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Inside Politics

Texas Law Allowing Local Police to Deport Migrants Back on Hold; House Holds Public Hearing as Probe Into Biden Family Stalls; Trump Doubles Down on Anti-Semitic Trope That Democrats Are Opposed to Jewish People; U.S. Drops From List of Top-20 Happiest Countries. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: A hardline immigration law that would allow Texas to arrest anyone suspected of crossing the Texas-Mexico border illegally is on hold once again. This comes after a legal flip-flop yesterday, just hours after the Supreme Court ruled Texas could take matters into its own hands. And an appeals court stepped in and said, no, not so fast.

Ed Lavandera is on the ground and El Paso, Texas. Ed, this is a legal and emotional, a political roller coaster. Bring us up to date on what is happening right now with this controversial law.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and good luck to everyone trying to keep up with the quick changing developments in the story. But the oral arguments for -- have just ended in that appellate court and this is -- we are expecting perhaps at some point another decision on whether or not -- at least temporarily whether or not this Texas law would be allowed to go into effect while the legal case against it continues in the court system as well. So, we'll kind of spare you all of those details, but just know that right now, this law is not in effect, but it could change at any moment.

And what law enforcement agencies across the state, Dana, are really grappling with right now as they closely watched these, the legal whiplash going on here, is trying to figure out exactly how they would implement this law and what kind of guidance they would give officers, sheriffs, deputies across the state to handle all of this. And we've spoken with a number of different organizations across the state and the prevailing theme we are hearing from them is that there doesn't seem to be a real appetite for officers, sheriffs, deputies to go out and just start asking people for immigration documentation and arresting solely on that.

Many of the officers and the police chiefs and sheriffs that we've spoken with say, if in the course of investigating other crimes like burglary or assault or anything like that, if this immigration issue comes up, then that law will be enforced at that time. But many of these officers say, look, there just simply isn't the manpower, there isn't the jail space and on top of all of that, enforcing immigration documentation issues is they believe the sole purpose of the federal law enforcement agents on the ground here in Texas.

So, many people here watching all of this closely as they are going to pay attention to what's happening in the courts and of course, all of this also happening at a time where we've really seen a dramatic de- escalation of the number of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border into the U.S. from Texas to California, almost a 50 percent drop since from December to January. And those numbers are appear to continue dropping here in the month of February, although we don't have those official numbers just yet, Dana.

BASH: Yeah. That's an important point about the drop. I didn't realize it was almost 50 percent since December. That's quite interesting. Thank you so much. Keep us posted on the whiplash, which is exactly what it is going on in the courts.

LAVANDERA: We'll try.


BASH: OK. Thanks, Ed. Right now, a spectacle on Capitol Hill as House Republicans hold another impeachment when hearing on an investigation that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.



BASH: Right now, the House Oversight Committee appears to be moving full steam ahead with a hearing of the impeachment of President Joe Biden, even as the inquiry itself seems to be stalled, marking yet another misfire from House Republicans on their never-ending quest to find evidence that President Biden committed impeachable offenses, which to be clear, they have not yet uncovered.

Hunter Biden was invited to testify today, he declined. You see there an empty chair that Republicans put there anyway, a fitting symbol for an investigation that so far is lacking in evidence, but is definitely full of theatrics. CNN's Manu Raju is joining me now from Capitol Hill. Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana, this hearing has -- Republicans have tried to show that there is new evidence to connect Joe Biden to Hunter Biden, his business activities, and tried to cite this witness that has been testifying as Biden family associate, Tony Bobulinski. But, they have so far failed to really connect the actions of Hunter Biden with Joe Biden or suggest that the president or when he was acting as vice president did anything corruptly. That's been really the focus of today's hearing.

In fact, the large part has been Democratic effort to really assail the credibility of Bobulinski. Things that he had said about Joe Biden's interactions, they say he simply doesn't have any evidence to back it up. In fact, there was a fight in this hearing today about whether or not they can examine Bobulinski's cell phone to backup some of the allegations that he has been making about Joe Biden and his connection with his son. They would say there's simply nothing to prove that the president,

when he was vice president or when he was in public office, did anything corruptly. And the question to going forward is where do Republicans take this? Right now, there's not much support within -- there is not enough support within the House GOP conference to actually move forward with an article of impeachment. And I put that question to the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, whose committee would oversee articles of impeachment. And I asked him about how he can move forward without having the support within his conference.



