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CNN This Morning

Candidates Gear Up For High-Stakes CNN Debate; WikiLeaks Founder Pleads Guilty, Avoids U.S. Prison Time; Minnesota Dam On Brink of Collapse. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 25, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Tuesday, June 25th.

Right now on CNN THIS MORNING:

Just two days until Joe Biden and Donald Trump face off on the debate stage, right here on CNN. How the candidates are making final preparations for their rematch.

New evidence photos just to CNN show some of the nation's most highly guarded secrets on a floor at Mar-a-Lago.

On the brink of collapse. A century old dam in Minnesota in danger of imminent failure.


HUNT: All right, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at New York City on this Tuesday morning.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

The clock is ticking, just two days left until the first presidential debate of 2024. The stakes incredibly high with recent polling showing no clear leader in the rematch between Donald Trump and President Biden. The current president is hunkered down at Camp David. He is preparing for the debate with top advisers.

CNN reporting that Biden's personal attorney, Bob Bauer, likely playing the role of Trump during mock debates. Bauer performed the same role in 2020.

Here's what he said about that experience just last week.


BOB BAUER, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Any debate prep involves immersing yourself in whatever the candidate who you are playing, immersing yourself in whatever they have said, videos of their interviews, videos of their speeches -- speeches, so that you can really and seriously. I mean, not by way of doing some sort of comic impression, but seriously model out what the experience of debating will be like.


HUNT: Trump spent the past few days on the campaign trail, which he says is the best way to prepare for the debate.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm preparing by taking questions from you and others, if you think about it, we had a great meeting just now and Philadelphia with the -- at the shop but I'm preparing by dealing with you. You're tougher than all of them.


HUNT: It will be a historic night, the first time a sitting president will face off against a former president.

Joining me now, "Axios" senior contributor, Margaret Talev.

Good morning to you.


HUNT: You've covered so many any of these debates and so many presidential campaigns. And in many ways, we are seeing both men really embody the way they approach, campaigning, governing as well. But especially campaigning as Biden has basically sequestered himself behind closed doors.

I mean, Republicans are quick to criticize him for that. I would just say, I've covered a number of Republicans who did the same thing.

TALEV: It's called debate prep, right?

HUNT: It's called debate prep. Usually they pick a very nice location. Its great for us campaign reporters to spend a week there.

But -- but for Donald Trump he has been out there in a way that oftentimes we don't see candidates being out there, talking to the press, talking to the public. How do you view these two strategies as we head into Thursday?

TALEV: They are both, Kasie, really fitting of the two personalities. And I guess what it boils down to is it really going to matter? Is this debate going to end up being about policies? President Biden's doing a lot of prep on the issues and the arguments or is it going to end up being about the sort of intangible character things, like does the either of the respective rivals convey authority or command or charisma, right?

And a lot of times, that's what debates end up being about. But I think with both men, with the current president, with the former president, there is a -- the audience interests is really driven by kind of what's going to happen in terms of like, you know, are either of them going to meet or defy the expectations that are baked into the media narrative around them. And will that give you more confidence or less confidence?

It's not like a normal debate where its like, I really want to find out about what they believe in or what the two of them are like, or who appear stronger on the stage like Americans know both men very well, too well, you might say.

HUNT: Right, too well is spot -- I mean, look, the strength piece of this, right, I mean, the -- for Biden all of the stuff that's tied up in his age, a lot of it's about weakness, at the end of the day, right?


I mean, isn't some of this for Biden about not showing weakness?

TALEV: The kind of media machine that has been more aligned with Donald Trump or critical of Joe Biden has certainly portrayed him showing clubs of him tripping, climbing the stairs, or having a moment referring forgot what he was going to say. And so there has been a big expectations game around.

You talked to a lot of voters who are kind of, you know, low to moderate news consumers. And their view of Joe Biden is not really based on watching him give full speeches, or watching him interact for long periods of time. It's built on snippets and clips on social media that's sort of metastasized.

And there are actually people who think that he can't walk to the, you know, podium by himself and that sort of thing. So this is going to be for President Biden rejecting those expectations and proving that's not where he's at.

