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Inside Politics

House GOP Skeptical Biden Inquiry Leads To Impeachment; Trump, Opposing Legal Teams Prep Ahead Of Supreme Court Arguments; SC Democrats Vote In First Official Dem Primary Tomorrow; Poll: 46 Percent Of Dems Say Biden's Age Is Their Biggest Concern About Him; Carroll Attorney Tells All On Trump Deposition; Report: Biden Calls Trump A "Sick F--" In Private. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: It's a jumbled mess. The window to impeach is rapidly closing. I don't think it goes anywhere. That's what some Republicans in the House are now saying about their own party's push to impeach President Biden. Skepticism is growing within the ranks as their months long investigation into President Biden seems to be, at least for now, heading down a road to nowhere.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us live from Capitol Hill with this new reporting. Melanie, you and the rest of our fantastic Hill team, you've interviewed over a dozen Republican lawmakers and aides. What did they tell you?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, there are serious doubts growing inside the GOP that their months long investigation into Biden is going to culminate in impeachment. My colleague Annie Greer and I interviewed over a dozen Republicans for the story, including some who are close to the investigation.

And what we found is that many Republicans believe, at this point, they have just not seen the evidence to prove that Biden profited off of his son's foreign business deals. There's also some reluctance to impeach Biden as we get closer to the November election.

Their attention has really more shifted to focus on the southern border and impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. And, of course, there's also the perennial problem, it seems, of their razor-thin majority.

Just listen to what some of these Republicans told us. Mike Kelly said, "I have seen nothing." Dan Newhouse, "Nobody is talking about that." David Valadao, "I spend zero time on this." And Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis said, "Let the American people decide in November if they want to take this country in a different direction. I think that's probably most likely considering the politics of the Senate."

Now, these dynamics could change. There are a high pair -- a high stakes pair of depositions later this month with Hunter and James Biden. That's the president's son and the president's brother. And so committee chairmen say it's just really too early to determine the outcome.

They are still committed to pressing ahead and are going to try to really formulate a better communication strategy to the rest of the conference. But as of right now, Dana, Republicans telling us the votes just aren't there yet.

BASH: Such an interesting reporting, Melanie. Thank you so much to you and the rest of the team there.

Now to a New York Times headline that caught the attention of the former Capitol Hill reporter and me, "A Sudden Media-Shy Speaker Can't Answer Questions. He's On The Phone," as the Times notes. Before becoming speaker, Johnson would routinely stop to talk to reporters. Now, he's adopted the good old tried and true avoidance strategy.

He's suddenly on the phone seemingly at all times when he's walking down the hallways of the Capitol with the press around him. It happened on this show on Wednesday when my colleague Manu Raju tried to ask a question.


BASH: Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaker Johnson, Speaker Johnson, Mr. Speaker? Mr. Speaker? Do you have a second?

OK, he was on the phone there, Dana, but I tried. So --

BASH: On the phone?

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: I just did air quotes, by the way.

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: We all know --

RAJU: Yes, he --

BASH: -- sometimes they're not always on the phone, but it's a good way to avoid you, which is not easy.

RAJU: In fairness, it did look like he actually was on the phone, so.



BASH: I mean, he is the speaker. He has a lot of people to talk to, just chooses to do so when he's around reporters. Whether or not there's someone on the line, we'll never know. Now, new reporting on a different topic, an important one coming up next week, Donald Trump's legal team and how they're preparing to face the Supreme Court. We've learned that the lead lawyers on both sides of this case to determine whether Trump can appear on the ballot have very little experience arguing before the Supreme Court. They're training right here in D.C. with more experienced lawyers trying to shore up their skills.

CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is here to give us an inside look on how they're getting ready. Joan?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Hi. You know, such high stakes, so much pressure. And you're right, Jason Murray, who's representing the Colorado voters who want to keep Donald Trump off the ballot, has never stood before these justices. And Jonathan Mitchell, who's representing Donald Trump, has argued a few cases but never before these nine.

So both of them lack the experience of the repeat players we often see in very big cases. So how do they get up to speed? As you mentioned, they've both moved their operations to Washington, D.C. and are tapping into a network of sophisticated lawyers. The main thing they'll be doing, besides, you know, burying down into the issues, is holding dry runs known as moot courts.

And for those, the organizers get four or five lawyers who play the role of the nine justices. And this isn't just a practice session, Dana. These are designed for the lawyers -- for weaknesses in the cases to surface. To explore those and help the lawyer figure out a way to finesse some weaknesses, strengthen parts, and always, in the end, to try to figure out how to get the justices, no matter what their questions are, to come back to core points on the respective sides of the cases.


BASH: Yes, it's equivalent to the murder boards that they do with people who go to Capitol Hill for nomination hearings and others. Is it unusual to have such a big case, Joan, with two lead lawyers relatively no experience before the Supreme Court?

