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Inside Politics

Americans, Dems Deeply Unhappy With Biden Heading Into 2024; 2/3 Of Democrats Want A Nominee Other Than Biden; Biden Faces Big Concerns Over Age, Mental Acuity; New Poll Raises Concerns For Biden's 2024 Hopes; Dem Seek Clearer Hunter Biden Strategy From White House; Judge Wants To Keep Trump Trials On Fast Track; Trump Employee #4 Now Cooperating With Special Counsel; DOJ Plans To Indict Hunter Biden In Gun Case This Month. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 07, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, there is no way to spin this. CNN reads the country's mood right now and find that America is deeply unhappy with Joe Biden. Most Democratic voters hope for change at the top of the ticket and Americans don't take the president and his word when he talks about his son Hunter.

Plus, a deal he couldn't refuse. Trump employee number four flips after the government promises to shield the Mar-a-Lago IT manager from prosecution. And a road to ruin, paved by the former president. Mike Pence warns that Republicans are headed for extinction. But is anyone in what is very much still Trump's GOP listening? Chris Christie will be here to talk about that and more in moments.

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

Up first, our new poll has important new takeaways about 2024. There is deep rooted dissatisfaction with the incumbent and the direction he is taking the country. There are even deeper doubts about if Mr. Biden is up to the job again.

CNN's David Chalian is standing by for us at the magic wall. David, these numbers are just not good. If you are a sitting president of the United States, show us what they tell us.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, there's no doubt about that, Dana. This is setting off alarm bells inside the Biden campaign in the White House. Overall, his approval rating is down now at 39 percent approved, so more than six in 10 Americans disapprove of the job he's doing. And you see he's been hovering here for a little bit, Dana, since the spring.

You mentioned that Democrats would like somebody other than Biden as the nominee of their party. That is dramatically. So, two thirds of democratic and Democratic leaning voters say that they would like a different candidate to be the Democratic nominee. Only a third of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they want Joe Biden to be the nominee. And we asked this open-ended question of Democrats and Democratic leaners. What is your biggest concern about a Biden candidacy? It's not even close, Dana. 49 percent say it's his age, 7 percent mental sharpness, 7 percent health ability to do the job. This is all related to Joe Biden being the oldest president currently serving and obviously asking the country to renew his contract for four more years beyond next year.

BASH: And what about a potential Biden, Trump rematch? What do our number say about that?

CHALIAN: Dana, it is a dead heat race basically, 47 percent Trump, 46 percent Biden. This is the first time we at CNN, this cycle have tested a general election matchup like this. And this is no clear leaner, well within the margin of error, a real dead heat contest. And you know what, it's not a contest many Americans are all that psyched about.

I mean, look at their favorability numbers. They're the same, 35 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Joe Biden. 35 percent of Americans in this poll, have a favorable view of Donald Trump. And Dana, look at some of these attributes for the president. He doesn't have majority support for any of them. 45 percent of Americans says, he cares about people like you, 33 percent say they're proud to have Biden as a president. Only 28 percent of Americans says that the president inspires confidence. Dana?

BASH: Wow, pretty incredible numbers there. David, please don't go anywhere because I want to get back to you in a minute. But first, I want to digest what David just showed us with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Kristen Holmes, and CNN's Daniel Strauss.

Now, I am guessing, as David mentioned, and I'm sure all of you who are excellent reporters have done the same. You've been talking to people inside Biden world. And even though I started the program, saying, there's no way to spin this. I will tell you what source before coming on with you guys told me.

They haven't started really advertising in earnest. They haven't started organizing. They haven't started spending the money that they have in a big way and that it is very early and so on and so forth. Having said that, reality check, Jeff Zeleny?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, all of that is true, but the president has the biggest megaphone of anyone on the planet. So, yes, they haven't started spending a ton of money, although they are on the air and they're starting with the NFL season opens tonight. But look, he is out there every day.


And so, while it's true that there's no question that some of these factors are likely to go up in terms of his economic policies, his programs. People just don't know what is in all these big pieces of legislation, that may be true. But the spin that, it's impossible to spin is on the president himself, on his age, on what people think and see and feel. When they see him, he cannot change. He is 80 years old. He walks slowly. He sometimes speaks with gaps as he has done for years.

So, they sort of put some context on it. But the reality is people look at him and just do not see confidence. The question here is, though, I think probably one of the biggest concerns I heard from someone this morning, the excitement factor. Democrats and voters who voted for him are not excited. That opens the door to potentially a third-party candidate, which we've talked a lot about on this program and that is a big problem for them.

