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Biden Stage Departure Sparks Debate; John McGuire is Interviewed about his Run in Virginia. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 18, 2024 - 06:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: This morning the White House denying claims that President Biden froze at a celebrity fundraising event in Los Angeles over the weekend after this video went viral in right-wing media circles. It shows Biden standing before the crowd, before Barack Obama grabs him by the hand and walks with him offstage.

Now, "The New York Post" and others describing it as a, quote, "freeze up." The White House, though, slamming that characterization and calling the clip it cheap fake or a video that is edited, cropped or missing larger contents.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you all have called this the cheap fakes video. And that's exactly what they are. They are cheap fakes video. They are done in bad faith.

Let's not forget, President Obama, President Biden have a relationship. They are friends. They're like family to each other. And I think that's what you saw.


RAJU: All right, so just to get a sense on how the media and conservative circles sort of ran with this video, this is what a number of folks on the right side in the aftermath of this video.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: Notice he kept his hand on Joe Biden as - on his back, as if to steady and steer him off stage. He held it there. Kept it there just for, well, obviously, President Biden, he's not capable of making any momentous decisions. We all know that. And none of us really know who's in charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's rapid decline is obvious and on display.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing looks bad. And now they're talking about swapping Hillary in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dementia is just the layer of garbage on what is already an incompetence trash cake (ph).



RAJU: All right, so what actually happened? Now, Jimmy Kimmel, who was on stage at the time, said this about that moment.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": There's a clip of Joe Biden going around today and they say he froze and had to be escorted off stage on Saturday night. I was standing right next to him what it happened. He didn't freeze, he was just listening to the people calling him in the front row.


RAJU: Now, in an election in which age is an issue, does this - how does this play out?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's interesting. It's Gerald Ford and tripping down stairs all over again, right?

RAJU: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Where something gets in people's heads about a candidate, and the country runs with it and believes it. Gerald Ford was a former athlete, but he tripped in public a couple times and then it became a narrative that that - that he's clumsy.

There's a narrative that Joe Biden is an old man. Of course - you know, and I'm not disputing that he's not 81-years-old, but somehow this narrative has taken hold that he's infirm or a doddering individual or whatever else. And any indication that seems to fuel that, even selectively edited video, is getting in people's heads and people sort of run behind it.

So, I think it's certainly a political liability. But let's be clear, if you only show a portion of a video in which someone appears to be staring into space or whatever else, then, yes, people who are inclined to believe that this individual does space out will continue to believe it.

RAJU: And this is what Mark Cuban said about this. He said, "both candidates are old. Very old. They both are going to have senior moments, misremember, forget things, and have physical frailties." He goes on to say, "one is great at soundbites, but also thinks in soundbites. The other is awful at soundbites but thinks in incomplete sentence. Voters will decide which we prefer."

Interesting summation of things.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: In a way that's the microcosm of the election that many voters are going to see when they tune into this debate, which millions of people are going to watch, and this is going to be the central question. Do you go with a president who is clearly aging, he's 81-years-old, and there are substantial public doubts about whether he can serve a full second term, or do you go with the volcanic temperament and the chaos of Trump? And it's going to be very interesting even to watch the debate with the sound down and look at those two presidential candidates, both former presidents, and see what temperamental choice the country makes.

WILLIAMS: But you've got to be careful. It's not just volcanic temperament. He's volcanic temperament in an old man. And the - in Donald Trump. The idea that somehow this binary between one old man and one completely spry fit individual who's much younger it - you know, and this gets back to the point I was making, which is that we've gotten this notion of Biden versus Trump, that it's almost virility versus senility. And that's simply not the case.

RAJU: Yes. And Trump shared this edited video on his social media buzz. I mean is this a good idea to be having this debate about fitness?


RAJU: I mean he did call Ronny Jackson Ronny Johnson.

SINGLETON: Yes, I mean, like I would prefer not to focus on this. Is the president old? He's 81, of course. Most people know it. They look at it with their own eyes. Sure.

All right, but I've got to be honest, Manu, I pray to God that if I get 81-years-old, I can still do what I love. And I think most of us at this table would probably agree with that.

I think this election is going to be about those kitchen table issues, the economy, immigration, foreign policy. Those are the issues were I would preference for Republicans to focus on because I do think we actually have an advantage on the things that really impact people's lives, not age. Let's just pray we get to be 81.

