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Trump Seeks to Dismiss New York Hush Money Conviction; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is Interviewed about Biden; Democrats Face Dilemma. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 02, 2024 - 06:30   ET




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

What now? With the Supreme Court's ruling that presidents are broadly immune from prosecution for official acts taken while in office, big questions are lingering about what exactly it means for Donald Trump's remaining three criminal cases and his conviction. Already, Trump has moved to overturn his Manhattan conviction, citing the new immunity decision. Trump's lawyer in the case telling CNN last night that the judge should not only push back his sentencing, but also consider this.


WILL SCHARF, TRUMP ATTORNEY: What we have in New York is a situation where a substantial number of official acts of the presidency, things that we believe are official acts, were used as evidence to support the charges in that New York trial. We believe that that corrupts that trial. That that indicates that that jury verdict needs to be overturned. And at the very least, we deserve a new trial where those immune acts will not come into evidence.


HUNT: All right, the panel's back.

Elliot, I mean -


HUNT: I kind of have to say, it does seem to make a certain degree of sense that they might have to change things in New York based on this ruling.

WILLIAMS: Oh, I think more than a certain degree of sense. Now, let's talking about what the Supreme Court decided. What they said was that evidence of official acts cannot even be used to help support prosecuting someone for unofficial acts of the presidency.

So, case in point, let's use Donald Trump's New York trial. Obviously, it's personal conduct, private behavior, sleeping with porn stars, cooking the books of your corporation, whatever else, right? However, it relied on the testimony of Hope Hicks, a former White House aide, and other evidence that is tied to his time in the White House.

Now, Trump's team can plausibly claim these - some of these were official acts that can't even be used as evidence.


Now, to be clear, that provision in the opinion was one of the most remarkable few paragraphs in Supreme Court history. Even Justice Amy Coney Barrett, no liberal, she wrote an opinion saying -

HUNT: This is the part she dissented.

WILLIAMS: The part she -

HUNT: Yes. OK.

WILLIAMS: Yes, she does not agree with, saying that it's a little bit bizarre that you're saying that even evidence of official acts can't be used to support unofficial acts. And so it's no surprise, we talked about it on air yesterday, that Trump's team would move to upend the New York case.

Now, this whole idea of calling a new trial is sort of silly. I think what they can just do is let the appeal play out and have them raise that issue on appeal.

But, yes, it's going to change some aspect of the New York trial.

HUNT: Yes. OK.

So, big picture, Doug Heye, I want to remind everyone of what - you know, as we grapple with the reality that the January 6th case is unlikely to move forward as well, of what Republicans in the Senate did when they were confronted with having to deal with President Trump's conduct around January 6th. He was then the president of the United States. And this is what Mitch McConnell had to say on the floor as he was basically explaining why he ultimately was going to vote to acquit the president in the second impeachment trial.

Let's watch that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) (February 13, 2021): We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.


HUNT: So, that was actually later. It was February.

Yes, he said, look, we have a criminal justice system. Do we anymore for what he's talking about? DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, let me first say,

full disclosure, I worked for Senator Richard Burr, who voted to convict, which was the right vote at the time. I think - I think history will prove that to be correct as well.

Look, with what the majority leader said, then majority leader said then, made sense at the time. Clearly facts have changed. And what we need to see is, do Republicans change with that. My guess is, they'll bend in the Donald Trump direction because that's what always happens. And as we see with, you know, the current situation with Joe Biden, party officials don't like to cross the sitting president or the presumptive nominee. They fall in line regardless of what that then may mean, you know, down the line for policy or, you know, principle.

WILLIAMS: Now, this -


WILLIAMS: Oh, go ahead.

FINNEY: Oh, I was just going to say, but to your question about, do we have a justice system, this may change sort of the legal case, but it does not change the fact of what we all saw on January 6th and how people may feel about that. Regardless of what ends up happening in the cases, it doesn't change the fact, we saw him on The Ellipse. We saw what the president said. We saw what happened to our Capitol. It was not just some tourists. It was not just, you know, police sort of ushering people in. So, those facts actually don't change and they still are evidence and facts that are being used against Donald Trump very effectively in this election.

