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Biden, Trump Face Off With Dueling Visits To Texas Border Towns; Gallup Poll: Immigration Tops List Of Problems Facing U.S.; About $52 Million Spent On Immigration Ads Since January 1; DNC Launches Mobile Billboard Campaign In Eagle Pass For Trump Visit; Biden Plays Defense On The Border After GOP Kills Bipartisan Deal; Supreme Court To Take Up Trump Immunity Case, Delaying Trial; Poll: Most Voters Want Trial Before Election Day; Scores Of Civilians Trampled In Gaza Chaos After IDF Fires On Food Line. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on INSIDE POLITICS, Texas hold'em. Right now, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are both on their way to the southern border. Both are now trying to go all in on immigration, but who has the best hand on what so many voters say is the most important problem facing this country.

Plus, supreme consequences. Team Trump's delay tactic is getting a huge assist from the highest court in the land. Could their decision to hear the former president's immunity claim ultimately lead to a get out of jail free card. And breaking news out of Gaza. Dozens are dead in chaos after Israeli forces opened fire near a food aid truck. We've got the latest from the region.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at INSIDE POLITICS.

We start in Texas, where we're about to see a made for TV split screen moment. The two inevitable presidential nominees are visiting two different southern border towns at the same time. For President Biden today marks a dramatic shift. The White House is trying to turn a political vulnerability into an opportunity to hammer Republicans for tanking a bill that address the crisis. All because Trump said so.

CNN has full team coverage across Texas. Priscilla Alvarez is in Brownsville where Joe Biden is heading, and Kristen Holmes is in Eagle Pass where Donald Trump will arrive at any moment. Let's start with Priscilla. Priscilla, what can you tell us about what to expect?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well clearly, Dana, the White House and Biden campaign officials see an opportunity here to seize on an issue that up until this point, the White House had really kept at a distance. And today we expect President Biden to hammer Republicans over that failed Senate border bill that included some of the toughest border security measures in recent memory.

Now, of course, this coming from an administration that has grappled with a number of searches at the U.S. southern border. And that sources told me it's really been a tense topic of discussion within the walls of the White House as this became a political liability for President Biden.

So, what we're expecting today is more on that failed Senate border bill. That was one that White House officials worked very closely with Senate negotiators to find a compromise, including for example, including an extraordinary authority that would have allowed the Homeland Security Secretary to shut down the border, certain triggers were met.

So, we'll expect to hear more on that from the president today, really putting the onus on Republicans for not putting a solution on the table. But this comes at a critical time. We're in the presidential election.

And a Gallup poll released this week, showed that this issue of immigration is increasingly becoming one that is a priority for many voters. And so, the president is urgently trying to address this and really flip the script on Republicans.

BASH: Priscilla, thank you so much for that. I appreciate that reporting. Now, let's go elsewhere in Texas. Kristen Holmes is in Eagle Pass. Kristen, you have been talking to the Trump campaign as usual. What do we expect to see and hear from the former president?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, there's a reason that Donald Trump is choosing Eagle Pass. It's not because it's the area that most migrants are crossing, but it really has become the political focal point of this standoff between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Biden White House over who is in-charge of securing the border.

We know that Abbott has used state resources here in this location to put razor wire on buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande River to put razor wire on trains. And we expect Donald Trump to be here with the Texas governor at some points of his trip to tour some of what he has done to implement this kind of security measures that so called security measures on the border.

The part to look at here is that of course Donald Trump wants to make a general election with Joe Biden, all about immigration is something that he ran on in 2015. It really helped carry him into the White House in 2016. And it's something he's made a core part of his campaign already promising math deportations. If he was elected back to the White House, he previewed some of his speech. It is talking last night. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history to remove Joe Biden's illegals and murderers because that's what many of them are.



HOLMES: So not surprising there Donald Trump using that fear stoking rhetoric. It's something again, we have seen since 2015. And you should expect to hear that we've already heard a scene statements from the Trump campaign blasting Biden, connecting him to various crimes that were allegedly committed by migrants. So that is something to watch again today. That's something they want to do. Again, this is what he wants to be running on, Dana.

BASH: Kristen Holmes at a very windy Eagle Pass, Texas. Thank you so much for that. Now, the border crisis is of course dominating politics this election cycle, especially on the airwaves. Check out this figure. Campaigns and Super PACs on both sides of the aisle have spent nearly $52 million on immigration themed ads. That's far and away more than anything else.

