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Inside Politics

Biden Officially Enters 2024 Contest; Biden Puts Trump At The Center Of Campaign In 2024 Message; Poll: 86 Percent Of Dem Who Don't Want Biden To Run Cite His Age; Singer, Actor, Civil Rights Activist Dies At 96; Haley Appeals To Suburban Swing Voters In Abortion Speech; North Dakota Gov Signs 6-Week Abortion Ban Into Law; Senate GOP Campaign Cmte Chair Endorses Trump; Today: E. Jean Carroll Trail Against Donald Trump Begins. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 25, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Joe Biden makes his argument. The president officially enters the 2024 campaign. His opening video makes clear, he expects to stare down Donald Trump in a general election rematch. The president's message now, mirrors his message back then.


Plus, Nikki Haley tries to change the Republican Party's conversation about abortion. Her message calls for more compassion and where she delivered that speech highlights the Republican Party struggle in purple places that decide the electoral map. And today, Donald Trump on trial. Jury selection kicks off in a civil case over whether the former president defamed a writer who accuses him of rape.

Up first though, the president's four more years bet. This morning, Joe Biden making formal another run at the Oval Office. The method a 6 am video release. The first two images you see in that video flashes of violence from one of the country's darkest days.

That announcement video calls back to his 2020 campaign launched four years ago on this very day. The insurrection now swaps in for Charlottesville, back then. The cemetery leaves no doubt. Biden sees the stakes and the threat is very much the same. That his singular mission is to deny Donald Trump a chance to fundamentally alter the DNA of the United States.


The video makes clear the assumption at the heart of team Biden's operating theory that the 2020 formula should work again in 2024. And that making Trump and his remake of the Republican Party the defining issue will push Biden hopes to the periphery concerns about his age or doubts about his stewardship of the economy.

Let's begin at the White House and go live now to CNN's Arlette Saenz. Arlette, president made an official, he made the tradition if you will of the same day as four years ago. Now what?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. President Biden formally announced his reelection bid, really trying to draw on those same themes from that 2020 campaign. As he argued the battle for the soul of the nation is not yet complete, and he needs Americans to let him finish the job with another term in office.

President Biden released that three-and-a-half-minute video a bit earlier today, where he also warned that Americans freedoms are facing threats by what he has described as MAGA extremism. You saw the imagery in that video from the insurrection on January 6. He also tried to highlight efforts to limit access to abortion an issue that has really been a galvanizing force for Democrats during the midterms, and around all of these abortion fights around the country.

Additionally, in that video, he specifically included images of two men that he could face off against in a general election matchup, and that is former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has yet to formally entered the 2024 campaign.

But ultimately, President Biden is hoping that voters will side with his record. Looking at his achievements, when it comes to infrastructure and climate change, and also efforts to restore American relations around the world.

Now, advisors say that because President Biden is entering the campaign, it doesn't necessarily mean we're going to immediately see him on the campaign trail. They believe that one of his selling points is trying -- having him do the job of president. And so, he's not expected to be holding these large-scale rallies right away that's similar to the tactic taken by President Obama.

But in just a short while within the next hour, we will be seeing him speak to a union group as he tries to highlight labor ties as he's trying to make this case. So once again, get another term in office in the next year and a half.

KING: In a way we go. Arlette Saenz, live for us at the White House. The campaign is now official. Arlette, thanks for kicking us off. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Laura Barron-Lopez the PBS NewsHour, and Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post.


Let's listen to a little bit more of the president because it is pretty clear. They view 2024 as a lot like 2020 with the course the insurrection in between. Here's a message from the president, older voters, the suburbs, younger voters. He wants to win again.


I give hate, no safe harbor. I mean, it's the tone of the Republican Party, the president's going at. How do they view to Arlette's point about you're an incumbent president, you don't want to overdo it right now, but you also don't want to do it? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Yes. So right now, as Arlette said, there -- he's going to still be out there very much in his presidential role. So, he'll be traveling across the country, but as president. And then in 2024, going out there more on the campaign trail.

But still, we've seen even in his presidential role, he's been very clear about striking that contrast with Republicans and what the White House is arguing, as well as what they're going to argue during the campaign is that if he does not win reelection, then the extreme, what they say is the extremism Republican agenda that is passing in a number of red states and state legislatures.

