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Bannon Says Foes will be Prosecuted; Bitter Virginia Primary Race; Netanyahu Disbands War Cabinet; Vance Leads in VP Straw Poll; Presidential Debate Rules. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 17, 2024 - 06:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Accountability day. That's how Steve Bannon is describing inauguration day 2025 if Donald Trump wins a second term. The longtime Trump ally delivering a series of chilling warnings at a conservative gathering in Detroit, vowing a win by Trump means investigations and prosecutions of anyone who has crossed the former president.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: November 5th is judgment day. January 20, 2025, is accountability day.

Trust me, on the afternoon of the 20th, we're also going to start the pick and shovel work to take apart the administrative state and to take on its rogue element, that praetorian guard, the deep state. We're going to run them all out of town.

Are you prepared to fight? Are you prepared to give it all? Are you prepared to leave it all on the battlefield?

Ladies and gentlemen, it's very simple. Victory or death.


RAJU: Well, you know, you can dismiss this as a Trump ally who's saying this, not Trump, but this is what the former president himself has said about the idea of retribution.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.

And based on what they've done, I would have every right to go after them.

Well, revenge does take time, I will say that.

DR. PHIL: It does.

TRUMP: And sometimes revenge can be justified.


RAJU: OK, you're a Republican strategist. Sure that riles up the base, but is that the message, the language you want to appeal to swing voters?

JESSE HUNT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, obviously, you know, the president has a unique way of communicating. And a lot of these sort of comments are common for his, you know, stump speech and what he says on the trail.

But we have seen a lot of voter dissatisfaction as it relates to institutions. So, I actually don't think this falls on deaf ears. I think there is an audience out there that does want a degree of disruption, that does want some accountability in Washington, and they haven't liked what they've seen from Joe Biden over these last four years.

Now, obviously, the president is going to want to - or the, excuse me, the former president is probably going to want to focus on the issues that matter most, you know, the economy, inflation, talking about Joe Biden's record because ultimately that's what he needs to turn this race into, which is a referendum on Biden. Thats why you're seeing Biden. Biden's campaign, try to get - draw Trump out and force him to make more news that kind of overcomes whatever Biden's doing in the offset. That's why they're doing a presidential debate so soon.

RAJU: How does the Biden campaign see it?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is not a winning message in a general election. That is, I think, how the Biden campaign sees it. I also think that that is demonstrably true. I mean this is a message that is all about Donald Trump. Yes, is it - is it energizing for the MAGA base? Of course it is. We know that.

But we saw throughout the Republican primary, there was a not insignificant number of Republican voters who said, I reject Donald Trump. I don't want this. And Trump is making the entire race about him. At the end of the day, given where - how people are feeling broadly about politics, the kind of level of disinterest, all the discussion of the double-haters, the campaign that is able to effectively make this race about their opponent is probably the campaign that's going to win.

And so Donald Trump is helping the Biden campaign do that by going out and talking only about himself in terms that have almost no resonance to the average voter in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, who wants to know what he's going to do for them if he's reelected.


RAJU: And how much of the - this revenge, retribution talk is just rhetoric versus reality if he becomes president again. DAVID FRUM, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": It's 100 percent of the reality.


FRUM: A re-elected Donald Trump will have two items on its agenda, and only two. One, abandon Ukrainian to Putin, and, two, wage war on the legal system of the United States. Everything else, all the things we call serious issues, Trump either has no real plan or no plan that he can execute. He has no plan on crime, and he has no real plan on immigration. His tariff plan, well, tariffs have to pass through Congress, and he'll have no ability to do that.

The thing he will be able to do will be to stop the flow of aid to Ukraine so that his friend Putin can grab it. And second, to try to overturn - appoint stooge people through the Department of Justice, have an acting stooge attorney general, and then say, I want everyone who committed a crime for me to be let off, legally or illegally. And I want you to use the power of the state to go after my enemies. That's real. All the stuff we say is real, that's not real. That's the rhetoric. What Bannon said, that is the real face of Trump two. Everything else, vaporware.

RAJU: Speaking of revenge, better ideological tensions within the House GOP will be on full display tomorrow as voters cast their ballots in the contentious Republican primary for Virginia's fifth congressional district. Sitting Republican Congressman Bob Good, leader of the House Freedom Caucus, will attempt to fend off a challenge from John McGuire, who earned Trump's support following Good's initial endorsement of Ron DeSantis for president. Though Good has since endorsed Trump, even traveling to New York to support him during his criminal hush money trial. The former president, though, has slammed Good, calling that endorsement, quote, "too late."

And while Trump-backed candidates have seen particular success this primary cycle, Good told me he is still confident about his chances.