WILLAIMS: But what -

HUNT: But we also see polling that shows that a conviction would matter to people.


WILLIAMS: You know, the point I was going to make to both of your points. You know who can fix all of this with the stroke of a pen? The man we just saw, Mitch McConnell. And, in a perfect world, which we live in a sadly imperfect world, and I hate to say that, but Congress could fix all of this. Congress can override a Supreme Court decision by simply legislating around it. Congress can make whatever tweaks to the criminal justice system that they want.

Again, the problem is that Congress is hopelessly gridlock right now.

FINNEY: Right.

WILLIAMS: And it's sort of in a fantasy world, like in the textbooks. Yes, that's what would happen, but McConnell, all of those idealistic visions he laid out there, Congress can do and could make happen and make all of this go away.

HEYE: And to Elliot's - to Elliot's point, Congress has ceded power to the executive branch -


HEYE: Regardless of who the president -


HEYE: Or who the Congress is, basically since the end of World War II. So, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, all of them -


HEYE: Got more and more power, which impacts where we are today. It's a process and it's not sexy, but that's reality.

HUNT: So, you mentioned Richard Nixon, and I'm glad you did because I just want to flash back to what Nixon said in 1977. I mean, if you're Richard Nixon, wouldn't you want your presidency back? Let's watch. See what he said.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.


HUNT: So, he said, what the president does, that means it's not illegal.

So, here was the former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, yesterday talking about what would have happened to Nixon under the rules that the Supreme Court just laid out yesterday.


JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think that Nixon would have survived. I think he would have walked under this ruling.

Well, there are no more crimes for presidents in official conduct.


HUNT: A pretty remarkable state of affairs, Isaac.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Yes, look, I - this - and it's - it's not theoretical. This ruling was written because of a case that Donald Trump brought. It's - it - it was written, the decision, with clearly Donald Trump in mind. And Donald Trump is seeking the presidency again. He will act based on this ruling. And people around him will act based on this ruling.

This is part of the choice that is in front of Americans in the fall. And it is true that if the Democrats go forward with Joe Biden, a president who sometimes it seems people - is at least making people feel like he doesn't know what he's doing. [06:40:11]

He is now up against a president who seems to have been empowered to do whatever he wants to do. I'm not sure it's the stuff of the next Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, but it's like - that is what this election is coming down to, among other things.

HUNT: All right, come on up next here, the Democrats who might emerge if President Biden decides to drop out of the race. Unlikely, but we'll talk through it.

Plus, Congressman Mike Quigley joins us live to discuss what's next for his party.



HUNT: All right, 44 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

At least 30 passengers injured when a plane hit unexpected severe turbulence. Many on the Air Europa flight from Madrid to Uruguay were not wearing seat belts. And this terrifying video captured and shared by Mariela Jodal. It shows a passenger's feet dangling from inside the overhead bins. One passenger describing that scary moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): From one moment to the next, the plane destabilized and went into a dive. The people who didn't have seat belts went up in the air and hit the ceiling, and they got hurt.


HUNT: The pilot forced to make an emergency landing in Brazil.

Congresswoman Victoria Spartz facing a weapons violation charge for carrying a gun into Dulles Airport. The Indiana Republicans says she forgot about an empty handgun that she had tossed in her suitcase. That is a misdemeanor in Virginia.

All right, the sister of embattled Senator Bob Menendez testifying in his federal bribery and corruption trial, describing hidden cash as, quote, "a Cuban thing," end quote. She says their father did it too. Prosecutors found nearly half a million dollars and gold bars in the Democratic senator's home.

Hunter Biden taking Fox News and its parent company to court, accusing them of smearing him and unlawfully using pictures of him without permission in a mini-series. A Fox News spokesperson calls the lawsuit meritless and politically motivated.

