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Biden Under Pressure To Step Aside After Debate Debacle; Trump Sentencing Delayed After SCOTUS Immunity Ruling; Democratic Rep. Doggett Calls On Biden To Leave Race. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 5:30 a.m. here in Washington. A live look at Capitol Hill on this Wednesday morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's wonderful to have you with us.

President Biden is facing growing calls to step aside after last week's debate. Not only are Democratic Party insiders concerned about the president's age but so are some voters who were once squarely in the president's camp.

CNN's Elle Reeve spoke with one Never-Trumper -- someone who will not vote for Donald Trump -- who says that they are now deeply disappointed with Democrats.


BECKY HOFER, CONCERNED VOTER: To be talked to from the Democratic Party kind of like just get behind the candidate was very frustrating and angering.


HUNT: All right. Joining us now to talk more, Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for The Boston Globe. And Juliegrace Brufke, Capitol Hill reporter for Axios. Good morning to both of you.


HUNT: Jackie, let me start with you on this because it's voters like the one that we just heard from that are really going to -- well, they are making the -- or breaking President Biden's position at the top of the Democratic ticket.

They're doing it in a couple of ways. First, they're looking for -- the president's team are looking at the polling -- the horse race polling for him. But second of all, members of the House of Representatives on the Democratic side are looking at what these voters are telling them in their districts, and they are seeing an absolute bloodbath for the president. What is your latest reporting? What are you hearing about where this

story turns next?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Well, here's the thing. Those voters have been saying this about Joe Biden for quite some time. We've been in -- our Boston Globe reporters have been in the field since last year and Biden's age has been an issue. It's the Democratic Party, particularly the Biden campaign, that hadn't been listening to these concerns.

So now we're at a point where it is up to Joe Biden. Joe Biden -- it's totally his choice whether to step down. And as much pressure as he's getting, it doesn't seem like they're yielding yet. We'll see what happens in the coming days.

But certainly, yesterday -- I think it was the first day you really saw it bubble to the surface in official Washington, and it just keeps growing. And how they're -- it seems like they're finally maybe realizing that this isn't going to go away.

HUNT: Yeah. No, I mean, definitely, if we're going to follow the bouncing ball a little bit, Thursday night everyone was shocked. Friday, there was discussion of the fallout. Over the weekend you had the campaign doubling down. You had surrogates out on Sunday shows doubling down, saying we are with the president.

Monday comes, there's a little bit like OK, is this it? And then clearly, it was not. The fallout started to quickly accelerate.

KUCINICH: Well, and I can just add you're seeing them cave to some pressure, right? There is an interview on Friday now with George Stephanopoulos. There is going to be a press conference, apparently, at NATO. So really, you're seeing --

HUNT: Which is set for next week.

KUCINICH: Which is set for next week, yes.

HUNT: Yeah.

KUCINICH: And so, you are seeing them try to push back against some of this. But we'll see how this interview -- that interview goes and that press conference.

HUNT: Yeah.

So, Juliegrace Brufke, there is a tough column in The New York Times this morning from Tom Friedman -- particularly tough because Friedman is known to be someone that Biden knows, reads. Friedman has been on the scene. He was the -- you know, worked in the Middle East for The New York Times much earlier in Biden's career as Biden was -- eventually go -- would go on to chair the relevant committees for that.

He writes this. "At this moment of incredible importance for America and the Democratic Party, I would urge President Biden, his family, and his party's leadership to ask the same question: What does your worst enemy, Donald Trump, want you to do now -- then do the opposite.

Trump is salivating at the prospect of Biden staying in the presidential race so he can pummel him from now until Election Day with 15-second television and radio ads, not to mention memes on social media, of Biden's incoherent responses in last week's debate, each ad asking: Is this the man you want answering the phone at 3:00 a.m. if the Russians or the Chinese, or the Iranians attack us?"


He then goes on to quote the musical Hamilton and George Washington's decision not to run twice.

BRUFKEE: So, I mean, he's making a lot of the same points I think Republicans are really kind of riding on cloud nine.

We've heard Mike Johnson make similar arguments, saying that the world is watching, and foreign adversaries are watching, and the debate was telling.

We've seen Chip Roy with the 25th Amendment resolution to kind of highlight that. I feel like Republicans kind of know that's not going anywhere but going to be something they're going to be hammering home from a messaging standpoint.

