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Biden, Trump Prepare for First 2024 Presidential Debate; Doug Burgum Emerging as Contender for Trump V.P.; Tropical Storm Alberto Set to Make Landfall as Fires, Flooding Predicted in Southwest. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2024 - 06:00   ET


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: It's Thursday, June 20, and right now on CNN THIS MORNING, President Biden and Donald Trump preparing for next week's CNN debate. The exclusive reporting on each candidate's strategy.


Fires, floods, extreme heat and storms. Severe weather impacting millions from coast to coast.

And a manhunt underway in Arkansas for a suspect who police say murdered two people in Oklahoma.

Plus, he told them to go "F" themselves. Now, Elon Musk has a new message for the advertisers who left his social media platform.

All right, 6 a.m. here in Washington, and here's a live look at the White House. Good morning, everyone. I'm Manu Raju, in for Kasie Hunt. It's great to be with you this morning.

And seven days to go. That's President Biden and Donald Trump now preparing, in their own unique ways, for next week's primetime CNN debate, the earliest general election debate in recent memory.

Now, the last time these two men faced off on the debate stage, it was, well, pure chaos, with Trump constantly interrupting Biden and the moderators. This time around, mics will be muted when it's not a candidate's turn to speak.

But they're not muted yet. Here's Trump revving up his base and accusing the president of taking drugs without any evidence to back up that unsubstantiated accusation.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is anybody going to watch the debate?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes! TRUMP: He's going to be so pumped up. He's going to be pumped up. You know, all that stuff that was missing about a month ago from the White House? What happened? Who left it? Somebody left it there.


RAJU: Now for President Biden, the debate strategy is simple: Just let the other guy bury himself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think you need to accomplish on that debate stage?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Say what I think. Let him say what he thinks. The things he said are off the wall: "I want to be a dictator on day one. I wanted to move in a direction where" -- he talks about, you know, suspending the Constitution. I want to just hear what he says, remind people what he says and what I believe and what he believes.


RAJU: And we have exclusive CNN reporting this morning about debate preps for both candidates. One, secluding himself at at mountainside retreat with a team of advisors. The other meeting with V.P. hopefuls, working on sharpening his attacks.

So let's bring in CNN political analyst and historian Leah Wright Rigueur; former federal prosecutor -- prosecutor Elliot Williams; former White House communications director Kate Bedingfield; and Lance Trover, spokesperson for North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum's 2024 presidential campaign.

All right. So before we get into the debate, I do want to just talk about the state of the race right now.

There was a FOX News poll out last -- last night, and probably better news that Biden has had in, really, months. He's been trailing. This one had him actually ahead, of course, within the margin of error. So there's really no clear leader: 50-48, it says here.

There was a bit of a bump with independent voters for Biden in the last month or so.

Lance is the Republican strategist here at the table. Is Biden getting a bump post-Trump conviction?

LANCE TROVER, SPOKESPERSON, DOUG BURGUM'S 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I think national polls are a snapshot in time. You're getting a mood of the country in the moment right here on June 20, right? And that's what they are.

I think what's more interesting right now is taking a look at what is happening in some of the states, some of the polling. We've seen Virginia become a little more competitive. We see Trump leading and sometimes winning in Nevada. We saw a poll from "The Des Moines Register" this week, and granted, it's Iowa. There was a 20-point delta. That is a huge number.

But I also think it's interesting, looking at some of the congressional races out there, the Biden's swing districts. I'm talking to a lot of people on the Hill, pollsters and the like. Donald Trump is leading in these districts that Biden won in 2020 that have Republican members.

So I think we also need to look at what's going on both in the states and the congressional races.

RAJU: And of course, the states will determine the next president, not national. But still, national polls do give a mood of where things are.

In that same poll, Kate, it does talk about how Trump is doing among men. It says that, you know, he's up about 15 to Biden among men.

But Biden's doing better with people 65 -- age 65 and older; 15 points. Ahead with women by 17 points.

Still struggling, though, Biden is with rural voters. So how does he improve his appeal to male voters and rural voters? Of course, in these -- in Wisconsin and Michigan, he's going to need them.


KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, in some ways, I think -- so I certainly agree that polls are just a snapshot in time. But I also think that this underscores that the Biden campaign's theory of the case here, which is that, as people started to dial in, started to see Donald Trump, remember Donald Trump. Obviously, his conviction, as we've seen in the data, has played a significant part in making him unpalatable to some of these swing voters.

