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Mitch Landrieu is Interviewed about the Presidential Debate; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is Interviewed about the Debate; Michael Smerconish is Interviewed about the Presidential Debate. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 06:30   ET



JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Would ask - he said that Joe Biden was the person to (ph) call super predator. And we know that was Hillary Clinton - that was an attack by Hillary Clinton from a long time ago.


SIMMONS: So, he didn't have a great debate performance. It's just that he's being overshadowed by the president.

HUNT: What are you going to do.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much for being - I know you were up really late last night, so really appreciate you being here this morning.


HUNT: All right, coming up next here.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe, our country is being destroyed as you and I sit up here and waste a lot of time on this debate.


HUNT: More of the good, the bad, and the ugly from last night's CNN presidential debate.

Plus, we'll be joined by the co-chair of the Biden campaign and a frontrunner to be Trump's vice presidential pick, ahead.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two-thirds of Americans in exit polls say that they don't think you should run for re-election. What is your message to them? And how does that factor into your final decision about whether or not to run for re-election?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your message to them? To those two-thirds of Americans -

BIDEN: Watch me.


HUNT: Watch we did, along with the millions of Americans who tuned in to CNN last night for the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The reaction was swift, and it was clear. Biden's shaky debate performance was incredibly concerning for people who would like to see him get re-elected.


A CNN instant poll found that 57 percent of debate viewers said that they had no confidence in Biden's ability to lead the country. Members of a voter focus group telling CNN this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that his mental acuity is a lot better than Biden's. Biden seems to be very tired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm conservatives he was hesitant. Very not cognitive. Seemed like his data, he was missing his numbers. So, very concerning. That's somebody I don't think that needs to lead our country.


HUNT: All right, joining me now to discuss is Mitch Landrieu. He is the National Biden Campaign Co-Chair, and of course, the former Mayor of New Orleans.

Mr. Mayor, good morning to you. I want to start with what --

MITCH LANDRIEU. (D) FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Hey, how are you. Nice to see you.

HUNT: I want to start with what those voters had to say. What do you say to them this morning?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, the president started off slow last night. There's no question about that. And with the two clips that you showed taken out of context, when Joe Biden said, watch me, he said, watch my performance.

And nothing that happened last night has changed the fact that Joe Biden passed four the biggest pieces of legislation that was seen that created 15 million jobs, the lowest unemployment rate, high wages and an economy that's off the charts and the way that he's going to attack bringing costs down.

You will spend the whole day with all of your colleagues talking about the style of the debate last night. But one of the things that is really clear is that last night when Donald Trump was talking, basically everything that he said was a lie and they were malevolent lies.

And I think there were two people on that stage last night. My best bet is in a couple of days, we're going to find out that when the public watches that debate and the media fact checks with Donald Trump said, if he wasn't lying, he was doubling down on the most incredible policies that he has. Like, for example, he doubled down on election denial. He doubled down on how happy he was to reverse Roe versus Wade --


HUNT: Sir, with all due respect --

LANDRIEU: Let me finish. Let me finish --


HUNT: Why didn't President Biden say these things on stage last night? That's my question.

LANDRIEU: Let me -- well, I think he tried to do that. But again, as we -- as we sit here and talk about the dog race, about who won the debate and who didn't, Donald, -- the president might have lost the debate on style, but he won it on facts. He won it on decency. And he won it on the ideas that people think are important in the country.

I don't think that you can call the debate as a great time for President Biden. I think he had a rough time last night. There's no question about it.

But throughout the debate, trying to listen to Donald Trump talk was painful for me because there was no fact checking that went on. And literally, he doubled down on everything that made people think that he was a terrible president the first time he was in office.

HUNT: Sir, do you feel at all misled by Democrats very close to President Biden who have insisted that there has been no change in this man over the course of the last two years that would impact his ability to serve another four years?

LANDRIEU: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I served with President Biden for two years and I saw him on a regular basis. And the Joe Biden that I saw, the Joe Biden that I work with and the Joe Biden that is still with us today is a guy that gets up every day thinking about how to help other people.

He's 81 years old. Donald Trump is 77. So you had a guy last night that was 81 that had a difficult time and you had a guy that was 77 that lied in his -- and when he spoke the truth, he was speaking malevolent truth. That's the choice that the country has.

And so, you know, you can -- you can -- you can judge the debate on style, if you want. I think when people get a little bit clearer from this, they're going to see that Donald Trump last night actually was unhinged as he's indicated that he's going to be and he's going to double down on the policies he had when he was president four years ago, which were not good for the country.

