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Today On The Campaign Trail: Trump In Court, Biden In Michigan; Biden Today: Trump "Hurt Black People Every Chance He Gets"; Biden Hits Trump For Saying He Might Make Cuts To Social Security; Today: Harris To Visit Planned Parenthood Clinic In Minnesota; Schumer Says Netanyahu "Lost His Way," Calls For New Election. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, two roads diverged on a campaign trail. One nominee is talking to voters in a must win swing state, while the other is choosing to be inside a courtroom in a must win criminal case. Will Donald Trump's courtroom strategy work in a general election like it did in the primary?

Plus, an obstacle to peace. That's how Chuck Schumer is describing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the highest ranking elected Jewish official in U.S. history is calling for new elections in Israel, while also decrying that rebranding of Hamas terrorist.

And TikTok may need a U.S. owner and fast. Trump's former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says if Congress forces its Chinese owner to sell, he wants in.

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

First up, Donald Trump is inside a Florida courtroom, as we speak for a hearing on his classified documents case. And Joe Biden is heading from one battleground state to another, trying to keep his coalition intact, the one that helped him win the White House four years ago. Yesterday, the president spoke to voters in Wisconsin. Today he's in Michigan, next week, he'll hit Arizona and Nevada.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Milwaukee, where President Biden is about to take off and head to the state next door. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, as President Biden sets to leave Wisconsin on this windy morning here, he clearly is about completing his first lap of these critical battleground states in the week after the State of the Union address.

He'll be heading to Nevada and Arizona, the western part of the battleground next week. And then finishing his battleground tour in North Carolina at the end of the month with Vice President Harris. But there is no doubt. The travel that we have seen over the last several days is a travel he'll be taking over the next several months, leading into November.

But look where he's going. He's going to Saginaw, Michigan this afternoon for an event there. If you look at Saginaw, Michigan, it's one of 25 counties in America. Only 25 that -- over the last four election campaigns voted for President Obama, President Obama, President Trump and President Biden. So this is a bellwether county inside a bellwether state.

If you look at the margins there, so interesting, because the margins in Saginaw County effectively represent the margins overall in the state. Four years ago, President Biden won this county by 303 votes. So that is why he is going there to campaign. So, we will see, as you pointed out, the strategy of these two presidential candidates so different.

Donald Trump in a courtroom. He does not have to be in. President Biden on a campaign trail, he desperately needs to be on to make his case to Democrats first and foremost, to come back into the fold that he's up to the task here and into pivot.

But Dana, one interesting thing the president did before leaving Milwaukee. He spoke to a radio station here, largely a black radio station targeting African American voters and an audience. And he said this. He said, the guy I'm running against hurts black people every chance he gets, not much context in that remark.

But certainly, interesting in the sense that that also speaks to President Biden's strategy, trying to really rebuild that coalition that brought him into the White House that he so desperately needs now. He'll be leaving here in a short period of time going to Michigan, later back to the White House this evening. But we do now know that this battleground is set. It's up to the voters now to decide over the next several months, how they listened to all of this, Dana?

BASH: Thank you so much, Jeff, for a very -- from a very windy, Wisconsin. Those stats about Saginaw County in Michigan are so fascinating. I'm so glad that you brought that to our attention. Thank you.

And I want to now turn to CNN's Kristen Holmes who covers the Trump campaign. Kristen, this is the first time that the former president is in court since he effectively clinched the nomination.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Dana, just as Jeff said, he doesn't have to be there. He could be on the campaign trail, just like President Joe Biden is, and I thought it was so striking. And obviously, you know, this is clear. But looking at the map of where Joe Biden is going and has been those again, are the same states that Donald Trump's team has said are absolutely critical, but he hasn't been to many of them you now.

He's said, has chosen to be in this courtroom and its behind closed doors. This is not one of your traditional Donald Trump using the courtroom as a campaign trail, stop because we're not going to see the former president today. He is not going to give any remarks. He's not going to come out. He's not going to go to any microphones or a camera because there just aren't any inside of the courthouse.


Instead, we are told that he wants to be there. He wants to participate in his own defense, and he wants to signal to the judge that he wants to participate in his own defense whether or not that works as a tactic. It is we're told he wants to be doing.

The other part of this is what it actually looks like when he is forced to go into that courtroom while he's on the campaign trail. And that is expected to start at the end of the month for that New York hush money case. He is expected to be in trial when it actually starts every single day because this is a criminal case.

