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Biden Faces Looming Strikes That Could Deal Major Blow To U.S. Economy; Alabama GOP Gov Approves Congressional Map With One Black- Majority District; Conservative Group Preps To Spend $20M Defending McCarthy Opposers; Pelosi: McCarthy "Playing Politics" With Impeachment Expungement; Trump Continues Campaign As Normal As Indictment Looms. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 24, 2023 - 12:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: 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.

And this is one of the dangers when you embrace the Bidenomics. You live by the economy, you die by the economy, and you've some things you have absolutely no control over, which is what's happening here. And particularly for President Biden, I just want to remind our viewers how closely he aligns himself with unions.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I make no apologies, and I mean this sincerely, for being the most pro-union president in American history.

I make no apologies for being labeled the most pro-union president in American history. I'm proud of it.

I'm proud to be the most pro-union president in American history. I meant what I said when I said I'm going to be the pro -- most pro- union president in American history and I make no apologies for it.

I made a commitment that I'd be the most pro-union president in American history. I tell business all the time, union workers are the best in the world.


DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And Jeremy, when Donald Trump came on the scene, you remember this, you covered the 2016 Trump campaign. He actually did change the balance a bit. He got some union members more than we had seen Republicans get in decades. When he ran against Joe Biden, the number of union votes went up for Joe Biden.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and there's always been that kind of split between union membership and union leadership in terms of the political breakdown. And actually, like Sean O'Brien, for example, was backed as kind of an insurgent campaign against the establishment in his union. And so that's also an important dynamic to keep in mind here.

As President Biden has been touting his pro-union bona fides, I mean, I think the point of the rail strike, it is a different authority. It's a different situation, but you can't minimize the impact that that has had on the membership and some of the unease that exists with some of these unions, the concern that Biden could somehow choose to intervene again here.

So that's certainly influencing things. And, you know, as I've been talking to people over the last week about this very issue, you know, it's a question of why is this all happening now? We're seeing so many different labor negotiations, potential strikes. Part of it has to do with --

BASH: Striking in Hollywood already.

DIAMOND: Yes, yes. And part of it has to do with coming out of the pandemic and people reassessing working conditions. Also looking at inequality in terms of how much people at the top of these companies have benefited versus the actual workers. And then some folks have also said that part of it may be President Biden.

And the fact that his vocal support for unions, for collective bargaining, maybe that's giving some wind in the sails for some of these unions, even as they are trying to keep them at arm's length a bit from a tactical standpoint.

BASH: Really, really interesting. OK, everybody stand by. We are going to take a very quick break and we're going to look at a move that appears to be defying the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state of Alabama just made a controversial decision to approve a new congressional map that has just won Majority Black District. Stay with us.



BASH: Republican Governor Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama just approved a new U.S. congressional district map, a map that the legislature was forced to redraw after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that said the previous map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The original map passed by the GOP majority legislature in 2021 created just one majority black district in a state that is one quarter black.

In a judgment last month, however, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling mandating the legislature go back and redraw the map to include two districts with majority black voters or, quote, something quite close to it. So the legislature went back to work and came up with this, a new map that does increase the percentage of black voters in the second congressional district, but only to 40 percent. The other majority black district was at 55 percent, but now it's dropped to just over 50 percent.

Joining me now to discuss is the President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Janai Nelson. Thank you so much for joining me. I just outlined the basics of the case. And so what we saw is the legislature made some slight tweaks, it's probably fair to say, after the Supreme Court struck down their original map. What was your reaction when you saw the current version of the congressional district map in Alabama?

JANAI NELSON, PRESIDENT & DIRECTOR-COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, I knew immediately from looking at the map that it was an outright defiance of the Supreme Court's order. The Supreme Court said quite clearly that either a majority black district was warranted or something very close to it.

40 percent is not close to a majority black district. And most importantly, a 40 percent black district will not allow the black voters of Alabama to be able to elect a candidate of their choice. And that is the whole point of the lawsuit.

As you said, Alabamians, black Alabamians are one in four in the entire population of the state, but they only have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing in one of seven of the congressional districts. The court said they should at least have an opportunity in two districts that don't yet have that opportunity.


BASH: And I'm sure you've seen that during the debate, which happened on Friday, Republicans in the Alabama State House argued that new district two lines, which increased the black voter share from 30 to 40, as you were talking about, would give black voters there the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. Why are they wrong?

