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Now: Hunter Biden Testifies Under Oath In Impeachment Inquiry; Hunter Biden: "I Did Not Involve My Father In My Business"; GOP's Biden Impeachment Push Fizzling After Key Witness Indicted; Trump Asks Court To Delay $454 Million Payment In Fraud Case; Biden Wins Michigan, Protest Vote Sparks Concern; Biden, Trump Win In Michigan But Results Raise Concerns For Both. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 28, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, Hunter in the House. Right now, the president son is face to face with the Republicans trying to impeach his father. We'll bring you the latest from his crucial testimony which could deliver a final blow to the GOP fizzling impeachment investigation.

Plus, Republicans are rushing to publicly say they support IVF. So why are they planning to block a Senate bill today that would protect the procedure so many need to start a family to the campaign ads.

And it's a must win state for November, but Michigan's primaries exposing warning signs for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. This hour I'll talk to a top Biden campaign official about their plans to address the president's problems in this pivotal swing state.

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

We start today on Capitol Hill where this moment Hunter Biden is behind closed doors testifying in front of the House oversight and judiciary committees. The president son says his deposition today should put an end to the GOP impeachment inquiry.

In his opening statement, he had this message to Republicans. He said quote, for more than a year, your committees have hunted me in your partisan political pursuit of my dad. You have trafficked in innuendo, distortion and sensationalism, all while ignoring the clear and convincing evidence staring you in the face.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is live on Capitol Hill. Melanie, how's it going behind closed doors?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN, CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, we're about two hours into this deposition. And so far, Hunter Biden has not pleaded the fifth, according to Republican Nancy Mace. He is sitting there, answering questions as he is in the hot seat. But Democrats emerge from the room moments ago on a break.

And they said that Republicans are clearly on a baseless fishing expedition. They've not uncovered any evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors. And they said this is all a waste of time, especially with a looming government funding deadline on Friday. Just take a listen.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): What we saw, I think was a rather embarrassing spectacle where the Republicans continued to belabor completely trivial points. They seem to be obsessively focused on speaker phones and use of speakerphone. I did not know that that was the devil's technology, but apparently it is. That first hour of this much anticipated testimony was the nail in the coffin to what is a complete bogus and sham impeachment inquiry.


ZANONA: Now Republicans have been eager to secure this testimony. They fought for months to make it happen. They did ultimately agree on some terms that include agreeing to release the transcript within potentially the next 24 hours, so that -- so as not to have any selective weeks. And they also are not videotaping this as they have with other witnesses.

And Republicans really want to grill Hunter Biden about his overseas business deals, his role on a Ukrainian energy company, and whether his father -- other personally benefited financially from those overseas deals. But in his opening statement, Dana, as you're read, he made crystal clear that his father has not profited off of his son's foreign business deals.

And he really is just the latest in a parade of witnesses who have testified to just ask. In fact, an FBI agent was recently charged by the FBI for lying about a foreign bribery allegation. So, this is really a make-or-break moment for Republicans potentially could go late into the night here though, Dana.

BASH: Melanie, thank you so much for that reporting. Let's talk more about this with my panel here CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, and CNN's Evan Perez.

Evan, I want to start with you because part of the reason -- the big reason why -- as Dan Goldman said in a classic Dan Goldman soundbite that this is the nail in the coffin of the impeachment inquiry is because the Republicans were relying a lot on an FBI informant who has now been arrested because he allegedly lied to the FBI, specifically about the things that he said about the Bidens.

The DOJ informant made it all up. This is -- these are the allegations against his informant. He's still actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections. He claimed that Russian officials fed him information about Hunter Biden.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean -- look, I mean this is the last gasp of this -- of this effort by the Republicans, but we should be clear that they had really turned up very little to show for what they've been pursuing. So even before the charges against the informant Alexander Smirnoff, the -- this was a petering out effort, right.

It was an effort that was already having trouble because they had not -- that the Republicans had had promised a lot. They said that they were going to show evidence that Joe Biden directly benefited from his son's business activities in, you know, other countries. And they have not been able to do that. None of the witnesses have been able to substantiate that.

