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Inside Politics

Furious Biden Pushes Back On Report Questioning His Memory; Biden: I'm The Most Qualified" To Beat Trump; Biden: "I Know What The Hell I'm Doing"; Trump Mistakes Haley For Pelosi, Orban As Pres Of Turkey; Haley's New Strategy: Going Full YOYO?; Trump Trolls Haley In Nevada Victory Speech; Haley Escalates Attacks On Trump's Age, Mental Fitness. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, a well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory. Eight words that set off a five-alarm political fire inside the Biden White House and sent the president himself into a fury.

Plus, Nikki Haley's YOLO strategy. As her chances for a GOP primary upset dwindle. She's trolling Donald Trump like never before and seems to be having some fun doing it. And this year's Super Bowl ads won't all be about drinking beer and buying cars.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft foundation is spending $7 million on a commercial to fight antisemitism. Kraft joins me live from the Super Bowl site in Las Vegas.

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

When the history books are written of the 2024 election, there will be a lot of ink spilled about February 8. That's how my colleague Terence Burlij (Ph) described yesterday, and he is so right. The Supreme Court seemed likely to side with Donald Trump in the first election related case to come before them, whether he should be disqualified from the ballot because of the constitution's insurrection ban.

Then a special counsel report into Joe Biden's handling of classified documents before he was president, officially cleared him. But it's also raised new and very damning questions about his age and mental acuity.

CNN's MJ Lee joins me now from the White House. MJ, we saw how furious the president was. My understanding from people at the White House is that that was an emotion that they were perfectly happy for the public to see.

MJ LEE, CNN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. This was I think as furious as we have seen him recently, clearly pushing back on the way that this investigation was handled. And the fact that the report had many, many references to the president having memory issues. It said that he didn't remember when exactly he was vice president, also said that he didn't remember when his late son Beau had died. I think that line of questioning in particular was what made the president the angriest. We saw him last night in that press conference. The president reacting with emotion when he talked about that issue, saying how dare Robert Hur even ask that question.

We're also learning that in private yesterday when he was meeting with Democrats in Virginia, that anger really erupted that he allegedly said, how would I effing forget that. Now, the president of course last night was very much on defense when it came to those allegations of him having memory issues, saying my memory is just fine. I know what the hell I'm doing. Is what the president said.

And when I drew the connection between these questions about his memory, to the broader question of voters having concerns about his age and his mental acuity, the president fired back. Take a listen.


LEE: Mr. President, for months when you're asked about your age, you would respond with the words watch me. Well, many American people have been watching and they have expressed concerns about your age.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That is your judgment. That is your judgment. That is not the judgments of the press.

LEE: They expressed concerns about your mental acuity. They say that you were too old. Mr. President in December, you told me that you believe there are many other Democrats who could defeat Donald Trump. So why does it have to be you now? What is your answer to that question?

BIDEN: I'm the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.



LEE: And Dana, by the way, White House official did acknowledge that the weekend that Robert Hur was interviewing President Biden. The president was understandably distracted is what they said because this was the same weekend that the war in Israel was breaking out, but that there was no broader memory issue.

All-in-all, Dana, this is a president and a White House fuming about the fact that Robert Hur put out nearly 400 pages in this report. When at the end of the day, there were no criminal charges.

BASH: MJ, thank you so much. Appreciate that great reporting. And toward the end of the president's press conference last night, perhaps making a bad day for himself. Even worse, he made this error.


BIDEN: As you know, initially the president of Mexico El-Sisi did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in. I talked to. I convinced to open the gate.


BASH: President El-Sisi is the president of Egypt, of course, not Mexico. My great panel of CNN reporters are here with me to discuss all of this David Chalian, Arlette Saenz and Daniel Straus. Thank you all for being here.

Arlette, I'm going to start with you. You first started covering President Biden back when he ran in 2012, I believe, or when he was running for reelection in 2012, you were an embed. You have spent a lot of time with him. Can you just kind of put in perspective the day that we saw yesterday and the impact on this White House, on this reelection campaign and on him personally?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is certainly one of -- if not the most fired up that I've seen him and pushing back on some of the critiques about him to specifically on the issue of age. It was clear that he and the White House felt that they needed to go out and address this in some capacity.

I think long-term, we'll see whether this did help with that in any way. But I think the challenge that is facing -- the Biden White House right now in the Biden campaign, is that these concerns about age and his memory, things that have dogged him for quite a long time. There is no immediate answer to that. And now they need to navigate what the next steps are going to be.

We've already seen the campaign starting to shift a little bit of the way that Biden is out on the campaign trail, having these retail politics stops, one-on-one stops, trying to put him in front of voters. They believe that he thrives in those situations.

You've also seen this fired up rhetoric about former President Donald Trump. They believe moments like that, moments like his fighting back last night are showing his vitality and energy. But I think the real question is whether this is actually going to have any long-term impact and move the needle with these voters. But it's clear that the president took a lot of this very personally, especially when you think about the things that were said about Beau Biden in that room.