NELSON: They're wrong because that one, just numerically, it's very difficult for a district that is 40 percent black to carry the vote as a general matter. But more specifically, when you have a state like Alabama that has a history and current conditions of racially polarized voting meeting, white voters do not elect the candidates that are favored by black voters.

There is a serious polarization of the vote in the state. 40 percent will not carry the district. They need more black voters in order to be able to effectuate the black political power in that state. So 40 percent is simply insufficient. It is a direct violation of the Supreme Court's order.

It is transgressive behavior by the state of Alabama in a way that we've seen historically. But in this moment, it is up to our federal courts to protect black voters and also to protect their own authority here.

BASH: You've probably seen that supporters of this new version of the map say voting rights -- the Voting Rights Act, it doesn't demand exact proportional representation. Clarence Thomas said so during his dissenting opinion at the Supreme Court. Is that going to be -- I'm sure you're going to come up against that when you go forward in this legal battle to try to strike down this second map. How do you make the argument against that?

NELSON: This is not about proportional representation. This is about the ability to elect a candidate of choice of the black community. And when you conduct that analysis, you look at numbers, you look at the number of black people who are able to vote in that district.

And you also look at the white voters in that district and how they vote. Do they vote in a way that works to cancel the strength of black voters? And we know that that is the case and has been the case historically in Alabama.

So we need a stronger district for black voters in order for them to elect candidates of their choice, which is what is required under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This is a mandate by civil rights laws to make sure that there's fairness in our systems that black voters and other voters who have been historically discriminated against have an opportunity to have representatives who will speak to their interests and give voice to their concerns. And that's all that we're fighting for.

BASH: Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, we are going to be following this as it does come up through the courts, which we know it will. Thank you for your time and helping to shed light on this.

NELSON: Thank you.

BASH: And up ahead, face off, a conservative advocacy group, pulls out its war chest, prepped and ready to help re-elect nearly two dozen House Republicans who opposed Kevin McCarthy's speakership. We'll explain after a quick break.



BASH: Another right-wing warning shot for Kevin McCarthy, this time from a powerful conservative group. In a memo obtained by CNN and first reported by Politico, the group Club for Growth says it's prepared to spend $20 million this cycle defending the, quote, "Patriot 20". That's what they call the 20 members who repeatedly rejected Kevin McCarthy during that marathon speaker vote. Most of them eventually folded.

Club for Growth's leader, Former House Republican David McIntosh warns, quote, "Moderate donors and candidates seeking to settle scores should save their money because we are prepared to win at all costs".

My panel is back now. Manu, you hang out with these members every single day running around the hallways. What do you think that this is going to do? What impact is going to have? RAJU: Yes. I mean, look, a lot of these members are already in pretty safe district. So it's not going to really have much of an impact. The Republican leadership stays out of Republican and Republican primaries on the House side. So it may not have that much of an impact.

It's really a shot across the bow against Kevin McCarthy himself to show that they are trying to put money in to encourage some of these dissidents within the conference of folks who initially opposed it --

BASH: And let's put up on the screen the people we're talking about as you, as you speak.

RAJU: Yes, and look, a handful of those are actually in -- could have difficult general election races. That's Scott Perry, Anna Paulina Luna, who's a freshman, as well as Lauren Boebert, who narrowly escaped her re-election bid last year --

BASH: Yes, those are the three targets already.

RAJU: Exactly, and that could potentially help them this money in the general election. But, presumably, McCarthy will be supporting them as well in the general election --

BASH: Yes.

RAJU: -- because he needs every vote he can to get the speakership, but this is really just an effort to say that we are standing behind the guys who -- and the lawmakers here who are making Kevin McCarthy's life difficult on some of these key issues, like on spending legislation that they've got to deal with in the fall.

BASH: Not to be too cynical, but we've all been around Washington. These groups on the right and the left, they exist to make a point, but also to make money and spend money.


KUCINICH: And the fact of the matter is, if Moderate Republicans had that much political heft, there would be more of them. They're the ones who are the most in trouble. They're the ones who are really pushing back on some of these agenda items that, you know, Kevin McCarthy feels like he has to take up on the House floor or he's being pressured into. So, I mean, the political clout really lies on the right right now.

BASH: Yes. And on that note, we remember last week -- it was last week, I believe -- Kevin McCarthy came out, that Kevin McCarthy had a private conversation with the former president after McCarthy went on TV and suggested -- deigned to suggest that maybe Trump was not the most viable candidate to go up against Joe Biden.

