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ProPublica: Justice Clarence Thomas Took Dozens Of Trips Paid For By Billionaire Friends; One-On-One With Biden Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez; CNN's New Series Tracks 2024 Through The Eyes Of Voters. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 10, 2023 - 12:30   ET



NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I mean, if you look at the standing of the Supreme Court, it is at an all-time low in terms of the public's trust in the integrity of the Supreme Court.

Some of it has to do with some of the decisions and some of that is partisan, but it also has to do with these stories that have trickled out over the last month, not only about Clarence Thomas, but some other justices as well. And so at some point, I think something clearly is going to have to done. You've got reporting that says hopefully something will be at some point.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And as you bring that in, I just want to quickly go to a new statement from Senator Dick Durbin. He's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee because you mentioned that they are, of course, looking into what's happening at the Supreme Court.

"These are not merely ethical lapses. This is a shameless lifestyle underwritten for years by a gaggle of fawning billionaires. Now it is up to Chief Justice Roberts and other justices to act on ethics reforms -- reform to save their own reputations and the integrity of the Court. If the Court will not act, then Congress must."

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, and here's the thing. This story reinforces the idea of whose dime are they on? Remember, they work for us. The best part of being a Supreme Court Justice is they set the law of the land for all of us. Clarence Thomas was one of only five votes that rolled back Roe v. Wade.

Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion expanding the Second Amendment and gun rights. Clarence Thomas is controlling so much of our lives. I think he should answer to the American public.

BASH: Hugely important point there. Thanks to you both. Appreciate it.

And up next, a first right here on CNN. A live interview with President Biden's campaign manager. She's going to be here after a short break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BASH: Now, a CNN exclusive interview with the woman in charge of President Biden's reelection campaign. Julie Chavez Rodriguez is the first Latina to manage a presidential campaign. As you see, she is here now for her first live television interview.


Thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate it. I want to start with the news out of Ohio this week. Record turnout in that special election. It shows how potent, once again, abortion politics are, even in an increasingly red state like Ohio. What do you take away from the result there? And where could other ballot measures work well for the Biden reelection campaign?

JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT BIDEN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, thank you so much, Dana, for having me. It's great to be here. And, look, you know, we're encouraged by what we're seeing in Ohio, and it's yet another data point based on what we've seen, you know, really across the country in so many states and throughout the midterm.

Exactly that point that, you know, abortion is a potent issue, and it's an issue that is top of mind for many voters across this country. But it's also about just -- you know, and it's an indication of really the fundamental freedoms that, you know, folks want to continue to protect.

And when President Biden and Vice President Harris relaunched our campaign, it was really focused on that, of protecting the fundamental freedoms that we, as Americans, have really, you know, enjoyed throughout our lifetime.

BASH: And what about ballot initiatives? How much is that sort of on your strategy list to push additional ballot initiatives in swing states?

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, we're going to continue to really, you know, keep an eye on some of the critical efforts that are happening in especially, you know, our key battleground states and see what are efforts that are helping motivate and mobilize voters right now and to ensure that they get to the polls.

And we know that there are initiatives --

BASH: So no specifics yet.

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, we know that there are initiatives running in a couple of states and --

BASH: Sure.

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: -- that are still going through the process. And so we're --

BASH: Like Arizona.

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Yes, Arizona, Florida, others. BASH: The President has not always been entirely comfortable talking about the issue of abortion. How much will he personally engage on this issue?

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, the President has been really, you know, forthright in understanding that Roe got it right and that, you know, we have, you know, throughout, again, my lifetime, have been, you know, afforded that right. And it's something that needs to be restored. And when he and Vice President Harris are reelected, it's something that we will continue to ensure that Roe is codified in this country.

BASH: And he's going to lean into it on the campaign trail?

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Yes, we've seen it as a core motivating factor for our coalition of voters and our base of support.

BASH: In keeping the conversation going about enthusiasm, just kind of bigger picture. We've seen a lot of polls that show voters aren't that enthusiastic about a Joe Biden reelection. And just last month, CNN had a poll that found 75 percent of Democratic and Democratic leaning voters want someone else. How do you turn that around?

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, we know that, you know, polls are snapshots in time and we know that it's important that we're not taking anything and any vote for granted this election cycle. And so, you know, we're excited that we have built, you know, an incredible sort of early start to our campaign.

The enthusiasm that we're seeing from a broad coalition of supporters, whether it's through our national advisory board members, an over 50 member board of state and local elected officials, or through the historic coalition of endorsements that we've received, starting with labor unions and women groups and conservation groups, you know, we're really excited to see that kind of enthusiasm.

And at the end of the day, we know that, you know, that's in stark contrast to the kind of extreme agenda we're continuing to see from MAGA Republicans throughout the Republican field.

BASH: Let's talk about the 2024 electorate. The Republican Party has made gains with Hispanic voters during the Trump era. Democrats still tend to win a majority, as you know, but Pew data shows that was down to 60 percent in 2022, that midterm compared to 72 percent in the 2018 midterm. How are you going to reverse that downward trend among Hispanic voters when it comes to Democratic priorities?

