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Biden Speech To Target Trump's Threats To Democracy; GOP-Led House Cmte Holds First Biden Impeachment Hearing; Pence: "I've Been Sleeping With A Teacher For 38 Years". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 28, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Soon, President Biden will make a speech warning about ongoing threats to democracy. He is in Arizona, a key battleground state and still a stronghold for election deniers. President Biden is expected to highlight Donald Trump's role in those conspiracies and the threats that they pose to America.

A preview from the White House, quote, "There is something dangerous happening in America. There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy. The MAGA Movement".

Joining me now to talk about this and more is Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley. Thank you so much for joining me. Talk about this speech. It's going to be, first of all, the setting. Not only in Arizona, but at the John McCain Institute, which has a lot of meaning.

He -- the president is going to go about as far as he ever has, we understand, accusing his former rival, the former president, the MAGA movement, of just basically not believing in democracy. Can you put this in historical context?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Absolutely. You know, I think we saw, really, the beginning of the Biden 2024 campaign with the United Auto Workers in Detroit, and now he's in Arizona and staking claim not just for the electoral votes in that state, but to wrap himself in the legacy of John McCain, who was his dear and close friend.

Just a short time ago when he was in Vietnam, President Biden actually, you know, went to the site of -- where in 1967, you know, McCain's plane crashed. And he's going to remember in old Washington, when you can have differences.

But you all believed in the Constitution and our institutions, and he's going to contrast McCain to the MAGA movement, what Donald Trump represents, which in Biden's mind is a kind of neo-fascism, is a destruction of our democratic ideals. And I have a feeling the speech in Arizona is going to be one that we hear repeated throughout the country in the coming months by Biden. BASH: Look, the president's not wrong that this is not John McCain's Republican Party. I mean, he passed away five years ago. It was clear before he even got sick that his party had changed dramatically.


And so the question is, obviously, just on the raw politics of this, even though the question of democracy is more fundamental than just raw politics, but on the raw politics of this is whether or not when President Biden gives a speech about democracy, he will have the same -- it will have the same political punch that it did in 2020, and frankly, in the 2022 midterms.

When you have the MAGA wing of the party so fired up, the question is that sort of squishy middle whether this will be an enthusiasm kind of speech and it will get them out to vote and get them excited about the Biden candidacy.

BRINKLEY: I'm afraid anytime a politician keeps repeating the same thing over and over, it causes problems in the sense that Biden is going to be doing. I represent the soul of America again, that worked with him before, but we're now -- he has a record and people are worried about the economy.

We have a government shutdown going on. We have the, you know, the autoworkers strike, as I mentioned, and much more with climate change, et cetera. So is Biden kind of going back to a golden oldie and just repeating it or is he going to be putting fresh Fodder on the fire of American politics and really gin up ideas about the future?

Right now, it's kind of a backstop speech saying, hey, beyond me lies fascism. You're going to have a choice. Well, the problem is there may be third parties and there may be more than a choice between Biden and MAGA. And so I think Biden has to -- today it's important, honor McCain, take this speech, use it occasionally, but he's going to not -- can't rely on this kind of I represent democracy, the other side doesn't all the time.

BASH: It is -- it's sort of a commentary on America in 2023 that just, politically speaking, that an argument about a threat to democracy might not be as potent because it's been made before. But I completely take your point about that.

I mean, given what you have seen throughout history, I know you're not a presidential adviser, you're a presidential historian. What has in the past sold and been something that has penetrated in the body politic and in the electorate?

BRINKLEY: I think representing the ideals of FDR and Truman, if you're a Democrat, is always good. You know, John F. Kennedy did that. Lyndon Johnson did it. But I think Biden has to really deal with these fact that people are afraid in the country that they don't feel better days are coming. And just get down to those kitchen table issues, talk the economy.

He's going to have to sell Bidenomics in addition to saying, I'm a Stalwart of democracy. But we're in a real threat in my mind with trumpism and Biden is the warrior standing in front of it and he wants to, in Arizona say, I've got john McCain on our side.

Now, that may not be a lot of Republicans, McCain Republicans, but in Arizona they exist and he's going to need that coalition to back him in because Arizona is an all-important state in 2020 forward.