Donald Trump's team is planning for that. They are planning for how to build a campaign around this trial, meaning Wednesdays when they're not in court, Saturdays when they're not in court. Those are the days that he could be on the campaign trail. Donald Trump himself has said he wants to be in court in the morning and then be on the campaign trail in the evening.

If you talk to his advisors, they acknowledged that that seems highly unlikely, but they are trying to juggle this. Because again, up until now -- up until the end of the month, he will chosen to be in court these various times, not been forced to be in court.

BASH: So interesting. Thank you so much, Kristen. Appreciate that. To discuss all of this and more. Let's talk to our great political panel here, CNNs Lauren Fox, The Washington Post's Tyler Pager, and CNN's Eva McKend. This is your maiden appearance here. Thank you for coming on.

Let's start with you about kind of this juxtaposition that we're seeing today between the two candidates, Biden and Trump. And I know you do a lot of reporting inside the Biden world about how they view the way that they can try to use this as an advantage, not just the fact that he has the ability to go out and talk to voters, but more totally.

TYLER PAGER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. This is the exact splitscreen that Biden campaign has been waiting for, for months. They are now both the presumptive nominees, Trump and Biden. Biden is on the campaign trail, talking to voters, talking about his agenda. And as Kristen just outlined, Trump is in a courtroom in Florida, nowhere to be seen.

And this is not just about, as you said, the physical location of where they are. But using this as a message to drive home to voters, that Biden is not someone that's facing many criminal indictments, someone that, you know, is going to be in court many times over the next several months but can go out and do things and achieve things for the American people. And I think that's the message that they want to see the president honing on as well.

How much he talks about Trump? I think is the big question, right? Some of these cases are being charged by Biden's own justice department. And that creates an awkward tension here, where Biden doesn't want to get too involved in those cases and try to stay away and show that that the Justice Department is doing this independently from him. But it's still the reality that Trump is facing many criminal indictments that is well while Biden is out on the campaign trail.

BASH: Yeah, and very true. And where we go with the campaign right now, it's sort of nice to take a peek to see where we are. Fox did a poll in a few states over the last few weeks. And what they found, and we'll put it up Pennsylvania and Arizona two critical swing states. It's basically static.

We haven't seen a major move, whether it's from the president's State of the Union address, or any of these other things that we're talking about. So that's the sort of baseline. And it's similar, -- not only nationally, which matters less now than the battleground states, but also other battleground states as well.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It is. But now obviously, it's very, very different because the choice is clear. So I think we may be in the weeks ahead, we'll see those numbers shift a little bit. Another interesting point from that poll was, how important to voters being mentally sound and honest and trustworthy are. Those were sort of their top concerns and were honest and trustworthy. Biden got high marks. Trump got higher marks when it came to being mentally sound.

And so, this aggressive schedule the next couple of weeks. It really gives the Biden team an opportunity to insulate themselves from some of these arguments about his age. Even if he stumbles at certain points, retail politics still works. And so if he's crisscrossing the country, talking to voters about the issues that matters, that kind of puts a hole in this sort of obsession about the age narrative.

BASH: Speaking of age, this is going to be an interesting transition that we're about to make. Let's talk about Social Security and Medicare. Because this has been a very hot topic in the last 24 hours or so between these two candidates, very, very important. It always is. But listen first to what President Biden said about Donald Trump on Social Security.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Just this week, Donald Trump said, cuts to Social Security, Medicare are on the table. When asked if he changed his position, he said, quote, there's a lot we can do in terms of cutting.

I won't cut Social Security. I will not cut Medicare. Instead of cutting Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to the super wealthy, I'm going to protect and strengthen Social Security, Medicare to make the wealthy began to pay their fair share.



BASH: Let's look at what the president is referring to. Donald Trump was on CNBC on Monday. Listen to what he said there?


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, first of all, there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting, and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements.


BASH: Then, a couple days later, he -- yesterday, he tried to clean it up. Lauren, he said to Breitbart. I will never do anything that will jeopardize or hurt Social Security or Medicare. We have to do it elsewhere. But we're not going to do anything to hurt them.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the issue that congressional Republicans, people who are running down ballot do not want Donald Trump to touch with a 10-foot poll. This is an issue that turns voters out. This is an issue that scares older voters. This is an issue that matters in the election. And that is why Joe Biden is so happy to talk about it on the campaign trail.

Why he is so happy to point it out in State of the Union speeches, which he has done over the course of the last two years, because he does want to drive home a difference between them on this issue. And it's why you see Trump trying to clean it up.

