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Trump & McConnell Shake Hands at GOP Gathering; Biden Meets with G-7 Leaders on Immigration, Climate, A.I. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2024 - 06:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday, June 14. Right now on CNN THIS MORNING, nothing but love. Republicans rallying around their leader as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell patch things up.


The Supreme Court allowing the abortion pill, mifepristone, to stay on the market, for now.

Downpours and flooding leading to life-threatening conditions in South Florida, and the rain still hasn't stopped.

Plus, Donald Trump calling Milwaukee a horrible city as it prepares to host the Republican National Convention.

All right, 6 a.m. here in Washington. A live look here at Capitol Hill, the sun coming up here in Washington, D.C.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. Wonderful to have you with us on this Friday. We made it.

It is also, today, Donald Trump's 78th birthday. He's already received, though, the gift that he demanded, which has been complete capitulation from the Republican Party.

Take a look. Here's the former president making his first appearance on Capitol Hill since January 6, surrounded by fawning Republican supporters.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's great unity. This is an outstanding group of people. I'm with them 1,000 percent. There was -- me, 1,000 percent. We agreed just about on everything. And if there isn't, we work it out. And we've had a -- I've had a really great relationship with just about everybody here.


HUNT: Perhaps, though, over the years, not with Mitch McConnell, but look at this. The two men hadn't spoken until the Capitol riot, but the Senate minority leader showed up. And there it is. That picture by Doug Mills, "The New York Times."

I mean, we should probably clip and save this one, guys, because I think we're going to -- we're going to come back to it, probably again and again. It says a lot.

Watch this.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes. We shook hands a few times. He took questions from the audience, and it was an entirely positive session.


HUNT: All right. Our panel is here: former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams; Republican strategist Sarah Longwell; and former White House senior policy adviser, Ashley Allison. Welcome to all of you.

Clearly, this was designed to show that these guys are all on the same page altogether, that this is Trump's Republican Party now. But Sarah Longwell, this was Liz Cheney, right?

So Liz Cheney, who spearheaded the January 6th Committee, the investigation into what happened that day, who has been a crusader, in the wake of that, against Donald Trump getting back into the Oval Office; someone who found in Mitch McConnell something of an ally during this period. They were, in many ways, on the same page. McConnell, of course, not as vocal.

But we know I reported at the time just how close McConnell came to doing something different in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump because of how much he cared about this.

If you know how McConnell speaks about Donald Trump it private, you know the level of disdain that he has for him.

And yet, we saw -- we saw yesterday, this is what Cheney said yesterday: "Mitch McConnell knows Trump provoked the violent attack on our Capitol and then watched television happily as his mom brutally beat police officers and hunted the vice president. He knows Trump refused for hours to tell his mob to leave. And even then, with police officers bleeding, he kept repeating his election lies and praising the criminals. He knows Trump committed a disgraceful dereliction of duty and is a danger to our republic. Trump and his collaborators will be defeated, and history will remember the shame of people like Leader McConnell, who enabled them."

When you see this image of McConnell, it's -- yes, let's keep that up there -- what do you see?

SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I see the ritual humiliation of Republicans, who said during January 6, or right after January 6 in Mitch McConnell's case, that Trump was morally responsible for the events of the day. He said there was no question.

And what -- what I see, too, in that humiliation is a ton of regret for the decision he made not to impeach Donald Trump. Because if Mitch McConnell had made the decision right after January 6 to go ahead and rally Republican senators around impeachment, they could have gotten enough to ensure that this moment didn't come to pass.

Mitch McConnell is more responsible than anybody else, because he was too cowardly to take on Trump after January 6, despite knowing and saying clearly the Trump was the person who caused the insurrection. He didn't do anything about it.

And now we find some back here having to kiss the ring. And it's like a criminal returning to the scene of a crime and being celebrated by the people he did the crime against.

