Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

House GOP Biden Inquiry Stalls As Impeachment Becomes Less Likely; Biden Wraps Up Weeklong Tour Of 5 Battleground States; Today: VP Harris Hosts WH Marijuana Reform Event With Rapper Fat Joe; Schumer Discusses "Long Shot Scenario" With Manchin. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 15, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: It's been six months since House Republicans opened their impeachment inquiry into President Biden and they've got very little to show for it. There are no more closed door witness interviews scheduled and there's no clear consensus on how or even when to end the probe.

As Republicans try to chart a path forward, the White House says, it's time to shut this down. In a letter this week to House Speaker Mike Johnson, White House Counsel Ed Siskel wrote, quote, "It is obviously time to move on, Mr. Speaker. This impeachment is over. There is too much important work to be done for the American people to continue wasting this time -- wasting time on this charade."

CNN's Annie Grayer has been reporting the story for us and has some great new details. You can see her story that it's on on the screen, and luckily she is here with us. Annie?

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Dana, this is not how Republicans thought their 15-month investigation would be going. They -- when they got the majority back in January, investigating the president and his family was a huge focus.

But after 15 months, poring through over 100,000 bank records, interviewing around 40 people, including the president's son, Hunter, and brother, James, their business associates, Department of Justice officials, Iris (ph) whistleblowers, Republicans haven't found any evidence of wrongdoing by the president, and they don't have the votes to impeach.

So the question is, how do you land this plane? House Oversight Chair James Comer wants to do criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, but the other stakeholders in this decision making process, namely Speaker Mike Johnson and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan say more conversations need to be had about that.

Comer also wants to bring Hunter back in for a public hearing, but Republicans -- some Republicans say Hunter came in for his deposition last month. He sat for six plus hours, answered every question that Republicans had, and were surprised at how prepared he was, and don't really know what more they can get from him in a public hearing.

And just looking -- taking a big step back here about how much this has an impact and plays into the 2024 presidential election. Some Republicans say, look, we tried, we investigated, we've did as much as we could, let's wrap this up and focus on delivering for Republican voters in November. Then you have other Republican lawmakers and sources who I talked to and say -- who say, lets drag this out as long as possible.

There's no incentive to end this. And let's hurt -- try and hurt President Joe Biden politically and help Donald Trump as much as possible. So that's where we are six months in and not where Republicans expected to be.

BASH: Such great reporting and just to keep with your your plane illusion, whether they're going to land the plane. Something tells me they're going to just kind of quietly stay in a holding pattern and pretend like the plane's not up in the sky.

Thank you so much, Annie. Appreciate it.

And President Biden isn't spending that much time focused on impeachment. Instead, he is spending the past week, at least, on the campaign trail hitting Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Next week, he's going out West. Stops in Nevada and Arizona.


Jeff is back with me, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times is here, too. And Gloria is also still here.

Jeff, I want to turn to some great reporting that you have that's on right now to bring it sort of alive for us here at the table about the fact that the president aims to prove he can still stump the old way as he -- his, the last campaign kicks into high gear. What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I was struck just watching him stand in a campaign office in Milwaukee. A, that, you know, such a departure from four years ago when he was essentially cloistered in his basement in Delaware, there really weren't campaign offices. So it was just a stark (ph) reminder --

BASH: Because of COVID.

ZELENY: -- because of COVID, exactly. And it was just happening four years ago, like this week. I mean, of course, they had to shut down their headquarters in Philadelphia. So it just was a reminder to me that, yes, this is a rematch, but it's an entirely different race in every shape and form. And the -- stumping the old way, he was standing on a porch yesterday in Saginaw talking to voters.

So one thing that we saw really throughout the week that my colleague Kevin Liptak and I observed was that, yes, he's meeting people, small groups of people by design, obviously, but this is all designed to do one thing -- to reassure Democrats that he's got this and that he is back in the game. And that his campaign infrastructure is ready to go.

There's been a lot of criticism that, you know, is the campaign operating fast enough? That's what all this is about, is to reassure Democrats. They have a lot of work to do down the road on independence and perhaps --

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: -- winning some others over. But this first leg was to sort of get Democrats back on board.