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, we know it's really important to speak to the issues that really matter most to Hispanic voters and to Latino voters across this country. And I think President Biden and Vice President Harris have really, you know, exemplified what are some of the most core values to our Latino community and to our Latino families.

And it is that of faith, of family, of hard work. And so, you know, it's going to be important for us. And I see that our job as a campaign is to not take any voter or coalition of voters for granted and make sure that we're really getting out and reaching Latino voters where they are.

And we know it's a very young electorate as well. And so making sure that we're reaching out via social media, on YouTube, on all of the different platforms and networks where we know they consume their news.

BASH: Does that downward trend concern you?


CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: You know, what we have seen is actually, you know, a real stabilization in terms of the support that we've -- as Democrats, have received from Latinos. And we know that, as you mentioned earlier, they still, you know, overwhelmingly support Democrats because they know Democrats are championing the issues that they care about.

BASH: Another slice of the electorate going even deeper at nonwhite, non-college educated voters. In 2020, the President won those voters by 46 points in a 2024 matchup, this is according to a New York Times poll, against Donald Trump. That lead shrinks to 16 points. That's a 30-point drop.

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, again, I think we really need to and the reason why we have a campaign now is to ensure that we're reaching out to all of our voters to making sure we're communicating with them, you know, what this President and Vice President have helped to deliver.

And that is historic, you know, achievements like the Inflation Reduction Act, which will celebrate the anniversary next week, that's combating the climate crisis, that's lowering energy costs, that's also lowering prescription drug costs, as well as, you know, incredible investments in, you know, colleges and universities, our HBCUs.

And so we're going to continue to make sure that we're communicating those core messages to the voters and again, reminding them that this is in stark contrast to what they're seeing from a Republican field that continues to take more and more extreme positions, like saying that slavery, a brutal system, had some sort of redeeming value.

BASH: Well, you mentioned the Republican field. Former President Trump did not say that. But he has been indicted now three times, probably a fourth at the end of next week. Polls show that he's tied with your candidate, with the President. That's got to be a warning sign.

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, again, we're going to stay focused on really ensuring that we're communicating what this President has delivered for the American people. We know that as we get out and as we talk to voters and as we remind them that so much of what they're seeing around lowering, you know, prescription drug costs, around affordable Internet, around new opportunities to, you know, get good union jobs, that all of that is brought to them by President Biden and Vice President Harris. And so, as we continue to really reach out and take that message to voters, we know it's a winning message. We saw it in 2020. We saw it in 2022, and we know we'll see it again this election cycle. In fact, we saw it on, you know, some of these core issues just even earlier this week in a special election in August, Democrats outperformed, you know, sort of what was expected and had a resounding victory in the state.

BASH: What would you put on the Biden 2024 bumper sticker to, in one sentence, convince voters to reelect him?

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: Well, you know, the President has really leaned in on the notion that we need to invest in America and we need to continue the kind of investment that we're putting forward in our infrastructure, in working families, in our education system.

He's been able to bring American manufacturing back to make sure that we are, you know, continuing to lead the world on so many fronts. And so --

BASH: Yes.

CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ: -- that's something that we'll continue to lean in on, in addition to ensuring that they have four more years to finish the job.

BASH: You're going to need a very big car for that bumper sticker. But I heard Invest in America my guess is something along those lines.


BASH: Thank you. I really appreciate you coming on.


BASH: Thank you.

And coming up, a new CNN series. John King goes all over the map to meet voters across the country. His first stop, Iowa.



BASH: What are Republican voters in the first caucus state of Iowa looking for in a presidential candidate? In the first installment of his voter series all over the map, John King went to the Hawkeye State to speak with Iowa Republicans and see the campaign and the country through their eyes.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Business is booming.

CHRIS MUDD, FOUNDER AND CEO, MIDWEST SOLAR: This is a typical residential install, I mean --

KING (voice-over): Midwest Solar's workload now running at 15 to 20 installations a month.

MUDD: We lost money the first year we are in business, and we're going to make money in our second year. That's a small system, 10 panels.

KING (voice-over): Chris Mudd is the CEO and says, yes, give President Biden some credit.

MUDD: Yes, absolutely. You know, there are lots of grants available to business owners, the tax credit.

KING (voice-over): But Mudd is a lifelong Iowa Republican, would prefer that tax credit money be spent on a border wall and hopes for a Donald Trump comeback.

MUDD: Do I think that Donald Trump's perfect? No. I think he is -- I don't personally. I'm not a big fan of who he is and what he does and how he lives, but I think the decisions and the things that he did for our country were good.

KING (voice-over): The Mudd family is living both the American Dream and the American Divide. A business Jim Mudd Sr. started in his basement 42 years ago, now employs 80 people, clients coast to coast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a lot older than you.

KING (voice-over): Dad and three sons are Republicans and Trump supporters. Two daughters are Democrats.

(on-camera): They can still come to Thanksgiving dinner?

MUDD: They still come. We still love them.

KING (voice-over): We visited as Trump was indicted a second time by the special counsel.

MUDD: Why are they attacking him so hard? Why are they going after this guy so hard? Does everybody really believe that everything that happened was exactly the way that the government's laying it out today? I don't.