Steve Bannon reporting to federal prison in Connecticut to serve a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress. Donald Trump's former White House strategist insisting he's proud to be incarcerated, even describing himself as a martyr.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE STRATEGIST: I'm a political prisoner of Nancy Pelosi. I'm a political prisoner of Merrick Garland. I'm a political prisoner - I'm a political prisoner of Joe Biden and the corrupt Biden establishment.


HUNT: OK, there was a lot there. Guys, want to - want to do guns in the airport, the seat belts on the planes, take your pick.

WILLIAMS: Right. I would say - tell me, Doug, but the gun in the airport actually helps her politically, I think. I -

HEYE: Yes, if you remember -

WILLIAMS: I think her folks love that.

HEYE: If you remember Madison Cawthorn, you know, from - from previous congresses, got in a lot of controversies about a lot of things. One of the things they decided to do is, hey, let's bring a gun to an airport, and that arrest will help me in my district. Now, he still lost his primary, but he didn't lose the Trump endorsement.


HEYE: And I think that that tells us a little bit.

WILLIAMS: And I'm still mad I - they threw away -


WILLIAMS: Well, I'm just mad that they tossed this five-ounce hand sanitizer from my bag and she gets to have a handgun in her, you know, (INAUDIBLE) -

HUNT: I was going to say, the number of times I've had to like walk all the way around and go back through security because I accidentally left the water in my water bottle and they are like insisting, no, actually you just have to throw that away.

WILLIAMS: Diet Coke. Right. I know. Don't (ph) bring your piece.

HUNT: Anyway.


HUNT: Firearms safety training, kids, let's get on that.

All right, let's go now to this.

The Biden campaign, we've been talking about it all morning, on defense, pushing back on calls from the president's own party to remove him from the race in 2024. CNN has learned that Biden's team is now looking to overhaul their strategy to ease voter apprehension over concerns about Biden's fitness for office because, listen to this, this is what legendary journalist Carl Bernstein told CNN that his sources are telling him about the president.


CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: These people who have supported him, loved him, campaign for him, see him often, say that in the last six months particularly there has been a marked incidents of cognitive decline and physical infirmity.


HUNT: All right, joining me now is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois.

Congressman, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Good morning.

HUNT: I want to start there with what we saw on the debate stage. You heard what Carl Bernstein reported there on CNN's airwaves. I think my question to you, you - you've previously served for quite some time on the House Intelligence Committee. What do you think our adversaries saw on stage in President Biden last week, and does that concern you?

QUIGLEY: Look, the morning after when I looked at this, I said to myself, well, he had a really, really bad night and we'll move forward. Obviously, we have to be honest with ourselves and recognize that we have to take the voters where they are. And there's - there is concern about this situation given where we are.

And the real tragedy besides that is, well, the American people didn't get to see the contrast that existed between two dramatically different people acting as president for four years.

HUNT: Sir, I want to play for you an ad that is now running in Pennsylvania, which is one of the critical Senate races that is going to decide control of that chamber. And this is Dave McCormack, the Republican candidate, going after Bob Casey, the sitting Democratic senator.


Watch this. We'll talk about it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything we have to do with - uh -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you have Joe Biden do to make the case that he's not an elderly well-meaning gentleman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are going to see it in the campaign.

No question he's prepared to do this job today and would be were he reelected.

I have a lot of confidence in his leadership.

I have a lot of confidence in his leadership.

No question he's prepared to do this job today.


HUNT: Is President Biden's status as the person at the top of the ticket endangering Democratic hopes of keeping or regaining control of Congress, depending on the respective chamber?

QUIGLEY: Let me put it in this perspective. If I were to talk to the president today, I would advise him that the decision he has to make now is - is clearly only his. And as much as I greatly respect him and appreciate the extraordinary job, I think his four years are, you know, one of the great presidencies of our - of our lifetime. But I think he has to be honest with himself. This is a decision he's going to have to make. He clearly has to understand I think what you're getting to hear is that his decision not only impacts who's going to serve in the White House the next four years, but who's going to serve in the Senate, who's going to serve in the House, and it will have implications for decades to come.

