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Thousands Protest Judicial Overhaul Vote In Israel; Israel Passes Bill Unwinding Checks & Balances; Netanyahu Pushes Bill To Weaken Powers Of Supreme Court; New State Polls: It's Trump & Everyone Else; IA, SC Voters: Skipping Debate A Sign Of "Weakness"; Pence: MAGA Movement Is Not Violent; DeSantis Pitches Donors On "Insurgent" Campaign; Biden Faces Looming Strikes That Could Deal Major Blow To U.S. Economy. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 24, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, a descent away from democracy, Israel forges ahead with a plan to kill off checks and balances, and it's met with angry protests, threats of a crippling nationwide strike and a warning from thousands of reservists that they won't show up for duty.

Plus, two new polls show the Republican field splitting into Donald Trump and everyone else. But voters send a message to the frontrunner, show up on the debate stage, and your commute, your mail, your TV, all of it imperiled by stripe. So, is Biden. So as Biden's reelection campaign.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at inside Politics.

Up first, inside Israeli politics. This is what democracy looks like in a place where many worry democracy is in peril. Outside on the Israeli streets, there's anx, bull horns and deep despair over, what many here in the U.S. also worried could be an existential challenge, different from any we have seen inside the government of a critical American ally.

Today, Israel's parliament greenlit law number one in a series of government overhauls. It limits the Supreme Court's ability to act as a check on the Israeli Knesset, its parliament, defying pleas from the president of the United States to pause and demands dating back months from Israelis not to put shackles around its courts.

Now Israel is staring down crises across every sector of society. CNN is in the thick of the action in Israel. Let's first go to Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. What are things looking like they're on the ground now, Hadas?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, I've been out here all day with the protesters. They were watching on big screens as the Israeli parliament passed this legislation. And the moment it passed, they started chanting shots of shame, started booing, chanted shouts of democracy. Now what we're hearing from the speakers behind me, we're just outside of the Supreme Court is calls for the protesters to stay in the streets. They say that this is just the beginning of what some of them are declaring as a war. They say, they will stay on the streets, continuing protesting until this overhaul legislation is off the table.

Because keep in mind, this legislation that was passed that limits how the Supreme Court can act as a check on the Israeli government. It's just one aspect of this overhaul that's expected to completely reshape the Israeli judiciary. We've already seen legal challenges filed against this. They're seeking in a junction for the Supreme Court to try and you see an emergency injunction to stop this that could lead to a very interesting legal battle.

We've all seen the stock market taking a hit. And keep in mind thousands of Israeli military reservists have said, they will not serve if this legislation passes. These are people, these are fighter jet pilots. These are people who would be on the frontlines of a major conflict.

Big question will be whether they will seek -- they will face their own legal issues for not serving. And what this will mean for Israeli military preparedness. There are also talks of a major labor strike potentially taking place tomorrow.

But for now, for here right now, these protesters say they will stay out on the streets. We also seeing some clashes with Israeli police who have started to use water cannons as well as what's called skunk water. And I can tell you that whatever they've sprayed, the smell here has been absolutely terrible. But it's not keeping these protesters from staying on the streets. Dana?

BASH: Hadas, thank you so much for that important reporting. And I want to get to CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is also in the middle of the protests. What's happening where you are, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Dana. Well, there's a huge crowd that came out here. I want to just show you around, going to get out of your way real quick. And we can pan around a little bit. And just see the amount of people that have come out here. You can see one of the main stages here, a lot of people obviously with Israeli flags.

But I think one of the things that's really key to us now, we've been noticing is the different sort of spheres of Israeli society that are coming out here and protesting. You see a lot of people, for instance, with LGBT flags who are coming out here. Minority rights are going to be a big question if this overhaul happens in the way that the current government wants it to happen.

And I think that's one of the things that a lot of people here are protesting against. They feel that minority rights are going to be an issue, if this does go through the way that the government wants it to go through. But then also, and this is really something that caught our attention. You also have different generations of people protesting together.

In fact, we've been out here in the crowd a little bit. And we spoke to one family, and it was the mother and father but also with their two daughters. And the mother said to me, look, my first daughter just finished her military service. The second one is about to go to military service. And of course, one of the things that we've been talking about so much is the unity within Israel.

And the biggest factor for that unity, for the society or one of the biggest is, of course, the Israeli military. And we have already heard from Hadas just now about the reservists that are already saying that they plan to refuse to serve.


