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Biden, Trump to Face off in Debate Tonight; Report: Abortion Opinion Inadvertently Posted Online. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 27, 2024 - 06:00   ET


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: The stage is set. The day is here. In just 15 hours, Joe Biden and Donald Trump will be squaring off in what could be the most fateful presidential debate in U.S. history.


Good morning, everyone. CNN THIS MORNING is live in Atlanta. It is 6 a.m. here on the East Coast. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

When President Biden and former President Trump take the stage tonight here at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, a sitting president and an ex-president will be debating for the first time ever.

And it is just shy of four years since they last saw each other face- to-face before Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, and in a modern first, Trump refused to stand on stage and hand power to his successor at the inauguration.




ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.


HUNT: Trump, flying away from the White House in his helicopter, leaving Washington for the last time as president.

I remember watching that helicopter fly over us as we stood on the lawn as President Biden was inaugurated. It was happening right at the time, at the same time that Joe Biden was standing on that stage alone.

They're both now trying to return to the Oval Office. And we want to remind you, there is no love lost between these two men. They do not like each other. And tonight, they are going to stand just eight feet apart from each other.

Still, the rules: the candidate's microphone will be turned off if it's not their turn to speak. It may prevent contentious exchanges like this one.


BIDEN: I'm not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he's a liar.


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

TRUMP: You graduated last in your class. I'm first in my class.

BIDEN: Oh, God. I want to make sure.

CHRIS WALLACE, JOURNALIST: Mr. President, can you let him finish, sir?

BIDEN: He doesn't know how to do that.


HUNT: Joining us on this most consequential of days, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston; CNN senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche; the former White House communications director Kate Bedingfield; Jonah Goldberg is the co-founder and editor in chief of "The Dispatch"; and we also have CNN political commentator Shermichael Singleton joining us, as well. Good morning to all of you --


HUNT: -- on what is going to be a very consequential day.

Mark, let me start with you. You are one of the people who work so hard to make days like this come to fruition on behalf of CNN, in addition to all of the editorial work that you do, as well.

The rules, the format are a huge focus, but for a reason. Not necessarily just because -- you know, I'm not focusing on the process here, right? When we -- we're talking about two men who are going to interact with each other that way. How this is actually going to physically play out. They're going to be as -- about as far apart as you and I are right now.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, let me say, I apologize for putting us in this situation today. I take no responsibility for what happens at, like, 10:44 when this debate is over tonight.

You know, this is really going to be interesting, to your point. These are two folks -- often in politics, you will have politicians on opposite ends of the spectrum, you know, challenging each other. But behind the scenes, they can be friendly, right? I mean, there is some comity. We're not going to see that here tonight.

And even though those mics will be -- will be muted, just remember inside the debate stage, they can hear each other. So the question will then be, can, you know, Joe Biden or Donald Trump, if the other one tries to knock them off their game, tries to confuse them a little bit, even though they can't be heard by the viewers, will we see that happen?

HUNT: Yes. Kayla Tausche, take us inside the Biden campaign and the Biden White House on this most consequential day. Which Donald Trump do they expect to show up? And how are they, in particular, considering the rules, thinking about -- and I know this has been part of it -- how to basically provoke the other guy to -- into a moment.


HUNT: That's damaging.

TAUSCHE: Well, I know that in the words of one adviser, expect the unexpected. You have to prepare for every single version of Donald Trump that could potentially be on that stage.

But I know that the rules are figuring prominently in the way that President Biden and his team are preparing. Mark just mentioned that two-minute response time. That has been a big factor in the mock debates, with moderators putting very strict time constraints on the president. They don't want him to get into a situation where he's just about to make a great point, and then the mics go dead and he's not able to get there.


And so they want him to distill that message into a shorter period of time. And that's something that has been a focus for some of these mock debates.

The schedule today, I'm told, is fluid with the potential for one more mock debate before the president and his team come to Atlanta.

And then there's also --

HUNT: He might do an entire mock debate today. And then the debate?

