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Today: Trump to Campaign In Michigan and Wisconsin; Florida's 6-Week Abortion Ban to Take Effect After Court Ruling; Trump Called Florida Abortion Ban "A Terrific Mistake"; Judge Expands Gag Order In NYC Hush Money Case. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Today, on "Inside Politics," Donald Trump goes to swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin, where he'll stoke immigration politics, thousands of miles from the southern border, as Democrats zero in on the not so swing state of Florida. Thanks to big news on abortion there last night, which the Biden campaign is scrambling to capitalize on.

Plus, a judge's words. The judge presiding over a Manhattan hush money trial tells Donald Trump what he cannot say. But Juan Merchan's own words about the former President might say a whole lot more.

And RFK junior does Donald Trump's bidding. An independent presidential candidate says Joe Biden is a, quote, "Genuine threat to democracy," putting what he calls social media censorship on par with Trump's efforts to stay in office even though he lost, which, of course, culminated in a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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

Up first, a Midwest mission for Donald Trump. The presumptive Republican nominee goes to battleground states for the first time in almost a month, both Michigan and Wisconsin. The plans there is to spotlight immigration, the so-called migrant crime his team views as key to push on vulnerabilities by and for Joe Biden.

What we don't know today is also important. Is there a Trump plan to confront abortion politics head on after a Florida court put the issue front and center there? And is there a plan to keep Trump from breaking a newly expanded gag order limiting what he can say about those involved in the Manhattan hush money trial that starts in just weeks?

We start our coverage in Michigan with CNN's Alayna Treene. Alayna?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, good morning, Dana. And you're absolutely right. I think a key question today is how Donald Trump may respond to that expanded gag order from the judge.

But look, I can tell you from my conversations with the Trump campaign, they don't expect him to cross the line. They know that there are repercussions if Donald Trump were to go beyond the latest gag order imposed on him yesterday, which includes not attacking the judge's family, which he has done before, and not attacking the family of the Manhattan district attorney.

And so we'll see if he tries to toe that line today as he did this morning when railing against the judge who had imposed that gag order. But look, I do just want to bring your attention to what he's trying to do here today in both Michigan and in Wisconsin. It's really the first time we've seen Donald Trump in a matter of weeks. He only held two campaign events since his big super Tuesday win. And so this is him really kicking off his general election campaign in earnest.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has really seen a surge in political activity. And he's recently visited Wisconsin and Michigan as well. And I think that just underscores, Dana, how critical these two battleground states are, both for Trump and for Biden. We know that Donald Trump won these states in 2016, but lost them in 2020 to Joe Biden. And so he's really trying to make some ground here.

Now, as for the overall themes that we can expect from the former President today, they plan to focus on the issues that helped propel him to victory in 2016, and that's immigration and crime. And as part of that crime push, he's actually invited the family of a woman named Ruby Garcia to his Michigan event. Ruby Garcia was recently killed here in Michigan by an undocumented immigrant. And police authorities say that it was a domestic dispute.

Listen to how Donald Trump raised it.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): We have a new form of crime. You know, we have violent crime and we have crime and we have different -- we have now a thing called migrant crime. I'd love to have our family there. If they'd like to be there. It would be my honor.


TREENE: Now, Dana, another big part of this again is immigration and the border. Donald Trump's campaign has labeled this Michigan speech as a talk about Biden's, quote, "border bloodbath," referencing that very controversial term he used a couple weeks ago, something that received a lot of backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike. So look for some of that same inflammatory rhetoric today. Dana?


BASH: Thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. Let's keep talking about this important trip and the more broad 2024 discussion with my panel of great reporters, CNN's MJ Lee, CNN's Eva McKend, and Leigh Ann Caldwell of the Washington Post. Hi, everyone.

Let's start where Alayna left off and just more specifically look at the map to sort of set the scene for our discussion of where Donald Trump and Joe Biden have each been since Super Tuesday last month.

