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Today: Virginia Primary Puts GOP Divisions On Display; Soon: Putin Meets With Kim Jong Un In Pyongyang; Celtics Dominate Mavs, Win History 18th NBA Title. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired June 18, 2024 - 05:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here in Washington, here's a live look at Capitol Hill. Good morning, everyone. I'm Manu Raju in for Kasie Hunt.

Today, a highly anticipated race between two hardline Republicans comes to a head. Virginia Congressman Bob Good attempting to fend off Trump-endorsed challenger John McGuire in the Virginia primary election.

Now, Good initially endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary over Donald Trump. He was also one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust former speaker Kevin McCarthy last fall. But Trump and McCarthy now see this race as an opportunity for revenge.

And Trump spoke to voters alongside McGuire just a day before the message -- before the election, and this was his message. It's not just politics; it's personal.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yeah. If he's reelected, Bob Good will stab Virginia in the back, sort of like he did with me. As you probably know, he was against me for numerous years and then after I won the primaries, he became a big fan. But that's not good enough because those are the people that they tend to leave you very quickly.


RAJU: Now, the race has put GOP divisions on full display. If Good loses, it could be the first incumbent loss in 2024.

Joining me now, Axios congressional reporter, Stephen Neukam. Stephen, good to see you here and not in the halls of the Capitol. Thanks for joining me.

So this is such a fascinating race because one thing you don't see is Republicans targeting other Republicans or member targeting other members. Really, this is not -- it's a breach of protocol. This has been a much different Congress -- a much different House Republican Conference where members are going after each other.

And this time, for Bob Good, it's not the center-right Republicans who are going after him because he's too conservative, they view. It's also Donald Trump. It's also Kevin McCarthy. It's also Marjorie Taylor Greene. So many people in the Republican Conference want him defeated.

STEPHEN NEUKAM, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Yeah. I think what you just said -- this is not politics, it's personal -- that perfectly sums it up.

What is fascinating to me about this is that Donald Trump only has a finite amount of time to run for president before Election Day in November and he's spent a considerable amount of time and a considerable amount of political capital going after Bob Good. I mean, he was on a tele town hall yesterday with John McGuire railing against Bob Good.

That's how important this is to Trump; how personal it is. The endorsement of DeSantis. The getting rid of McCarthy. I mean, this is all coming full circle.

RAJU: Yeah. And look, remember, Bob Good -- after DeSantis dropped out, he endorsed Donald Trump. And then he rushed up to New York with other Republicans to defend Trump during the hush money trial as well. He went before the mics and talked to him, and the like. But still, that's not been enough.

I've talked to a lot of Republicans over the last week about this race and about whether they believe Bob Good, the leader of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, should return to Congress.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I don't like liars and I don't like backstabbers. And Bob Good -- Bob Good really stabbed President Trump in the back.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Bob Good is going to be terrific for the Trump agenda because he's a conservative fighter. The president sees it differently.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): If Bob gets defeated, it will because of Donald Trump.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Should the president get reelected, then I think the president will learn quickly that some of these people may not be sitting in the trenches with him.

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): Well, I think Bob Good has made a lot of -- a lot of -- a lot of enemies.

RAJU: Would the House be better off without him?

GIMENEZ: Honestly, yes, I think it would be because he's a divisive force. And so, you know, we don't need that.


RAJU: So the last congressman, Carlos Gimenez, is one of the -- one of the people who is so critical of the Republicans, like Bob Good, who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy. Good could be the one who loses here.

The other ones, McCarthy wants out of Congress, too. We'll see if they hang on. Some of them, like Nancy Mace, have hung on so far, but Good could be the first, essentially, victim of McCarthy's revenge tour as well.

NEUKAM: Yeah, certainly. Carlos Gimenez saying that he wants him out of Congress sort of showcases how Bob Good is getting this from both sides. I mean, Carlos Gimenez -- somebody who was highly critical, as you said, of the move to get rid of McCarthy.

Bob Good is taking incoming on both sides. One side I think is purely political.

RAJU: Um-hum.

NEUKAM: I think from the Gimenezes of Congress and -- who disagree with his politics and disagree with --

RAJU: And want to just, you know, see revenge. This is an opportunity to get back in some way.

NEUKAM: Exactly -- yeah, yeah.

RAJU: They believe it was disruptive on that issue.

NEUKAM: Yeah. And then you've got the Trump factor and people who are -- who are backing Trump who will sort of take his marching orders and lining up against Bob Good.

RAJU: Yeah, absolutely.


And while this is all happening, there's also this fight that's happening in the Senate, which you've been covering as well, about how to deal with the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on bump stocks.

Chuck Schumer, today, is going to try to force a vote on this effort to try to move on this legislatively dealing with how those ammunition and so-called bump stocks are dealt with and restrict them -- but it's probably going to be blocked.

