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Ex-Trump WH Aide Peter Navarro Reports To Prison; Today: Biden Campaigns In Critical Western Battleground States; Biden Campaign Ads Target Young Latino Voters; Can Biden Keep Nevada And Arizona Blue?; Ohio Senate Race Could Determine The Balance Of Power; Ohio Voters To Decide Who Will Face Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown; Democratic Super PAC Spends Big In GOP OH Sen primary. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 19, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the wild, wild west. That's where Joe Biden is heading as the person that kicks off a three-day campaign swing in Nevada and Arizona, two battleground states that are critical to his path to reelection.

Plus, the power of a Trump endorsement. It's being put to the test for the first time in 2024 high stakes Republican primary in Ohio today that could ultimately determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

And Donald Trump is pushing a dangerous antisemitic trope, claiming Jews who vote for Democrats, quote, hate Israel. I'll talk to a Jewish progressive congresswoman whose father survived the Holocaust about the power and perils of the former president's words.

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

We start today with the breaking news out of Florida. Peter Navarro, a former top White House adviser to Donald Trump turned himself into a federal prison in Miami, where he'll serve a four-month sentence for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena.

It's the first time an ex White House official has been imprisoned for contempt of Congress. As expected, the scene was a spectacle because it carries weight, not only because of the precedent it sets, but also the legal and political stakes for Donald Trump and his current bid for the White House.

CNN's Randi Kaye is live for us outside the federal prison in Miami. Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Dana. Yeah, it was -- it was quite a scene here. He came out swinging. He spoke for about 30 minutes. And for much of that time, Dana, he railed against the Democrats, the January 6 committee, the judge in his case.

As you know, he was convicted in September after not complying with a subpoena from the House Select Committee. They wanted him to come testify and handover some documents. He refused to do so. And then he asked the Supreme Court, of course, to let him remain free while he challenged that conviction, but they rejected that.

You did mention, of course, that he is the first former White House official who is expected to now be behind bars for contempt of Congress. He's expected, Dana, to serve about four months. He said that this is going to be harder on his family than him. He said he wasn't that scared of prison. But this is also some more of what he had to say at this news conference.


PETER NAVARRO, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Every person who has taken me on this road to that prison is a friggin' Democrat and a Trump hater. Let me walk you through it. It starts with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who forms the J six committee blows away all the rules, improperly constituted, unduly authorized and unlawful committee. He puts on seven Democrats. Every single one on fact checking. Every single one of those went after Donald Trump through to impeachment and the Russia hoax, and all they want to do is stop Trump.


KAYE: And Dana, right after that news conference, he got in his car with his lawyer and drove just down the road to the prison where he was going to need a security guard we are told, and they will process him, take him in their car into the facility and there won't be any photographs or anything like that. But then he is officially in prison custody.

We are also told by his prison consultant that he is expected to remain there in -- for his time there in airconditioned dormitory where there will be about 80 elderly inmates. He is 74. And Navarro is also expected to have to take classes, work a job. His prison consultant was telling us that he hopes that he would work a job inside given the warmer conditions here in Florida. But certainly, it's going to be a difficult time for him there. Dana?

BASH: No question and a day for the history books. Randi, thank you so much for that reporting. President Biden is on his way out west to kick off of swing through battleground states there. Next hour, he'll touch down in Nevada. Later he will visit Arizona. The two states could be key to his path to winning a second term. And one thing Biden is focused on right now is securing and boosting Latino support in those states.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live for us in Las Vegas. Arlette, what's on the president's agenda today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, President Biden is heading out west to give his reelection pitch to voters here in Nevada and Arizona. As he's looking to defend the two states where he beat Donald Trump back in 2020. Now the president will start here in Arizona -- Nevada before traveling on to Arizona and then Texas on Thursday for a pair of fundraisers.

[12:05:00] But the president will start his day today up in Reno, meeting with campaign workers and volunteers before coming here to Las Vegas, where his big pitch will focus on ways to make housing more affordable. At a time when many Americans are struggling with high mortgages and high rents and it's struggling also to even buy a first home.

But at the heart of President Biden's pitch, while he is out here in the west will be trying to appeal to Latino voters. Latino voters make up a sizable portion of the electorate, both here in Nevada and in Arizona. And it comes as former President Donald Trump has tried to make some inroads within the community.

