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Inside Politics

Grand Jury Meets As Trump Braces For Another Indictment; Biden, Trump Deadlocked In 2024 Matchup; Poll: Voters Believe Trump Committed Crimes; Poll: Biden's Age A Chief Concern For Dem Primary Voters; Trump Pac Burns Through Cash As Legal Bills Mount; Jared Kushner's Uncle Donated To Christie Super Pac; Desantis Super Pac Relies Heavily On Mega-Donors; House GOP Announces Probe Into Hunter Biden Plea Deal. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 01, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the United States versus Donald Trump. The grand jury meets again, and the nation is on pins and needles. Plus, tied. A new national poll shows Donald Trump and Joe Biden running even. And as of now, criminal indictments have not tanked Mr. Trump's chances of becoming the once and future president if he's on the ballot.

And it's the vice president on the line. A former business partner tells Congress that Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone 20 times. Democrats say, it was all part of an illusion. Republicans see it as a Biden lie.

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

Up first, we are closely watching for any indicators that a federal indictment against the former president is coming. The grand jury that will make that decision whether or not to charge Donald Trump with January 6 related crimes is back in today.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is live outside the federal courthouse here in Washington. Katelyn, what are you seeing there at this hour?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Dana. This courthouse is collectively holding its breath to see what happens with the grand jury today. The grand jury that has been investigating January 6, and the 2020 election, with the help of prosecutors from the special counsel's office, directing all those witnesses and evidence before the grand jury.

For months and months, they're in today. And this is two weeks after Donald Trump told, he was very likely to be indicted for his activity after the election as he was trying to maintain a grasp on the presidency when he had lost the election in multiple battleground states, and ultimately, the electoral college vote.

And so, there's a lot of anticipation. Here there's been a lot of momentum in the previous weeks, putting the grand jury in a position where they are very likely to be asked by the Justice Department to look at that indictment that they've prepared against Donald Trump, and to potentially approve it and send it into the court system as formal charges against the former president.

We do not know what the grand jury is doing at this moment, only that they are here in this building. We have not seen any prosecutors from the special counsel's office on the ground yet, that doesn't mean that they're not here. They have plenty of ways to get into this building very secretly. And the grand jury, they themselves operate in total secrecy when they are convened.

And so, we will not know exactly what comes from this grand jury until there is a choice made by both the Justice Department and the court to make public and indictment. But we are waiting to see not just what happens with the grand jury, but what exactly the Justice Department wants to do here, Dana, with a possible case against Donald Trump related to the 2020 election.

Like I said, the investigation has been sweeping and there's a lot of ways that they can put a case together, whether it's against Donald Trump, for Donald Trump and many others. So, we just need to keep our eyes on the court today. Dana?

BASH: We are, and we are so glad you were there to do that for us. Thanks so much, Katelyn, appreciate it. And now to the raw politics and a raw morning if you're sitting inside President Biden's Wilmington reelection headquarters.

A New York Times poll confirms the current political reality. Donald Trump can win a rematch with Joe Biden. The topline number, Mr. Biden 43 percent, Mr. Trump 43 percent. The deadlock raises questions about a Biden general election advantage and the impact of indictments on the former president standing with voters in a potential general election.

The poll finds both men are unpopular with American voters, only 41 percent hold a favorable opinion of the former president. Only 39 percent currently approve of Joe Biden's job performance. The poll does show modest improvements for Mr. Biden on key metrics compared with a year ago.

Last year only 13 percent said, the country was on the right track. Now, that number is 23 percent. A better, but still deeply unsettling number if you are the sitting president is, who's asked me for four more years. We're going to talk a lot more about this. There's a lot to unpack inside this poll and generally about at the political climate.


CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson is here, CNN's David Chalian, and Jackie Kucinich of The Boston Globe. Good to see you all here. We should say from the outset something I can hear you kind of ringing in my ear. David Chalian, our political director. I know, but he doesn't have to. That's just -- that's our vibe. No, but this is important.

This is a national poll. It is a snapshot of the national mood. This is not how in America presidents are elected. Presidents are elected state by state. And so, the feeling of voters in these key states, matters more as we get closer to the election. But having an idea of what the national mood is, is very instructive.