HUNT: It sounds like you're actually open to the idea that it might be the right decision for him to step aside.

QUIGLEY: I think what I'm stressing is, it has to be his decision. But we have to be honest with ourselves that it wasn't just a horrible night. But I won't go beyond that out of my respect and understanding President Joe Biden, a very proud person who has served us extraordinarily well for 50 years.

But it's his decision. I just want him to appreciate at this time just how much it impacts, not just his race, but all the other races coming in November.

HUNT: If you think - do you think that if the polling starts to show it's clear Democrats will not gain control of the House because of the standing of the president, that the dam may break and he may face public pressure from people to step aside?

QUIGLEY: Oh, it's clear that - that what took place last week isn't - doesn't seem to influence his decision. I don't know what - what will. I don't know if this polling is. It probably takes, what, three, four, five, up to a week to get decent polling. So, I assess we'll probably get that starting today or tomorrow. The holiday will make polling more difficult.

What - I - I do think that's probably the only thing out there right now that could change his mind or influence that critical decision that, again, only he can make.

HUNT: Congressman, let me ask you, you were a criminal defense attorney as well for many years. The Supreme Court just declared that presidents are immune from prosecution for their official acts. They are not for unofficial acts.

What went through your mind when you saw that that ruling was coming down? And what do you think the implications are?

QUIGLEY: Yes. You know, as a criminal defense attorney, I wish my clients who have had that kind of protection. I'd never lose a case. I don't know if the majority, when they wrote this, understand just how tough it is - how tough it would be to prosecute someone who has that kind of protections.

I think the second thing that struck me was, when Lincoln said, that if you want to analyze the Constitution, you've got to put the Declaration of Independence next to it. The Declaration of Independence begins with grievances against the king. It's hard to imagine the founding fathers would have given the chief executive this kind of power, this kind of immunity, when they had just thrown off a tyrant. The last thing they wanted to do was to give an executive this kind of power, especially at this time.

HUNT: Congressman, I know one thing that you wanted to come on to talk about today is the epidemic of - of gun violence across America. And I know it particularly impacts a major city in your state, Chicago, where, of course, we are going to see the Democratic National Convention.

But we've heard recently from the surgeon general on this matter. What are you seeing in your state and what are you wanting to do about it right now?

QUIGLEY: Look, I think the surgeon general's remarks are long overdue. And his report, it gives us critical opportunities to do the research necessary, the trauma that takes place throughout America. The statistics are horrifying. You know, 100 million - 100 Americans are dying a day from gun violence. We hear of the mass shootings, but an ongoing basis this crisis continues.

So, it's an extraordinary first step. It's just unfortunate that the - that gun issues have become so partisan.


We didn't use to be here on this. And again, the majority of Americans do favor universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons.

This all flies in the face of yet another horrific Supreme Court decision changing a Trump era rule about bump stocks.

So, it's a difficult time. It's a welcome decision by the surgeon general. I think it'll give us vital information to influence our policy decisions.

HUNT: All right. Congressmen Mike Quigley, I'm very grateful for your time this morning. Thank you very much for being with us.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, let's talk more about this with our panel.

More than a few Democrats believe it is time for Joe Biden to step aside. But as you heard the congressmen very carefully try to thread there, no one has been willing to say it out loud.

One of the former top strategists for President Clinton, Paul Begala, now a commentator here at CNN, explained it in fairly evocative terms.



PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The first Democratic politician at called on Biden to step down, it's going to end their career, right? They may be right in the eyes of a lot of Democrats, but if you're the first one through the door, you're going to get shot. And I think they all know that.


HUNT: I mean -

HEYE: That's every why won't Paul Ryan speak out conversation that we had five, six years ago. That's every single one.

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: But I think there's -

DOVERE: But I will say -

FINNEY: I think there's another piece to this, though, in this moment where people do feel he has earned the right that take, I would say, a bit - you know, we've got a holiday week, a week. Again, let's see the data. Let's hear what we're - let's see what we're hearing from the field and then decide if it's time to reassess. I think that's the other dynamic going on here.