If these laws do go through and are enacted. They have faced obviously, some criticism from the leaders of the military and also from the leaders after the government parties here as well. But certainly, this is something that really goes to the core of the unity of this country, and of course, also of the democracy of this country as well.

And I think one woman that I spoke to put it that, she said, look, a lot of people coming out here. They're not sure whether or not they can make a difference, or whether or not the law can be revoked or repealed, but doing nothing, they say, was certainly not an option. Dana?

BASH: That's right. And when you are just for context, when, of course, when you are 18 years old, an Israel unless you are religious, you go into the military because of the threats that we've been reporting on for, I don't know, seven to eight years. Thank you so much. Appreciate that, Fred.

And also joining us now is former State Department negotiator Aaron David Miller, and CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond. Aaron, put into perspective, what we are seeing there, particularly for an American audience who might just see protests in the streets, which we've been seeing for some time in Israel, and don't quite understand the import of what it means when it comes to that democratic state.

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, I think the takeaway, Dana, is as unnecessary as voting is, it's not sufficient. You want to save and protect your democracy, sometimes you have to vote with your feet. And the fact is, for 29 weeks now, that's what the Israeli have been doing.

And it's not just a question of judicial reform or judicial overhaul, it has a lot to do with the identity of the country. And what they see is a fundamentalist extremist, right-wing government, driven by their own agendas, annexation of the West Bank, in everything, but name only, an effort to impose traditional values, ultra-religious values on what is also a secular, liberal and very tolerant societies.

Israel is in imperfect democracy. But the Israelis are out in the streets trying to protect it. And I think, Dana, 75 years after Israeli independence, the identity and the borders of this state are not yet determined. That's not unusual for a young democracy, a hundred years after our dependency, (Inaudible) the borders nor the identity of our state was determined either, but we're not Israel, and Israel is not the United States. This is a major problem, and it's not going to be fixed anytime soon.

BASH: And Jeremy, he, of course, said so eloquently, as Aaron always does that this is at the core of the identity of who Israel is. Part of the issue here is that Israel doesn't have a constitution. And they have relied on sort of what they call reasonableness. And they have relied on the judiciary to prove and to serve as a check on the elected officials in the Knesset.

From your perch at the White House where you normally are covering the Biden administration. What is your reporting on how worried they are?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have been worried, but they have also been outspoken, and that is what has frankly been really remarkable to watch as President Biden has weighed in time and again, on these judicial reforms, warning the Israeli politicians and Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular, to try and forge consensus. And that is not what happened today.

And we are actually just getting some reaction from the National Security Council. And National Security Council spokesperson saying that it's unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority talking about the fact that for major democratic changes, you need to work for consensus and consensus has been the buzzword that the president has used.

He has taken it also from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who has been trying to forge that consensus with both the governing coalition and the opposition. That is not what happened today. And so, I think today during the White House briefing, we can expect to hear more reaction from this White House.

But again, it's remarkable in particular, because yes, the U.S. and Israel have a very close relationship. But typically, the U.S. is weighing in on foreign policy decisions in Israel. This is a domestic issue in Israel. But it speaks to this fundamental bond between the U.S. and Israel in terms of democratic values, something that we know is very close to the (crosstalk).

BASH: You're exactly right. And Aaron, we just heard this new statement from the National Security Council. It is similar to what we saw the president of the United States say in a phone call to Thomas Friedman, not only what he said, but where he said it and who he said it to last week, trying to get a message to Netanyahu and to the other elected officials in his coalition government.

Here's what he said. "Finding consensus on controversial areas of policy means taking the time you need for significant changes, that's essential. So, my recommendation to Israeli leaders is not to rush. I believe the best outcome is to continue to seek the broadest possible consensus here." Someone who has been inside the State Department, inside the U.S. government in dealing with the delicate balance of how far to push when it comes to internal Israeli politics. What do you make of this?


MILLER: Well, what I make bottom line, Dana, is that American presidents, I don't care what parties they belong to do not like to fight with Israeli prime ministers. It's annoying, it's distracting, it's messy, it can be political cause. What you have here is a president who is waking up to the fact, I believe that he's no longer dealing with the old Benjamin Netanyahu, the risk averse, cautious pause (Ph), who takes one step forward and two steps back.

He's dealing now with a desperate Benjamin Netanyahu risk ready, determined for any number of reasons to keep this government is extreme right-wing government, and he's in a bind, Dana. He does not want to impose costs and consequences on the Israelis. At the same time, he's not interested in embracing Benjamin Netanyahu as he might have done in baseball.