HUNT: Sir, do you think Democrats should consider replacing Joe Biden at the top of the presidential ticket? I've had several raised the possibility privately in conversations.

LANDRIEU: Well, this is a conversation that's been going on for the past two and a half years. It's not likely to happen again. I think as the dust clears on this thing, this campaign still got four months to go.

And I think that Joe Biden is going to be the nominee. And I think Donald Trump's going to be the nominee. And the choice is going to be between a guy that fights for people and tries to lift people up and another guy that wants to rip this country apart and pull it up from its roots.

HUNT: Do you think that there should be people around President Biden trying to have candid conversations with him? Because it does seem from all of our reporting that it's him and also Jill Biden who have said, we're not going to back away from this. You know, we played what he had to say in 2022, those midterm wins.

Well, at least the lack of a sweeping red wave in the midterm elections did give Joe Biden a boost. It quieted a lot of this chatter, but it has just exploded. I mean, what does the president need to do to quiet it down?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, he's going to be in North Carolina today. He's going to be campaigning, as you know, and you guys have watched him. He's been campaigning in all of the swing states, and he's going to be out there today.

So when the President says to watch me, what the president says is watch me perform. One of the things the President did say last night that you may have missed was that 40 of Donald Trump's cabinet secretaries and people that have worked for him are now not endorsing Donald Trump, and they're begging the country not to support him again.


The other thing he said that you might have missed is that Donald Trump is a convicted felon. He's also been found liable for sexual abuse. He's also gone bankrupt six times, leaving all of his small business owners holding the bag. I don't know if you guys heard that, but the president, in fact, did say it.

And so I would I just encourage you guys, while you're worrying about style today, to fact-check everything Donald Trump said and to measure that against what the truth is and whether those things are good for the country, and then we'll see how this thing shakes out.

HUNT: Yeah, so here's the thing, I understand what you're saying about style versus substance, but all of those substantive points that you raised are a big part of the reason why so many Democrats are concerned. If Joe Biden loses this election to Donald Trump, so many in your party see this as an existential fight over democracy, will he be to blame for a second Trump term?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, to be to blame for the second Trump term is the way Donald Trump acts and the positions that he's taken. I am sure to answer your question that you asked before, there's always a truth-telling session when these things happen. Joe Biden is not averse to hearing things that are bad.

He has to make the decision about whether he's going to be a candidate or not. He has done that, and he's going to be the nominee.

So again, he started off slow last night. I thought he had some really good points during the debate. Concentrate on the fact that Donald Trump did not tell the truth the entire night. When he did tell the truth, his truths are going to hurt this country in a way that we can't recover from.

HUNT: All right. Mitch Landrieu, very much appreciate you being willing to come on this morning.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. Good being with you.

HUNT: Thank you very much for your time.

LANDRIEU: Take care. Thanks so much.

HUNT: You too.

All right, turning now to Donald Trump's debate performance, which, while forceful and confident at points, was also, as the mayor said, filled with some misleading attacks. And it sparked a number of fact checks around his statements about abortion, the economy, foreign policy. Among some of the claims, this from Trump about Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we had a real president, a president that knew - that was respected by Putin, he would have never - he would have never invaded Ukraine.

He did nothing to stop it. In fact, I think he encouraged Russia from going in.


HUNT: All right, joining me now to discuss is Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He is supporting Trump in November and is on the former president's shortlist as a possible vice-presidential pick. Senator, good morning to you.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Well, according to the media anyway. (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: According to the media. Are you saying you're not?

RUBIO: I don't know. We'll find out, I guess.

HUNT: Do you not want the - do you not want the gig after last night?

RUBIO: After what?

HUNT: After last night, do you not want the gig?

RUBIO: Oh, well, it hasn't been offered, so I'm not going to be that presumptuous. I think anybody who has a chance to serve in a position like that, at a time like this in our country, should be honored by that and consider it.

But anyway, I only say that because I read that in the press. But no one's told me I'm on any shortlist. But anyway.

HUNT: Sir, I want to ask you about some of what we heard from the former president throughout the debate. We spent a lot of time this morning talking about how Democrats are so concerned about their candidate's performance.

But in terms of what Donald Trump said on January 6th, on issues like Charlottesville, he aggressively downplayed his own role and the things that he had said in both of those cases.

How do you view his comments, particularly on January 6th, as someone who serves in the United States Congress, which was attacked on that day?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, that day he had a rally that the statements are there. He talked about being peaceful. He talked about being patriotic. As his rally was going on, there were already, you know, a significant number of people outside the Capitol that weren't even in the rally. And these guys had zip ties and these guys had backpacks and they were ready to go in. And that's the crew that really started this whole deal. They weren't even at the rally, OK.

