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Biden To Visit Southern Border Thursday, Same Day As Trump; Quinnipiac Poll: 29 Percent Approve Of Biden Handling Of Southern Border; Progressive Groups Push Dems To Vote "Uncommitted" Tomorrow; AP Poll: 62 Percent Of Dems Say Israel Has Gone "Too Far" In Gaza; Trump Appeals $454 Million Penalty In New York Civil Fraud Case; Trump Campaign Pivots To General Election After SC Win; Haley On Winning 40 Percent In SC: "40 Percent Is Not Some Tiny Group". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, headed to the border. A source tells CNN that President Biden will make a rare visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's the same day Donald Trump is heading to another Texas border town.

Plus, four states for Trump wins. But it's not all good news for the all, but certain Republican nominee as the former president's double- digit win in Nikki Haley's home state also reveals some potential weaknesses in November.

And a CNN exclusive. My colleagues uncovered a secret Twitter account from the right-wing attorney behind the Trump fake electors' plot. This hour you're going to see and hear for the first time what he tried to hide from investigators.

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

We start at the White House where officials announced this morning that President Biden will travel to the southern border this week. It will be the first time he's gone since January of 2023.

In those 13 months, a surge in illegal immigration has made this radioactive issue for the president, even more so and threatens his reelection. And all of the days he could pick up all of them. Biden's team chose the same day Donald Trump will be there.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me from the White House. A coincidence Priscilla?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a pretty extraordinary split screen moment for a White House that up until this point has really distanced itself from the U.S.-Mexico border. But now the president is leaning in and choosing to be there on the same day as former President Donald Trump who has made immigration a centerpiece of his campaign. Now, it appears that that failed Senate border deal was pretty pivotal for the White House. That was a deal that the White House had worked on Whitson (Ph) and negotiators that included some of the toughest border security measures in recent memory.

But Republicans backed away from that deal with the encouragement of former President Donald Trump and ever since then, President Biden has hammered House Republicans for their decision, saying that he would shut down the border if given the authority and authority that was included in that Senate border deal.

So, they're clearly trying to seize on to an issue that has been a political liability for President Biden. And in the interim, also considering executive action that would limit the ability of migrants to seek asylum if they cross the border unlawfully. A measure that represents or at least is reminiscent of former President Donald Trump's administration.

And Dana, I should mention that over the weekend, governors were here at the White House meeting with President Biden for their annual gathering. The big topic during all of those meetings was immigration. The governors that CNN spoke with all said, this was a key issue for them going into those meetings and one that President Biden talked to them about. So clearly, this is an issue that is front and center this year, and one of the presidents is seizing this Thursday.

BASH: Priscilla, thank you so much for that reporting. I want to bring my panel on this and many more topics. Ayesha Rascoe from NPR, Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch, and CNN's Alayna Treene. Hi, happy Monday to everybody.

Let's start with the border, Jonah. What are your thoughts on the fact that President Biden is going that he hasn't gone in 13 months, that he's going the same day as Donald Trump?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The same day as Donald Trump part just seems like the screenwriters' room is getting bored and coming up with weird stuff. On the other front, I think it's long overdue that he goes just politically, forget the policy stuff for a second.

The last time he went, it was kind of a surgical thing that didn't have a good photo op forum. And people making hay about that for a very long time. And again, people can disagree about the policy stuff. Politically, it's the border stuff has just been really, really bad for Biden. I keep making this analogy and no one seems to agree with it.

But it reminds me a lot of the BP oil spill under Obama, where it was just that constant visual, just drove people kind of nuts. And that constant visual people crossing the border, really unsettled politics in a way that, you know, is common around the west and throughout Europe. Those kinds of visuals are destabilizing. So, it's good that he's politically smart that he's doing.