I don't agree with Paul. Like, the - and I'm actually not the first one, the first -

HUNT: Begala, not Ryan, to be clear.

FINNEY: I'm sorry, right, my Begala, my Paul Begala, who I've known since I was 25-years-old.

HUNT: Yes, yes.

FINNEY: But, yes, the first probably 10, 20 through the door, not just the first one. So -

WILLIAMS: And team - oh, go ahead.

DOVERE: But I would say that that was Mike Quigley going further than many Democrats have gone.

HUNT: I haven't heard anyone else go that far really.

DOVERE: And he is not someone that, you know, spent time on The Hill with a lot of reporters that they go - that we go and chase to find a quote knocking the Democratic Party.

I think comments like that, Sheldon Whitehouse, senator for Rhode Island, also not really much of a beat on the Democrats guy, who yesterday told reporters in Rhode Island that he wants a full accounting of the president's health.

These are real warning signals. And look, if the polling comes back and it says nothing changed, whoever, then that will be a sign to the Biden campaign that they can keep going through.

HUNT: Yes, so this is what Whitehouse said. Quote, "I think people want to make sure that this is a campaign that's ready to go and win, that the president and," he continues, we can get the next part of that up on the screen. Apparently it's stuck. Thats OK. Basically, you get the idea, right? Like he's saying, look, if he can't win, we can't run with him.

WILLIAMS: No, absolutely. And I think, to your point, Karen, about - and Congressman Quigley touched on this a little bit, that let's wait and see what the polling says. It's easy to forget that we're about 97 hours from the debate at this point.

HUNT: Right.

FINNEY: That's right.

WILLIAMS: And a lot of the dust hasn't settled. Now, certainly everybody saw the images, everybody knows the chatter and so on, but no one has really seen what the true impact of it has been.

It will be really interesting to see how the Mike Quigleys and Sheldon Whitehouses change their tone if the polling dips a little bit.

FINNEY: Well - right.

DOVERE: The other part of it, though, is - yes, we're 97 hours from the debate. It is insane in a way to think we could change the - who the president is and who the nominee is based on one 90 minute performance.


DOVERE: But we are 128 days from the election. If this is going to happen, if there's going to be a change, it would be crazy. And it is a process that would need to get underway.

HUNT: Yes. Well, and it also is going to take too like an alternative that Democrats can coalesce around.

I was really interested to listen to Steve Beshear. He is the governor of Kentucky, which is, of course - excuse me, Andy Beshear. He's - it's a red state. But he - the way he talked about this was - honestly he kind of left the door farther open than some of the other Democrats I think I've heard talk about this.

Just listen to it and you can decide.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): The debate performance was rough. It was a very bad night for the president. But he is still the candidate. Only he can make decisions about his future candidacy. And so as long as he continues to be in the race, I support him.

It's flattering when people mention your name in something like that, but I think it's a reflection of all the good things going on in Kentucky.


HEYE: We should remember that also what's rough isn't about a Supreme Court decision or, you know, Joe Biden's mental acuity or so forth. It's the people who are watching this show right now, when they turn off their TV, they're going to drive to work and they're going to stop and get a biscuit or a doughnut and coffee and be upset with what it costs. And if they didn't do that, they're going to go to a grocery store.

FINNEY: Egg sandwich.

HEYE: Yes.

They're going to go to a grocery store. People's lives are rough right now because they're paying for more and they're not having this larger - the smaller Washington conversation.


They're focused on what's going on in their lives, and they're not happy with the direction of the country. Big problem for Joe Biden.

FINNEY: But I think that goes to this point that the conversation that is happening in the country may be very different than the conversation we've been having since last Thursday here in Washington. And we ought to hear what people have to say.

HUNT: Yes. I mean it's - and that's what, of course, we're going to wait - wait for those numbers because, as you heard Mike Quigley say, it's probably the only thing out there that might change President Biden's mind.

All right, 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.