RAJU: Yes, but, look, age is obviously an issue for a lot of voters. I mean is - is the Biden campaign doing enough to quell concerns about his age and fitness for office?

MEGHAN HAYS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I mean, I would just say, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. And I think Donald Trump being three years younger isn't that - is not all of a sudden youthful. And so I just think, you know, he also makes mistake. They all make mistakes out there and they - they're on - they're under the public scrutiny every minute of every day at press pool travels with the president. Of course they're going to catch moments like this. Everyone had them.

But I do think that the president needs to go out there and continue to speak about issues. He needs to continue to do his retail politics, what he is best at. What you see in these videos is Joe Biden being Joe Biden and talking to people and being out there. That's what he loves to do. He would have stayed on that stage probably for an hour if they - if former President Obama wouldn't have escorted - you know, like walked off with him. He would have been out there until every last person left. He wants to talk to people. That's what he is good at.

RAJU: In the meantime, there's been news about a former Trump adviser, or actually a current - is still an adviser to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, who is set to report to jail in just a matter of days here for defying and being in contempt of Congress over a subpoena dating from a couple of years back. But he's expected to go to jail in just a matter of days. He will not be going to Club Fed (ph). That is the nice term for the night -- I guess, I don't know -


RAJU: Lax security -


RAJU: Maybe not lax security - sorry. Talking to the lawyer here.

WILLIAMS: Former prosecutor.

RAJU: Yes. That's right.

So, tell us about Steve Bannon in his prison time.


WILLIAMS: Right. So, be - on account of the fact that he has another criminal proceeding pending, they wouldn't put him in the - in the more sort of relaxed environment.

The thing that I found more remarkable about Bannon here is that his lawyers tried to make the argument that in an election year, because people will rely on his opinions, he can't go to jail right now because people need him. That is such a white-collar crime. A notion you get it all the time where these guys, on the eve of going to jail say, oh, the public relies on me so - my family - my shareholders, I can't possibly go to jail. And it's just nonsense. Do your time.

Now, it - he has the right to exhaust all appeals and so on, but this idea that Steve Bannon is too important to go to jail is just ridiculous.

RAJU: Is Bannon being in jail - I mean, look, he does have a large following. Does - is bad in boone (ph) to jail? Does it have an impact among those folks on the right?

SINGLETON: I mean it's going to maybe anger some folks on the right and it certainly does feed into the argument were some will say, well, look, this is weaponization of the judicial process.

But again, Manu, in the grand scheme of things, those voters in the middle of some of these battleground states are not thinking about this. They're looking at Joe Biden and they're looking at Donald Trump and they're asking themselves a very crucial question, who can make my future better? Not about Steve Bannon going to prison for, what, four months, I believe.

RAJU: Yes. All right. OK. We'll see how that plays out.

Up next, wildfire north of Los Angeles quickly spreading, threatening homes and power lines.

Plus, Virginia state senator, and former Navy SEAL John McGuire is here to talk with me about his closely watched House race and the power of a Trump endorsement.



RAJU: All right, 45 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

Boeing's CEO will address some whistleblower complaints at a Senate subcommittee hearing today. The first testimony since a door plug blew off a 737 Max plane midflight in January.

And a pair of fire spreading in northern and southern California. The Aero Fire east of San Francisco has burned more than 5,000 acres. And the Post Fire near Los Angeles has grown to more than 15,000 acres.

Hunter Biden asked for a retrial on federal gun charges, then quickly withdrew the request without explanation. All of this happening one week after he was convicted by a jury of three felony offenses. Biden's lawyers have not responded to requests for comment.

And racketeering charges filed against New Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross. He's accused of threatening people to take over their properties and orchestrating tax incentive legislation to benefits organization that he controls. Norcross issuing this challenge to New Jersey's general - New Jersey's attorney general.


GEORGE NORCROSS, NEW JERSEY BUSINESSMAN: I want to go to trial in two weeks. I want Matt Platkin to come down here and try this case himself, because he's a coward.


RAJU: I mean this is interesting because he is actually a big, powerful figure in New Jersey hit with these racketeering charges.