BASH: Yeah. Well, let's play some of what he said about what this report detailed when it came to questioning the president about the date that his son died.


BIDEN: How in the hill dare he raised that. Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, wasn't any other damn business. I don't need anyone. I don't need anyone to remind me when he passed away -- he passed away. I'm well-meaning and I'm an elderly man, and I know what the hell I'm doing.


BASH: Now, I'm told not surprisingly that it was the Beau Biden part of this that got him his Irish up that got him as angry as he was. And he definitely showed his fury and I hearing a lot of -- what you're hearing that we know, we like that people see him out there. And that's what people are going to remember. They're also going to hear some missteps in that press conference, pretty big ones.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I mean, I don't know if the Mexico, Egypt misstep would be a big one as a standalone. You know, I think ---

BASH: I agree.

CHALIAN: We've heard lots of leaders have mixed up countries before. It's a big one, because he's in the middle of a press conference, getting questions about his age and acuity comes back to answer a question, and then offers up another example that feeds into this narrative. And that's the problem. That's the political problem of the Hur report.

In general, it's so evocative, Dana. I know it's different circumstances as special counsel and what Jim Comey was doing in investigating Hillary Clinton. But politically, I think it really echoes each other. So, you know, to have somebody come out and say, no charges being filed, no provable wrongdoing here.

But let me add some other things to my feelings on this topic, says a prosecutor and actually feeds into the single biggest problematic narrative for the Biden candidacy, which is the concern that voters have about his age and ability to do the job.

BASH: Yeah. It's so interesting. Yes. I mean, the legal parallel is very limited. But the political parallel is something that the Democrats, the Biden camp is very much seizing on and hoping that that gets the base, which is probably still not over the Comey moment, many of them in 2016 and think that that was a big contributor to Hillary Clinton losing that it helps to focus the energy on the Democratic side.


DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah. Look, and both Biden and Vice President Harris know that the quicksand -- the narrative quicksand for them in this election is the president being seen as senile, being seen as not up to the job, being seen as unaware or incapable of fulfilling his duties and having a vice president who's not up to the job.

We've seen that argument among Republicans throughout this entire campaign cycle so far. And again, as David said, the real danger here is not him messing up a country in a press conference. It is cementing and reinforcing that narrative -- that especially compared to Trump, who's not very -- like his age is not very different from Biden's, but that their temperament, their vitality is drastically different.

And that is why I mean, beyond the fact that it's an incredibly personal thing to say, you can't remember your son's death. That is why this Biden White House, and this Biden reelection team is so hyper vigilant and prickly about that critique.

BASH: You know, it was really interesting because Donald Trump is so transparent in his feelings pretty much at all times on social media. It was interesting what he did say in the immediate aftermath and what he didn't say. He didn't hit this idea of Joe Biden's age and mental acuity.

What he hit mostly was the notion of that Joe Biden isn't getting prosecuted for this. He shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. He wasn't protected by the Presidential Records Act. I was cooperative with investigators croaker (Ph) Joe didn't see just the opposite, who willfully retain documents. This is a scam to arrange Jack Smith, so on and so forth. What do you make of that being the focus?

CHALIAN: Well, first of all, let's just say what he did go after is exactly what Bob Hur discredited him on. This is -- I mean, in Bob Hur's report, he made crystal clear that these two cases are being handled differently and treated differently because they're radically different cases. And they are not the same.

So, he kind of in his -- this was one of the pieces of good news for Joe Biden in the Hur report is that he completely -- remember a Republican appointee, right? He completely disqualifies this attack from Donald Trump of a two-tier justice system because he says, they behave totally differently. And Donald Trump deserves what is happening to him with the prosecution. And Joe Biden does not. That's one.

So, I agree with you. The interesting thing is not so much Donald Trump trying to cloud the waters here -- muddy the waters. It's his absence of seizing on his opponents' greatest political vulnerability. Arlette and I were talking about this downstairs in the newsroom earlier, trying to understand -- I'm dumbfounded by it because Donald Trump is never one to leave a potential vulnerability on the side of the road and not go after it.

And so, what is it that Donald Trump sees not in his advantage here to go up? I mean, the RNC did, other Republicans did they went after this issue but not Donald Trump.

BASH: I have one idea.

CHALIAN: OK, let's hear.

BASH: OK. We'll play about 30 seconds of clips from Donald Trump himself.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it -- because of lots of things like Nikki Haley is in- charge of security. Like, one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the word. He's the leader of -- right. He's the leader of Turkey.


SAENZ: Yeah. I mean, the Biden campaign wants to use those types of moments every single day heading into November's election. But of course, President Biden has his own. So, I think part of the calculus for Trump's maybe like, let's not bring this up, because I engage in some of these verbal slip ups.

But I think what's clear in this whole episode is that Trump also has an obsession with the legal cases. He wants to point out where he thinks there's a two-tiered justice system. For the Biden campaign, of course, the thing they want coming out of this headline, they want it to be that that there were no criminal charges, that there were differences.