I want to bring in my great panel on this and more, CNN's Gloria Borger, Semafor's David Weigel, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times. Nice to see you all. Gloria Borger, does that eye popping figure surprise you or maybe not given how high of a priority it seems to be for voters?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. It doesn't surprise me. And it's going to grow and it's going to grow. I mean, the Republicans believe they have an advantage. One of the last polls I looked at said Donald Trump had a 35-point advantage over Joe Biden on the immigration issue. It's going, you know, everybody thought, oh, this election is going to be its inflation.

You know, it's all about the economy and suddenly -- not so suddenly, immigration is creeping up to the top of the charts. The Democrats now finally feel they can fight a little bit on the issue because the immigration bill was killed by Republicans, but they have a lot of catching up to do and Joe Biden knows it. That's why he's there.

BASH: Yeah. Catching up to do. They're trying to begin that catch up in the form of a mobile billboard that the DNC, the Democratic National Party is sending down to Eagle Pass today. And I want to show our viewers an ad, which gives a sense of what that billboard is going to say.


BASH: Dave, that's exactly Gloria's point that Democrats are trying to turn it on the issue on its head. The obvious question is whether or not it's going to work considering that President Biden is the guy at the helm of the federal government right now.

DAVID WEIGEL, REPORTER, SEMAFOR: Well, that's right. And the entire issue has moved in Trump's direction since Joe Biden was sworn in this 2015, 2016 were mentioned. The support for a wall the Mexican border was not as high then as it is now. And the MAGA argument that Trump can make everywhere is, did you see as much footage of migrants trying to cross the border of asylum seekers in New York. When I was president, you did not. That's a set of facts that the president needs to change. He also has a less united party than Donald Trump. As I was talking to the newest member of Congress Tom Suozzi, somebody who that that figure of immigration has a lot run against him. And I asked him this morning, all right, the mayor of New York wants to revisit sanctuary policy and have ice interdict migrants arrested who are being charged with crime, should they? He said, yes. That, again, is not the Democratic position.

BASH: Yeah.

WEIGEL: So, they're very fractured on this. And a couple of ads are probably not going to fix that.

BASH: Zolan, you've done a lot of reporting on this, including and especially from the border. What are your thoughts as you watch these two men head down there at the same time?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN, POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think this is a day where you're going to see two leaders of the party engage in to an extent political theater and use what has included the border, which has increasingly become a backdrop for what is becoming one of the pressing issues in this political battle. But whether or not you see any actual solutions to what is worsening humanitarian crisis. I think is also a question moving forward.

The number of illegal crossings have doubled since the Trump administration. You often don't hear this from the Trump campaign. Yes, Biden has overseen a record number of crossings. You know, the president who oversaw the second most it was the Trump administration. This global migration problem is only getting worse here.

And the difficult thing here, when you look at President Biden is, he's going to go and as we talked about them trying to go on the offensive, try and say, well look, the House Republicans sank what would have been alleged a legislative solution for this crisis. Whether or not that resonates more effectively than Trump stoking divisions with this issue.

Trump pointing to images of overcrowded facilities and exhausting resources and cities led by Democrats and Republicans. That's the challenge here. You kind of have like a sophisticated legislative argument going up against the usual sort of stoking up divisions.


BASH: And Gloria as you come in here, that language has been remarkably consistent from Donald Trump. We were talking before coming on the show. I went with candidate Trump pre-presidency in July of 2015. Down to the border, his first trip there. Look at and listen to the rhetoric that he then versus more recently.


TRUMP: There's great danger with the illegals and we're just discussing that, but we have a tremendous danger on the border with the illegals coming in. If you allow these massive numbers of illegals in, you're going to have a crime wave, the likes of which has never been seen. It's now started.


BORGER: We're going to ride since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower. He's been talking about illegal immigrants as rapists, et cetera, et cetera. That has not changed about Donald Trump. I mean, I think the problem that Joe Biden has now is that his party.

If he had -- if that bill had passed, he would have had a lot of progressives in his party really upset about it because of the asylum provisions and everything else. Donald Trump has a united Republican base on this. That's very strong, not only the base, but the party and Joe Biden has to walk of -- still has to walk a fine line.

