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Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) is Interviewed about the Biden Campaign; Trump and Biden to Clash on Capitol Assault; Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) is Interviewed about the Debate. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 27, 2024 - 06:30   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Not at all. Mr. Trewhitt and I - and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: So, tonight is not going to be the first time that age will be front and center at a presidential debate, but it's the first time that we're going to see the issue hang over both candidates, 81-year-old Joe Bidens, 78-year-old Donald Trump.

It is, however, of particular concern for President Biden. Polls show that age is consistently a top concern for voters about him. And with millions expected to tune in tonight, it's not only going to be Biden's biggest opportunity to showcase vigor and stamina if he can, it's also his best moment to communicate the message that those around him have been trying to emphasize in the leadup to the debate.


JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: This election is most certainly not about age. Joe and that other guy are essentially the same age. Let's not be fooled. But what this election is about, it's about the character of the person leading our country.


HUNT: And joining me now is Biden campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond.

Cedric, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA), BIDEN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Thanks for having me. HUNT: How do you expect President Biden is going to take this head-on with the first real moment where millions of Americans are going to be tuned in?

RICHMOND: Well, I think he's going to do his best and I think he's going to show to the American people the differences between the two candidates.

And it's not about age, it's about the ideas. It's about the vision. It's about who cares for who. Donald Trump wakes up every morning trying to figure out how to benefit Donald Trump. President Biden wakes up every morning worrying about the American people, how to fight inflation, how to help the economy, all of those things that are facing the American people. And I think you're going to see that tonight.

HUNT: Of course, the Trump campaign has been reprising something that they've used in 2016 and 2020 by preemptively suggesting that there will be substances enhancing President Biden's performance tonight.

How do you - I mean even one congressman said, oh, he's going to be doing Mountain Dew. How do you respond to that?

RICHMOND: Well, I was in Congress when Donald Trump was president. He lied 20,000 times. So, this is just par for the course of former President Trump and his backers. And so you will see President Biden, you will see his character. And no matter how calm former President Trump is, it won't stop the fact that he will continue to make up stuff and he will continue to make it all about himself. And I think people are going to see that.

HUNT: So, Byron Donalds is a Trump supporter who has been working on an outreach to the black community. And he held an event here in Atlanta where President Trump called in. And I know the Biden campaign responded to this last night. I'm hoping to get your personal take on it.

Let's just show what happened, how the former president, Donald Trump, spoke at this event. Let's listen.



DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Since that happened, the black support - I think my representatives will tell you this - the black support has gone through the roof.


TRUMP: And I guess they equate it to problems that they've had. But since this has happened, like the mug shot, that's the number one mug shot of all time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: He's of course, talking about his criminal conviction. Your response.

RICHMOND: I think it's absolute foolishness, but it's typically, Donald Trump. African American, especially African American men, do not gravitate to you because you are a convicted felon. It's - what black men care about is the economic prosperity and opportunity that they have in their community and what's going to help them support a family, what's going to help them with entrepreneurship.

So, while Donald Trump talks about, oh, black men are going to like me because I'm a convicted felon, I have a mug shot, I sell cheap gold tennis shoes. President Biden is going to reiterate that unemployment in the black community is at an all-time low. Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. He's closed the racial wealth gap, the closest it's ever been. And so that's what you will see. And I think that that's one of the greatest examples of how the two individuals approach things.

Again, this is about Donald Trump. Hey, I'm a convicted felon, so black men are going to like me. And President Biden, who says, I want to empower black men. I want to help them create businesses. I want to help them achieve their wildest dreams and create and amass all the wealth they can. And I think that's a clear difference.

HUNT: Do you think that President Biden should call Donald Trump a convicted felon on stage tonight?

RICHMOND: Well, he has before. And, look, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck. He's a convicted felon, and that's just who he is.

And, by the way, he's a twice-impeached convicted felon. And so, it wasn't Joe Biden that did that. It was 12 American patriots who served as jurors that found him guilty, unanimously, on 34 counts. And so I'm not sure if the president will or not, but I certainly will. He's a convicted felon.

HUNT: So, one of the things we've been talking about as well this morning is the degree of personal animosity and how each one of these candidates are going to deal with the other as they take the stage for the first time since they last met on a debate stage. President - then President Trump did not attend President Biden's inauguration.

Should President Biden shake Donald Trump's hand? Does he deserve that?

