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Inside Politics

Hunter Biden Plea Deal Collapses; McConnell Back At Work After Health Scare; Trump Team's Meeting With Special Counsel Has Ended; Pres. Biden Announces New Action To Address Extreme Heat; One-On-One With GOP Presidential Candidate Will Hurd. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 27, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: The breaking news today asked and answered. Donald Trump's lawyers met with special counsel prosecutors, and it included the special counsel himself, Jack Smith. The Trump team's ask was to delay an indictment against their client as long as possible. But sources tell CNN, Trump lawyers got no guidance one way or the other about when a potential indictment is coming. Much more on this throughout the hour as we learn more.

But first, a painful reminder that nothing is done until it's done. Hunter Biden's attorneys and federal prosecutors must now see if they can salvage an agreement from the wreckage of a plea deal that crashed inside a Delaware courtroom.

What normally takes 15 minutes or so took hours as a federal judge demanded more information, demanded clarity on just how immunity Hunter Biden was actually going to get, how much he was going to get, and forced lawyers to go out on a future deal and say, you know what, they need to reconfigure this plea.

Let's get straight to CNN's Sara Murray. Sara, where do things stand right now?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this could still come back to life, but what we saw in the courtroom yesterday is not what anyone expected. As you said, you know, Hunter Biden expected to show up, plead guilty to two tax misdemeanors, strike this deal to make a felony gun charge go away.

But as the judge started kicking the tires on what this deal would encompass, there were problems. I mean, if you look through, you know, we got the transcript of the hearing yesterday, what went down in that courtroom. You can see one of these moments that our colleague Kara Scannell was reporting on as it happened, where the judge is trying to figure out from prosecutors, is this still an ongoing investigation? They say yes.

They acknowledge that under this plea agreement, they wouldn't be charging Hunter Biden with other tax charges. But the court asks, could the government bring a charge under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? The prosecutor responds, yes. And then we hear from Hunter Biden's lawyer, who pipes up in court and says, as stated by the court just now, I don't agree with what the government just said. And then we hear from the prosecutor, then there is no deal.

So they stepped out of court. They recessed. They were able to bring that deal back together, the defense and the prosecutors. But when they came back, the judge still wasn't happy with it. She had some concerns about the legal structure of this deal for Hunter to avoid the felony gun charge.

And she also wanted to make sure that it was very clear to Hunter Biden what exactly he was pleading guilty to and what rights he was going to get in exchange for that plea deal. She gave each side 30 days to brief her on the matter, to address some of these concerns. And, you know, maybe she'll hold a hearing, maybe she'll rule in writing.

But if the two sides can't get a deal, that the judge could sign off on. It's also possible we could see this thing headed to a trial at some point, Dana.

BASH: A trial that includes criminal charges as opposed, I mean, that includes felony charges as opposed to what was supposed to be misdemeanor charges for the tax issues in that plea deal that fell apart.

Sara, thank you so much for your excellent reporting.

And now to Capitol Hill, where moments ago it was business as usual for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That's certainly what he wanted to convey as the Kentucky Republican appeared on the Senate floor. That after a chilling health scare.

My colleague Manu Raju is reporting that McConnell actually has fallen multiple times this year. That's according to sources he's talking to. And yesterday, the 81-year-old, who, we should add, survived polio, he had that when he was a young boy, he suddenly froze during a news conference.



SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Are you good, Mitch?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Are you OK, Mitch? Anything else you want to say or should we just go back to your office? Do you want to say anything else to the press?


BASH: As you saw there, other members of the GOP leadership were understandably alarmed and intervened. McConnell's the longest serving Senate Party leader, and he later returned to the podium and resumed the news conference. Now, we don't know if he has seen a doctor since that, but the minority leader is assuring reporters that he's feeling fine and he's welcoming the bipartisan well wishes.


MCCONNELL: President called to check on me. I told him I got a sandbag.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, nice. How are you feeling now, sir? How are you feeling now?

