slight fuzziness there.

I want to put up here, Karen and Matt, for you an email that Trump sent about this fundraisers. So, he blasted this out yesterday. And the language that he uses is just pretty intense. Just look at that there. "Barack Obama wants to spit in your face. Bill Clinton wants to utterly humiliate you. All while crooked Joe Biden is laughing his way to the bank."

Matt, he is doing something pretty specific here. I mean the language is very harsh. But what he is attempting to do is stoke that sort of anti-elite sentiment that many of his supporters feel. Is it effective? Is it the right thing to do? What do you see in that?

MATT GORMAN, FORMER TIM SCOTT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think, first of all, he needs the low dollar fundraising, right? He wants us talking about these emails. He wants something that breaks through. So, that's, I think, number one, I think especially as we talk about where the fundraising gap is between Democrats and Republicans. He needs the money, number one.

Number two, you're right, I mean this is something he has harnessed, I think, for a long time. It is the anti-elite sentiment. It is especially when you're getting all three presidents together, especially - not - you're not just bringing the baggage of say Joe Biden, but the - Obama. He essentially, an oftentimes, ran against in 2016, and then the memory of the Clinton years. I think it was an effective way for him to kind of lump them all together. And again, the whole point of this, gets some low dollar fundraising going off it.

HUNT: Karen, the spit in your face language?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR Yes, I mean, come on. It's disgusting. But it's, again, these kinds of emails are always worse. I mean it's - at the same time, boy does that wreak of desperation?


That's what - that's what - how I read it because he knows - I mean $25 million in one of it. He would love to have that kind of fundraising. And the truth is, Joe Biden doesn't have a half a billion dollar debt hanging over his head. He -

HUNT: Or many, many legal bills.

FINNEY: Right.

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: And two very popular former presidents who can be brought in and a very popular couple of former first ladies, one of whom remind - will remind people just how horrible they felt when she lost and he won, by the way.

So, you know, we've - I think it's also an important moment of unity for Democrats. Its shows our fundraising prowess, which I don't think Democrats get enough credit for. There's a lot of focus on polls. We don't focus on the fact that we're blowing the doors off on fundraising. And a lot of it is actually small dollar, which I think is really important.

So, you know, again, desperation on the part of the former president.

HUNT: Karen, let me ask you about Obama specifically and this kind of relationship between Joe Biden, who was, of course, Obama's vice president.


HUNT: And then was, you know, a bit miffed, I guess is how you might say when, you know, Obama really threw his support behind Hillary Clinton in a strong way back in 2016.

What's the relationship like with these two men and what does it mean to you? I mean Obama's also been doing other events for President Biden. He's kind of stepping out onto the stage more aggressively.

FINNEY: Yes, and, look, like all long-term friendships, its complicated, right? Let's put it that way.

HUNT: I mean when you're both former presidents of the United States, perhaps it's even extra complicated.

FINNEY: You know - right. It's like, I mean who knows the kind of things they talk about. But, look, I think there's a huge admiration and an understanding of what's at stake in the country. And in some ways I think, you know, it's harder when you're out, when you've been the president and you're watching what's going on and you're like, put me in coach. Let me - let me get in there and help. And it's - you know, obviously, President Obama is going to be a huge asset on the campaign trail.

I agree with you, that sign probably poked. I was thinking to myself, I hope that's not in any clips that the president sees because he is the president. But, no, I think tonight will be really funny.

It's always - you know, it's a bit of nostalgia when you get to see the three of them together. GORMAN: There's a bit of a rivalry there. And I say this taking my kind of Republican had off. If you read his book, Biden's booked, "Promise Me, Dad," things from 2016, 2017, that rivalry is so clear in there. And - but, look, you're going to see, I think, a lot of Obama, because the one thing that Republicans really feel an opportunity at African American voters, specifically black men. So, to the extent that Obama can kind of consolidate the African American vote towards Joe Biden and now I think peel some away from Trump is going to be key.