RICHMOND: Well, that's up to President Biden. And I'm sure there's no love loss there. I wouldn't shake his hand. I was in the Capitol when he sent insurrectionist, the Proud Boys and others to the Capitol chanting "hang Mike Pence," looking for Leader Pelosi. All of those things. I was there that day. And because of that, I don't think I would.

But President Biden has consistently - he rises above pettiness, unlike Donald Trump. So, I would leave that up to him. But what I've been through with the former president, I certainly would not.

HUNT: All right, Cedric Richmond, co-chair of the Biden campaign, sir, very grateful for your time this morning. Thank you very much.

RICHMOND: Thanks for having me.

HUNT: Good luck tonight.

All right, there is one issue that is certain - and we were just talking about it - to come up tonight, that Biden and Trump could not discuss the last time that they debated, and that was the events of January 6th. And these two men could not look at this day any more differently.

Donald Trump has been consistently portraying convicted rioters, insurrectionists, as heroes.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They ought to release the J6 hostages. They've suffered enough. They ought to release them.

I call them hostages. Some people call them prisoners. I call them hostages. Released the J6 hostages, Joe. Release them, Joe. You can do it real easy, Joe.


HUNT: The Biden camp has been preparing to challenge Trump on the role that he played in the Capitol riot. They just put out this ad ahead of tonight's debate.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should have been stopped. That's neglect of duty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) we're storming the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a sheriff, it's awful to watch police officers getting attacked. That's not supporting this badge and this uniform. I have no desire to work with somebody who divides. That's not what America is, but I'll work with anybody who unites.


HUNT: Remarkable. I want to remind everyone something that - that got us to that day, to that riot at the Capitol building. And it was a moment from a debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden when Donald Trump was pressed to condemn the white nationalist Proud Boys, who then were at the Capitol on that day, and many of them are currently involved in prosecutions around it. Let's watch that moment.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace.

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR: Well, then do it, sir.

TRUMP: I'm -



Do it. Say it.

TRUMP: You want to call them - what do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name. Go ahead. Who would you like me to condemn? Who -

WALLACE: White supremacists and right - white supremacists and right- wing militia.

BIDEN: The Proud Boys.

TRUMP: The Proud Boys. Stand back and stand by.


HUNT: Jonah Goldberg.


Look, I think Donald Trump disqualified himself from public life, never mind public office, by screwing up our ability to talk about the peaceful transfer of power. And I think it is - it should be a non- starter as an argument. I think Donald Trump had a lot of better policies than Joe Biden, but that alone seems to me sort of the end - the debate ender.

Unfortunately, it's not a debate ender for everybody. And I think it's the kind of thing I think -- I don't think Joe Biden is very effective when he talks about threats to democracy. It sounds too self-serving. But just letting the videos run and letting surrogates do it, I think is very effective at the margins. And that's what's going to get - going to carry - decide this election is voters at the margins.

HUNT: Shermichael Singleton, Donald Trump has handled this at rallies in a way that is very focused on his MAGA base. He is playing - he plays a version of the "Star Spangled Banner" -


HUNT: Where, at the beginning of the rally, it says please rise for the January 6th hostages. Not the American flag. In fact, yes, if we have it, let - let's play it and just remind people that this is - there are a lot of people that are going to be tuning in for the first time tonight to this election. Many people have been tuned out. They may not have seen - this is what Donald Trump does on the campaign trail.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the horribly at unfairly treated. January 6th hostages.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The spirit from the hostages, and that's what they are is hostages. They've been treated terribly.


HUNT: Shermichael, there he was saluting the people that ransacked the United States Capitol -


HUNT: Chanted "hang Mike Pence." When it comes to this debate tonight, is that the person -

SINGLETON: I hope not.

HUNT: That they want the American people to see?

SINGLETON: I really hope not. I mean, again, this election is going to be won or lost on the margins. And I was on Capitol Hill during January 6th. This makes a lot of people very uncomfortable, Kasie. Even many Republicans just simply do not like this.

I think if you're Donald Trump, the base that may enjoy those sort of theatrical, if you will, at a campaign rally, they're going to remain with Donald Trump. He needs to figure out a way to talk directly to the American people and acknowledge there were a lot of people who did some really horrible and despicable things on that day. Now, will he do that? Probably not. But I think he needs to be careful and not do what we just saw in that clip.