RAJU: Donald Trump backing your opponent. And how much does that hurt your campaign?

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): We're going to win. The people are behind us in the fifth district overwhelmingly. Everybody needs to be coming together and winning on November 5. The time to talk about previous endorsement or supporting previous candidates is behind us. Again, we're going to win on June 18th.


RAJU: I mean, this is a really fascinating view of the - where the House GOP is right now. You know, Good is one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy, but he could be the one to lose, not necessary because of the vote to oust Kevin McCarthy, but because he did the unforgivable sin of not endorsing Donald Trump. HUNT: Yes, Trump never forget slights, right? And so, obviously, in

this situation, you see some members of the House Freedom Caucus up against Donald Trump, which is uncommon in today's Washington. Typically they're aligned on different issues.

Look, at the end of the day, I think this is probably like the last we'll talk about a House primary like this, given all the other complex issues that are going on in the world and how, you know, Biden and Trump will take center stage very soon, or other high-profile down ballot races when you're talking about control of the Senate. But for right now it's obviously entertaining to see - to see Trump going against some - a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which is again uncommon.

FRUM: Trump's war on Good could be the headline for every day of the past 10 years. That if it's Good, he's against it.

But I think - I think it - this does portend something that really does have a lot of significance, which is, I think we really don't think enough about the likelihood that the Republicans are going to lose not only the presidency but also the House in 2024. This is a fractured, disunited party full of people - full of House members who obviously hate their national champion and campaigning on abortion restriction. And while at the top of the ballot, criminality is going to be the dominant issue. Trump's criminality. At every race down below the presidency is going to be abortion, abortion, abortion, abortion.

RAJU: If you're a House - vulnerable House ,Democrats do you run with Joe Biden? Do you show up with and campaign with Joe Biden in these swing districts?

BEDINGFIELD: Yes, I think you do.

RAJU: You do? You think you should -

BEDINGFIELD: I think you do. Look, depends on the district. And, look, Joe Biden would be the first to say that. I mean he always tells people, I'll come campaign for you or campaign against you, whatever's going to help you more. So, you know, are there some districts where it makes more sense not to stand shoulder to shoulder with Joe Biden? Yes, that's political reality of the landscape right now.

What I don't think makes sense is running against Joe Biden's record. I mean David's exactly right, the issue of abortion is going to be incredibly motivating for - obviously for the Democratic base, but also for suburban voters, for independent voters. So, if you are a Democrat, you should be linked arm in arm with Joe Biden on protecting women - the woman's right to choose, on combating Trump's extremism, on going hard on January 6th.

So, I think that there are - you know, there are good and important motivating arguments that Joe Biden represents that Democrats in vulnerable districts should embrace because running away from it - first of all, it's very hard, broadly speaking, to separate yourself from the national party in a presidential year. But I think the substance of what Biden not only has accomplished but the message frame that he's laying out, the choice, what's at stake in this election, that's a winning message frame for moderate Democrats, for Democrats in swing districts, that they should embrace. And whether they literally stand next to Joe Biden or not -

RAJU: Yes.


BEDINGFIELD: That's a political decision that they need to make within their own (INAUDIBLE).

RAJU: So, I mean, how do you think the top of the ticket plays for both sides? I mean, look, there are, you know, 17 or so House Republicans in districts that Joe Biden won. And in New York, in California, but a lot of them have endorsed Trump. They don't necessarily view it as a liability to endorse Donald Trump. Do you think it's a liability in those districts?

HUNT: Republicans are going to be excited if Democrats embraced Donald - excuse me, if Democrats embraced Joe Biden on the campaign trail. You know, I know they've referenced abortion being a top concern, a top issue for the Biden campaign. Ultimately, it's going to come down to how people feel about the economy and how people feel about inflation. It's increased 20 percent under Joe Biden, and that's everyone's top concern right now, regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum.

I'd also say that right now in battleground states Real Clear Politics average, Trump's ahead in every battleground state, in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and they're pretty neck in neck in Wisconsin and Michigan. So, I think that's going to help lift everyone down ballot, House candidates and more - and specifically Senate candidates as well when, you know, we're talking full (ph) control of the Senate.

BEDINGFIELD: Except I would just say quickly, look at Kentucky in 2023. Republicans really tried to make that raise a referendum on Joe Biden. They ran ads. They wanted to tie Bashir to Biden, and Bashir won.