[12:05:00] BASH: I find that -- I find that analogy, but I would take it a step further and imagine the BP oil spill and then people in Louisiana taking that spilled oil and putting it in Chicago and in New York. And I mean not to sort of belittle this but that is if you're just talking about the imagery. What are you hearing from the Trump campaign?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN, REPORTER: I mean they are very excited to be going to the border, at least Donald Trump is. I know that there was questions of whether this trip would actually be feasible for him, given the security concerns around it. But Donald Trump has been wanting to go and do a border trip for a while. He was there also in November, I should note.

He went and met with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, where he got Abbott's endorsement. But this is a big deal for him because Trump and his team really see immigration and the border as being one of if not the most important issues that they are going to be campaigning on ahead of November and they see it as Biden's biggest vulnerability.

And that's why Donald Trump wanted to go. They didn't know that Biden was going when they scheduled this trip, I should say. He wanted to have his own photo up there and to show really like -- look, we're here. Where is the president? Unfortunately, now for them, the president is going to be like same day.

BASH: Well, that's kind of what I meant. I can't wait to see the Trump reaction to this. OK. So, before Thursday comes Tuesday, pretty much every week. Fact check true, right?

GOLDBERG: Let me check Wikipedia.

BASH: OK. And Tuesday, tomorrow is Michigan's primary. And because of the new rules that the Democrats have trying to move up states in their primary calendar that are more diverse, Michigan is a little earlier than it used to be.

In addition to that, Joe Biden has a problem in Michigan where there are a lot of Arab Americans who are not happy with his wholehearted support for Israel and its war in Gaza. They are led by Rashida Tlaib, congresswoman from there pushing some -- pushing as many voters as they can to vote uncommitted. These are Democratic voters. I asked the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer about that. Here's what she said.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I'm not sure what we're going to see on Tuesday to tell you the truth. I know that we've got this primary and we will see differences of opinion. I just want to make the case though, that it's important not to lose sight of the fact that any vote that's not passed for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term.


BASH: So, she's not sure. And other Democrats I've talked to in Michigan, they just don't know how much of an impact that is -- this is going to have. It will be symbolic. But symbolism matters in the primary when you're talking about what it could portend for November.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": Oh, it absolutely matters a lot. And I got to give a shout out to Leila Fadel of NPR. She did great reporting in Michigan. And what she reported from, you know, that she was hearing about this campaign is essentially this idea that they want to show that there is enough concern about this that the -- basically the Biden campaign has to listen. They want at least maybe 10,000 votes so that that's how much Trump won by Michigan -- by in 2016.

And so, the idea is like, no, we may not be able to give you the win, but we could certainly make you lose, and so you better hear us and what we have to say. And so, I do think this is something that the Biden campaign cannot ignore. I don't know what's going to happen on Tuesday, but this is -- this is definitely an issue.

BASH: Yeah. And our colleagues are also up in Michigan talking to voters up there. Dianne Gallagher talked to one voter -- actually spokesman for listen to Michigan. Listen to what he said.


ABBAS ALAWIEH, SPOKESMAN, LISTEN TO MICHIGAN: The vote for uncommitted is a vote for a ceasefire. It's a vote for an anti-war future. I think President Biden and his strategists around him would be wise to give people here in Michigan something to vote for. Don't tell us how bad Donald Trump is. I know how bad Donald Trump is.

But what I'm saying to President Biden, what our movement is saying to his -- to his team is that you are losing Michigan by making your policies synonymous with Netanyahu. You need to take a different approach. You need to call for a ceasefire.


BASH: And Jonah, let me just add one data point before (Inaudible) questioning the young voters in Michigan. One question was would you trust? Who would you trust to handle the Gaza war? Voters under the age of 35, Donald Trump 56, Joe Biden 35. These are not just Arab Americans. These are just young voters.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. I think the young voter part of it is because that's a more global thing across the country is probably a bigger deal, electorally for Joe Biden than the actual error vote in Arab American vote in Michigan.

I do -- I do have a problem with the way this whole thing is sort of discussed, because it assumes that would be all upside the way that a lot of the coverage is that will be all upside for Joe Biden, if he switched positions to this -- you know, to the pro-Palestinian position, writ large. The numbers don't back that up. I mean ---


BASH: You're talking about politically or policy wise?

