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Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-VA) is Interviewed about Abortion Rights; Clinton to Release New Book; Lee Zeldin is Interviewed about the CNN Debate; Bowman and Boebert Face Primaries. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 25, 2024 - 06:30   ET




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

Since the Supreme Court reversed the constitutional right to an abortion two years ago, it's become a winning issue for Democrats in the elections we've seen since, and the party is hoping to capitalize on reproductive rights again this November. Vice President Kamala Harris marks the two-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade yesterday with this warning about a possible Trump second term.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His friends in the United States Congress are trying to pass a national ban that would outlaw abortion in every single state.

And we all know, if Donald Trump get the chance, he will sign that ban.


HUNT: All right, joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan of Virginia. She serves on the Biden campaign's national advisory board.

Congressman - Congresswoman, excuse me, good morning. Thank you so much for being here.

REP. JENNIFER MCCLELLAN (D-VA): Good morning. Thanks for having me.

HUNT: So, the presidential debate set for just two days from now. This is, obviously, an issue that has been central for Democratic campaigns that we have seen since the fall of Roe versus Wade. Of course the president will only have so much time that he will be able to decide for himself how to direct the conversation. How much of it should be about this issue?

MCCLELLAN: I think a significant portion should be about this issue because this is what's top of mind for a lot of women around the country. Women are angry that they've had a constitutional right stripped away. I'm first generation of my family to have a constitutional right stripped away. And they voted accordingly in every election since. They're going to vote accordingly now.

HUNT: At this point, do you feel like President Biden has been an effective advocate on this? We've also seen, of course, Kamala Harris go out there and be on - out front.

MCCLELLAN: I think - I think he has been an effective advocate. Frankly, women are the most effective advocates because we understand the implications that the fall of Roe has had for our health care and our reproductive freedom. So, no one's going to be a better advocate than women. But the president is, for a man, a pretty good advocate.

HUNT: For a man.

So, let's - let me broaden out this conversation a little bit because, of course, there's a lot that's facing the president, also the country, as we head into this. And there's some new reporting from my colleague Kayla Tausche here at CNN who says that there are Democrats outside the White House, a circle, arguing for the president to focus more on Donald Trump than on his own accomplishments. One to top Democrat tells her, quote, "he wants the credit," Biden wants the credit, "but it's not working. He needs to stop." And by that they mean, he needs to stop trying to sell Biden's policy achievements and instead focus on Donald Trump.

Is that the right approach?

MCCLELLAN: I think he needs to do both. I think he can do both.

What I have seen, particularly, you take a state like Virginia, when Democrats don't talk about what they've done, the voters don't know, and they don't vote based on that. I think he needs to do both. In this debate he's going to show a very clear contrast between his vision and his record and Donald Trump's vision and Donald Trump's record.


So, I think the president can and should multitask.

HUNT: We were talking earlier in the show about a "New York Times" report that voters who have decided which camp they're in, but especially supporters of President Biden, are watching - are going to be watching this debate with some level of trepidation. One said, you know, level of terror, worried, of course, that the current president may make a mistake that could underscore the weaknesses that the Trump campaign would prefer to highlight.

Are you nervous about the possibility of President Biden's performance not being up to par?

MCCLELLAN: You know, I'm not. He is constantly underestimated, and he constantly rises to the occasion. I heard the same fears and trepidation for the State of the Union. He knocked it out of the park. I think the president is going to show a very forceful and clear contrast between a second Biden term and a second Trump term. And I'm not worried at all.

HUNT: We've also been discussing here, and my colleague, Ron Brownstein, who was on earlier in the show, has talked about a key shift for Democrats heading into this election. And that's - in the past you were able to assume that if you were getting low propensity, particularly minority voters, out to vote, young voters out to vote, that they were going to back the Democratic candidate. And that we are seeing data that suggests that that's not true anymore and that that may actually benefit the Republican candidate. How does that - has that changed how you think about campaign politics?

MCCLELLAN: You know, I have always thought that we need to focus on the candidate and their vision and their policy, because in any given election, you have about maybe 20 percent of the electorate that are Democrats, and that's how they're voting, 20 percent are Republicans, and that's how they're voting. And what - the swing is the independents in the middle. And so I think you can't take anything or anybody for granted and you need to make sure that you are running a persuasion campaign to everyone to get them out.