Those people - I think almost all of them have been arrested. They're in jail. These were violent people and they should be in jail. And he's never said he - that he - I think he actually has said that he won't release or in any way try to excuse the people that were violent.

So, I don't - I don't -

HUNT: I don't actually think that that's - I mean he - he has called these people the January 6th hostages and said -

RUBIO: No, no, no, no. HUNT: (INAUDIBLE).

RUBIO: But - and, well, I'll tell you this much. He's told me, and I've heard him tell others, people that committed acts of violence on that day, you attack a police officer, you destroy public property, you know, you ram through people and, yes, those people need to be in jail. I don't think anyone disputes that.

I think that the issue here is, hey, there are some people who didn't do those things, they didn't show up with zip ties and masks and all that and were clearly pre-planned, right? It wasn't spontaneous. They went there with a plan. Some of those people have been charged with excessive conditions have been put on them in terms of detention. So, I think, when he talks about that, those are the people that he's pointing to. I'm - I'm certain that that's the people he's pointing to.

And again, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't face any consequences, but I do think some of the sentencing in some of those cases has been agreed. And you need to distinguish between the people who went in there violently, prepared to go - you know, you don't just show up with zip ties. You don't just show up with masks. You don't just show up with potentially stun guns or whatever they had on them if you weren't planning acts of violence. And that's inexcusable, just like I think he pointed to this, there are people that have rioted in this country, burned down cities, defaced public property.


A lot of those people weren't even prosecuted. In fact, Kamala Harris wat raising money to bail them out. So, I don't think political violence is justified in any way, shape, or form by anyone. I don't care what your cause is.

HUNT: Let me ask you about foreign policy, which I know is something that you have spoken with the former president about extensively. Donald Trump shrugged on stage when President Biden asked if he would stay in NATO. Are you comfortable with that?

RUBIO: Well, I think he needs to have in negotiating leverage, which is what he used last time he was there.

Let me start by saying this. Donald Trump is not the first American president that has complained about the fact that the United States, I think over 70 percent of the funding of NATO is depending on the United States. So, he's not the one that's complained about that. Every president has insisted that NATO and NATO nations do more, particularly after the end of the Cold War. And so I think he's reiterating that point.

Now, this is a guy who's not political. He's not a politician, OK. He's a guy that comes from the world -

HUNT: Donald Trump? He was president of the United States for four years.

RUBIO: I - I know. But his upbringing -

HUNT: He is a politician.

RUBIO: All right, well, compared to Joe Biden or others who are in politics. This is a guy who comes from the world of real estate. And I'm telling you that his view of it is, and that's been my perception, that he needs to position himself with a negotiating tactic in order to get these countries to respond and to do more.

Ironically enough, the country's on the eastern periphery of Europe, Poland and others, the Baltic states, they're all contributing above the NATO targets. It is the countries in western Europe, that are wealthy countries, historically Italy's been that, Germany for a long time, certainly France, have not done their part and they need to do more. An alliance is a partnership. And partners have to carry their weight. And I think the president has looked for, President Trump, consistently to have the leverage necessary to get these leaders to step up to the plate and do more. And they can do more.

HUNT: Senator, I want to ask you a little bit more about the possibility that you may be joining the presidential ticket here. And I want to just - I realize a lot has changed since 2016. But here were some of the comments you made at the time about Donald Trump.

Let's watch.


RUBIO: What we are dealing with here, my friends, is a con artist. He is a con artist.

Friends do not let friends vote for con artists.

There is a conservative movement in the Republican Party is going to be taken over by a con artist.

There is no way that the party of Reagan and the conservative movement, I'm going to allow it to be taken over by a con artist. He says I'm a choker. He's a con artist.

And this guys is a con artist.


HUNT: So, we spared you some of the attacks Donald Trump made on you in that election, but I got to - I got to ask you, what has changed for you since then?

RUBIO: Well, the main thing that's changed is me, because I just saw that video. My God, I look like 20 years younger.

HUNT: Don't we all look so much younger in those clips from 2016.

RUBIO: So don't ever play that thing again. Don't ever play that video again. All right. But - but that said, look, I didn't - first of all, I didn't even know Donald Trump when he ran. Second, him and I were competing for the same spot. So, I think I've never seen this before, maybe they do this, but I've never heard a boxer, in the middle - after a fight ask, hey, why'd you punch that guy in the face in the third round? You were both competing for the same job.

But I actually got to work near him, not alongside them, but near him when he - I was in the Senate. And, listen, I'll give you a perfect example, OK. I was not a fan of him going to meet with Kim Jong-un. I thought, that guy's nuts, Kim Jong-un. He's out of control. He's a wild man. Nothing's going to come of it. I was very skeptical.

