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Inside Politics

First Witness Called In Hunter Biden Federal Gun Trial; Prosecution To Call 3 Former Romantic Partners As Witness; Biden Calls Trump "A Convicted Felon"; Congressman's Son Pulls Funny Faces Behind Dad During House Floor Speech; Ex-Rep. Mondaire Jones Endorses Rep. Jamaal Brown's Dem Primary Opponent, Citing Bowman's Criticism Of Israel. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 04, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: The first witness has been called in the Hunter Biden federal gun trial. This after a lot happened this morning, one juror was dismissed during opening statements. Prosecutors showed a picture of Hunter Biden's gun to the jury. And we now know the judge will allow some explicit photos that Hunter's attorneys wanted to exclude from evidence.

CNN's Evan Perez is live outside the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Dana, right at the beginning there, when prosecutors were talking about introducing some of those photos, I saw Hunter Biden looked through some of the pages, some of the pictures, and then he turned them face down. His mom, his wife, his sister are all sitting right behind him in the front row.

And that really sort of captures how personal all of this evidence that prosecutors say they're going to use against Hunter Biden. How much -- how personal all of that is. Right now, we have the first witness who's an FBI agent. She is going through some of his biography, the eight times that 100 Biden went to rehab between 2015 and 2019.

She is -- they're playing excerpts from his audio book, from his own biography where he describes his struggle with addiction. She is the first of nine witnesses that prosecutors have listed, which includes three women that he has had previous relationships with, previous ex wives, girlfriends that he had been involved with, all of whom were going to testify about his drug use. Again, that's the key to this.


Derek Hines, the prosecutor, opened by saying no one is above the law. We're here because of the defendant's lies and choices. No one is above the law. It doesn't matter who you are or what your name is. Emphasizing that Hunter Biden chose to lie when he bought that gun back in 2018.

Abbe Lowell, Hunter's defense lawyer, said that prosecutors can't really prove Hunter Biden was on drugs the day he bought the gun. He's focusing on the word knowingly in the charges, meaning, that Hunter was not aware necessarily of what he was doing when he bought that firearm.

They are focusing on the word is and are in the ATF form. It's a very fascinating turn here for Abbe Lowell and for Hunter Biden.

BASH: Depends what the meaning of is, is. Not that. Well different.

PEREZ: I know, right? Exactly.

BASH: Evan, thank you so much. Really appreciate your reporting.

And coming up, President Biden is sharpening his rhetoric on Donald Trump's felony convictions. We'll talk about that strategy and more with the man who ran communications in the Obama White House. That's next.



BASH: President Biden had a tougher message last night on Donald Trump's guilty verdict. Here's what he told a group of donors at a fundraiser in Connecticut last night. He said, quote, "For the first time in American history, a former president that is convicted -- a convicted felon is now seeking the office of the presidency. But as disturbing as that is, more damaging is the all-out assault Donald Trump is making on the American system of justice."

I want to bring in Dan Pfeiffer. He's a former senior advisor to President Obama, author of "Message Box Newsletter" and co-host of Pod Save America. Another person with a lot of jobs. I feel like I have a lot of guests who have a lot of jobs on lately.

Dan, thanks so much for joining me. First question is about what President Biden said at that fundraiser last night. Is that the kind of message that he should continue to sharpen? How much should he focus on this conviction over the next five months?

DAN PLEIFFER, AUTHOR, MESSAGE BOX NEWSLETTER: I think it's the exact right message. Look, most voters, the polls show, do -- are not going to change their mind because of the conviction. It's been sort of baked into the cake for a long time. For 80 percent of voters, they made the decision years ago.

But the polling has shown -- and CNN polling in particular has shown that there is a swath of voters, a pretty significant swath of voters, who are, you know, concerned about the idea of sending a convicted felon back to the White House.

And so, this is a moment when people are paying attention to this election. And so he should be doing what he can to shape it, to sort of flesh that choice out for voters, to give some of those voters who may not be in love with either candidate, pause about going back to Trump. I think it's the right thing to do. And I'm glad that he is doing it.