TAUSCHE: I was told last night at 10 p.m. that there's a potential to do another mock debate today.

HUNT: Is that a good idea, Kate? I mean, that's -- normally, candidates are quiet, down, hanging out.

BEDINGFIELD: I think it just depends on how he's feeling. I mean, there's -- you know, if he's feeling energetic, if he's feeling like he wants to go through one more run-through will make him feel calm then, right. It's really, I think -- you just have to gauge where your candidate's energy level is and kind of where their head is.

HUNT: Yes. Jonah Goldberg. And so first of all, there's -- there's three of you sitting with us. In many ways, you represent kind of the three pieces of American political thinking. We were --

BEDINGFIELD: Well, that's frightening.

HUNT: To be clear --


HUNT: We have two Republicans. But as we've seen in the -- in these elections, I mean, these people keep voting for Nikki Haley. Jonah, you have expressed that you're not supportive of Donald Trump. Shermichael previously worked for him.

But -- but Jonah, I just kind of want to go to you on -- in that -- as I'm thinking about this day. And the reality that the three of you kind of represent and underscore, the historic nature of the day can be kind of hard to wrap our heads around.

But in many ways, this was -- election is going to be different from any we have had before. The stakes are, in some ways, very much higher. What is -- what are the stakes on that stage tonight, in your view?

GOLDBERG: Yes. So I'm generally very much a skeptic about the importance of presidential debates. But I actually think this one matters.

I mean, historically, there's a lot of data that show they don't tend to matter that much. They tend to emphasize style, and telegenic stuff over substance. You know, the -- the one that everyone always talks about is Kennedy versus Nixon. And everyone says, well, Kennedy won because he had makeup, and Nixon looked like he woke up in the motel room.

HUNT: Sweat a lot.

GOLDBERG: And -- and like -- it's like, OK, you're making my point. These things emphasize style over substance.

This is about reassuring people for two candidates that people have a lot of misgivings about, right?

For Biden, it's not misgivings necessarily about his character. It's misgivings about his age. It's whether he's up to the job.

And for Trump, it's misgivings about, dear God, are we going to go back to four more years of the kind of chaos and him being in our head space, again? Can I handle that? Can I make peace with that? Or is it going to be four more years of him tweeting like an escaped monkey from a cocaine study.

And so like he --

HUNT: OK, I need to give -- this is why Shermichael is here.

GOLDBERG: He has to -- he has to be reassuring to a certain extent to give people permission to vote against Biden. And whether he can do that or not, I have no idea.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't want to envision that, the cocaine monkey.

Kasie, look, I think the past four years under President Biden, the previous four years under Donald Trump showcase serious disintegration across our country.

And now I think you have a lot of Democrats who aren't enthusiastic about the president. You've got many Republicans who aren't enthusiastic about Donald Trump.

And I think the question tonight is, can either one of these men showcase that, if given an opportunity, they can address some of the most critical issues that most voters are concerned with?

For President Biden, he needs to showcase that he can continue going for another four years. Yes, he may be a little older, but he's seasoned. He's experienced. He knows how to do the job.

For Donald Trump, it's all about the temperament. If people perceive him as being the chaos guy, again, they're going to say, you know what? I'm going to step back, and I'm going to probably give my vote to Donald -- to Joe Biden.

HUNT: Last word, Kate.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. I just think this is also a powerful moment from a media landscape perspective. I mean, so much of this campaign, so much of the way people consume information now is so siloed. You know, you kind of choose where you want to see your candidate and how.

There aren't -- there just aren't that many moments where the two of them are onstage together in a side-by-side comparison. So it's going to be a really powerful, exciting night.

HUNT: You know President Biden very well. How do the personal dynamics of this -- I mean, he does not like Donald Trump.

BEDINGFIELD: He does not.

HUNT: He sees Donald Trump as someone who tried to not just --

BEDINGFIELD: Can confirm.

HUNT: -- steal an election but steal it from him.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. Yes. And -- and fundamentally try to alter the fabric of the American Constitution.

No, he -- he absolutely dislikes Donald Trump.