HUNT: Yes. All right. Let's - let's change gears here because I also want to talk about something that we've all been living with.

This year - this month marks the four-year anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic. And while we have moved on, of course, from lockdowns, mask mandates, virtual school, the memory of the pandemic really still haunts American life, and it may influence what voters do in November as they face the same choice this time that they faced in 2020. As a recent "New York Times" analysis notes, public confidence in institutions has slumped since 2020 and just hasn't recovered. Fears of political violence and even civil war are at record highs. National happiness rankings are at record lows. And the view of the economy remains extraordinarily bleak.

Josh Rogin, let me just get you to weigh in, big picture. This was a worldwide pandemic. We're not just seeing it in the United States. We are seeing it across the world. But it is really impacting our current politics.

JOSH ROGIN, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Of course. I think for a lot of understandable reasons, people want to memory hold the pandemic. They want to just pretend it never happened. Of course, the Trump campaign would love to pretend that it never happened because that forces people to put themselves back in that situation in mid-2020 where all of our lives were affected dramatically and people around us were dying, people were losing their careers, people were losing their businesses.

And I think if we're being honest about that period, we have to say that the Trump administration handled it terribly and that they, you know - I documented at the time, President Trump, you know, ignored the early warnings. He minimized the pandemic for a while. He told us to put bleach into our skin to fix it on national TV and, you know -

HUNT: Already in a Biden campaign ad, yes.

ROGIN: Yes. And this is not to say that Democrats in certain states didn't also make big mistakes. It's just to say that if we - if we had a true accounting of that, it would be a damning - it is a damning account of how this president handled a crisis. And it's relevant because a crisis like that will inevitably happen again sooner or later.

So, I think there's an effort for the Biden and an interest for the Biden team to - and the one thing that Trump did well, which is the vaccines, he won't even take credit for it.

HUNT: Right.

ROGIN: So, I - I think that there's an interest and an effort in the Biden campaign to remind people of this, but it's a double-edged sword because it makes people feel bad and it's sort of -

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: Well -

ROGIN: It's not the kind of message you really want to champion.

FINNEY: But at the same time there was a piece also in "The Atlantic" written by two clinical psychiatrists who talked about the fact that America is also experiencing unprocessed grief. And we've never had a national moment where we talked about the fact that over a million Americans died.


People lost their children and their friends and their careers and their lives. And the point that they make, we have a lot of historical data, as well as clinical data that shows unprocessed grief is part of why - it's a trauma response. The trauma responses is, we don't want to think about, you know, the end of Trump and then we had January 6th. We just want to move on. But what they explain is, that that's still sitting in us, which is why we feel bad about everything.

And I think - you know, one of the things that the president currently talks about is, the greatest comeback story never told. I want him to go on this campaign trail and tell that story and tell the story of how we, the American people, got through these tough times and maybe remind us, we did it together actually. As much - as much as we feel divided, it was first responders.

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: It was friends looking out for friends. So --

HUNT: On the one hand, I don't disagree with you on that, Karen. But I will say, Matt, one of the overriding features of this particular crisis, while we had to try to get through it together, it's like fundamental defining reality was isolation and loneliness.

GORMAN: It was - it was very different for different people, right. Think of it this way. You live in California, you live in Florida, you experienced Covid very differently. If you're somebody who is an office worker and can do most of your things by Zoom or work from home, you experienced it very differently than if you're a frontline worker or if you're a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, I think that was one of the other things is, everyone experienced it so differently. And there isn't one kind of defining feature.

So, look, we all went through 9/11, right? Unless you were directly impacted, you had it from a little bit at a distance. So, I think that was a defining feature too.

And it's hard because, you're right, if you were a frontline worker and you saw death every day, then you came home and had to deal with it. Or if you're a waiter or a waitress and you had to really risk - essentially risk -

HUNT: Or you're someone who lost a parent or a child or something.

GORMAN: Exactly. Right.

HUNT: Yes.