But the decision by Robert Hur to include these components, these -- his observations about the president's memory, that is all that people are going to be talking about in the coming days and weeks. I think time will tell whether this is the issue that pushes over the voters over the edge, but the Biden campaign has been dogged by issues with the president's age for years now. And people might already have ideas baked in. It's unclear whether they'll be able to move anything with that.

BASH: OK, everybody standby. If at first you don't succeed, brush yourself off and try again. That's what Nikki Haley is trying to do. Her strategy right now in South Carolina, we'll talk about that next.



BASH: Nikki Haley is embracing -- excuse me, the full snark as she struggles just like I am right now with my throat to stay competitive, tying recent GOP struggles in Washington to Donald Trump's chaos.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Republicans lost a bill on the border. Republicans lost a bill on supporting Israel. The RNC chair lost her job. Donald Trump was found that he's not immune from any of the charges that are coming up. It is total chaos.


BASH: Haley's campaign is taking its cues from her new YOLO attitude with this biding new ad in South Carolina.



BASH: My panel is back. Daniel Strauss, you know, I feel like we've seen versions of this in pass campaigns where the candidate just has nothing to lose YOLO 'you only live once' that's what it comes from for the people who might not be following that. What do you make of how she's managing her campaign right now?

STRAUSS: At this point, she is depending a lot on fundraising numbers to argue that there's still momentum and that there's still strength. There's no real new argument that we've seen in her recent advertising. It's all the greatest old hits. And frankly, it's -- they haven't moved the needle very much. Just look at the election results out of Nevada for her, where she lost to none of the above.

It's also telling that this just shows that the Republican electorate seems very firm in their opinions right now. They have -- like the broader electorate, they have a strong opinion of Trump and there is very little that can change their opinion. So, if there are Republicans who are against Trump, they're going to be for Haley. And the majority of Republicans who work for Trump are not moving.

BASH: So, her campaign would argue that the -- what has changed is the news and the environment. And that her arguments are among other things. Chaos surrounds Donald Trump. We saw legal battle, you know, the Supreme Court do its thing yesterday. She argues about mental acuity for both candidates. And we've seen, you know, all of that play out in the news right now.

That doesn't change the math when it comes to how she's doing the Republican primary. And that, obviously, is her very, very big challenge. And she's not the only one trolling. Donald Trump who is the king of trolling, said the following last night after he did well and he won in Nevada.


TRUMP: And last night, you know, what happened last night, right? None of the above. So, I'd like to congratulate none of the above. I was one of those. None have ever above. I was one of them.


BASH: David?

CHALIAN: Yeah. Classic a Trump line there. Listen, Nikki Haley is suffering from the problem that we all identified back when the New Hampshire primary results came in, which is that she's in this month- long period before the South Carolina contest that she has pointed to in her home state as the thing that is going to change the trajectory for her.

There's nothing in between here because all that has happened is that Donald Trump has collected more delegates. He didn't just win Nevada last night. He won the Virgin Islands caucuses. He continues to add to his delegate total.

She remains static and just without anything to point to other than as Daniel noted, saying, she's continuing to raise some money from the non-Trump faction, which has been proven time. And again, throughout the elections this year to be a much smaller faction inside the Republican primary. So, it's not new -- to your point about the campaign's argument, saying that, oh, look, the argument is going to be more resonant now because Trump chaos is on display. Trump chaos has been on display every day for the last eight years. I don't know that that is somehow going to alter voters' perceptions all the sudden because there was a supreme court hearing or what have you.

BASH: And she didn't go on Jimmy Kimmel, but she spoofs Jimmy Kimmel with this.


HALEY: Everybody hates you. Really? I think my husband loves me. Nikki Birdbrain Hayley is losing BIG, all in caps, in the polls against crooked Joe. I'm the strongest border president ever. Then why did you let three million illegals come into the country under your watch?


BASH: I mean, the laugh track is a pretty remarkable little ad there.

SAENZ: And I think that this is a side of Nikki Haley that maybe people wanted to see a bit earlier on. Republicans wanting to see her, you know, pushing back on Trump more aggressively instead of kind of waiting to really cement everything in this final stretch.

I think that one challenge for her going forward is going to be how this could affect things down the road for her, especially as the Trump -- does the Republican Party has clearly become Trump coalesced party, or any of the things that she's saying now going to prohibit her or hurt her down the line if she wants to pursue higher office if things don't work out this time around.

I also think it's interesting that Biden campaign really doesn't talk about Nikki Haley publicly all that much. You see them seize on moments like her slavery comments, but really, they've been just trying to keep their focus on this as a race between Biden and Trump and they view that as already been here.


CHALIAN: And for all mean tweets. I just want to remind everyone, she raised her hand and said, she would still support Donald Trump as the nominee even if he's a convicted criminal.

BASH: Very important point. Thank you so much. Everybody standby. Coming up, a potential Trump running mate tell CNN. She would have stopped the electoral count if she had been vice president on January 6, 2021. We'll talk to one of her GOP colleagues.

Plus, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft joins me live. Find out how he's working with a speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr. to combat antisemitism.