And, you know, watching Nancy Mace. I mean, there was a montage of all of these people and what they said after January 6. They condemned Trump clearly at the time. And now they're there celebrating him, and it is deeply shameful and embarrassing for them.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's fascinating watching this all play out, because it makes me wonder what happens after Donald Trump, right? He will not -- whether he's elected president or whatever else, he will not have -- he personally cannot have this hold on the party forever.

And will someone else, anyone else, engender that kind of -- like, I don't remember what the word you used at the beginning was, but sort of bending the knee to this individual that's often asking them to vote against their interests and take these positions on January 6 and so on.

And it's -- some -- I don't know if it's -- if it's him, if he taps into something, or if some other standard bearer could -- could take over. But -- but its wild for all the reasons you've laid out, Sarah, that people are still continuing, Republicans, to line up behind him,

given all that happened on January 6.

HUNT: So let's put up on the screen another picture, and this is part of why, you know, I've reacted. Yes, there you go. Right?

So on the left, you have Doug Mills' "New York Times" photo yesterday, Mitch McConnell shaking hands with Donald Trump. This is the first time the two men had been in the same room, spoken since January 6th.

On the right, we don't have a date on that photo, but it is just weeks after January 6. Kevin McCarthy goes down to Mar-a-Lago, meets with Donald Trump just, again, weeks after he had gone down the down to the floor of the House of Representatives and said that -- that Donald Trump bore responsibility for what happened on January 6.

Now that McCarthy photo a lot of people credit with resuscitating Donald Trump at the time, McCarthy kind of trying to read the room. This is something that McCarthy really does in his -- in the course of his political career. He tries to sense where the winds were blowing. And he said -- he's -- he decided that this is where he needed to be for his political career down there.

And it made a huge difference in terms of Donald Trump then becoming the Republican nominee of the party this time around.

And then there you have McConnell on the left now today, as we are heading into the November election.

Ashley Allison, what do you see here, big picture? And in terms of Trump's electoral prospects in 2024, I mean, that -- that was kind of the big picture point of what was what happened yesterday. was to try to show Republicans are united. It is definitely easier to win elections united than divided.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Perhaps, yes, that's true. I think what's important and a reminder after yesterday's picture and continues to be a reminder when you think about -- and we'll probably talk later on in the show -- some of the not-great things Trump said when he was in the meeting and at his press conference after about certain cities and people.

But I want to step away and just say, like, I'm not going to be -- I know that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are running against each other. And when you have opponents, you often compare them.

They're not in the same class.

Donald Trump is an exception to all politicians. And Elliot, to your question, what does it mean after Donald Trump? It means the people in this moment get to decide if they're going to fall in line and try and replicate.

This is the moment to make a decision. And these folks are making their point. It's hard to swing back the pendulum after these moments when you fall, like you fall and kiss the ring.

So I -- I know people have -- take issue with Joe Biden, but I am stepping away from that picture in this moment, from stopping to do this comparison of the two. I'm going to start talking about them in very distinct ways, because they are not the lesser -- one is not the lesser of two evils.

One is someone who forces people to lose what they -- their principles; to not even have principles of their own, meaning Donald Trump.

And then another is, meaning Joe Biden in this instance, is someone who has a party that, even in this moment, they have issues where they might not all agree with one another, but they allow for that to happen. Because that's what happens in democracy. And you can unite and bring people along with you, even in moments of disagreement.

But right now you don't have disagreement in the Republican Party. You have just people falling in line.

HUNT: Sara, this was a Congresswoman Maria Salazar on Capitol Hill yesterday. I want to show this, just because you can kind of see in the way she's

animated, kind of what this -- what this portends. Watch.



REP. MARIA SALAZAR (R-FL): He is the leader of the party, and he happens to be the guy who was chosen by the overwhelming majority of Republicans to be the nominee. Who are we to say no? Just like the overwhelming majority of the Dems decided for Biden to be the nominee. That's the reality.

Welcome to the United States.


HUNT: "Welcome to the United States."