GOLDBERG: Politically.


GOLDBERG: Right. So, all the intention is where the, you know, squeaky wheel gets the attention. I totally get it and I don't blame people who are on that side of the argument for trying to exercise political power. But if Biden were tomorrow switched to the ceasefire position, it would probably cost them Pennsylvania. It might also cost the Michigan because I think you actually start looking at the numbers. Israel is more popular than the Palestinian territories.

BASH: And it's not Jewish American?

GOLDBERG: And it's not just Jewish American. And so, again, it's sort of a one -- a sound of one hand clapping on a lot of the coverage of this conversation is all about. What about the Arab American vote in Michigan, and that's a perfectly legitimate thing to talk about. But the presupposition there is that if he did what those voters want him to do, it wouldn't have negative political consequences for him too. He's just in a tough position.

RASCOE: Yeah. I think -- but I think that's the way it is on all of the -- on the border -- on this issue is that it's just so much more nuanced of a base that he has to deal with. Whereas Trump can just go all the way to the right on the border. He can go all the way on Israel. And he's got his base whereas Biden has to walk this line, and if he gets really tough on the border, he's going to lose some people. Whatever he does on the Israel Gaza thing, he's going to lose some votes.

BASH: Yeah. Such good points, all of them. Its nuances. A lot of people don't do nuances.

RASCOE: No, not in politics. No, no.

BASH: That is definitely a news flash. More news this morning to tell you about Donald Trump, his adult sons and two former Trump organization officials have appealed the $464 million judgment against them in the New York civil fraud case. CNN's Kara Scannell has the latest. Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Dana. Yeah, so today is the first day after the judgment was issued on Friday that Donald Trump could make his appeal and he did so first thing this morning. So, indicating that he is going to challenge the judge's findings on the case of which he was accused, and the judge found that he inflated the value of his properties to get better rates on loans and insurance.

But also, he is appealing this judgment is a big number. You know, some lawyers I've talked to say, it may be unprecedented against an individual. And that is the key piece of this. I mean, in addition, Trump is also banned from doing business, essentially serving as a director or officer of a New York business for two years, his sons for three years.

This is significant to them as they try to figure out how to run the Trump organization. And the judge has also continued a monitor that he put in place. That monitor will continue for three years. And he's also ordered them to put in place an independent compliance officer to stop any fraud from continuing.

So, they're appealing all of that. But of course, the big question is the money. How will Donald Trump come up with his share of it, which is about $454 million. You know, he could post that in cash. If he has it, he could also post a bond. But interest will accrue on this unless he posts it in full at a rate of 9 percent a year.

So, all questions now and watching when and how he is going to satisfy this judgment. Now on Friday, his lawyers just after this big number was entered in the New York case, his lawyers in the E. Jean Carroll case, ask the judge for more time before he asked to satisfy that $83.3 million jury verdict. Dana?

BASH: Kara Scannell, thank you so much for that reporting. Up next, with South Carolina under his belt. Donald Trump moves closer to clinching the nomination and is looking toward the general election. Not everything is coming up roses though. We'll explain after a quick break.




BASH: Donald Trump's dominant performance in South Carolina, all but ended the race for the Republican nomination. It also revealed some potential pitfalls for him in the general election. CNN's Kristen Holmes has been talking to her sources in the Trump campaign. What were their takeaways besides the fact that he feels very, very good understandably so?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dana, the biggest takeaway was that they need to start focusing on the general election. And that's for a number of reasons. One, of course, as you mentioned, this was a huge one and actually comes off of three other big primary wins. And their decision is that they need to pivot to the general election to look forward to November, even though Nikki Haley might stay in the race.

Now we're not talking about some kind of Donald Trump presidential pivot. He's going to change anything that he says or does. His team knows exactly who he is. This is more of a campaign pivot. Looking into the infrastructure in key battleground states.