And so that's part of the problem is that, you know, now you have the one last part of this, which was this guy that was making this very big claim of bribes -- $10 million in bribes, and now he's been charged by the FBI, and he's going to go to trial in April.

BASH: I just think we cannot underscore the main point of what you just said, Evan, enough, which is that there aren't any facts that they have, that they can back up with any evidence. It's all innuendo rumor political allegation at this point. Just one other example.

The sort of very thin accusation that they had was that, oh, we have this these checks that Hunter Biden and the president's brother James wrote to the president. And those are pieces of evidence that show that the president was involved in some scheme that we're not really sure about.

Paula Reid was up on Capitol Hill this morning, asked James Comer, the committee chair about this. Listen to how that went down.


PAULA REID, CNN, CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You keep saying, the Bidens. We're talking about President Biden specifically. What evidence do you have any profited off his son's foreign businesses?

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We have two checks. Joe Biden received two payments. We found this through subpoenaed bank records. Two payments.

REID: You're putting steps between the check and President Biden.

COMER: The steps are called money laundering. That's what the steps are called.


BASH: Except not know -- except not.


BASH: Except not. Here's just one example of a fact check by our great Daniel Dale, banking records. The one that he's referring to. Ones, he's referring to reviewed by CNN, which commerce committee possesses. His own committee provides substantial evidence in support of the Democrats assertions that there was indeed a $200,000 loan from Joe Biden to James Biden. less than two months before the James Biden loan repayment check to Joe Biden for the same amount. That's just one example of fact checks that don't back up these very, very serious allegations. And all of this time and effort spent by these Republicans on what looks like, A, the wildest of goose chases.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Republicans getting out in front of their skis might be the understatement of the year. This is something that once they gained the majority, they said that they were going to impeach Joe Biden and any way that they were able to do it and they had been trying to get there.

Now remember, they took a vote to proceed with this impeachment inquiry, which was also controversial within the House Republicans are some more centrist Republicans who didn't think it took a lot of persuading to get them here. But Democrats have been -- or Republicans have been unable as we have -- you've all said very eloquently, to connect any sort of dots and find any sort of wrongdoing by the president.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: All that said, it does not mean that this still isn't a political problem for the administration because you can't put all of this sort of back in the bottle. I mean, this has been something that is -- has been a drip, drip, drip for months and years. And now suddenly to find out, oh, wait, not true.

The political damage in some respects has been done. So, we can't sort of lose sight of that. But going forward here, this will be looked at as a chapter where Congress clearly is following the lead of not a branch of government, but the fourth of state, you know, a partisan ---

BASH: And the former president?

ZELENY: And the former president, of course, talking all that. But I think the practical matter of this vis-a-vis, it contributes to the president's lower approval rating. When you talk to voters and other things, they believe that he is complicit in this -- people aren't following this, so that's a problem.

PEREZ: Right. And kind of that is -- that is kind of the point, right. And I think a lot of us, you know, certainly we've been covering this. We've heard from people close to Republicans who have told them and warn them, that there was no there, there.

But they still pursued it because that is the point. The point, it is sort of following the script of what the Republicans did to Hillary Clinton with Gazi, right. There was nothing there, but they spent months digging her and damaging her, and in the end, Chafetz went on television said, we kind of -- that's what we did.


BASH: Yeah. And your point about not being able to put the genie back in the bottle. I mean as much as we go on and give the facts and give the information and try to give the right -- reality as much as we know it as we learn it and have said for months, if not longer. These are the Republican claims they have not given us any evidence, really to back it up.

You can't change the echo chamber, through which a lot of Americans get their information. And it's hard to imagine, unfortunately, that the tone and tenor is going to change much, even though the facts aren't on their side. And this is something, you know, Hunter Biden gave this opening statement that we read part of behind closed doors today.

But he actually in a rare interview with Axios on Monday said the following, which really struck us. He said, I've always been in awe of people who have stayed clean and sober through tragedies and obstacles, few people ever face. I have something much bigger than even myself at stake. We are in the middle of a fight for the future of democracy.

This is kind of more of the human element of what we're talking about here. It's very personal. He is very open about the fact that he is an addict. He was very much off the wagon when a lot of this happened. And part of what he is trying to do. He's saying here is stay clean. Picking for her spot for himself, for his family, for his father, and he believes for politics, which is democracy.