HUNT: Yes.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, we talk about the margins. I mean Jonah talked about it and Shermichael did as well, and they're absolutely right. And, you know, tomorrow morning, the nation, the world will be talking about this debate. But the reality is, the election's going to really be decided in just a handful of states. So, the margins are even smaller than the national margin. We're talking about the margins in states like Georgia, where we're sitting right now, Wisconsin, maybe Nevada, you know? Certainly by North Carolina. So, these margins are really tight.

And even though we're going to be talking about issues tonight, there will be issues. That's going to be the baseline of the debate. The reality is, is Joe Biden going to come with a strong performance, an energetic performance, or whatever you want to call it, enough that people are going to have confidence, is Donald Trump, as we keep on saying, you know, is he going to go off the rails and people are going to be scared.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well - yes, well, look, I think Joe Biden is incredibly animated by this argument. I mean he is somebody who truly views what Donald Trump did in aiding and abetting January 6th as a threat at to our country moving forward. So, it's an argument that he is personally animated on. I think he will be ready to engage and to push Trump.

I mean if you - actually watching that clip, you know, Chris Wallace is pushing Trump and saying white supremacist. It's actually Joe Biden who says Proud Boys and gets Donald Trump to say, Proud Boys, all right, stand back and stand by.

So, you know, I think Biden will be aggressive at getting Trump to respond to the specifics of what he's done. And I also think, you know, there's kind of this received wisdom that, you know, this is an argument that elites care about. It's not really an argument that voters care - do they, you know, do they think about January 6th in the same way? And I think that they do. I think there is a fundamental rejection of the idea that America is no longer a place where there's a peaceful transfer of power.

I don't think swing voters are sitting around talking about it in constitutional terms. But I do think they say, that's not America. That's not what we do. And I think there's some power in .

GOLDBERG: So, I - just very quickly. I think there's one way for Biden that he could get - be effective about this, is this - call the utter BS of calling these people hostages. All of these people had legal representation. They had facts and evidence brought in court, and they were tried and convicted in court. They're not hostages. And it is a grotesque slander on the American criminal justice system to call them that.


HUNT: Kayla, you wanted to jump in as she was talking about how President Biden may approach this.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm just curious, Kate, how you think President Biden can change the message so that it actually resonates with voters because he's given no fewer than four speeches on this topic, on democracy, different backdrops, whether its Independence Hall, the University of Arizona, Union Station, various times of day, where he has tried to get this message across to the American people to help them understand the urgency of the situation. It didn't resonate then, but why do you think it will now?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, it - it resonated in 2022. I mean it was - Democrats had a much better than expected midterms, in part on the back of that argument. I mean Joe Biden delivered that speech on democracy a week or two before the election in the fall of 2022. And in a lot of the data post-election, people said, my concerns about democracy were a big driver for me going out to vote.

So, I think there's - there is evidence that, in fact, it is landing with some of those swing voters. And so I think I - he absolutely has to make an aggressive case tonight. He has to - he has to be putting Donald Trump on the defensive. And that will be his task tonight, to put Donald Trump on his heels on this.

HUNT: All right, Kayla Tausche, thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it.

TAUSCHE: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, the rest of the panel will be back in just a few minutes.

But up next here, the rules that will make tonight's CNN presidential debates so unique.

Plus, Trump backer, ally Byron Donalds, joins us live. The Florida congressman will tell us what he thinks Donald Trump has to do tonight for his campaign.



HUNT: Welcome back to CNN THIS MORNING.

Donald Trump will be back in Georgia today for the first presidential debate right here on CNN. This is a state that he lost by less than one percentage point in 2020 and it's also where he now faces criminal charges - it's actually in this very county - for his efforts to overturn his election loss four years ago.

And as Trump looks to try to sway voters in the battleground - this battleground state, the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, had this advice for him last night.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): I think former President Trump has a great opportunity to really be forward-thinking, not look in the rear-view mirror, not focused on the past, but stay focused on the future. Contrast -


HUNT: Joining me now is Florida Republican Congressman Byron Donalds, a top supporter of Donald Trump's in November.

Congressman, thank you very much for being here.

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): Good to be with you.

HUNT: So, let me start right there with what the governor said. He urged President Trump to be forward looking and to not be focused on the past. Do you expect that's what we'll see from the former president's tonight?