BASH: Yes. And, you know, you mentioned the one of the numbers that David showed us is the age factor and how concerned it appears that voters, Democratic voters are about that. One of the ways that they have started spending money in the Biden reelection campaign is on a brand-new ad, where they try to point out a couple things. One is the president's what he's done on the world stage, particularly with Ukraine, but as part of that, about the stamina that he had in order to get into Ukraine.

Let's watch a bit of that.


DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Look, I think that there is a key phrase in that ad, a quiet strength, which does not elicit overwhelming energy or outsized noise. And that's clearly an acknowledgment that to Biden's handlers, this is the product they have to sell.

That it's going to be a candidate who's compared to the alternative, as he likes to say, not the almighty, that they are looking for a contrast to win this election, not necessarily just selling Biden after his first term. And on what he's right, which by the way, this administration feels very good about, but clearly, our polling shows that it's just not getting to voters. They are not making the connection.

BASH: And let's talk about the alternatives, and not the almighty, the potential or alternatives because we also asked those questions in CNN poll. If you look about a Joe Biden, who is on the right there. How he matches up against all of the leading Republican candidates? Nikki Haley does the best.

I mean, there's a margin of error there between her and Donald Trump, DeSantis, and so forth. The bottom line is that he's not beating any of these people, except within the margin of error, except Ramaswamy, Vivek Ramaswamy.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, just one thing I want to note about the ad that you just said, is that it is a powerful ad. But I think what Jeff was saying is so important, which is that that's not the Biden that people see every single day, and the president has the largest megaphone, and that's not what people are actually taking in when they see Joe Biden's one ad is not impacting the voters as much as what they actually see every day.

Now, in terms of that matchup. Look, I talked to the Trump people, they've been putting out this post, talking about how he has a lead. We had another poll earlier this week that had him with a huge lead in the Republican primary field. They're very happy about that.

I do think this is just a lot of alarm bells. And I think as it all comes down to talking about this excitement factor, I do think that the Nikki Haley thing is really interesting. It's something that Jeff and I have talked about a lot being on the trail. We know that Haley's people were really banking on that first debate. And they think that they can sell her as someone, one of the only people who can beat Biden. And so obviously, this is something they're going to leave.

BASH: I've already gotten an email from her campaign. I'm guessing all of you have as well. I want to bring David back in, because David, there are other numbers in this poll that shows that Americans doubt President Biden when he says this.


PETER DOOCY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Your son's former business associates is claiming that you were on speakerphone a lot with them, talking business. Is that?

JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I never talked business with anybody, and I know you'd have a lousy question.


BASH: David, what do voters believe or not believe when it comes to Joe Biden and any dealings that he had with his son, and his son's business dealings? And I should say, there has been no evidence that there has been any, but what the voters believe?

CHALIAN: Yes. And we're talking about, Dana, here at the time when he was vice president right, whether Joe Biden was involved in Hunter Biden's business dealings at the time he served as vice president. Overall if you look here, 61 percent of Americans think Joe Biden was involved.


You can see partisanship drives this right, obviously nearly all Republicans 90 percent believe that this has been a major storyline and talking point on Fox News and elsewhere. 64 percent of independents believe that Biden was involved in Hunter's business dealings. 28 percent of Democrats.

And I want to show you of that 61 percent overall there that believe he had dealings. 42 percent, Dana, think that Joe Biden acted illegally when he was vice president in those business dealings. 38 percent say not involved. 18 percent said he acted unethically, but not illegally. But that is a significant number as well.

And when you look here, about President Biden now serving as president. His actions in the Hunter Biden probe, have they been appropriate or not? 55 percent of Americans, and majority believe Biden's actions related to the Hunter Biden probe, inappropriate. 24 percent of Democrats, again, a majority of independents 52 percent, and nearly all Republicans at 90 percent believe that.

And this is to show what happens when you don't push back at all, which is really basically what the White House has been doing. There's not been a Hunter Biden defense kind of mounted in a public relations way. And it's starting to seep through beyond just the right-wing echo chamber we're saying.

BASH: It's so true. Thank you so much for those again, stunning numbers, David. What David said, is so true. I have heard from people in and around Hunter Biden's world for some time, incredible frustration that his father, the president, and more importantly, the Democrats who are in this sort of strategist world have not been mounting a defense.

