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Inside Politics

Biden Campaigns In New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan This Week; Biden: Trump Sees An "American Story Of Resentment, Revenge"; General Election Kicks Off As Trump, Biden Hit Campaign Trail; Biden: I Regret Saying "Illegal", Trump Attacks Biden's Apology; Trump: Migrant Are "Conquering" U.S., Are "Horrible People"; Trump On Hungary's Far-Right Leader Viktor Orban: "He's Fantastic"; Trump: Don't Ban TikTok Because It Would Benefit Facebook; HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge To Resign. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2024 - 12:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the rematch is on. A general election is rapidly taking shape. But Joe Biden and Donald Trump taking their campaign pitches on the road and lobbying personal shots at each other in the same critical swing state.

Plus, new reporting on what Donald Trump says about dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un behind closed doors. You won't believe how his former chief of staff says Trump once described Adolf Hitler.

And Senator Bob Menendez was just arraigned again, on new charges of bribery and extortion. Prosecutors accused the Democrat of acting as a foreign agent for Egypt and aiding the Qatari government. So why is he sitting -- still sitting on key Senate committees and receiving classified briefings.

I'm Manu Raju in for Dana Bash in Washington. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

First up, Joe Biden in full-fledged campaign mode. Trying to build on his State of the Union by traveling to multiple swing states this week. Today he's headed to New Hampshire, state with one of the oldest populations to talk about healthcare. You can expect him to remind voters that his opponent wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

CNN's Kevin Liptak is in Goffstown, New Hampshire where this president will speak this afternoon. Kevin, you've been talking to Biden campaign aides. What are you hearing?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they really do view this week as the kickoff to the general election campaign. And between President Biden and Vice President Harris they will be hitting all of the battleground states throughout (Audio Gap) we'll see him in Wisconsin and Michigan.

And his message here today is really centered around healthcare. And they really do view this as opposed an issue. If sometimes overlooked issue (Audio Gap) real objectives. One, he does want to remind voters about his record on this area, about his record on capping prescription drug prices, allowing Medicare to negotiate.

RAJU: OK. Kevin, Kevin, it looks like we were having some audio issues. We'll check back in with you to get your shot back up. But thank you for that reporting. We do have a great political panel in here to talk more about the president's strategy and everything else.

CNN's Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post -- of the Associated Press, Punchbowl News's John Bresnahan, and NPR's Sarah McCammon, who is the author of the new book, The Exvangelicals. Thank you, guys for joining us this morning.

Seung Min, you cover the White House for the Associated Press, of course. What is -- we've really seen a new phase for this campaign. Joe Biden, in the aftermath of the State of the Union, ramping up his plans, the campaign operation really taking shape. You were talking to the campaign all the time. How do they view this moment? And what does this mean for the months ahead?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They're really building on momentum right now. And I think you're right, they do -- they really did start to see that period after Super Tuesday as when that general election contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump really starts to crystallize.

And as you know, Democrats in both inside and the White House -- and outside the White House were really happy with President Biden's performance at the State of the Union last Thursday. So, they just want to keep building on that momentum. It's obviously one speech is not going to change the perceptions of voters.

So, they feel that in Georgia and in Philadelphia last weekend, in New Hampshire today, they want to keep building on that contract that he's -- that they want to present with Donald Trump. When it comes to healthcare, which is going to be the topic today or when it comes to the issues of democracy or anything else.

And they're looking -- and they're pointing to the momentum saying, we had the best 24 hours day of fundraising in history, like after the State of the Union. And they're trying to, you know, sue the naysayers, if you will, that they do have a plan that they're ramping up just at the right time when people are tuning it.

RAJU: Yeah. And they are -- the president is more directly going after Donald Trump. He did it at the State of the Union last week about 13 times, didn't mention it by name. He kept saying, my predecessor, my predecessor, my predecessor on the campaign trail, much different including in Atlanta this weekend. We're not too far away. Donald Trump was campaigning also in Georgia, but President Biden trying to draw that contrast.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Donald Trump on the MAGA Republicans are trying to take our freedoms away. By the way, not all Republicans. This is not your father's Republican Party. There are some Republicans tried to cut social security again. I will stop them. Well, no. Donald Trump sees to different America. An American story of resentment, revenge and retribution. That's not me. That's not you.



RAJU: You know, the question that the Democrats see this as a positive period for Joe Biden. But the question is, can he keep this going in the months ahead?

SARAH MCCAMMON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: You know, I think one of the things I heard in that segment was he said, not all Republicans. And we are now pivoting to the general election matchup, I think we've known was coming for some time. But after Super Tuesday, after Nikki Haley dropping out of the Republican primary last week, that's the matchup that we have.