But you know, there are a lot of Americans who aren't quite an extreme category who are just he seems older than he was when he took office. You know, does he still have what it takes?

And I think on the other side with Donald Trump, the Democratic argument around Donald Trump has been that he's chaos machine and all this sort of stuff, how will he conduct himself on the stage? Will he seem presidential and serious for the people who? Maybe were concerned about that in 2016 or 2020 is that more concerned, are they less concerning now?

HUNT: Right. I mean, looked to that, one of the things I think we've seen some of the Trump team tried to do here is lower expectations for the former president by essentially trying to raise some for president Biden, because as she pointed out there is there -- they have gone pretty far in saying, well, Joe Biden is so far gone that he doesn't seem to have to do very much to disprove some of that, as you say.

The latest thing from Trump, he posted this on Truth Social, is that you want to drug test for Joe Biden, of course, this around this idea that -- I mean, he said this out loud at his rally in Philadelphia, get a Congressman Ronny Jackson wrote a letter -- of course, Jackson was I suppose, infamous, I would say is as Trump's physician.

This whole seems to add up to -- I mean, is the Trump campaign nervous about Thursday?

TALEV: It seems like sort of a throw everything at the wall strategy right now, that on the one hand, the message -- early messaging was like Joe Biden can't even talk, whatever. And now, it's like Trump saying he thinks so, be very strong debater and should be taken seriously.

This has been certainly about an expectations game but we've seen the former president put other lines in the water, too, like if it ends up being tough questioning or he doesn't do well, it'll be because the moderators are against him or for Biden. If Biden does well, it'll be because he was always strong. If Biden does poorly, it will be because he's too decrepit to, you know, serve an office.

So they're like three or four multiple strategies in this completely unfounded insinuation that, you know, President Biden is getting some sort of energy shots or something like that when Donald Trump, of course, fell asleep in court or had his eyes closed and people thought he was asleep.

So, yeah, there's been all this sort of messaging in multiple directions so that his bases are covered no matter what. I'm not really sure any of that's going to matter. There aren't that many Americans who were undecided at this point. This is always been about turnout in November.

But I think there are some Americans on the margin. Who are either sort of inclined to go with Trump or stay with Trump, but they're worried about January 6 or inclined to stay with Biden, but they want to make sure that he has the energy that is up to the job.

So I think for those people, it could be decisive. For many Americans, there's just a jury periodicity about the return to the stage of these two men. I hope we can learn something from this debate.

HUNT: I agree with you. I hope we can as well. I'm not sure if I'm optimistic or not. I guess we'll have to see.

TALEV: We'll watch.

HUNT: Margaret Talev, thank you so much for starting us off this morning. I really appreciate it.

TALEV: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Coming up next here, Julian Assange is out of prison. The plea deal that the WikiLeaks founder just signed.

Plus, never before seen photos of classified documents on the floor and stacked in boxes at Mar-a-Lago.

And for the first time, the Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup champions. Highlights from game seven, it was a thriller. That's ahead.


HUNT: All right. Welcome back.

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a free man this morning after agreeing to plead guilty to a felony charge related to his role in one of the largest U.S. government breaches of classified material. The deal filed yesterday with the Justice Department will allow Assange to avoid prison time here in the U.S. by giving him credit for the time served in the UK.

Assange was released from a British prison last night and quickly boarded a plane heading for Australia.

Joining us now from London is CNN international anchor Max Foster.

Max, good morning to you. What do we know about this plea deal and how it came about?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Well, extraordinary, isn't it? After all these years, as one of the longest running stories in media, in U.S. and UK history as well. Obviously drawing in Australia as well and other countries.

But there's an image of him on a plane out of the UK. So he is heading towards the Mariana Islands, which are U.S. territory. He'll go into court and that plea deal will be settled. You'll have to agree to plead guilty on a charge.


It's not clear. I was talking to one of his campaigners today. It's not entirely clear what that charge will be to them, but it must have been agreed. And what it will mean is that he will be served a sentence, but he's -- we don't know expected to serve a prison sentence because he's already preserved as it were so many years whilst in prison here in the UK.

