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Inside Politics

One-Third Of Americans Say Biden Should Be Reelected; TN Lawmakers Vote To Expel 3 Dem Colleagues; IDF: 34 Rockets Fired From Lebanon Towards Israel, 25 Intercepted. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 06, 2023 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to Inside politics. I'm John King in Washington. And it's a very, very busy news day. Thanks for sharing your time. Some new CNN polling releasing this hour. It is a sobering reality check for President Biden, tough performance grades and a big wow on the question of deserving four more years plus, a simply blockbuster, bombshell report.

Get this, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose luxury trips around the world worth hundreds of 1000s of dollars paid for by a billionaire conservative activist. And protest and controversy right now in Tennessee. Three Democrats in the legislature could soon be expelled for staging a gun reform protests on the floor of the statehouse and today, they are still making their case for change.


STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): We are making this political statement today but trying to act like we're doing something that is not going to do anything to prevent what occurred. More police officers in schools. Yesterday passed the bill to arm teachers, this is not going to make our students safe.

And I think that we owe it to these young people, the 1000s here, who we who we tried to speak for when we were silence, the 1000s who are gathered outside demanding that we take real action to address the crisis of easy access to military grade weapons in this state. And so with that, I must say that I cannot support this bill, because this bill is a band aid.


KING: We will go live to Tennessee in just a few moments. But we begin with some brand new CNN polling and what the numbers tell us about a president still working on his reelection plan as he heads today to Camp David, for the Easter weekend. The numbers are beyond sobering for President Biden.

They tell us many or in some cases, most of you have deep doubts about his performance and about the direction of the country right now. It is April 2023. So a very long way to November 2024. So consider these numbers, just an early campaign baseline. But it's an important but they are still quite telling about your mood. And the challenges facing the 80-year old incumbent. Our CNN political director, David Chalian here with us to unveil the numbers. David, what do they tell us?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, John, this is indeed a big baseline poll. It just the starting line. And President Biden hasn't even formally announced his reelection yet. But we asked the American people if he deserves reelection, if he deserves a second term. 32 percent just a third of Americans in this poll, John, say yes, Joe Biden deserves to be reelected.

When we asked that back in December, it was up at 37 percent. So he's lost a little bit of ground here. And we've noticed what's driving that is young voters, liberals, some people that should be naturally in a D versus R world, in Joe Biden's camp. So he'll have some work to do on his own side of the fence before he can actually convince the broad middle of the country.

Take a look at his overall approval rating in this poll. 42 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove, how does that stack up in his recent trend? Well, he really doesn't move all that much as you can see here, it sort of operates within a narrow band. But you see here, John, this is November. This is right after that midterm election where Democrats performed a little better than anticipated, he got a bit of a bump from that that uptick is no more, that has stalled out where we have his approval today.

And then we looked at his overall approval on some of the major issues of the day. And I think what's interesting here is the economy, 37 percent approval, immigration 35 percent. He's underperforming his overall job approval on a slew of issues only on the environment at 46 percent approval does he actually overperformed that overall 42 percent John -- job approval, John.

KING: David Chalian is going to make his way to the table and also here to join our conversation. Asma Khalid of NPR, CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Francesca Chamber of USA Today. So again, it's a baseline. And again, it's early but if you're the incumbent president, the question you want to ask the American people is give me four more years, I have made the case for four more years.

When you look at the numbers, again, it's this is Biden in a vacuum. Right? If you -- if the Democrats would say well wait, if he's running against Trump, or if he's running against DeSantis, but as a candidate, your first deal with your issues, how much of this is him? And how much of it does Team Biden think it's OK, people, you know, the economy has been volatile. If the economy gets better, we'll be OK.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes, I mean, the White House is convinced that they -- that the public just needs to get a better handle on what President Biden has achieved today. I mean, this is why you see him on this big Invest in America tour, touring factories, making the pitch for his legislation. [12:05:00]

But to your other point about the economy, I mean economists I have spoken to for months have said with inflation being as it is and being rather persistent now in our economy, it's really, really tricky for any president to message well on inflation.

People are, you know, and pardon my language. There's -- they're pissed off when they're paying as much as they are at the grocery store for things. And that translates into how they feel about President Biden.

KING: And so if you're an incumbent president to at this moment, and we do not foresee a serious primary challenge, Robert Kennedy, Jr. wants to run as a Democrat, Marianne Williamson is running as a Democrat. There's nobody on the horizon right now. We watch this every day who looks like a threat to the President.

And yet, when you look at this poll, Francesca again, Joe Biden is off to Camp David for the weekend with his wife to talk about this, when will be announced, what's our plan to announce? This is among Democrats and Democratic leaning independents. Back in December 20 percent -- 40 percent, excuse me, said Biden should be the nominee, that's gone up a little bit to 44 percent. But this just jumps out at you.