MCCONNELL: I'm fine.


BASH: CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill. We should say, especially just after seeing that everybody wishes the Senate Minority Leader well, and we hope that it is true that he is doing fine. You're walking around the hallways. You're talking to his colleagues. What are you picking up?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, similar. They have concerns, but they're hoping that he's fine. He is assuring them privately that he is fine, as he's saying that publicly as well.


Now, of course, there's been lot of questions about Senator McConnell's health and the aftermath of what happened back in March when he fell in a Washington hotel, hit his head, had a concussion, was out for six weeks, suffered some broken ribs as well.

But I've learned from multiple sources that there have been multiple instances this year in which he has fallen. Now, McConnell has was walked with a slight limp because he is a childhood polio survivor. But there was an incident back in February when he slipped in Helsinki when meeting with the President of Finland, fell, and he was with the U.S. delegation before that meeting.

He got back up, went back to work. No medical attention was needed at that point. Also, there's another incident earlier this month where at Reagan National Airport, he was getting off a plane. He fell also, then also returned to work. There was no medical attention after that.

And in talking to Republican senators, there still remains to be -- there's still a number of questions about how long the Senate GOP leader will continue serving in a party, in a conference that he has led longer than any party leader in history. And whether he would continue to do the job in the new Congress. And that is a question that a lot of Republicans are resistant to answering at this point.

BASH: Thank you so much, Manu, for that excellent reporting.

And ahead, 2024 presidential candidates keep their distance as the presumed frontrunner, Donald Trump, faces a potential third indictment.



BASH: The major news today, the Special Counsel met with Donald Trump's lawyers here in Washington. We are still piecing together what happened inside that meeting. But what it seems is that there was no indication that the special counsel would delay, as the Trump legal team wanted them to do when it comes to an indictment.

We know that the indictment is -- that the grand jury is meeting right now. The question politically is, what are those Republicans who are running against Donald Trump saying? What will they say?

Well, let's talk about that with two Republican strategists who have worked for Republican presidential candidates. Jason Osborne, he was senior communications strategist on Ben Carson's campaign in 2016, also worked for John McCain back in 2008. And Alex Conant, he was communications director for Marco Rubio's campaign. Nice to see you both.

Alex, if you were advising somebody who was not Donald Trump right now --


BASH: -- how do you manage the news of a potential indictment?

CONANT: I think it depends a little bit on which candidate I would be advising, but I think somebody like Ron DeSantis, who has publicly been saying they're looking for a reset, his campaign doesn't appear to have been going in the right trajectory since he entered the race. I think somebody like him should look at this as a potential moment to change the narrative.

Clearly, I think if he came out and strongly rebuked Donald Trump over this indictment, once we know all the facts and say, I've -- upon reviewing the facts of January 6, I don't think he can be president of the United States. Again, clearly, that would be a major reset in his campaign.

I think it would get a lot of people to give him a fresh look.

BASH: Do you have that in him?

CONANT: It's a good question, and it's also a huge risk. And it's a risk I think you only take if you say, look, on the current trajectory, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, which seems very likely unless something dramatic happens and you do something to try to consolidate the opposition.

Right now, I think the opposition is very fragmented. So Donald Trump is again on course to win with 40 percent to 50 percent of the vote. BASH: Very fragmented. Jason, you just heard Alex say what Ron DeSantis could say. Let's go back and look at what DeSantis and other Republican presidential candidates said after the target letter was revealed.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He should have come out more forcefully, of course, that, but to try to criminalize that, that's a different issue entirely.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just going to continue to be a further and further distraction. And that's why I am running, is because we need a new generational leader.

MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His reckless words on that day endangered my family and all of us at the Capitol, but I'm not convinced it was criminal.


BASH: You think we're going to hear a lot more of that, or is it possible that, as Alex said, candidates will take a risk and shift?