WILLIAMS: It's a reminder, you saw it in the New Jersey Senate race a little bit earlier this year, that New Jersey, my home state, Jersey Strong hashtag, but New Jersey is a state that prizes this machine concept. That it's not just running for office as an individual off the street. You've got to get buy-in from these power brokers like this. This is seismic in New Jersey politics in shifting and reshaping how

the state elects people in the first place.

RAJU: Yes.

WILLIAMS: This is a huge deal.

RAJU: And also the New Jersey senior senator, Bob Menendez -

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

RAJU: Also facing prosecution as well. A lot of problems with New Jersey politics.

OK, we're going to talk a little bit more about all of this in a second, but we want to turn now to this.

Republican voters in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District will cast their ballots in one of the cycles most bitter primaries. Sitting Republican congressmen, and leader of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, Bob Good will attempt to fight 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.

The former president, though, has slammed the congressman, calling that gesture, quote, "too late." Trump joining McGuire for a telerally (ph) last night and making his disdain for Good very clear.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, if he's re-elected, Bob Good will stab Virgina 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: All right, joining me now is Good's challenge, Virginia state senator and candidate for Virginia's Fifth Congressional District in the House, John McGuire.

Mr. McGuire, thank you so much for taking the time this morning and for joining me.

Bob Good, you know, he's a leader of the Freedom Caucus. He's easily one of the most conservative members in the House. So, is this decision to back Ron DeSantis reason enough to kick him out of Congress?

JOHN MCGUIRE (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, there are a lot of reasons. You know, he's never passed a bill, never passed an amendment, and his legacy is going to be that he shrunk our party. We're down to a one-vote majority in Congress. And I would say that the other side is getting more of their agenda today than they were a year ago. And it was a - you know, he just has bad judgment. Obviously, he bagged Trump for an endorsement in 2022. And less than a year later, when the chips were down - and, you know, when the chips are down you can find out who you can trust - he endorsed a different candidate and he went all over the district saying that Trump wasn't pro-gun, wasn't pro-life, wasn't a conservative.

Now, he and - Bob Good and I had the same award for conservatism. I have it in the statehouse and he has it in Congress.


The difference is, I know how to build a team. I know how to lead. I know how to win. He has bad judgment.

If you remember, there was a Trump store (ph) incident in the district where he was kicked out. So, he stood on the curb for four hours telling people not to go in the Trump store. So, he cannot be trusted.

And I think one thing was very telling is, he went on CNN, and I'm going abbreviate, but the woman interviewing him said, you've been trashed Trump. He said, I have not been trashing Trump. She said, there's a video of you trashing Trump. He said there's no video. And then she played the video. So, he says, well, I said that in private, not public. And she said, Congressman, did you just say that you say one thing in public and a different thing in private? And I think all Americans, whether you're Republican, Democrat, independent, we do not like politicians to say one thing in public and another thing in private. He can't be trusted. So we can do better than Good.

RAJU: You said - you said that he shrugged the party. You're clearly referring to his vote to oust Kevin McCarthy. One, was that the wrong decision? And why was - why was that the wrong decision?


RAJU: And, two, how helpful has McCarthy been to your campaign?

MCGUIRE: Yes. So, definitely it was the wrong decision. And my thing is this, is my opponent runs around calling anyone who doesn't agree with him a rhino. You know, I'm a Navy SEAL. I'm a veteran. For all veterans, if we don't work as a team, we don't come home to our family.

He - if you tell me that you are on the Republican team, and you partner with the Democrat team to take out the Republican team, then you're not on the Republican team, you're on the Bob Good team. And that is shrinking our party. And that's his legacy.

As far as Kevin McCarthy, I'm - Ronald Reagan, Governor Glenn Youngkin, and President Donald Trump are always talking about a big tent, building a coalition. about addition and multiplication to grow the party. My opponent brags about a phrase called "keep it small, control at all." He believes in subtraction and division. So, I believe it was a continued - he has so many examples of bad judgment. And that was bad judgment.

RAJU: But - but McCarthy - but -

MCGUIRE: He basically did that speaker fight right -

RAJU: But just to - but just to clarify, has McCarthy been helpful, has been helping your campaign?

MCGUIRE: McCarthy has been helpful, but I was well on my way in the race before he contacted me. And, you know, he gave me a $10,000 check. The only way I found out about that was my opponent hit me on Facebook about it. I didn't ask for it. He just wired it before the last deadline.