And again, when we - when we don't do that, we lose. We saw that in Virginia in 2021. We saw that, some would argue, in 2016. And I think Democrats have learned that lesson.

HUNT: All right, Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

MCCLELLAN: Thank you.

HUNT: I really appreciate your time.

MCCLELLAN: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, let's turn back to the 2024 race. Let's - let's continue talking about it, I should say, and this week's CNN presidential debate. President Biden and Donald Trump, you may remember, have debated each other before. However, there is one woman who has debated them both. In a new op-ed published this morning, the former secretary of state and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, offering some advice for fellow viewers of the debate. She says, quote, "we should try not to get hung up on the theatrical" of Thursday's debate.

This is ahead of this. It's a new book she's publishing this fall with Simon and Schuster that they say will offer a glimpse into her marriage, faith, career, and perhaps it will bring us behind the scenes into some of these moments.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (June 28, 2007): The rest of us weren't tough enough on them. They have turned the court upside down. HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (October 19, 2016): My

Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it. But what we want to do is to replenish the Social Security trust fund.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (October 19, 2016): Such a nasty woman.


HUNT: OK. Remember that, Isaac.

So, first of all, Hillary Clinton popping up a couple days before the presidential debate to announce a new book and telling folks what to look for here. I mean you covered her campaign. So did I, I should say. I thought it was kind of the interesting she popped up there.

I - that glimpse we got of Joe Biden back in that - in that debate also, wow.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, I mean, that was 2008, right, or 2007 probably from that debate.

HUNT: We were all a lot younger.


HUNT: Let's just put it that way.

DOVERE: It doesn't - I - and I think it was October of 2020 I was interviewing Hillary Clinton, and I said to her, why do you think that every time you pop up people say, oh God, here she comes again? Why - and she said to me that she thought it was guilt on the part of people who hadn't done enough to get her elected.

So, look, Hillary Clinton is somebody who clearly wanted to be president. She tried a lot. She is not going to be the president of the United States. And she does still want to be part of the conversation. She feels like she has a thing to say here. I don't think that before that op-ed was published there were a lot of people thinking, oh, Hillary Clinton is the only person who debated both of these guys, but it is true. She was on stage with Joe Biden. I would say that in those 2007 debates, for the most part, many people did not know that Joe Biden was there. It was really a Clinton/Obama situation. But she is the one who debated Donald Trump in 2016.

HUNT: How do I put this tactfully, Meghan. Is Hillary Clinton's emergence into this conversation helpful to the Biden team?

MEGHAN HAYS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I mean I don't think it's unhelpful, right? I think that there were some points in there that she made that - that I think are helpful, like when she was saying that Biden has facts and truth on his side, right? That's a - that's a good point to make.

[06:40:02] Also, once you point out how they talk about people, I think that's an interesting thing to say, especially with Trump making those comments about the UFC and the migrants. And then the contrast of Joe Biden being such an empathetic leader. So, I do think - I mean it's not unhelpful to them. I do - I don't think that there's anything that we're all, like, oh, my gosh, we didn't know that beforehand, but it is bringing more things to the point - or to the forefront here. But I mean there are - there are points there that I do think are positive and helpful to campaigns.

MATT GORMAN, FORMER TIM SCOTT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Yes, I would say probably the Republicans are a little more excited that Hillary emerged than the Biden campaign in this regard.

One thing that stood out to me - and, look, it was a standard surrogate op-ed. It wasn't earth-shattering stuff. But one thing that stood out to me, and I disagree, and not in a partisan way, but just a philosophical point of away, when she's talked about how it's not about theatrics. And I said this to a candidate I was in debate prep with. I said, look, we have to stop idealizing these debates. They are television shows. You hit your mark, you say your lines and you get off. And I compared this person and the other person who was doing it very, very well.

And I think - we talked a little bit about it at the - at the start of the show, these things, at their heart, they're television productions. And the - the candidates are - whether we like it or not, they're actors in it.

HUNT: Yes.

GORMAN: And that's how we perceive these things. That's the way you've got to think of it.

