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Biden Finally Acknowledges 7th Grandchild; Now: Hunter Biden Business Partner Facing GOP-Led Committee; Trump: Republicans Need To Act On "Democratic Fraud"; VP Harris Takes Center Stage In Biden 2024 Campaign. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 31, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Fridays are the days and the nights when politicians place headlines they would prefer the world not see. So you decide what President Biden intended by announcing after 05:00 p.m. on Friday after the weekend started the following.

President Biden speaks out on Hunter's daughter, four, with Arkansas woman "Jill and I only want what's best". The placement is important. People magazine is a grocery aisle staple. Voters are far more likely to pick up than maybe Politico. Also notable, the venue for the President's first on camera acknowledgement of grandchild number seven was a podcast interview with British podcaster and life coach Jay Shetty.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have seven grandkids, four of them, five of them old enough to talk on the phone, you know, every day I either text them or call them. I just think being there is important and it makes such a difference. I think knowing that someone's going to be there for you just to listen, just to hold you, just to hug you.


BASH: The panel is back here and I just want to read a little bit more of the statement that the President and First Lady gave to People magazine on Friday. "Our son Hunter and Navy's mother, Lunden, are working together to foster a relationship that is in the best interest of their daughter, preserving her privacy as much as possible going forward. This is not a political issue, it is a family matter."

A couple things here. Number one, this is a very small child who should remain -- everything should remain private about her when it comes to images and so forth. But what we are seeing here is maybe something that was expected once this became a thing. The New York Times did a whole story after Hunter Biden acknowledged that this child was his settled a custody battle.

And then Maureen Dowd wrote a very pointed and I think even poignant article op ed saying, it's seven grandkids, Mr. President. That sent ripples, maybe even waves through the political world.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look, it really cut at his image of a family man, someone who's had endured tragedies in his family and personal life and has become emerged to where he is today as the President of the United States. It's central to his character and that cut against it.

And clearly, the White House had to realize that they had to address this issue and the way that they did that eventually the President was going to be asked about it. He has not been to this point or said this and rather than saying it in a -- as he's walking to, you know, being asked by reporters, as he's walking to an event, sitting down and having to talk about it.

Because if he didn't address it now, it was going to come later in the campaign season potentially even at a debate. So he had to acknowledge it now. It's something that ultimately he was pressured to do.

And there's a lot of, you know, conversation around this in particular. Everyone continues to say this is a private matter when you have people who are defending Joe Biden saying that you have people on the right saying that this is something that we should be talking about, generally, has a lot to do with Hunter.

He's been, obviously, a target of the right. So that has something that is at play here, too. But as we talked about, I think just the day that that article came out on the show, you know, it was going to become an issue. It was going to -- it already was, but it was going to get bigger and bigger, especially as he maintained his silence. He cannot be the patriarch, the family man running on that in 2024 and not address this.

BASH: Yes. One of the things that Joe Biden has done so successfully and it is based on tragedy, the tragedy of losing his wife and his daughter and then, of course, losing his adult son Beau is being a very relatable person. Like my family is like yours, it's very complicated.

This is a very complicated family matter. And people in and around the President say that families deal with stuff that is complicated all the time. The difference, obviously, is that his image is America's grandfather. And it is something that he has leaned into.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's certainly leaned into it. I mean, during the 2020 campaign cycle, you know, something that voters I interacted with during the primary as they were picking him over other Democrats, was the fact that they felt that he was more relatable, the fact that they thought that he could better win a general election. And that all goes to that image, as you said, Dana, of him being the compassionate candidate, the compassionate president.

BASH: So speaking of Hunter Biden as we speak, a former business associate of Hunter Biden is testifying under oath to the House Oversight Committee. Will he provide that smoking gun House Republicans are determined to uncover? We're going to get more on that coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BASH: Republicans say he's got a smoking gun and he's an eyewitness to Biden corruption. But it's really unclear how much evidence Devon Archer can offer. The former Hunter Biden business partner is testifying behind closed doors as we speak before the House Oversight Committee.


And I want to get straight to CNN's Zach Cohen. Zach, what are you learning so far about what's actually happening behind closed doors? The most important question is, obviously, will this individual, Archer, bring the goods that Republicans insist that he has?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Dana. Republicans really couldn't have set the bar higher leading up into this interview. And, you know, Devon Archer's been sitting in this building behind me with lawmakers from both sides of the out for about two and a half hours now.