How do they build up places like Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and a lot of that is based on what you said. These early warning signs of a potential general election matchup for Donald Trump, if it is him and Joe Biden. So, let's look at some of the exit polls from South Carolina.

Again, he had a resounding win in South Carolina. But if you look at this exit poll, it says, the feelings if Trump wins the nomination. This is the poll number one, South Carolina voters. 68 percent say they will be satisfied, 31 percent say they would be dissatisfied. That is a lot of people saying they will be dissatisfied.

Poll two, Trump physically and mentally fit to serve effectively. 68 percent say yes, 31 percent say no. Trump's team knows they have an uphill battle getting into November. They know that their candidate is incredibly polarizing. They know they need to bring in new voters. People who actually haven't been to the polls. They need to reevaluate data that they have. They need to try to get some independent voters.

That is a big reason why they need to shift their focus to the general election. It's not just because they want to, they feel like they're winning. They feel like this is the time. It's also because they have to. There are only so many months until November and they need to continue to build up, so that they can take on Joe Biden in November.

BASH: They are well aware of the candidate they are working for. I think everybody is. Thank you so much, Kristen. Appreciate that reporting. Our panel is back. Now let's just listen to what both Donald Trump and Nikki Haley said on election night in South Carolina.



DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now. Never been like this.

NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They can say Donald Trump won. I give him that. But he as a Republican incumbent didn't get 40 percent of the vote of the primary.


BASH: Alayna, I'll start with you. You've been on the trail a lot.

TREENE: I have. And I think Nikki Haley does make a point that, I know Donald Trump's campaign. I'm thinking about the delegate math isn't there for Nikki Haley. But what she was just talking about there, isn't a general. And she did have four in 10 voters go for Nikki Haley. A lot of also Independents and Democrats.

I was at a polling location on Saturday in South Carolina, obviously, South Carolina has always been a very big state for Donald Trump. But there were a lot of people who said they voted for Nikki Haley because not necessarily because they liked Nikki Haley's policies, but because they were anti Donald Trump. And that is going to be the issue with a lot of voters in general.

And if Donald Trump can court those. And I know from my conversations with the Trump campaign, yes, they want to pivot as Kristen mentioned to November, but they still don't exactly know how they're going to court. A lot of the voters they need.

They consistently tell me that every vote is on the table. They want to chip away at Biden's support with black voters, with Hispanic voters, with working class voters. But they still don't necessarily have, as she -- as Kristen mentioned, the infrastructure in place, or even the formal plans of how to do that just yet. And that's the big thing I'm watching, right.

BASH: And they're trying to encroach on somebody else's traditional turf, and then there's shoring up your own. And let's just look at some of the data points from Saturday night from South Carolina, about who voted for whom. Donald Trump did extraordinarily well with people who consider themselves very conservative.

84 percent should note in 2016. Ted Cruz beat him in that category. White evangelicals, MAGA voters did very well. The areas where he did not do as well, college graduates and moderate to liberal voters. Those who call themselves that Nikki Haley beat Donald Trump pretty handily, particularly with those who call themselves moderate and liberal.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. So, I mean, I have all sorts of quibbles about a lot of this. The ---

BASH: I love a Jonah equivalent.

GOLDBERG: Yes. So, like, first of all, we live in an issue list time on the right. The only issue is Donald Trump himself, right? If you look at the Republican debates this time around, it didn't matter where you came down. Donald Trump is playing games about maybe changing his position on abortion and almost no blowback for it. The issue that divides the Republican Party is Donald Trump.

You know, you get -- when we were growing up, if you are at least -- when you and I were growing up, if you got called a rhino or a squish, if you were soft on abortion or tax cuts, military defense. Now rhino basically means insufficiently loyal to Donald Trump. That's the defining issue.

So, when people say, define themselves is very conservative. It's in -- for many of them, it's a stand in for very supportive of Donald Trump. That said, you know, Nikki -- the key word that Nikki said there was that she's -- that he's an incumbent. He's not really an incumbent, but everybody's been talking about how he's a quasi or de facto incumbent.

