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Inside Politics

Dismal Ratings For Biden In New CNN Polls; Georgia Special Grand Jury Recommended Charges For 39 People; White house Completes $50 Million Revamp Of Situation Room; Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 08, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: President Biden is in India for the annual G20 Conference. The war in Ukraine and climate change are two of the agenda items there.

Meanwhile, here at home concerning new poll numbers, a looming auto workers strike and the expected indictment of his son, Hunter, are serious troubles that he most surely cannot leave behind.

CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, joins us live from New Delhi, India. Jeremy, what are you hearing from sources inside the Biden team about how he is trying to kind of square where he is with what he left behind?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Dana, there's no question that any world leader wants to come into one of these summits from a position of strength, both at home and abroad. And there's no question that President Biden is arriving at this summit from a position where his poll numbers are not where he would like to be. And in a very different position from when he came to the G20 last year after those midterm elections that saw Democrats really outperform historical trends.

So this is a very different moment from the President. But at the same time, you know, for the president's advisors tell me that what they see here is also an opportunity, an opportunity for the president to use, basically the best card that you have as a political candidate, which is being the commander-in-chief on the world stage.

And there are certainly opportunities for President Biden at this summit to put the United States in a position of leadership, especially -- and that is really the mission here as it relates to the developing world, is President Biden looking to try and show the developing world that the U.S. is a reliable partner. And he's also going to continue to press on issues, despite the fact that even the host country, India, really isn't on board with a lot of these sanctions campaigns as it relates to Ukraine, hasn't really condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

I'm told that President Biden will, nonetheless, make a very forceful stand, making clear where the U.S. stands on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And those differences are really going to still be apparent here.

Even as President Biden makes that stand, it's going to be very difficult, given the fact that Russia and China are both members of this G20 to get a joint communique that iterates a unanimous position in particular on that war, which is also why we're going to see the president pushing here on other fronts, including on the developing world and taking advantage of the fact that China's president, Xi Jinping, is not here.

We just had a briefing from a senior administration official who made clear that India is upset about the fact that China is not here. And the U.S. certainly sees an opening on this stage. Dana?

BASH: And, of course, Vladimir Putin is not there as well. Thank you so much for that. Appreciate that reporting, Jeremy.

And our reporters are back here now. What Jeremy was just saying about kind of the word from Biden world, about how to view this trip, I was also told by a senior Biden official, particularly on the questions of age and whether he's got it still. The whole watch me, which Joe Biden says over and over again, well, he's going to go to India and back and fewer than five days and he's traveled even more abroad than Donald Trump. So what's the problem?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. The problem is his age and that they can't get away from it as we saw in our poll. We can't -- everything revolves around the fact that younger people don't find him inspiring and they wonder about his fortitude.


And I think that that is something that they have to deal with straight on. They're trying to in ads. They just put out an ad that showed his trip to Ukraine, which was very strenuous. And that's -- they're just going to keep plugging away, because this is one thing you cannot change, which is how old he is. You just can't get around that.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: In fact, he'll get increasingly old then.

BORGER: In fact, are you sure -- are you (inaudible). And as they say, age comes with wisdom.


JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, that -- I mean, that is the double-edged sword though, right, that there -- as Jeremy was saying, they see the age and experience and a lot of ways as a ritual. They want voters to see it that way certainly. And this is an opportunity a trip like this for him to showcase that.

I mean, this is his sort of sweet spot. This is kind of his area of expertise for a long time, global affairs, and he will have the chance to, you know, speak publicly about it and be sort of like the leader of the free world rallying everyone around a cause, although the politics of that as well, geopolitically, are difficult, as Jeremy was also saying.