BASH: It is one of the, if not, the most important states.

Douglas Brinkley, it's always good to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming on today.

BRINKLEY: Always a joy. Thank you.

BASH: And Jake Tapper will have special live coverage of President Biden's address on democracy. That will start today at 2:45 Eastern.

Happening now, the first official hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. It opened with a debate over whether the hearing was even legal at all. Stay with us.



BASH: You're looking at live pictures of the House Republicans first impeachment inquiry. It is happening right now. The first impeachment inquiry into President Biden, there we go. Even though, they have no evidence tying Joe Biden to his son Hunter's foreign business dealings. And it's not like the Republicans aren't trying. They have been at this for months.

CNN's Sara Murray has also been at this for months, covering the back and forth. Sara, you've been following this hearing. What has happened so far, if anything, that is notable when it comes to the bottom line that Republicans are trying to show?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, there's a lot of Republicans that are on this committee who came into this hearing sort of trying to make the case that it's asked and answered. You know, they're saying Joe Biden lied to the American people, that his son, Hunter Biden, was clearly profiting off the family name, that Joe Biden clearly was aware of all of this.

They're making all of these allegations, though, without the evidence to back it up. And they don't get that evidence from the panel of witnesses they have before them today. They have these three witnesses that the Republicans have called, and they're not fact witnesses.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman just established this with each of the three of them, Bruce Dubinsky, who's a forensic accountant, Eileen O'Connor, who is a former DOJ official in the Tax Division and Jonathan Turley, who is a law professor and a favorite of Republicans in these kinds of hearings.

She went through with each of them and established that none of them have facts or firsthand accounts to share about Joe Biden's involvement in any potential high crimes or misdemeanors.


And, in fact, even a couple of these witnesses said right now what Republicans have are allegations. Take a listen.


JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is something that an inquiry has to establish.

BRUCE DUBINSKY, FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT: I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or any wrongdoing. In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.


MURRAY: Now, these witnesses aren't saying that Republicans are wrong to launch an impeachment inquiry and to begin asking more questions about Hunter Biden's business dealings and about whether Joe Biden was aware of it -- any of that. Again, something they haven't established.

But it's pretty clear that the witnesses are telling Republicans, look, what you have are allegations, not evidence. You still have a very high bar to meet to be able to match the sort of bombastic claims that you're making in this hearing.

BASH: So interesting. Thank you so much for that reporting, Sara.

And joining me now is a member of that Oversight Committee, Congressman -- Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. Thank you so much for joining me. What's your take so far in the hearing, sir?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I think I concur generally what -- with what was just said, which is none of these witnesses are fact witnesses. They can't really testify about anything regarding Joe Biden. And then secondly, there is no evidence of that type of wrongdoing. And that came up over and over again.

And the irony is that, you know, instead of talking about this, we should be talking about funding the government, which is about to shut down in about two and a half days. And so that was really looming over the whole proceedings. The kind of absurdity of focusing on this particular issue of impeachment when there's so many other issues we should be dealing with.

BASH: So you say there's no evidence. I mean, that was really remarkable to hear Jonathan Turley, who is definitely not somebody who would be shy about saying that impeachment of Joe Biden should happen if he thought that that was the case, saying that there's no evidence.

While you were making your way over to the camera, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tried to ask these witnesses if they have seen any evidence, if they had any first-hand account, and they didn't. Now, that's not their job.

But still, given all of that, that we just established, my question to you is why is it that the American people, according to a CNN poll, 60 percent of Americans, to be precise, say that he acted either illegally or unethically? Should the White House and Democrats be doing more to push back on Republican claims because they seem to be seeping in to the electorate?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that you're absolutely correct. I think that more needs to be done to kind of shine a light on kind of Joe Biden. The fact that he has nothing to do with any of the business dealings that he didn't receive even a dime. Despite the fact that the majority has subpoenaed and collected over 12,000 documents and bank records, not even a single one shows that Joe Biden received a penny off of any transaction.