CALDWELL: Yeah. And he's also insinuating there that he knows that this is also inherently political as well. Donald Trump, every single campaign stump speech, he gives, the words come out of his mouth, Joe Biden, the most corrupt president in history. And so, this is part of the strategy of trying to convince voters that that is true.

PEREZ: You know, look, I think with Hunter Biden and one of the key parts of this has been, you know, Jill Biden and her role in trying to keep Hunter close. And you see all these stories about why is Hunter showing up at these events at the White House? Why isn't the president pushing him away?

I think part of the thing has been about this very personal familial, you know, tragedy that they've been living, which is to try to keep him sober and to keep him safe. And that's one reason why you see him there. They keep them close for that reason. And you can see what he's saying in return, which is, they're going after me because they're trying to make me use so that they could hurt my father and that is a crazy thing to have to hear in 2024 politics,

BASH: Yeah. And in 2024 society when we are much more aware of addiction. Everybody standby. Donald Trump has asked a New York appeals court to delay the requirement that he quickly cough up $454 million in his civil fraud case. It's the latest step the former president has taken to avoid paying that massive penalty.

CNNs Kara Scannell joins me now. Kara, what's Trump's goal and asking for this delay? Does he think that it's possible he can get away with not paying it, and is it? KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, he's trying to buy time here because the clock is ticking on when he has to put up money or, you know, either cash or in the form of a bond in order to prevent the New York Attorney General's office been trying to move forward to enforce the judgment.

And one way they could do that is to try to see some of the properties that he could stop that if he posts the bond right now. But he's asking the judges for more time to come up with the money. And that's really what this -- what is that issue here. The New York Attorney General's office is opposing it. They just filed a letter in this case.

I'm asking appeals court to deny it, but there was likely to be some briefing on this matter over the next couple of weeks. You know, this is all happening though, is Trump is facing more than half a billion dollars that he has to put up between the New York Attorney General's case and the defamation case involving E. Jean Carroll.

In that case, a jury awarded Carroll, $83.3 million. Trump's clock is ticking on that. He asked the judge overseeing that case on Friday to delay enforcement of that bond as well. So, he's having to come up with a lot of money. Now he's asking different courts to give him more time to do so we'll wait to see what these judges say. Dana?

BASH: Kara, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. And coming up. President Biden and former President Trump may have one Michigan, but they're facing pretty big warning signs with the results there. What does it all mean for November? We'll tell you after a quick break.




BASH: There's concern today among Democrats after 101,000 Michigan Democrats voted for uncommitted over President Joe Biden. That of course was the result of a protest campaign over the administration's handling of the Israel-Gaza war. The chair of the progressive caucus in Congress Pramila Jayapal told our Manu Raju that this protest was no surprise.

Saying quote, this is exactly what I warned about several months ago. The war on Gaza is a deep moral issue and the lack of attention and empathy for this perspective from the administration is breaking apart the fragile coalition we built to elect Joe Biden in 2020.

It's not just the far left. Listen to what the number two Senate Democrats said this morning.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I am worried. I've talked to him. And I know they feel very strongly and have a right to. The situation facing Palestinians in Gaza is horrible. It's a humanitarian disaster. And the sooner the hostile elements come to an end, and the sooner the relief is delivered, the sooner we're going to see some -- I think people sitting back and taking stock of what the real choices are in November.



BASH: Our panel is back now. Jeff Zeleny, you just came back from Michigan this morning, right? And I know you've got some new reporting on what's going on in the Democratic Party.

ZELENY: Senator Durbin talking there about needing a solution. I mean this is example of where there is a deep political problem, but it is likely only to be resolved by a policy solution and this is something that's talking to a variety of Michigan Democrats during my time reporting there. Once said, the anger will not be resolved with meetings, it will take bold action. They're really calling on President Biden to do something bold to keep distancing himself from Prime Minister Netanyahu, which he's done.

I mean, if you track the timeline of President Biden's own response to this since October 7, he's already heard this message. This did not come as a surprise then. The number didn't. 101,000 people -- I talked to one Michigan Democrat who supports Joe Biden yesterday, and he said anything over 50,000 that could be an issue. It was twice that 100,000.