RAJU: It seems like there is -- this is -- there is waning support within your conference to move forward with actual articles of impeachment. Why not, after this, pull the plug?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Well, there's no -- the constitution to put it -- doesn't put a limit on how much time it takes to do your duty of oversight of the executive branch. So, we are going to do our duty, we are going to -- I've always been driven by the facts. I think there's a compelling case there, but I've never said what we should do in the end. We are just going to keep doing our work and then the conference will make a decision. That's how the problem process works.


RAJU: But the question is, what does that mean, Dana? Some members want to actually have a vote, others simply will say they will not support going ahead, and some simply just want to keep an investigation ongoing to keep a cloud of suspicion over Joe Biden's head, and others are fearful if they move forward with a vote and it fails, it would essentially absolve Joe Biden of any wrongdoing, which just shows you the challenges any day (ph), risks of going down the road and impeachment inquiry. Ultimately, you have to make a decision and Republicans don't know what the decision is quite yet.

BASH: That exchange that you had with Jim Jordan was very, very telling, Manu. Thank you so much for that reporting. And my panel of reporters here is back. And Melanie, you just came from Capitol Hill.


BASH: You were outside that hearing. I want to play a little bit of what the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Comer, said this morning.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The scam is simple. The Biden family promises they can make a foreign partner's problems go away by engaging the U.s. government. Joe shows up, shakes a few hands in front of his son and says, "Take care of my boy" or something similar, and the money flows. Joe Biden is the family's closer. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Those are big words, big sentences, big statements. But as Manu was saying, and we have to emphasize, we have seen no evidence to back that up.

ZANONA: Right. And even the witnesses that were testifying today, these individuals who, in some cases, were only loosely associated with Hunter Biden, all they said was that Joe Biden would sometimes pop in on phone calls or pop in on meetings when other business associates were present, but never discuss details of business deal. So, they still don't even have the evidence to back it up, even at today's hearing, which we should point out is only the second public hearing they've had on impeachment.

So, the expectation right now is that they are not going to pursue impeachment articles. But as Manu was getting at, Republicans are in a dilemma right now, because if they end their impeachment inquiry without impeachment, they don't want to look like they're absolving President Biden of wrongdoing. And so, they're trying to find an off ramp, whether that's criminal referrals, a final report, some sort of legislation, or just dragging it out for the rest of the year.

BASH: Or (inaudible).


ZANONA: Right.

BASH: Yeah.

ZANONA: And trying to politically damage Biden in any way. But that is where the Republican Party is at right now.

BASH: Me thinks we are going to see a zombie investigation.

HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Look, Jim Comer is kind of telling us where it's going to go. And that is, sorry, not Jim Comer, Jim Jordan was telling us where it's going to go and that is the conference is going to decide. And we've all talked to enough Republicans to know that there aren't the votes there. So, normally in politics, you have a -- not an if, but a when question, but there's no if here. It's just more of a when question and we know what the outcome is.

So again, things can dramatically change. There can be new evidence and there can be a smoking gun, but there's not a whole lot of whiffs (ph) or any sort of suggestion that's the case. And so, the endgame is clear. It's just a question of the timing, and is there going to be an off-ramp?

BASH: Meanwhile, there is nothing short of theater when you're looking at most Congressional hearings that are made for not just c-span, for cable TV. We mentioned at the beginning of the segment that the Republicans put an empty chair there for Hunter Biden, who they knew wasn't going to show up. Then on the Democratic side, you had Jared Moskowitz, the Democrat who has been very outspoken about how he feels about this investigation. If you can't tell who that mask is supposed to be, it's Vladimir Putin trying to make a point. Obviously, it's -- as I call it, cable cat nip. But what the heck.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It doesn't look like Putin to me either. But anyway --

BASH: It's a deal (ph).


BASH: Just go with it.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Listen, I think we do know where this is going to go. As you said, it will essentially be sort of a zombie investigation. They like the sword of all conversations they can have on Fox News about this, even though lately, I think the folks on Fox News are sort of like put up or shut up when Comer gets on there. But it is -- they saw their President Donald Trump face very true (ph) legitimate impeachment hearings and obviously, got kicked over to the Senate. And they want to do the same for Biden.

They want to damage his reputation. They want to damage his son's reputation. And that's all they are up to. There isn't going to be any sort of impeachment. They didn't really have the votes to begin with. There are a lot of particularly moderate Republicans who didn't like where this was going, but the sort of political damage they think they can keep incurring against Biden.