DOVERE: You know, earlier in the show we played the clip of Joe Biden saying, will you shut up, right? That was one of those moments of Biden really breaking it - breaking the format a little bit, and it broke through to people. It reminds me a little of when - when Kamala Harris was getting ready to launch her presidential campaign in 2018, she was talking with advisers and they asked her what she would do if she were in a debate like the one that Clinton was in where - that town hall debate where Trump was stalking around behind her, which she mentions in the op-ed, and Harris' response is - then was that she would turn around and say to him, why are you being so weird, right?

Now, obviously, she never got to debate Trump, but I do think that one of the questions that is facing Biden as he goes into Thursday is how he will handle moments where Trump does something that is not perhaps right out of the Lincoln-Douglas playbook for debate.

HUNT: The old school playbook. Yes. Yes.

No, I mean, and, look, I think it should - to be fair to President Biden, I mean he has taken those opportunities and typically seen positive responses to them. We saw a little bit of that in the State of the Union as well. So, I guess we'll see. All right, coming up next here, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert about to find out if a big political gamble will pay off for her at the polls.

Plus, former New York Congressman Lee Zeldin is here to talk about Thursday nights presidential debate.




MARTIN SHORT, COMEDIAN: Trump is also gearing up for the big debate Thursday. He's trying to manage expectations with claims that Joe Biden will be on drugs.

Yes, all - all jacked up on extra strength Metamucil.


HUNT: With the CNN debate just two days away, it's crunch time for President Biden and former President Trump as they prepare for the first showdown since 2020. President Biden remained at Camp David yesterday. He and a close circle of aides were preparing for the debate over a dinner of lasagna.

Trump, meanwhile, bouncing ideas off his supporters, say in a podcast that aired yesterday, that's all the prep he needs.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 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 in Philadelphia with the - at the - at the shop. You saw that with all the wonderful people.

We just left Faith and Freedom in D.C., and that was incredible.

So - but I'm preparing by dealing with you. You're tougher than all of them.


HUNT: And joining me now is former Republican congressman from New York, Lee Zeldin. He is supporting Trump in the upcoming election.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.


HUNT: So, are you confident that the Donald Trump that we're going to see show up on Thursday night is someone who is going to help his campaign? ZELDIN: I actually think both President Trump and President Biden show up Thursday alert, prepared, serious. I think that there's going to be a substantive discussion on a number of issues. Obviously, the moderators have the burden in asking the questions to be able to get to a lot of top concerns for voters. And whether its economic issues or it's safety concerns or six, seven, eight other things that you can mention, the time is going to go by very quickly.

I would actually expect both - both of them to show up prepared and alert.

HUNT: Let's remind everyone a little bit of what it was like the last time - one of the last times these two met onstage, the kind of back- and-forth that we saw.

Let's watch this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're the worst president America has ever had.


BIDEN: Come on.

TRUMP: Hey, Joe, let me -

In 47 months, I've done more than you've done it 47 years. They were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it's a racist place, and they were teaching people to hate our country. And I'm not going to allow that to happen.

BIDEN: OMG. Nobody's doing that. He's just - he's the racist.

TRUMP: Our suburbs would be gone. And you would see problems like you've never seen before.

BIDEN: He wouldn't know a suburb unless he took a wrong turn.

TRUMP: Oh, I know suburbs so much better than you.

BIDEN: He would not - I was raised -

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: Go ahead - wait a minute.

BIDEN: I was - I was raised in the suburbs.

TRUMP: So much better than you.

BIDEN: This is not 1950.


HUNT: If we see moments like that on Thursday, how's it going to impact the election?

ZELDIN: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of people tuning in who actually haven't made their minds up. I was on last night, you know, Phil Mattingly was guests hosting for Jake, and I think there are people tuning in that want to make a decision based on substance. And I - you know, what you have shown with the CBS News polls yesterday one hour after the next, that the top issues are economic concerns, safety issues. And over the course of the last couple of weeks, there have been headlines of, you know, for example, relate to the border, from members of ISIS who had been arrested, two, you know, 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds who have been raped. There are stories of single women being murdered. There's concerns about the border.


And there are policies, if you look at the Trump administration, of what he implemented to build the border wall and remain in Mexico, Title 42, and then catch and release. President Biden came in on day one and it was a top priority to roll back a lot of these policies. Now there is that question of what happens in January of 2025 if President Biden is saying that he wants to secure the border. Well, it comes down to now, both presidents have proven that they have the power both to open the border and the power to close the border. So, why don't you just do it now if that's something that you're serious about.