It can be true that a lot can be done, to redo, to rethink how we deal with Social Security and Medicare in this country, and how we try to drive down the country's debt. That is a conversation that Republicans candidly would be happy to have, perhaps not in a campaign year.

BASH: Well, Nikki Haley sort of tried to go there a little bit ---

FOX: It's dangerous.

BASH: He didn't get -- didn't get in. That wasn't the reason why he didn't get fired. But it was interesting to see. What are you hearing from your sources? I'm sure again, the Biden campaign is like -- you want to talk about cutting Social Security, bring it on, Mr. Tyler.

PAGER: I mean, they have enjoyed this opportunity since the last State of the Union in 2023 when Biden's, you know, off script sort of sparred with Republicans in the House Chamber and got them in his view to agree to not cut Social Security. And that was something that a lot of allies and aides of the president were like, look, Biden is sharp, Biden is able to tussle with Republicans. And they were really excited about that.

We saw him try to do that again in this State of the Union, trying to draw out Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republicans trying to show that he has that fight in him. And so this is an opportunity that they would love to talk about, obviously, people that benefit from Social Security.

And, you know, other benefits are the ones that are more reliable voters. They're the ones that are turning out to the polls. And that is the reason why, as Lauren just said, congressional Republicans are really worried about this.

BASH: Another block of voters that Democrats have been hoping -- turnout for them are women, female voters, particularly suburban female voters. And to kind of help that along, if you will, the vice president is making a pretty historic trip. She is going to go visit a Planned Parenthood clinic today.

MCKEND: This makes a lot of sense to put this issue front and center. We saw during the midterms, where Democrats defied expectations. And we even saw some voters who historically supported Republicans because this conversation -- this was -- became about liberty, became about choice because it was so existential. They voted for some of these moderate Democrats.

So, I'm interested to see where they go with this. I know that they are making this a number one issue. They're even competing in North Carolina this cycle in a real way, which is really interesting. Democrats have historically suffered a lot of heartbreak when they've tried to compete in that state. But they think that they have -- I think a better chance this cycle because of issues like abortion.

FOX: Yeah. I mean, this is also an issue that has become really dominant on the Hill, when you talk. Mike Johnson, just this morning was pressed on whether or not there should be national legislation to protect IVF. And his argument is that this is a state issue and that he supports IVF. He thinks that should be done in an ethical way.

Obviously, there are questions about what you mean by the term, ethical way. But this is becoming not just about the issue of abortion, but now Democrats are seizing more broadly on just reproductive care at large. And I think that that message, even if you might feel one way about abortion if you're a voter, you may feel differently about IVF, which is why Democrats are trying to make this a larger conversation.

PAGER: And one of the things that I just think is fascinating about this is that it's Kamala Harris that is going to this clinic. Joe Biden, a devout Catholic has long been uncomfortable with the issue of abortion. It is not even a word he said in his State of the Union address. It took him a while as president. There was a running clock of how long it would take him to say the word abortion.

Obviously, Kamala Harris has seized on this issue, made it a priority for herself. But as interesting an issue that has been so successful for Democrats electorally, the president has not been out front as the champion of the issue because of his own deeply held beliefs about it.


BASH: Yeah. And she has certainly taken on this dismantle and taken it on very willingly. Standby guys, because up next. We'll talk about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who just called for new elections in Israel, saying it's time for Prime Minister Netanyahu to go what Schumer said in his lengthy and nuanced Senate floor speech. And why the GOP leader responded calling it grotesque.


BASH: Chuck Schumer isn't just the Senate majority leader, he's also the highest ranking elected American Jew in the U.S. government. He said today that he knows -- that means his words on Israel carry extra weight. And the words he used today tried to capture the complicated and volatile situation five months after Hamas' terror attack inside Israel. But he clearly knew what the headline would be. His criticism is of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his call for new elections in Israel.


CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, he said the only way to get to a place where everything calms down is to be committed once again to his two-state solution. He believes the extremes on both sides Hamas and Gaza. He said the very right-wing government -- of Netanyahu's government. Those are preventing this path to some form of peace.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And look, this really underscores the growing unrest within the Democratic Party over the handling of this war and the calls for the top Democrats to do more in going as far as Chuck Schumer just did. It is significant because he is not in line with the progressive wing of his party on the issues of Israel.

In fact, he has been in Israel Hawk for most of his career. Back in 2015, he lobbied against the Iran nuclear deal, aligning himself with Bibi Netanyahu against Barack Obama. But in this case, he is hearing concerns and now voicing those concerns, saying that is -- Netanyahu himself who is an obstacle to peace in calling for new elections in Israel.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7. The world has changed radically since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past. I believe that holding a new election. Once the war starts to wind down, would give Israelis an opportunity to express their vision for the postwar future. Of course, the United States cannot dictate the outcome of an election, nor should we try.