BISKUPIC: It is. But these two have strengths that I'll mention. First of all, Jason Murray handled the case in lower courts in Colorado and was able to get the ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that disqualifies Donald Trump from the ballot.

You know, we'll have to see what the Supreme Court does with that ruling. And then Jonathan Mitchell is very well known to these justices. He, you know, is a conservative crusader, a former law clerk to Antonin Scalia, who's the patron saint of conservatives, still on the bench. So, they each have their strengths.

And Jason Murray was also a law clerk to Justice Elena Kagan, who's sitting, and earlier to then appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch, who's now on this court. So they're known to these justices, they just have not argued before these nine, Dana. BASH: Joan, thank you so much. So interesting. Appreciate it.

BISKUPIC: Absolutely (ph).

BASH: South Carolina is set to deliver Joe Biden his first official primary victory of the 2024 campaign. But does he have the same amount of support from key constituencies like black voters that propelled him to the nomination in 2020? That's coming up.



BASH: President Biden is ready to claim his first official primary victory tomorrow when South Carolina Democrats go to the polls. The Palmetto State delivered Biden his first win back in 2020 and set him on the path to win the White House. This time, the president isn't facing a competitive primary. Still, a large margin of victory could help jumpstart the president's reelection campaign. Certainly, that's what his folks are looking for.

Joining me now is someone who knows a lot about getting a Democratic president elected and reelected, CNN Senior Political Commentator and former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod. So good to see you in person.


BASH: This is such a treat. Let's talk about South Carolina. No real mystery, but what are you looking for when it comes to the vote and how it breaks down?

AXELROD: Well, just margin. I think the larger the margin, the better turnout, you know, some reflection of enthusiasm, an affirmation of the president. He did choose South Carolina for a reason. I think motivation among African American voters who are a big part of this.

This is a question going into this election. He's not polling as well as he should be among African American voters in a race against Trump. Do younger voters participate in this primary?

BASH: Yes.

AXELROD: So, there are things -- even though it's a non-competitive primary, there are things that -- there are benchmarks that you're going to look for.

BASH: Yes. And then the question is, because it's not competitive, will they be legit benchmarks because --

AXELROD: Yes. But we seize on what we can.

BASH: Of course.

AXELROD: Yes. BASH: As we should. I want to look at another slice of CNN's new polling --


BASH: -- and this is a question about age.


BASH: And this is specifically among Democrat and Democratic leaning voters.


BASH: Concerns, 46 percent say yes.

AXELROD: Yes, and then you add in some of the other items there, mental sharpness, and there are others that take it really over 50 percent. This is an astonishing number in a self-volunteered answer, you know. And this is clearly a concern.

Listen, we knew this. This was -- this is an issue, this is a concern that people have. And the question is, can he not address it at all. And, you know, can he just brush it off aside with notes?

BASH: What do you think?

AXELROD: I think he has to address it.

BASH: What should he say?

AXELROD: I think he should acknowledge people's concerns, but I think -- there are a few points here. Both these guys are old, right? This isn't about their futures, OK? This is about the future of the country and the future of our kids and grandkids.

And the really -- I think what he wants to focus people on is who's really focused on their future, who's doing things every day motivated by building a better future for their kids and grandkids, and who's consumed by his past and looking backward. And I think that contrast is pretty clear, but I think --

BASH: Would he should lean into that?

AXELROD: I think he has to because he used to think --

BASH: You know, I'm old, but --

AXELROD: -- you know, you show these jobs numbers for example.

BASH: Yes.

AXELROD: I'm of the view that Biden is not getting the credit he deserves because people have made a judgment about his age that leads them to believe that he's not driving things. So when good things happen, they don't give him credit and when bad things happen, they say because it's -- because he's not driving things.

And I think you have to sort of almost address it to sort of penetrate that barrier. And, you know, he has other strengths that are reflected in this poll. You know, one is that people think that Trump is too extreme --

BASH: Yes.

AXELROD: -- and they think Biden is mainstream and there are other things in this poll. But he has to deal with an elephant in the room in order to get a hearing.

BASH: I want to ask about immigration.


BASH: Because the politics of immigration have changed dramatically since you were in the White House or working on a democratic --

AXELROD: I saw those numbers.

BASH: -- campaign and the change is that more and more Democrats are taking -- voters are taking a hard line. It looks as though the White House, the President is seeing that in kind of following their lead.


AXELROD: Yes, two points on. You know, whatever you think about what Governor Abbott has done, it was diabolically clever, because by shipping these migrants to cities that call themselves -- now I'm forgetting the phrase, but that --

BASH: Sanctuary cities.

AXELROD: Sanctuary city.

BASH: Yes.

AXELROD: He has created issue. I come from Chicago. Chicago has been torn apart by this issue. New York has been torn apart by this issue and suddenly Democrats are engaged in this issue in a different way than they had been. So that has been very effective.