And, I mean, I've talked to a ton of Republican lawmakers who have said -- I mean, they feel that if Biden is the nominee, the election is virtually over. Some of them have even questioned whether Trump should debate again or just continue to hit Biden with the ads from the last debate there.

HUNT: Yeah. I have trouble seeing, at this point, a second Trump- Biden debate being on the -- being on the table here.

You know, Jackie, I want to talk about kind of the next turn of the screw and what's going on with Kamala Harris. But you made this point earlier about voters and what voters --


HUNT: -- have been trying to say all the way along. And I just keep going back to how -- we have been talking about, like, around tables like this one for all these months that voters -- you would go to these campaign events and they would say to people like us -- to reporters like --


HUNT: -- us, is this really -- is this really going to be the presidential race? Like, are we really going to get this rematch? Like, I don't really believe that.

And there was this kind of sense hanging over it that like, well, maybe something completely unexpected was going to happen. I don't know that this is what I expected it to be, but I do think it's worth taking a minute to mark this moment. KUCINICH: But is this unexpected? I mean, I think that this was always a -- this -- that was -- what happened in that debate was Democrats' greatest fear.

HUNT: Um-hum.

KUCINICH: It's not that you could project that potentially, there could be a fumble during a debate. And -- but here we are.

This is what -- but now, with all of the handwringing that's going on -- this is why you have primaries.

HUNT: Yes.

KUCINICH: Donald Trump -- he didn't debate any of these -- any of the people who ran against him, but there was a Republican primary, and Republican voters chose to reject the other Republicans and go with Trump.

On the Joe Biden side, he didn't have that. And, yes, he is the incumbent president. That is very different. Usually, there's not usually challengers to it.

But his decision to run again -- all of the -- all of the decisions that led up to that -- they kind of have who they have right now. And to change course right now is going to be -- it would be a huge shift and be very difficult for the Democratic Party to recalibrate after that.

HUNT: Yeah. I suppose the reality that this was the race that was set -- that this was what was going to happen was because of a force of will from the people around Joe Biden. From Joe Biden himself, but especially, also the people around Joe Biden. And now it -- so many questions about what happens next.

Juliegrace Brufke, Jackie Kucinich, thank you both very much for being here this morning.

All right, let's turn now to this. The ripple effects of that landmark ruling by the Supreme Court on presidential immunity -- they've shown up in New York in that case where Donald Trump was convicted of multiple felonies.

The judge, Juan Merchan, agreed to push back the sentencing for former President Trump in that hush money trial until September the 18th, specifically. But he also added these five words to the revised timeline. He said, "...if such is still necessary."

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning.

So, of course, the political context of this is that everything seems to be coming up Trump over the course of the last week as Democrats rustle with whether to replace Joe Biden. But also, this ruling throws into question almost all of Donald Trump's legal challenges. Let's focus in on New York to start. I mean, how do you interpret what Merchan said here in terms of saying well, if it's necessary we'll do this?


It's something that had to be said, right? You cannot prejudge ultimately what Judge Juan Merchan is going to do. And so, in the event that he rules in the president's favor -- former president -- then, of course, there will be no sentencing and the case will be dismissed, right? They're going to -- that is, the attorneys for Trump -- file a motion to set aside the verdict.

And so, having a briefing schedule where you have the attorneys for the president submit motions with regard to the introduction of evidence that should not have been introduced into evidence under the Supreme Court decision, having the prosecutors have an opportunity to respond, having oral argument if necessary, and then rendering a decision is absolutely the right call.

What that decision will be is an open question and I wouldn't read into it by the words that were noted there, Kasie -- "if necessary" -- that he's made a predetermined decision. He's simply saying based upon his analysis, in the event he falls obviously with the president based upon this decision -- former president -- then, of course, there will be no sentencing. And that's all I take from that.

HUNT: Yeah.


Joey, where do you see the other cases against Trump standing at this point in the wake of the ruling?

There was some reporting from The Washington Post that says the Justice Department plans to pursue Trump cases past Election Day even if Trump wins. Now, of course, if Trump does win, he wouldn't become president until January 20 of next year, so there would be this kind of interregnum period.

How do you view a plan like that?

JACKSON: Yeah. I don't see that plan as viable at all, right? Because remember, Kasie, in the event that he wins -- let's start there -- you can have a situation where the then-President Trump orders the Justice Department to dismiss those cases and there will be nothing to see there.