RAJU: And there's immediately provoked a furious response from Republicans. In fact, the speaker of the House held a hastily -- held press conference in West Virginia where they're having their annual retreat, the Republicans are in the House railing against Chuck Schumer. And then on the Senate floor, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell went after Schumer and called his remarks grotesque.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It is grotesque and hypocritical for Americans who hyperventilate about foreign interference in our own democracy to call for the removal of a democratically elected leader of Israel. This is unprecedented. We should not treat fellow democracies this way at all.


RAJU: And it's more than just rhetoric, Dana. There are billions of dollars on the line aid to Israel hung up in the Senate and the House, unable to get that through. The United States House is tied up into a larger debate over foreign aid, including aid to Ukraine. But this position by Democrats about how Israel is waging its war will only undoubtedly make it harder to get enough Democratic support to get that Israel aid over the finish line. Dana?

BASH: Manu, thank you so much for that. I want to bring in Susan Glasser, staff writer at The New Yorker. Susan, thank you so much for being here. You've covered the Middle East extensively for years. Also, kind of the -- the way that diplomacy works and doesn't work. And as I was listening, again to Schumer, I was wondering to myself, whether or not this was a bit of a wink and a nod because the White House can't do this. But he obviously feels passionately about it.

And again, I want to emphasize, this is a very long -- very nuanced speech intentionally. So I was told that he's been working on it for about a month. But the fact that he's calling for new elections, what do you think the backstory is here?

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Yeah. I think you're exactly right, Dana. He is saying out loud, what many frustrated officials inside the Biden administration, you know, might like to say publicly, but can't, which is that Democrats are done with Netanyahu. They are extremely concerned about his prosecution of the war.

I was very struck by the language that Majority Leader Schumer used in saying essentially, that Netanyahu was prioritizing his own political survival at the expense of Israel and Israel's partners unstated in the United States. This is a political moment.

Schumer speech was addressed. I think to Democrats here inside the United States, many of whom are extremely fed up with President Biden support for the Israeli war and how it's being executed in Gaza. And I think that, what you heard there is something that -- you might have heard from a lot of administration officials if they (Inaudible)

BASH: So, that was definitely -- I think you're absolutely right. It was -- he was expressing the frustration among Democrats with Israel. He also had a message to many in his base about his clear frustration. And frankly, look -- it sounds like horror at the fact that Hamas, a terror organization is now being lauded as the good guys in some corners. Listen to that part?



SCHUMER: It was Hamas who assassinated more moderate Palestinian political representatives in Gaza in 2007. It is Hamas who was held Gaza under repressive undemocratic rule for close to two decades. And it is Hamas who targeted those brave Gazans who have spoken out against its actions or tried to bridge the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jewish-Americans and Israelis alike have been appalled and hurt at efforts to rebrand Hamas, which is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, as noble resistance or freedom fighters, attempts to excuse their horrific actions against both Israelis and Palestinians are morally repugnant.


BASH: Translation is like, don't lose the plot here, Democrats.

GLASSER: Yeah, that's right. I mean, look, in the -- he's trying to open up some political space in what has become a very zero-sum debate about Israel and Hamas in the United States and in other countries in the west, where one is either supporting all the actions of one or the other. And, you know, for Schumer, for many Democrats, neither one of those positions is appealing.

But mostly, I think you're really hearing just an election year cry for -- you know, the status quo not being acceptable. It is now taking a toll inside the Democratic coalition in a way that Democrats worry could affect both President Biden's reelection, could affect the unity of the Democratic Party. Pretty remarkable.

Also, as Manu's reporting shows to, here Republicans crying about the hypocrisy of Democrats in criticizing Israel. I would note that it's Republicans in the House who have held up the spending bill that would supply both Israel as well as Ukraine with urgently needed funds in these conflicts. So again, there's the rhetoric but there's also the real-world policy debate.

BASH: Yeah. And I'm sure you would agree. I don't remember a leader calling for new elections inside the country of a close ally, certainly in my lifetime covering politics and covering international affairs. I'm guessing you would agree with that as well. Susan, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on, putting everything in perspective.

GLASSER: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you. Two days ago, Donald Trump became his party's presumptive presidential nominee. Today he's playing a different role inside a Florida courtroom defendant.