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Inside Politics

Donald Trump is the Target of Special Counsel's January 6 Criminal Probe; Governor Doug Burgum Reaches Debate Donor Threshold; New Hampshire Governor Sununu Says He Won't Run for Another Term; GOP Shapes Strategy to Keep Trump on Sidelines in Senate Races; Israeli President Addresses Joint Meeting of Congress. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 19, 2023 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump already fundraising off the target letter he received from the Special Counsel. He's facing a possible third indictment, this time for his actions around January 6. I wonder if that would change anything for his base or his opponents is an open question.

Joining me from Sioux City, Iowa is one of those primary opponents, Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota.

Governor, thank you for joining us today. We will talk about your campaign in a moment, but I want to start about the news here that Former President Donald Trump could be facing an indictment in the Special Counsel's January 6th investigation. Do you think the former president should be held accountable for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election?

GOV. DOUG BURGUM, (R-ND) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Manu, first of all, grateful to be on the show with you and we're grateful that our campaign that's only six weeks old is off to such a great start. We are looking forward to being on the debate stage. I do want to say relative to this entire industry that's built around talking about the former president, this is -- there's some people that love this, China loves this, Russia loves this because whenever Republican candidates are being dragged into talking about another candidate, nobody gets to talk about their vision for the future, about lower energy prices, about a stronger economy, about a safer world and that's what our campaign is about.

And when we are on the ground talking about -- to citizens in Iowa and New Hampshire, you know, they've got real concerns about whether or not we have a two-tiered system of justice. So we know we're at 6 percent polling in New Hampshire. We reached our 40,000 threshold for donors today, so please do announce that right here on your show, but we know that people want to talk about economy, energy, national security, these are things that touch every American, these are things they are concerned about and that's why our campaign is getting traction. RAJU: I want to get into your campaign a little bit, I do want to just talk to you a little bit more about this because this is the former president, this is the front runner for the party's nomination, and this is a criminal indictment that he's already had two, he could potentially face a third, so it's very serious stuff here. I'm wondering if you believe he (ph) -- Former President Trump was responsible for any of the violence or destruction that occurred on January 6th?

BURGUM: Well, I think this is why we have a judicial system and everybody in America is innocent until proven guilty. But as I said, when you've got the leading opponent being attacked by the people sitting in power, of course, people are going to feel like the whole thing is politicized. And so, I think that...

RAJU: Would you support...


BURGUM: It's something the courts have to sort out. Again, when we are talking to voters and primary voters in these states, the things they are concerned about is they're paying too much for their food, they are paying too much for their gas. They're worried about Chinese spy balloons coming over our country, Chinese spy base in Cuba. These are things they're worried about. But I know that there is the pundit said (ph) can get a lot of clicks talking about...

RAJU: Yeah.

BURGUM: ...speculating about indictments and what may happen in the future in the judicial system.

RAJU: Yeah, and the...

BURGUM: That's not where Americans' heads are, not when they are concerned about their families, their jobs and their future.

RAJU: And look, this is a Federal Grand Jury that can actually vote to indict the former president. Again, we've already seen that happen before. He could be convicted of a crime as the Republican nominee if he wins the primary. Could you support him if he's convicted of a crime?

BURGUM: Well, Manu, I'm running for president to be the nominee, so again -- you're asking me to speculate. And as governor of a sitting state, when people ask me about hypotheticals 12 months and 18 months out, I never comment on those because I have to deal with the real solutions and real problems that are going on right now. And we're running a campaign, we expect to be the nominee, and when we are the nominee, there won't be the distractions because we will be focusing on the issues that matter to America and our place in the world.

And again, we've got the Biden Administration, you know, plenty of people are worried about that. We're worried about where we have gone wrong direction on economy, wrong direction on energy policy and wrong direction on national security. So it's just -- I mean, so we would not even be at war in the Ukraine right now if we hadn't adopted a policy where we decided that we're going to buy energy from our adversaries and then shut down the American industry.

I mean, in a Burgum Administration, we will be selling energy to our allies, not buying it from our adversaries. And on the economy we will be focusing on innovation, unleashing the power of the American economy, not trying to regulate every industry out of business. When that happens, that's how you win a cold war with China. That's how we are in a war with Russia, we just haven't sent troops, but most of the things that we want to be talking about.

RAJU: Yeah. And I want to talk to you about your campaign. And look, you're trying to make the argument that you would be the most viable candidate. The question is about the former president's viability as a candidate, whether he would be the best choice for your party's nomination.


You had mentioned just moments ago that you had met that donor threshold, that's news here. About whether you could make the debate stage, one of the aspects of making the debate stage, you had promised your campaign $20 gift cards to every new donor that gave you at least $1 for your campaign. So, how many new donors did you get from that effort?