GORMAN: Or somebody who just - look, very fortunate you -

FINNEY: Or a friend.

HUNT: Or a friend.

GORMAN: You were able to not really be as affected by it as other people. It's a very different experience. There's no unifying theme in a lot of respects for Covid.

HUNT: Yes.


ROGIN: I would just say that internationally it turned the whole world into a very - a sort of selfish mentality and, you know, everybody sort of looked out for themselves. This fed into a politics of fear, populism, nationalism in Europe, in Asia, especially here in America. And that hasn't turned back. And a lot of the - the retraction of sort of the idea of - of an international community that was building towards some sort of consensus and cooperation on democracy, freedom, and human rights irrevocably changed.

HUNT: Yes.

ROGIN: And - and I think in a way that the - the Trump side of the equation is not necessarily unhappy with that. It's actually kind of riding on that.


HUNT: Yes, to the extent that there were already these populist tendencies across the western world.

ROGIN: Right.

HUNT: Not just here in the United States. I mean mean this really poured fuel on that already burning fire.

ROGIN: Exactly.

HUNT: All right, still had here, a Democrat who made reproductive rights a central part of her campaign to win a special election in, wait for it, deep red Alabama. Plus, Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton standing by for us. We'll talk to him in just a moment.



HUNT: All right, 46 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried facing up to 50 years behind bars at his sentencing today. He was convicted of defraud crypto investors in one of the largest white-collar crimes ever.

CPAC chair Matt Schlapp agreeing to a $480,000 settlement to end a sexual assault lawsuit. A Republican operative alleges Schlapp groped him during a trip to Georgia in 2022.

The White House marking one year since the detention of "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This administration will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to push back against Russia's attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips.


HUNT: Russia accuses Gershkovich are trying to obtain state secrets.

Josh, what does it tell you that we are nearing the one-year anniversary mark of this?

ROGIN: First of all, it's a tragedy for Evan, his family, his colleagues. It's a mark of how far Russia has fallen in terms of being a normal country where international journalists can just go and do their jobs. That's not possible in Russia in 2024. And it's also a sign that the U.S.-Russia relationship is at such a low point that the really only business that we have is trading Russian prisoners, people who have committed crimes that we have in our custody, for American hostages. That's the action. And in a sense that provides a ray of hope for Evan and his family because even though we're engaged in all of these problems with Russia, these swaps do occur.

On the other hand, it doesn't look like Evan is getting out anytime soon. They just extended his pre-trial detention for the fifth time. Another three months. And the pattern in Russia is that they prefer to convict the person before they bargain them away because they think that gives them more leverage. So, he's going to be in there for a while. But in the end I think there is a good chance that there will be a deal and that he will come home. And I think that everybody who has an interest in this is working very hard for that outcome.

HUNT: Yes. We're thinking of - thinking of his family. Evan deserves to be home. So does Paul Whelan, by the way.

All right, the National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the deadly Baltimore bridge collapse. The agency has recovered six hours of data from the container ship that collided with the Key Bridge. And while it could take up to two years to finalize the investigation, official say there are no signs of safety issues with the bridge's structure.


JENNIFER HOMENDY, NTSB CHAIR: This bridge was in satisfactory condition.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The bridge, like this one, completed in the 1970s, was simply not made to withstand a direct impact on a critical support pier from a vessel that weighs about 200 million pounds.


HUNT: All right, let's bring in Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.


He sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Congressman, good morning. Thanks for being here.


HUNT: So, let's start with the Baltimore bridge collapse here. I honestly want to ask you about the chances that Congress is actually going to be able to help the community of Baltimore here, because of the way that relationships in especially the House of Representatives have just fallen to a new low, to the point that there are questions about whether or not Congress is going to be able to do anything about this there did not use to be. What do you expect?