Let's go a little bit deeper into this, particularly as we were referring to Katelyn, being outside the grand jury and trying to get a sense of what's going to happen there, to look at the potential impact when it comes to the national sentiment. Donald Trump committed serious crimes 51 percent, threatened democracy 53 percent.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: So, you have a majority of registered voters in this poll, saying those two things. That Donald Trump committed serious crimes. A majority of registered voters in this country saying that he threatened democracy. And yet it's a tied race, as you said. Now, we should know, not only is it the fact that it's a national poll, which again, is instructive. It's not irrelevant obviously. It's also a national poll 15 months before an election. So, there is a lot of time here.

I would know one more thing about this poll. It's not particularly new information, it shows a remarkably consistent picture. For months now, this has been a margin of error rates, this potential rematch between Biden and Trump. And this is just yet, another poll in a litany of polls that have suggested that.

So, the question is, well, then why? Why if all the economic indicators are so good for the Biden White House, that inflation is easing, that the Fed is going to sort of pause on the interest rate hikes. But all those things are going in the right direction that that soft landing, avoid the recession.

That Donald Trump is the major leading contender for the Republican nomination. That's the one we hear that the White House prefers to run against. They think Donald Trump and the matchup against Trump makes for an argument about MAGA extremism. So, if all that is working in Biden's favor, and it's still a dead heat race, you got to ask the question about why.

BASH: And we don't know the answer to that yet.

CHALIAN: No. There're some clues.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Some clues. And some of this is sort of the coalitions of each of these parties are very stable, right? If you look at Biden, he does well on -- -

BASH: That's actually -- I'm sorry. As you're talking about that, I just want to put the data up to, to help bolster your point.

HENDERSON: Suburban women, he doesn't well among college educated voters. He does well among black voters, flipping a little bit among Latino voters. Trump is doing a little better on Latino voters. And then Trump does well with working class white voters. So those are the coalitions.

Some of the differences have to do with how people see this country. Are they comfortable with some of the changes that are going on in this country, in terms of the racial changes, the sort of expanded rights of LGBTQ Americans? That is sort of the fault line that we see in this country. And that sort of explains this sorting between the two parties.

BASH: And Jackie, we just said, we don't know entirely why. One of the potential clues is, if you look at the president's polls, President Biden poll numbers among Democrats. Right now, 50 percent say that they would be OK with somebody else. And that's down from last year, which is 64 percent.

But if you look inside those numbers about why that sentiment is there among Democrats. What is so interesting is the age number. I mean, that is by far the biggest contributing factor to the question of why people inside the Democratic Party if they want somebody else. What the reason for that is?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Which is why you hear, you know, percolating people who say, oh, I would challenge him if he couldn't run. What you heard from Congressman Dean Phillips last week. And you hear that kind of around the margins, but this idea of Biden's age, I mean, any Democrats you talk to, they're worried.

But one of the interesting things in the times right up of that poll, was they have many voters were saying, I don't want to vote Joe Biden again. But you know what, I'm not going to vote for Donald Trump. And they're banking on that.

Because I mean, I think another thing that's interesting, not even from these numbers. When you looked at the small dollar donors that Biden didn't get the enthusiasm gap that we're starting to see among Democrats, that's going to be the issue, right?

In the general election, when you get down to it as how many people want to run out and vote. That is not the case, again, 15 minutes out, that we're seeing right now among Democrats. They're not excited about this.

CHALIAN: Yes. And the other thing that I think is really interesting, this poll is what we refer to as the double haters, those, that are just not interested in 43 percent, that adds up to 86. There's 14 percent in this poll, who do not choose aside. They either wouldn't vote, or they would look for a third-party option.


And then when you dig into those as the New York Times did, because of everything you were just saying Jackie, they found that maybe slight advantage Biden with that group of the ones that are displeased with both. Because of -- as Joe Biden likes to say, compare me against the alternative, not the almighty. And that is the exact thing you hear. I think you have a say with these quotes.

BASH: Yes. One says, one voter says to the New York Times, "Biden is not going to harm the country I believe, as much as I believe Trump would." Then another. "It's basically like, I don't have another choice because I don't feel comfortable not voting." Another, "Joe Biden to me seems less mentally capable, age-wise. But Trump is just evil. He's done horrible things."

KUCINICH: These are really not a good bumper sticker.

HENDERSON: No, no, bumper stickers. But one of the women there, talks about not necessarily being enthusiastic about Biden, but that she's going to vote anyway, right? Even if you're voting unenthusiastically a vote still counts the same.