You know, I think for him, part of -- part of what he's trying to put on display tonight, as we've kind of discussed here, is an energy.

And so in some ways, I think the kind of -- the -- not just the personal animus like, I'm going to go out and try to embarrass Donald Trump, but just kind of feeling a sense of the stakes is a good thing for him. It kind of gives him that extra fire that I think, if it's on display tonight for the American people, will be a good thing for him,

HUNT: All right. Well, we're going to find out soon enough.

All right. Our panel sticks around. Coming up next, a critical Supreme Court ruling on abortion accidentally posted online prematurely.

And the co-chair of the Biden campaign is here to tell us about the president's last-minute strategy for tonight's big debate.



HUNT: There's been, of course, so much attention here in Atlanta for tonight's CNN presidential debate.

We also, though, in Washington, have the Supreme Court set to potentially make major news in just a couple of hours. We are still waiting on several outstanding decisions, including the ruling on Donald Trump's claim of presidential immunity.

That decision could come down today. If it does, that will, of course, be before President Biden and Donald Trump take the stage.

The court is also this morning grappling with an astonishing breach of protocol. According to Bloomberg News, the Supreme Court appears poised to temporarily allow abortions in medical emergencies in Idaho after a document was posted on the court's website and then quickly taken down.

The court has acknowledged inadvertently posting the document. They say that they have not officially rendered a decision in this case.

Our panel is back. And Kate Bedingfield, the abortion decision in question would be a victory for abortion rights supporters. They're, of course, saying, well, this is just a delay of something that they view as a terrible policy.

Because again, we're talking about women going to emergency rooms in Idaho, and they're having medical situations for themselves. Whether or not they can be denied treatment is the question at hand.


HUNT: But let's talk talk about how this issue is or isn't likely to play out on stage tonight. I mean, how much of this do you think is going to be what President Biden is trying to talk about?

BEDINGFIELD: I -- well, I think the abortion issue, writ large, will be a huge piece of what Biden's trying to talk about, because it's an issue where there is a clear through line from Donald Trump having been president of the United States to the situation that we're in now, where women are being denied healthcare across the country.

So it is an incredibly potent argument for him to make about the consequences of Donald Trump presidency. You know, it's a good argument for him to lay at the feet of Donald

Trump, who has tried -- because Trump recognizes this is a political loser for him and for the Republicans. Trump has sort of tried to give, you know, six different answers to this.

But he has bragged about putting the three justices on the court who overturned Roe. And Biden can really be aggressive.

And I also think, you know, this case illustrates -- gives Biden an opportunity to say, you know, we shouldn't be here. We shouldn't be here. And the reason we're here is because of Donald Trump.

So I think this will be very -- this will be very prime target for --

SINGLETON: I agree with Kate. I think that may be one of the more stronger moments for President Biden on this issue.

Republicans have got to figure out a way to change tone on this, Kasie. I've advised a whole bunch of members of Congress, other state legislatures that this issue will continue to cede victory in races that we could potentially win.

And Donald Trump continues to say, well, it should be returned back to the states. Well, that has occurred, and it's not moving in the right direction for Republicans.

And so I've advised his campaign he needs to go further and say states should have referendums. Allow the voters to vote on this issue. Because we've seen in Ohio, we've seen in Kansas, we've seen in Wisconsin, even counties in Kansas, for example, I think 80 percent that went for Trump voted with Democrats to protect reproductive rights.

This is an issue that most Americans do not want government encroachment on, and Republicans need to respect that.

HUNT: Jonah Goldberg, I want to touch briefly on the immunity question here, because the court -- they want to keep a perception that they are above all of the politics, all of the things that we are talking about today.

There is no question in my mind, anyway, that they know what's happening tonight. They can -- they can read the room, so to speak. What do you expect in terms of this immunity decision? And how -- how do you think it's going to impact the race, what we see here tonight, if at all?

GOLDBERG: Yes. So I expect that they're going to get as close to a unanimous decision on this as possible. I can see Thomas maybe dissenting, but that's what Roberts wants to do.