But he won't be touching us soil away from this territory. We're expecting him then to go to Australia, working with the journalists who has really supported him over the years. She's expecting to speak to them a bit later on. She expects him to get back to Australia to really recuperate. He's suffering of mental health issues.

He's obviously a very divisive figure. Many journalists holding him up as someone that really represents them and protect sources and should be allowed to stand up to a big powers like the U.S. government. Others pointing out that actually he, the public service is limited because he sent out this list of names which were unredacted, people that were under severe threat as a result of that list going out.

So, some debate there about the journalism, but certainly a lot of supporters celebrating today.

HUNT: Yeah, the followed here in U.S. I'm interested to see what kind of criticism if any, the Biden administration comes in for over this.

But, Max, while I have you, I want to ask you about this just recently released Israeli Supreme Court ruling. They say that ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews can and should be drafted into the military. Now, this is something that really threatens to undermine the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because it might fracture his governing coalition. What do you think this means?

FOSTER: Well, it's pretty profound, really, if you go right to the founding of Israel, these ultra-orthodox Jewish groups were exempt from national service. And they are supported by politicians who are obviously very crucial to Benjamin Netanyahu, right now. So it went up to the courts. The courts have decided that they should no longer be exempt. There isn't anything in the law that should allow them to exempt from serving national service like other capable young people.

So it's been thrown out, so its a huge problem for him. How does he then explain this or deal with this with those key members of his cabinet, the proper -- propping him up in power. So it's a big moment for him, big moment for ultra orthodox Jews. And the wider country about a lot of these presses incidents that were set many years ago and that are being challenged now.

HUNT: Right. And, of course, we should note, you know, for those who aren't familiar, there is compulsory national service in Israel for people who don't have this religious exemptions. So especially considering the high-stakes of the war in Gaza, this comes at a really a critical moment.

Max Foster for us this one morning -- Max, always grateful to have you. Thank you.

All right. Ahead here, the very latest on in Minnesota dam on the brink of collapsing.

Plus, North Korea reportedly sending hundreds more waste balloons over the border to the South. Ugh.



HUNT: All right. Twenty-two minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

Lawyers for Hunter Biden resubmitting a motion for a new trial in his federal gun case. The move coming one week after the motion was withdrawn the defense team without explanation.

Prosecutors are urging the Justice Department to file criminal charges against Boeing for safety issues surrounding its 737 MAX jet. The company has faced numerous safety issues after two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019.

South Korea says 350 more balloons filled with waste were sent across its border overnight by the North Koreans. No hazardous materials have been detected so far, North Korea has been sending balloons filled with trash and feces into South Korea for about a month now.

Another day of devastating river flooding in the upper Midwest after heavy rainfall last week. The rising waters causing this Minnesota dam to partially fail. You can see trees and a building being swept away. Officials say the dam is on the brink of complete collapse.

Our meteorologist Elisa Raffa is tracking all of it for us this morning.

Elisa, good morning to you.

ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. Kasie, I mean, we're looking at just incredible images of water overcoming parts of this dam.

Look at the debris that's aligned up because the water is just so violent and rushing, there's just so much of it after a lot of this area. So a multiple inches of rain, were talking about. Well, more than a month's worth of rain and just look at how, you know, intent and rapid all of this water is rushing.

We still have flood warnings in effect from Mankato, parts of southern Minnesota, is Sioux falls and northwest Iowa, we still have warnings that are running down the Missouri River, in Sioux City, where there were some -- there were some rescues yesterday because of that river rising so much in Sioux City. So, again, just incredible.

Some of the rainfall totals here, ten to 17 inches over the last couple of days from Sioux Falls down towards Sioux City. You can see this huge swath of about four to six inches of rain. Now the good news is, is a lot of this heavier rain has stopped, but we still have again, the rivers are just still aggravated because we had some of the wettest two days on record in Sioux Falls -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Elisa Raffa for us this morning -- Elisa, thanks very much.

All right. Coming up next here, special counsel Jack Smith defending how his team handled evidence in Donald Trump's classified documents case.


Plus, an intense primary playing out today in New York. It could show just how important the war in Gaza is to voters.


HUNT: Welcome back. Seconds before 5:30 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at the White House.