Because if you let things hanging out there, I mean, how many examples do we have in modern politics? If you don't answer something, and if you don't push back against something, particularly something that there is no evidence of, it's going to seep into the zeitgeist. And that seems to be what is happening, at least according to this poll.

HOLMES: Yes. And I think that, I mean, especially with something like this, where they are putting this out there, Republicans on every level, they're doing investigations. In the House, you have all of the presidential candidates talking about this. You have these Republican operatives talking about this. They are on this message, nonstop.

And it's not just on Fox. I mean, they're saying it in rallies. They're talking about it on social media. I mean, this is their talking point, a one of their very big talking points right now, it's just particularly when you look at the far right. I have heard from a number of Democrats who have told me that they wish that they would push back or even say anything at all, because right now, it feels as though they're just getting completely clobbered.

BASH: Yes. And what they say at the White House, and again, inside Biden world is this is what he ran on to separate himself from the Justice Department that there is a DOJ probe, and he doesn't want to do anything to step on that. OK, fine. But then we have some brand-new reporting that's on right now from Annie grayer, Kayla Tausche, and Lauren Fox, talking to Democrats on Capitol Hill who are frustrated.

And Eric Swalwell said the following, this congressman from California. I fear, we're missing an opportunity here to put Republicans back on their heels, to say it is pretty sick that someone who was in recovery, talking about Hunter Biden, and trying to redeem themselves is subjected to these political attacks for something that happened before Joe Biden was president with no evidence that Joe Biden did anything wrong.

STRAUSS: Yes. Look, and that frustration is partially because as Kristen was just saying, that the Hunter Biden investigation is the knee jerk response to any questions. Your average Republican congressman is what Congress person faces about Donald Trump and the 90 some felonies he's facing right now.

So, there's like, anytime I ask any congressperson about they will say something like, yes, but look at the Hunter Biden investigation and look at the Hunter Biden corruption. It's not the same, but that's it clearly across the political ecosystem on the right. This is the response that they're -- -

BASH: Are you hearing this on the trail?

ZELENY: For sure. But the reality here is, I mean, the president, you know, you have to do this in a couple of ways. He is a father, first and foremost. So, no one in his orbit wants to talk about this, either. That's why this is such an unusual and really unique topic here. So, it's understandable why the president wouldn't want to talk about it, but because he does not want to talk about it. It sort of creates this ripple effect of no one wanting to talk about it, except for Republicans.

But the facts aren't necessarily always great, either. We got news yesterday that there's likely to be an indictment here. So, it's not like there is a defense just sort of a waiting to be had that is not being uttered. This is a complicated case in every way, and there could be a trial playing out at the same time of the primary and the campaign next year.


BASH: Yes. Democrats who I've talked to say, that never stopped Donald Trump and he certainly rewrote the playbook on that.

ZELENY: He didn't. But Joe Biden ran to be different than Donald.

BASH: Exactly. That's exactly right. Everybody standby. Up next, Donald Trump has a problem. No one on trial ever wants. One of his employees just flipped. More on that in minutes.


BASH: In court a promise to make October 23 stick. A Georgia judge said, he wants to keep the trial for two Trump co-defendants on the fast track. CNN's Sara Murray has more. Sara let's look ahead. October 23 seems like that's a go for those two Chesebro and the other one of Trump's lawyers. The question is, the big question is Trump himself.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Dana. The judge was very decisive from the bench yesterday and basically saying that Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell are both going to go to trial. In October of this year, they're going to go to trial together even though that's not what they wanted. But he was much more skeptical about the district attorney's office still pushing to have all 19 of these defendants, including Donald Trump, going to trial in October of this year. Take a listen to what he said, really gets to the heart of some of his skepticism.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY: I don't know how many hearings we're going to need to have to sort through all those. But if we compress our timeline to 40 something days, our ability to even be able to really weigh those and think through these issues. Again, it just seems a bit unrealistic to think we can handle all 19 and 40 something days.


MURRAY: Now, one of the issues the judge is referring to there is that a number of defendants, including Mark Meadows are trying to move this case to federal court. So that's something that still needs to be litigated. And look, the district attorney's office laid out a potentially long trial ahead for these defendants saying, it could take at least four months minus jury selection or as well as jury selection to move ahead and there could be 150 witnesses. Dana?

BASH: Incredible. Thank you so much, Sarah, for that reporting. And now let's turn to Mar-a-Lago and the documents case. A court filing puts Donald Trump's lawyers on notice. A former Mar-a-Lago employee, the compounds IT manager is now cooperating with the special counsel's team.