54 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents at this moment in time watching all the Republican activity around the country, you think they'd rally around their president, they still want someone else.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: So my Biden's versus telling me as far as those other Democrats who could get in are running, they just don't care about that, to be honest, they don't see those people as a threat.

Now, when you look at this polling that CNN just released too when asked to name someone who they would like to see as an alternative to Biden, Americans have a hard time articulating that, Democrats in particular who else they'd want to challenge them. And that's the real issue, I think, facing the Democratic Party as it moves as it moves forward, not just in this election cycle, but in future election cycles. If not Joe Biden, then who?

KING: Then who? And again, Team Biden would say, give us a Republican opponent, these numbers will change. Give us Donald Trump, they believe these numbers will change quite significantly. And we'll get sort of a rematch of 2020. But again, if you're trying to clean up your house, right, improve your own standing before the campaign kicks into gear, Jeff Zeleny, look at this.

Does Biden have the stamina and sharpness for the job? 67 percent. Does he inspire confidence? 65 percent say no. Does he care about people like you. This one jumped out at me Joe Biden's whole thing was middle class Joe, I have empathy for you. 45 percent say yes, this is among all voters, but a majority say no. Is he honest and trustworthy? A majority say no. That is some work to be done by an incumbent president.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt. And I think a central part of that is a lot of what many voters across the spectrum hear about Joe Biden is not necessarily from the White House. It's how Fox News and others are character capturing him. But that is a challenge on the White House, that is on this President to break through.

And you get the sense as I travel across the country, talking to voters, they aren't familiar with everything that he's done. They aren't familiar with the infrastructure plan. And yes, he gets a lot of local news coverage. He went to Minnesota this week. So there are going to be some projects happening by the time that the election comes around.

But there is no sense that he has been able to sort of grab people and show that he has the confidence for the job. This is different than any reelection, we've covered, obviously. Joe Biden's biggest challenge, in many respects, at least now is Joe Biden, trying to articulate that message and his advisors, some Democrats have been smiling this week at all the Donald Trump stuff.

But the wiser ones, I think, or not necessarily because the excitement, and the attention is on Joe Biden. And we don't know how a 2020 campaign will be if it becomes them. It's way too early to assume that. But we should not necessarily assume that it would have the same outcome. The excitement factor is just not there for Joe Biden, maybe he can change that. Maybe Donald Trump becoming the nominee could excite Democrats, but Joe Biden has not fired up Democrats.

KING: And so I want to move on to a key Republican point in a minute. But this is part of a longer baseline polling, we do several different kinds of polling. This is a month long look at the American electorate to sort of help us understand what's happening out there. So this is what you do. And you're great at it.

When you look at numbers like this, and you have you know, 54 percent of the Democratic Party saying somebody else, even as the Republicans are getting active and busy, you would think that would be sort of the frame moment for Democrats. OK, the campaign is starting. He's our guy. Let's rally to the incumbent president, because there's no buddy big out there. What is it? What -- What jumps out at you from the polling? What this is? Some of this is about Joe Biden, a lot of it's about the mood of the country.

CHALIAN: Exactly. And I do think it's key as Francesco was saying about when asked them to name well, who else, that they can't really, Democrats can't really come up with that. I thought one of the really interesting findings here was that a slice of the electorate, about 11 percent, one in 10 voters approve of the job Joe Biden is doing, but do not believe he deserves a second term. That's a lot. I know that sounds small, just one in 10.

But that is a larger slice than we have seen previously with Trump or Obama when asked and so looking at that you're seeing our Pollster Jenna just called them the thanks but no thanks, crowd. Literally thanks, but no thanks.


And I think it'll be an important part of the electorate for the Biden team to begin to start bringing back into the poll and to your point about enthusiasm, we also see in this poll Republicans are much more eager not surprisingly to see the out party this way about the 2024 election than are Democrats.

KING: I think that point about the Democrats is important as a lot of Democrats, independents thank, Joe Biden. They're grateful Joe Biden beat Donald Trump. They think that was his mission. They think that was his mission. And now they're looking for some generational or I don't know, something different. I want to bring in this Republican number. This was all conducted in the month of March. So this is before except for one day of the sample. This is before the American people knew Donald Trump was indicted, they knew he was charged.

But even before that, we've seen a rally around the president among Republicans, even before that. Donald Trump's standing, should he be the nominee, it was 38 percent in December of 22. It is now up to 52 percent. So Donald Trump's trajectory in the Republican primary is on the rise. It was even before the charges.

