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Trump Slams DeSantis: Don't Need 8 Years to Turn Things Around; Pence: Shut Down Education Dept. & Expand "Freedom"; Jamie Dimon Hints at Possible Future in Politics; Pentagon Cancels Drag Show At Air Force Base; Biden: U.S. Will Not Waver in Supporting Ukraine. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 01, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: So you need a conservative in there for two terms to get a lot of things done. Donald Trump says, no, you don't.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I heard DeSantis go out and say and talk about eight years, we need eight years. You don't need eight years, you need six months. We can turn this thing around so quickly. If you need eight years, who the hell wants to wait eight years? You don't need eight years.


KING: Number one, it's proof he's worried about DeSantis. Number two, it's proof he either has no memory of his own presidency or just cares not to remember. He had a Republican Congress when he came in. They said they were going to repeal or replace Obamacare. He said he was going to end birthright citizenship.

He said, we'd have a big infrastructure bill. We had none of that. We did have the big Trump tax cut. But the idea, what does that tell you about his mindset, about DeSantis and Iowa?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He is obviously concerned. I mean, in a crowded field, he really only has one competitor percentage wise, according to the early polls. And the early polls matter, right? But I think what you're seeing here is it's a crowded field, but everyone's running in a different way.

DeSantis is really running to the right of President Trump and telling the evangelical base, the conservative base, not just presenting himself as a candidate of faith or something that could be sort of the Mike Pence model, but saying, if you elect me, I'm going to do more far right stuff, more social policies, more anti-woke policies.

What was his expression? Force my will? And I'm going to elected --

KING: Impose our will.

TALEV: Impose --

KING: Impose our will.

TALEV: Impose my will.

KING: Yes.

TALEV: So that's a really different message than you're going to hear from a Chris Christie or even a Nikki Haley. These are much more institutional. Let's return to a more normal, you know, sort of appeal. And so I think Trump feels the biggest threat from DeSantis right now both in terms of message, in terms of numbers, and in terms of money and campaign infrastructure.

KING: And so as you watch it play out, you mentioned they both -- they lead in the polls. They have the most money raised and already and they have the most capability to raise more, at least based on the evidence we have today.

The former vice president will announce next week in Iowa, and then he will do a CNN town hall in Iowa. He was in Michigan yesterday. Listen to him here. This is a Ronald Reagan idea that Republicans were never able to achieve. Eliminate the Department of Education.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd like to see us shut down the Federal Department of Education and send those resources back where states can innovate and expand educational freedom for all of our kids.

The conservative vision is an optimistic vision for America that believes in the American people. And that's the kind of leadership I believe we need again.


KING: Former vice president, former Indiana governor, a committed Christian conservative. If you rolled back, you know, the -- went to a time warp, went back 10 or 15 years, there's a lane for that guy in Iowa. Is there now, when you have Trump and DeSantis and others.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, that's the big question. The themes that he is trying to run on are, you know, Christian, Evangelicals. He's trying to run on fiscal conservatism, national defense hawks. That's the coalition he is trying to build. But there is a big question about whether that is still relevant in today's Republican Party.

I think his call to end the Department of Education, that is something that conservatives have been trying to push for for many years. But for Pence, it is a space that he can try to engage in some of the culture wars. It's something he's been reluctant to do and probably won't be doing as part of his campaign. But it does allow him a way to sort of tap into the base. And I think it's a recognition that that message alone, the Reagan coalition alone isn't enough. TALEV: Without saying burn down the establishment, without saying --

ZANONA: Right.

TALEV: -- toss Chris Reid (ph) to the street in the middle of his term. Mike Pence, I don't think will do it that way. So he has to find things that messages that actually make sense for him. And this is probably his closest --

KING: It's not as combative. Trump is combative. DeSantis is combative. I'd said at the top that when you listen to Trump say, you can get it done like that, that ignores his own experience as president of the United States here in Washington.

On an equal opportunity fact check here, this is Governor DeSantis this morning in New Hampshire. He also said this yesterday in Iowa.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to end this culture of losing that's infected the Republican Party in recent years. You know, we should have 55 Republican senators right now had we not flubbed so many races over the last four or six years.


KING: Now, most would take that as a swipe at Trump endorsing candidates in primaries who can't win. I want to give political credit for catching this this morning, and we're going to show it to you right now.

Just last year, Ron DeSantis endorsed and campaigned for several of the people you see. He endorsed them all, and he campaigned for several of the people you see on the screen right there who were Republican nominees for Senate seats that they lost. And so he's trying to stay in a culture of losing, at least in those particular races, he was a piece of it, was he not?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: He was. And if you go back to 2018 when he was first elected governor, he won in Florida by a razor thin margin. Now, he won by a much broader electorate in 2022 when he was going for reelection as an incumbent.

But we talk about the people that are endorsed. He benefited from Donald Trump's endorsement in 2018 that propelled him from the Congress to the governorship.


And so, he's trying to differentiate himself from President Trump. But a lot of those same endorsements, a lot of those same candidates, a lot of those same tactics in terms of trying to reach out to a specific part of the Republican Party, the hard right that has worked for him in Florida, but it has not had the kind of broad appeal to be able to work in Senate races in Georgia and Arizona and Pennsylvania.