And that's an example of one of the issues that if you asked me, what do I want to see? I want to see that back-and-forth flushing out not just their record but also what they want to do going forward. And I also think that election should be won not by how well you articulate what you're against. My, you know, hope for all elections is always that elections are won primarily based off of what you're for. And that uplifting, positive vision for the future is what I think those undecided voters tuning in are going to want to see.

HUNT: Congressman, how do you think President Trump should answer questions at when he is pressed about January 6th, if he has pressed about January 6th? He's been starting off some of his rallies arguing that the - he calls them the January 6th hostages, should be pardoned.

I imagine there are a lot of these swing voters you say still making up their minds who don't know that that's what he says at his rallies because they don't see them. Is that something he should bring to the debate stage?

I think the conversation over attacks on democracy has changed a lot now that President Trump is - they're going after him criminally. They're trying to lock him up forever. They want to bankrupt him and this family. There have been states that are trying to remove his name from the ballot all together, denying Americans the right to choose for themselves who they want to pick in November.

Just before the 2020 election, we all saw how the story about the - the Biden laptop was, quote/unquote, Russian propaganda. It was censored. The 51 intelligence officers. The conversation about attacks on democracy doesn't have to be however the question is framed by the moderator just wanting to talk about, you know, one dynamic in one day. I think that a lot of Americans right now are seeing President Biden and his allies as attacking democracy by trying to remove President Trump from the ballot altogether, for example.

HUNT: I mean do you think the people that were arrested after January 6th are hostages?

ZELDIN: Well, I don't view everybody differently. I mean there were some - I was in the Capitol that day. I was on the House floor that day. And for somebody who comes into the Capitol and they - they vandalize, they hurt other people, that's different than coming in another entrance where Capitol Police officers basically holding the door and high-fiving.

So, there were some people who broke through windows and harmed and looted, and there were others who basically were invited in and walk through like tourists, staying within the rope line of Statuary Hall. So, I don't view every single person who ended up showing up at the Capitol that day the same way. No.

HUNT: You have yourself experienced political violence. You're, thankfully, one of the few. Do you have any concerns about where our country stands in terms of kind of the - the volatility or the potential volatility of this moment?

ZELDIN: Yes. And it's actually a lot worse than what we see in what gets reported. We might hear of some death threat to some member of Congress. We all saw, you know, what happened with Steve Scalise getting shot. There - there have been a lot of incidents that we hear about and we cringe for and we - we hope that never happens again. But most never even make it to the press. I can't tell you how many times, you know, I've been targeted with some type of a death threat that you don't put out a press release. And it happens to members of Congress all of the time.

You know, so when you are a leader, there are people who follow you. And the key is that you need to be leading these people rather than get followed by them. And there are people who, you know, in - in all parties, at all times, who are willing to follow that lead of that person who, you know, puts out a call. And I think rhetoric is important. I think there are a lot of Americans who believe that there's a time for politics and there's a time for - for government. The people will decide in November. Then there's, you know, an oath of office that get administered in January. And regardless of whether you have a Republican or Democratic president, a Republican or Democratic Congress, you have a job to try to find common ground, however possible, to move the country forward. That's the type of, you know, rhetoric and progress I think that most Americans, especially the Americans tuning in on Thursday, who haven't made their mind up, that's what's going to be their hope for the future.

HUNT: Do you think Donald Trump is living up to what you say that leaders should use rhetoric that discourages political violence?

ZELDIN: Oh, listen, I - there's a lot that I would say, you know, as far as President Trump, what he has said stuff that President Biden has said, that is not maybe, you know, what my particular style is, but President Trump is a fighter. You know, he is - he is on offense. I'm sure he'll be on offense again on Thursday. President Biden has shown up at these debates and, you know, he's been ready to fight and he's been alert and he's been giving it to President Trump.


And, you know, ultimately, I think that a lot of Americans also look for people to step up to be strong, to be forceful. Again, not just talking about - my preference is for that positive, uplifting message. But I do think that a lot of people also want to see that contrast outlined. And this is high stakes. We're talking about president of the United States. And I think sleeves are going to be rolled up. And they're also going to be showing up on Thursday to do battle.