FRUM: Donald Trump will not consent to the election being a referendum on Joe Biden. If he had any sense, if he had any self-control. But, you know, before Trump is a thug, he's a crook. And before he's a crook, he's a head case. So he will not - of course he should make the election about the incumbent. That's what every challengers should always do. But when the calendar - when the challenger is a raving out-of-control egomaniac, he can't do it. So, the election will be about Trump. And the central - there's one poll that has mattered over the past ten years, and that is this, blah, blah, blah, Donald Trump, blah, blah, blah. And the answer is 47 percent, yes, 53 percent, no.

RAJU: So, David says that he thinks that the - that potentially the House could flip to Democrats. It sounds like you think that they - Democrats will pick it up.

FRU: Could happen.

RAJU: Could happen. Absolutely could. So, it's going to be a very tightly contested, downtick race. Who holds the House? Do the Republican hold the House?

HUNT: Republicans are going to hold the House. And a lot of times what we see on a - on a presidential stage or speech - excuse me, in a presidential cycle is the House goes along with the president. And right now Donald Trump is the favorite in this race.

BEDINGFIELD: I don't know about that. I don't know if you can say he's the favorite. It's a very, very close race.

RAJU: All right. OK. All right. Well, we will see.

Coming up next, the one rule of the upcoming Biden/Trump debate that could be a game changer.

Plus, the concert that just shattered the all-time U.S. attendance record.



RAJU: Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dissolving the country's war cabinet. The decision comes after opposition leader Benny Gantz announced his withdrawal from the war cabinet last week.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is live for us in Beirut.

So, Ben, tell us about this decision of disbanding the war cabinet, and how significant is it?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we - it was sort of inevitable when on last week Benny Gantz left the war cabinet and left the government. He was - had - he was - essentially he was a minister without portfolio. So, his role was to serve on that war cabinet. He resigned, along with Gadi Eisenkot, who was an observer but basically a participant in this five-member war cabinet.

So now it appears that matters relating to the war in Gaza and, for instance, war possibly on the border between Lebanon and Israel, those issues are going to be discussed in a broader security cabinet. This cabinet, however, includes people like Bezalel Smotrich, who's the finance minister, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister. These guys are hardliners. They don't want any ceasefire in Gaza. They want the war there to continue until Hamas is totally destroyed. A goal most neutral observers say is impossible to achieve.

So, what this means is that when discussing matters relating to the war in Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu's going to be in the room with some real hard liners. Benny Gantz was considered somewhat less hard line. He was somebody who was pushing the prime minister to agree to some sort of ceasefire and hostage deal that might wind down the war in Gaza. Now sort of those railings are off and it appears that the likelihood

of a ceasefire agreement is going to be diminishing in his absence and in the presence of these real hard liners in the security cabinet.


RAJU: All right, Ben Wedeman in Beirut monitoring the fallout. Thanks for that report.

And it's 48 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

At least nine people shot in what appears to be a random shooting at a Splash Pad in suburban Detroit on Saturday. The gunman found dead in his home with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police are still looking for a motive.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he plans to bring up a vote this week to restore a ban on bump stocks now that the Supreme Court overturned a federal rule outlawing the device.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): With the flick of a pen, the Supreme Court undid this very much needed law. This MAGA court shows you the poison pen.


RAJU: Now, bump stocks increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic weapons and effectively turn them into machine guns.


The FAA investigating a Southwest flight that came within 400 feet of crashing into the ocean. That April incident only came to light after "Bloomberg" reported the company sent a memo to pilots about it.


GEORGE STRAIT, MUSICIAN (singing): I think this is how love goes, check yes or no.


RAJU: And the king of country music. George Strait shattering the all- time attendance record for a ticketed U.S. concert. One hundred and ten thousand, nine hundred fans packing Kyle Field in Texas Saturday night, breaking the record previously set by the Grateful Dead nearly 50 years ago.

Now, over the weekend, a band of Trump VP hopefuls took the stage at a convention hosted by Turning Point Action. The right-wing organization tied to conservative activist Charlie Kirk. But, according to conventions attendee, one VP candidate stood out above the rest. At 43 percent of the nearly 2,000 attendees said they prefer JD Vance, the senator from Ohio, as Donald Trump's vice president. Their second choice, Senator Tim Scott at 15 percent.

Here is Vance speaking at the convention about what he views as a crucial quality for Trump's eventual running mate.


SEN. JD VANCE (R-OH): This applies to the vice president. And there are a lot of smart, good people that Trump is looking at. But it also applies to our senators. It applies to our congress men and women too. We need to have people who were supporting Trump, not trying to stab him in the back. It's very, very simple.


RAJU: So, David, who do you think would be the most - the best choice for Trump?

FRUM: The best choice for Donald Trump?

RAJU: Yes.

FRUM: OK. So the best choice - that's the opposite of the best choice for America. So, what Trump -

RAJU: As - your view, of course.