So, President Biden is trying to shore up support with these groups. Ahead of the trip, he taped a pair of Spanish radio interviews, where he argued that former President Trump's language regarding to migrants, his treatments -- language relating to Latinos show that the president quote, despises -- that Trump despises Latinos.

The president's campaign has also released an ad today, trying to present a clear choice between Biden and Trump to Latino voters, arguing things about insulin saying that that'll help Latino grandparents in a way that Trump's policies have nots. The president a little bit later today will be heading to Phoenix where he will launch the campaign's Latinos con Biden-Harris initiative and organizing program to really try to mobilize Latino voters.

The campaign recognizes that work needs to be done within this Latino community, which has typically made up a strong portion of the Democratic electorate, but that Republicans have really tried to dig into in recent years. So, they're laying that groundwork early, trying to reach out to those voters now as they are expecting a very close contest in these two states heading into November.

BASH: Despises -- Donald Trump despises Latinos. That's some strong stuff. Thank you so much for that, Arlette. Appreciate it. I want to talk more about all this with my great panel, CNN's Eva McKend, POLITICO's Olivia Beavers, and Margaret Talev of Axios. Welcome back Olivia. I knew you when.

Let's start by kind of setting the table by looking at Nevada first. And the stakes given where the state has gotten. I mean, recently on the presidential level, it has gone democratic. But if you look closer at every two years and even in the midterms, about how close it has gotten. I mean, the Senate, it owes only by less than a percentage point, governor 1.5.

And then if you look back at in 2020, it was decided just by little more than 2.5 percent. And if you kind of go back, you can see it's changed just a little bit. When you look at the presidential -- excuse me, the governor and the Senate race 2022. In particular, the fact that the Senate race was decided by about 8,000 votes. That is what the Democrats and Republicans are both looking at when they're looking at traveling to Nevada and making the case that we deserve President Biden is today.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: Dana, this is a real swing state. The economy has the ability or maybe the momentum to push it a little right. And that is even though Democrats have long counted on Latino voters to carry them over the line. And in Nevada, I think it's about one out of five registered voters. Latino in Arizona could be as high a share as one in four who may go to the polls. This year, Latino vote is extremely important in these two states.

But Democrats have been slowly coming to the realization in the last couple of cycles, that you can't just count on Latino voters to punch the ticket and vote Democratic. And look housing, the price of daily goods, all these matters to all voters, but they have real impact among Latino voters. And that's a real pressure point that Biden is going to have to deal with.

BASH: Because you mentioned that we actually have the data on the percentage -- percent rather, of eligible voters who are Hispanic in Arizona, as you said now that of course, 25 percent, Nevada 22 percent. Arlette mentioned the new ad that the Biden campaign has out. And I want you to listen to part of it and we'll talk about on the other side.


BASH: First of all, the content which talking about abuelos and meeting grandparents and talking about the cost of insulin, but also the fact that it was done in Spanglish. Every other word is either English or Spanish, which as one of our producers was saying today it is -- this is a really critical point.


When you look at the younger generation of Latinos, many of them don't speak Spanish as well as their grandparents. And this kind of language -- kind of combining English and Spanish -- English and Spanish really resonates.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It's important. It's an important strategic choice that they've made. My sense from speaking to organizers in Arizona, though, is that their organizing strategy is less of a focus on the top of the ticket, less of a focus on selling President Biden at the doors.

And more talking about the importance of their organizing power, what they have been able to accomplish in the state locally and why strategically it's important to keep supporting Democrats. So, they look at their democratic governor in Arizona, for instance, and say that she has been able to stave off some of the most draconian immigration policies at the state level. That is what they're leaning on, not so much selling President Biden himself.

BASH: That's interesting. And it makes sense. You want to do it from the bottom-up. Olivia, I remember being in Nevada, right before the midterms in 2022. When I was going around door-to-door with the arm of the Republican National Committee that was new at the time, really trying to go after the Hispanic vote.

And watching these people, these volunteers go up and talk to these potential voters. And I heard them say, over and over, I have voted Democratic in the past. I'm open to something else. Now it didn't turn out for the Republicans in that particular Senate race, the Democrat won. But it was a window.

