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CNN This Morning

Biden And Trump Gear Up For Historic CNN Debate; WSJ Reporter's Espionage Trial Begins Behind Closed Doors; Flood Threat In Upper Midwest, Cooler Temps In Plains & Northeast. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It's Wednesday, June 26th.

Right now on CNN THIS MORNING:

In less than 48 hours, President Biden and Donald Trump face off in a historic debate rematch. New reporting on the rules and the final preparations.

The trial for U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich underway in Russia. We'll be you details from inside the courtroom.

And all eyes on the Supreme Court as the nation waits for ruling on Donald Trump's claim of absolute immunity.


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

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

We're just a day away from the first presidential debate of 2024. It's going to be hosted by CNN at our world headquarters in Atlanta. And its going to be a rematch like no other, the first time in history a sitting president it was debating a former president. The last time either candidate participated in a debate was nearly four years ago and was, of course, against the other.

Both men preparing for Thursday's primetime event in their own ways. President Biden meeting with a team of his closest aides and advisers at Camp David. On Monday, the fourth day of prep, Biden and his team began holding mock debates of different lengths. The source telling CNN of preparations are focused on both subject and stamina.

Donald Trump, taking a less formal approach, conducting numerous interviews over the past several days.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I've been preparing for it for my whole life, if you want to know the truth.

And I'm not sure you can lock yourself into a room for two weeks or one week or two days and really learn what you have to know.


HUNT: And new reporting just into CNN, two sources say President Biden does not plan to use the debate to announce any major policy or personnel changes. Okay.

Joining me now is Reese Gorman. He is politics reporter four "NOTUS". Forgive me if I'm pronouncing that incorrectly.

Reese, good morning. Thank you so much for being here.


HUNT: So this of course, incredibly high stakes moment for both of these men.

They are preparing very much in ways that line up directly with the personality of each. What is your latest reporting on how -- particularly, Trump, I mean, he says he's doing it with these media interviews, but there is more to it going on behind the scenes.

GORMAN: Definitely, yeah, a lot of it is just him just kind of talking to his advisor, just kind of talking about what he's going to say and also just a lot of expectation-setting, trying to get to the point to where people think Joe Biden is a great debater after multiple, kind of the whole year of him trying to say that Joe Biden is the senile old man that can't stand up straight for 90 minutes.

And so, it's a lot of expectations setting. It's a lot of media interviews and it's a lot of him talking with some of his closest advisers. You know, he's worked with Marco Rubio at the RNC. He's done kind of these little mock stub for this advisers, Chris LaCivita, Susie Wiles.

And so, that's kind of really where he's honing in on. And, obviously, he does not do normal debate prep, as Biden is probably doing down at Camp David right now.

HUNT: Right, very traditional when I have covered presidential campaigns in the past, you usually do take a week off the trail to huddle in. If you're the president, it's Camp David. If you are not, it's your favorite vacation locale choice usually.

So, this was what Marc Caputo, reporter with "The Bulwark" reported about this. He writes: "Unlike four years ago, Trump won't be taking the stage while so sick with COVID that he land in the hospital three days later, I had almost forgotten about that reality of this first debate.

The polls essentially tied President Biden, weighed down by four years in the White House and low approval ratings. This from a Trump adviser, I would never say this to him, Trump, but this is a good guardrail to stay on track, said one advisor. He's waited for years for this. It's not going to be an SHT show.

That does seem to be the real question for Donald Trump. Can he stay disciplined?

GORMAN: And obviously, you mean, he tends to go even when he has a teleprompter in front of him, he tends to go off of that a lot of times, add these own rallies and this is going to be no teleprompter. He's going to be next to the man for the first time since their last debate, that he has continuously attacked and ridiculed on the campaign trail.


And so, that is a big question. Will he be able to stay disciplined? His advisers sure seem to think that he will be able to, but obviously, when you put Trump in a room with Joe Biden? You don't know what's going to happen.

HUNT: You really don't.

So our Maggie Haberman was on last night, "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman, but she also works for us here at CNN. We're very lucky to have her.

She talked a little bit about the moment from 2020, where Donald Trump talked about the Biden family, talked about Hunter Biden and obviously his struggles with drug addiction. So I want to remind him, play that moment about Hunter and then kind of her analysis of it. I thought was interesting.

Let's watch first that moment and then Maggie,


TRUMP: Are you talking Hunter, are you talking about Hunter?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm talking about my son, Beau Biden, you're talking about Hunter?

