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Economic Outlook Improving But Biden Still Down In Polls; Study: Workers' Strikes Up 52 Percent Last Year; RFK Jr. Denies He Said Things He Said; Jordan: Dems Trying To Censor Biden's Primary Opponent; CNN Analysis: Legal Battles Give Trump Campaign Financial Boost. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 20, 2023 - 12:30   ET



KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: But something that was really interesting, there was a poll last month of registered voters here in Pennsylvania. Of course, the economy was number one, preserving democracy was number two. So still all of these issues very critical on the campaign trail for President Biden, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: So interesting, Kevin. Thank you so much for that reporting.

And our panel is back with us. So he just mentioned the idea that he's still not -- he, the president, is still not getting credit for where the economy is. And we'll just show our viewers, the latest Quinnipiac poll total, meaning all, all the voters, only 37 percent approved, which means six and 10 disapprove.

And look at independence, which are critical for the president for any candidate. 29 percent, that's it. 63 percent say they disapprove. And if you juxtapose that with the economic indicators where we are right now on the economy, things are looking much better. Real wages, they're up. Inflation is down. Job numbers are still really good.

Gas prices are, you know, not the lowest they've ever been, but certainly lower than they were. And it is a vexing issue. I'm sure you all talk to people at the White House as I have. They are trying so hard to figure out how to take what they're seeing when it comes to the hard economic numbers and what they're seeing when it comes to the president's poll numbers and trying to make them look the same.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. And I think that's why they're embracing the term biodynamics. I mean, this is something that actually conservative media had used in a disparaging way towards the president's economic policies. But once you look at all the economic indicators proving, they're embracing that label because what -- there's no better way to associate yourself with policies then putting your literal name on it.

So they're hoping that by really branding his entire economic agenda and tying it so closely to the president himself, that the voters will make that connection. Think like, oh, that new plant that's creating a ton of new jobs, that was what Biden did, or that bridge that was fixed very quickly, that's Biden.

But it is still -- it is a tough gamble. There are so many other things that are, first of all, dominating, you know, the news right now. I think the -- I think just the general sentiment of the country is still very dour coming out of the pandemic, which I'm sure does not help Biden much, but this is certainly a struggle that they're going to face in the coming months.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think inflation has been the central challenge because if you're an economist, you look at the inflation numbers and you're like, it's really cool. The rate of inflation has come down a lot. They can feel good about that. But it doesn't mean the prices have come down. It just means the prices aren't growing as fast as they were over the last couple of years.

So if you're a consumer, every time you go to the store and eggs are like $7 instead of $5, and milk is more. And I bought Cheetos the other day where 6 bucks for a -- please spare me the Twitter --

KIM: I'm judging you right now.

BASH: No judgment, no judgment. Get on the treadmill, but, yes, so like every time you make a transaction, you're thinking about it. Who do you blame? The people in charge. But what Biden's doing here with Pennsylvania is a few things.

Number one, that's, you know, a state that is his native state. So two, it's an important swing state. And three, it is an important union state. And part of the way he's trying to fix his economic problems is to really forge bonds with unions. He's having them to the White House.

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: He's having secret conversations with unions. Pennsylvania's an important union state.

BASH: I'm so glad you mentioned unions because this is something that we were thinking about this morning, which is what's in the news right now? What's happening right now? SAG, the Screen Actors Guild, they are striking, the writers are striking.

And the UAW are -- they're thinking about striking, that's what they're talking about with a potential strike. Even Broadway, they are potentially going to strike. And if you look at, this is a Cornell report earlier this year, the strikes in the U.S. up 52 percent and that was before what I just mentioned is going on.

And Jeff, as somebody who's on the trail a lot, do you think that is part of what's going on, that it's the gulf between the haves and the have nots, that is keeping people from feeling better and then in turn giving Joe Biden credit for economic gains?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No question. I mean, the rising gap between the different -- sort of ends of the spectrum of the worker scale and the management scale, it's huge. So this is something that, I mean, it's one of the reasons that explains the populism rise out of the country for Donald Trump and other politicians.

There is this growing chasm there, but that's why Joe Biden is trying to be the president for the working man and woman. That's what they're trying to do. But it's repetition, repetition, repetition on the economy. It'll take a while for people to sort of feel better about it, but most of the indicators, if not, the vast majority are strong for them.

BASH: Everybody stand by because RFK Jr. is testifying at the invitation of Republicans on Capitol Hill, a glimpse at what his fellow Democrats are calling his conspiracy theories and lies. That's next.



