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Inside Politics

White House Faces Masking Debate Ahead of Biden's High-stakes Trip; Wall Street Journal Poll Shows 73 Percent Feel Biden is Too Old to Run for President; Gaetz Threatens McCarthy's Gavel Over Biden Impeachment; The Georgia Election Interference Case to be the First Televised Hearing. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR CNN White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz joins me now. Arlette, the president's exposure to the virus could complicate this trip.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana, it could if President Biden were to test positive before his planned departure for India tomorrow. But, the last known negative test that the president received was just yesterday. We expect to hear from Karine Jean-Pierre in the next 30 minutes. Perhaps she will offer an update on his testing regimen but she said yesterday that the president would maintain a regular testing cadence though they did not say exactly how often he would be testing, simply guaranteeing that President Biden will test before he is set to depart for India.

Now, while the White House has been monitoring him for symptoms and conducting tests, they also are taking some extra precautions. President Biden will be wearing a mask when he is around others, removing it when he's socially distanced. We saw that a bit on display yesterday when he awarded the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War veteran. And as he entered that event, the president was wearing a mask, but then he took the mask off to give remarks and later when he was presenting that Medal of Honor, he did not have a mask on. He quickly left the event right after that had happened.

But this all comes as all eyes are on that G20 Summit tomorrow. Now, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan yesterday said that they would not say whether they were making any contingency plans in the event the president did get COVID ahead of the summit, but he acknowledge that the White House has had some history with trying to adapt the summits in the age of COVID. So, for the time being, we'll wait to see what the White House says about the president's expected test before he departs tomorrow. The first lady remains at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She has not seen her husband since Monday.

BASH: All right. Well, let's of course hope that the president doesn't have COVID for the president's sake and also for the sake of that Medal of Honor awardee that you saw him putting the medal on very close to him. Thank you so much for that, Arlette.

And Democrats are understandably worried when they see a new poll showing this. Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied in a "Wall Street Journal" survey that came out a couple days ago, but a top Democratic strategist says his party needs to chill out. He said, "Historically, we are f'ing bedwetters." Obama's 2012 Campaign Manager Jim Messina said that to Politico. He also said we grew up in the '80 and '90s when Republicans won elections all the time. Democrats had their hearts deeply broken when Hillary Clinton lost and people didn't see that coming. And so, we continually believe every bad thing people say.

My panel is back to discuss this. He's not wrong that the Democrats are bedwetters and the first people to admit that are Democrats.


That is one of the things that he said. Another is he made sort of a general argument about why Democrats should not worry. And I'll give you some of the head headlines. He said inflation is coming down. Major legislative accomplishments, abortion remains a motivating issue, over performance in the 2023 special election, we can talk about that in a second, strong fundraising.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Abortion is that big X factor, which is what Messina calls it in his slide deck where he says that "That is something that could help Democrats with voters that are concerned about the economy, but ultimately, an issue like that is what they may end up deciding on." In 2020, you saw that abortion battled economy almost to a standstill. And that's why Democrats kept the senate and it is also why they didn't suffer the major losses in the house that they were expecting.

But again, they are concerned about whether or not they are going to be able to stand out in messaging on abortion and on democracy, even as the president doesn't address indictments and, at the same time, essentially win over the same independents and the suburban women that they were able to last time around.

MARGARET TALEV, DIRECTOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM & CITIZENSHIP INSTITUTE: I mean, Messina also says, "Don't get me wrong, Democrats could lose to Trump." So...


BASH: Right, right.

TALEV: Like -- but I think what he's getting to is the psychology of this, which is that just worrying about something doesn't actually protect you or help you in any way. Instead of obsessing about what could happen, in his estimation, Democrats should be thinking about the strengths that they have to play and playing to those strengths instead of operating defensively.

BASH: One thing that they absolutely cannot do anything about is Joe Biden's age and the perception of President Biden when it comes to his age. We talked about that "Wall Street Journal" poll...

TALEV: Yeah. BASH: That was the question asked. Too old to run for president. Biden, 73 percent. Donald Trump who is actually only a couple of years, few years younger than Biden, 47 percent.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this continues to be a real issue and that's why we hear the president sort of joking about this. But you see Messina, they are saying lean into their strengths. The conversation about the national abortion ban, that's going to continue to be a real political liability for Republicans, especially in a general election. That's why we see Ambassador Haley for instance shifting her messaging on this. But no, they can't do anything about President Biden's age.