With regard to the merits of the cases themselves, I just don't see based upon the work that the court now needs to do -- remember, what the Supreme Court decision said. Yes, there was specific guidance with regard to what can be used, what's official acts, what's unofficial acts. However, it is going to be largely whether that information could be

used a determination by the lower court. What does that mean? You have to have evidentiary hearings and then you have appeals based upon rulings that the district court makes. Then you have a circuit court -- that's the appellate court the federal level -- weigh in. And then guess what, Kasie. It then can go back to the Supreme Court.

So there's going to be an inordinate amount of delay. There's going to be litigation. There was so much uncertainty from that Supreme Court decision. Generally, the Supreme Court pronounces a decision. It's clear -- it's a bright-line rule. Here, it just says you guys figure it out.

So I do not see this at all about moving forward, in the event that Trump wins, as viable or, really, even in the realm of reality.

HUNT: Hmm, really interesting.

All right, Joey Jackson. Very grateful for your time. Always lovely to have you. Thank you so much.

JACKSON: Thanks.

HUNT: All right. Coming up next here, some Democrats leaning on presidential history to make the case for Joe Biden to step aside.

Plus, two rockstar rookies heading to the WNBA All-Star Game. We'll bring you that.




PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the first Democratic politician to call 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: Well, meet this first guy to walk through the door. Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett being credited or blamed for being the first Democrat in Congress to call on President Biden to step aside. Doggett noting he represents the same congressional district as President Lyndon Johnson once did, adding that LBJ made a painful decision to withdraw and not seek a second term, and that President Biden should do the same.

CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali joins me now.

Tim, I just want to play for everyone to just remind them what LBJ had to say in this moment. Let's look at it and then we'll talk about it.


LYNDON JOHNSON, (D) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do not believe that I should devote and hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office. I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.


HUNT: Tim, just talk to us about the historical parallels, if you see any, right now as we face a moment that we haven't faced in many, many years.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN (via Webex by Cisco): When LBJ made that statement on March 31 of 1968, it came as a surprise. If Joe Biden were to make a similar statement after July 4, it would not be a surprise. That's one of the main differences.

There's a similarity, of course. Lyndon Johnson was at the beginning of a reelection bid. He had participated -- at least he had been in a primary, and then he decided to end a reelection bid as an incumbent president.

But there wasn't the pressure on Lyndon Johnson to pull out. Johnson made the decision on his own. Indeed, he'd begun to think about not running for reelection months earlier. And he had told his man speechwriter to add that coda to the end of the State of the Union address, which he gave in January. He almost gave that -- he almost uttered those words in January. So the timing and the decision to withdraw was LBJ's alone.

The first president to have given up reelection bid was Harry Truman. In Harry Truman's case -- and he decided not to run again in 1952 -- he also made the decision on his own. And his decision also came as a surprise.

So there is a Democratic -- there is a precedent in the Democratic Party of a president -- an incumbent president saying you know what, I'll step aside even though it was assumed they would run again.

But in both cases -- Truman's case and LBJ's case -- the president made the decision on their own. Yes, there were -- there was some -- there was some opposition within the party to their running again but there wasn't the overwhelming since that a) the president was too old to run, or b) that the president was likely to lose in either case.


So the situation we face today has certain similarities to the past, but really is largely new territory -- new presidential historical territory.

HUNT: Yeah. It's fascinating when you put it that way because this is, of course, still up to President Biden. He's going to have to decide whether or not to step aside. But the historical implications of this surely must be weighing on him. I mean, the -- what I am hearing kind of behind the scenes from

Democrats I'm talking to is that if this continues, the losses Democrats might face would be so dramatic that it would be something that would affect the country for decades to come, particularly in the U.S. Senate where people serve for many more years.

I mean, in your experience and kind of understanding as you have studied these men -- and there's still only, right, a few of them that have ever served kind of in this office -- how do you think the weight of history sits with our current president, Joe Biden, and would you compare it to anything we've seen in the past?

NAFTALI: The decision not to run again is a very lonely personal decision by a president. The evidence is very clear for both Truman and LBJ that they decided -- they set the timetable.

And in the case LBJ, they faced pushback from their own family. LBJ's family -- particularly, his two daughters -- they were not only shocked, they were really upset when they heard their father wasn't going to run again and tried desperately to talk him out of giving the speech in March of 1968. And they were only told hours before the speech.

