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Two Years since Dobbs; Karoline Leavitt is Interviewed about the Debate. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 24, 2024 - 06:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome back.

Two years ago today, the Supreme Court's conservative majority issued its landmark Dobbs decision overturning Roe versus Wade. The ruling that had, until then, federally protected a woman's right to an abortion for nearly 50 years.

In the last two years, the Dobbs decision has impacted the reproductive choices of countless Americans and unleashed a completely unsettled political landscape. Looking at a map of abortion restrictions in the U.S. its clear states are moving in vastly different directions, 14 establishing year or total bans. In some red states, employing new strategies aimed at further restricting the abortion pill, Mifepristone, emergency abortion procedures, and even throwing into question the legality of fertility treatments.

Our panel is back with us now.

And, John King, I want to start with the Biden campaign is out with a new ad this morning because we have seen this - this is going to be the first test that we have at the presidential level since this happened. It's just been two years. We've seen it really make an impact in some of these midterm races, in no small part due to very emotional, personal stories around this issue.

Let's watch this.


KAITLYN JOSHUA, SUFFERED A MISCARRIAGE: I was right around 11 weeks when I had a miscarriage. The pain that I was feeling was excruciating. And I was turned away from two emergency rooms. That was a direct result of Donald Trump overturning Roe v. Wade.

He's now a convicted felon. Trump thinks he should not be held accountable for his own criminal actions, but he will let women and doctors be punished.


HUNT: So, this is really the heart - I mean they're mixing a lot of things up in that ad, including bringing Trump's convictions in. But it's raising the specter of criminal prosecution. And she does bring up this real issue. I mean the Supreme Court's had to, you know, take up weather emergency rooms in the state of Idaho can turn women away and for what.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is going to be one of the more fascinating topics in the debate because we know Donald Trump doesn't like to talk about this issue in the sense that he thinks it's a loser for Republicans. He thinks - back to those suburban voters who we were talking about earlier that are in the podcast, it's a loser with them.

However, he also says at his rallies how proud he is to have named these justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. So, he has to tend to his base, which is happy with what the court did, but he's also trying to reach out to the middle. And the Biden campaign is very smart to press this issue. The evidence is just irrefutable that since the Dobbs decision, you can look in conservative Kansas, you can look in purple Michigan, you can look anywhere on the map where this has been on the ballot and it has been an issue that has worked well for the Democrats.


So, how do you press it forward? Again, this is my 10th campaign. Michael Dukakis, in my first, ran an ad against George H.W. Bush saying you can't elect him because he would make Supreme Court picks who might overturn Roe. People didn't believe it. John Kerry did it against George W. Bush, right? People didn't believe it.

Well, it has happened now. And so how can Biden look at Trump and say, you know, the person you elect on this stage might get the next pick. We already know what has happened. You know, can -

HUNT: Yes.

KING: Can he play the issue.

And then - and then my bigger question, you can see Biden prosecuting this issue. It's a good one for the Democrats. My bigger question is, how does Trump handle it?

HUNT: So, speaking of Trump, and he - I'm glad you sort of laid it out the way that you did because we can show everyone what happened over the weekend in terms of Trump doing exactly what you just said he did.

So, let's - let's show these two back-to-back. First, this is - this is Donald Trump speaking to his base, this is the Faith and Freedom Coalition, so this is a gathering of conservatives, many evangelicals, social conservatives, a lot of people who played a role in the fall of Roe. Here's what he first said about the appointees that he made to the court and what they did, and then what he had to say about how the Republican Party should be talking about it today.



DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My first four years, we totally transformed the federal bench.

Thanks to these justices, we have also achieved what the pro-life movement fought to get for 49 years, and we've gotten abortion out of the federal government.

And I believe in exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest. Some people do. I think most people do, actually, but some people don't. You have to go with your heart. But you have to also remember, you have to get elected.


HUNT: You have to get elected.

MATT GORMAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TIM SCOTT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: You have to get elected. I mean we've seen this in 2020 and we see it now.

Look, there's no denying, if I was a Democrat, I would push this issue very, very heavily and I would expect Biden too as well on the debate.

I think what's interesting to me is, Arizona - the Fox poll came out I mean a couple weeks ago. Arizona, 68, 70 percent of folks want to enshrine abortion. However the wording was, support abortion at that state level. Trump was winning by five.

Now, maybe that doesn't hold, but what I'm interested to see, and I think the - the Trump folks are too is, is there a separation between the folks that believe in abortion at the state level, but also would vote and support, you know, Trump at that level?