And so, being able to show how he could take what happened in Florida and make it work nationally, he has to do that. He hasn't done it yet.

KING: You're always watching running for president, Democrat, Republican, Independent. It's hard. It's hard on you, it's hard on your family, it's hard on your staff. It's an interesting footnote.

Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, former Ambassador of the United Nations, her husband is a member of the South Carolina National Guard and he's going to be deployed in the middle of a campaign. It's just a fact. But already -- you know, and these little things, they get attention and to what end?

ZANONA: And Chris Christie also when he was talking about whether he was going to run or not, he said one of the things that has to be consideration is whether you and your family are up for the challenge. And that was one of the things he was weighing when he was making his presidential decision.

KING: Yes, well, we are --

OLORUNNIPA: Trump as a wild card, he will go after families of candidates. He's done it in the past and you can expect that he'd do it in the future.

KING: Well, let's hope he doesn't go after someone who's serving his country overseas at a delicate moment. More in the race that's getting crowded by the day. It must make it interesting.

We're live from Iowa next week. Dana Bash will moderate another important scene on presidential town hall. This one, as I noted, with the former Vice President Mike Pence on his announcement day Wednesday, that's 09:00 p.m. Eastern right here only on CNN.

Up next, he just might be the most powerful person in corporate America. Now, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is considering a second act in politics.



KING: Most of you know his name because he's built a banking empire at JPMorgan Chase. Now the CEO, Jamie Dimon, hinting at a possible future in politics. Listen here in an interview with Bloomberg Television, Dimon said this.


JAMIE DIMON, CEO AND CHAIRMAN, JPMORGAN CHASE: I love my country and maybe one day I'll serve my country in one capacity another.


KING: That interview with Bloomberg comes only days after Dimon was deposed in a lawsuit related to the accounts the late sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein had at JPMorgan Chase. The transcript shows Dimon denied under oath that he ever met or talked to Epstein or that he discussed any of his bank accounts. The lawsuit alleges the company knew about the sex trafficking allegations against Epstein, but still did business with him.

Reporters back at the table with us, so the timing is interesting in the sense that if you run for office, everything, you get asked about everything, including something like this. But he says he's a Democrat with a Republican like brain runs when?


TALEV: Are we putting bets on this? Doesn't he like Cabinet --

KING: Or does he --

TALEV: -- post seem more likely than running for elected office? I -- he's an executive, so I think there's no way he would run in a congressional seat. I can't imagine the Senate being satisfying. So you're left with governor's race, a mayor's race, a presidential race, a VP on a presidential ticket, or a Cabinet position.

But I do think, look, all kind of like it's easy to have fun with this conversation. But all that aside, I think, when you have been through the last several years, coming out of the 2008 financial crisis, trying to navigate the Donald Trump years, trying to navigate a country coming apart, and for -- it's not just the banking sector, but running the business roundtable, when you're in those kind of roles, you really are trying to keep America glued together.

You're trying to understand how to deal with the poison of the partisan divide and how to deal with stability and governance. I actually do think he cares about those issues. I actually take that interview at face value. I don't see it as a whisper campaign for a future run. I see it as someone who's trying to figure out if they can have more of an impact on the inside or the outside.

KING: And he's been sort of a troubleshooter. Treasury secretaries past, present, and, you know, perhaps future reach out to him, including recently with JPMorgan stepped forward to step in to help First Republic. The JPMorgan just announcing they're going to pull the plug on 21 or First Republic branches. They're saying this is because they have redundant branches on their ankles.

But so you see, Janet Yellen talked publicly about reaching out to him. I want to go back in time. This is about 40 seconds long, but I want you to listen to this. And I bring it up for a reason. Let's listen to Jamie Dimon over the years being asked this question, and we'll talk on the other side.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Did you ever think of running for president?

DIMON: I thought about thinking about it.

YELLEN: You thought about thinking about it? DIMON: I talked to one person, and I decided to think no more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're done with politics?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No running for president for you?



DIMON: I never say never to anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You famously said, just a few years ago, 2019, my heart is Democratic, my brain is kind of Republican. Our country, our politics have changed a lot since then. I wonder if that's still the case.

DIMON: It is still the case. I think we could do a better job lifting them up -- all of our citizens. I've already mentioned education and work skills and stuff like that. I think we have to be a little more rational about the world. Free enterprise is a wonderful thing.


KING: So he's been asked cycle after cycle after cycle. The reason I bring it up is, you know, Donald Trump did that. I remember before I switched to television 26 years ago, you know, is Donald Trump going to run? I remember talking to Donald Trump about this after Ross Perot ran in 1996. The second time, would he run in 2000 as an independent.

So the question is, does he get the bug at some point? Trump picked his moment and was president.

ZANONA: That's right. I think what's more interesting here is the people who are encouraging him to run. And that's Wall Street, the business community. And I think it is reflective of the fact that they are not satisfied with the options right now. They are not thrilled about the idea of another Trump-Biden rematch.