And in the conversation, they've talked about having votes to expunge his impeachments. I talked to his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, about the notion of having those votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Kevin is, you know, playing politics. It's not even clear if he constitutionally can expunge those things. If he wants to put his members on the spot, his members in difficult races on the spot, that's a decision he has to make.

But this is not responsible. Donald Trump is the puppeteer. And what does he do all the time, but shine the light on the strings. These people look pathetic.


DIAMOND: Yes, Nancy Pelosi doing Nancy Pelosi things there as only she can. I mean, look, Republicans have always had a candidate quality problem, right? That they kind of constantly, there's a push and pull between the far-right and the more establishment vein. Donald Trump has exacerbated those problems, I think, over the last several years to the point where Senate Republicans in particular are recognizing that they need to do things differently going forward, right?

Manu will check me if I'm wrong on that. So, you know, we'll see if they can get. But I guess the bottom line is that the incentive structure is designed to continue to facilitate what we're seeing now. You know, these Republican members are the hardline members who defied McCarthy.

They did so because it benefits them in their districts with their -- the base, but it also benefits them from a fundraising perspective. And they know that money like this from the Club for Growth is coming down the pipe.

RAJU: What would be interesting is that the Club for Growth is sparred with Donald Trump, and Trump hates the Club for Growth, going through this moment because they disagreed over strategy in the last cycle, and Trump views what they did as disloyal to him. And these people that they're supporting are the biggest Trump supporters within the House Republican Conference.

You're seeing a dynamic play in the House and Senate races. We reported last week that the club is putting money behind Alex Mooney in West Virginia. He's up against a Republican backed candidate in that Senate race. They may put money against behind Matt Rosenthal if he jumps into Montana, against a Republican leadership backed candidate in that race.

Republican leaders are trying to use the Club for Growth against some of those candidates that they are coming up against. So that's an interesting twist here in all of this. Above all else, for Donald Trump, is loyalty.

BASH: Yes, that is true. Usually it's one way.

RAJU: Yes. All right, everybody, stand by.

Up ahead, new reporting about Donald Trump huddled with his advisers going over their playbook as looming indictments hang over him. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BASH: Now to New Jersey, a new reporting about what it's like inside Donald Trump's orbit right now, as he and our attention remains on the federal grand jury here in Washington.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is closely tracking the former president's inner circle. The Trump campaign, they're meeting there all day. Are they still kind of in that holding pattern, just waiting to see if an indictment comes down, or are they making the assumption for political reasons that it's going to happen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, they believe it's happening, and right now the timing is unclear. They are in the same boat as the rest of us when it comes to these indictments. They are reading tea leaves. They are trying to get some kind of indication from different remarks, from different reports. But they still don't know when exactly that's going to happen.

When I talk to his campaign advisers, they really stress that they are trying to focus on the political aspect of all of this. The meetings that they're having are budget meetings. They are talking about scheduling, where they're going to go next.

And when I spent the weekend talking to different advisers on the phone, they were much more interested in talking about the negative DeSantis coverage. They were amped up rather than talking about any of this legal stuff.

And when it comes to that, they say they have a playbook down. This has already happened twice. There've been two indictments. They expect likely two more indictments, including the one that we're discussing now in January 6th, the federal indictment and the Jack Smith special counsel probe.

So they are just working from that. The fund raising, the political instigating with his base trying to rile them up. But again, they still are running a third presidential campaign. And tonight, in fact, at Bedminster, he's hosting several Ohio lawmakers for dinner, including Senator JD Vance as well as Congressman Max Miller and Jim Jordan. Jordan, as you know, some of his biggest supporters.

BASH: So that's happening tonight, Kristen. Is there any plan for him to go back on the trail when it comes to the early states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina? You know, he obviously has leads, particularly in Iowa and South Carolina that we've just seen that he wants to hold on to.

HOLMES: That's true. And he's going to this big Iowa dinner on Friday. He'll be one of the big speakers there along with many of the other 24 candidates. And on Saturday, he has a big rally in Erie, Pennsylvania. So two things to keep an eye on.

But I do want to point out one thing tomorrow, he is going to Louisiana for a fundraiser. So something to watch out closely. That's where he'll be.

BASH: OK, Kristen, thank you so much for that reporting.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts right now.