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Inside Politics

Maryland Race Could Determine Who Controls Senate; GOP Chance of Winning Senate Rises; Speaker Johnson Defends Trump at Criminal Trial; Washington Post Reports Trump Asked Oil Executives to Help Him Raise $1 Billion; Angela Alsobrooks Wins Maryland Senate Democratic Primary; Poll Shows Democratic Senate Candidates in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, Arizona Doing Far Better Than Biden; Secretary Blinken Rocks at an Ukraine Bar; Opening Statements to Begin in Menendez Bribery Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 15, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': In Maryland, voters usually like their politics just like their crab, blue. But Former Republican Governor Larry Hogan thinks he can change that in the Senate race that could determine whether Democrats hold onto power in the U.S. Senate.

Joining me now is someone who knows about Maryland's love for blue crab, even though he just confirmed to me that he is a vegetarian. So, we are not going to get deep into that, but you definitely understand your state, Jamie Raskin. Thank you so much for being here.

On that note, your preferred candidate, County Executive Alsobrooks will -- she won the Democratic primary. She will now go up against Larry Hogan, who of course was a very popular governor. How is that going to play, particularly given the fact that he not only came in with a high percentage of support, but even left that way when you look at polls?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, thank you for that. I should say, I ate my share of blue crabs before I became a vegetarian.


RASKIN: So, I've helped to stimulate our state's economy in that way. Look, Angela Alsobrooks is someone who has been radically underestimated during her entire political career. She is undoubtedly an underdog going into the general election, given that former Governor Hogan ran statewide twice and she has never run statewide before in a general election. And yet, she was all also discounted in this primary race, but was able to overcome an excellent opponent in David Trone, who also spent more than $60 million.

So, she has proven herself very adept at creating effective political coalitions that address the questions of the day. And that's really the critical thing here. Pro-choice is going to be a catalyzing issue in Maryland. It is going to be on the ballot in a referendum and of course, the whole country is thinking about what Donald Trump and his party have done, which is to steal away from tens of millions of American women, their right to choose in consultation with their families and their physicians instead putting the locus of choice in state legislatures and having been in this state legislature, I will tell you, I do trust the women of America more than the state legislators to be making these fundamental health decisions.

So, Angela Alsobrooks has said she will vote for the Women's Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade in America. The former Governor Hogan has not said what he will do about that. He has not said whether he will support making Roe v. Wade the law of the land.

BASH: Congressman, I'm glad you brought that up because the former governor was on the show shortly after he announced his Senate candidacy. And he pushed back against Democratic criticism on abortion. I want you to listen to what he said.


LARRY HOGAN, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND AND SENATE CANDIDATE: You are a self-described pro-life. You are really out of step with your blue state.

HOGAN: That's not true.


HOGAN: Yeah, that's not really true at all, Dana.


HOGAN: I have a long, very, very moderate position on abortion. This is kind of a --

BASH: How would you describe it?

HOGAN: Look, I am personally not a proponent of abortion, but I said I am not going to take away that right for others to make that decision for themselves. I made a -- this is kind of a tired attack from the Democratic Party.


BASH: What's your reaction?

RASKIN: Well, he would like you to be a tired attack. Unfortunately, it is his political party that has made it a central issue in 2024. Donald Trump is bragging all over the country about how he appointed the Supreme Court justices who destroyed Roe v. Wade and have stolen away the rights of women all across the country. But we will be looking at the former governor's record, his actual record in Maryland because a lot of us were in the legislature and we remember what he did.

But the real question is, if and when you are elected to the U.S. Senate, will you stand with the Democratic majority to codify Roe v. Wade? And to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land? Again, which is what the vast majority of the American people want and Hogan has never said what he will do about it. And of course, he has to pander to the Trumpian base in order to get to where he wants to go. And the reason that they want them there is so he will be another brick in the wall of GOP support for a right-wing Trump agenda.


RASKIN: Look, Marylanders know Democracy is on the ballot, freedom is on the ballot. This is a very high-stakes election. We are in the fight of our lives here and we are going to expose the real contrast and differences in the policy positions between these two candidates. And Angela Alsobrooks was a great state attorney, a great prosecutor, a great county executive, and she will go to the U.S. Senate to fight for the pro-choice rights of America's women, for the voting rights of the American people, and for Democracy against the Trump party of authoritarians.

BASH: Congressman, I am going to just switch gears quickly to what happened in New York yesterday. The House speaker joined Donald Trump at that Manhattan courthouse, came out and did -- talked to reporters and talked about the trial being a sham. You, of course, just last week voted to keep Johnson on as speaker. Does what happened yesterday give you second thoughts?

RASKIN: Well, I didn't vote for that. I voted to table Marjorie Taylor Greene's resolution.

BASH: Right. But that's effectively the same thing.