BARRON-LOPEZ: On the age, Dana, I have been talking to some Republican or Republican-turned independent voters in swing states, and that age is a concern for them. They say that they still plan to vote Biden this time around. They voted Democrat sometimes for the first time in 2020, but because of that age question, they are also worried about the vice president and about Kamala Harris. And that's a concern that a number of independent voters have about who his running mate is, which is something that so far the White House has said very firmly that's not going to change.

BASH: Well, the vice president is abroad at a conference in Asia. And she was asked whether or not she has learned how to be president being the vice president. And she said firmly, yes. She was also asked about the president's age. Let's watch.


KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I see him every day. A substantial amount of time, we spend together is in the Oval Office, where I see his ability to understand issues and weave through conflicts, issues in a way that no one else can to make smart and important decisions on behalf of the American people have played out. And so I will say to you that I think the American people ultimately want to know that their president delivers, and Joe Biden delivers.


MCKEND: Yeah. They are all singing from the same hymnal, so they are prepared for this question and they have their talking point ready. But, voters are going to feel how they are going to feel and that's not going to change.

BASH: They are singing from the same hymnal, but this is the first time I have heard this particular tune from -- to follow your metaphor.

TALEV: She's saying, don't worry, I'm ready to be president, but don't worry, I'm not going to be. It's very complicated messaging and to Laura's point, the issue here -- the reason why those numbers on Biden are so much higher, do you think he is too old, is because more Democrats think he is too old than Republicans think Trump is too old. But they are saying, what you are talking about is swing voters who are saying, I would take Biden again, but I don't want the not-Biden alternative.

BASH: But, I do think that, yes, she talks about her interactions with him in a way that few people have. I thought that was really interesting, but also the end. This is what you're hearing more and more. I interviewed the Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo over the weekend and others in the cabinet when asked, those close to him, he delivers. They are leaning into the experience and the capability of what he has done. And the question is whether people are going to buy that.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yeah, they are leaning into, again, yes, that decade's worth of experience and trying to reassure people that he will last out a second term. Because again, these voters say that they will -- these swing voters say that they may be prepared to go for him again, but they are very concerned about him lasting now the second term.

BASH: As -- right before we go to break, I just want to look at one thing because I think this is really interesting. Jim Messina, as I said, he ran the Obama Re-election Campaign. These are some of the headlines that we saw about this time that year. "New York Time," Democrats fret aloud over Obama's chances. Can Obama calm Democratic Panic?


"New CW, conventional wisdom, Obama is going to lose" And he won. That was the point that he was making. All right, everybody, thank you so much.

We are moments away from the first televised court hearing in the Georgia election interference case. What clues could it offer about the case against Donald Trump? But first, impeach Joe Biden or else -- the GOP has House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the ropes.



BASH: Washington could be headed for a political hostage crisis with your tax dollars and Kevin McCarthy's job on the line. On Tuesday, Republican Firebrand Matt Gaetz issued a new threat to the house speaker, impeach or else.


REP. MATT GAEZT (R-FL): I worked very hard in January to develop a tool kit for us to be able to reorient the House of Representatives in a productive and positive way. I don't believe we have used those tools as effectively as we should have, and when we get back to Washington in the coming weeks, we have got to seize the initiative. That means forcing votes on impeachment and if Kevin McCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long.


BASH: My panel is back with me. He's not alone. A lot of conservatives are trying to make this point and it's very interesting where they are doing it, going on very conservative media. I'll just give another example, Chip Roy of Texas.


REP. CHIP ROY, (R) TEXAS: We have a job to do and we need to be united as Republicans, but I'm not going to listen to the normal DC swamp excuse machine, right? Oh, we can't do the impeachment inquiry, Chip, if we're engaged in a debate over government funding. I'm sorry, you mean in 2013, when we had a government shutdown and we had the House still engaging in many hearings, bull, it's complete nonsense. What people (ph) saying now are just using excuses.


TALEV: OK. I mean...


I just -- yeah, I don't know. I mean, like I'm watching this stuff play out, and to have a litmus test that says we're going to toss the speaker if he doesn't put forward an impeachment hearing regardless of whether or not there is the grounds to pursue an impeachment hearing. Like, does encapsulate the time we're in. To me, the question has always been is Kevin McCarthy more valuable to this wing of the party as an imperiled speaker or as the ex-speaker?