Joining the conversation, CNN's Evan Perez, and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. Evan, let me start with you. Because this question of this IT manager, he was -- who is the sort of Trump employee that was in the shadows. We didn't know who he was. We didn't know what was going on. And now we do.

The special counsel's court filing said, immediately after receiving new counsel, Trump employee number four retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Walt Nauta, De Oliveira, and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage as set forth in the superseding indictment.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And so, this was the first explicit really acknowledgement of what happened that we've all suspected was happening, certainly when we saw the superseding indictment. And we'd heard, you know, some of our reporters who had been on this story, including Kaitlan Collins and Katelyn Polantz had heard that there had been someone who had changed their story under pressure from the prosecution.

And so that's what explains all of what happened. And what you see in that superseding indictment. What's also, I think, interesting is that, you know, what prosecutors keep kind of going around is the idea that there are a number of people who are represented by people who are paid lawyers, who are paid for by Trump's political committee.

And they're trying their best to keep things together, to keep their story straight. And this guy Yuscil Taveras, he's only identified as employee four in the documents. He is the first one to sort of break away from that and sort of expose what has been happening.

So, it's going to be interesting to see how the judge handles this. Prosecutors want a hearing to address some of these obvious conflicts. They say there are obvious conflicts. The lawyers are trying to push back on that.

BASH: And Elie, as a federal prosecutor, you have flipped witnesses before. What do you have to? What did they have to promise to give in order to -- in order to give them immunity or a deal or whatever it is that he's likely getting in order to get his testimony?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Yes. So, here is how the deal works. The cooperator first of all has to tell you everything he knows. He has to tell you everything about his own conduct and anything he may know about anyone else. There is no partial cooperation, you have to come clean with everything.

In an instance like this, as Evan was saying, where the person lied initially by denying it, that happens. That happens all the time. The question from the prosecutor really is, is this person now at a point where he has complained. And in return what the cooperator gets, this is a transaction is a sentencing benefit.

Sometimes you have to take a guilty plea, and you get hopefully a reduced sentence from the cooperators' perspective. In this instance, where the conduct is in prosecutor's view, less significant, you can get a free pass. And it looks like that's the deal that prosecutors have reached here with Mr. Taveras.

You're going to testify for us. You're going to tell everything you know about Donald Trump, and Walt Nauta, and Mr. De Oliveira, and we're going to give you a free pass, very common deal crucial to prosecutors building their case.

BASH: And I want to turn to what happened yesterday in the Hunter Biden case legally. The now special counsel David Weiss said the following. The government intends to seek the return of an indictment. This is specifically on one charge, that is a gun charge. There are other tax charges which we don't know about yet. This is -- this was one of the things that was supposed to be taken care of in that plea deal that fell apart at the 11th hour.


PEREZ: Right. And really, I think if you look at the statement from Hunter Biden's attorneys, they think that the deal is still operative. They say he has been going to the probation office that he has been abiding by his side of it and that the prosecutors have to live up to their side of it. The prosecution says, no, there is no deal because it was not signed by the probation office.

So, what we now have is, we're surely going to see some litigation on this. Hunter Biden's lawyers are not going to just take this. But we are going to likely see an indictment by the end of the month of the sitting president's son, which is historic, obviously. And we may also soon see charges related to his taxes in Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., all because he came within minutes of really having this deal signed off on and completed. And then everything just fell apart spectacularly in court.

BASH: And real quick, Elie. As Evan said, a sitting president, his justice department, likely indicting and trying to take to trial, his son, the president's son.

HONIG: Yes, Dana. DOJ has given me whiplash on this one, because six weeks ago, they were -- they did walk into court, and they were ready to get rid of this case for a misdemeanor and dismissed the gun charge. Now they're about to indict him for a felony gun charge, which would likely carry jail time if there's a conviction.

The only conclusion that I think is consistent with all this is that the whistleblowers were right that initially, DOJ was ready to go in there and give this deal away cheaply. And when the political pressure amped up, DOJ did a complete 180. And now they've appointed -- they've made David Weiss special counsel, and now they're bringing an indictment.

BASH: Yes. And as you know that Hunter Biden people want a lot more questions asked about those whistleblowers, whether or not they were actually the leakers turned whistleblowers. That's a whole different conversation. Thank you so much for your reporting and insights.

Donald Trump makes a promise. He's broken before to testify under oath in open court. Up next. I'll ask one of Trump's challengers for the Republican presidential nomination Chris Christie, about that and much more.