So Biden's got things to deal with. At the moment if you're Trump, despite all these legal problems. I know it sounds backwards. But despite deepening legal problems politically, he's on more solid ground.

KHALID: Yes. And you've seen that if think even just a few days since the court appearance, you've seen Republicans rally around him. I mean, look, I think that for Democrats, it ultimately comes down to who the nominee is going to be. I know we discussed this earlier for Donald Trump. I think the challenge will be he and himself as well to some degree.

We'll see how that plays out.

CHAMBERS: Look at Ron DeSantis' numbers in there as well. He has seen a 10 percent drop since the last time CNN polled. That's very important also.

ZELENY: Because Trump's been going after him.


ZELENY: So now, the burden is on--

CHAMBERS: It's having a major effect.

ZELELNY: - on Governor DeSantis to jump in.

KING: Once you're in the arena, things get interesting. That's how it works. Appreciate that conversation. We'll continue to follow the numbers. Up next for us, though some tense political drama playing out. Right now on the floor of the Tennessee State House lawmakers to vote today on expelling three Democratic members who disrupted proceedings with a gun reform protest a week ago.




KING: Right now there is simply an unprecedented political moment unfolding in Tennessee. You can see right here protesters rallying at the state capitol as three Democratic lawmakers could be removed from office. These three Democrats Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson protested on the floor last week during a gun control rally.

That rally of course after last month's deadly shooting at a national school. Republicans say that demonstration on the floor brought 'dishonor to the State House of Representatives' and that they say is grounds for expulsion. CNN's Ryan Young is right there live on the ground for us in Nashville. Ryan, what are you seeing?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey John, first things first, let's be clear, the Republicans have the power to do this if they want to. All day long, though we've seen some passionate protesters showing up to have their voices heard despite the weather here. It's been raining like cats and dogs all day. And people have been here all day letting their voices be heard.

And you can see the crowds behind me but you could also see the crowds in the video, they wanted to go in the statehouse to make sure that the lawmakers heard their voice throughout this. They also wanted to people to know that quite honestly, yes, this is about this move here politically. But the conversation should be about the victims who were involved in this, those victims who were just killed less than two weeks ago.

So the idea here that we talked to so many parents, so many teachers who want their voices heard. They want some common sense gun laws put into place. But when you talk about what happened on the floor here, those three lawmakers spoke out of turn, they went on to the floor, they used a bullhorn, and the Republicans have now moved forward with this idea of all three of them could be expelled.

Now, groups have been fighting hard to maybe stop this and say, look, you're not talking about gun violence. And that's something they would like to speak about today. But John, as you know, in politics, sometimes all's fair in love and war. And this could happen today. We're of course, we're watching what's going on inside to see exactly what's going to happen next, and whether or not all three can be looking for somebody else to do after today.

KING: You see the debate playing out there on the floor. Ryan Jones, Ryan Young, excuse me, there for us. Raise your hand if they get to the point where they're having the votes. Come back and join us, Ryan, as we go through this important moment. In the meantime, we're bringing the conversation back into the room with our great reporters.

To be clear, the three Democrats who brought a bullhorn disrupted the proceedings spoke out of order, they broke the rules, the traditional decorum of the house. The question is, does the penalty fit the crime, if you will, to vote to expel them as opposed to sanction them somehow.

CHAMBERS: And so the White House hasn't commented on this yet today. But we would expect that they might do that at their White House press briefing later. But the other day, their response to this was essentially to accuse Republicans in the state of quote unquote, shrugging in the face of another heart wrenching tragedy. And you've seen the White House also draw a link between what's going on in Tennessee to what's also taking place in Florida, where Ron DeSantis decide a concealed carry bill just the other day and calling again on Congress to ban assault weapons.

KING: There's no question whether it's gun reform measures, whether it's abortion measures, these are going to be defining issues in the 2024 campaign state by state, the politics a little different.

We just saw what happened in Wisconsin, I want you to listen, State Rep. Gloria Johnson, she's one of the Democrats. She just -- she -- she admits they broke the rules on the floor. But she says it's important enough, she needed to get the attention she believes of Republicans in the legislature. Now she says she's being unduly punished.


REP. GLORIA JOHNSON (D-TN): It's absolutely surreal. I really can't believe that we are here that democracy is being eroded. The first action this body took was not to do something about gun violence, but to expel three members who spoke up against gun violence.


KING: Now, again, they broke the rules in speaking up. The question is OK, six, six people were shot and killed in your community. Emotions are raw. Do you expel them for speaking up?

KHALID: I mean, whether or not I think they think it's the judicious thing to do politically, which I'm not sure that it really is at this point in time. I mean, I think there's a question too of these lawmakers were democratically elected.