BASH: All right, everybody standby. We've got more to talk about when it comes to 2024. The cash stash donors with deep pockets are boosting 2024 hopefuls and their bids for the White House. But Donald Trump's fundraising committees are struggling to keep up. They're burning through donor cash as his legal troubles mount. We're going to talk about that next.




BASH: Donald Trump's political operation is burning through cash as his legal bills mount up. The pro-Trump Save America PAC started the year with over $18 million cash on hand. But as of last month, the group has less than $4 million remaining in its bank accounts. The New York Times bluntly framed it this way after paying lawyers, Trump's PAC is nearly broke.

Our great reporters are back with us. It's a lot of money that he's made, but a lot of money he spent.

KUCINICH: (crosstalk) a lot of lawyers. But I mean, this is a continuation, it's like death taxes. Former President Trump finding someone else to pay his lawyers because you know, the RNC doing it, while he was president. But listen, this is -- and it doesn't seem like donors are cutting him off yet, perhaps they're looking at this as an investment toward him actually making it back in.

But certainly, this is going to become a problem going down, being able to keep those coffers full. You've already seen the Super PAC, the PAC club back money, from the super PAC $60 million, because they've spent so much, money that they had donated -- that they had transferred there. So generally, there's an issue.

CHALIAN: And just think about why they transferred $60 million from one -- again, these are all constellation, you know, of Trump world, right? Different groups of Super PAC, a leadership PAC, what have you. There are different rules upon them. But why did they transfer $60 million?

Well, it was supposed to be for television ads, a Super PAC does largely and invested in the campaign. Why are they calling it back? Because the leadership PAC spent all this money on legal fees. So, it just shows you where the legal is taking the priority away.

BASH: Wait, can I just also add one more thing that the PAC spent money on? It looks like they spent money on a stylist for Melania Trump. $108,000 went to Herve Pierre Braillard. I'm not saying that right. For strategy consulting, in the form of six payments of $18,000 a year. How do I get a PAC?

HENDERSON: This isn't one of the reasons why I'm sure Donald Trump wanted to run for president facing visa, legal, you know, indictments hanging over his head. It's sort of convenient to have this Super PAC. How Melania Trump is involved here. I don't really get it. I don't know what that company is. I don't know if she's consulting them, or they are consulting. I don't know what's going on there. But I do know, she doesn't really seem to be involved in the campaign that much.

Listen, I think you have some of Donald Trump's opponents sort of making this an issue, this idea that here's this guy who's a billionaire, but he's looking to slight sort of ordinary Americans working class folks, who are sending in their $20, $50 or whatever they're since sending in and they're paying his legal bills. It's not really working necessarily in terms of a landing with folks for preventing them from sending money in but some of the opponents for turning (Ph) the case.

BASH: There's some is totally. And there's so many fascinating subplots when it comes to this race, and some of it is borne out in the contributions to various candidates and their PACs and Super PACs. So, we were mentioning Donald Trump, his son in law, Jared Kushner has given money to his entities, as I believe his father, Charlie Kushner.

Charles Kushner was somebody who was put in jail by Chris Christie. Look at that, Chris Christie got money from Murray Kushner, the Super PAC. And Murray Kushner is Jared Kushner's uncle, is Charles Kushner's brother, and he's also somebody who helped Chris Christie put Charles Kushner in jail when he was the U.S. Attorney.

CHALIAN: OK. He was a key part of that Christie investigation. And basically, I mean, not flipped, I'm not sure, but like, just helped Christie get his brother nailed. The family history of the Kushner's and Christi is just fascinating. I mean, Jared Kushner and Chris Christie throughout the four years of the Trump administration had to navigate each other because Christie was still operating a bit in the Trump orbit, while Jared Kushner was a senior adviser to the president. There's obviously no love lost between them.

BASH: And if we just put that back up, which I don't want to leave the mooch out in the cold because, of course, we all know Scaramucci was. A supporter at the end of or beginning of the Trump administration worked there for 10 days. And he's now giving 100k big check to the Christie SuperPAC.

I want to move on, though to the cash on hand when it looked -- when we were looking at the overall amount of money that these super PACs and these big organizations that can raise unlimited money. They're not supposed to by law coordinate with the campaign's themselves, but a lot of these candidates are relying heavily on them when their own money is sort of dwindling. And that definitely is true for Ron DeSantis.


His Super PAC is sitting on a lot of money, $97 million. And it's interesting that you're seeing his campaign and now attending -- he's attending events is sponsored by he's a special guest sponsored by the super PAC as his actual campaign is starving for cash.