But the question of whether he actually gets in, I mean, who knows? You saw those clips over the years and how he's responded to that question. It's unclear whether he actually would be willing to do it. He's just keeping his options open. But as you said, Trump kept messing around the deal. We never treated it seriously, and then he obviously jumped in. I mean --


KING: And he -- Trump bulldozed a bunch of established Republican politicians. The question is, does a Jamie Dimon, you know, want to go to Iowa and talk about ethanol? Does he want to do the things that are absolutely necessary to be a modern-day presidential candidate?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, he's a smart guy. He's run a big company, and he sort of knows math as a person that works on Wall Street. And so it would have to require a shift in our politics. Right now, we are very polarized. There are lanes that you can run in as Trump did in 2015 and 2016, far to the right, saying he was going to blow up the Republican Party and steamroll it.

Jamie Dimon is saying that, you know, he's Democratic at his heart, Republican in his brain. So he's hoping that what we saw with the debt ceiling, a big middle, 300 votes in the middle, that would be the shift that he would need in order to take a centrist approach to politics. But we're not there yet.

KING: Right. Centrist approach to politics match up with the primary calendar, not. Primaries don't work that way. But he's a fascinating guy. We'll keep an eye on it.

Up next, the Pentagon and the culture wars. A Nevada Air Force base ordered to cancel a drag show set for today. Today, of course, the start of Pride Month.



KING: The Pentagon canceling a drag show at an Air Force Base in Nevada. According to three sources, that show would have been today, the first day of Pride Month. The Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, is under pressure as lawmakers on the right attack what they call a woke military. The Nevada base and its decision to allow the drag show in prior years came up when Secretary Austin was before Congress back in March.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: At Nellis Air Force Base, you had the Drag-u-Nellis on June 17th. Who funded these things, Mr. Secretary?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Listen, drag shows are not something that the Department of Defense supports or funds.

GAETZ: Why are they happening on military basis? I just showed you the evidence. Why are they happening?

AUSTIN: I will say again, this is not something that we support or fund.


KING: CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins us now live from the Pentagon. Do we know any of the details of why the Pentagon decided don't do it again?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, the short answer, John, is that it seems like they wanted to be consistent with what Secretary Defense Lloyd Austin had testified there. And what had happened was this drag show at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada was slated to move forward, it was slated to be performed today, June 1, to mark the start of Pride Month. And it has gone on for two years already. It has gone on for two years in the past.

And so this was not seen as particularly problematic by the Air Force. And actually, Air Force leaders did give it the go ahead. But then when Pentagon leaders found out that it was scheduled to be performed today, they actually intervened this week, we're told. And told them that it could not move forward.

Now, according to the Defense Department, the reason for this is because, quote, "'Hosting these types of events in federally funded facilities is not a suitable use of DOD resources. Our service members are diverse and are allowed to have personal outlets".

But as you see, John, from that testimony that Austin gave and that grilling kind of that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz gave him there, as well as the Joint Chief's chairman, Mark Milley, this has obviously become a very politically contentious issue. And a lot of Republicans are asking why these kinds of events are taking place on military bases across the country.

Well, now it seems like the Pentagon is telling military installations and facilities across the country that they do not want these bases to be used to host these kinds of events. Even though it is unclear, right, whether any kind of taxpayer funded -- whether any taxpayer money would be going towards it. These are private events that are hosted on these bases. But still, they say just the mere use of these facilities is not something that they want to continue moving forward, John.

KING: Natasha Bertrand live for us at the Pentagon. I suspect maybe the right will be happy with this decision. I suspect there may be some incoming to the secretary from the left. We'll watch that in the days ahead.

Natasha, thank you.

Just moments ago, President Biden making remarks on Ukraine. He's had a big commencement address at the Air Force Academy. We'll tell you what the President said, that's next.



KING: Topping our political radar today, just moments ago, this from the President of the United States, telling Air Force Academy graduates the United States will not shrink from the fight in Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people's support for Ukraine will not waver. We've always stand up for democracies, always.

We'll ask you to contemplate what happens if it waivers and Ukraine goes down. What about Belarus? What about the rest of Eastern Europe?


KING: Earlier today, strong words as well from the NATO Secretary General on Ukraine joining the NATO alliance. Jen Stoltenberg warning Russia that NATO will decide, quote, when the time is right, not Moscow.

The longshot Democratic presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy Jr. spoke today to the New Hampshire State Senate, excuse me, emphasizing why that state, in his view, should remain first in the nation in presidential primaries despite the Democratic Party's new primary calendar.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: New Hampshire play is a critical role in vetting candidates for the rest of the country. And --


But here, politicians get real democracy.


KING: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's new immigration crackdown is sparking protest in seven states today. Latino owned businesses and others participating in what they call a, quote, day without immigrants today, closing down to demonstrate the impact of migrant workers on local economies.

That new Florida law, due to go into effect next month, includes more measures to verify workers documentation status and makes transporting someone into the state of Florida illegally a third-degree felony.

This quick, important programming note. Sunday night, live from Iowa. Jake Tapper moderates the CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with the former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Evening kicks off Sunday 08:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow.

CNN News Central starts right now.