Today, though, an interesting poll came out showing that a vast majority of American people feel that there should not be impeachment proceedings with regard to this particular situation, even if they have concerns about Hunter Biden. And so, you know, we have to remember that Joe Biden himself is the only one that can be impeached. It's not Hunter Biden who is a private citizen who's being, you know, prosecuted by the U.S. attorney in Delaware.

BASH: Let's talk for a moment about something you brought up at the beginning of our conversation, which is the looming government shutdown. You're a Democrat who tends to work across the aisle as much as you can. Given that, do you see a scenario where before the impeachment deadline? Democrats and Republicans can find a way to pass a bill over the objections of the hardliners on the right, pass a resolution to keep the government open?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I sure hope so, Dana, because a lot of innocent people are going to be hurt if we don't pass such a continuing resolution or something to fund the government. Your viewers are already aware of this, but we're talking about 2 million active duty members of the military and other members of the federal workforce who would have to work without pay.

I mean, many cases are -- they're guarding our national security. Not to mention all the people at home are constituents who would not receive the services that they are entitled to, including, for instance, seniors who won't be able to get all the services they need from the Social Security Administration with regard to fixing problems and the like.

So I'm hopeful, I'm hopeful that Kevin McCarthy is going to do the right thing and work with Democrats over the objections of these extreme right wingers. But we'll see in the next couple days what happens.


BASH: OK. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much for coming on. I know you've got a hearing to get back to.


BASH: Appreciate it.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Dana. Thank you.

BASH: And coming up, Donald Trump's rivals battle each other for a breakout moment in last night's chaotic Republican debate right here in California. We'll talk more about that next.


BASH: File this under, "Did this really happen?" Last night, Mike Pence made what sounded an awful lot like a sex joke on the Republican debate stage.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You mentioned the president's situation. I'm -- my wife isn't a member of the teachers union, but I got to admit, I've been sleeping with a teacher for 38 years and -- the full disclosure.


BASH: Jeff Zeleny and Phil Mattingly are still here. And Phil Mattingly is so excited to talk about this. By the way, I'm not judging you, but you did interview Mike Pence this morning and didn't ask him about it, so it's going to be up to us --


BASH: -- to talk about. I don't blame you, by the way. If I were you, I wouldn't have done that either.

MATTINGLY: I hope that underscored my palpable enthusiasm for this.

BASH: I'll start with Jeff, then, because, Jeff, you and I were actually there last night. Just a little bit of context. He talked about sleeping with his wife for 30 plus years. After Chris Christie, I think it was -- talked about Joe Biden sleeping with a member of the teachers union, referring to the fact that Jill Biden is an educator.


Having said all of that, I've -- we've all covered Mike Pence for years. I did -- when he first started in the House. And we know what he's like. This is like the last thing I ever thought we would hear from Mike Pence.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt, and I think perhaps why is he -- he retreated a bit off the stage last night. In the first debate, at the end of August in Milwaukee, he was really front and center. He was engaged in most of the conversations. He was interrupting. He really holding command of that debate stage. Last time he didn't. He was on the edge of the stage. And I think, you know, he was probably trying to get into the conversation. And perhaps, so we're talking about him at this moment. He did not quite -- he was not as present in the back and forth.

But look, I think it's clearly not anything he prepared. And he just -- he's very close to his wife, obviously, Karen Pence, who was at the debate with him. I saw them afterward. So look, I think it was one of those moments where he loves his wife.

BASH: Phil, because I love you and I respect you as a journalist and a human, I'm going to let you take this wherever you want to take it.

MATTINGLY: You know, what I would say is oftentimes, people will say -- Mike Pence, who you've covered for many, many years, both in the House, obviously, as governor of Indiana and then as vice president, he is so polished and so uncrackable when it comes to trying to get him off of his specific lines, where he is kind of the points he wants to make.

And that can be frustrating, not just for reporters, but I think people as well. And, you know, far be it for any of us to cast any criticism or aspersions about an effort to show a little bit of his personality.

BASH: Yes.

MATTINGLY: I'm all for that just preferably not maybe in that subject matter, but do you think that.

BASH: Phil Mattingly and Jeff Zeleny, two of my favorite humans, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

And thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after a quick break.