BASH: So fascinating. Well, this is a story that is going to continue today, just seems to be maybe one of the climaxes but certainly not the climax, and a very messy story. Thank you both. And with one month to go until the first Republican debate, we're learning who's met the bar to get on the stage. Plus, refresh and reboot, a defiant Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hits the campaign reset button, new reporting on that ahead.




BASH: Today there is a clear picture of what the debate stage might look like one month from now. Seven candidates cleared the polling bar to qualify for the first GOP primary face off, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and Chris Christie. This is we are getting two new snapshots from the early voting states.

In Iowa, it's Trump by a lot, with Tim Scott now surging to third in South Carolina, an even bigger Trump lead, with Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis in a virtual tie for number two. CNN's Manu Raju, and political analyst Jackie Kucinich are joining on conversation. Jeremy diamond is still here. I mean, wow, those polling numbers are, I mean, it's you have Donald Trump looking in the rearview mirror and everybody else is becoming even smaller.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Particularly in South Carolina, because of Tim Scott and Nikki Haley. He is a current elected official from South Carolina. A quite a popular one.

BASH: and these are the South Carolina numbers. Kucinich: Yes. And then Nikki Haley, you know, former governor was a well-liked as governor there. And look at that. I mean, they just can't get any headway. Will the debate allow them to do that? We don't know yet. But that seems to be the only opening because they've been living in these states for months now.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you're seeing a lot of these folks who had hoped for a alternative to Trump that being Ron DeSantis. Now looking for an alternative to DeSantis, which explains his struggles in the polls, too, which is why we're seeing Tim Scott getting some bump here in the polls, showing that he's doing a little bit better.

Of course, he's spending a ton of money in these early stages on campaign ads, as obviously boosting him, but he's going to face some -- they're going to come after him pretty hard to DeSantis camp will, as well as some of the other rivals. The question will be, can Tim Scott sustain that barrage of attacks that is almost certainly coming? He has not really been tested as putting the Senate racers (Inaudible) here.

BASH: Yes. And let's put the Iowa horse race number back up just to show again, just how far ahead Donald Trump is. Jeremy, I also want to talk about the debate. And the big open question right now beyond who's going to be on the stages, whether Donald Trump is going to agree to go. And this poll, it's a Fox Business poll showed something really interesting.

People in Iowa said that it shows weakness. If a person AKA Donald Trump skips at the debate. South Carolina same thing, pretty much almost six and ten of the people responding to this poll say, that it made -- it would make him look weak.

DIAMOND: Yes. I'd be curious what the breakdown was of those who said no, who are supporting Trump or not already, right? And look -- -

BASH: But we know how much support, yes.

DIAMOND: Yes. But also, Donald Trump has skipped debates before, right? He did this in 2016. And it didn't really have a huge impact on him. So, I'm kind of have the belief that it won't hurt him that much if he doesn't go. But that being said, I mean, it there are some voters clearly for whom this will show they will believe that this shows weakness. And how Donald Trump deals with that is an open question.

I think the other question is, with so many people on stage, I mean, how do you break through? How do you make an argument? We saw how that works in 2016 not so well for anybody, not named Donald Trump.

BASH: So, his former vice president, Mike Pence. We said that he did make the polling threshold. He has not yet made the donor threshold. He need 40,000 individual donors. I interviewed him on yesterday, and he said that he's confident he will make it.

But one of the things that he has run up against is the fact that he's leaning into or at least at the beginning of the campaign, the idea that he stood up for the constitution on January 6. I played for him a radio interview that Donald Trump did, where he was saying, well look, it might be dangerous if I go to jail. I asked for him to respond. Listen to how that went.


MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have more confidence in the American people and in the people in our movement.

BASH: That's pretty remarkable that you're not concerned about a given the fact that they wanted to hang you on January 6.

PENCE: Well Dana, wait a minute. Wait a minute. I want to say to you. There's been an effort to take those that perpetrated violence on January 6 and use a broad brush to describe everyone in our movement.

BASH: No, I didn't mean.


KUCINICH: No, but he has tried to walk this line. He also was trying to campaign on his record during the Trump administration. And he is tied to him forever, but he's still -- he's trying to thread this very, very tiny needle. And right now, based on the number of donors he has, doesn't seem like he's doing anything.