And so it's not clear, as you said, if he is delivering the goods that Republicans want. But, you know, Democrats going in were very skeptical. Dan Goldman, a Congressman, a member of this committee, I caught up with him on the way in and he said, look, of all the documents that Archer has turned over and everything he's already told them, there is no evidence linking the President himself to any of his son's foreign business dealings.

So really a high bar set by Republicans. Again, and the thing with closed door interviews too, I'm sure we'll get very different sides of the story from Republicans and Democrats when they come out.

BASH: That is a guaranteed fact, no question. Very different recounting of what happened inside. Zach, thank you so much for that.

The panel is back here. This is all about whether or not Republicans can find any evidence, which they have yet to put forward of their repeated accusation that the President, Joe Biden, had knowledge of or a connection to Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine and China. The allegation is pay for play, right?

Let's just see Zach talked about Republicans setting the bar very high on what this individual, Devon Archer, Hunter Biden's former business partner, will say in his closed door testimony. Let's play some of what Republicans have said before.


REP. NANCY MACE (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a person who was in business with Hunter Biden and Biden family members. He was the BFF of the President's son. He has a lot of information, I believe, that we'll be able to fact check and corroborate with other witnesses and other whistleblowers. SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R), MISSOURI: I gather this guy, Devon Archer or whatever, is going to testify that he saw then VP Biden talking about business dealings with Hunter. So it's really serious when you have credible allegations of foreign bribery of the sitting President of the United States.

REP. JAMES COMER (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: We are going to bring people in now for depositions and interviews who were a part of some of these transactions and say what exactly triggered this million dollar transaction.


BASH: Manu, you run around and talk to these Republican Congress people all day, every day. Has any of them once provided evidence of what they are claiming?

RAJU: Well, not anything other than circumstantial evidence. In fact, James Comer, who you just showed at last of the chairman of the committee -- I was in that gaggle, speaking to him and I asked him that same gaggle. Do you have direct evidence linking the President to Hunter Biden's business dealings and essentially corroborating what they're saying is a bribery scandal that occurred when Joe Biden was vice president in dealing with a foreign national?

He essentially said, no. He said what they have is a pattern of behavior. They said they need to chase down the pattern of behavior to try to find that evidence. He said they're going to have a number of interviews. This one being one of them, to try to corroborate some of these claims.

The question is, can they -- will that actually corroborate any of these claims? And the credibility of this witness, too. He's dealing with a conviction and unrelated fraud case. I'm sure Democrats are going to make a big point of that coming out of this, but nevertheless, that is what they're trying to do, all trying to lay the predicate for an impeachment inquiry in the fall.

But will they have the evidence? It's still an open question.

BASH: An impeachment inquiry, but also the notion of a two-tiered justice system, which is the buzzword that we're hearing over and over and over again. And you have the former president really trying to stir the pot on this issue. Let's listen to what he said on Saturday calling out his Republican brethren on the Hill.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest complaint that I get is that the Republicans find out this information and then they do nothing about it. Any Republican that doesn't act on Democrat fraud should be immediately primaried and get out, out.


BASH: Fraud, alleged fraud to which there is no evidence that they have provided yet.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And actually, you know, right after the news on Thursday of that superseding indictment, Trump did an interview in which he said essentially the same thing, really starting to ramp up the pressure on Republicans, saying, I hope the Republican Party does something about this.

He knows that there are people in the Republican Party and Speaker McCarthy is one of them that he can put the screws to, that he can put this pressure on. And that's really where you're seeing this go, is this ramping up of the pressure on these Republicans, Republicans who support him, or Republicans who still need his support as they move forward.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I think some bigger context here. You play that clip from Nancy Mace, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, earlier, even before Republicans took the majority in the House, she was saying that they were under pressure publicly to impeach the President.


And essentially, they've gone on a hunting expedition to figure out whatever they could get that would then validate a potential impeachment vote. And so far, everything has been unproven or unsubstantiated and not corroborated. And so their motivation is because they are hopeful that it could hurt the President in his reelection campaign.

BASH: So, fascinating. Thank you all for that really important context and reporting.

The White House has a not so new and not so secret weapon. She's been deployed as the one person who can give rapid response. She's actually a one person rapid response team. And waging war against Republican rhetoric. We have new reporting on this next.