DONALDS: I do. You know, if you've been on the trail with the president, I've been on the trail with him, if you listen to everything that he says, he's been talking a lot, significantly a lot about what's going on in our country, inflation, the border, foreign policy, all the issues that really matter to the American people, our economy being able to grow and thrive, people being - being able to get ahead. That's been his focus.

Of course he'll talk about what happened in lower Manhattan. He'll might talk - still talking about 2020. But the focus has been the future for the American people and the reason why we must have a change in the White House from Joe Biden to Donald Trump.

HUNT: So, you were actually hosting an event on behalf of the president in Atlanta here and he called in to the event. And you, of course, are trying to work on generating support especially among blacks, black men, for the former president.

I want to just play for our audience who may have not seen it what the former president had to say.


HUNT: Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Since that happened, the black support, I think my representatives will tell you this, the black support has gone through the roof.


TRUMP: And I guess they equate it to problems that they've had. But since this has happened, like the mug shot, that's the number one mug shot of all time.


HUNT: So he, of course, was talking about his criminal conviction. Cedric Richmond of the Biden campaign was just here. He called that absolute foolishness.

What did you make of the president's comments there? Is President Trump right?

DONALDS: Well, look, I will tell you what he was responding to was I think the gentleman that was to my right in that shot. He's the one that brought it up and said that, yes, in Atlanta here and a lot of places around the country, but specifically in Atlanta, there were black men who said, wow, they're going after Donald Trump? Well, let me look into this more. I mean, honestly, how bad can he be if they're going after him like this?

What happened in lower Manhattan was a -

HUNT: What do you mean, how bad can it be is -

DONALDS: What happened in lower Manhattan was a violation of his constitutional rights. Alvin Bragg and Judge Merchan never even allowed any original indictment, what the underlying crime is. The jury pool did not have to agree on what the criminal - what the criminal law was to find him guilty. Even the Supreme Court has just came back in another case a few weeks ago and said that juries are not allowed to do that. You have to agree on an element of a crime. That did not happen in lower Manhattan.

People are watching what happened. They see the unfairness. They see that it is political because even that charge, you talk to legal scholars, that charge has never been brought against anybody, would never be brought against anybody except Donald Trump. So, I think when you - and I want to make this point is just clear.

HUNT: Yes. Yes.

DONALDS: When you - when we're looking at the justice system, we all agree nobody's above the law, but Donald Trump's not below the law either. And I think that you do have black men in particular, but men, other people, women in our country who saw what happened there and they say, man, this is political. This is not fair. And so, why are we trying to criminalize Donald Trump simply because he's running for president? Thats not right. The American people, I think, agree with that.

HUNT: Yes, all I was going to say was, you know, apart from - there are a lot of argument - you know, our lawyers have had all the arguments about the specifics of the case, but the sentiment that you're - that you are getting at, you do believe that there is an identification among the black community the way he said because of this?


DONALDS: I don't believe it. I've heard it from people in my - in my travels through the country, here in Atlanta. I've heard it again yesterday. There are people who are saying, this is not right.

So, if they're going to go after him like that, well, frankly, what else is he trying to do for the country, because then they're listening to what he's talking about. What it means to actually have a growing economy, getting inflation under control, building generational wealth for families. They're listening to his message, in part because of what's happened through these criminal proceedings.

I think if you were to ask Democrats today, they would admit that this lawfare strategy has backfired against them.

HUNT: Congressman, we were talking earlier in the show about January 6th -

DONALDS: Yes. HUNT: And how this is the first time that these two men will confront each other face-to-face in the wake of that. And we showed some of the footage from Donald Trump's rallies. He calls those who have been convicted or, you know, jailed because of their roles, hostages. Do you think he should call them hostages on the stage tonight? Is that a message for the millions of Americans that are going to be perhaps tuning into this race for the first time?

DONALDS: Well, look, I'm not going to speak to what he's going to say on a stage. I've heard him say a lot of different things about some of the January 6th detainees, some of which are still sitting in a D.C. jail, still haven't been afforded their day in court. If you talk to those inmates and all the things that have happened to them, the fact that their - their legal - they've been investigating their case, trying to get legal writings to their attorneys, that stuff was taken from them in a D.C. jail, a violation of constitutional rights.

The fact that you had the U.S. attorney in D.C., who's using an obscure law and charging it up massively to try to get the maximum amount of jail time for people who - and I'm not talking about the people who were fighting with police officers, I'm not talking about that, I'm not talking about people who were breaking windows, I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about people who were at the Capitol, or might be walking through the Capitol.