And I would not discourage both of the candidates to show up and just shy away from these tough debates on these issues as well. Even if at times, you know, a rhetoric might ruffle feathers of those who prefer a positive, uplifting message.

HUNT: All right, Congressman, thank you very much for your time this morning.

ZELDIN: You got it. Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: I really appreciate you being here.

All right. 55 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

Lawyers for Hunter Biden once again seeking a new trial following his conviction on federal gun charges. The move comes a week after a previous motion was withdrawn by Hunter's defense team without explanation.

An Arizona election worker arrested for allegedly stealing a security fob and keys from the Maricopa County Election Center. The fobs are used with special secure tablets during the election. All of them must now be reprogrammed at the cost of $19,000.

Two American astronauts scrapping plans for a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. NASA calling it off after a water leak in a - in the cooling unit of one of the space suits was detected.

Julian Assange is a free man this morning. The WikiLeaks founder accepting a plea deal related to his role in one of the largest leaks of classified material in American history. Under the deal, Assange will plead guilty but avoid any time in a U.S. prison.

All right, once again it's primary day with closely watched races in New York and Colorado that will decide the political future of two high profile House incumbents. In New York, the Democratic congressman, Jamaal Bowman, is up against establishment candidate George Latimer in a $20 million effort by pro-Israel groups to oust him over his criticism of the war in Gaza. In Colorado, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert faces her first test since switching districts and after getting thrown out of a theater last fall for vaping and, shall we say, lewd behavior. Both Bowman and Boebert hoping to keep the incumbent hot streak going. So far, just one sitting House lawmaker has lost their primary this cycle.

The panel is back.

Guys, this - this primary in New York, very closely watched. And I want to play a little bit of what we have been hearing from Jamaal Bowman. He was at, you know, a rally with Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez over the weekend. She came in for him.

Let's just give a - give a little taste of - because, I mean, we've got to bleep the language. It gives you a feel for how this race is playing out right now.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Jamaal Bowman dared to speak up for Palestinians. AIPAC doesn't give a damn about us. AIPAC doesn't give a damn about the Bronx.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): So, we going to roll up our sleeves and we're going to let the guns out. We're going to show them who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) we are.

AIPAC is scared to death.


HUNT: Are they though because, I mean, this looks like a candidate who thinks he might be losing.

GORMAN: No, no, he's going to lose by 20 points, number one. And it's not going to be because of AIPAC. It's because Latimer's been known in the district for 25 years. He's actually run on the issue. I'll give him credit of that. And Massapequa, which is like the -- where Hillary Clinton used to live, and might still live, or Chappaqua, it's - yes, Chappaqua, it - they don't care about this stuff. He's not even in the district when he's saying the stuff.

And Boebert, I think, should be fine. Yes.

DOVERE: Yes, look, four years ago I knocked on the door of Eliot Engel, who was the congressman the Bowman beat. That door was in Maryland. He was hiding out there during Covid and lying about being in his district. That's part of why Bowman won.

Bowman yet -

HUNT: It was specific to that moment in time is what you're saying.

DOVERE: Yes. Right. Yes.

HUNT: Right.

DOVERE: But it was also this feeling the district didn't feel like it was having a good representative in Washington. And Bowman - and when you talk to people about it, this is about Israel for sure and the comments that he's made, but it's also about people feeling like Bowman has been too caught up in some of the larger ideological squad issues. You remember that incident where he pulled the fire alarm and there's a lot of criticism about that.

So, he has created a weakness for himself over years that then groups like AIPAC, but not just AIPAC, have been capitalizing on. I think most people go into tonight expecting that he - it's Latimer's race to lose. We'll see. New York primaries can be a little bit weird. And certainly the New York City Board of Elections has a spotted track record.

HUNT: Yes, we may or may not know tomorrow morning exactly who wins.

Meghan, I mean, will you see this race as we've obviously been talking about the local dynamics of the race? How do you view it in terms of a party that's trying to decide - has a very uneasy alliance right now between its progressive wing and its establishment one?


HAYS: No, I think that this is - this is very implemented (ph) of that, but I also think that this is why we have elections. He no longer is representing the views of his district and they are going to vote and he probably will end up losing his primary. But this is why we have elections. This is important to have primaries.

HUNT: All right, it seems like Bowman may not go back. Boebert, it seems, on track to come back next year.

All right, thanks to our panel for being with us today. Thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.