We're talking about the Tennessee Three. We're talking about the lack of movement on guns, the anti-trans and anti LGBTQ, also six-week abortion bans, that those are all going to be things that Republicans would do nationwide if they gain the presidency.

KING: And so, part of it again, as Arlette noted smartly, you do see DeSantis in the video, but if you go through the video message, if you talk to people around Biden, they seem fairly well convinced that this is going to be a rematch. The poll show the American people don't want that. But they think in a Biden-Trump, you run the same race, you just sort of updated with a few things.

RHONDA COLVIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's right. I don't think they're taking anything for granted right now. They know that Trump is going to be a candidate that they're going to be very prepared to go up against. And you've seen this video how calculated the announcement overall has been from the Biden team.

Remember back in February, we heard it was going to be then around the state of the union. And we know from his camp, that they wanted to think about how to make this announcement while showing that he is still president, that he's above the fray of the congressional Republicans and the things happening on the Hill. So that's going to be a very strong argument for President Biden to say, look, I've been president, while the congressional Republicans are offering this.

KING: When you don't have a significant primary challenge, you know, at the moment and there's no on the horizon. We do not see President Biden having one of those. You get to deal with your weaknesses. You get to not only play to your strengths, but you get to address your weaknesses.

A close friend of the president, the House Democrat Jim Clyburn, the man who you might say was helped, was the biggest help to Joe Biden back in winning the 2020 nomination says, the president needs to deal with issue one.


REP. JIM CLYBURN, (D-SC): The president is going to have to deal with the whole issue of age. That is something that we just cannot pretend is not on people's minds.


KING: It clearly is on people's minds. Jeff, if you look at this CBS News poll, this is among Democrats and Democratic leaners. People who are open to voting for Democrats, who think the president should not run for reelection.

86 percent of them cite his age, 77 percent of that group also think it's time for somebody new, 59 percent say they like other Democrats more about half, 46 percent his performance as president. But where you have almost nine in 10 of the Democrats who have hesitancy about Biden running, saying it's his age. How do you address it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean, when he's been asked about that several times what he says privately and publicly as well, he says, watch me. So indeed, we will be watching him. Indeed, voters will be watching him to see how he performs when he's campaigning. How he sort of holds up to this. We're only at the midpoint of his presidency. So, we should point out.

I mean, he still has a year and a half, at least, more than that left in his first term. And voters will judge his age that is one of the central things. So, is one of the perhaps the biggest surprises of all of this. Here we are. Four years to the day, as Arlette was saying after he jumped in the first time. He has obviously many strengths compared to that one.

He's the incumbent president, so he has the incumbency, and Democrats are behind him. That was not the case four years ago, but he has changed significantly. We can all see it. You can hear it. So, this is his challenge going forward. And at least as of now, we do not hope and expect there will be a global pandemic during this campaign. So that also will be different.

But he clearly is making the point here that his job is unfinished. His work is unfinished. And with Donald Trump still in the pole position in this race on the Republican side, he unifies Democrats for him. So, Donald Trump still is the person who's going to help at least in Biden advisors mind, help him win reelection, but so many ifs in there, and age of course, is one of them.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. One Democratic pollster I was talking to this morning about the launch said that that of course, there are valid questions that voters have about his age, not so much. They don't think that it will impact whether or not base voters vote for him. It's just a concern about whether or not he could finish out another term.


But they said that they mentioned Ronald Reagan, and the fact that Reagan wasn't young when he was running. And that the way they countered that was with images of Reagan on a horse, with images of Reagan in cowboy hats, and that now I don't expect President Biden to get on a horse. But we could very well see more of him in his aviators and in his corvette, which is how they've countered that in the past. KING: I think there's that, tried to show that he's active and vigorous on the campaign trail. The other point is that, you know, it's by no, he says, you know, I'm not running against the almighty, consider the alternative. It's not just the Republican presidential candidates. He has this debt ceiling showdown with Republicans that he's using the terms he used a lot in the 2022 midterms, the MAGA extremists. So, in part, a showdown with Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans is part of Biden-Harris 2024.

COLVIN: That's right. And it's pretty important to look at the timing of this announcement. Of course, we knew earlier this week that it might happen today. But today is also marking the beginning of what might be a big showdown on the Hill between his budget the debt ceiling, so he needed to get ahead of that.