And I think the other thing too is, unlike 22 we're seeing a seance of immigration where I think you're right, like there's an uncomfortableness on the right, talk about abortion, and - like there is on the left with immigration. So, you have these two competing issues that act as a lot - I think in a lot of ways single issues, motivating factors for a lot of voters.

Which one wins out? Does abortion get blunted a little bit or not? And I think it's going to be very interesting to see.

HUNT: Philippe, how do you see Biden - I mean John referenced kind of how he could talk about this. In fact, let's show how Biden recently did talk about this. This was during a fundraiser with Kimmel.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The next president is likely to have two new Supreme Court nominees.

The idea that if he's re-elected he's going to appoint two more flying flags upside down.


HUNT: Two more flying flags upside down.

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER SPOKESPERSON FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, you know, the challenge for Biden - well, there's up and downs. On abortion, I'm not part of the group that has ever thought Trump is an evil genius. He does have an innate warning sign on this, and he has for years.

But Biden, and frankly the moderators, need to press him when he starts using, you know, tried and true code, like, it's up to the states. It should be up to the states. That was an easy way for people to get out of it for a long time. Except now when you say it's up to the states, the states are doing some pretty draconian stuff.

So -

HUNT: Yes, I mean, this is the box they put themselves in when people say, oh, this is the dog that caught the car.

REINES: Right. Right.

So, when he says on Thursday night that like, look, this is now a matter for the state, someone's got to say, OK, but there are women now who have to travel four states over and are, you know, almost dying from the procedures. That's just a very different dynamic and, in that case, Trump has that bluster where he just repeats himself five times over. So, it would really be a matter of pressing him. But he cannot be allowed to rely on that old standby.

KING: Part of your strategy going into the debate, as I said earlier, is to fill in your weaknesses and what works best for you.

For Biden, if he can, prosecute this effectively, number one, it gets at some of those moderate Republicans who probably voted for Trump in 2016, Biden in 2020, they're sitting at home going, oh my God, these are my choices? I don't want to do this, right? So, if you can't get them personally, if they don't love you because you're a Democrat, or they don't love your policies the last few years, can you get those soft Republicans, the anti-Trump Republicans on a policy issue, right? Both the policy, not the person.

And then with younger voters, the president, it's mostly because the Israel-Hamas. Some of it's a disconnect. Younger voters don't feel any disconnect to an 82-year-old president.


But younger voters care about this issue.

HUNT: Yes.

KING: So, on places where you can't get them to say, I love Joe Biden, can you get them to say, I'm going to vote for Joe Biden because of this issue. This one, again, maybe in front of us something will change, but in the rear-view mirror, since Dobbs, this has been a win for Democrats.

HUNT: Yes, well, I mean, and as you were talking, Matt, I - about immigration versus abortion and just saying these are two issues that challenge the respective sides, it strikes me that what we're talking about is an intolerance for extremes in our - in the American electorate, right? And, you know, one of the things that Republicans have tried to do is - is paint Joe Biden as extreme on immigration, but Democrats were, in part, able to neutralize that because of the rhetoric that Trump was using around immigrants, the separation of children, that was viewed as extreme, right?

This was something Trump said over the weekend about migrants that I just want to show and we'll ask John about whether it matters. This is him talking about an idea - Donald Trump talking about an idea he apparently had for undocumented migrants to the country.


TRUMP: Dana, I have an idea for you to make a lot of money. You're going to go and start a new migrants fight league. Migrants. Only migrants. And then at the end of the year, the champion migrant is going to fight your champion. And I hate to tell you, Dana, I think the migrant might win. That's how tough they are.


HUNT: So, John King, just - just briefly on this. I mean it's - it's - Republicans have gained ground on immigration. There's no way around it.

KING: Right.

HUNT: But this is kind of Trump's way of talking about it that -

KING: Right.

HUNT: Do you view that as something that's going to turn off the people that you talk to every day.

KING: I think - I think it's a great question. Number one, on the policy, this has been the quicksand of America politics for 25 years now and there's a huge problem and we should - it would be nice if they could get everybody in the room to actually have a policy conversation.

However, when you get to that, the Trump people will say he -

HUNT: And not the ring. OK.

KING: Yes, the Trump people will say he's joking. You know, this is one of the things where they say, he's joking. He's just throwing something out there. He's having some fun and his base loves fun.

HUNT: Yes. KING: Get over it, Washington. Get over it, lame (ph) stream media. You know, this is just him having fun, right? That's the way they describe it.