RASKIN: Well, for that day and that day only -- look, never before have we had a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives travel to a criminal trial in order to vouch for, in this case, an adjudicated rapist, someone who has been civilly convicted of fraud in hundreds of millions of dollars against one of our sovereign states, the State of New York. And he goes to that trial to speak for the criminal defendant who is defending himself against charges of having cooked the books in order to cover up hush money payments to a porn star. And that's just unbelievable for any speaker to do, much less a speaker who says that the Bible is the law of the land.

BASH: Before I let you go, I know you wanted to weigh in on a report from "The Washington Post" that talked about a meeting between Donald Trump and oil executives where he allegedly, according to the report, offered policy concessions if they raised $1 billion for his campaign. You want an investigation, you're pushing for an investigation. What is -- what in there is illegal? What do you think that he did that broke the law?

RASKIN: We know that the ex-president in pocketed nearly $8 million from foreign governments, including China, including Saudi Arabia and other autocratic regimes in violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause when he was president. So, this is a pattern for him. But now, amazingly, he goes to the CEOs and executives of gas and oil companies and says, you guys should raise me $1 billion because you're going to get a lot more back from me in everything that I am going to give to you in terms drilling rights and changing the pro-environment policies of the Biden Administration.

If that is not against the law because he is only candidate and not now the president, it should be against the law. In any event, we need to investigate what was very clearly a quid pro quo arrangement that was advanced by Donald Trump, who remains a one-man crime wave.

BASH: Congressman, we will follow the investigation and see where it goes. Thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.

RASKIN: Thanks for having me, Dana.

BASH: Coming up, U.S. Senate races in other states have Republicans grinning. We'll tell you why Democrats are getting a bit nervous. Stay with us.



BASH: We just heard from Congressman Jamie Raskin about the high- stakes primary yesterday in Maryland. Now, let's take a moment to zoom out and look more broadly at the map when it comes to the battle for the U.S. Senate. Democrats are defending nine toss-up Senate seats, that's including Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, who is an independent but caucuses with the Democrats. Republicans have just two seats on the board that are considered at risk in the red states of Texas and Florida. Tossing the typically blue Maryland into the mix as a battleground is pretty new territory at recent years for Democrats.

My great friends and reporters are back here. You were just talking about, when we were on the break, about two things about the money spent to get to this point by Democrats, but also the money that Democrats are going to have to spend now in Maryland, whereas they have a pretty large map.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: For sure. I mean, David Trone spent what, some $60 million or so.

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: A lot of it on ads, probably even more than that, once the numbers come in, and just like a rough back-of-the-envelope math, it is more than $300 per vote which was unsuccessful. But, the reason this matters is now the DSCC Democrats are likely going to have to invest pretty heavily in Maryland which, at the end of a race, it creates an opportunity for choices. It is that money that they won't have to help save Sherrod Brown in Ohio or John --

BASH: If I may -- I am sorry to interrupt you, but I just want to put up the numbers --

ZELENY: All right.

BASH: -- which I should have at the beginning. David Trone according to our records, according to the FEC, $51.4 million. His opponent who won only $5.9 million, and Larry Hogan $4.4 million. But, that is the point you are making. He put so much money and by the way, he is a billionaire. So he could have added that money to the general election.

ZELENY: And it turned out, that was one of the messages he was running on.

BASH: Yeah.

ZELENY: He said, I will fund my own thing, so it -- money complicates races.


ZELENY: It helps if your message is there, but clearly, it was (ph) never him. But I mean, I think the bigger point here is Democrats are likely to have enough money, but they are playing in a very, very wide battleground. And what I have my eye on is some of those races that overlap with presidential contests.

BASH: Yeah.

ZELENY: And there are a lot actually.

BASH: Yeah. I am glad you said that. Let's put the map backup and we can start talking about that, because it really is striking when you see just how many of these competitive races to keep control of the Senate, the Democrats are trying to defend. And like you said, I mean, you can go through some of these states where the presidential race is going to sort of dovetail because it is competitive. Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania --


BASH: And Florida.

HENDERSON: Yeah, in some of these sorts of down-ballot Senate candidate is more the popular than Joe Biden, so it could increases chances in a state like Nevada, in a state like Arizona, state like Pennsylvania. He's going to need all those folks on the field boosting his numbers. It is unlikely, I mean, you see some of this in the polling that Biden seems to be doing worse than a Jacky Rosen out in Nevada.

The idea that people will tickets split seems a little hard to believe. Vote for Trump and vote for Jacky Rosen at the top and at the bottom. But we'll see, they're going to need all of the money and all the attention on these states (ph).