He met with him three times. The second time he actually left early, didn't even go to the lunch. Trump canceled it because he didn't like the way North Korea was behaving. By the third meeting that they had, Kim Jong-un stopped launching short range - the missiles that he was testing for the duration of the Trump presidency.

Now, he felt that if he can create some interpersonal relationship with the guy, he can get him to stop doing these things. It worked. It was real. That happened. I saw it. I witnessed it. And I - and, you know, I was proven wrong.

So, at the end of the day, I also think, and even by the end of my campaign I began to talk about this for president, Trump, if we can put aside for a moment being so busy and being outraged by every phrase and figure of speech that he uses, and realized that what Donald Trump was basically arguing was, that American politics, on both the left and the right, had lost touch with the needs of working people, that increasingly our political debates and our political agendas were dominated by the needs of people that have done very well under globalization -

HUNT: I remember you talking about this on - in 2016 on the trail. I do.

RUBIO: Sure. But he obviously did a better job of talking about it because he won. And he tapped into the belief of millions and millions of Americans that traditional politics had forgotten and left people like them behind. And he pointed to things that made a lot of sense to people. Like, for example, why do we continue to enter into trade agreements and economic arrangements -

HUNT: Sure.

RUBIO: Where American jobs in factories are sent to create a middle class in another country at our expense. Now, maybe he doesn't express that in the way of a traditional politician. I'll admit right now, he's - and he never has claimed to speak like some sort of expert at a think tank, but he talks a lot like the people out in America on a daily basis. He uses phrases - phraseology that they use, and he's describing a very real problem in this country. And that is, traditional politics in America, in both parties, had forgotten that millions and millions of Americans have been very negatively impacted in their lives, in their personal lives and their economic lives, by rapid changes to our economy and particularly by globalization and the outsourcing of jobs and industry.


And he tapped into that in a very powerful way.

HUNT: I will just say, he did lose the election in 2020 after he got to serve for four years.

But, Senator Rubio, I'm very grateful to have you this morning. Thank you very much.

RUBIO: Thank you.

HUNT: I really appreciate your time.

All right, coming up next here, Donald Trump in Virginia today to - for a post-debate rally. Will the governor show up this time after previously snubbing him?

Plus, Michael Smerconish is here with his take on Biden's rough night.



JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I'm not a political expert. But while Biden was preparing at Camp David for a week, did anyone mention he would also be on camera?


HUNT: It was a visual contrast that was tough for President Biden last night. The hoarse voice, the open mouth look at the CNN debate that did nothing to allay voter concerns about his mental acuity in his stamina.

And while Biden looked down, some Democrats told me that they are starting to look around to search for another candidate who could top the Democratic ticket.

Now, joining me now is Michael Smerconish. He is the host of CNN's "SMERCONISH," and, of course, a CNN political commentator.

Michael, good morning.

I've been looking forward to hearing your thoughts on what we saw last night.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Can I pick up on what Jon Stewart just said, which is, with all that debate preparation, you roll tape, you analyze tape. It's like NFL football preparation.

I was shocked, and I just knew from the outset, they must never have shown the president what a split screen looks like and what he looks like. Kasie, I've looked at myself over the years on tape with mouth open

and looking foolish. And it's only when you analyze the tape, as they should have done, that you realize, oh, wait a minute, that camera's always going to be on me and I'm going to want to have a particular expression on my face.

I said yesterday that delivery was going to be more important than substance. And that's exactly what came true. It's all about the lack of delivery from President Biden. And no amount of fact-checking of Donald Trump, because I'm sure that debate was littered with falsehoods from Trump, but no amount of fact checking of Trump is going to compensate for the delivery that we saw from President Biden.


HUNT: Michael, do think that the talk about potentially replacing Biden at the top of the ticket - and I've heard several people suggest it to me privately. David Axelrod touched on it publicly when he was on our analysis last night.

Do you think there's any there there?

SMERCONISH: There has to be there there. This was not just another incumbent having a poor first debate, ala Reagan, ala Obama. What ails President Biden - by the way, gives me no pleasure to say this, I think he's a good man. What ails him can't be fixed. They need to make a change. And Donald Trump may lose by winning, because I'm convinced that there are stronger candidates, stronger opponents for Donald Trump in the Democratic field. So that if it's not Joe Biden, Trump ought to be concerned with who might be that replacement. And I'm thinking beyond Vice President Kamala Harris.

HUNT: Yes, who are you thinking about?