But it also goes back to what Gloria was mentioning about that people don't find him inspiring. It's like we know that already about Joe Biden. He is the stable, strong leader, you know, that that's sort of baked in. And I think the big frustration right now for his -- for his campaign, for his allies, is that they can't seem to break out of that. And I think that's some of what's reflected in the polling.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it was -- it was interesting, this initial ad here, being put out by the Biden campaign. Typically, foreign policy issues are not the front and center, it's economic issues. And when I'm talking to a number of Democrats in the aftermath of our polling, their concern is that the economic agenda that they believe that Biden deserves credit for, he's not getting enough credit for.

They -- the Biden team clearly sees that this -- about his efforts to bring the world together in the fight to save Ukraine is such a central part of his narrative as president, and they believe that will sell -- will play well with voters. The question is, how do they reconcile those economic concerns?

BASH: And, David, there was an op-ed by Charles Blow, and your paper. And I'll just show the headline, "Dignified silence doesn't work against Trump."

To me, politically, this is the crux of the question and the challenge for Biden world, because he's selling himself as he did, going into the 2020 election, as somebody different, who somebody is not Trump, who's somebody who you can trust, somebody who's grown up, all of those things.

And yet to fight politically against him in these times, do you have to fight his fight on the Trump level or at least closer to Trump's level than the Biden campaign and Biden himself are willing to go?

CHALIAN: We certainly have to engage in a fight. I don't think you have to fight Donald Trump's fight. You have to fight Joe Biden's fight. And, you know, the president is fond of saying, don't compare me the -- oh, my, they compare me to the alternative.

They are -- they need to sort of figure out how they're going to move into that contrast campaign on a daily basis now. Because as you said, sometimes the president wants to restrain himself, doesn't want to comment on the legal matters that president -- the former president Trump is involved with right now in his indictments. He doesn't want to, in any way, jeopardize those cases.

And, yet, that is the information stream that is out there about his potential opponent right now. And so at a certain point, if Joe Biden is going to commit himself to making this a battle for the alternative, you got to start presenting that to the American people.

BASH: So fascinating. OK. Up next, did Fani Willis do the right thing by not bringing charges against a sitting United States Senator? I will ask a member of the former January 6 Committee, after a quick break.



BASH: More on our top story. The Fulton County grand jury report revealed it recommended indicting 39 people, including Senator Lindsey Graham and former senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Why didn't the DA follow through?

Well, let's discuss that and more with democratic congressman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Jamie Raskin, who, of course, was also a member of the January 6 Committee. A lot of titles that you have there, sir.

I want to just first get your response from this report out of the Fulton County special grand jury, the idea that the -- particularly these three senators, two former, one current, were recommended for indictment, but Fani Willis, ultimately, decided, never mind. Do you think that was appropriate?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, I think everybody did their job here. I mean, we can't enter into all of the tactical and legal and prudential considerations that Fani Wilson (ph) took into account when she made her decisions about who precisely to prosecute and who not.

But at the very least, the release of this document from the special grand jury decisively refutes the claim that Ms. Wilson (ph) is on some kind of indiscriminate partisan dragnet against all Republicans and anybody who had anything to do with Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

She made some very fine-grained strategic and calculated prosecutorial decisions using her discretion in that office. And so I think it does debunk the campaign against her.


BASH: So you think that this is a -- this is proof that she is not being as overtly political as Republicans claim she is. It Do you think it's only that or in part, it's frankly just thorny to prosecute a sitting U.S. senator, never mind, former senators who argued that they were doing their job, they use the Speech and Debate Clause to try to thwart a subpoena in the first place.

RASKIN: Well, I looked through that special Grand Jury document, and it seemed that in some of the cases of the elected officials, the votes of the grand jurors were more closely divided than they were in the cases of some others, including Donald Trump worried appeared to be unanimous to find that there was probable cause to believe that they had committed crimes. That may have entered into the calculus for Fani Wilson (ph). But, you know, again, it's inscrutable. We can't really know exactly what went into it. And but to me, it gives me confidence that we've got prosecutors here that are making very fine-grained selective judgments.