Although the situation is very different, the one president who has resigned in our history, Richard Nixon, also faced pushback from his own family. His daughters did not want him to resign. Indeed, the first lady didn't want him to resign. His decision -- again, the circumstances are different, but his decision was very personal and very lonely.

I will add in 1974, one of the arguments that Republican leaders made to Richard Nixon that he should step down -- and again, I'm not comparing Biden to Nixon -- but one of the arguments was the 1974 midterm elections. That Republicans across the country would be pummeled if Richard Nixon were still in office by the time of that election.

So this decision by Biden is Biden's to make. Historically, we can expect the first lady to be playing a very significant role in the decision. And the role of Biden's children -- his daughter and his son -- will be important, too. But in the end, the decision is the president's alone.

When parties try to force out presidents, generally speaking, they fail. Gerald Ford wanted to run again. Ronald Reagan tried to beat him and lost in 1976. In 1980, Jimmy Carter wanted to run again. Ted Kennedy wanted to be the nominee. Jimmy Carter prevailed as the incumbent president.

An incumbent president has an enormous amount of sway and usually wins these kinds of fights. The one difference today is that we're talking about the health and the stamina of a president. That has never been an issue for those incumbent presidents that came under strain.

HUNT: Yeah. NAFTALI: Ronald Reagan had a very bad first debate but nobody in the party was suggesting that he step down because he was too old at 73 in 1984.

HUNT: Well, and it's interesting those parallels you draw. Very correct to point out that the party apparatus rejected it. You know, the incumbent presidents in both of those cases continued to lead their party, but it's also true that they lost the general election, which is what we may be facing here and why there is so much pressure on Joe Biden.

Tim Naftali, very grateful to have you. I hope you'll come back soon.

NAFTALI: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, let's take a breather. Time now for sports.

The WNBA has announced the lineup for its upcoming All-Star Game, and some fan-favorite rookies getting their first nominations.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, good morning.


The announcement came before last night's Aces-Fever game with Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese getting their first All-Star nods, Kasie. They're going to join 9-time All-Star Nneka Ogwumike and 6-time All- Star DeWanna Bonner. And Clark's Fever teammates Aliyah Boston and Kelsey Mitchell are also going to join her on Team WNBA as they take on the U.S. Women's National Team in Phoenix on July 20, which is a tough task.

Kelsey Plum is one of those players on Team USA and Clark getting an early look at what she will be up against later this month. Plum putting up 34 in front of a sellout crowd at T-Mobile Arena -- the largest crowd, by the way, for a regular season WNBA game since 1999.


Clark's double-double not enough for Plum in the Ace's. Vegas winning 88-69.

And Angel Reese following up being named June's Rookie of the Month with her 11th consecutive double-double that included an incredible 19 rebounds as her Chicago Sky took down the Atlanta Dream 85-77. She's been averaging 13 points and 11 boards in her rookie campaign. She said she cannot wait for All-Star.

And we've seen some very creative schedule reveals over the past couple of years, Kasie, but this might take the cake. The New Jersey Devils just released perhaps the most comedic of them all. Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton playing the role of Professor Douglas D. Admin here, giving fans a lesson in geography along with their upcoming NHL schedule.


DOUGIE HAMILTON, NEW JERSEY DEVILS DEFENSEMAN/"PROFESSOR DOUGLAS D. ADMIN": I'm Professor Douglas D. Admin. Welcome to today's geography class.

Pennsylvania, home of the Penguins and the Flyers. Penguins have wings but can't fly. Flyers have wings but aren't a real thing. Nothing in this state makes sense.

New York City, home of The New York Times who once voted the best pizza in New York to be from Razza, which like the Statue of Liberty, is in New Jersey.


MANNO: This is hockey humor at its finest, Kasie. I have no notes. I like it. It's an acquired taste. I thought it was pretty funny. The fans loved it and what's what matters.

HUNT: Oh my God, it's hilarious. It's absolutely hilarious. We've got to get Dana Bash, one of New Jersey's finest, to weigh in on this.

Carolyn Manno, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up next, a new CNN poll. Kamala Harris a faring better than President Biden against Donald Trump. Plus this.


Illegal fireworks starting fire in San Francisco park).


HUNT: Illegal fireworks sparking fire in a popular San Franciso park.