Trump was in Georgia and Ohio. Michigan and Wisconsin today. Joe Biden, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina. Now, MJ, as we look at those, we should underscore that the sort of feverish pace that the Biden campaign has been engaged in is very much part of his strategy to show that he is energetic and he can and will do that.

But beyond that, the idea that Trump has been, you know, certainly been very much out there on his social media platform. He's been in at least two courtrooms and not very much in these battleground states. He is very intent, as Alayna said, on pushing the issue of immigration, which he's been doing since he came down that escalator in 2015.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, you look at that map and there's a lot of blue compared to not very much red. And I think this all feeds into sort of a, I would say, just like a good vibe from the Biden campaign right now. And certainly relative to what we were hearing from the Biden campaign even a couple of months ago.

You know, we've talked a lot about how there was such a sigh of relief after State of the Union, displaying the kind of Joe Biden that they really wanted to. The fundraising numbers, particularly compared to the Biden -- the Trump campaign has been incredibly strong.

The fact that they're able to put him out there, the President himself and all the surrogates, and really crisscross these states at a moment when Trump really has been nowhere on the campaign trail. He's been mostly stuck in courtrooms dealing with so many of these legal issues.

All of that has the Biden campaign, again, relatively speaking, feeling good compared to a number of months ago. And it is a moment where they are trying to capitalize on everything possible. And I think that is why we are starting to see, talk about Florida. It's not necessarily that they very much seriously think the state is in play. They may or they may not, but it is more about sort of showing that strength at a moment when they think Trump is down.

BASH: I want to come back to Florida in a minute, because that is such an important point. But, Eva, you're out there. You are talking to campaigns. You've been talking to voters. The fact that Trump -- I just want to sort of hone in on this for a second. The fact that Trump is going to be pushing what you just heard him talking. He's trying to call it an epidemic.

It's, you know, there are certainly some high profile examples of some violence. He's calling it migrant crime. I call it high profile, because in many ways, conservative media is trying to focus on a couple of really horrible events and make it as if it's perhaps more broad -- not perhaps make it sound like it is more broad than it is. Fact.

EVA MCKEND, CNN U.S. NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Dana, the playbook is largely going to remain the same. He wants to continue to demonize immigrants. He wants to continue to try to argue to Americans, these brown folks, they are the real reasons for your problems.

The issue, though, when I speak to voters, is that, by and large, this is not where the anxieties lie. So voters will often address the economy, stagnant wages, high grocery prices, buying a home, as all real concerns. But because he is using this playbook, again, of punching down on immigrants, we'll have to see if how this plays. This election will be a test of the strength of that argument.

BASH: But there has been successful political strategies, as, you know, perhaps crass as they are. We have seen where they, Republicans in particular here, have been able to stoke fear, particularly in suburbs, and been able to get their vote out.

MCKEND: They have in some ways. But I just don't see -- I think that there are just limits to this argument, similar to the way in which Democrats want to put abortion front and center. There are going to be limits to that argument as well, because when it comes down to it, I think that the day to day challenges of everyday Americans, you know, don't come at the feet of undocumented immigrants.

BASH: Yeah, yeah.

MCKEND: It's just not what I'm hearing.

BASH: So let's turn to abortion. You wrote a lot about that in your newsletter this morning, Leigh Ann.


What happened last night was that the Florida Supreme Court made clear that this six week abortion ban. About that in your newsletter this morning, Leanne, what happened last night was that the Florida Supreme Court made clear that this six week abortion ban in Florida would be able to go through. And that advocates for abortion rights would be able to get that on the ballot. So there are two driving issues for Democrats to go to the polls.

And you mentioned this, MJ, the Biden campaign is really trying to seize on that, putting out a statement that they are opening an office in Florida, which used to be very much a swing state and hasn't been for the last several cycles. I want you all to listen to an ad that will run in Florida and other battleground states on this issue.