And are you essentially superseding the will of the people by expelling them. I mean that's a rather harsh I think fairly unprecedented and people see partisan move as a result of this.

KING: So let's listen to the Republican House Speaker here. Making a comparison. Sorry, I just don't think it fits. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. CAMERON SEXTON (R-TN): Two of the members, Representative Jones and Representative Johnson had been very vocal about January 6 in Washington DC, about what that was. And what they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse, depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol.


KING: They were trying to get a discussion about gun reform. They were not trying to overthrow the election. They were not trying to seize control of the chamber. They were not trying to--

KHALID: They weren't violent.

KING: - take the governor out of office.

ZELENY: You heard.

KING: They were not violent. Thank you. They were not violent. They may have been loud. They may have broken the rules, but really equivalent or worse.

ZELENY: You heard him pause there. You almost wonder if he was thinking if he should go ahead with a sentence, but he did. But look, the reality of all of this. The protesters out in Tennessee, these swing voters, suburban voters, independent voters, Republican voters, there are people out there who want their elected officials to do something on guns.

So at some point, there will be a tipping point. I don't know if it will be in the next election or not. But this -- this inside baseball, these rules. No one cares about the rules of the Tennessee House. Voters, I'm guessing certainly Democrats and some in the middle and others. What clearly there are overwhelming majorities of Americans want something to be done on guns.

And this is an example of not happening. So I don't know if they'll be punished at the ballot box, the leaders who are doing this, but this does nothing to stop or address what clearly is an epidemic of violence in this country.

KING: That we'll watch as the votes play out in Tennessee throughout the day. Up next for us, though we're following a developing story. An important developing situation in Israel. Israel says dozens of rockets have been fired into the country from Lebanon. Now there are reports that Israel is striking back. Plus, a historic moment for Mike Pence. The former vice president now poised to testify. In one of the federal investigations off his former boss, then President Donald Trump.



KING: Now to Israel in a very tense security situation because of a barrage of rockets fired from Lebanon. Israel right now on high alert. The Israeli Defense Minister vows his country will 'hit anyone who tries to harm Israel.' You see there here's what it look like. This is the ground now. You see smashed cars.

You see shattered windshields. Tensions were already high. The rocket assault from Lebanon coming just hours after Israeli police stormed Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque for a second time. CNN's Hadas Gold joins us now she's on the phone as she makes her way from Jerusalem to Northern Israel.

Hadas what's the latest?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Yes, John, what the latest is what we're hearing from the Israeli military is who they think is behind these rockets.

KING: I believe we lost our signal with Hadas, we will try to reestablish that. In the meantime, let's move on to a giant legal and political story here in the United States. Friction between Donald Trump and his former vice president is about to get worse.

A spokesperson for Mike Pence says the former Vice President will not fight a federal court ruling, that ruling requiring him to testify now, about then President Trump's efforts to enlist Pence in efforts to block the certification of the 2020 election, meaning block the certification of Joe Biden's win.

CNN's Paula Reid is live with us now with the details. This is a big deal.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This is a big deal. A potentially historic appearance. John by the former vice president. This would be the first time he would be cooperating in a criminal investigation against his former boss. And he could really speak to a lot of key issues in this investigation.

He could answer questions about the pressure that he was facing from Trump and his allies in the lead up to January 6, specifically, that heated phone call between him and Trump that other witnesses have talked about, and Pence even discussed in his book, but here he would be answering questions from investigators under oath.

He would also likely be asked about threats he faced from Trump supporters on Capitol Hill that day. Now there is one area where he will not have to answer questions. He has gotten -- his lawyers have argued that he has gotten permission from the judge that he does not have to answer anything related to his official duties as President of the Senate that day. That was an important constitutional argument that he made.

But quite frankly, John, I don't think that's really going to matter to investigators, because they're not that interested in the procedural duties that he had that day. They want to know about any efforts to corruptly obstruct the 2020 election. Now, it's not clear exactly when he will testify. One big question out there is whether the former president will try to appeal this on executive privilege grounds. I'm told that the President -- former president's legal team knows if they do that they know they will likely lose, but they may still do it as a formality to preserve the issue for the future.

KING: For the future perhaps or to run out the clock a little bit. Paula Reid, appreciate that important reporting. Let's get some insights now from Ben Ginsberg. He's the preeminent Republican election lawyer. Ben, I want to talk to you mostly about the New York case, the indictment, the charges, the felony charges against the former President Donald Trump, but let's start with this issue here.

You've advised presidents, you've advised vice presidents, you have been around Republican politics a long time what does it tell you that the courts keep saying 'up the line' for members of the Trump inner circle now, up to an including the Vice President of United States you must testify about conversations the then president of the United States had with you.