But he basically took out McCarthy right before the Virginia elections. Governor Glenn Youngkin lost the House of Delegates by 1,700 votes. And over Thanksgiving, I got text messages from friends around Virginia that said their family members that are independents saw that infighting and switched back to a Democrat vote.

So, again, shrinking our party and giving the Democrats more of their agenda. We can do better than Good.

RAJU: I want to talk to you about your relationship with Trump. You attended the stop the steal rally on January 6th on The Ellipse. Given what happened that day, all the violence and everything else that happened that day, was it a mistake to have that rally and for you to appear there?

MCGUIRE: Well, no, I think the trust has been destroyed all over the place. Now, whether you agree with me or not, I'm on privileges and elections in Virginia General Assembly. And you can imagine, if we're in a football game and you plan your campaign a year out, and then in the middle of the game, under the guise of the pandemic, you change all the rules, drop boxes, mail-in votes. 45 - in Virginia, 45 days. We went from Election Day to election season. We did all this and they said we have to do it because of the pandemic. But I would say, if that is true, then when the pandemic is over, you would go back to the old ways. So, people do not trust our elections. And - and -

RAJU: But you - but you - but you acknowledge - but you - but you acknowledge the election was not stolen, right?

MCGUIRE: I would say it was - I would say changing the rules in the middle of the game is cheating. And I think that - I think that Trump was robbed. And I think the American people, under their constitutional right, can assemble and peacefully protest. If you broke the law, then certainly you should be prosecuted by the law. But, you know, nobody can - I think it's a very fair comparison to look at how they had the summer of love where they burned our cities across America for 80 days. In fact, there was one police precinct where they blocked the exits so the police officers couldn't get out. And nobody seems to want to make that comparison.

I saw 80-year-old women in red, white and blue flags and walkers. RAJU: But, you know, there - but just so there's - you know, there was no - they've investigated whether there was substantial election fraud and the like, and that has simply not been borne out. But, you know, before we get too deeply into that, when you look back at that moment and what happened on January 6th and Donald Trump calling for people to come to The Ellipse, was he right to do that?

MCGUIRE: Well, you should say that entire quote, because he said peacefully. You've seen that - you've seen things come out. Like even Nancy Pelosi just had a thing come out on your show where she was caught saying that she should have listened when Trump asked for National Guard. There were so many things and trust has been destroyed. And we have got to rebuild trust.

And you know what? I can understand, you can - you -

RAJU: And what -


MCGUIRE: Hold on one second. Do you remember during the pandemic you've got this guy, Fauci, saying, you need a mask, you don't need a mask, you need two masks. And then you've got politicians that are going on trips breaking the rules. Trust has been destroyed and we've got to rebuild it.

RAJU: So, Trump is also asking for total immunity from prosecution. Do you think the president should get total immunity from potential crimes he committed in office?

MCGUIRE: Well, what I would say is, I'm not a lawyer, but I think all Americans, we go back to trust. You know, if we don't have trust in our institutions, our country is going to fall apart. And there is evidence everywhere of a two-tiered justice system. Rules for thee, not for me.

You know, he was a president and he had some documents. And then you had a guy who was a senator or a vice president, doesn't have the same immunities, and nobody cares. And you look at the 33,000 emails that Hillary Clinton deleted -

RAJU: But he was -

MCGUIRE: And beat with hammers. If a - if a - as a Navy veteran, if somebody would have had one of those emails, they would have gone to jail. So, it's rules for thee, not for me.

RAJU: But do you think the president - do you think the president -

MCGUIRE: It's a two-tiered justice system and people don't trust it. And we need to rebuild that.

RAJU: You think the president should be absolved?

MCGUIRE: I do. I think so.

RAJU: OK. Yes, from all - anything he did in office?

MCGUIRE: And I think that the polls are showing - the polls -

RAJU: He just should have complete immunity?

MCGUIRE: Well, again, I'm not a lawyer, so we - I'm not looking at all the specifics, but I think so. I think they have gone after him since he's come down the escalator. And it's just because he's Trump. Any other person they would not be doing some of these unprecedented investigations.

RAJU: But you say - before we button up that conversation, you say two-tiered justice system. Of course the president's son was just convicted, two Democrats are being prosecuted, two members of Congress and the like.

But I do want to ask you about - you road with Trump in his motorcade during that New York hush money criminal case.


RAJU: What was the nature of your conversation with the former president?