BASH: Such great reporting. I want just to kind of help bolster that. I want our viewers to listen to part of a focus group, specifically with Wisconsin swing voters, on how they feel when they watch Joe Biden.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I see President Biden, I feel am in trust.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say I'd feel hopeful, hopeful about his policies.


BASH: This is from our friend Richard Tho (ph). And I want you to just listen to one other bit of this focus group and this is -- it's something as a mom that parents sort of should strike everybody. It's with somebody who has a young child trying to watch the State of the Union.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who watched all or some of President Biden's State of the Union Address last week? Show of fingers.

SAMANTHA O., WISCONSIN VOTER: It was on the whole thing, but I also had a seven-year-old that kept coming and interrupting me. So I didn't really catch all the parts of it, but it was on.


BASH: I mean, it says it all.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It does, it does. I mean, you know, the comments there could almost be kind of divided into almost like two categories in a way when it comes to the criticism against and the concerns about President Biden and the campaign.

One being sort of the performance. Is he up to this? That you could factor in the concerns around his age and that as well. And then the second one I heard also there, a voter mentioned his policies and how you're feeling about his policies.

And with this trip coming up, I think you can watch both of those things. Is he able to not only have the sort of performance that we saw at the State of the Union, but also develop a sort of consistent and -- a consistent way to describe all of these different bills that have passed and his policies in a way that's digestible to voters, now that we're in basically the general.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He has to show some vitality. And that is what he showed during the State of the Union, and I think that's the purpose of putting him with smaller groups, which he's very good with. He's good at town halls, for example, and he can be really energetic, and I think that's important.

And since this is going to be a choice election, it also provides a contrast to what Donald Trump is doing, which is being in a courtroom a lot of the time. But he's doing these huge rallies.

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: He's not doing Q&As with people who come to see him, so it's a completely different strategy.

BASH: Gloria, I just want to show our viewers something that really speaks to what you're talking about, about Joe Biden in smaller settings. This is the president with a young boy named Harry, talking to him about Harry's stutter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a stutter just like you did.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did, too, but don't let anybody tell you that you can't do anything. These people would make fun of it, like this president making fun. But, remember, look at me. You're smart, you're handsome. You know what you're doing.


BASH: I mean, wow, obviously, he was referring -- for anybody he didn't see, he was referring to Donald Trump, who in a speech --

BORGER: Right.

BASH: -- recently made fun of Joe Biden's stutter.

BORGER: Right. And this happened during the last campaign as well, where he connected with a young person with a stutter. And, by the way, he doesn't just do this on camera. He does this a lot, and he still struggles with it, as we all know from watching him, particularly as the day gets later and later.

[12:40:09] And it's something he has to work with. Every speech he gives, he's got to kind of map it out. And now a lot of people don't know he had it.

ZELENY: And it's something he didn't really talk much about --

BORGER: Right.

ZELENY: -- at all until the campaign last time. And I'm thinking back to that boy. I think he was from New Hampshire.


ZELENY: He saw him during the primary and they developed this connection and then they ended up playing that video during the convention. But it brought chills to me. This young boy talking to the president, I grew up with a stutter as well. And this is something that is very challenging.

And I think the president talking about that's interesting. But that was another part of the relief of the State of the Union among some of the supporters. I was at a watch party in Detroit and they were all Biden fans. And a woman express for six years, so relieved that he did well the performance aspect of it. But that is a very telling video that Biden campaign obviously put out.

BASH: Yes, no question. I want you to jump in on all things Biden, but you're going to want to talk about the next segment because it's high interest.

There's a high interest gathering at the White House, a famous rapper. And the vice president of the United States in a joint meeting on legalizing marijuana.

Mic drop.



BASH: That ganja green, that Cali weed. That is an actual line from Fat Joe's song, "Make It Rain." And today, it's why the Grammy nominated rap artist is at the White House. In the next hour, Vice President Harris will discuss marijuana reform in the West Wing with Fat Joe, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, and people who received pardons for prior marijuana convictions.

My panel is back. And I did not mean to suggest that you were a stoner when I said it would be of high interest to you. I know you've done a lot of reporting on this.


BASH: This is strictly professional.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Yes, yes, yes. I mean, look, this is a important criminal justice issue.