And we hear Biden trying to reach across the aisle. You know, when Haley dropped out last week, he said there's a place for her in my campaign. He's trying to say, if you don't want the party of Trump, consider me.

RAJU: Part of the thing too as Biden tried just to ease those democratic concerns. I mean, we've been talking to Democrats for some time. I'm sure you've all heard similar level of sort of concerns, just not having the campaign strategy in place. Seeing the poll numbers that have been bad for the president time and time again, or Donald Trump winning and questions about his age and fitness.

Some of them has been alleviated on the left in the aftermath of his State of the Union. Just an example of which the liberal columnist, Ezra Klein had a couple of headlines in recent weeks. This one is a recent one. It says fine. Call it a comeback says, it's Joe Biden who showed up to deliver the State of the Union address last week is the Joe Biden shows up for the rest of the campaign.

You're not going to have any more of those weak-kneed pundits suggesting he's not up to running for reelection. Here's hoping he does. And of course, there was a client also wrote just a pretty recently I think, Democrats have a better option than Joe Biden. That's a past headline, what does it say, February 16. So not too far ago. You been talking to Democrats. How -- are they -- do they feel better? Or is it still -- the jury's still out?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Well, they feel better. I think they definitely -- as you were talking about the State of the Union was a big pivot point for them. But it's one speech, it's not enough. You're talking about on the left, they're still huge concern over the war in Gaza. That's a huge issue. They want to see the president do more on that.

I think -- I think, until they get past that, I think that's going to be a big problem. But, you know, they were looking at the polls out of Michigan. They were looking at the polls out of Wisconsin, where he's going this week. They were not good bowls. And they're saying, you know, their chances of winning the House also and keeping their losses down the Senate also ride with Biden. So, you know, they have a lot at stake here. Not only, you know, Trump's return and everything with that means. But you know, what is it -- what is the next Congress? What is the 119th Congress look like? And that's what they were really, really concerned that Biden was on the mat, and he wasn't -- he just looked tired and old, and he wasn't doing anything.

RAJU: Yeah. And look, it became tired and old. We expect tomorrow, Robert Hur, the special counsel to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. There's been questions about his age and his fitness, himself raised those questions in that report. So, some of those questions will start to get back into the fray tomorrow.

But we're going to go back to just what was some of the back and forth that happened this past weekend. We saw in during that unscripted moment, during the State of the Union. When Marjorie Taylor Greene, the conservative MAGA aligned Republican called out Joe Biden, accept use the name of Laken Riley who is of course the 22-year-old Georgia student, who was killed allegedly at the hands of someone in the country illegally.

When Biden responded on the floor of the House, he said -- he called it an illegal immigrant to -- was a suspect in that case. You got some backlash for the left for saying, the word illegal. He walked that back and gave Trump an opening.


PRES. BIDEN: I shouldn't have used the illegal, its undocumented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You regret using that word?


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was an illegal alien. He was an illegal immigrant. He was an illegal migrant and he shouldn't have been in our country. Biden should be apologizing for apologizing to this killer.


RAJU: It just speaks to the challenge that Biden has had on immigration for some time. You go -- you veer to the right on the issue. You get hammered on the left. You go to the left and the issue, you get hammered in the middle. How do you see this play?

KIM: Right. And I remember they were both in Georgia, which is where the murder happened. So, it's an issue that is really raw among people there right now. And I think what the president and what the White House in the campaign is going to try to do in walking that back. They wanted to try to make a broader point even as he used this word that he later expressed regret for.

They were trying to pivot to a larger point that listen to the what the -- listen to the rest of what President Biden said. He is contrasting his view of immigrants and his -- and how he approaches the border with what Trump has done. This is someone who has called immigrants, you know, like -- you know, immigrants to vermin, has said, you know, pretty awful things and just kind of stoke this fear about immigrants coming into this country.


So, they're saying pay attention to that. Don't pay attention to just one word that he's now walked back and go from there, but you do see how this remains a really difficult issue. They've hoped that they could go on the offensive with Republicans and Trump killing that border deal in Congress. But I'm really skeptical how long that process argument can last with voters in an election season.

BRESNAHAN: But there's one thing I want to add. Biden apologizes for saying illegal. House Republicans are moving resolution this week that uses the term illegal alien 20 times. OK. I mean, the difference the gulf between these parties is wide and it's getting wider. It's going to be crystal clear.

And the number one issue in the country is a shocking actually kind of read this resolution and think Biden apologizes for one use of illegal and House Republicans are like illegal alien. They're trying to jam it down everybody's throat.