BASH: Today, Republicans invite a conspiracy theorist to testify, a Democrat, with one of the most famous names in the history of American politics.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the First Amendment was not written for easy speech. It was written for the speech that nobody likes you for.



BASH: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is playing martyr. The presidential candidate and eldest son of Bobby Kennedy insists he's a victim. He says he's simply making comments that people don't like, especially his fellow Democrats and big tech.


KENNEDY: Antisemitism, racism, these are the most appalling, disgusting pejoratives, and they're applied to me to silence me in my entire life. I have never uttered a phrase that was either racist or antisemitic. They're misrepresentations. I was like, I didn't say those things.


BASH: So you just heard it. Defamation, distortions, misrepresentations, reading between the lines as citing motive, guilt by association. That is how RFK Jr. offers an answer for every accusation, but believing him that he's just a contrarian that he never spread hate, requires ignoring his own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KENNEDY: COVID-19, there's an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 is targeted to attack, Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.


BASH: That kind of denial and deflection showing up over and over in this hearing. Listen to Mr. Kennedy say something that he never said.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Mr. Kennedy, do you think it was easy for Jewish people to escape systematic slaughter of Nazis? Yes or no?

KENNEDY: Absolutely not.

SCHULTZ: Do you think it was just as hard to wear a mask during COVID as it was to hide under floorboards or false walls so you weren't murdered or dragged to a concentration camp?

KENNEDY: Of course not.


KENNEDY: That's ridiculous.

SCHULTZ: But that's a comparison that you made.

KENNEDY: I did not make that comparison.


BASH: Except he did.


KENNEDY: Even in Hitler, Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You can hide in an attic like Anne Frank did. Today, the mechanisms are being put in place and we'll make it so none of us can run and none of us can hide.


BASH: Our reporters are still around the table. What are your thoughts on this hearing?

KIM: Well, Republicans say they had invited him to talk about the idea of being censored on social media, but in part or the most part of it, they are trying to troll the president a little bit here because while we know that Joe Biden is obviously the main candidate in the Democratic primary, he's not the only candidate and there are some pollings that have shown a buoyed, I'm assuming primarily by the Kennedy name, that Robert Kennedy is pulling, you know, in double digits -- pulling that support from Biden. So I -- so there is a little bit of that trolling element here. Democrats considering they don't have the power to -- on who Republicans invite, they're really using this platform that they have to show using and showing that we here at CNN is doing as well, just how dangerous his views are, his words are, how offensive.

And it is -- it's sort of remarkable how he's denying -- he's saying these things when there's the video evidence right there.

BASH: Let's look at what another one of his fellow Democrats who happens to be his sister. One of his sisters said about the comments that the candidate made most recently about COVID. "I strongly condemn my brother's deplorable and untruthful remarks last week about COVID being engineered or ethnic targeting -- for ethnic targeting. His statements do not represent what I believe or what Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights stand for, with our 50 plus year track record of protecting rights and standing against racism and all forms of discrimination".

I should also add that Joe Kennedy III, who used to serve in the House, also said my uncle's comments were hurtful and wrong. I unequivocally condemn what he said. I mean for the Kennedy clan to come out like that, it says something.

ZELENY: It definitely says something. And look, I mean, we're almost losing track of the number of statements and times they've had to come out, since he's announced his bid for president and before then. Look, what is he trying to do here?

There are many people close to the Kennedy family and others who think he simply trying to raise money. There's an audience for what he's saying in some respects from the anti-vaccine community and others. And he's trying to have a platform for all of this, but he's not really running, much of a presidential campaign.

You don't see him holding many events or other things, which the White House probably is grateful for because, you know, there are some people looking for an alternative. But running in the Democratic primary, his views just simply don't align. His family name does, but his views don't.

BASH: And let's listen to what Congressman Jim Jordan said during this hearing.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: 37 hours into the administration they were trying to censor Mr. Kennedy. I find that interesting. The irony here, trying to censor the guy who's actually their Democrat primary opponent. Go figure. And frankly, it's why Mr. Kennedy is running for president. It's to stop. Help us expose and stop what's going on.


[12:45:14] BASH: So it's what you said, Republicans are in, in many ways, using Robert F. Kennedy as a way to push the idea that big tech is censoring. It was interesting to hear Gerry Connolly and other Democrats say, no, what we are doing is trying to stop people from using conspiracies in order to put information out there, disinformation out there that hurts people, whether it's on vaccines or, I don't know, maybe January 6th.