BASH: Yes.

KANNO-YOUNGS: One, it's interesting that the vice president is leaving this round table just for her role as well. Let's remember, the policy and her approach to marijuana and sort of reform over -- drug reform that gave her a lot of grief during the last presidential campaign. So it's interesting to see the arc here of her now leaving this roundtable.

I have reported on the administration's sort of approach to drug reform. President Biden, even during the campaign, really put an emphasis on nonviolent drug crimes. They have issued pardons when it comes to this. But, remember, mostly for federal crimes, which they only have leeway over, that only impacts a sliver of those who have actually committed prior offenses for this.

So it'll be interesting to see if this is mostly an issue that is meant to galvanize a younger base of voters and it's mostly politics or if we actually see a policy change.

BORGER: Well, the president said in this State of the Union, they were going to look at it and also says publicly that nobody should be arrested for possession, period. So, he's sort of come out --

BASH: Let's actually listen to that if you don't mind.


BASH: This is the president talking to a young man holding a sign saying legalize pot.


BIDEN: By the way, I'm taking care of that. No one's going to be jailed. No one should be jailed for just using and possessing marijuana and staying on the record.



BASH: And this is, Jeff, is reminding us that was at his own campaign headquarters in Milwaukee.

BORGER: Right. I think he's made up his mind on this. And I think one of the reasons that Kamala Harris is leading the way on anything that has to do with drugs is because I think the Bidens are very sensitive about that, given hunters problems.


BORGER: And so maybe that gets shifted onto her play.

BASH: But -- go ahead.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Which is, again, interesting again, just because --


KANNO-YOUNGS: -- this was sensitive for her too in the last presidential campaign. I did reporting where I talked to people that worked with her when she was an AG, when she was a DA. This was one of the points of criticism --

BASH: Yes.

KANNO-YOUNGS: -- that a lot of people in the --


BASH: But it was -- but in fairness, it was a very different time. And we have the receipts as they say to show it. Look at the polling. First of all, let's just look at the support now among 18 to 34 year olds. I mean, it's off the charts, 79 percent. 35 to 54, not that far behind 71. 55 plus is 64 percent. That's more than six in 10 Americans, almost two-thirds.

And just let's look to your point about the way Kamala Harris viewed this. It's not just her. 2023 last year, support for marijuana legalization, 70 percent. 2003, it was only 34 percent. '99, 23 percent and then 1969, 12 percent.

ZELENY: The dramatic change. We've seen a lot of state level changes on this as well. There have been referendums in red states and blue states where it is passed. So this certainly is something the public sentiment is behind.

The Biden campaign is hoping that this is one of the things that sort of fires up younger voters --

BASH: So to speak.

ZELENY: -- in the absence of --


ZELENY: Exactly. In the absence of some enthusiasm challenges, frankly, because of foreign policy and other matters. But as Zolan was saying, this is a serious issue, a serious drug reform issue --

BASH: It is.

ZELENY: -- and sentencing issue as well. And there is a big federal review underway that we were just talking about that. And you think that there's not a chance that this is done before November.


KANNO-YOUNGS: We'll see. I mean, just the timing of it is hard to predict. But you basically have HHS reviewing the classification of marijuana right now. It's on the same level as heroin right now, which the president has come out and criticized. But, again, you need the DEA involvement there, too. There's tension there.

BASH: Yes, I mean, obviously we're making jokes about this, but you make such an important point. This is very serious when it comes to the justice system and the inequities there.

Thank you guys so much.

Ahead, could Senator Joe Manchin change his mind and run for reelection in the U.S. Senate? We've got some new exclusive reporting on that next.



BASH: Senator Joe Manchin is flirting with attempts to keep him in the Senate as an independent. My colleague Manu Raju reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to talk the outgoing West Virginia Senator into considering a last ditch Senate run.

Manchin threw cold water on the idea, but in true political fashion, he hedged, calling it quote, "A long, long, long shot scenario" and added, "Nothing is 100 percent in Washington."

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS today. Join me, though, on Sunday for State of the Union among my guests, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senator Mike Rounds and the only grandson of President John F. Kennedy, Jack Schlossberg. I hope to see you this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up next, CNN News Central. Have a great day.