And you see him in that video, trying to present the picture that he is the president who knows what to do. He can -- I think the last line in the video is let's finish the job. So, I think we'll be hearing a lot more about, let's finish the job type of rhetoric from his camp.

KING: And he'll make the case he needs four more years to do it. A quick pause here to our political coverage for a moment of sadness, the passing of a legend. Today we remember the singer, actor and civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte.


A 96-year-old Belafonte dying from congestive heart failure at his Manhattan home. An award-winning Broadway performer. Belafonte blazed new trails for African American performers in music and in Hollywood. His career though stretch far beyond the stage. He was an instrumental voice in the 60s civil rights movement. Later an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa. Harry Belafonte again was 96.

Up next. Republican hopeful Nikki Haley tries to put her stamp on the GOP abortion debate. Her venue, Northern Virginia, a reminder of the party's struggles in swing states suburbs.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was not too long ago, when President Bill Clinton said he wanted abortion to be "safe" "legal" and "rare." Few Democrats say rare anymore.





KING: The Republican Party is still searching for a winning message especially in general elections on the abortion issue. Nikki Haley today saying, she just might have won. The Republican presidential candidate is in Virginia, making a policy speech that's more about tone than policy specifics. Haley the only woman in the Republican race right now makes this personal appeal in the suburbs.


HALEY: It's a sensitive topic that deserves our attention. It's one that too many politicians either demagogue or hide from. I won't demagogue or hide from it.


KING: CNN's Kylie Atwood, who has that speech joins us now live from Arlington, Virginia. An interesting message, her biggest challenge immediately is to gain traction in the Republican primary, but she's trying to speak in a general election mode here.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. She called for a constructive conversation to try and find consensus on this sensitive issue. Essentially making the case, John, that there's more of a middle ground on the issue of abortion than most folks give credit to when they have discussions on this topic. And one of the things that she really honed in on is why she is pro- life. She spoke about her personal experience; her husband being adopted.

She also talked about having challenges conceiving her own children. And those are two of the main central reasons that she said she's pro- life. She says not because the Republican Party told her to, it's because of those personal decisions that she made. But she did say that generally speaking, the conversation on this topic from her viewpoint is just too divisive. Listen to what she said.


HALEY: They've turned a sensitive issue that has long divided people into a kind of gotcha bidding war. How many weeks are you for? How many exceptions are you for, and the list goes on. But these questions missed the point if the goal is about saving as many lives as possible.


ATWOOD: Now, what Nikki Haley didn't do in this speech is layout any specific policy with regard to a weak limit that she would back. She said, there is a federal role to be played in this conversation. But she's really calling for a conversation at this point. She's not being definitive as to where she would stand on this policy as president.

And it's important to know, of course, that a lot of other Republicans are having to speak to this topic right now. Some of them are definitively saying where they stand, others are changing their position by the day, the backdrop, of course, being the Supreme Court ruling, that of course, removed women's national right to an abortion, which hurts Republicans in the 2022 midterms. John?

KING: Kylie Atwood, live for us in Northern Virginia. Kylie, thank you for that. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. It's interesting. Again, as I noted, her biggest problem right now is that she's running a very distant third or fourth well behind its Donald Trump and its governor DeSantis. And then there's a giant gap. And then you have a bunch of people in single digits.

In a Republican primary, in any primary, but she's running in the Republican primary. Consensus is not usually what you're talking about, right? You're trying to appeal to people who vote in the primary tend to be the most conservative voters. She's trying to say essentially if we stay hard, right, we'll lose in November. Is that the message here?

BARRON-LOPEZ: That's when it appears her messages. But again, without providing specifics about exactly what she would endorse or not, we've seen a number of other Republicans in the field. Senator Tim Scott included kind of dance around this issue all well. Governor Ron DeSantis passed a six-week abortion ban in Florida.


And when it comes to the general election and the overwhelming majority of the public about, I think six in 10 Americans support legal abortion in most cases. So, where Republicans are headed, whether it's at the state legislator level, or even what some of them have proposed nationally is not where the majority of Americans are.

KING: Right. And if you listen to the sound that Kylie talks to what she said they, they've turned a sensitive issue into a kind of got your bidding, where she's saying the media there, that's a cop out. I'm sorry. We can show you a map right now. We ask questions because there's a big policy debate going on.