KUCINICH: Well, right. I mean, this bus tour in Iowa and it's sponsored by the Super PAC, and that's who they're ending up leaning on because he also had quite the burn rate, because of all the staff that they employed. But, and listen, we're just going to see more of this. I mean, one of the more impressive Tim Scott was down there somewhere.

But it's another measure of, you know, how strong a candidate's going to be is, that they do have these other entities spending on them. And you're seeing it with some of the other candidates too to keep their name out there, even if they're maybe not pulling in the same money from their individual leadership PACs.

BASH: Yes. And I can say because you can give unlimited money if you're a very wealthy person. DeSantis has been able to raise a lot of money just from four entities and that's part of that story there. OK. Standby because one witness, two very different tales of what happened behind closed doors. But both guarantee that Hunter Biden will stay in the headlines. That story is next.




BASH: Divisive testimony on Capitol Hill, a former business associate of Hunter Biden told lawmakers behind closed doors that the president's son sold the illusion of access to his father. Republicans and Democrats in the room say that Devon Archer testified that on at least 20 occasions, Joe Biden spoke on speakerphone to his son Hunter Biden, and Hunter Biden at the time was with business associates.

Sources also tell CNN that Archer shared no evidence directly connecting President Biden to his son and his son's business dealings. CNN's Zach Cohen joins me now. So, Zack, what more do we know about what went on behind closed doors?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & JUSTICE REPORTER: Dana, neither of us are shocked that Republicans and Democrats were out there claiming victory following this testimony behind closed doors by Devon Archer. But if you look at the substance of what we are learning about what Archer actually told the committee. It seems pretty clear that both parties also agreed that he did not deliver the kind of impeachment worthy evidence that Republicans were looking for from their witness. Now, what we do know is that Archer did not provide a direct link between Joe Biden the president and Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings, nor did he have any knowledge of this bribery scheme, something that's the foundation of a claim the Republicans have been out there touting for months, without any evidence to support it.

Now, the most controversial piece of testimony, though, seems to center around those 20 plus calls where Joe Biden was put on speakerphone according to Archer, and while Hunter Biden was surrounded by these business partners. Democrats say that Archer told the committee that business was never discussed during these calls. There were more like pleasantries, even talking about the weather. Republicans have not contradicted that claim, but rather dismissed it as unbelievable, even though it is based on testimony from their witness.

So, all in all, we are looking at these two conflicting narratives that come from the same piece five-hour testimony and from the same witness. Archer for his part, his lawyer released a statement saying, all Devon Archer did was exactly what we said he would, show up and answer the questions put to him honestly and completely. Mr. Archer shared the truth with the committee, and we will leave to them and others to decide what to do with it.

In the aftermath of yesterday's testimony, though, Republicans making clear they have no intention to stop investigating both Hunter Biden and vis-a-vis Joe Biden. And they even announced a new inquiry into Hunter Biden's plea deal agreement just yesterday as well. So, you know, Republicans making clear their intentions are to keep investigating Hunter Biden, and by virtue of that President Joe Biden.

BASH: That is the least surprising thing we've heard all day. Thank you so much, appreciate that great reporting. And the panel is back here. We have been outside so many closed-door hearings, and you know, tried to get information and it is, again, not surprising that Republicans can't come out and say, ha, we have this smoking gun, and Democrats come out and say no, that didn't happen.

To me, what actually is a bit surprising, and we'll get into the substances. And second is that the Republicans have been sort of pounding their chests about this. Then when this actual star witness comes, there was according to Zack, there was like one member in the room on the Republican side. Comer, the chairman said wasn't even there. Yes, they had staff there, but like.

KUCINICH: Which I think reveals if it was important, they would have been there. And it sort of -- it's all about the narrative, rather than the actual testimony. This is, I mean, yes, there was like the way, dress is blue, the dress is white, coming out and listening to the same testimony.

But it seems like, you know, as long as they can go on cable news and say their piece, particularly on the Republican side, because they've been pushing this narrative about Hunter Biden as the smoking gun to take down Joe Biden and impeach him. That to me means that this wasn't a priority because we don't have members of Congress. If it's important, they'll be there.

BASH: Congressman Dan Goldman of New York was in the room. And he went on with Anderson Cooper last night. And I want to play a little bit of that interview.


DAN GOLDMAN, (D-NY): The fact that he spoke to business associates of Hunter Biden to say hello, to have small talk casual conversation is not evidence.