JASON OSBORNE, FMR. SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST, DR. BEN CARSON: Yes, I think for sure there is a risk in shifting this, and I disagree with Alex a little bit on this aspect. I don't ever like to have my candidate playing in somebody else's sandbox. And by coming out and trying to sway public opinion on the merits of the case, whatever they may be on either side, then you're back into Trump's playbook.

Instead, I would almost recommend to any of the candidates, really, and some could be more forceful in this than others in saying, we don't need this distraction over the next year. I mean, we've got one trial that's going to start in May. Who knows when Jack Smith stuff, the new stuff comes out and when that will be litigated.

You also have New York, and then you're going to have Georgia as well. So we're always going to be talking about this. And it's unfortunate because, as Alex and I can appreciate back in 2015, 2016, all the oxygen was out of the room, and all we were talking about was Trump, instead of talking about the issues that were facing Americans on a daily basis.

CONANT: I think that's right, but I also think Donald -- this election, whether the Republican primary is about Donald Trump. The question facing Republican primary voters is, do we want Donald Trump again or do we want somebody else?

I think the only way you can get into that story is by actually attacking Donald Trump frontally. Now, look, it takes -- I think that is very risky because Trump's base is very loyal, as we saw firsthand in 2016. Trump's a very good counterpuncher, and whoever goes after him is likely to get bloodied.

But I think if you're -- if the strategy is hope, if the strategy is I'm not really going to attack the frontrunner, we have seen this before, and we know exactly how it's going to end, which is Donald Trump is going to continue to consolidate his support, and he's going to win with 40 percent, 50 percent of the Republican primary vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, and be the nominee.


BASH: And, Jason, the person who I'm thinking of as you're both talking, thinking about what happened in 2016 is Chris Christie, because he's the one in the race who ran against Donald Trump in 2016. And his whole argument is what I learned back then, is that you can't tiptoe around it.

You got to go right at Donald Trump and point out to voters why you don't think that he should be the nominee. And it's on this very issue that we're talking about this indictment, the issue of January 6.

OSBORNE: Yes, and I -- I mean, I think Alex's opinion of Chris Christie back in 2016 is probably a little different than mine. But --

CONANT: Fair, fair.

OSBORNE: -- I think --

BASH: I don't think we have time. Just google it, guys. OK, go ahead.

OSBORNE: Right. I think, you know, Chris Christie, I want to see him on the debate stage. I understand he's made the debate stage, and I think he's going to be phenomenal up there. Now, the dynamic that we have here is that, at least as I understand it, and what I heard this last weekend was the first two debates are going to be without Trump.

And it won't be until I believe there's a third debate that they're talking about in Alabama, where Trump will be there. But during these first two debates, it can't be just Chris Christie. I think Chris Christie can be the tip of the spear, but every one of these other candidates needs to kind of confront this issue in their own way.

But, yes, you can go after Trump, but you don't have to litigate this -- the cases on the debate stage. We do need to focus on what your issues are.

CONANT: Can I just say --

BASH: Go quick.

CONANT: -- I think that the Republican candidates, they have to make a strong case for why they would be a better nominee than Donald Trump. If you can't convince voters that you would be a better nominee than Donald Trump, Donald Trump's going to be the nominee.

BASH: Thank you both. Really interesting conversation.

OSBORNE: But also --

BASH: Jason, we're going to have to leave it there, but we're going to come back and have another conversation with you. Very busy news day. Thank you so much to both of you.

Before we go, we want to talk about President Biden because he is meeting with mayors on the front lines of this brutal heat wave happening. The president just announced new measures to address the extreme heat. He's asking the Labor Department to better protect workers against soaring temperatures and to funnel more money to improve weather forecasting.

Here he is just minutes ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The number one weather- related killer is heat. 600 people die annually from its effects, more than from floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes in America combined. And even those places that are used to extreme heat have never seen as hot as it is now for as long as it's been. Even those who deny that we're in the midst of a climate crisis can't deny the impact of extreme heat is having on Americans.