The governor of North Dakota just signed a law banning a six-week ban that has no rape or no incest exception, it does have an exception for the life of the mother. The Florida governor, potential candidate, likely candidate Ron DeSantis, just signed six weeks from her own state. Senator Lindsey Graham has proposed a 15-week federal ban.

So, we asked these questions because this is an issue that is front and center in American policy and political life because of the Dobbs decision.

COLVIN: That's exactly right. I mean, every day you're seeing headlines about the abortion issue, and it's proving to be an enduring issue for candidates to address. So, it is interesting, she's coming out, discussing this, having a speech about it, even though she isn't giving real definitive policy initiatives that she might be behind.

But in the tape that we just heard, it does sound when she's saying, let's come to a consensus that she is tapping into voters, fatigue and their tiredness of, you know, divisive politics. So that couldn't be helpful. But again, these candidates are going to have to routinely talk about abortion throughout the primary season, throughout the general because it is going to be an enduring issue.

KING: I guess that's the thing. Can you shake? Can you shake the mindset of primary voters, who tend to be looking for the more conservative or on the Democratic side more liberal candidate? Can you shake their mindset? Joe Biden did that. Joe Biden did do that in 2020. We said this is about winning. As she mentioned, Bill Clinton talking about abortion, should be safe, legal and rare. He challenged his party by saying it should be about winning. In today's Trumpy Republican base, though, can you do that?

ZELENY: We'll see. She is trying to test this. But the primary is a challenge on this issue, particularly because of where it begins. Iowa is the beginning of its many evangelical voters there are strong, opponents and critics of abortion at anything, so she's going to be pressed to be more specific.

She said, you know, we don't need a week and exceptions. Some people do actually want that. So former Vice President Mike Pence is out there, kind of ahead of the curve. You know, the most, some would say extreme position, the most-clear position. Others would say in terms of how much she wants to protect the life and her view.

But one person we have not heard about this one Republican is Donald Trump. He knows that the abortion politics are very -- the primary politics aren't the same as a general politics. So, we will see if she's able to navigate this here. But she does say that she has something that no other candidates do. She's a woman. She's given birth. She knows how this to a message this.

So, it's a high wire act for her but a very interesting message. I think that she has been doing on the campaign trail, but obviously was giving a full speech on this to get some attention.

KING: If your current dynamics aren't going that great. You try to change them. And so, the effort is, can you. I'm skeptical that you can change the Republican primary electorate to think that way, but we will see. And more proof today of just Donald Trump's formidable front runner status.

This is Steve Daines. Who happens to be running the senatorial committee, helping to try to elect Republican senators next year. He's a close ally of Mitch McConnell, with whom Donald Trump has no relationship. But Steve Daines went on Donald Trump Jr.'s podcast show, and said, I'm for your dad.


SEN. STEVE DAINES, (R) CHAIR, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: The best four years I've had in the U.S. Senate is when President Trump was serving the Oval Office. You talk about results. We passed and he signed a lot of the greatest tax cut in American history. We transformed the course. I'm proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president United States.


KING: That's easy, and it's safe for Daines in the sense that Trump won his state by, I don't know, 15 or 20 points, you know, a high double there. So, it's safe and easy. But the fact that he does it now, does tell you something that, you know, as a McConnell guy, you think maybe he'd hold out. He just wants to get this out of the way. BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, he's also the head of the Senate campaign arm for Republicans. And what's so striking is that, right after 2022 midterms, everyone was talking about, are Republicans -- are the establishment Republicans going to totally sever ties with Trump because they weren't able to win on his strategy in the 2022 midterms. I mean, they should have won the Senate and they didn't. And I think that that answers the question for you.

KING: Yes. That answers the question that they still see. Like it or not, they see Trump as most formidable. Up next. To continue the conversation, Donald Trump and the law. Jury selection underway today and columnist E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit against the former president. And the Georgia prosecutor investigating election interference, lays out a timeline for possible charges.



KING: Just a few moments, we'll take you live to a hall here in Washington. The president United States Joe Biden giving his first speech since officially declaring his 2024 candidacy. It is to a labor group here in Washington. Again, we'll go there live momentarily.

Today, though, more drama in a Manhattan courtroom. E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation trial against the former President Donald Trump kicking off with jury selection. The columnist alleges that Donald Trump back then a private real estate mogul for simply raped and groped her in a New York City department store dressing room, that back in the mid-1990s. Carroll first went public with these allegations in 2019.