RAJU: Yes. And he's saying the Trump, Pence administration as he is tried to take credit for those things wouldn't Donald Trump could take credit for naming three Supreme Court justices for instance, whether he's tried to take credit for that, as well. And the things that he's breaking from Trump on are things that are not particularly popular among Republican voters, January 6, and Ukraine. So those are two big issues. Perhaps it could have been a general election, but he's running in a primary and having trouble.

BASH: I want to bring in quickly new reporting from our colleague Steve Contorno, and (Inaudible) about the DeSantis campaign, another reboot, or maybe it's part of the same route reboot. The headline is, DeSantis campaign pitches donors on leaner, insurgent campaign to be Trump.

Now DeSantis' political operation says it's embracing his position as an underdog. They're calling him an insurgent candidate with a heavier emphasis on getting DeSantis in front of voters at more intimate events, especially in early states. The campaign has also acknowledged that it needs to cut costs and as fundraising fell short of expectations and expenses have piled up.

DIAMOND: I mean, what's interesting to me about this is that this reboot seems to be about we don't have as much money. And so, we're rejiggering to be able to continue running with less money. What we're not seeing so much is a huge shift in strategy. I mean, other than maybe doing some more interviews, like he did with Jake last week. You know, we're not seeing a change in strategy in terms of how he's going after Donald Trump, for example.

And I think that ultimately, with all of these Republican candidates, that is the biggest issue. They have learned zero lessons from 2016, where no one, you know, took Trump on early enough to kind of dismantle the myth around Trump as a businessman, for example. And now, there's a lot to dismantle in terms of his time in office for these Republican candidates and no one other than Chris Christie maybe seems to be doing it (crosstalk)

BASH: Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson. Yes. And look and Ron DeSantis did raise a lot of money. He just spent a lot of money. Everybody standby because the White House is saying, Bidenomics is working. But looming union strikes could threaten a break in a fragile economic recovery. And later new reporting on how Donald Trump and his close advisers are preparing for a potential third indictment.




BASH: Joe Biden likes to call himself the most pro union president in American history. But his self-proclaimed title could soon be put to the test as several massive labor disputes looms over the economy. The United Auto Workers union could strike in the coming months. And then there's the UPS workers who could go on strike in one week. One study estimates that even a 10-day strike could cost the U.S. economy $7.1 billion, that would make it the costliest work stoppage ever in the U.S.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me from the White House. What are you hearing from your sources in the building behind you about how they are approaching this potential strike?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Dana, it's a delicate balance, one in which the president wants to show his support and be public about his support of unions, but also one that unions have asked him not to interfere in. And when you talk to labor organizers, that is the sweet spot. Having a president who is pro union, but also one that knows not to interfere when there are negotiations.

And of course, unions have buoyed President Biden's political ambitions. In fact, his first big reelection campaign rally was hosted by unions earlier this summer, but it has the risk of hurting the economy when these strikes happen.

So, you mentioned for example, the Teamsters Union they, and UPS will be back at the negotiating table this week. But Teamsters Union President Sean O'Brien already spoke to what could happen economically should it fail. Take a listen?


SEAN O'BRIEN, TEAMSTERS UNION PRESIDENT: Our members that deliver goods and services country deliver 7 percent of gross national product. So, supply chain solution will take a huge hit. But more importantly, that UPS if they don't do the right thing, they could throw this country into a recession.


ALVAREZ: Now this is the bet that President Biden and his team are taking when they brand the economy is Bidenomics. Can it hold as these looming strikes are on the horizon and what happens in the aftermath if they do happen in for long periods of time. Dana?

BASH: Such important context. Thank you for that reporting, Priscilla. I'm back here around the table. You heard that Priscilla was talking about the delicate balance. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did an interview with POLITICO saying that she was in touch with the UAW and said that their big ask was for the White House to stay out of it and to not intervene. That was their message. Sometimes the workers are just asking not even for help, but to not put your thumb on the scale. That makes it even harder.

RAJU: Yes. And you know, this is a president who has long been allied with the labor unions as an important part of the democratic coalition. Will he stay out? And that's interesting ask probably is not a reasonable one from the White House's perspective. But this is a big test for the president.

This happened last year in 2022, as well as they moved on legislation to avert a railway strike right before the holiday season. That could have been detrimental to the U.S. economy as well. But they have to take this seriously. There are signs that the economy is improving, but something like this could really torpedo things and that will inject a whole level of uncertainty into this political environment.

KUCINICH: But the railway strike they actually had some standing to get involved with that because there was this federal law that, you know, allowed them to do so, maybe that's not the exact verbiage, but they did have an entry there where this they don't.