But in addition to that, this could be a floor another warning sign I heard from a Michigan Democrat who again wants President Biden to be reelected. So, it took an act to go out and vote uncommitted. What about the people who didn't vote? Young people in Ann Arbor, in Lansing across the state. The apathy and they're just a disinterest in this campaign that is -- in the words of this Democrat, a much more worrisome sign.

So, look, the warning signs are there. Former congressman Andy Levin told me last night after you interviewed him actually, he was standing in Dearborn, he said, this could be a constructive effort. It sends a warning sign in advance to the White House. They have eight months to sort of figure this out.

BASH: Yeah. And Leigh Ann, I know you've been doing some -- you all have been doing extensive reporting on this, because you mentioned Andy Levin, he was a congressman from there -- from a very well-known political democratic -- political family in Michigan. Listen to part of our conversation last night.


ANDY LEVIN (D) FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Dana, my goal here personally, was to get through to the president's campaign that there is no political solution to this problem. I don't see how we can win the White House again without winning Michigan. And I don't think we can win Michigan unless the president changes course on Gaza. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And Leigh Ann, I think you all noticed that last night that Biden campaign put out a statement that was kind of vanilla, and didn't mention uncommitted vanilla about winning Michigan, right? That change this morning, when they saw the numbers go up, up, up, up, up.

Here's what the campaign said this morning. President Biden shares the goal of many of the folks who voted uncommitted, which is an end to violence and adjust and lasting peace. That is what he is working towards. We will earn their votes between now and November.

CALDWELL: Yeah. They are realizing I think after these results last night that it is a huge challenge for him. Of course, now Michigan has one of the biggest Arab American communities in the country. Pennsylvania is another state that has high percentages as well. And so -- but Michigan, is what Andy Levin said is absolutely right that it is necessary to win for Biden or presumably Trump to be the nominee. But there's also a lot of warning signs for Donald Trump to and there have been throughout the entire campaign.

BASH: That's a good point.

EVA MCKEND, CNN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to say that I think the Democrats have to decide who they are and what they stand for in this moment. It's not only Arab Americans in terms of a marginalized group that feel as though they are treated as expendable by the Democratic Party. Right now, you have, you know, mixed families with undocumented folks. But with citizen, children that are feeling alienated. You have black voters feeling alienated as well.

And I think for a long time, this is beyond President Biden. Democrats have treated some of the parts of their coalition as expendable. And they can't afford to continue to do that without really voters saying in a very loud way that the jig is up.

BASH: You mentioned the Republicans, and I don't want to lose sight of the fact that Nikki Haley is still in the race. She didn't compete at all in Michigan, and she still got, you know, she didn't win at all, but she got a sizable amount of the vote.

I had a conversation with her last night about where the party is? I'm going to listen to part of it.


BASH: Isn't it possible that the party has moved, and the party is about Donald Trump and not what you're describing, which might be the party of yesterday?

NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is very possible. And you know, that's what we're doing. What I'm saying to my Republican Party family, is we're in a ship with a hole in it. And we can either go down with the ship and watch the country go socialist left, or we can see that we need to take the life raft and move in a new direction. (END VIDEO CLIP)


ZELENY: I mean look, she won almost 30 percent of the vote as you said with barely campaigning there. She was there just a couple of days. Look, the reality is she's been broadcasting this semester and sending this warning, with every passing week louder and louder and louder. That's as loud as she has been as distinct as she's been.

The question is, is the party listening? This is the party of Donald Trump. I mean, we're seeing this clear dividing line now, but getting 30 percent -- those are votes that Donald Trump will need in Michigan, and there's some votes that Joe Biden would love of Michigan.

CALDWELL: There's a large percentage of the party that is the party of Donald Trump, but there's also this 2030, sometimes 40 percent who doesn't support Donald Trump. At this point, when it's a -- when it's a matchup between the two and that's a challenge for the party.

BASH: We're going to have to take a quick break. Up next, we're going to speak with one of President Biden's top campaign advisors about his takeaways from last night's results. Stay with us.