TRUMP: I don't know Beau. I know Hunter. Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out dishonorably discharged --

BIDEN: That's not true he wasn't dishonorably discharged.

TRUMP: -- for cocaine use.

BIDEN: My son -- like a lot of people. Like a lot of people we know at home had a drug problem. He's overtaken it. He's -- he's fixed it. He's worked on it. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of my son.

TRUMP: But why was he given tens --

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Inevitably, when the question of Trump's criminal conviction comes up, there is a real chance Trump is then going to turn it around about Hunter Biden. Trump is aware that his -- his own attacks on Hunter Biden in that first debate in 2020, humanized President Biden. It basically gave President Biden an opportunity to say, my son is an addict and he has a struggle that a lot of Americans have, and Trump came off looking incredibly mean and belittling.


HUNT: So again, this question about if Trump decides to go there, how that might present an opportunity for the sitting president?

GORMAN: A hundred percent, and especially now -- I mean, Hunter Biden has been convicted on these federal gun charges. And so I mean, you've seen -- I mean, he was on the tarmac up in I think it was Wilmington like with Biden when he's get off the plane. So I think there's definitely these things that could definitely humanize Joe Biden, as just the father figure of this person that loves his family.

If Trump does say go off too hard about it, especially with his own conviction of themselves, where it's kind of would be a little pot and kettle situation.

HUNT: Yeah. For President Biden here, the reporting we have this morning is one of the things are practicing here is stamina and this, of course, again, the bar for what voters are looking for in this debate is which one of these men is capable of doing the job of the presidency. They are not that far apart in age, but are polls show perceptions that President Biden comes across -- it's a bigger problem for President Biden.

What does it say to you that the stamina aspect of this is something that they're working on?

GORMAN: I think it definitely is telling. I mean, you saw that the State of the Union, it was very long State of the Union. He was able to stand up and kind of did this kind of really strong speech for the entirety of the program.

When then this also made the Trump campaign is focusing on, I mean, they held a press call yesterday with Jason Miller said that just because Joe Biden can stand up for 90 minutes does not mean he should get a participation trophy. And this is part of the expectation that they're setting too, where they're trying to say that just because Biden does do this is not mean that he won the debate or whatever the they expect that he should be able to do this.

But I think it is telling that Biden was obviously -- this will be the longest televised event that he really has done since State of the Union. And you will see that he is so going to be the most intense because here is actually debating his opponent.

HUNT: Yeah, it -- these moments are always incredibly high-stakes, this one.

Something about this -- this one makes it particularly so. Reese, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate you being here.

GORMAN: Thanks for having me. HUNT: All right. Coming up next, charged with espionage. A U.S. reporter on trial right now in Russia.

Plus, a major hit to the squad. Jamaal Bowman losing his seat in the House.

Plus, protests in Kenya turning deadly. That's coming up in our morning roundup.



HUNT: All right, welcome back.

"Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, facing a closed-door trial in Russia this morning on espionage charges. The 32-year-old has been imprisoned since last March, when he was on assignment. The charges have been denied by the U.S. government and his employer is calling it a sham trial.

"The Wall Street Journal's" editor in chief published a letter Tuesday that reads in part, quote: It will be held in secret. No evidence has been unveiled, and we already know the conclusion. This bogus accusation of espionage will inevitably lead to a bogus conviction for an innocent man who would then face up to 20 years in prison for simply doing his job.

CNN's Max Foster joins us live now from London.

Max, good morning to you.

The State Department has said that these allegations against Gershkovich have absolutely zero credibility. The bottom line here, "The Journal" seems to be correct that we know what's going to happen next.

I mean, what are the chances that were going to get Evan Gershkovich back on U.S. soil?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: The problem is we just don't know enough about the trial. Obviously, this is national secrecy. He said explaining that they can't let in the number of people who might normally be allowed in. So there won't be any U.S. embassy staff or other people to represent him. He's going to be in there pretty much on his own, so we don't know whether or not it'll be a fair trial because you don't have those -- you know, independent arbiters in supporting his point of view.

So we don't really know what sort of fair trial it's going to be. I think "The Wall Street Journal", I think the U.S. government clearly thinks this is a bit of a setup and setup suggests that he will be found guilty.


But we can't see all the evidence because of the nature of the trial. So we just don't know what evidence there is or whether it'll be fair.

HUNT: So, Max, Tucker Carlson, of course, you may remember sat down with Russian President Putin. A lot -- a lot to be said about that, generally speaking, but I want to show you this for the sake of hearing what Vladimir Putin has to say about Evan Gershkovich. Let's watch.