MCGUIRE: Oh, we had a - we had a long conversation about the race and what the issues are. We talked about the border. You know, Americans are less safe at the local, state and federal level. Look no further than Richmond, Virginia. Murder rates are up 77 percent. And this district in Campbell County, a 33-year-old illegal alien, who's released from jail four times, because it seems criminals are good, police are bad, and now victims are bad, just raped a 14-year-old girl.

I believe in limited government. A government accountable to the people, not the other way around. But as a protector, as a Navy SEAL, as a veteran, we're protectors. Our number one concern is to keep you safe. And that's why we need to support our law enforcement, support our military, secure that border and stop that fentanyl coming in. I've knocked on six doors where a mother cried with me because their teenager died from overdose. And that - one's too many.

RAJU: And you - you crossed paths with Bob Good there in New York. There were some reports that he criticized you for not debating him then.

MCGUIRE: Yes. I think I got him pretty good. The debate's already been made. And the thing is, he didn't want to debate me in - in November. He didn't want to debate me in December. He didn't want to debate me in January. He didn't want to debate me in February, March.

But when all of a sudden I'm ahead in the polls, he wants to debate me. And I would say to you, how many times did Trump debate DeSantis? And the answer would be zero. And how many times in 50 years have you seen an incumbent want to debate a challenger? And so in that - in that conversation, he was talking about debating

Biden. And my opponent said something to the effect of, yes, I know what that's like, my opponent doesn't want it debate me. And so I turned to him and said, yes, because you're trying to rig it. And somebody behind me laughed and said he sounds like Trump.

But this is what I'm talking about. If somebody puts out a flyer with a debate and a time and your face on it but didn't coordinate with your campaign, and it's on the day that you're going into session, that's a trap.

RAJU: Yes.

MCGUIRE: And so I'm not going to fall for it. And so I think the debate is -

RAJU: But will -

MCGUIRE: He backstabber Trump in an 80 percent Trump district. And I've been endorsed by Trump and I've been with him since he came down the escalator.

RAJU: But one last thing as we wrap up here. You're - you - you were the -


RAJU: If you win, you would defeat the leader of the House Freedom Caucus. Will you join that same hard-right group if you win?

MCGUIRE: That's a great question. I got to tell you, if the leader of our party is President Donald J. Trump, who's tooken every arrow, every hit you could take, and they put a never - Marjorie Taylor Greene calls him a fake MAGA never Trumper traitor.

RAJU: Yes.

MCGUIRE: If she's - if they're going to put somebody like that in charge, I've got to question that.

RAJU: But would you - would you - is that a yes? That sounds like a yes or no (ph).

MCGUIRE: Well, it's - I certainly - I'd vote - my votes are in line with the Freedom Caucus.

RAJU: Yes.

MCGUIRE: But my thing is, the judgment of putting a never-Trumper in charge makes me question the Freedom Caucus.

RAJU: OK. All right. Well, John McGuire, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate your coming in and sharing your views.

MCGUIRE: Thanks for having me out. Please come vote. The polls close at 7:00 p.m. RAJU: OK. All right. Great.

All right, so, Stephen, your reaction here to his comments here about Trump (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINSON: That interview was an MRI of the Republican majority and what it's going to be remembered for, toxic infighting between members, the need to be loyal to Donald Trump whatever else happens, and the former president's extreme sensitivity to any sense of disloyalty from anyone.


You might think that he's got more to do right now than worry about a Virginia primary race, but there he was last night.

WILLIAMS: Right, two-tiered system of justice. Anthony Fauci. Hillary Clinton's email. Covid. Illegal aliens. You didn't hear once the people of my district are talking about the things that they need. It was all just a laundry list of red meat talking point.

RAJU: Yes, and, look, there's - you can't criticize Donald Trump in this party. That is real (INAUDIBLE).

SINGLETON: I mean, look, I'm familiar with McGuire. He's a Navy SEAL. I've done a lot of work with Navy SEALs. I appreciate the - what he's done for this country.

It is difficult right now if you're a candidate in the party and you do have to be very careful.

RAJU: Yes. Yes.

SINGLETON: And you saw that in how he responded to your questions.

RAJU: Yes. All right.

Thanks, guys. Thanks for a great discussion. And thank you for joining us. I'm Manu Raju, in for Kasie Hunt. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.