This is an historically unified court, despite all the demagoguery about this court. They've had 49 unanimous decisions so far this year. And the court, I think, is going to claw back a little of Jack Smith's requests. But at the same time, there is no way this court is going to give

Donald Trump what he thinks he can get, which is total and complete immunity to kill all my foes. Right?

Even -- even Trump's lawyers didn't argue that in court. They said there were certain things that he was -- that he was not immune for.

So I think it's going to be -- it's going to be sent back in the lower courts with some instructions maybe to pare it back a little bit. But Jack Smith is going to still be able to prosecute on most of the stuff.

HUNT: Incredibly high-stakes all the way around.

All right. Our panel is back in just a few moments. But coming up next on CNN THIS MORNING, we've got new reporting on how President Biden is preparing to debate with less than 15 hours to go and how each candidate might handle talking about the January 6 Capitol riots at tonight's debate.



HUNT: All right. Later on tonight, President Biden and Donald Trump will be on stage right here in Atlanta on CNN. Unlike any recent debate, there'll be no audience in the room, just the candidates and the moderators.

Kayla Tausche, you have some new reporting this morning about some of the dynamics that the president has been thinking about because of the -- I mean, this is just an incredibly unusual situation. There are questions. Are they going to shake hands?


HUNT: Because of how much they don't like each other. How will each man address the other? What have you learned?

TAUSCHE: Well, there's so much deep dislike between these two presidents that it's hard to imagine what the opening of this debate will look like.

And so in asking about the -- the opening protocols, some of the decorum, the Biden team says that they haven't exactly plotted that out, that it's going to need to be more of a play-by-ear situation.

HUNT: Game-time decision?

TAUSCHE: Game-time decision because in 2020, it was the COVID era. The podiums were socially distanced. We were in a time of fist bumping and testing the entire audience before they could sit there. They all had to be masked.

Now they're going to be a mere eight feet apart. And so how awkward is it to enter the room and to shake his hand or to not shake his hand? That's the thought process that's going through the Biden team.

But certainly, I think there would be some relief in a collective exhale, if there were an opportunity to avoid that interaction altogether.

And then there's the question of how President Biden will address Donald Trump. Back in 2020, there were several moments where he simply just called him Donald.

There was a moment in the second debate where they were talking about abortion. And Biden said that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was on the ballot. And Trump repeatedly interrupted him, despite there being muted mics in that debate.


And he said at one point, "Donald, would you just be quiet?" Sort of a toned-down version of the first debate's "Would you shut up, man?" And at that point, it sort of encapsulated the fact that he was trying to address them in a more diminutive way.

But this time around, there's a difference because of January 6th. And I'm told that there might be some instances where the president finds utility in mentioning that Trump was in the driver's seat on days like January 6th. He had the keys to the castle, and he chose not to do anything.

So there could be some moments where we do see Biden mentioning that Trump was president and that, in that moment, Trump failed the American people in that role. So that's what's a little different about that.

And then there's the question about how he reacts when Trump inevitably goes after his family. That's happened a few times in 2020. Many commentators said that it didn't serve Donald Trump well --

HUNT: Right.

TAUSCHE: -- because it gave Biden some moments that went viral.

And this time around, it's expected to come up again. And one adviser that I spoke to used a Mike Tyson quote to describe the prep in this area, saying, Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

And they wanted to make sure --

HUNT: It's true.

TAUSCHE: -- that Biden had the ability to absorb the first punches in private, to take some of the worst possible comments that could be lobbed at him about his family, and to really think about them and absorb them and then be ready to come back fighting.

HUNT: So that his -- his first punch in the face does not -- is not for all of us to see.

TAUSCHE: Not for millions of people in America to be watching.

HUNT: All right. Panel, join us. I'll be back in just a moment.

But coming up next here, an inside look at Joe Biden's debate strategy with Biden campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond.

Plus, a one-on-one conversation with Republican Congressman Byron Donalds on why he's supporting Donald Trump this November.