HENDERSON: What's interesting is, in listening to voters, particularly swing-state voters, this isn't really breaking through with them. It is cat nip for the Republican base. I'm sure Donald Trump loves it, but actual voters, it's very hard to follow what they have been up to over these last months.

BASH: Great conversation. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Coming up, Donald Trump doubles down on widely criticized anti-Semitic comments about Jewish voters. The political implications, not just for Jews, but for democracy. We'll explain after a break.



BASH: If you watched this program yesterday, you saw our coverage of Former President Donald Trump's dangerous and anti-Semitic comments on a conservative podcast. After our show, he doubled down on those remarks.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the Democrats have been very, very opposed to Jewish people -- that's true -- and to Israel. All you have to do is look at Senator Schumer, what he did with Israel is a disgrace and I think Israel will probably not forget it very soon. It's a very sad situation.


BASH: Joining me now is Rabbi Sharon Brous. She is the author of the new book, "The Amen Effect." First, I want to ask about what the president said, Rabbi, you think what Trump is doing is not just dangerous for Jews, but for democracy. Why?

RABBI SHARON BROUS, SENIOR RABBI, IKAR: Yeah, that's right, Dana. I mean, first of all, these comments are totally on brand for Trump. It is an attempt to really bully and shame American Jews into voting for him, and he's trying to stir fear and paranoia among American Jews. It's not going to work. American Jews historically vote very solidly Democratic and also really dislike intensely the former president. That's not going to change now. In fact, most American Jews don't share Trump or Bibi's vision for Israel, and certainly don't share Trump's vision for America.

So, the greater concern right now is not that he's going to be successful in convincing American Jews not to vote Democratic. The greater concern that I have right now is that anti-Semitism is not only dangerous for Jews, but it's truly dangerous for democracy. And the reason why is because anti-Semitism really is a form of racism that functions differently from other racisms that we know well here in America. It's rooted in conspiracy theories about Jewish domination and about Jewish power.

It has always been an excuse for why something other than the people who are in power are responsible for suffering in the world. And so, throughout history, anti-Semitism has been used as a kind of way wedge to break apart pro-democracy coalitions. I think that's what he is trying to do right now, to stir up anti-Semitism, especially in a moment of political instability to really break apart that civil rights coalition that has been so strong in this country for so many years.

BASH: Rabbi, you run an organ Russian called IKAR in Los Angeles. It not only is a place of worship, but it's a place for community outreach. And I know that you delivered a sermon about anti-Semitism this past Sabbath. It's not something you usually do. Why did you decide to do that now?

BROUS: Well, I mean, for many, many years since we built our community, I just felt that in an America in crisis, facing the crises of climate catastrophe, racism, white supremacy, anti-LGBTQ hatred that really anti-Semitism them was a bit back-burnered in our progressive community. And at some point realized after 2017, that there had been a tipping point in the country that we needed to address the centrality of anti-Semitism, particularly the way it was manifesting in the right and the danger of state supported violence against Jews.

Over the course of time, it has become clear to me that this is not a left versus right issue. Where is it more dangerous? But what we are seeing right now is that anti-Semitism is increasingly ubiquitous, that it's really appearing in both the right and the left. And I think this is a moment in which we have to stand together and say, we who care about democracy, we who care about building a just future will not allow anti-Semitism to be used as a wedge to break apart the democracy camp. It will only deliver a win to Trump and his authoritarian vision.

BASH: I want to ask, before I let you go, about making a little bit of a turn to International Happiness Day. The U.S. has dropped several places to 23rd in the world. Your book called "The Amen Effect" includes some practical tools to help people find joy. Can you just share a few quickly?

BROUS: Yeah, I can. I just want to say joy is not selfish and joy is not escapism. Joy is a way of acknowledging the world as it is and nurturing our bodies and our spirits, so that we can find the strength to work, to build the world as it could be. So, one of the practices of joy that I include in my book is a practice that comes from my dear friend, Shifra (ph), who does 18 minutes of joy a day. She takes a joy break, which is a way of allowing herself in body and in spirit to just embrace the possibility of what could be in the future.


BROUS: And I have taken on that practice in solidarity with her and I invite us all to allow ourselves to access joy as a way of really nurturing the spirit, so that we can be in this work for the long haul.

BASH: OK. Try to do that here on "Inside Politics." I don't know if we can make it up to 18 minutes, but that's a good goal. Thank you so much. Your book is called "The Amen Effect." thank you so much for coming on the program today.

BROUS: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And thank you for joining "Inside Politics." We hope you have a happy day on this International Happiness Day. "CNN News Central" starts after the break.