OLIVIA BEAVERS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Certainly, Republicans have been trying that for some years. If you look in Florida, they've made inroads with Latino and Hispanic voters. But I think you're even seeing that more broadly. I don't think it's any mistake that Donald Trump -- that President Biden use the word despises in his language. Because right now, both presidential campaigns are fighting for that core group of voters. And President Biden won about 24 percent of Latino voters in 2020.

And some polling suggests, which, you know, Democrats are a little bit dismissive of is that he's down to 7 percent with them and that is a huge jump. So, he's doing these Spanish ads. He's coming out with hard hitting words. And he's trying to separate himself, especially with this voting bloc compared to president -- Donald Trump.

BASH: You mentioned housing. And we cannot say this loud enough and strongly enough about how big of an issue it is. Nationally, but particularly in Nevada. I mean, look at these numbers. The monthly income spent on rent, 23.5 percent rent growth is down, income growth is -- you know, barely up and certainly doesn't come close to the spike in the cost of living and the cost of housing there.

TALEV: You can't say it enough. When economists talk about the economy or when experts talk about the economy, they're talking about unemployment rate, how the stock market is doing, long term trajectories, you know, consumer confidence, all this stuff. When you ask voters at their proverbial kitchen table, what does the economy mean to you. They're talking about housing and the price of food and gas and goods.

You got to live somewhere, and you got to eat. And that is the dividing line between upper middle class and wealthy voters and middle class and working-class voters. And the Republican Party has been fairly successful at rebranding themselves during the sort of Trump years as the party that's courting the working class -- working class messaging, housing and food are working class and middle-class issues, period paragraph.

And it's important for Biden to talk about it to show compassion. But I think voters want more than talk like what relief so they can pay the rent, because they're not getting mortgages at 7 percent.

BASH: I just want to clarify rent -- that graphic shows and I just want to make sure I clarify. Rent is falling just a bit, but it is falling.

TALEV: It's very expensive.

BASH: But it is still very expensive. It's up from a very high point. Just to switch gears a little bit Eva, talking a lot about the Latino vote, because it is such a big share of the vote in these two states. So, we're Native American voters. And this is another voting bloc that Democrats have a very much relied on. And the question now is whether some of what we were just talking about inflation, the economy in general is going to be a big issue.

Here's the story done on NPR back last month. Biden doesn't have everybody's vote. He has a lot of work he still has to do. There is so much work that needs to be done with Indian -- within Indian country. Nothing's ever a lock. In these past four years, things have gotten a lot more expensive too. Yeah, Biden has given a historic amount of money to Indian country, but the cost of everything is a lot more. This is from Arizona voter in the San Carlos Apache Tribe.


MCKEND: Yeah. And so, the ads might not work in small communities like this one. It's going to be a lot of retail politics and talking to community organizers one-on-one. My sense is key to the strategy is talking about Biden's record on student loan forgiveness, on job creation, much less of a focus on him and the things that he has been able to achieve and will continue to achieve if he's reelected.

BASH: OK. Everybody standby. How much influence does a Trump endorsement have in a GOP primary these days? That's going to be put to the test today in a race that could sway the balance of power here in Washington. We're going to be live in Ohio after a quick break.


BASH: There's a pivotal primary in Ohio today that could end up deciding the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Republicans are choosing a nominee to run against Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. It's a state Democrats must hold to have any shot at keeping the U.S. Senate. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live at a polling place in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio Jeff what's happened in there


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Dana, this Ohio race is going to be one of the marquee contests in the fall, if not the marquee contest. But who Sherrod Brown faces will determine just how competitive that race may be. Voting is underway here in Ohio. It's been really for the last couple of weeks with early voting and the polls will be open until 7:30 this evening.

But the candidates here in this heated battle really have been going after one another in an incredibly acrimonious way. And Donald Trump has loomed large in this race as well. This is the only race that he essentially has not cleared the field with his endorsement. But he did endorse Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, one of the candidates in this race.

She's also endorsed by Senator JD Vance, who Moreno lost to in 2022. And Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the chair of the Judiciary Committee also has endorsed Bernie Moreno in this contest. Matt Dolan is a state senator from Ohio. He's endorsed by the other wing, if you will, of this Republican Party. Governor Mike DeWine, former Senator Rob Portman have endorsed Matt Dolan. And the competition between Bernie Moreno and Dolan has been so significant. It's been heated. It's been, quite frankly, pretty nasty here. $40 million have been spent on this race. All of this worries some Republicans who believe that Senator Brown could actually win in November if this race ends in a certain way. I caught up with Governor Mike DeWine, who actually lost to Sherrod Brown back in 2006. He had this to say about why it's so important to pick the right candidate.


GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Sherrod Brown is very wily. He's been elected three times in the United States Senate. He has been running for office for 40 years. He's very, very good at campaigning. So, he is going to be tough to beat. Can he be beat? Absolutely, absolutely. Matt Dolan is by far the strongest person to do it.


ZELENY: So certainly, this will be a test of the former president strength as well, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, also running today. In fact, he voted behind me here just a few moments ago. He called out Democrats for meddling in this race. In his words, the Super PAC that is closely linked to Senator Schumer has been actually advertising here -- promoting the candidacy of Bernie Moreno. So, this definitely is a nasty contest there. But the outcome of this tonight will certainly depend how competitive this race is in November. Dana?

BASH: Fascinating. This race is absolutely one to watch. And we will be doing it along with you all day long into the evening. Thank you so much, Jeff. Appreciate it. Our panel is back to discuss this Senate race and others, happening on this Election Day in several states. Let's stick though with Ohio for now.

The question on another news channel to Moreno again, Moreno is the one backed by Donald Trump was -- what does he want voters to know before they go to the polls? His answer was quite telling.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your message to voters, a final pitch if you will?

BERNIE MORENO (R) OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: It's pretty simple. President Trump, J.D. Vance, Jim Jordan have endorsed me, by opponents endorsed by the swamp RINO establishment and the editorial board of the liberal Cleveland Plain Dealer.


BASH: That here's what I've done. It's here's who likes me.

MCKEND: I mean, the Trump endorsement is pivotable -- pivotal in an Ohio Republican primary. I covered the last Senate contest there. And a lot of the attacks waged against Moreno that he is in authentic that he's fake. A lot of the comments that are dug up about him are in his business record, maybe when he took a more inclusive left leaning position.

Republicans are weaponizing that against him. A lot of those comments were made about J.D. Vance, who remember at one point was a never Trumper. But he still was able to eke out a win in that Republican primary due to the power of the Trump endorsement. So, he thinks that that's the most important thing. That's all he wants to talk about.

BASH: And that's really one of the many reasons, but I think maybe the key reason today that we are so focused on this. And that is, what is the power of the Trump endorsement right now in the middle of his effective general election campaign?

BEAVERS: I think Republicans generally find Donald Trump's endorsement especially as a big motivator among the grassroots. And so that's what you sort of see with them promoting it. Lauren Boebert was promoting in her race. John McGuire (Ph) who's competing events, Bob Good in Virginia.

That's what he's trying to, you know, achieve so that they can go back to these voters and say, Donald Trump is backing me. It's a, you know, kind of an honor seal for them versus what they voted for or whatnot because the Republican Party especially at the grassroots base is much more populist. And in races like this where it might be close, it could be make or break.


TALEV: Yeah. I was going to say these votes are and are being billed as proxy contests between MAGA and the establishment was left to the establishment Republican Party. And the real question is, it's one thing to win a primary, it's another thing to win a general election. So, what this all sets it up for is if the former president carry some of these candidates across the finish line, gets them on that general election ballot.

The question is, then, will voters -- are more voters more likely to reject extreme candidates or inexperienced candidates? Or are we going to wind up after November with several more extreme or inexperienced candidates?

BASH: Yeah. I mean, it is an open question. Jeff mentioned that the Democrats are playing in this primary as they have done in several other cases. And by playing, I mean, trying to boost the Republican who they think is more beatable in the fall. Let's listen to part of one of those democratic Super PAC ads.


MCKEND: They've had success with this strategy. So, this is why they're employing it. Again, they played in some House races, but their thumb on the scale to push the most conservative Republicans in the primary and then they were easier to beat. So that's the calculation year.

I think that Senator -- state senator Dolan would be probably more difficult in -- to take on in a general election. But the challenge though, is that Moreno was not always -- has not always been as conservative as he purports to be now. And so, he could always lean back on other iterations of who he has been in the past and dole that out in a general election.

BASH: Yeah. Again, it's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out as the day goes on and as we get results tonight. Thanks. Great discussion. Coming up. Retired top military leaders are going to be grilled today on Capitol Hill over the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan, a low point of the Biden presidency.