But you're right, there are some people out there who, you know, is it Christian to speak ill of immigrants? And so there's a - there's a space out there were some people who are probably going to vote for Trump, or inclined to vote for Trump, kind of get the oh, you know.

HUNT: Yes. The pope would say, no, it's not -

KING: Yes. Yes. And can - and then can Biden - and then can Biden turn to his own base, again which has some enthusiasm issues, and say, look, you know, you may not love everything I'm doing, but that's what you're going to get if you don't come out to vote.

HUNT: All right, coming up next here, Donald Trump's lawyers moving to dismiss his classified documents case at a hearing that begins hours from now.

Plus, Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign's national press secretary, joins us live as we count down to the debate.



HUNT: All right, 46 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

In just hours, prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to gag Donald Trump at a hearing in his classified documents case. On Friday, Trump's lawyers argued the case should be tossed entirely, claiming that the appointment of special counsel Jack Smith was invalid and that he's part of a shadow government. OK.

The death toll climbing to at least 19 people after what appears to be coordinated attacks on churches and synagogues in western Russia, an area with a history of separatist violence. No group has claimed responsibility.

The Dali cargo container ship set to leave the Baltimore port today, 12 weeks after it lost power and crashed into the famed Key Bridge, destroying it and killing six people. Several investigations into the wreck are ongoing.

And groundbreaking in Pittsburgh for a new Tree of Life Memorial and Museum, nearly six years after a synagogue shooting at the site took 11 lives. First Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who's Jewish, was on hand for the event.


DOUG EMHOFF, FIRST GENTLEMAN: When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, or when Israel, is singled out because of anti- Jewish hatred, that is anti-Semitism, plain and simple. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: All right. All right, let's turn back now to the 2024 race. This week's highly anticipated presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, it's going to be right here on CNN. Each candidate preparing in their own way. Biden is huddled with a close circle of advisers at Camp David. Donald Trump was bouncing ideas off the crowd at his Saturday rally in Philadelphia. Both, of course, working towards this showdown with a memory of the 2020 debate that, just want to remind you, sounded like this.


TRUMP: You agree - hey, Joe, you're the liar.

BIDEN: I just want to make sure - I - I - I want to make sure -

TRUMP: You graduated last in your class, not first in your class.

BIDEN: I - I - oh, God. I want to make sure -

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: Mr. President, can you left him finish, sir?


HUNT: Joining me now is Karoline Leavitt. She is Trump campaign national press secretary.

Karoline, thanks very much for being here on the show. We played that to remind everyone that that was some of what they saw on the debate stage in 2020. Of course, President Trump went on to lose that election to Joe Biden.

Can you tell us what Donald Trump is going to do differently on the debate stage this time?


Well, President Trump is well prepared ahead of Thursdays debates. Unlike Joe Biden, he doesn't have to hide away and have his advisors tell him what to say. President Trump knows what he wants to say and he's going to relay his vision to the American people to make this country strong, safe, secure, and wealthy again. He's been doing that across this great nation to all corners of this country. That's why he was in Detroit, Michigan, last week. He was in Philadelphia for a big rally on Saturday night.

And that's why President Trump is knowingly going into a hostile environment on this very network, on CNN, with debate moderators who have made their opinions about him very well-known over the past eight years in their biased coverage of him.


So, President Trump is - is willing to bring his message to every corner of this country, to voters, to ensure that he wins this election in November. He looks forward to doing that. And I know the American public look forward to hearing from him.

HUNT: So, I - so I'll just say, my colleagues, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, have acquitted themselves as - as professional as they have covered campaigns and interviewed candidates from all sides of the aisle. I'll also say that if you talk to analysts of debates previous, that if you're attacking the moderators, you're usually losing.

So, I really want to focus in -


HUNT: On what these two men are going to do and say when they stand on the stage.

Now - now, I -- now we had a little bit of what Donald Trump, your boss, has said in trying to set expectations for this debate. I want to play some of - a series of his comments, and then we'll talk about it.



TRUMP: Well, maybe I'm better off losing the debate. I'll - I'll make sure he stays. I'll lose the debate on purpose. Maybe I'll do something like that.

I assume he's going to be somebody that will be a worthy debater.

Should I be tough and nasty and just say you're the worst president in history, or should I be nice and calm and let him speak?


HUNT: So, he's basically saying there, well, will I let Joe Biden win. It does seem as though many Republicans have set the bar very low in terms of arguing that Joe Biden is basically senile.

Now you have people like Doug Burgum coming out and saying, well, President Biden's very accomplished, trying to set expectations in a different place.