TUCKER CARLSON, TELEVISION HOST: And I just want to ask you directly without getting into details of it or your version of what happened, if as a sign of your decency, you'd be willing to release him to us and well bring him back to the United States?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have done so many gestures out of goodwill, out of decency that I think we have run out of them.


HUNT: We have run out of them. This, of course, takes place in the very nuanced and difficult back-and-forth around trading of prisoners of various types and kinds. Obviously, Brittney Griner was one that the U.S. was able to bring back, perhaps Putin is referring to this.

But it does seem certainly that before the election, it's very unlikely any of this moves. No?

FOSTER: Well, you know, he -- Putin has suggested that there could be trade here of all prisoners. The problem is, America doesn't have any Russian prisoners to trade and he's been quite transplant about this, President Putin, I think it was in the same interview where he suggested was talking about Gershkovich and U.S. prisoners in Russia, that there was a prisoner in Germany that he'd be interested in possibly doing some sort of trade with.

Of course that is under German jurisdiction. So Americas in this very difficult position, if it does want to negotiate some sort of release for him, they're going to have to work with other countries such as Germany to find someone to trade with.

So it's a very difficult position for the United States. But clearly there is an opportunity there because president has suggested it.

HUNT: Yeah. All right. Max Foster for us this morning -- Max, always grateful to have you. Thank you so much all right.

All right. Coming up next here. Catastrophic flooding in the Midwest and the rivers are still swelling.

Plus, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange freed. That's next in your morning round up.


[05:22:00] HUNT: All right, 21 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning round up.

In just minutes, Julian Assange will land in Australia as a free man. The WikiLeaks founder avoiding jail time in the U.S. by agreeing to plead guilty to a felony charge for his role in one of the largest government breaches of classified material ever. Assange is expected to hold a press conference in just hours.

Kenya in the grip of violent nationwide protests against proposed tax hikes. Yesterday, protesters stormed parliament and at least five people were shot and killed. Kenya's president says the demonstrations are treasonous. President Obama's half sister took part in those processes tests and was one of many who was tear-gassed by police.

Ice cream products from brands like Friendly's and Hershey's are being recalled. A listeria outbreak at the manufacturing plant being blamed for it.

The recall involves about a dozen brands and at this point, no illnesses have been reported.

All right. Time now for whether this morning. Flood threats across the Upper Midwest after days of heavy rains saturate the ground, swell rivers across the region, and some relief in sight as a cold front is set to bring cooler temperatures to the Central Plains and the Northeast.

Our meteorologist Allison Chinchar tracking all of it for us.

Allison, I don't think I've been ever been happier to read a sentence. Then it's going to get cooler here in the Northeast. What do we know?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I was going to say you and millions of other people -- yes, exactly. So we start with the flooding because this is not one of the situations that just goes away very quickly. We've had a tremendous amount of water and it takes time for that water to recede. And in the case of rivers, creeks, and streams, it takes time to even flow downstream.

So right now a lot of those river gauges that are at the moderate and even major flood stage each are farther to the north, but all of that water is eventually going to flow south. So you're going to start to see some of even those river gauges begin to tick back up in the coming days. Take for example, the Mississippi river at St. Paul. You can see here that river continuing to rise and it's expected to keep going up really not even peaking until we actually get to this weekend.

One thing to note, though, drier weather is in the forecast today, because this cold front is starting to slide farther south and east as it does, it's going to bring the potential for severe storms to several different areas, including the Northeast, the Ohio valley, and portions of the south. We are still looking at severe thunderstorm warning in effect for at least a couple more hours across these areas as this line of systems continues to make its way through. The potential today for small hail. You could also have some damaging winds and even some tornadoes. Is that front slide through? But the key thing as that front slide through is its going to be dropping those temperatures back.

Take for example, New York going from the high today of 92. So you're still going to have one more very warm day dropping back to 83 tomorrow, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, even Boston, all looking at those temperatures to come back down once we get to the next 24 hours.

So you just got to make it through today and then well finally start to see some relief. Different story however, in the south. It's going to be a little bit more delayed. So you've still got a lot of these heat advisories and excessive heat watches and warnings things here.

Few more days, especially Dallas looking at triple digits through the end of this week.


HUNT: All right. Allison Chinchar for us -- Allison, thanks very much for that update. I really appreciate it.

All right. Coming up next here, we are on Supreme Court watch waiting for a possible ruling on Donald Trump's claim of absolute immunity.

And the squad takes a big hit.


HUNT: All right. Just before.