RAJU: Yeah. I mean, look, I want you to just listen to Trump from Rome, Georgia on Saturday, about -- you mentioned how the language that they use. Just the language that Trump's use about -- Trump uses about immigration.


TRUMP: I will end the agony of our people, the plunder of our cities, the sacking of our towns, the violation of our citizens and the conquest of our country. They're conquering our country. These people are conquering our country. They are horrible people.


RAJU: I mean, that plays well with the Republican base. How does that play in a general election that suburban voters?

MCCAMMON: I think you have to know that that has strains of right-wing conspiracy theories, you know, antisemitic conspiracy theories baked into that kind of language. I think he may be alluding to that. People hear that when he says things like that. I will say when I talk to Republican voters, including moderates and independent voters.

I do hear a lot about immigration. It's a priority issue for Republican voters. At the same time, I think, you know, to your point that Democrats will be trying to remind voters that they tried to fix this, and Republicans blocked it. Will that resonate long term, I don't know?

RAJU: Yeah. And they want bipartisan border security. It was demonized even before it came out. And that's taken a lot of life of its own. We'll see if that has any political impact when we gave you that in the months ahead. All right, next. Donald Trump toes the line, saying TikTok is a national security threat. But stopping short of joining the growing chorus to ban the controversial social media.


TRUMP, (voiceover): I could have banned TikTok. I had it banned just about. I could have gotten it done. But I said, you know what, but I'll leave it up to you. I didn't push him too hard.


RAJU: Why he says he wants to keep TikTok around?




RAJU: New reporting this morning from CNN's Jim Sciutto about how Donald Trump talks about some of the world's most dangerous leaders. For his new book, The Return of Great Powers. Jim spoke of former top Trump administration officials will revealing some astounding comments as they warn what a potential second Trump term could look like.

Former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton tells Jim. He Trump, views himself as a big guy. He likes dealing with other big guys and big guys like Erdogan in Turkey get to put people in jail and you don't have to ask anybody's permission. He kind of likes that.

And ex-Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly tells Jim. Trump even praised Hitler. He said, well, but Hitler did some good things. I said, well, what? And he said, well, Hitler rebuilt the economy. But what did he do with that rebuilt an economy. He turned it against his own people and against the world. And I said, Sir, you can never say anything good about the guy. Nothing.

Now the Trump campaign spokesman didn't respond by attacking Kelly and Bolton personally saying, they need to seek professional help because their hatred is consuming their empty lives. Our excellent panel is back.

What is it, you know, you are on the campaign trail a lot with Nikki Haley. She attacked Donald Trump for his praise of autocrat strong man. He does it pretty openly that didn't seem to work within the Republican primary. What did you hear on the campaign trail about Trump's comments? And whether they actually -- people were concerned about it or not at all?

MCCAMMON: It didn't work at all. I mean, I'm thinking of around Valentine's Day, her campaign put out kind of a joking, you know, love letter from Trump to dictators. So yes, she highlighted this theme. You know, the thing I heard from Nikki Haley supporters and more often was just a general sense that Trump -- as she would say, brought chaos and that he wasn't sort of the temperament that they wanted. But you know, ultimately, we saw just last week. She dropped out of the race. That wasn't what Republican voters wanted. Many of them told me they would vote for Trump ultimately if faced with a choice between Trump and Biden, and a lot of them said they just didn't know.

So, you know, I think where this goes, next is a big question. But Trump's rhetoric around, you know, support for these kinds of leaders for dictators. It doesn't seem to turn off the Republican base. In fact, there's a part of the Republican base that likes it.

RAJU: Yeah. And he's leaning into it. And again, we are now in the general election, essentially, because Trump is the presumptive nominee. And what was Donald Trump doing last week? He was meeting with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian strongmen, and Trump didn't shy away from praise for him.


TRUMP: There's nobody that's better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orban. He's fantastic. He's a non-controversial figure because he says, this is the way it's going to be and that's the end of it. He's the boss. And no, he's a great leader. A fantastic leader in Europe and all over the world.


RAJU: And that was over the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. He says, he's a non -controversial figure, of course, Viktor Orban. The European parliament accuses Orban of creating an electoral autocracy. He's embraced far right populism is crackdown on the independent press. He's had a lot of viewers, anti-immigration, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. And Trump is saying that he's a non-controversial figure.


BRESNAHAN: Yeah. That's just completely inaccurate. I mean ---

RAJU: But there's a part of the base that likes that, right, that's why he's doing there?