BASH: I'm so glad you mentioned that. Because when you were talking, Dave, about the fractured Republicans on this issue -- sorry, you're talking about the plight -- the Democrats on this issue, forgive me. I was thinking about exactly that about like the Pramila Jayapal's of the world who said that their party is falling into a trap.

WEIGEL: Right. It's another border state California. There are three Democrats in Congress running for Senate. All of them have said, they would -- they would oppose this border deal. The existence of this deal is offensive to a lot of the immigration groups that endorsed Biden. They protested by it, and they called Barack Obama the deporter in chief. They're very divided on this. And that's not fixed by the bill passing, we're not passing that.

BASH: that test, I guess.

KANNO-YOUNGS: All of this, I think is speaking to a seismic shift in immigration politics. You would usually see Republicans emphasizing border security. Democrats willing to trade border security for legalization. We have not mentioned legalization once here because these two leaders of the party that seems to be absent from their message here.

BASH: OK. Coming up. It's about to get ruthless around here. I'm going to talk with the popular podcast host about the race to replace their former boss, Mitch McConnell. And whether the Senate could be getting a quote, MAGA makeover. But first, Donald Trump's delay tactics seem to be working as the Supreme Court makes it more likely than ever. At the federal election subversion trial won't happen before November.




BASH: In a very busy week for Donald Trump's legal challenges. The former president got one piece of really good news yesterday that the Supreme Court will take up his immunity appeal, which keeps his January 6 criminal case on pause. I want to welcome CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams and Gloria is still here with us. Elliot, what does it all mean?


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN, LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know what it all means. You know, what it means is that the trial is not -- it's not going to trial next month as could have happened as scheduled. Now it's a question of what the court actually does. Now, I don't think there's any serious question that once the court takes it up, they end up with a similar decision to what the Court of Appeals decided.

BASH: I think so.

WILLIAMS: When they take it up, which is that a former president -- is that president is not immune from prosecution from x ---

BASH: And that's not going to happen -- the hearing is April.

WILLIAMS: The hearing is in April, right. In some way that decision probably gets written. Now the question of how they get there is an open one. And I think it's hard to see how they bring this to trial prior to the 2024 election. It's just the math. It could work, but it'd be very challenging to do.

BASH: But they could start the trial and we don't.

WILLIAMS: They could absolutely start the trail. We can actually start the trial because here's what would happen. The Supreme Court would rule sometime probably in June, could be before that but likely at the end of this Supreme Court term. Then assuming they ruled against the former president. They could -- the court -- the trial court could start proceedings for getting ready for trial and get the trial by the summer.

BASH: Let's talk about ---

BORGER: In the middle of the Republican ---


BASH: Well, exactly. And not just that. I think you started to mention this Gloria before, what voters want. And in the latest poll that we have here on that question from CNN, 48 percent say that the timing of Trump's federal trial is essential before the election?

BORGER: Right. Well, it wouldn't be the first time the Supreme Court went against something that was different from public opinion. And public opinion wants answers and wants a decision on these issues.

And the fact that now -- this is on a slow track, maybe even a glacial pace. We don't know how the Supreme Court is going to move, means more and more that you're not going to get any decision before an election. And I think voters as that poll shows would like to know.

WILLIAMS: I just think there's two very different questions here. How fast do voters want the Supreme Court to move and how does the Supreme Court typically move under normal ---

BORGER: This was in typical or normal.

WILLIAMS: Well fine. But even still bringing, they couldn't wait until next year to bring this up. They could have waited until the next Supreme Court term started in October, but they put it on the calendar for this year. I'm not defending the Supreme Court at all ---

BASH: Yeah. You're explaining it.

WILLIAMS: But, you know, explaining it -- but the simple fact is, you know, typically a case that came before them this late in the calendar year probably bumped October.

BASH: Right. But I guess what Gloria saying -- overall saying, and I know you agree with is, it's impossible to divorce the political strategy that is the same as the legal strategy of Donald Trump, which is delay, delay, delay. He hopes that he becomes -- he gets elected and made an argument in and this whole thing goes away.


Joan Biskupic, our colleague said it -- I think in a very succinct way. The former president strategy of trying to delay the for criminal trials. This is even beyond what we're talking about against him is well documented. And in fighting Special Counsel Jack Smith's case, the Supreme Court has become an ally of sorts, despite the expedited schedule.