I think that the president has responded by engaging in these very difficult negotiations agreeing some -- the most dramatic measures to deal with the border that we've seen in a very long time. And now, what we see is Donald Trump telling his people, don't agree to that. I don't want Biden's name on the bottom of that bill. That will help him.

And so, that gives the White House an offensive position, which is, we're here to try and solve a problem.

BASH: Yes.

AXELROD: He wants to exploit it. He wants to weaponize the problem. We don't have 10 months to wait to deal with this problem. I think it's an effective counterpoint.

BASH: It's so -- it's such a fascinating shift, the way that the former president is handling it, and the way that the Democrats in the White House are jumping on it. So we'll see --

AXELROD: Yes, yes.

BASH: -- how it plays out. So good to see you in person.

AXELROD: Always good to see you. Thank you.

BASH: From anywhere.

AXELROD: Thank you.

BASH: Thanks, David.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall. E. Jean Carroll's lawyer tells what it was really like behind closed doors during a deposition at Mar-a-Lago. We're going to tell you next.



BASH: Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney who helped clinch a whopping $83 million verdict for Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll, is spilling some serious tea. On a podcast with George Conway, who introduced Kaplan, by the way, to E. Jean Carroll, Kaplan went into juicy detail about what it was like to depose the former president behind closed doors at Mar-a-Lago. Take a listen.


ROBERTA KAPLAN, E. JEAN CARROLL'S ATTORNEY: We have a court reporter, we have a videographer, they're entitled to a lunch break, you're here at Mar-a-Lago. What do you think you're going to do for lunch? Where are you going to get lunch? And so I said to him, well, you know, I raised this question with your attorneys yesterday, sir. And they graciously offered to provide us with lunch.

At which point there was a huge pile of documents, exhibits sitting in front of him. And he took the pile and he just threw it across the table. He looks at me from across the table and he says, see you next Tuesday. You could tell it was like a kind of a joke. Again, like teenage boys would come up with.

And my colleagues are like, Robbie, do you know what that means? And I'm like, no, what are you talking about? They tell me, and I'm like, oh my God, thank God I didn't know because had I known, I for sure would have gotten angry.


BASH: My panel is back with me. David Chalian, do you want to take this one. I don't expect you to tell our viewers what see you next Tuesday means. They can probably figure it out.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I wasn't going to. I mean, it's great color inside the deposition obviously. I don't think the behavior or the language would surprise anyone that has followed Donald Trump. And obviously, this was an event that he had no desire in engaging on in any way. And that obviously gets under his skin, which I think is an important reminders.

We go through this year with him as the candidate and all these legal troubles. This does bother Donald Trump, and it really does get him angry that he is under the gun on all this stuff as you see related in that story.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Why does providing lunch get him angry though?


BORGER: It's crazy.

CORNISH: This -- if you go down the Google rabbit hole, this is about a female slur against a woman, which he had no problem saying in the room, in front of her, like, I just -- in the case that he didn't need to be in, if he had to shut his mouth about a woman, these are the kinds of things that just itself owns for no reason.

It may get him angry. I'm glad she didn't understand what that was -- what the slur that was being said to her, so she didn't get angry. But like, it's more raw and more rude than we're giving it credit for.

BASH: Speaking of raw, Politico had sent -- was that a good segue?


BASH: Politico had some quite interesting information about the way that President Biden views his predecessor and now likely competitor. "Sick f --k. What a f-ing asshole the guy is." And that's probably on a good day.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, presidents swear too, presidents use profanity as well. And look, President Biden, we've reported, you know, does that times have a short fuse when it comes to discussing policy? And particularly, I don't think I think we all know there's no love lost between the two leaders in this election right now.

I mean it was like this almost --

CORNISH: It really leaked or is this a way of showing you're a tough guy without being on the record?

CHALIAN: The most insightful thing in that whole political story is the line that says the White House had no comment.

BASH: Yet.

CHALIAN: Because they're all too happy that (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: But he's almost said it publicly, too.


BORGER: He had to self-edit at one point. But he's almost said it publicly and --

CORNISH: Yes. But if you're taking the moral high ground in public, then you can't say it, right, instead you do it this washing to the way.


BASH: But I feel like his people want to hear some of that too. Don't you think?

BORGER: Yes, I think that the anger, the anger they feel can be well used against Donald Trump.

KANNO-YOUNGS: To your point, I mean, there has been criticism that people want to see somebody that attacks, you know --

CORNISH: A fighter.

KANNO-YOUNGS: -- the former -- a fighter, they want to see strength. And this story, in a way, you can imagine there's aides that say, this relays that.

BASH: All right, everybody, great conversation. Certainly ended on an interesting note.

Please join me Sunday on State of the Union. Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley will be my guest, along with Democratic South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn. I hope to see you this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after a quick break.