BRESNAHAN: Yes. Putin appeals to them in for some -- for in some cases, and you know Trump's discussion about -- you know, Trump's comments on Ukraine and what he told Orban supposedly was, you know, I'm going to end this war. You know, all this stuff, we're -- you know, no more money -- you know, they don't get anything. I mean, this is -- when Trump was president, he -- you know, there -- it was, every -- you know, you -- they would be administration's develop policies.

There is hundreds of people involved and Trump would change it, you know, like on a whim. He fires the defense secretary on Twitter. I mean, you know, that's when people talk about chaos. That's what Trump was like, but he likes the one man, a strongman. The idea that he's in charge. And but you see it in the American system, it doesn't really work. So, you know, this is a big problem, and also the NATO stuff is a huge issue. RAJU: Yeah. That's going to be a big question is what's going to -- how he's going to deal with NATO in the next? If he wins. We'll see that's concerned about people who first want to keep their lives together. But first, I want to get into another big story at the moment.

In an interview this morning with CNBC, Trump said Congress should not move forward with a bill that could ban TikTok from the United States. But at the same time, he said he agrees that Chinese owned app is a national security threat. CNN's Alayna Treene is here with more to explain Trump's thinking. Alayna, what did the former president say?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, there are a few things here, Manu. But he was railing against Facebook and this potential TikTok ban. On CNBC this morning, he argued that if TikTok is banned, more people would want to go to Facebook, calling the social media platform the enemy of the people. Take a listen to how he put it.


TRUMP (voiceover): The thing I don't like is that without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger. And I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media. If you ban TikTok, Facebook and others, but mostly Facebook will be a big beneficiary. And I think Facebook has been very -- I think Facebook has been very bad for our country, especially when it comes to elections.


TREENE: Now Manu, there's a couple things I just want to point out here. One is that I spoke with some of Donald Trump's advisors this morning about this. And they added and kind of repeated what Donald Trump just said there, which is that there is a concern that if TikTok were to be banned or bought that some of its users would migrate to Facebook.

And of course, Donald Trump has been very critical of Facebook over the past several years. He believes personally that they had some role in him losing the 2020 election. Of course, there's questions of whether that is true or not. But that's where some of this is stemming from.

And also, it's important to note that this comes as the House is expected to vote at some point this week on a potential ban on Facebook or to force it to be sold away from ByteDance. And so, that's where the timing of this comes into it.

Now, I also just want to point out that Donald Trump was also posting about this on Truth Social last week, and that post came just hours after he met with Jeffrey Yass. He's someone who has a big Republican donor and also has a huge stake in TikTok, more than $30 billion. And here you see that post there where he wrote if you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zucker, schmuck will double their business. I don't want Facebook who cheated in the last election doing better they are true enemy of the people. So, we're going to see this continue to play out this week. But I also just want to know, Manu, that when I spoke with Trump's advisors, they argued that unlike with the bipartisan border bill that we saw Donald Trump really go scorched earth on and really have a role in tanking it. They argue that he doesn't feel the same way about this. That if Congress decides that they want to move forward with this bill, he will support them in that decision.

RAJU: And we shall see what the House should do. We'll do this week. Alayna Treene, thanks for that report. And that's my question to you, Seung Min. What the -- will that -- how do you think this is going to affect House Republicans? It's steam through the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. 50 to nothing, it was approved. Now Trump is coming out and saying, he's opposing. (Ph)

KIM: Usually, fascinating. You guys pointed out this dynamic this morning in your newsletter that this is something that House Republican leadership supports. But at the same time, you've seen House Republican leaders take their cues from Donald Trump so often. Does he have some sort of an influence on this bill later this week?

Now, Alayna's reporting seems to suggest that it will not. This isn't necessarily an issue that is as sensitive to him as the border bill. But it will be really interesting to see how those numbers change, if those numbers change because of what Trump is saying now.

RAJU: (Inaudible) before it goes break, will it pass the House this week?

BRESNAHAN: Yes. But I'm not sure about the Senate.

RAJU: OK. All right. Coming up. Benjamin Netanyahu firing back at President Biden. The two leaders clashed over the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.




RAJU: Just in the CNN Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Marcia Fudge is stepping down. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is following this story. Priscilla, what are you learning?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden announcing in a statement just minutes ago that the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is stepping down. She is someone that has been in the post for three years. And in the statement, he says, on day one Marcia got to work rebuilding the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And over the past three years, she has been a strong voice for expanding efforts to build generational wealth through homeownership and learning -- lowering costs and promoting fairness for America's renters. Now, in USA Today, she provided an exclusive interview where she told the newspaper that it's quote, time to go home. And she said that she believes that she has done everything she can for the department and is expected to resign this month.