But, you know, that as people started to dial into the race, they would find Trump less and less appealing and see Biden as the viable alternative.

So, you know, I think for rural voters, for male voters, I think, you know, Biden has to continue to draw this contrast on -- on democracy, on the existential nature of this election. I think in some ways, talking about the fact that this election is -- you know, is historic and different, because Trump represents a threat to the very fabric of who we are as a country. That's a powerful message that lands with voters across the spectrum.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This idea of dilated man is a really interesting one, because people have not -- I don't think Americans have really focused on this idea of Trump versus Biden. They're sort of two individuals that everybody is familiar with on a day-to-day level. But facing them on a stage as candidates in 2024 hasn't really happened yet.

Now I understand -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- this is earlier than presidential debates typically happen. And this is probably earlier than we are used to seeing candidates debating now.

So how does this moment -- or how will it -- it's just a rhetorical question -- shift the way the public sees these two people against each other, rather than just as individuals?

BEDINGFIELD: And absolutely. And this earlier debate is -- very much underscores again, the Biden campaign's theory of the case: that, you know, people need to understand that these two guys are the choice. And seeing them together onstage --

RAJU: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: -- this early.


RAJU: Because a lot of people still say they don't believe that Biden is going to run. And they --

BEDINGFIELD: Right. I mean, some people say they think -- they still don't think Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, so --

RAJU: Sure. Yes, I hear that, too.

BEDINGFIELD: So there's -- this is important for the Biden campaign.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND HISTORIAN: So I also think this is -- you know, one of the things that the Biden campaign has -- and the Biden ministration has really been struggling with is Joe Biden's age, even though he and Donald Trump are essentially the same age.

And one of the things that they've done is they have really leaned into this idea of wisdom, of experience, particularly in the face of an existential threat to democracy.

And what we're seeing, I think, in some of these snapshot polls, again, it's way too early to call the race. But what we're seeing in some of these snapshot polls, is that their attempt to, one, win over independents on the nature of wisdom and age is -- is actually playing out quite well.

But the other thing is that the Biden administration has launched this kind of long-term plan with older voters. And it is paying off in dividends.

You know, I want to point out, again, that you know, American public has made a lot of really -- a lot of stink about the age of the two candidates. But in particularly Joe Biden.

One of the things that we're going to have to see in the debate is that that age debate actually doesn't necessarily matter in the way that we think it does.

And I still think that, at the end of the day, Americans are looking at the fact that they have two old white guys that are running. RAJU: Yes.

RIGUEUR: And essentially saying, you know what? Maybe this is a red herring. Maybe we can actually look at other things.

Because the choices, essentially age -- the same if we're looking at age.

RAJU: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: And I would just say quickly, older voters are also more consistent voters. I mean, the young voters tend to capture a lot of the media attention. And there's always focus on where young voters are going to go, but older voters show up more consistently --

RAJU: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: -- than young voters.

RAJU: Yes. And I want you to -- guys to weigh in about the debate rules. One of them is about the muting of the mics. And let's just look back at what happened in 2020 when the mics were not muted.


BIDEN: The question is --

TRUMP: A lot of Supreme Court justice --

BIDEN: The question is -- the question --

TRUMP: Radical left.

BIDEN: Would you shut up, man?

TRUMP: Who is on your list, Joe? Who's on your list?

CHRIS WALLACE, JOURNALIST: Gentlemen, I think we've ended this --

BIDEN: This is so unpresidential.

TRUMP: Pack the court. You're not going to give a list.


RAJU: So this time around, if you're not speaking, your mike will be muted. So Lance, who does that give an advantage to?

TROVER: This is going to be epic. I can't wait. I think if you're a politico, this is going to be epic.

Joe Biden has forgotten more about debating than most of us at this table will ever know. He's very experienced. He knows what he's doing.

RAJU: Setting the bar high. TROVER: Anybody who -- anybody who says -- anybody who suggests

otherwise is kind of playing into the Biden campaign's hands, I feel like.

But at the same time, Donald Trump is pretty experienced, and he has a way of communicating with people that resonates with voters out there. He's going to go out and say, the -- the costs are out of control. The border is out of control.

And let's face it: those are the messages that are resonating out there. So mics, no mics, it's going to be great.