I was on the floor that day. January 6th was a very tough day for our country. I fully acknowledge that. I was there. But at the same time, we're going to go back to the justice system. It's got to be fair and evenhanded. We've got to be consistent with the rule of law, the application of law. And there is a legitimate argument that the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia has simply overcharge people who were on Capitol Hill on January 6th. Meanwhile, other violent crime in Washington, D.C., is either not being prosecuted or they are decreasing the charge. That's not right.

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

DONALDS: Thank you.

HUNT: I really appreciate it.

All right, the rules for tonight's debate could play a pretty significant role in how this plays out. There's going to be no audience in the studio for the 90-minute debate. The candidates will have two minutes for their answers and a minute for rebuttal or follow up questions. And each candidate's microphone will be turned on only when it is their turn to speak. A green light on each of the podiums will let the candidates know when their microphone is live.

We want to show you exactly what that will look and sound like.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So, let's say I'm answering a question. My light is green and I'm speaking. Phil's microphone is off, and his green lights are not illuminated. He's going to interrupt me as I'm speaking. And this is what it will sound like. My volume remains constant while Phil's interruption can be difficult to understand.


HUNT: Oh, poor Phil Mattingly. It is important to note that CNN shared that demonstration and all the rules with the campaign teams and both sides did agree to them.

Mark Preston, I'm actually really interested to know kind of how this came about and sort of - because obviously these - these are very careful negotiations.


HUNT: I know you can't share a lot of the details. But the reality is that, you know, Donald Trump really came across the first debate of 2020, a lot of people will look at that and say, he hurt himself because of all the ways he was able to interrupt President Biden.

Is there a chance that - I mean, I think there had been this perception that the Trump team was unhappy with this. That seems to be shifting a little bit.

PRESTON: You know, look, I think that the Trump team certainly doesn't want Donald Trump to come out, like Shermichael says, at the end and just takes the train off the rails and it burns - you know, burns up in flames.

However, having said that, I think -

HUNT: That's an image.

PRESTON: I do think that either candidate, with the rules in place, and they do need to be in place otherwise we're not going to hear anything, there is an - there is an opportunity to interrupt, to knock somebody off balance, make them not look as good on TV.

HUNT: Yes. What - Kate.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. I mean, I think Joe Biden's task, regardless, tonight is to drive the conversation to the places he wants it to go, the places where Donald Trump is politically vulnerable. I think - I'm somebody who thinks that the mic being muted probably does accrue to Trump's benefit if he's trying to be the more restrained version of himself.

HUNT: If we can get a wide shot. All the heads are nodding up here.

BEDINGFIELD: But he doesn't - yes, see they're all agreeing with my incredibly - my incredibly safe point.

HUNT: Continue. BEDINGFIELD: But - but I actually - but, fundamentally, it doesn't change Joe Biden's task, which is, again, to try to put Donald Trump on the defensive on the things where he's vulnerable and to show the country that he would be a dangerous and unfit option for a second term. So, you know, whether - what that means stylistically for Trump and for Biden, we'll see tonight, but I think Biden's task remains the same regardless.

HUNT: We've got 30 seconds. Quick last point.

GOLDBERG: Yes. No, I agree with that.


The downside is, Trump could get all the benefits from interrupting Biden without any of the detriments by not being seen interrupting Biden.

HUNT: Yes. Shermichael.

SINGLETON: Look, no audience benefits Trump because he lives and breathes off of the audience reaction. I think this is going to be a good night for him.

HUNT: Yes, the audience, we haven't actually dug in too much to the fact that there is not going to be an audience tonight. Really going to change - I mean it's the first time in years, decades.

PRESTON: In years. Yes, although I will say the CPD debates, they had an audience, but they were just potted plants. I mean so not like they actually participated in the debate. No disrespect to the CPD. Just telling the truth.

BEDINGFIELD: Yes. Well, and, ultimately your - your audiences is the television audience that you're (INAUDIBLE).

PRESTON: Yes, exactly.

BEDINGFIELD: The only one.

HUNT: It's really the only one that matters. I mean you're in the hall. Your perception of actually how it plays, it's - it's really muted.

All right, thank you very much to our panel.

Thanks to all of you for joining us on this incredibly consequential day. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere, "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.