BASH: And Nia, I feel like you were like in our planning meeting because everything that you say, it is just like we are going to put up something to --

(LAUGH) BASH: -- reinforce what you're saying. I think it is just because you're so darn smart. Nevada, you just talked about it. Donald Trump is right now up 12 points. Jacky Rosen, up 2. Arizona and Pennsylvania also show that Trump is up, but the Democratic candidate is up. Only Wisconsin, where Biden is only up by 2 and Tammy Baldwin is up by 9.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Yeah. I mean, in one Democratic pollster I spoke to recently said that every down-ballot Democrat that they are working for, all the campaigns that they are on, they are outperforming President Biden. Now, does that actually help him is the big question. I mean, when I was in Arizona in 2020, I did hear some voters that say they were really interested in Kelly, who is now a Senator and that that may be made them a little bit more amenable to voting for Biden, that they started looking at him a little bit differently.

Now, is that enough though in a state that is going to be one at the margins, especially if President Biden is suffering with other key blocks, whether it is Latinos, whether it is black voters in these states. But it is something that I think Democrats are paying attention to, to see how much can these other down-ballot Democrats boost him and boost his message?

BASH: And Jeff, as you come in here, I just want to show another piece of data that our team put together, which is so interesting and it is what you brought up about ticket-splitting. Historically, in 2012, six races voters ticket split meaning that they were elected from the party that -- the opposite of the presidential. Thank you. 2016, it was zero. And in 2020, it was only one.

ZELENY: We've certainly seen a decreasing trend. That used to be fairly normal though. It used to be Democrats from red states, Republicans from blue states, at least some. That really does not happen anymore, but we talked about those Biden campaign offices a lot, the organization, those are coordinated Democratic campaign offices. So, that is one thing that gives the Biden campaign some measure of comfort.

We'll see if it rings out, is that all those offices in Wisconsin or Michigan actually help their candidate in places where Tammy Baldwin is strong?


ZELENY: Particularly like in the red area.

BASH: Yeah.

ZELENY: And Michigan is so important and --

HENDERSON: Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.

ZELENY: Exactly.

HENDERSON: Yeah. ZELENY: You know, and look at Minnesota. If the Trump campaign, they've been talking a lot about Minnesota. Amy Klobuchar is on the ballot in Minnesota as well. She always performs well in rural areas. Does that help lift President Biden well? They're hoping it might, so a lot of interesting (inaudible) Senate and president.

BASH: Wait a second, that's something I haven't heard.

HENDERSON: You mean Minnesota?

BASH: Yeah.


ZELENY: For sure.


ZELENY: It is the bluest -- it is the reddest blue state. That's how it is looked at and the Trump campaign is holding out hope for Minnesota.

HENDERSON: And he is going to be there Friday, right?

ZELENY: He is going there Friday.


ZELENY: Both Klobuchar on the ballot, she brings more Democrats and perhaps moderates out.

BASH: All right. Everybody, you want to see this, as we had to break. We all need to let our hair down sometimes.


ANTONY BLINKED, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Singing "Rockin' in the Free World."


BASH: If you're thinking, why do I know that guy? Where is he from? He is from the Secretary of State's office because he is a Secretary of State.


BASH: It is Tony Blinken who took the stage in Kyiv to perform with a Ukrainian band at a bar on Tuesday night, before he grabbed a red guitar and performed a rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." Blinken told the crowd that the United States and indeed the entire free world is with them.


[12:54:40] BASH: Jury selection just finished up in the bribery trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey. Opening statements will begin this afternoon. Menendez is charged with taking bribes, including gold bars and a luxury car in exchange for helping push U.S. aid and weapons to foreign governments.


BASH: CNN's Jason Carroll is outside the courthouse, which is in New York. Jason, what is the latest?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, 12 jurors and six alternates have been seated. That was happening just within the past few moments. But Dana, I can tell you one witness they will not be hearing from is a psychiatrist that the defense wanted to call to testify, but Judge Sidney signed saying the psychiatrist will not be allowed to testify. Here's why that is important, because this is a psychiatrist who was going to give some reasoning as to why this Senator had stashed the hundreds of thousands of dollars at his home in New Jersey in the clothing that officials found there.

This psychiatrist was going to say that because of the Senator's pass, leaving Cuba, the Cuban government seizing money from his family, his father committing suicide, gambling debts, this all led to what the psychiatrist called intergenerational trauma and a fear of scarcity, and that is the reason why this psychiatrist said the Senator had stashed all this money at his home. But this again, is something that is not going to be allowed to be heard in court because the judge overseeing this case, Judge Sidney Stein ruled that that is hearsay.

So while we have a jury, an early blow to the defense in terms of this psychiatrist not being able to testify. But now that we do have a jury that has been sat, opening statements expected sometime later this afternoon. Dana?

BASH: That is so interesting, the other trial in New York. Jason, thanks for that reporting.

Thank you for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after the break.