TALEV: This is becoming RFK Jr.'s side. One of the biggest political and social challenges of our time is what are the boundaries where the protections of the First Amendment, which is we all believe in it. It's the bedrock of journalism. It's the bedrock of Democratic freedoms in the United States.

Where do the protections of First Amendment meet the guardrails against misinformation and with the spread of -- with the fast development of AI, with technology making it easier to manipulate ads and put in things that were never there and take out stuff that was there.

Like, this is a much bigger concern than RFK Jr. I will say, if his name was Robert F. Henderson Jr., nobody would be talking about him --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- and he wouldn't be on stage for a hearing. If you're Biden's team, you're worried about those 17 to 20 percent --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- numbers, even if they are name recognition. But on the other hand, maybe there's an upside for Biden for the public to see what this candidate is about.

BASH: Yes. Such an important point about -- the question about the First Amendment versus disinformation, dangerous disinformation being one of the key questions of our time. Appreciate it.

All right, everybody, Donald Trump, he's betting once again that his sizeable legal troubles will bring in equally sizable amounts of cash. So just how much money is the former president raking in in the name of being indicted? We will break down the numbers next.



BASH: On Tuesday morning, . Less than three hours later, this. "Our republic gets hanging by a thread, and America needs you right now. Please make a contribution."

That blast fundraising email sent to his supporters is now part of a very familiar strategy, asking his base to give his campaign a financial boost. And its strategy, well, it seems to be working.

Here with me now to break it all down, is CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. So, so fascinating the way that this breaks down. Let's just like the first example of it. Trump's daily campaign contributions. Look at the spikes in this graphic where he's getting his money and when he is getting his money.

The Manhattan indictment, the Manhattan arraignment, the Miami indictment, the Miami arraignment. And then if you look at it a different way, his campaign fundraising, the average daily contribution. Look at that huge spike, that was in March, that was again after New York. And then when it comes down, it comes down to a higher level before it shoots back up in June. June, of course, was the federal indictment.

ZELENY: It's so interesting and our colleagues on our CNN politics team have been crunching these numbers. And it's no wonder because he is sending out so many fundraising appeals, sometimes by the hour, sometimes more than that with the language that becomes even more aggressive and in incendiary. And it is a brown the time of these specific incidents.

What we don't know is if this will keep working, if you look at that chart there, significant falloff between the Manhattan arraignment and the Miami arraignment, will the federal arraignment, if there is one, an indictment, if there is one, as he is suggesting there will, how will that go?

So we will not know that until the next fundraising period. We know these numbers because of the campaigns must report to the Federal Election Commission, but this is just the tip of the iceberg because this is just based on contributions of $200 or more.

BASH: That's right.

ZELENY: That's what you have to itemize as a campaign. But look, this is exactly why Donald Trump does what he does. He announces it. Controls the narrative and then, you know, is raking in all this. And we have one more graphic here to show just the specific dates. April 4th, for example, the Manhattan arraignment, 1.3 million.

March 30th, 771,000 on from there. The only one that even came close to it was the end of the fundraising period when all candidates send out --

BASH: Right.

ZELENY: -- a flurry of emails that was on June 30th getting $460,000. So this is why he's in the position, he is in the race because of he's campaigning on his indictments.

BASH: And, you know, we were talking before coming back about the fact that all the candidates, if they have good systems, they send out a lot of fundraising emails and they have different messages on it, but he obviously is working the best. I mean, DeSantis did very well on his fundraising hall in the last quarter, but if you look at the overall cash on hand.

ZELENY: For sure, I mean, he's the former president who has been at this for eight years now. So he's been building his list. So he has a bigger list of email addresses, if you will, to send out to people. So that's why, of course, he's doing better than someone like Asa Hutchinson --

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: -- or Chris Christie. But it's the message as well. He is the victim.

BASH: Exactly.


ZELENY: He's under attack here. So that is what is happening. We will see if it continues to go like this. We should point out. Each case is different. The next indictment, should it happen is about January 6th. Something very different than the Manhattan indictment, which, even some people who were not that supportive of him thought it seemed like a stretch.

So we'll see if this continues, but no doubt. This is why he's doing it to control the narrative and fill up his bank account.

BASH: Fundraising so often tells the story, not always, but so often tells the story of where a campaign is and where a candidacy is, and this is fascinating.

ZELENY: That's right.

BASH: Thanks, Jeff.

ZELENY: You bet.

BASH: Appreciate it.

And thank you for joining Inside Politics. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after a short break.