NEUKAM: It's going nowhere.

RAJU: Because if he wanted legislation to get passed, they would negotiate a compromise. But this is really an effort to try to show Republicans blocking this effort.

NEUKAM: Yeah, it's what we've seen for the past few weeks. Chuck Schumer has sort of taken a ton of floor time on reproductive rights and on the border and put all these packages in front of Republicans, making them vote against it.

And the reality is that Chuck Schumer has a lot of vulnerable incumbents. He's got Jon Tester. He's got Sherrod Brown, and Jacky Rosen in Nevada that he needs to protect. And the cards are stacked against them in terms of sort of protecting the Senate and taking back the majority, but including this bump stock vote that we'll see today that will be blocked. The last few weeks have been filled with Chuck Schumer sort of putting political votes in front of Republicans and then making them vote against them.

RAJU: And allowing as many incumbent Democrats who are in tough races to use that to point against -- run their campaign -- run their campaign ads. And I'm sure we'll see a lot more of that messaging in the Senate. That's what happens in an election year.

Stephen Neukam, thanks for coming in and sharing your expertise.

NEUKAM: Yeah, you bet.

RAJU: We really appreciate that.

All right. Russian President Vladimir Putin on his way to Pyongyang ahead of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It's the latest sign of deepening ties between the two dictators and raising widespread international concern. The closely watched visit is expected to further cement a burgeoning partnership founded on their shared animosity toward the West and driven by Putin's need for support in his was with Ukraine.

Now, White House national security adviser John Kirby expressing his concerns yesterday.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What we are concerned about, Trevor, is the deepening relationship between these two countries, not just because of the impacts it's going to have on the Ukrainian people because we know North Korean ballistic missiles are still being used to hit Ukrainian targets, but because there could be some reciprocity here that could affect security on the Korean Peninsula.


RAJU: All right. Joining me to discuss, CNN contributor and former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty. Jill, thanks for being with me this morning.

So just how big of a deal is this meeting between Putin and Kim?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY (via Webex by Cisco): Oh, I think it's really big. I mean, Vladimir Putin, right now, is involved in this war against Ukraine and one of the main sources for ballistic missiles and also for ammunition is North Korea. And there are a lot of payoffs -- we can talk about that -- but that's one.

And then, almost the bigger concern is what does North Korea get out of this, and that could be really high tech from Russia that could be used in a variety of ways -- military, of course -- for North Korea.

So it's a very big deal.

RAJU: And what implications do you think there are for the war in Ukraine and whether Kim and North Korea will put its support -- put its military support behind what Putin is trying to do in Ukraine?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I mean, if you look at the military situation immediately, North Korea has been producing these -- let's call it the first ammunition, and they've supplied, according to the South Koreans, five million rounds of ammunition in addition to ballistic missiles.

So, North Korea is happy to continue to provide that forever. And so, Russia obviously needs it and that is the match that we have.

But also, I think if you look at Ukraine -- because Ukraine is not just Ukraine. The war is much bigger and the implications are much bigger. So this allows Russia to create problems for the United States because, again, North Korea already is trying to launch missiles. It has a nuclear program -- probably 50 warheads -- 5-0 at this point. So it creates another big distraction for the United States, and that's exactly what Vladimir Putin wants to do.

RAJU: Hmm. I do want you to weigh in about -- obviously, we're in the middle of a campaign season and how these two candidates talk about these leaders.

Listen to Joe Biden.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've known him for over 40 years. He's concerned me for 40 years. He's not a decent man. He's a dictator. And he's struggling to make sure he holds his country together while still keeping his assault going.


RAJU: And now, Donald Trump.


LOGAN PAUL, "IMPAULSIVE" PODCAST: What's your relationship like with Vladimir Putin?


TRUMP: I think very good, but I was tough with him. And I had a very good relationship. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. And I'm trying to tell people no, it's a good thing. I tell the press all the time, no. The fact that I get along with Kim Jong Un of North Korea -- PAUL: Yeah, it's crazy.

TRUMP: -- President Xi --

PAUL: That's crazy.

TRUMP: It's all good stuff getting along. I got along with the tough ones much better than I got along with the weak one.


RAJU: What is your takeaway from the way these two candidates talk about these leaders?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I mean, Trump is easy to talk about. Obviously, Trump thinks in terms of personal relationships. If he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un then things can happen. Of course, that didn't work under the Trump administration because that overture kind of fell apart and Kim went back and was very angry at the United States and especially, at the Trump administration.

But I think that's the problem because these leaders -- you know, China, North Korea, Russia -- are not basing their foreign policy on how nice a U.S. president is or how they get along. They are in really transactional terms. Even the relationship between North Korea and Russia is transactional. They both need each other.