FRUM: So, what Trump - what Trump is going to look for, I think, is an absolute human zero. That he learned his lesson from Mike Pence, that he thought with Pence he found someone who was deferential, who was subordinated. But at the last moment, Pence showed some human - some integrity, some constitutional loyalty. And for that he was nearly killed. And that is the one thing that Trump - Trump is going to be looking for. So, someone like JD Vance - I mean JD Vance is not a man of high character, but he is a man of high intellect. And Trump can't trust him.

It's the same thing with Doug Burgum. Doug Burgum is a man of - he's not a man of great charisma, but he's a man of great accomplishment. Trump can't trust him. The only - you can trust a Tim Scott because he's a zero and you can trust Marco Rubio because he's spiritually broken. So, I think he's going to be looking for one of those sort of more negligible human beings rather than somebody with high intellect or high character.

RAJU: So, how does a - who is the Biden campaign concerned about as a running mate?

BEDINGFIELD: I actually don't think the Biden campaign is concerned about any of these people because all they do is serve to reinforce all of the worst aspects of Donald Trump. And that is the Biden campaign's winning message here.

So, you know, JD Vance is somebody who's shown that he's willing to go out and advance any Trump lie. You know, Doug Burgum has gone out and shown that he's willing to advance any Trump lie. So, for all of these people, really all they do is serve to underscore how unpalatable Donald Trump is. And so for the Biden campaign it's sort of like, you know, pick whichever one of these guys you want. It doesn't change the fact that Donald Trump is the driver of the message here and is somebody who's, you know, willing to put his own ego ahead of the country, and the Biden campaign's going to keep making that argument regardless of who's on the undercard.

RAJU: So, this is the - this straw poll looked at 43 percent - this is the Turning Point Action. That's that hard-right group that Trump spoke with in Michigan this past week. Forty-three percent chose Vance, 15 percent in the straw poll, Tim Scott, and then you see Burgum and Rubio.

Look, these straw polls may not mean anything. This happens in all these types of events sometimes. It means something, sometimes it doesn't. As a Republican strategist, here at this table, who do you want to see Trump pick?

HUNT: Well, first of all, I disagree with the characterizations that we just heard there about a lot of the individuals. I think they all have really inspiring personal stories and have been pretty effective during their respective times in office.

Look, they all bring unique qualities to the table. As I mentioned, some of them have more inspiring stories. Others have executive experience. Others have private sector experience.

At the end of the day, what truly matters is who Trump is most comfortable with, who he identifies with, who can kind of kind of echo his message. At the end of the day he wants loyalty above all else. So, I think that's going to be an important factor. You know, he's nothing if not a good show producer. So, I think that's why you're seeing so much interest in the vice presidential sweepstakes, if you will. And he's going to allow that to continue through till convention in July.

So, stay tuned.

RAJU: Some of them, of course, have said things that have not been particularly positive about Donald Trump over the years and months, including Doug Burgum, who is the former governor and was a presidential candidate, dropped out of the race, but has changed his tune just a bit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you ever do business with Donald Trump?

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): I don't think so.


BURGUM: I would - I just think that it's important that you're judged by the company you keep.

[06:55:00] This guy is tireless. He's committed. He's smart. He's funny. He's nothing like he's portrayed in the press. And so the - if you asked me that same question today, I'd be like, absolutely, I would do business with him.


RAJU: He changed his tune.

FRUM: So, one of the things that Donald Trump -

RAJU: He also has said that he's gotten to know Trump over the years. Over the months.

FRUM: One of the things that Trump is going to be worrying about is fundraising, because while the Trump campaign is raising a lot of money, they're also stealing a lot of money, and money is short. Biden has bought many more hours of television commercial. So, Burgum offers the possibility of being able to write a pretty big check. He's a very wealthy man. And JD Vance has access to the vast wealth of Silicon Valley. He's kind of a Peter Teal protege and is connected with Teal fundraising network.

But Donald Trump does enjoy torturing people and making them - and humiliating them. And the more they have criticized him in the past, the more pleasure he takes in putting them through - remember what he said about JD Vance when JD Vance was running for Senate. And he got Trump's endorsement. Trump would do events where he'd say JD Vance is kissing my ass. He would humiliate him in front of his own face. Trump loves that.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes, I've said this before, but these guys are all on the parade of debasement. That is what they're doing. And it's - they're showing us how much they believe their own soul is worth, which is apparently not all that much.

RAJU: But, I mean, look, Kamala Harris criticized Joe Biden. Kamala Harris criticized Joe Biden in 2016.