LONGWELL: Well, she's not wrong about the fact that Republican voters picked Donald Trump. I mean, it is his party.

The reason that you see everybody sort of falling all over him is that this is what Republican voters have chosen. I mean, I talk to Republican voters all the time in the focus groups. And there was, and is, and remains sort of a 30 percent group of people who really want to move on from Trump.

But the other 60 percent are either hardcore Trumpers or, like, very fine with Trump.

And I think that, to Elliot's question about the future of the party and what it means, what's interesting is that, when you develop this cult of personality and everybody kind of abdicates the things that they believe in service to one person, you don't have a political party, right? You just have a cult of personality.

And that makes it very difficult when that person leaves to figure out who are we, what do we stand for? Because I don't see your Republican Party that goes back to a place where they're really focused on limited government, free markets, and America leadership in the world. It's not what the party is anymore. That's not what the voters want.

And so I think that Republicans right now, what you are watching in this moment, is them gambling away a future of being a viable, forward-looking political party and finding themselves sort of collapsed at the time of Donald Trump's ultimate departure, which I hope is in November.

WILLIAMS: And that's exactly why I asked the question or raised the point, because in for however long it is, whether it's J.D. Vance or Matt Gaetz or Tim Scott or anybody else, does not have - that individual will not, I think, have that kind of charismatic pull on the party.

LONGWELL: Well, and thank goodness. Like -- like watching -- watching them fall all over him is embarrassing for them. And you know, I -- I hope that I want the Republican Party to be relegated to a rump party because of sustained electoral defeats, that is then incentivized to reform itself into something that is not this dangerous version of what we're seeing today.

ALLISON: You know, it's interesting, because a lot of times Democrats, we -- particularly progressive Democrats like myself, get accused of being derogatory or condescending or dismissive of people in the Republican Party now that are supporting Donald Trump.

And the thing you just said is they don't want the old form of the Republican Party. So what is it that they do want? And I think that's the important question that we have to continue to expose, is that if they don't want -- again, I didn't agree with the old version of the Republican Party either, but definitely, I'm in disagreement with this version.

So the question is, what is it they want? And then what's the subtext underneath the thing they want? And that is the conversation that we continue to have as Americans in order, I think, to move past this moment.

LONGWELL: And I just want to give a short answer to that, which is that Donald Trump in this version of the Republican Party, does not like America. Right?

The old version Republican Party did like America. They thought America was great. They wanted to help other places in the world become functional democracies like America was.

But Donald Trump doesn't like America, and these voters want to burn things down. And Trump is their chaos agent to do it.

HUNT: Yes, flashing back to what the governor of Pennsylvania had to say to Donald Trump's, say, stop "S"-talking America, right?

So just as we go to break here this morning, let's put that Doug Mills picture back up, as well, because this is what has been kind of driving our conversation.

It's just a very kind of stark image here. There's this today on -- what day is today? -- Friday, June 14, 2024. Donald Trump's birthday. Looking at this this morning. Just want to leave you with Mitch McConnell back around January and February of 2021. And what he had to say about that man he's shaking hands with.


MCCONNELL: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am satisfied that I'm not going to do anything. I said I'd abide by the jury decision. I will do that, and I will not pardon him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you plan on commuting Hunter's sentence?



HUNT: That's quite an image. President Biden telling reporters at the G-7 that he will not intervene in his son Hunter's legal issues. The president previously said he wouldn't pardon Hunter. That was the first time he said that he wouldn't commute the sentence either.

And in a rare moment of compassion, Donald Trump expressed sympathy for the Bidens.


TRUMP: I understand that whole subject. I understand it pretty well, because I've had it with -- people have it in their families. It's a very tough thing. It's a very tough situation for a father. It's a very tough situation for a brother or sister.

And it goes on, and it's not stopping, whether it's alcohol or drugs or whatever it may be. It's a tough thing. And so that's a tough -- it's a tough moment for their family.