What do you expect from Joe Biden?

LEAVITT: Well, first of all, it's - it would take someone five minutes to Google Jake Tapper Donald Trump to see that Jake Tapper has consistently -

HUNT: Ma'am, we're going to stop this interview if you're going to keep attacking my colleagues.

LEAVITT: Frequently likened President Trump to Adolf Hitler. I -

HUNT: Ma'am, I'm going to stop this interview if you continue to attack my colleagues.

LEAVITT: No, I'm - I'm stating -

HUNT: I would like to talk about Joe Biden and Donald Trump, who you work for.

LEAVITT: I am stating - yes. And we -

HUNT: If you are here to speak on his behalf, I'm willing to have this conversation.

LEAVITT: And I will do that. I am stating facts that your colleagues have stated in the past. Now, as for this debate, the expectation for -

HUNT: OK. All right. I'm sorry, guys, we're going to come back out to the panel.

LEAVITT: The expectation for -

HUNT: Karoline, thank you very much for your time. You are welcome to come back at any point. She is welcome to come back and speak about Donald Trump and Donald Trump will have equal time to Joe Biden when they both join us now at next - early, later this week, in Atlanta, for this debate. Our thanks to Karoline.

John, that, of course, is something that we are going to see from the right, right? It's going to be attacks on how this debate is conducted. As you know, our colleagues Jake and Dana have played a role in our conversations throughout. They have interviewed candidates on both sides.

Let's talk, though, again, about the candidates and what they are going to do.

KING: All right, look, what you just heard there, it is part of the strategy, and it always has been, and it works for Trump with his base. Does it work for Trump with the small slice of people he needs to, you know, get to win Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona? I would argue, let's deal with policy. Let's deal with that. But that is part of their strategy.

Look, again, this is a remarkably consequential moment for both of these men. If you look at this -- Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report about two weeks ago, wrote a great article about how this has been the most static race of his lifetime, right? And you haven't seen big swings in the polls. Often as you go through the summer, you know, candidate a proposes something and the polls swing three or five points. Candidate b returns to that and the polls swing back and forth.

This race has been remarkably static, right? Slight advantage Trump. Biden's come back a little bit after the convictions. Why hasn't it moved? Because so many people are unhappy with both choices. So, it's not like they're going to jump back and forth a lot because they're just like eh. If you're soft for Biden or soft for Trump you're like, eh.

But I would argue, from my travels to just beneath that static, are all the ingredients of volatility.

HUNT: Yes.

KING: There's economic anxiety. There's the - there's the abortion question. There's the character of Trump issue. There's people who just don't have a north star of where we're going in this economy right now and there's a lot of Covid hangover still that people are processing. So, beneath the level static race is a ton of potential volatility.

The question is, which candidate can find an issue that moves people. That, to me, is the big challenge for this debate. It's an early debate. They're not even officially the nominees yet. But they do have a chance to take something that has been incredibly static and move it. The question is, who figures that out?

HUNT: So, I - we're going to - we're going to take a little break for some - some humor here and it plays quite well into what John was saying, which is that people have been very unhappy. The race has been static. There are some that feel like their choice is like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I learned that I better get used to having a pick between a douche and a turd sandwich because it's usually the choice I'll have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to vote. He's going to vote. He's going to vote.


HUNT: That callback was from when George W. Bush was running against John Kerry in 2004. And we have it thanks to a Wisconsin voter who is one of those so-called double-haters, voters who don't like Trump or Biden and who are likely to decide the outcome this fall. "The douche and the turd sandwich," that is what I'm reading, "That is what I feel like it is," said small business owner Kate Bee in "The Washington Post," "which is less bad?"


I had forgotten about this (ph), by the way.

REINES: Are you asking? Can I go back to kale or broccoli?

HUNT: Well, I mean, I like both kale and broccoli.

REINES: The Biden sandwich without a doubt, because Biden doesn't - doesn't - doesn't risk killing the whole world with the press of a button.

GORMAN: What I would say a little bit I think to John's point, it is remaining static a little bit. I think - what I took a little bit from what Karoline said with going into Detroit, going to north Philly, there is an effort, I think, from the Trump team to at least and kind of a little bit under kind of noticed way try and break out of that a little bit. Try to get African Americans - particularly African American men who are less static, a lot of these voters they're targeting are loaded propensity voters. They don't vote every single election, right? They maybe vote one out of four, two out four election cycles.

So, I think that is a way to kind of break out a little bit of that staticness (ph). And I think that is where they hope they can make up some ground, especially with some of these Haley voters that might go against Trump.