BORGER: Right. You know, this is an expedited schedule according to the Supreme Court. It's not an expedited schedule according to anything else. And what they have done is played into the hands of Donald Trump's attorneys because it's not just their legal strategy, it is their only strategy.

Because I just had a conversation with someone who used to represent Donald Trump, who said, look, they don't expect to win in the Supreme Court. The only way to win is to delay and hoped that Donald Trump gets elected. And then it's totally off the books because he says so. So that's the entire strategy. And this just plays into it. I mean, Judge Chutkan in D.C. really wanted to move on this case next week.

WILLIAMS: The one of the first things you learn in law school is there's a difference between procedure and law. And the procedure can count as law. If something takes a long time procedurally, sort of lay folks call it technicalities. But when things take a long time, that can have the same effect of giving parties what they want.

BASH: Feel like spending time with you is like going to law school.

WILLIAMS: Oh, cut it out.

BASH: No, it's true. It's true. We learned a lot from both of you.

WILLIAMS: It depends how slow crushing spending time with me. It's not the law school. BASH: Gloria is not -- Gloria is not a lawyer. She just plays one or two (Ph).

BORGER: Right. I'm a court watcher.

BASH: There you go. Coming up. We are following breaking news. A horrific chaotic incident on the ground in Gaza. 100 people were killed and nearly 800 injured. We're going to go live to the region next.




BASH: Breaking news today. Out of the Middle East a horrific scene near Gaza City where chaos erupted after Israeli forces opened fire as civilians were trying to get food from aid trucks. You can see from this surveillance video as the crowd gathers and then quickly disperses.

I want to get straight to CNN's Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, I know you've been watching all of these videos from different angles, surveillance video. We've been talking to sources inside Gaza. What have you learned?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, let's start with what I witnesses on the ground are telling us. And that is that early this morning before dawn in fact, the convoy of aid trucks crossed into western Gaza City after passing an Israeli military checkpoint. Crowds of people, hundreds of people quickly swarmed those trucks, climbing on top of them, grabbing what they could.

Adel Al Zaanoon, a local journalist who I spoke with on the phone told me that minutes after that the Israeli military then opened fire. And it was that gunfire he says that triggered mass pandemonium with people running away and the truck drivers also speeding off and in the process of killing additional people.

Now the Palestinian Ministry of Health says that 104 people were killed in this incident altogether, 760 injured. According to Adel Al Zaanoon, the majority of those people were indeed killed by those trucks speeding off, but it was the Israeli gunfire according to him and other eyewitnesses on the ground that prompted this scene of mass pandemonium.

The Israeli military has a very different narrative. They agree that these trucks pass through that people climbed on top of them. But they say that a stampede started before any Israeli gunfire. Here's Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner just moments ago.


LT. COL. PETER LERNER, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESMAN: We understand that the convoy passed through the Israeli positions and continue to move forward -- and continue to move north. As they move forward, amount of people -- a huge amounts of people as we clearly shared in the visuals that we've distributed, stormed and stampeded the truckloads as they climbed upon. They were pushing, they were shoving. People were trampled and also run over.


DIAMOND: And so, you see there, he is trying to indicate that these are two completely separate incidents that in one other incident near this convoy, a group of Palestinians approach to the Israeli forces in a threatening manner, according to the Israeli military and they were fired upon.

I've looked at all of the video that the Israeli military has provided that drone footage. You don't see in this footage, mass numbers of people getting run over by trucks or stampeding. What you see is them coming, clambering onto these trucks, rushing to try and get this desperately needed aid, but it doesn't show what learner suggested there.

And it's also just important to keep in mind that this all comes in the context of about a half a million people in northern Gaza who are currently on the brink of famine. It is that desperation. It is the fact that so few aid trucks have been able to get into northern Gaza. That has led us to this very deadly -- very sad situation that we are witnessing today. Dana?

BASH: Jeremy, sad. It just is -- not it doesn't even begin to describe it. Senator Chris Coons, who is a very big supporter of Israel. Just told Wolf Blitzer in the last hour that he is going to support conditions for any further U.S. aid unless Israel comes up with a plan to end this war before going into Rafa. Really interesting. Great reporting, Jeremy. Thank you.

The White House says, President Biden spoke this morning with leaders of Egypt and Qatar.