BURGUM: Well, we passed the 40,000 mark today. We've got more gift cards to give out. We're going to keep on going. So if people want to go to and do that, but of course, we have had people that are saying, "Hey, I don't need a gift card." We have people that are saying, "I'm giving more than $20." We just have broad support and whether it's high school classmates or business partners, we have got donations that have come from all 50 states. This has been a grassroots effort, a group of friends and family called the Sodbusters calling people on their Christmas cards list and saying, "Hey, this is a guy that you should get to know and get behind him."

And so, I just want to say thank you to all the people in the grassroots effort to drive this to get to 40,000 donors in 40 days, it's remarkable. Again, when we are -- we know we are at the least- known candidate in the race and so when we see ourselves tied for fourth in New Hampshire on a qualifying poll yesterday, we get excited because we know there is a lot of upside. As people get to know us, they are going to say, "Hey, this is the real deal, this is an opportunity, this is going to be a fresh choice for America."

RAJU: And so, do you have a number on the amount of gift cards you gave out to these donors?

BURGUM: I don't have a number for you today. I just know from my team, they told me before I walked in the studio that we had passed the 40,000 mark and I know we have more gift cards to give. We promised we would give out 50,000 gift cards. And so, if people missed out so far, they can still go to and qualify for one.

RAJU: This is a pretty novel thing that you're doing here. So, I am wondering what you would say to your critics who say this is the governor buying his way on to the debate stage.

BURGUM: I think that's funny actually because anybody who knows anything, I spent my whole career in business and all of that in the software side, almost all of that in the technology business. And anybody that starts an online retail business knows that you have to got to think all the loss leader (ph), when you're trying to acquire customers, you know, you put a great product out there and then you say, "Hey, the product but we're going to offer it for X price, it's a sale price." People buy, you get repeat customers.

We know that the people who donate to us now may continue to donate because what they see, they are going to like and they are going to continue to support us. And so, this is about a smart strategy. It's about an entrepreneur with a business attitude. This is what we need. This is what we brought to the State of North Dakota. This is how we cut $1.7 billion out of a $6 billion budget. This is how we can reduce the size of the federal government, reduce power to the states, is by using innovation, not regulation. And of course, if you go to a firm today and say, "Hey, I need online donors." They might charge you $100 per customer acquisition. We're getting this done at one-fifth the price and we think that's pretty smart.

RAJU: OK. Well, governor, we appreciate your time. Thank you for making that news here on our air and making one of those key thresholds surpassing the -- make the debate stage later this year. Thank you. We hope you come back soon.

And next, a balancing act. New reporting on how top congressional Republicans are plotting to keep Trump out of pivotal senate races while still trying to keep him happy, all in an effort to take back their majority.



RAJU: Today, a major Republican figure says he will exit public life. That's New Hampshire's Chris Sununu who announced he would not run for another term as governor in 2024. Now, in the brief Twitter reveal, Sununu promised to keep working for the Granite State over the next 18 months.

Now to new reporting from myself and my colleague Alayna Treene, it's about the strategy to keep Donald Trump on the senate sidelines. Republican are desperate to retake the majority as they see getting Trump to go along with their choices as critical to that effort. We're seeing some evidence that is working at least so far.

Now, my colleague Alayna Treene joins me now. Alayna, tell us about what we're hearing about the president -- former president who is making some key decisions in two senate races that could have major implications for the senate majority.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, Manu, we have heard that Former President Donald Trump recently informed both Congressman Matt Rosendale and Alex Mooney that he is unlikely to back their senate bids in Montana and West Virginia. This is welcome news for senate Republican leaders who have been carefully maneuvering behind the scenes for months to try to stop Donald Trump from undermining their key efforts to prop up their preferred candidates in the 2024 race.

But, I will say this reporting also underscores the public feuding between Donald Trump and the fiscal conservative group, the "Club for Growth." The Club has already come out and said that they endorse Alex Mooney and his West Virginia senate bid, and they're also considering backing Matt Rosendale if he ultimately decides to enter the race. I have some reporting that the Club's President David McIntosh and Rosendale have spoken on separate occasions about a senate bid. And if they do get behind him, it would be great for Matt Rosendale's ad spending and they would pour a lot of money behind his race.

But this, again, highlights the feud between Donald Trump and David McIntosh. They used to have a great relationship and it has since deteriorated, and we're continuing to see that now as they're on opposing sides of who they are going to be backing ahead of 2024, Manu.


RAJU: Yeah, that's right. Big, big implications for 2024 as they try to take the senate map and change it in their direction, the Republicans. Alayna Treene, thank you so much.