So I think the main -- I have to look at what concretely is happening. And right now, the thing that should worry and does worry the United States is looking at those satellite pictures of ballistic missiles and ammunition being shipped from North Korea to Russia for the war in -- against Ukraine. And those are the facts. It's not just some fanciful relationship.

RAJU: Yeah, and we'll be watching this two-day meeting very, very closely as you will as well.

Jill Dougherty, thank you for your expertise as always. I really appreciate it.

DOUGHERTY: Thank you.

RAJU: And up next, Biden or Trump? Who do you think will be better -- do a better job with the economy?

Plus --


NBA ANNOUNCER: They're all on their feet here at the Garden. Get ready to raise and 18th banner, Boston.


RAJU: The Celtics finishing off the Mavs with a record 18th NBA championship. Our Bleacher Report is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


RAJU: Less than six months until the election and, not surprisingly, the economy at the top of voters' minds. It's an issue where Donald Trump seems to have the upper hand, at least according to polls. Polling from the end of May shows 54 percent of registered voters think Trump would do a better job handling the economy. Forty-two percent said they thought President Biden would do a better job.

Now, those numbers could explain this recent ad put out by the Biden campaign.


BIDEN: When I was a young man, my family left our hometown so Dad could find a decent job. I know what it's like to struggle. I know many American families are fighting every day to get by. That's why no one, especially a billionaire like Donald Trump, will stop me from fighting to lower costs for food and rent.


RAJU: Now, my next guest has some suggestions for the Biden campaign. Joining me now, former Georgia lieutenant governor and CNN political commentator, Geoff Duncan. Geoff, thank you for joining me this morning.

You write in a new op-ed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "With the first debate looming next week and the election only four months away, the hour is getting late for both candidates. This election will be won or lost by the voters in the middle. Even a hint of fiscal sanity will go a long way with the high concentration of conservatives who know they don't like Trump but need something to get on board with Biden."

So tell us a little bit more about the concerns that you have regarding how the Biden campaign is dealing with the economy.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER GEORGIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR (via Webex by Cisco): Well, the economy is a tale of two stories right now.

Some -- millions of Americans are going to wake up here shortly and their house is going to be worth more than it has ever been. Their 401(k) is going to be higher than it has ever been. Their jobs are going to never be more secure than it is today. Others are walking into an economy trying to just afford their first house or rent payment, or groceries.

And so, it really is a tale of two stories. And I think this group of people with a high concentration of conservatives that can't stand Trump find themselves in the middle but need a reason to vote for Joe Biden. I think this should be a layup for the Biden campaign in just saying

look, we need to splash some fiscal sanity into this. We have a spending problem in this country. And the last two presidents are guilty as charged. They both have spent nearly $8 trillion apiece on money that we don't have, growing the debt.

And a lot of that money came on the backs or under the guise of helping us through COVID, which I think looking back now we didn't need a lot of those programs in place. It just put synthetic cash into the markets that have created this inflationary issue.

RAJU: Hmm.

So you, of course, are a Republican who is voting for Joe Biden. You have announced that. I'm wondering do you think, though, that the Biden campaign and the president himself -- have they done enough to reach out and target Republicans like yourself?

DUNCAN: Well, certainly, never enough work done in a close race like this. This is going to come down to the wire.

And for me, I'm so committed to creating a GOP 2.0 -- a Republican Party that does not include Donald Trump. And so, myself and others are willing to step up and kind of play this bank shot of supporting a Democrat, Joe Biden, who I disagree with on a tremendous amount of policies but I view him as a decent person. And looking at somebody I could probably try to work with over the next four years while we rebuild this party.


And so, watching the Biden campaign try to figure out ways to attract folks that are in the middle that will ultimately decide this race.

And, you know, I don't know -- there's some confusion of terms here, too, right? Like, nobody in the world, up until the fact that I told Donald Trump that he was lying about the election, would anybody have ever said I was in the middle. I was a strong conservative with a strong voting record in the State Legislature and as a Republican lieutenant governor.

But this whole litmus test of well, you're only a conservative if you fall hook, line, and sinker for Donald Trump's rhetoric and lies. And to me, that's the chaos and confusion that he's spread inside the Republican Party. And we will never heal until we get rid of him. And that's why I've decided to support Joe Biden because I want to purge Donald Trump as fast as I possibly can from our veins inside the Republican Party.

RAJU: And you mentioned that you disagree with Biden on some policy. Today, Biden is actually expected to announce a new immigration policy that would protect some undocumented spouses from being deported. It could affect hundreds of thousands of people.

Do you think this is a good idea? And would that win over some of those middle-of-the-road Republican-leaning voters?

DUNCAN: I think the border is a complete disaster, right? We've seen that.