REINES: Their expectations is really pretty bad. I mean, let's be clear, a debate is an argument. A debate are two people going at it. Donald Trump has been preparing for 78 years. This is not about whether someone has been doing in plain sight or not. They have now said that Biden is going to win because he's taken a shot of something in his ass that - that Donald -

HUNT: I don't - do we have - do we have to bleep that word?

REINES: Ass? Well, you made me choose between -


REINES: You made me choose between -

KING: Only the third time.

REINES: How am I supposed to -

KING: Only the third time.

REINES: What's acceptable and what's not?

HUNT: (INAUDIBLE) a delay here.

REINES: You know, and it's - it's crazy when they hit the stage. It's going to be clear contrast, like it was four years ago. And I do think it's going to shake enough people who are maybe unhappy as hell about their choice, but they know they need to make one. The thing is, they're going to have this conversation 20 more times between now and November.

GORMAN: It's so weird. It's not even July yet. We're having the first presidential debate. It's so weird. It is not used to it. And I think, look, we don't have another one of these scheduled till what, September 10th, I believe, somewhere in that area on ABC. So, there's a lot of gap between now and then. It's a very -

REINES: It's a big moment.

GORMAN: It's a very, very big moment.

KING: Right.

HUNT: Yes. KING: You have the current president of the United States, the former president of the United States. So, the expectations debate to me is just silly. You have two men that have sat in the Oval Office, have had to deal with these crises. They're - they should be prepared to stand there and make their case whatever the issue.

One other question I will add. There will not be a third-party candidate on that stage.

HUNT: Yes.

KING: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. did not qualify. This, to me, is a lot like 1992, though. You do have a large slice of the electorate so unhappy they're willing to at least look at third-party candidates. Can Trump and Biden convinced them, don't do that, stay with the two of us? Or, after this debate, do people still not - still not like them enough that they continue to look at the third-party candidates. On a state-by-state basis, we don't know the answer yet, which candidates makes which battleground state ballots? Do they spend any money? Worth the fall (ph). But that's still a potential wildcard.

This is a big moment between the two clear frontrunners in this race. But one of the other questions we have to keep in mind, even though there's only two candidates on stage, Philippe - Philippe - Philippe can tell you that third party candidates can make a big impact.

REINES: And not just them but - well, that's the thing. The biggest difference between 2020 and 2016 was that there were no third parties.

KING: Right.

REINES: Jill Stein took enough in 2016 to make a difference.

KING: Right.

HUNT: Well, and again, just for viewers who may not kind of realize where you're coming from on that. I mean, when you were working with Hillary Clinton -


KING: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

HUNT: In 2016, in these swing states, right, there were third party candidates on the ballot and you guys were very acutely aware of their impact.

REINES: And when larger - in the margin, yes. And with RFK it's confusing because you don't know who he's taking votes from or who would flee to him, who it redounds to.

KING: Right.

REINES: I mean there was this Mr. Mellon person who gave 50 million, I guess, to Donald Trump. He had given $25 million to RFK. There's such an overlap there on, you know, vaccine denialism and other stuff that Donald Trump seems to be afraid of RFK. But just because he's not on the stage doesn't mean he doesn't exist.

GORMAN: If I'm Trump, I loop in RFK into some of the attacks on Biden. I try and lump them together a little bit because, look, rightly so, I think Trump and his team view RFK as a threat in some of these states.

HUNT: Yes.

All right, with all of that, we've been doing a ton of politics this morning for obvious reasons, but I do have to leave you with this. Taylor Swift stunning a London audience, bringing her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, on stage. Guys, can we get some nat (ph) sound here, on the final days of her Eras Tour there. The Chiefs' tight end surprised Wembley Stadium in tails and a top hat, literally sweeping the pop star off her feet during a song - guys, you cannot make this up -- performing a short routine alongside her dancers. Also cannot make that up. And he wasn't the only famous guests at the show.


HUNT: Oh, my God, that's Prince William. Wait, bring it back. Bring it back. The prince of Wales, there he is, look at that, on his 42nd birthday. Two of his children were also there on Friday night. And I have to say, the smile from the selfies, look at Princess Charlotte. Oh my gosh, I just thought this was so sweet.


Swift met the royals backstage. She snapped a selfie alongside her love, Kelce. But it didn't stop there.


HUNT: You hear that? The British Royal Guard getting in on it. A little "Can't Stop, Won't Stop Grovin." They got music on their mind too. That's all right with us.

OK. Very much fun. Thanks to our panel. Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now