I mean, just like the decision in the government documents case, they didn't charge Donald Trump with pilfering and maintaining all of these documents, only the ones that he held back even after he was given a chance to return them. And so I think in each of these cases, we're seeing proper reasonable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

BASH: I want to ask about something different that you have been involved in, and that is a former adviser to Donald Trump, Peter Navarro. He was convicted yesterday of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the January 6 Committee that you sat on.

You actually were the one who announced those contempt citations. I would imagine that you feel satisfied that he was actually convicted. And do you think that, just generally speaking, how strict should the sentence be?

RASKIN: Yes. I mean, this is another example where we see the rule of law actually working. Navarro blew off the January 6 Committee's subpoena for him to come and talk to us. He did not render one minute of testimony, and he did not give us any of the documents he was subpoenaed for.

So I think it took the jury all of three or four hours to determine that this was an open and shut case. He just violated a subpoena of the United States Congress --

BASH: Would you like to see him in jail?

RASKIN: -- and two of them really one for documents. Well, you know, somebody in a similar situation is Mr. Bannon. Now, Steve Bannon also, you know, just stayed on the couch and blew off the subpoena of the House. He has been sentenced, I think, to 30 or 45 days in jail, and also given a financial fine. It's on appeal. He hasn't served any time in jail yet.

I mean, somebody in a different position was Mark Meadows. We recommended that there be a prosecution against him for contempt of Congress in this same way with the others. But the Department of Justice decided not to bring that case because he had engaged in some partial compliance with it.

So, again, I think we see the rule of law working and it's not really, you know, a subjective call on who I'd like to see punished in what way, but rather that the system itself continues to work.

BASH: Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you so much for coming on with this breaking news, particularly out of Fulton County. Thank you so much.

RASKIN: You bet. BASH: And an extreme White House makeover. The most secure facility on the planet gets a glow-up. Just how much did it cost and what does it look like? Well, we might not be able to show you that, but we'll tell you details, next.



BASH: The White House Situation Room just got a $50 million makeover. The high security complex, under the Oval Office, is where presidents receive top-secret intelligence. And it's been glorified in countless movies including one of my favorites, "Air Force One" from Columbia Pictures.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost a tanker. What else? I'm counting 35 survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, they still have hostages. What about the first one?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Losing hostages make the terrorists even more desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Vice President, get Air Force One on the line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Vice President Bennett. We're listening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now hold hostage, the President of the United States of America.


BASH: Her chief of staff is just so cute. CNN's senior White House correspondent, Kayla Tausche is -- Tausche, forgive me. Joins me now.

Kayla, this is so interesting. What have you learned about why the makeover over and what it looks like?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House said that the complex, which is actually five rooms, had suffered heavy wear and tear over the years, because it's staffed 24/7. There are briefings multiple times a week and that the technology needed a significant upgrade for the first time in nearly two decades as well.


So yesterday, the White House brought a few reporters in for some rare access to the facility.

BASH: And these are photos. TAUSCHE: These are photos of the new newly refurbished Situation Room complex, which they call the Whizzer, WHSR. They don't call it sit room or the Situation Room. It's Whizzer to the initiated.

But they demoed it down to the studs. They dug out five feet below the ground, dug out cables. And what you see now are LED screens, high-res monitors, mahogany paneling, some pretty intricate stonework, and seals that can be swapped out, depending on who's leading the meetings at the head of the table.

You know, you -- we're used to seeing the old pictures of the old Situation Room with the yellowing walls, the old wood, the saloon style --

BASH: And, of course, most famously, when they were capturing and killing Bin Laden. You see that.

TAUSCHE: Yes. And some of the portions during the renovation were saved for posterity. This particular room that you're looking at was reconstructed, was saved, removed, and it will be reconstructed in Obama's presidential library. It's now two phone cubbies. And so that room is no longer.

BASH: That's Whizzer?

TAUSCHE: Whizzer.

BASH: OK. We have to tell Wolf that, because they might have to change their show. He is the real Situation Room, let's be clear.


BASH: Thank you for that reporting. Thank you so much for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after this.