BASH: Right now, 150 million people in 14 states are under heat alerts.

And up next, Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd weighs in on today's secretive special counsel meeting with the former president's legal team. Don't go away.



BASH: Former President Donald Trump's legal team did meet today with the special counsel, a move that Trump's team hoped would delay a possible third indictment against the former president.

Joining me now to discuss this and much more is one of the former president's competitors for the nomination for president, former Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. Thank you so much for coming in.

It is possible, maybe even probable, that the former president will be indicted for a third time. You've said, in no uncertain terms, that you do not support him. Republican voters don't agree with you. Is this just going to embolden him politically, even though it might be very dicey legally?

WILL HURD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think some of his supporters is not going to change things. But those independents, those general election voters, of course, they're going to be sick and tired of this. I'm shocked that something hasn't come sooner, right?

We've heard the evidence. We've heard him call the Georgia Secretary of State and say -- and ask this Georgia Secretary of State to do an illegal action. So there just should be consequences. And this is the kind of baggage that six out of 10 Americans don't want to see in an election, because six out of 10 Americans don't want to see Donald Trump be the Republican nominee.

And if the GOP nominates Donald Trump as our nominee to go against Joe Biden, then we are willingly giving four more years to Joe Biden. We are missing an opportunity --

BASH: There's no question Donald Trump will lose, in your mind.

HURD: Joe Biden will -- excuse me -- Donald Trump will lose to Joe Biden. These independent voters and Democrats that are frustrated with the Democratic Party that voted for Joe Biden in 2020, all of a sudden they're going to say with three indictments and all the drama, January 6, trying to cause an insurrection in the Capitol, you think all of a sudden they're going to be like, ah, that's my guy.

So he is -- we are going to lose and we're going to continue this trend of Republicans losing the popular vote on national elections. It's been going on for 20 years.

BASH: Speaking of trends, the place you used to work in, the House of Representatives, the Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is floating the idea of an impeachment inquiry against the current president, President Biden. You think that's a good idea?

HURD: Impeaching Joe Biden is not going to get rid of Joe Biden. The only way you get rid of Joe Biden is by beating him in an election. And the way to do that is make sure we're talking about tabletop kitchen table issues that Americans care about. That's, you know, the fact that over the last 23 years, cost of goods and services has increased three times the average salary.

The fact that technologies like AI are going to impact every industry, the fact that our kids grades in math, science, and reading are the worst that they've been in this century. These are the issues that we should be talking about. And that's how we're going to prevent having lost for the last 20 years. And that's what I'm trying to do.

And if your viewers want to see that me on the debate stage, they can go to and give me at least $1 to help me hit those marks.

BASH: You did that very skillfully. That was impressive.


Why not talk about a very important issue that I mentioned earlier, which is President Biden talked about today, which is the fact that the heat, the extreme heat and the fact that the planet is very hot right now.

You have heard some of your competitors and other Republicans for a long time not acknowledge that this was a man-made crisis, but more important, not try to take responsibility. How important is it for everybody, not just Democrats, not just Republicans, but just humans on this planet to try to address this?

HURD: This is a responsibility for everyone. Every American, every Chinese national, everybody who lives in Saudi Arabia. This is an issue for everyone. And yes, this unprecedented heat is wild. The coast of Texas, the water was 90 degrees, right? That's not supposed to happen.

And so, the fact that -- there's still a debate that climate change is real, climate change is real, humanity is having an impact on it, and we need to be taking steps to address that. Is that going to fix the heat this summer? No. But those that are in, you know, make sure you check in on your loved ones.

If you have elderly parents or grandparents, make sure their AC is working. Make sure they have fans. Make sure people are drinking a lot of water because this is only going to get worse for the rest of the summer. But there's a lot of steps that we can be taking to address this issue.

The next generation expects us to do that. And those that are afraid to talk about this need to think again about the leadership positions they're trying to attain.

BASH: Congressman, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

HURD: Appreciate you.

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