WILLIAMS: Counterpoint to the Biden being a great debater. Cover your ears, Kate. Presidents -- sitting presidents have notoriously bad first debates.

RAJU: There's no question about that.

WILLIAMS: Obama got smoked by Mitt Romney in that first debate. Everyone was asking the question, is Barack Obama done?

George W. Bush did not do well on his first one.

Because they're running the country and it's hard to -- you know, it's hard to sort of focus on this new opponent and do that at the same time.


RAJU: Well, the difference is that Trump has not been having any debate either. He didn't engage in any of the primary debates. He's not been answering any questions.

WILLIAMS: Rusty, right?

RAJU: So is he rusty?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, we've seen -- but we saw reporting in "The New York Times" yesterday. He has started to do more formal prep, Trump has. And I think there's also a recognition amongst his team that that first debate in 2020 did not go well for him, and that the interrupting and the chaotic energy was not helpful.

As somebody who helped prep President Biden for that debate, I can tell you, we certainly saw that that debate did not help Donald Trump.

RAJU: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: His numbers fell off after that debate, because people were -- you know, people were put off by the kind of angry, uncivil way he conducted himself.

But I think everybody has an expectation that that's the Donald Trump who's going to show up next week. I don't think that's true. I think the Donald Trump is going to show up next week, is going to be the most disciplined version of Donald Trump. I think he knows this is a big stage.

RAJU: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: And I -- you were talking about the muted mics. I'm somebody who actually thinks the muted mics probably help Trump.

RAJU: Yes. And actually, I always literally just about to say that. Will it help Trump, because it may look -- be more disciplined, and maybe voters like that. Interesting. You know, Democrats agree with Republicans on that.


BEDINGFIELD: This Democrat.

RAJU: At least one Democrat does. OK. All right.

Next, one of Trump's V.P. frontrunners starting to sound eerily similar to the man he hopes to call boss one day.

Plus, Tropical Storm Alberto forming in the Gulf of Mexico and already making a deadly impact.

And a manhunt underway for a suspected double murderer.



RAJU: Doug Burgum is beginning to sound a little like Donald Trump these days. The North Dakota governor emerging as a top contender to be Trump's V.P. pick.

Listen to him offer up this view of America on FOX and see if it sounds familiar.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Under Joe Biden, we're actually living under a dictatorship today, where he's, you know, bypassing Congress on immigration policies. He's bypassing Congress on protecting our border. He's bypassing Congress on student loan forgiveness. And he's defying the Supreme Court.

I mean, those are the things that authoritarians and dictators do.


RAJU: Lucky, we have someone at the table who knows Doug Burgum very well, traveled with him on his campaign work, is a spokesperson for his presidential campaign.

OK, how badly does Doug Burgum want this job?

TROVER: You don't become vice president by running for vice president, I think you get chosen for vice president based on what you've done. And I think that's -- if he's in consideration for vice president,

it's because Donald Trump sees what a lot of people see, is that Doug Burgum has been a very successful person in his private life and business life and a very successful person in -- in his governorship.

Mr. Shark Tank, Kevin O'Leary, was on CNN last week telling -- saying he should be vice president. And it's based on all the work that he's done in North Dakota.

And so if he's in consideration for that, I think it's because of all the good things that he's done over the course of his career.

RAJU: Relentlessly on message here. But the question is --

TROVER: Were you expecting anything else?

RAJU: Oh, my God.

RIGUEUR: We're looking for the insider tea.

WILLIAMS: But seriously, does he want it? Like --

TROVER: You'd have to ask him. You should have him on the show. It would be good.

RAJU: Of course he wants it. So what do you think that he brings to the ticket?

RIGUEUR: So I think it's apparent that he brings -- that the business community loves him. We saw that once he was in consideration, once he was in the mix, that a number of high-profile donors who had been withholding kind of their support, their surrogacy, even their endorsements, all of a sudden, the money starts pouring it.

I think there was one large scale -- several very, very high donation that happened two weeks ago. And the explicit language around it was, well, I want a businessman on the ticket.

But I've got to say, the language that we're seeing now, the rhetoric that -- you know, pounding the pavement, maybe campaigning for the job. I actually think it's doing the opposite of what Trump needs in terms of -- or what he's looking for.