HUNT: Elliot Williams, this is the first time Biden has said he won't commute --



HUNT: -- the sentence. I'm interested in your reaction to that.

But also, I mean, Donald -- Trump's demeanor there is kind of interesting.

WILLIAMS: So what's -- As we were talking about on the show yesterday, President Biden had to say that, because he left open the question of, you know, everyone was going to ask him repeatedly, are you going to commute the sentence or not?

He had previously said, I won't pardon. He did not say anything about sentencing. Now, to be clear, even if President Biden did not pardon his son and commuted the sentence, he would still have the felony weight hanging over him. Probably couldn't vote, couldn't hold office or run for office, couldn't get an insurance license, whatever else.

And so it's still a burden on somebody to be commuted but not pardoned. But he -- the president would have faced allegations that -- or concerns that he had given favoritism to his son and so on. So he's sort of having to make that statement, as hard as it is.

On Trump, how could anyone say anything else, other than this is a tragic situation for someone in their family. And --

HUNT: I mean, Donald Trump has signed something.

WILLIAMS: I know, I know, I know.

HUNT: But I do take your fact.

WILLIAMS: I think he was advised and -- I don't know.

HUNT: Fair enough.

WILLIAMS: But it's odd. It's jumpy (ph).

HUNT: I mean, I think -- I think it does, I mean, speak to this is -- this is something that's become -- a lot of people have this in their families.

All right, coming up next here, three critical issues on the table as President Biden sits down with G-7 leaders this hour.

Plus, they're bracing for more rain in flooded-out South Florida. We'll bring you that next.



HUNT: All right. Happening now, President Biden and global leaders meeting on the second day of the G [SIC] summit -- G-7 summit. On the table today, immigration, climate change, and artificial intelligence.

Pope Francis just arrived in Southern Italy. You can see him there. He's expected to push for stronger controls over A.I. in a speech that he'll give to the group after a deep-fake photo of him in a white puffer jacket went viral last year.

CNN's M.J. Lee joins us now, live from Barry, Italy.

M.J., good morning to you. Wonderful to see you. Bring us up to speed. What have we seen from the summit so far? And what do we expect today?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kasie, I think we've all been thinking about that big puffer jacket that you just described. Yes, the big highlight yesterday was Ukraine and the G-7 leaders rallying around President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. Really, the big highlight today is going to be the pope, and his visit with the G-7 leaders. He's making history by being the first pope to attend a G-7 summit.

And you're right that A.I. is expected to be a big topic. This is something that he has spoken out about publicly. But there are also other really weighty issues that we expect the pope to discuss with these world leaders, including the war in Ukraine.

He has, of course, been pushing for a peace agreement. The war in Israel and the situation in the Middle East is also expected to come up.

He has been pushing, of course, for an immediate ceasefire. But as a senior official talking to reporters here this morning was making clear, it's also the pope. You know, he is free to discuss anything he would like with these leaders and vice versa. The leaders are certainly going to have a lot of things that they are eager to discuss with the pope, as well.

And we can report that President Biden will have a separate private meeting with the pope sometime today, as well. We know that that is going to be a personally really meaningful sit-down for the president. The two men did meet back in 2021 at the Vatican.

They happen to be, of course, two of the most powerful and most well- known Catholic men in the world. And there are going to be so many issues that President Biden is certainly going to be eager to discuss with the pope. And just getting that time that is so rare with the pope.

Of course, there have been a lot of questions throughout this week about meetings that the president is and isn't having. Why isn't he sitting down with this leader? Why isn't he attending this dinner or this meeting?

But you can imagine that this particular sit-down and having that audience with the pope would have been a really big priority for President Biden.

HUNT: Indeed. All right. M.J. Lee for us

M.J., thank you very much for that.

Coming up next here, the Supreme Court ruling on the challenge to the abortion pill.

Plus, Florida Republican Cory Mills is here. We're going to talk to him about Trump's meeting with Republican lawmakers after the break.