It's a positive senate map for Republicans, they have more -- fewer seats than Democrats, but it's always a primary problem. They always have had -- look at the Trump-backed candidates who cost the GOP senate control in the last cycle -- Herschel Walker failing in Georgia. You see in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz. Arizona, Blake Masters. Adam Laxalt in Nevada. All Trump-backed candidates, sometimes not the people that the senate Republican leaders preferred and that has happened time and time again.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: And Senator Daines who is Head of the Republican Campaign Committee in the Senate, in your great story, said that he has had a very open line with the former president, but I do wonder if this is -- if this is evidence that Trump understands his impact of the 2022 election. Instead of blaming it on everybody else like he does publicly, is this an acknowledgment...

RAJU: Yeah.

KUCINICH: ...that he needs to change course here, so they can win some seats?

RAJU: It's certainly part of it. Loyalty is, of course...


RAJU: ...everything with Donald Trump. He's feuding with the Club for Growth, that conservative group, as Alayna mentioned, because of perceived disloyalty between him and that president over the past -- in the past election cycle. He may back Jim Justice, the governor who is running for the West Virginia senator seat because Justice became a Democrat at a Trump rally so he sees that as loyalty. He may not back Matt Rosendale, we're told. He told Matt Rosendale who Republican leaders don't want to run in Montana because they have their preferred candidate because Rosendale has not yet endorsed him for the president. It is all about (ph) -- that's where things area in Trump line.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It just seems like it's really this shows the kind of lengths that these different candidates need to go in order to win the support of somebody that still holds a grip on the party. As your story noted, some of these candidates have opposed the Infrastructure Package even though money went to their districts. Others switched parties which overtook the opponent that actually opposed Biden's Infrastructure Package as well.

So, it's a bit more largely emblematic of the control that Trump still has because of his base over the party and the lengths that different candidates are willing to go to win his support at this time. On whether or not he's aware of the losses in the last election, I did think another good point in the story as well was just whether this is a matter of capacity.

RAJU: Yeah.

KANNO-YOUNGS: He also has investigations into him ongoing right...

RAJU: Yes. He's running for president. He has got investigations and legal problems.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. Well, look, this is a completely different tactic that the NRSC and senate Republicans are taking than in past years than they have taken in past years. Steve Daines, the Head of that Committee, went down to visit Trump, came out of that meeting essentially saying that he is endorsing Trump. So there was a -- there is a lot of hand holding...

RAJU: Loyalty.


CALDWELL: ...happening right now. But I will say, senate Republicans are still very nervous. They have not won in many, many election cycles. I was speaking to a senate Republican senior aide yesterday and they said to me, we're not very good at this.


And so, they are watching this very closely and trying to do everything they can to put in the candidates they think can win, but also these candidates have to run good campaigns.

RAJU: Look, there have been past election cycles where the National Senatorial Committee endorsed candidates who failed and didn't make it out of the primary, lost the general election. This is not a fail- safe. As Lindsey Graham told me, things can go south very quickly.

OK. Some progressive Democrats now, they boycotted a speech by Israeli President Isaac Herzog. We are live on Capitol Hill next.



RAJU: Now, a busy day on Capitol Hill. In minutes, a high-profile whistle-blower hearing featuring IRS officials testifying about the Biden family. This morning, Israeli President Isaac Herzog continued to make his rounds in Washington, speaking to a joint meeting of Congress today, one day after visiting President Biden at the White House. Today's address marks a bipartisan show of support for Israel, key strategic ally in the Middle East. But not all lawmakers were on board. Now, for that, CNN's Melanie Zanona joins me. Mel, walk us through the big moments that happened in this speech just moments ago.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, it was a big bipartisan moment indeed and it comes amid the 75th anniversary of the country's founding. During the speech, President Herzog thanked members for their continued support for Israel. He also gave a shout- out to Speaker Kevin McCarthy for addressing the Israeli Parliament earlier this year. There were a lot of standing ovations, a lot of members in attendance. But heading up into the speech, a lot of the focus was on who wasn't planning on attending. We know of at least six progressive Democrats who boycotted the speech over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and their record on human rights, and the President Herzog himself even referenced some of that criticism. Let's watch that moment.


ISAAC HERZOG, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: I respect criticism, especially from friends. Although one does not always have to accept it. But criticism of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the State of Israel's right to exist, vilifying and attacking Jews whether in Israel, in the United States, or anywhere else in the world is anti- Semitism.


ZANONA: Now, Congress has been divided over Israel, particularly the Democratic Party.


The House voted yesterday on a resolution to affirm support for Israel, a direct response to Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who said that Israel is a racist state. Comments that she quickly walked back. In the end, all but nine Democrats voted for that resolution. Jayapal herself also voted in support of that resolution but she did not attend the speech today due to a scheduling conflict, according to her office. Manu?

RAJU: And she of course has been critical of the Israel government as well. Melanie Zanona, thank you for that and thanks for joining us on "Inside Politics."

"CNN News Central" starts after a short break.