And George H. W. Bush in 1992. Pat Buchanan ran against them got 37 percent the New Hampshire primary. People call that a devastating blow and prove that the Republican Party was irreparably divided. Nikki Haley beat that in New Hampshire repeat that in South Carolina.

BASH: George H. W. Bush lost there.

GOLDBERG: And George H.W. Bush lost. And so, I'm not saying that this foretells that he's going to lose because the coalitions are different now, but it's not. As Trump said, the Republican Party has never been more unified. That's nonsense.

BASH: Yeah. The coalitions are different now. It is also true, that just -- since we're taking a walk down history lane, that on the Democratic side, I mean, look at the divide between voters for Obama and Hillary and so on and so forth. And Obama ended up winning that. So, it certainly happened, same with even Biden and Bernie Sanders in 2020. It certainly happens. That's what primaries are all about.

But to your point about this being -- about Trump and the cult of personality. And also, what you were saying about anecdotally meeting voters who said, I didn't come here to vote for Nikki Haley. I came here to vote against Donald Trump.

The numbers in the exit polls really bear that out. 79 percent said they were voting for their candidate, 20 percent against, and of those 20 percent the vast majority were voting -- who voted for Haley -- were voting against Donald Trump.

RASCOE: Yeah. I mean, in this elect -- presumably, in this election, which will likely be -- would be between Trump and Biden. You have two deeply unpopular candidates. So what you will be trying to do or what these campaigns will be trying to do is get those people who hate both of them and who can win those voters.

That was pivotal in 2016, where, you know, the people that hated Trump and hated Clinton, they went for Trump, and that helped him put them over the top. And I think you're going to have that weird divide again, where you have to deeply unpopular candidate ---


RASCOE: And who do you dislike least? And you'll just pull the lever for right now. I mean, you see a lot of Nikki Haley voters, even though they do not like Trump. They say -- about 70 percent of them are saying they will still vote for him. And you know, in the general.


BASH: Yeah. And that's an important point.

TREENE: No, I completely agree with that. And I think when we look ahead to November, that's really where I think a lot of the candidates' work is cut out for them. Is in finding these voters that recognizing that they're both very disliked.

And I mean, I just wasn't want to add to. One thing with Joe Biden that is similar to what we were describing about voters, telling me they wanted to vote against Trump. That's the best thing that Joe Biden has going for him as well. All the time when I'm on the road and I talked to Democrats.

They say, you know, yes, there are things I like about Joe Biden, but the race is less about Joe Biden and wanting to vote for him than it is against voting for Donald Trump. That's very true in the general as well. And that's really where I think a lot of this is going to play out.

BASH: Which is why you've heard Nikki Haley consistently saying, nobody likes either of these guys. That's why vote for me. It's just in this Republican electorate -- in this Republican party that's not flying.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. So, the electability argument didn't work. And in part because 80 something percent of Republicans who voted for Trump believe that he can beat Biden. That's unbelievable -- that's a plausible belief when Joe Biden's numbers are the worst. They've been in the history of polling for an incumbent president.

The interesting thing to me was how many people who thought that Trump was electable still voted for Nikki, like half of her voters voted saying Trump could win. And that gets to the point that, yeah, the reason they're voting for Nikki is because they think Trump could be president again and they don't want that.

The electability argument is supposed to win over voters who you don't already have. And that didn't work for the aforementioned reasons. But I think that the people who dislike both -- the latest numbers I've seen, they break overwhelmingly still for Biden, but that can change in the heat of general election (Inaudible)

BASH: Yeah. Many, many months away from that. OK, everybody standby because up next. Ronna McDaniel is out as Republican Party chair. President Trump wants an election denier and his daughter-in-law to take over. We're going to ask a top RNC member whether they're right to be the heads of the RNC. And whether they can help Republicans Donald Trump in particular, and those down the line on the ballot win in November.