SMERCONISH: I'm thinking about Gavin Newsom. I'm thinking about Amy Klobuchar. I'm thinking about Gretchen Whitmer. I'm thinking about Josh Shapiro. I mean, there's a deep bench for Democrats. A whole new generation of leaders who are out there.

And, you know, there's a yearning, I think, for the public have something different than they saw on that stage. Oh, my God. I think I tweeted on multiple occasions, that's the ultimate low point of debates. And then there would be another one and another one. I've never seen - I've never seen anything like it.

HUNT: It was quite a night.

Michael Smerconish, I'm very grateful to have you this morning at to hear your take. Thank you very much.

Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right, the panel's back.

Final thoughts here as we head into what is going to be the next phase of this campaign. Alex, let me start with you.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "AXIOS": Well, the Biden campaign has been making this argument about style versus substance. The (INAUDIBLE) focus on the substance, not the style. But the fact of the matter is, that in every single televised debate since 1960, the people that are making that argument are the losers of the debate. The fact is, that if you are on television, style matters. And it - you can just see it in terms of how Joe Biden just did not win in terms of the public performance of this debate.

HUNT: Well, and I think you've even been pointing out as well that some of the optics around it, we saw Jill Biden, the president's wife, kind of leading him by the hand down the stairs at the conclusion of the debate in a way that may have sort of also contributed to this perception.

And actually, Jamal, you can see it right there, sort of very carefully taking one step at a time.

Jamal, I mean, big picture here. What are Democrats going to do?

SIMMONS: I think the question is, first of all, what's Joe Biden going do? And it's going to be incumbent upon the White House and the president to show people that he's not in a bad way, he just had a bad night. And so if they can do that, I think, you know, this is one debate, one night. They can do it over the course of the next four months. They've got another debate coming up in September. And we may be talking about something else.

HUNT: Are they going to do it? Should they do it?

SIMMONS: Depends on the answer to the question, right? Is it - was it just a bad night? And if it was just a bad night, then absolutely he has to do it again. If it was more than just a bad night, then we have to think about what else is going to happen next.

And I will just tell you this, listen to Smerconish's list, I noticed there were people who were missing from that list. People like - if it's not Kamala Harris, which most people would probably incline - be inclined to support and the Democratic Party. If it's not her, what about Raphael Warnock? He's probably the most tested Democrat that is. He's running for office so many times in the state. What about Wes Moore, who's one of the most electric people in the state - in the country? And so if you're not going to have Kamala Harris -

HUNT: He's supposed to go to the O's game tonight. I'm interested to see if he's going to be there. He can rile up that crowd, let me tell you.

SIMMONS: So, if you're not going to have Kamala Harris, I think you can't leave an African American off the list because the Democratic Party is gone to be livid if they hop over her -

HUNT: Yes.

SIMMONS: And just pick another white guy.

HUNT: Very smart.

Geoff Duncan, I want to kind of go to you because the reality is that what we - the basic - the collapse of President Biden on that stage last night, the metaphorical one, it could be what hands the nomination - or the presidency back to Donald Trump. And, I mean, you heard Marco Rubio there, the stakes are very high.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The 10 percent in the middle are still in no man's land right now. And the 10 percent in the middle, by the way, is going to select who the next president of the United States is. There still has got to be more to come.

But I think there's some - there's some gnashing of teeth here on both sides thinking, what could have happened. I sat here and listened to Senator Rubio talk. And just a half mile from here, in 2016, I introduced him to a crowd of folks at a campaign event. And that Marco Rubio had it right. That Marco Rubio was a bright star in the Republican Party that understood the conservative values.

Everybody keeps making excuses around Donald Trump. He sat here and tried to defend January 6th. I sat, on January 6th, with Brian Kemp at a podium a mile from here at the Georgia capital begging Donald Trump to get off his ass and say something to the American people that were trying to storm the U.S. Capitol. And he didn't until it was too late.


HUNT: This is the second time someone has used a word that should be bleeped on this show in the last like seven to 10 days. I think I'm going to end up on a seven second delay.

SIMMONS: It's the Trump America.

HUNT: But your point is very well taken.

SIMMONS: It's the Trump America.

HUNT: Kristen, final thought.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: Look, we keep trying to divide this into style versus substance, or do voters care about character versus issues. These things are all connected. The style is the substance when it came to last night. Voters want somebody who's going to be a capable commander in chief. This is not, oh, they don't like his style because it's a beauty pageant and they don't like what tie he picked. He did not convey that he has what it takes to be the president. That's a massive problem for the country.

HUNT: All right. Well, it's a good way to end this hour as we head in to what is distinctly a new phase of this presidential campaign.

Thanks to our panel. Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.