BASH: Yeah.

TALEV: And if there's a new speaker, who is that speaker going to be? How will that help further the agenda. I think that's always the political calculation.

MCKEND: Right. These might be empty threats because they might not be able to get it together in order to actually push him out.

BASH: There is no -- I mean, and there is -- oh, to push Kevin McCarthy out?

MCKEND: McCarthy out.


MCKEND: Right, right. But what I find remarkable is that McCarthy, again, is going to likely be in the same position where he's going to have to look to Democrats to bail him out to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month, similar to how he has had to lean on them before.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Because the senate has made very clear, as altogether, the Republicans in the senate, Mitch McConnell along with the Democrats have made clear, we are not going to do a shutdown. And McConnell sides with the Democrats and with the White House on what they are requesting to keep government funding, whether it's disaster relief or money for Ukraine.

Now, the House Republicans, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the Matt Gaetzs of the world say we don't want to give money to Ukraine and also by the way, we want an impeachment inquiry vote. And again, there's no evidence that they have right now that tie President Biden to Hunter Biden's dealings. They just want to move forward with this with no evidence.

BASH: Which is why it doesn't appear that even House Republicans have the votes to formally start an impeachment.

TALEV: But it does show you, like we have been talking about, the Alabama redistricting case which just got kicked back again, movement in Georgia. It shows what a total razor's edge any Republican who is the House Speaker is going to be on if there's the possibility of a further reversion (ph) of Republican seats and this kind of squeeze from the right flank of the party. It makes it almost impossible to lead.

BASH: No, it's true. And I will just say, Marjorie Taylor Greene, you mentioned her, she was all in on McCarthy and she was pushing and lobbying to help him become elected. And now, she's pushing him.

TALEV: Right.

BASH: All right, everybody. Thank you. Up next, what to expect as the judge takes the stand and cameras switch on at a court hearing in Georgia. That is going to begin in moments. Stay with us.



BASH: History in the courtroom. We're just moments away from the first televised hearing in one of Donald Trump's criminal cases. So, what can we expect when the cameras start rolling? Our reporters are back with us along with DeKalb County District Attorney, Former District Attorney, J. Tom Morgan. Again, I'll start with you. We're just a few minutes away. What do you expect to see? Give us a little bit of a preview.

J. TOM MORGAN, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Dana, what I am looking for is whether or not this relatively young and inexperienced judge can take command of the courtroom. I know attorneys on both sides, both prosecution and defense, and there's some mighty big egos walking into that courtroom.


So I'm really going to be interested on how he's going to handle those.

BASH: Lawyers with egos? That's shocking. (LAUGH)

Let me talk to a lawyer without an ego. Paula Reid, what are you looking for when it comes to what this is going to tell us about the case? Obviously, the first question is whether or not they're all going to be tried together. That's the point of the hearing. But it should give us other indicators.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, because it speaks to the larger theme of timing. Right? How long is it going to take to bring a case that the district attorney says is going to cover all 19 defendants? How long is that going to take? Well, that's also going to reveal how much evidence they have, how many witnesses, how many exhibits. These are the kinds of things that we could learn today.

So while it does seem like a routine scheduling hearing to discuss logistics, we could really get some insight into the breadth and depth of the case that Fani Willis is going to bring. So I'm really looking to see anything about just how much evidence, particularly how many witnesses.

MCKEND: Well, I mean, I think that it's remarkable. We are on the precipice of this large-scale media event, potentially a circus. I covered actually a case, a murder case in upstate New York years ago where the judge allowed cameras in the courtroom, and you really saw many times where the defense was playing to the cameras. And then. I'm also wondering seeing Trump as a defendant potentially, if this doesn't get moved to federal court, if that changes people's views of him, even his hardcore supporters, seeing him in sort of this weakened position on television as a television.

BASH: Well, on that note, it's going to be tough. We've seen evidence of that really over the past many, many years. But specifically, yesterday, we had a poll come out and the question was whether Trump faces so many political charges because of -- excuse me, so many criminal charges because of political abuse in the justice system. It is so partisan. Republicans 60 percent. Independents 25 percent which, by the way, is not nothing. But Democrats down at 9 percent.