BASH: Vice President Kamala Harris is taking on a new role for Biden's reelection campaign. A one woman rapid response team targeting GOP policies. We've already seen it in practice this month. She went to Florida rather to challenge Ron DeSantis over his state's school curriculum on black history.

And then days after Iowa's Governor, Kim Reynolds, signed a six week abortion ban into law, Harris was in the spotlight yet again.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These extremists so called leaders should model what we know to be the correct and right approach if we really are invested in the wellbeing of our children. All is not lost. This is a moment where, again, I will say, I do believe there's a full on attack against hard-won freedoms, but we have power.


BASH: CNN's Isaac Dovere has new reporting on all of this and joins our panel. What are you learning?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, look, I don't think it's news to anybody to know that Harris has been somewhat frustrated with her first two years on the job. A lot of people have been asking what it is that she does all day and this has been a way for her to jump in in a way the Biden campaign is really eager to have happen, to isolate those moments out of the Republican primary campaign as it's picking up and say to voters, look at this, these are extremist moments.

This is what the Republican Party is, trying to make the Republican Party toxic. They have her going out and doing it because they don't want Biden directly in the fray. But for Harris, there are a lot of advantages too. She's been looking at people like Gavin Newsom jumping out and taking advantage of the national spotlight by taking swings at Republicans and being a little jealous of that.

And she's doing this. And not only does it benefit what the Biden campaign wants, but I talked to one woman, Jasmine Burney-Clark, an activist in Florida, who was at the Jacksonville speech, big fan of Kamala Harris. She said to me, even with being a fan of Harris, it was like a whole new Kamala.

BASH: Let me actually put that quote up because we have it. Here's what she said. "It felt like a new Kamala", -- as you just mentioned -- "had arrived into the sphere from the White House. It was not someone I felt like I had seen before."

BARRON-LOPEZ: No, I mean, this is certainly something that the campaign is being clear about, which is that she is going to be the leading voice, which is the way they've described it to me on these issues abortion, guns, cultural issues, social justice issues. Like, we saw her go and take on the African American curriculum, history curriculum, and that she's going to continue to do that.

It allows the President also, as Isaac said, not to just get into the fray but to focus on the economy, which is what he wants to focus on. He wants to be talking about that and trying to make the argument of what the big bills that they passed are doing and really try to battle that public perception that is persistent despite these good economic markers that are piling up and make that entire argument.

Because Democrats I've talked to are frustrated that somehow the President's poll numbers are still not good on the economy --

BASH: Very pressuring.

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- despite the markers that they see as positive. RAJU: And she's filling a void here too because the Biden camp -- Biden has not really been doing much campaigning, if at all, since launching his campaign. All the attention is focused on the Republican primary, Trump's legal problems. They need to figure out a way to try to break through all of that and trying to lean into Harris is one way to do that.

There's also a question of what is the Biden reelection message? What are they going to do for the next four years? That's something they have not clearly articulated yet. But they want to make this a choice election is what they want to do. And they're trying to use Harris with that.

BASH: And having the first female vice president in history out there talking about women's issues, which we know are animating issues particularly in the swing suburbs, and also the first woman of color, person of color in that job, talking about what we saw in Florida and kind of raising the stakes there all kind of fits nicely into what should be her portfolio, in addition to all the other sort of meat and potato kitchen table issues.

HOLMES: Yes, I completely agree and I also think that what Manu was saying, filling this void that the Biden campaign hasn't really been out there, hasn't really been hitting Trump, hitting the Republicans as hard, really pounding the pavement, trying to talk to voters. I think that this fits nicely into that.


However, I do have questions about her being the best messenger when she is a very polarizing figure and as somebody who spends a lot of time on the ground talking to a lot of voters, I mean, part of the argument that Republicans are going to make, whoever the nominee is, is Joe Biden is old. Do you really want Kamala Harris to be the president, which obviously has its own implications, but that's because she herself has been so polarizing.

So, even if she is filling this void, I just wonder how effective it is, especially when you're looking at maybe independent voters, not just Democrats, not just people who are already supporting Harris who thinks he's great to begin with.

DOVERE: Like she's proven very popular with parts of the base that the Democrats really want to light up. And you're seeing that in some of the fundraising response. She's been hugely popular with donors, actually, in the past couple months, and they can do that and maybe get back --

BASH: Yes.

DOVERE: -- at what the Republicans going to cover.

BASH: Great reporting, Isaac. You can find more of it on Thank you all for a great discussion, and thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.