MOULTON: No, I mean that's right. So, when the I-35 bridge collapsed up in Minnesota in 2007, not that long ago, I think within two days Congress appropriated the funds to fix it. But this is a very different time in Congress right now. It's very partisan. But I will say, that at the end of the day, Democrats and Republicans have come together to pass the appropriations bills. It took a long time. We just passed the appropriations bills we should have passed last year. But we did do it in a bipartisan way. So, I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to do something because, obviously, we understand the urgency of the moment.

HUNT: Yes.

Let me ask you, speaking of divisions in Congress, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of members of Congress who were visiting there yesterday that victory in Gaza is a few weeks away, he says. What do you take away from those comments? And I'm also curious that Republicans have kind of floated the possibility of Netanyahu coming to address the U.S. Congress. What kind of message would that send?

MOULTON: Well, first of all, I don't understand how Prime Minister Netanyahu defines victory. And this is a point that I've made since the very beginning of the conflict with an op-ed on What I said, he needs to have a political end game. He needs to have a political end game that's believable and supported by both sides to this conflict. Or, at the end of the day, we're just going to be right back to where we were when this began, an ongoing war with continued violence. And that's not going to serve peace for anyone in the Middle East.

So, I don't understand how we can possibly say that they're a few weeks away from victory when he hasn't even described what that will look like. I mean I've been advocating for a two-state solution, for example. The prime minister says, that's not going to happen under his watch. So, I don't think he understands how this works. I don't think he understands counterinsurgency. I don't think he's heeded any of the lessons that America painfully learned through 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan about fighting terrorists in this kind of environment. And so it's not going to end in two weeks, that's for sure.

HUNT: Congressman, what do you see as the outcome, speaking of lessons learned from that era, which you obviously have played a part, the devastation that we have seen in Gaza and the way that that population is going to be impacted by this for generations to come? If the goal is to eliminate Hamas, is the prime minister, Netanyahu, accomplishing that, or is he causing another generation of people who are going to want to violently oppose Israel?

MOULTON: You're asking exactly the right question because, like most people, I fully support the elimination of Hamas. There's no way that the Palestinians or Israelis will ever live in peace as long as a terrorist organization, with the destruction of Israel written into its charter, is in charge of the Palestinian people. So, everyone who wants peace, whether you're on the Palestinian side or the Israeli side, or somewhere in-between, we should want the elimination of Hamas.

But I agree that Prime Minister Netanyahu's strategy is not getting us there. One of the key lessons that we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, again, after making a lot of mistakes along the way, is that with every innocent civilian that you kill, it serves as a recruiting tool for the other side. And by that measure, Netanyahu has clearly recruited a lot more terrorists than he's eliminated.

And if you actually get into the details of the math here, how many they say they have actually killed, you - it really raises this question. And I think that that's why - and, again, this is not going to end in a few weeks. This is a much longer-term game with an ultimate political solution at the end of the day that Israel has yet to define.

HUNT: Congressman, on another foreign policy question, aid to Ukraine has obviously been hung up in the House of Representatives. The Senate did pass a bill. Now the House speaker, Mike Johnson, is facing another potential round of the motion - Marjorie Taylor Greene has filed a motion to vacate, which is what happened in the case of Kevin McCarthy.

The question, of course, will Democrats be willing to save Mike Johnson's job if we can get Ukraine aid out the door?


Would you be willing to help Mike Johnson retain the speaker's gavel if he pledged and did put aid to Ukraine on the floor of the House?

MOULTON: I mean, look, I'm not just going to give Mike Johnson a favor, but I think there is the potential for a deal here. Remember that when the Republicans kicked out Kevin McCarthy, we went for three weeks without a speaker. Congress was frozen. The first time in American history that that has happened. That would never happen under our Democratic watch. It's certainly not going to happen under a Democratic speaker. And so we will be on board with trying to reduce the chaos that Republicans are bringing to Congress and, frankly, all across the country, headlined by people like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

So, I think that a Speaker Johnson is actually willing to work with us, then we might be able to make a deal. Remember, Democrats reached out multiple times at multiple levels, even myself, just to colleagues in the House to try to strike a deal with Kevin McCarthy, and he absolutely refused. He absolutely refused to even talk to Democrats about finding such a deal.