BEDINGFIELD: There's a difference between taking - there's a difference between a policy difference and personally attacking members of your family, as Donald Trump has done with some of these folks, attacking your spouse. I mean openly telling people that you're - that they're kissing your ass.

FRUM: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: I mean he - he is intending -

FRUM: Organizing their - trying to organize their murder.

BEDINGFIELD: He is intending to humiliate these people, and they are more than happy to let it happen.

RAJU: I do want to turn to the debate because we learned about the debate rules. Muted mics, coin flips, and no props. The rules for the presidential - the 2024 presidential debate are officially set with both the Biden and Trump campaigns agreeing to the parameters of the CNN event. As the June 27th date approaches, the two candidates are entering preparation mode as they get ready to share a stage together.

The last time around, though, it sounded like this.




BIDEN: The question is -

TRUMP: New Supreme Court justices -

BIDEN: The question -

TRUMP: Radical left.

BIDEN: Would you shut up, man.

TRUMP: Who is your - listen, who is on your list, Joe?

BIDEN: This is so -

TRUMP: Who's on your list?

BIDEN: This is -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentlemen, I think we've ended this -

BIDEN: This is so unpresidential.

TRUMP: He'll pack the court. He's not going to give a list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have ended - no, no, we -


RAJU: All right, so who benefits from the muted mic rule?

HUNT: Look, I -

RAJU: Maybe the public perhaps.

HUNT: I think Kate probably - Kate probably remembers this all too well from 2020, right? Like that first debate was - was kind of off the rails a little bit. And look, like, when it comes to debating, Trump's a street brawler. If this is a boxing match, it's probably a decent strategy for Biden, knowing he's not as quick on his feet as Trump, to maybe lean on the refs a little bit to enforce some order because that's the type of - that's the type of debater that Trump is and he's unpredictable. So, it makes sense for why Biden's campaign would pursue this. I don't

necessarily projects a level of strength and confidence, but, you know, we're here.

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely not true that Biden's not as quick on his feet. Go back and look at some of the seminal moments from that first debate. Donald Trump saying, you know, the Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. If you watch that exchange, Biden baited him into saying that.

So, I think the strategy for the Biden campaign here is, put Donald Trump on full display, drive contrast, make everything about Trump's worst inclinations and, you know, let Trump run a little bit because I think those moments where, you know, Trump is really showing the country who he is, it benefits Joe Biden.

RAJU: And so how are they preparing? This is how Donald Trump was talking about how he has prepared - this is dating back from 2015 until 2020 about his debate preparations.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my whole life is preparation for a debate. You know, if you think about it, what's preparing for a debate? There are million different things.

No, I think I'm preparing somewhat like I prepared for the other debates. I think I'm preparing - I - you know, I enjoyed the debating process.

And I think this whole thing though is debate prep. You know what I do is debate prep every day. I'm taking questions from you people all the time.


RAJU: You know, but it's different though this time is that he did not participate in the primary debates, or has been doing many interviews beyond friendly interviews. Is he ready for this?

FRUM: Show Trump a rule and he will break it. You say to him, look, you just have - just stop defaming that woman you raped and you won't have to pay any more money. So, he does it again. Next time it will cost you a million. Next time it will cost you 10 million. Next time it will cost you 90 million. Just stopped doing it. He can't. Telling Trump that there's going to be a mute is like telling him, don't put beans up your nose. He's going to find a bean, and he's going to put it up his nose.

RAJU: Do you - that's one way of putting it.

Do you think that Trump is ready for this?

HUNT: I think Trump, you know, as you mentioned, does significant number of interviews with people who might not necessarily be all that friendly to him. So, I think his life has been one big media engagement. And, ultimately, these debates are earned media opportunity.

RAJU: Does - and you feel that Biden - if you're Biden, do you bring up all of Trump's, you know, the fact that he was found liable for sexual assault, and do you bring up all of his - how much do you focus on his convicted felony?

BEDINGFIELD: I think you do it in service of your larger message.


I mean the - you don't - it's - I wouldn't expect that Joe Biden will make a central, you know, strategy of the debate to hammer him on the - on the sexual assault case. But will he mention it as painting a picture - as he's painting a picture of Trump as somebody who is not fit to go back to the Oval Office, I think it's very possible. I think he - I would imagine he will be prepared for Trump to be incredibly personal. And so -

RAJU: Going after Hunter Biden and the like.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. Yes. Exactly. And so I think I imagine that he'll be armed to do that. But in service of the message, which I think is what - was one thing that Biden is very good at, staying focused on the - on the bigger picture.

RAJU: All right, we shall see. And thanks to our panel. Thank you for joining us. I'm Manu Raju. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.