TALEV: Yeah. It appears thoroughly baked in right now. One of the questions has been, if any of these proceedings were actually televised and the public could watch, would it change opinions. Based on the polling as it exists now, the answer is no, this cake is completely cooked. And I think politically, in the near term, I'm interested in finding out whether people are even tuning in. My guess is most people have very busy lives and would tune in if there was a spectacle moment, the president's on the stand or something like that, but for some of these like lower-tier players who are in the Trump universe and are kind of the kindling, the starter material for this case, are people going to be like Velcro-ed to their TV sets? I doubt it.


BASH: I think you might be underestimating... TALEV: Yeah.

BASH: much. Because all of this, so far, has been behind closed doors. And when I say this, I'm not just talking about the arraignments, the arrests of what we have seen with the former president, all four of them, at least when it comes to the arrests. But just most importantly, the trials of the people who perpetrated the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, the sentencing, all of that has been behind closed doors.

BARRON-LOPEZ: That's right.

BASH: Well, not behind closed doors but away from the cameras. It's been public.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right, right. It's not been televised...

BASH: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: in real time. And so, that is one of the other things that -- yes, in the primary, is it going to impact the president? Probably not based on what -- everything that's happened to this point. But in the general election, as his co-defendants start their trials potentially as early as October and all of that evidence that people have not really seen laid out is fully laid out for them to hear it, to see it, witnesses, as Paula mentioned that could be on the stand that we get to hear from, all of that could very well have a negative impact on Trump come the general election if he is the nominee.

And there's Republicans that I've talked to that say that then if he is somehow convicted of one of these crimes before the general election, because some of these are probably going to go well beyond the general election, but if he's even convicted of one, that they think it's going to have a negative impact down ballot on Republicans.

BASH: J. Tom Morgan, final thoughts from you before we actually get a view inside that courtroom?

MORGAN: I look forward, my guess is -- Dana, is that Powell and Chesebro will be stuck together as co-defendants in October. The real question is what's going to happen to the other 17, assuming they stay in the Fulton County Superior Court.

BASH: Yeah, that is a big question. And I know that another big question in the short term, like in the next few seconds, is how many of these defendants' attorneys are going to be there, how are they going to be arguing, are they going to be grouping together, are they going to be doing it all independently? You know what? We're all going to see it in moments. So, thank you so much for joining "Inside Politics." Do not go anywhere because we're going to start to see this hearing and our colleagues at "CNN News Central" will take it away, right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington along with Kaitlan Collins in New York. We are only moments away from the first ever televised court hearing in a former U.S. president's criminal case. Today, a judge will hear key arguments in the Georgia election subversion case against Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants. Right at the top of the agenda, the trial timeline. Several defendants requested a speedy trial, currently set for October. But the former president of the United States is pushing for a much later date, and this could have very serious implications. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR OF "THE SOURCE": Yeah, that's right, Wolf. Very serious implications. Trump's attorneys want to sever his case from the other 18 defendants here. But the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wants one trial for all of them. And today, the judge wants to hear how the prosecution plans to do that and also, Wolf, how long they think it would take.

BLITZER: I want to bring in our team of CNN experts who are watching all of this unfold. Sara Murray is with us. Let me start with her. So many factors for the judge to consider right now. What are you bracing for?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that this is really our first sense of how he is going to herd these 19 defendants. We have Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell who have both asked for a speedy trial. They have said they don't want to be tried together, they don't want to be tried alongside their other co-defendants including Former President Donald Trump. So this is the first crack at, OK, do we split these people up into different groups or is there a reason that we would try to prompt everyone to move ahead at this quicker trial date?

I think that's less likely. But it will give us an idea of how the judge wants to manage this case. It will also give us an indication from the district attorney's office, their perspective, how long it would actually take if it comes to trying these 19 defendants together versus splitting these people up into subgroups, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, do we expect any serious rulings to emerge from this hearing today?

MURRAY: I would be somewhat surprised if we see the judge rule from the bench in this matter. But again, this is the first time we're going to see him. We're going to see him in front of the cameras, sort of taking a management role, an ownership role over this case. So again, we're going to get a feel for how he likes to run his courtroom and how he wants to manage this.

BLITZER: You know, Laura Coates is with us, our legal expert. The judge has to decide whether to try all of these 19 defendants together or to break them up into smaller groups. What do you anticipate?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, just think about the fact that we're going to see all of this right now. It's televised. Unlike a federal courtroom, we're going to actually see a lot of this unfold and we'll get the demeanor of the judge, what his take, does he -- is he going to scoff at the notion.