TRUMP: For 54 years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it, and I'm proud to have done it.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2016, Donald Trump ran to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now in 2024, he's running to pass a national ban on a woman's right to choose. I'm running to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land again.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And just as I bring you in, just to connect what Eva was saying

to where Donald Trump is today, and that is Michigan, there was the same kind of referendum on the ballot in Michigan in 2022 in the midterms. And Gretchen Whitmer got 50, over -- almost 55 percent, the secretary of state on down. They -- all the Democrats won. They overturned the State House. And of course, the actual question of a right to abortion was almost 57 percent.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. So that's always been the question. And if these voters, these ballot initiatives, and when abortion is directly on the ballot for voters, if that also translates to democratic votes, and it has in the midterm elections, it did in 2023 elections as well.

And so now with this driving force in Florida, where you're going to have women who are now going to be directly impacted in just a month with a six week abortion ban, that's going to make it very real for them. Also coupled with the fact that they're going to be able to directly vote on the issue of abortion in the ballot in November, Democrats now say and hope that perhaps Florida is in play.

We know that Joe Biden didn't really contest it in 2020. Democrats spent no money there in 2022. In the midterms, perhaps now it will be a state. But it's a very expensive state. But regardless, Democrats think that it's a very -- it's going to once again be a motivating factor.

BASH: Yeah. I mean, in six weeks is not a time when a lot of women even know that they're pregnant. And that's how early it is -- at this ban. The Trump campaign did release a statement today saying the following. "President Trump supports preserving life, but also has made clear that he supports states' rights, because he supports the voters right to make decisions for themselves." I mean, that's a statement without saying a whole lot.

LEE: Yeah. And Intentionally so. Perfectly captures why this issue has been so challenging for Republicans. You know, that ad that you just played from the Biden campaign, it actually isn't their first abortion focused ad. The first one you'll recall was this emotional testimony from a woman who was denied access to abortion, and it's almost as though they are sort of trying to paint a picture.

You know, first, they go all in on, these stories from families and women whose lives have been affected, their health care, access has been affected. And now we have this ad that first opens with Donald Trump taking credit for what has happened in the country in terms of reproductive rights, and then it goes to, President Biden speaking directly to camera and saying, I am the candidate and the person who is trying to reverse that.

So it does seem like they're clearly trying to go about this, and there's going to be multiple iterations and there are multiple angles that they're trying to use to get at this issue.

MCKEND: Yeah. I spoke to staffers just before we came on air, organizing that field hearing this morning. The Democrats held in Florida raising and elevating this issue. And part of why they think that their message is so strong on this is, because there are women that are have already been impacted by the restrictions in place in Florida. They have very devastating stories of having to continue on with very dangerous, ill-fated pregnancies.

And so they are going to continue to lean on these personal stories to compete in places --

BASH: Yeah.

MCKEND: -- where they previously were not competitive.

BASH: And I should say as we go to break that, Trump did speak about this Florida law back in September when the Florida governor was running against him, and he said that, the 6 week ban is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake.


So the question is, does he still think that? He's a voter in Florida. Well, how is he going to vote on the referendum? I mean, I think we probably know the answer to that. But it's getting much closer to home for him.

Everybody stand by because up next, judge draws a line around what Donald Trump can say, while labeling his words to this point, very real threats to the men and women involved in his trials. We'll talk about that next.



BASH: Witnesses as fair game, real threats to families, a direct attack on the rule of law. Those are all fears that a judge made clear he has about Donald J. Trump. Judge Juan Merchan expanded a gag order yesterday limiting what Trump can say about people connected to his hush money trial and importantly, their families.

This, of course, comes after Trump went after the judge's daughter, posting her name and pictures of her on social media. The legal ramifications will test Trump's impulse control, but the bluntness of the judge's warning about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is stark.

Merchan wrote that Trump's attacks, quote, "Injects fear in those assigned or call to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well are, quote, 'fair game' for defendant's vitriol."