BASH: I'm sure you saw that your former colleague, David Axelrod, has a different take. Here's what he said. He said, "Let Trump make his conviction a top issue and fulminate about it until the cows come home. Biden needs to pound the vast differences between them on the issues and touch people's lives. I'm for you. He's for him."

Your thoughts?

PLEIFFER: Yes. Look, I've not -- I've never gone very far in my life betting against David Axelrod, who was my boss for many years. And let's going to be smart. I will say just two things. One, David is exactly right that for most voters, inflation and abortion and issues like that are incredibly important.

So he cannot see the ground on those. I just believe that in this moment, in this media environment where it's so hard to get people's attention, when something pops out of the hermetically sealed bubbles that most people live in, that's the time to shape it, right, and to talk about it.

And so that doesn't mean he should put aside all the economic events, all the inflation, stop talking about the real threat to democracy in reproductive freedom that Trump presents. But we should be -- should Trump is out there shaping it, the right wing media is out there shaping it. Joe Biden should do it, too, because we know there are voters who care about this, and we want them to think about it from our perspective, not Trump's.

BASH: I want to switch gears, Dan, to one of the things that Joe Biden said in a lengthy interview that he gave to Time magazine. He was asked about his age, and I'm going to read part of it. "Could you really do this job as an 85-year-old man?" Biden, "I can do it better than anybody you know. You're looking at me, I can take you too."

Question, "Did you consider not running again because of your age?" Biden, "No, I didn't." Question, "And what do you say to Americans who are worried about it?" Biden, "Watch me. Look, name me a president that's gotten as much done as I've gotten done in my first three and a half years."

If he called you up and said, tell me how to deal with this issue, would you say, do that, do what he just did in that interview, or would you say, maybe you should tweak it, Mr. President?

PLEIFFER: I've looked at a ton of polling on the president's age and the voters are concerned about it. And what I really -- what I've really found is that words don't really move the needle for most voters. It's not really what the president says, but he's exactly right that what he needs to do is show people.

And that's why I think the president and his campaign so aggressively wanted to have a debate so early in this process. It's why in a lot of the president's ads, you see the president speaking directly to camera because you want voters to see him. It's why we saw some movement in the numbers after the State of the Union.

So it really is, you know, he obviously is very prideful and he takes, I think, some I think, fair offense at the fact that he's accomplished so much and the people question his ability to do more. But, ultimately, he's going to have to show voters on the biggest stages that he can do this job, and that's where I think he's built -- that's what his campaign is building their strategy around.


BASH: So to your point about the people being in hermetically sealed sort of echo chambers, to use your words, is his attempt to watch me to show, you know, look at what I'm doing, don't just think about how old I am, is it working or does he need to do it more?

PLEIFFER: I think he needs -- he's -- he has really stepped up the impedance of his public appearances since the campaign started. But what really matters in this media world is big moments, right? It's why the debate's happening now. The convention speech is going to be huge. That second debate's going to be huge.

Using the huge amounts of money his campaign is raised to run ads showing him speaking to voters is going to help, but he's going to have to be aggressive about it. No doubt. I think his campaign is pretty clear about that. Because if you really think about like, what an aggressive move for an incumbent president to try to have a debate as early as June in the election cycle, right?

That is a sign that they know that -- they want voters to see the president in a moment to make the vast majority of voters who aren't paying attention yet tune in. And so I think that's what -- I think that is what they're trying to do.

BASH: Dan Pfeiffer, always good to see you. I, too, I'm reluctant to bet against my now colleague, David Axelrod. So I'm with you.

Thanks, Dan.

PLEIFFER: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Now, when Take Your Child to Work goes hilariously awry, Tennessee Congressman John Rose got up to speak on the House floor yesterday afternoon, but he was quickly upstaged by his very own son with a photobomb for the ages.