From a campaign perspective, it's hard for Joe Biden to get any wins on the border. Donald Trump's rhetoric was much stronger than Joe Biden's rhetoric on the border and it scared off the entire southern border -- everybody to our south -- from even thinking about coming north. And now, the rhetoric has gotten lighter.

So, yes, incremental chess moves certainly will help to attract certain small pockets of voters. But I do think Joe Biden has got to give Republicans like myself some small victories. Be able to let us see the fact that there is some moldable policies around the border, around inflation, around spending. These are issues that we wake up every day and we care about.

And so, I think the more that they can do to reach out through policy, I do think it will help mend those fences.

But at the end of the day -- I think Adam Kinzinger said this the other day. In 10 years, I don't know if there's going to be a Republican that will want to publicly admit they voted for Donald Trump. He's just -- you know, the only thing worse than him being our nominee is him being our president because I can only imagine the train wreck in policies and the -- and the vendetta tour that he'll take, both domestically and internationally -- that's really what's put us in this difficult spot as Republicans.

RAJU: All right, Geoff Duncan. Thank you for sharing your point of view -- appreciate your time.

DUNCAN: Thanks, Manu.

RAJU: And now for the 18th time in franchise history, the Boston Celtics are NBA champions.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, it was quite a run for the Celtics.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It really was, Manu. Good morning.

History made in Boston last night. The Celtics once again alone at the top of the list of teams with most NBA titles. Their 18th championship breaking that tie with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Boston simply would not be denied in this series. They set the tone from the opening tip last night against Dallas. They jumped out to a 21-point halftime lead punctuated by Payton Pritchard's heave from beyond half-court at the buzzer. The Celtics never let up after that. It was their night.

Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with a game-high 31 points to go with 11 assists and eight rebounds. But it was actually Jaylen Brown who walked away with the top honors. He was named Finals MVP after pouring in 21 points in the 106-88 win.


JAYSON TATUM, FORWARD, BOSTON CELTICS: Oh my God. It's a surreal feeling. We did it. We did it! Oh my God, we did it.

JAYLEN BROWN, NBA FINALS MVP: I think we learned -- I think we learned from all our mistakes. All of our adversity I think has made us stronger and made us tougher. And all season you could see it. We started from the jump and we made all the sacrifices. We played both ends of the ball at a high level. We didn't skip any steps and this was the result.


MANNO: The Paris Games are just 38 days away. Last night, Ryan Murphy qualified for his third Olympics in the men's 100-meter backstroke. He touched the wall a half-second ahead of Hunter Armstrong to steal the automatic berth with the fastest time recorded in the world this year. Armstrong is a near certainty to qualify as well, but he'll have to wait for USA Swimming to officially confirm a spot on the Olympic team.

But Bryson DeChambeau's thrilling win at the U.S. Open was not enough for him to be named to the Olympic golf team. The win moved DeChambeau up to number 10 in the official world golf rankings. But since five other Americans are still ahead of him in the standings and only four are allowed to compete from a single country, DeChambeau won't get to play in Paris.

Speaking on "The Pat McAfee Show" yesterday, the two-time major winner said one of the biggest factors is his jump to Saudi-backed LIV Golf, which isn't eligible for world ranking points.


BRYSON DECHAMBEAU, 2024 U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: You know, hopefully, one day this game will get figured out and come back together and I'll be able to play. I'm playing great golf. I'm excited. But ultimately -- yeah, I've been frustrated and disappointed, sure -- you could absolutely say that. But I made the choices that I made and there's consequences to that and I respect it.



MANNO: Meantime, Rory McIlroy is keeping his head up following his disastrous finish at the Open. It saw him fall one stroke short of his first major victory in almost 10 years.

He posted on social media on Monday, saying, "Yesterday was a tough day, probably the toughest I've had in my nearly 17 years as a professional golfer."

He then went on to say, "As I reflect on my week, I'll rue a few things over the course of the tournament, mostly the two missed putts on 16 and 18 on the final day. But as I always try to do, I'll look at the positives of the week that far outweighed the negatives. As I said at the start of the tournament, I feel closer to winning my next major championship than I ever have."

And Manu, that opportunity could come next month at the Open in July. That's going to be a Royal Troon on the West Coast of Scotland. So that would be fitting for him to be there and to do that. But a really tough weekend for him as he tries to put it behind him.

RAJU: Yeah. I am still feeling for Rory. Oh, make one of those putts, you're in the playoff. Make them both, you are the champion. But I still have hope that maybe he'll turn it around. He seems -- he seems to have a good attitude at least.

All right, thanks, Carolyn. Really appreciate that.

Up next, President Biden moving to protect hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Plus, Vladimir Putin making the West nervous with today's visit to North Korea.