CNN's Legal Analyst, Joey Jackson, joins me now. Joey, thanks so much for being here. Can you just put in context these words for people who don't follow such trials all the time, how rare this is?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, Dana, good to be with you. From a layman's perspective, it's significant. Now we know that we certainly enjoy First Amendment protections, and we also know that there's a political campaign. And in light of that, certainly, you want to be able to campaign and to state your peace, particularly if you're the presumptive nominee for your party.

At the same time, there's an integrity of the court proceeding that needs to be protected. Whenever you're trying to prevent someone from speaking, it's called a prior restraint, and courts frown upon that. However, remember this, Dana, that courts frown upon that. However, remember this, Dana, that everyone's individual liberties end where someone else's liberties begin.

What does that mean? It means you can't yell fire in a theater. Why? Because others could be endangered. You can't defame someone. You can, but get ready for the legal consequence with respect to the payment of monetary damages. You can tell the president that. And so words have consequences. Words can inflame.

And when you are charged as a judges with protecting the integrity of a legal system, you don't want witnesses intimidated, you don't want witnesses to feel fear and threatened. How's that going to impact their testimony? Will they agree to testify? Will they agree to testify truthfully? Will they be endangered by an angry mob? All of those are significant.

And in light of that, while it is rare, of course, you don't want to impair someone's freedom to speak. It's not rare in a circumstance where other people could be impacted so gravely and dangerously. So I think it was the right call on the judge's part. Whether or not it's actually obeyed by Trump, followed by him, that's an open question.

BASH: Right. Couple things there. One is, if you could just explain what happens if he breaks the gag order, if he doesn't obey it? And two, as you answer that, you know this judge, you were prosecutors together. So if you could just kind of reflect on what kind -- what it took to put this kind of gag order in place, particularly given the fact that he believed that his daughter -- he didn't say this explicitly, but it was pretty clear that his daughter whom the former President, posted pictures of and her name, might be in danger.

JACKSON: Yeah. That that's without question. Now first, in terms of the consequences for failing to follow the order, there are many. Right? You can start certainly with just an admonishment of the party that violates it. That would be the President. That's not likely to work. Admonishing is just giving someone the indication that you're not to do that.

And then, of course, you go to the issue of fines and monetary damages, and that may not work either, because we know that this President has significant monetary exposure elsewhere. He just posted a bond, right, in connection with the New York State Attorney General case for 175 million.

We could talk about the E. Jean Carroll case, right? Almost a 100 million there. So will that work? And then the issue then is going to be, Dana, what the judge does to give this teeth -- to give this order teeth such that it's significant. It's one thing to have an order on a paper. It's another as a judge to enforce that order. Will the judge put him in? What does that mean?

It means will you spend some time in jail? And will the judge, if the judge does that, feel ramifications again personally? And will it protect -- will the judge be protected if he does that? And so it's going to be interesting to see what Judge Merchan does in that regard.

In terms of how it -- how we got here, yes, look, you know, I know the judge to be of good character. I know the judge to be exceptionally talented and bright. Why? We will prosecutors together. You know, him a bit more senior than me. But certainly when we were in the Manhattan DA's office, he did his job and did it well and elevated from there.

But I think for a judge to get to this point, you have to protect the system. There's a trial and everybody deserves fairness in the trial. But certainly, disparaging people for the sake of disparagement, that's not political discourse, Dana.


That is denigration at the point of endangering somebody. And so I think he balanced it. He drew that line and he gave the indication it is the judge, what's fair game and what's not. Talk about the judge all you want --

BASH: Yeah.

JACKSON: Political discourse, talk about the prosecutor, but leave other people out of it who could really be harmed detrimentally. Words have consequences, particularly when you have a bully pulpit like the former President does, and so many people who follow his every word. And so we'll see what happens in terms of the gag order, Dana.

BASH: Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up that, the former President has no gag order when it comes to things that he can say about the judge or even the prosecutor, despite the fact that he's arguing otherwise on his social media platform.

Joey Jackson, thank you so much for coming on today and putting it all in context. Appreciate it.

And coming up, seven aid workers killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza, including one American. The U.S. is now responding. That's next.