KING (voice-over): The friends and family around the table don't watch and don't trust CNN. There is reverence for Ronald Reagan here. But listen.

MUDD: The trust is gone.


KING (voice-over): Reagan's optimism replaced by Trump's grievances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to find our own way to take care of ourselves.

KING (voice-over): Reagan's disdain of big government, replaced by Trump's distrust of just about everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he thinks he stole it from him.

KING (voice-over): Still questions about the 2020 election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a lot of people agree with him.

KING (voice-over): Criticism of the Trump prosecutions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But nothing about that deal is the American way. I don't think.

KING (voice-over): And this.

(on-camera): If you think the United States should be supporting Ukraine in the fight against Putin, raise your hand. Nobody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have to be that smart to put -- to connect the dots, right? And so, is the war to cover up sins committed so you can cover your tracks? There's too much money that's been thrown over there.

KING (on-camera): Do you think all the NATO countries would do what Biden told them to do because he's trying to cover up some Hunter Biden business deal by his son?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It all depends on how Zelensky, how much dirt he has on Biden to keep the money coming.

KING (on-camera): That's out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't decide (ph) for you, right?

MUDD: How do you trust when you know the government has shut down Facebook and shut down Twitter and told them to not show certain news stories?

KING (voice-over): A few days here makes clear Trump's grip is very strong. But roughly half of the party wants to move on. And they see their first in the nation vote as the best chance to derail him.

The growth around Des Moines is stunning, and the suburbs are Trump's kryptonite.


KING (voice-over): Jaclyn Taylor is a single mother who manages construction projects. Tim Scott intrigues her. Nikki Haley too.

TAYLOR: I'm a little concerned about it.

KING (voice-over): Sometimes Ron DeSantis.

TAYLOR: There's just a lot of around him. Is that a technical term?

KING (on-camera): Yes, so nice (ph).

(voice-over): Betsy Sarcone, also a single mom, says DeSantis is her current favorite. But he hasn't closed the sale. She is done with Trump's GOP.

BETSY SARCONE, SINGLE MOM AND A REAL ESTATE AGENT: I see the party as a party of personal responsibility. And for this man to still be on the national stage representing the Republican Party is very troubling to me.

KING (voice-over): Sarcone and Taylor live a few miles apart, but don't know each other. Both voted for Trump twice after supporting someone else in the 2016 caucuses. Both want someone new this time. Both think shop now, but in the end, rally friends around one Trump alternative.

SARCONE: I think the moderates need to band together.

TAYLOR: That's kind of like a no brainer, right?

KING (voice-over): Sioux City is 200 miles from the Des Moines suburbs. Trump is much stronger here.

(on-camera): Did you caucus in 2016?


KING (on-camera): For who?

FORSYTH: I caucused for Trump.

KING (on-camera): Why?

FORSYTH: Well, he does have charisma. I mean, whether you like him or not, he does. I liked his policies.

KING (voice-over): Attorney Priscilla Forsyth is a Democrat turned Trump voter, but she thinks he should have honored the 2020 election results.

FORSYTH: I think we need to get rid of Biden. I think we need to get rid of Trump. I think we need to move on.

KING (voice-over): Forsyth and friend Lisa McAfee (ph) are Sioux City Explorers fans. McAfee (ph), though, not scouting a new candidate.

(on-camera): Do you think Donald Trump is an honest and trustworthy person?


KING (voice-over): This is warm up season. Five months until Iowa votes. Five months until Republicans divided over Trump make a defining choice.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: And John King is back in the Inside Politics studio. Fantastic piece, fantastic reporting. So much to unpack there. One of the things that struck me first and foremost, obviously, was -- and it really in my gut, in my heart -- was just how seeped in these completely conspiratorial questions and thoughts are in the zeitgeist, particularly when you are talking to Republicans who consume conservative media who don't tell them the whole truth.

KING: When you hear the Ukraine exchange there, it's like watching the open of an old Tucker Carlson show. He's not there anymore, but that's what it is. And these are busy people. These are hardworking people.

There are too many Democrats who want to say they're deplorables or, you know, why talk to these people? There are millions of them. This is a family that literally is an economic anchor in the community. The business started in the basement employs 80 people. The new solar company employs 15 people in a part of the country that has been devastated economically and challenged economically the last 25 years.

They're good people. They raise money for the Girl Scouts. They go to church, but they believe things that would break our fact check machine. That's just a fact. And they don't trust us. They think we're part of the problem.

BASH: Yes.


KING: So this is a long conversation. You're not going to solve it in one meeting. I was grateful for their time and we sat there and had the exchange. Some of it you see there, some of it's not on television. I hope I can go back and continue the conversation.

On respect, we can disagree. I can say that's wrong. But let's do it respectfully because that's what the country misses.

BASH: It was incredibly, and will continue to be incredibly respectful. We have five second left, but the gender divide.

KING: There's no question about that, especially the suburban issues. Look, the suburbs are Donald Trump's kryptonite, and you see the problem. Can someone else take advantage of it? Unclear, but it's a problem.

BASH: Can't wait to see the rest.

KING: I'm looking forward to it.

BASH: OK, thank you so much.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.