The six-year-old, you see there, could be seen smiling, making silly faces. There's a good one. Even sticking out his tongue. Wow, that's epic right there. All being done, as you can see, while his father, the congressman, was giving remarks on a very serious topic, the conviction of the former president.

Congressman Rose, though, took it all in stride. He posted on X. "This is what I get for telling my son, Guy, to smile at the cameras for his little brother." Guy is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, but is staying humble.


GUY ROSE, CONGRESSMAN JOHN ROSE'S SON: I was trying to get Sam's attention, because if you looked closely, you could know I was making a symbol, S --


ROSE: -- A-M.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guy, did you realize that you were a very big star today because of that?

ROSE: Not that much.




BASH: Another sign this morning of how the war in Gaza is splitting the Democratic Party. Former Congressman Mondaire Jones, who is now running for a suburban seat outside New York City, is endorsing Congressman Jamaal Bowman's Democratic primary opponent.

Now, the reason, Bowman is one of the largest and most outspoken critics of Israel in Congress, and Jones -- Mondaire Jones, told the Jewish Insider that, quote, "This is about standing up for the Jewish community. It's just critically important we rebuke extremists that some would have take over the Democratic Party."

Left on said is that the district Mondaire Jones wants to represent has one of the largest Jewish communities in the country.

My panel is back. This is really -- it really does spotlight what is happening in the Democratic Party for a whole host of reasons. I mean, if you just go back, not that far to 2020, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, they were both elected in neighboring districts in New York. They were the first black men to represent parts of Westchester County. They both defeated Democratic incumbents. And now there's this massive split.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I think it speaks to the transition you've seen from that progressive wing. And certainly, there's been different types of litmus tests that have come up for left wing kind of pieces of the party to say, are you sufficiently progressive? And right now, I think Gaza is driving that kind of question is, is where, who are you kind of placing blame with? Where, who are you kind of launching criticism with?

And Bowman has let that charge. But we should also say to your point about the side note here is that Mondaire Jones is doing this for Mondaire Jones. This is helpful for him politically. And I think specifically he's been someone since 2020 who's taken a couple interesting changes. He was someone who was saying words like defund the police and then backed off.

He's, you know, kind of had a hot and cold relationship with the progressive movement. Now, Bowman has stood firm, but that's cost him some political allies. And so I think we've seen there Mondaire kind of following the political winds on this question, but from Ritchie Torres to Jamaal Bowman to AOC, we have seen this issue certainly split specifically New York Democrats.

BASH: Yes, and Jamaal Bowman, I should say, has been among the most outspoken and he has definitely got -- has a lot of support on some of the -- on the progressive side, but he has raised the ire of other Democrats because he is using words like genocide. He was one of the first people to call for a ceasefire. And he is now being challenged by somebody who is -- has the support of pro-Israel, Democrats and Republicans.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, you know, we can argue all we want about how much the Israel Hamas war is going to end up being a factor in the presidential election. But I think you look at a race that Jamaal Bowman is currently running and you see an example of a kind of district where that issue may actually end up being incredibly important.


There's a ton of money, pro-Israel money that has already poured in to that race to support his opponent. And, you know, the fact that we are seeing this kind of fracture that's pretty unusual with his former colleague, came up with him together, endorsing him in this kind of public way, yes, it has been an ugly issue for Democrats.

BASH: And just real quick, we're almost out of time just to emphasize, Mondaire Jones, Democrat, is running to get back to Congress against a Republican Mike Lawler, who has made, among other things, made sort of his allegiance and alliance to Israel a big issue.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and that's getting to Astead's point, like Mondaire Jones is doing this to help Mondaire Jones. But, you know, as MJ said, there's a lot of races, primary races that pro-Israel money is trying to push -- is using to try to defeat some of these anti-Israel Progressives in Congress.

BASH: Yes. I mean, he did grow up around large Jewish communities. So not to make everything just about raw politics, not to say the politics isn't very much involved here. Thank you so much to all of you.

Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" stars after the break.