I think Johnson was - is probably wiser than that. But make no mistake, I don't think Johnson is a great speaker. We've had the least productive Congress since the Great Depression. It's just a question of trying to avert the Republican chaos. And that's why Democrats are always willing to talk.

HUNT: All right, Congressman Seth Moulton, thank you very much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time. I hope you'll come back.

MOULTON: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, now this.

Democrats just flipped a state house seat in, you guessed it, Alabama. The candidate, Marilyn Lands, campaigned on protecting reproductive rights.

Our panel is back with us.

Karen, it is worth noting that she had previously lost a race in this district back in 2022. What happened around that time to have switched to what happened now? What are the lessons here?

FINNEY: Reproductive freedom is on the ballot in 2024, and it is a very effective issue for Democrats. And we're not just talking, obviously, about, obviously, access to contraception - I mean, I'm sorry, access to abortion, which eight in 10 Americans agree with.

And again, I think these red state victories continue to remind us when you're talking about Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, right, that - how potent this issue is. But we're also now talking about IVF, right, and we're talking about what this means for people who want to start or grow a family, but also we're going to see attacks on the access to contraception. And that's an issue where the polling shows it favors Democrats like plus tens in congressional races. There is the Right to Contraception Act, which has not yet come to the floor.

So again, this - this conversation, even earlier this week, the last thing I would say is, this conversation about Mifepristone that we're having, regardless of how the justices rule -

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: It has reminded Americans how furious they are about the idea that a right could be taken away. And, frankly, a medicine, which as we - most of us know, women take, not just, you know, for abortion, but some women take if they've had a miscarriage.

HUNT: Many, many women take it for miscarriage care, yes.


HUNT: Or in the event of a baby who is - has died in the womb.

FINNEY: Correct.

HUNT: I mean, it's - I mean, yes.

FINNEY: I mean so they use - I mean, and, again, I think it goes back to this idea of freedom of - and not just reproductive freedom, but the freedom to control your body. And you're going to see Democrats reclaiming the mantle of talking about our rights and freedoms during this election.

HUNT: Yes, we've noticed that in the messaging.

I mean, Matt, like, how stressed - if you're a Republican, how stressed would you be about this little piece of evidence here?

GORMAN: I mean we've seen this kind of - ever since 2022 or so, I mean, I keep coming back to the fact that in 20 -

HUNT: When they overturned Roe v Wade. Yes.

GORMAN: Yes. No, yes. Yes, no, like I keep going back to it. Look, Trump, pretty consistently, has a two to four point lead in most head- to-head polls. On most issues he's ahead of Biden yet, you know, on the issue of abortion and others, this is one were Democrats have that polling advantage. And I worry, is it going to be like 2022 where there's a polling lead but Democrats come out of the woodwork and kind of change things.

HUNT: Yes. For sure. All right, I will leave all of you with this.

Its opening day for Major League Baseball. OK, I'm going to call that an absolute life highlight. That was made throwing out the opening pitch for my beloved Baltimore Orioles. They just happened to crush the New York Yankees who were visiting that day in that game. And now my O's are kicking off this season with a brand new owner, David Rubenstein.


DAVID RUBENSTEIN, BALTIMORE ORIOLES OWNER: The owner of any baseball team can only do so much. Everything depends on the fans. So, I hope you will come to games, support the team, and do everything we can to bring us to the next chapter or the Baltimore Orioles. And hopefully that will lead us to another World Series championship in the very near future.



HUNT: Hell, yes, David.

We do have some hopeful news that - that is the game out of Baltimore, of course. The - our city saw unthinkable tragedy this week. My family has deep ties. Baltimore has been really wonderful to us. Like David said, let's win another World Series championship.

Panel, thank you, guys, very much for being here. Hope you're going to get out, see some baseball this weekend.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

Don't go anywhere. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.