So on the one hand, we know that who knows what Donald Trump is looking for, right? It changes with the weather.

But on the other hand, the things that I think that the governor brings are that kind of financial or business acumen. He doesn't need to remind people about the near total ban on abortion, particularly when that's one of -- you know, one of Donald Trump's vulnerabilities with the -- with the American public right now.

RAJU: Right. And I'm wondering, Kate, what do you think of -- what does the Biden campaign think of Doug Burgum, the possibility of him? Are they concerned that he could help Donald Trump? BEDINGFIELD: I don't think he changes the calculation for them in how

they approach Trump. I mean, we've seen his willingness to essentially sell his soul. And he's not unique in that amongst Republicans vying for this job in terms of, you know, going out and sort of hedging on January 6, where he's previously -- you know, had said that it was an awful day. Those weren't his exact words, but he had said it was not not a -- you know, not a good thing for the country.

And now he's kind of when it gets asked about it, he's kind of hedging.

So, you know, he doesn't really change the calculation for the Trump -- for the Biden campaign, I should say. You know, and I think Leah's point is exactly right. He also underscores some of Trump's biggest vulnerabilities: the abortion piece, for example.

I mean, he kind of -- he's a -- he's doubling down on some of the most sort of conservative, problematic, vulnerable issues for -- for Donald Trump.

So I think for the Biden campaign, it's sort of like pick him, pick one of the other guys. At the end of the day, it's all about Trump.

RAJU: Does he get it? Is he going to get it? What do you think? Say yes. Come on.

TROVER: You're asking me -- someone is asking me to predict what Donald Trump is going to do? I'd be on an island living -- if I can predict that, I'd be doing all right.

I do think that's one area where you and I agree. I'm not sure it really matters who Donald Trump chooses. At the end of the day. I think it's -- it's --


RAJU: People tend to vote for the top of the ticket. But of course, it's a hugely significant job and choice. We'll see what Trump decides to do.

All right. Ahead, dangerous wildfires still raging in New Mexico despite heavy rainstorms.

And we're on Supreme Court watch as the justices prepare to decide on Donald Trump's immunity claims and more.


RAJU: New Mexico bracing for more storms this morning as two wildfires forced thousands to evacuate and led to at least two deaths.


ZACH PEARSON, VICTIM'S SON: It's heartbreaking to know that he didn't make it, to know that he was trying to run for his life.



RAJU: The region could see another round of rain today after flash floods created issues on the roads on Wednesday.

Meantime, Tropical Storm Alberto, off the coast of Mexico, set to make landfall, bringing more heavy rain, gusty winds, and flooding to South Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- you know, it's -- we just never been through anything like this before. And we're just going to take it one day at the time.


RAJU: All right. Meteorologist Elisa Raffa tracking it all.

Elisa, any relief in sight?

ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: For Texas, some of that rain is dying down a little bit today. But for Mexico, we're going to continue to find some of that heavy rain, the storm surge. You've got that tropical storm. And landfall really imminent within the next few hours: 50 mile per hour winds right now.

We do have a tornado watch still in effect from Corpus Christi down towards Brownsville, where when you get these kind of outer bands to come in, they're spinning. You can get some weak and brief tornadoes. So that's something that we've been watching for on the overnight.

This as -- look at all the rain that has fallen. Widespread two to four inches. A lot of totals, 46 inches there in the orange around Corpus Christi, from some of that heavy rain.

Rockport, Texas, you've got more than five inches of rain, which is more than your June average. An entire month's worth of average as to just incredible.

The heavy rain continues to move inland in Mexico. That can cause some flash flooding, maybe even some landslides in some of those mountainous regions.

And look at where the showers stretch as we go into Thursday and Friday. We're looking at some of these showers, even making it up to New Mexico, which they need the rain with some of the wildfires that we've had.

But we don't need too much all at once. What happened yesterday was we had flash flood emergencies, because we have burn scars. The water is not really going to go anywhere, has nowhere to go when the ground is torched.

So that's something that we have to watch out for as we go through the next couple of days. We still have extreme and exceptional drought conditions in New Mexico fueling these fires -- Manu.

RAJU: All right. so much extreme weather. Elisa Raffa, thank you for tracking it all for us.

And next, two candidates taking two different approaches to prepare for next week's primetime CNN debate.

Plus, the state that now requires all public schools to hang the Ten Commandments in classrooms.