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Biden's Executive Action Limiting Asylum-Seekers Takes Effect; Democrats Divided Over Biden's New Border Rules; Trump: Biden Border Action Is "Meaningless," "Public Relations"; Youth Progressive Group's Wary Of Backing Biden In 2024; Now: Hunter Biden's Ex-Girlfriend Testifies About His Drug Use; Democrats Defend Biden After WSJ Story On Mental Fitness. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 05, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, cruel, flawed of betrayal. That's how some progressive members of Joe Biden's own party are describing his sweeping new restrictions. Now in effect at the southern border. Moderate Democrats under the same political pressure as Biden say it had to be done. Will the president's attempt to deal with a massive political liability, help him in November?

Plus, emotional and deeply personal testimony. Hunter Biden's ex-wife is on the stand right now, detailing the first son's struggles with addiction. We're going to bring you the latest from inside the courtroom. And where should the president eat a cheese steak and other issues are very important in Pennsylvania politics. Senator John Fetterman is here to talk about what Biden needs to do to win that crucial swing state once again.

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

First step, Biden's border gambit. As of midnight, those who unlawfully crossed the southern border will be barred from seeking asylum in the United States. It is the most aggressive action that president has taken to address a years' long surge of migrants at the border.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Hidalgo, Texas. Rosa, what are you seeing now that this has taken effect?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dana, I want to start from the top because this border stuff can be so confusing. I'm at Hidalgo, Texas. I want you to look behind me because this is the international bridge that leads to Reynosa Mexico. First of all, this executive order does not impact international trade. It does not impact commerce. That's why you still see this free flow of traffic into Mexico at a port of entry.

Now, migrants who crossed the border illegally, that's the impact of this executive order. If they do not express fear, then they will be swiftly removed back to Mexico or to their country of origin, depending on their demographics. Now, what does that look like? We shot some video earlier today. And I want us to roll this video because this shows you what this would look like at the border. You see a white bus. Now this is a government bus and normally transports migrants around in this area.

Now you see that government bus, drive into the port of entry. And then you're going to see border patrol agents that are escorting migrants back into Mexico. They're literally walking them to the international bridge and walking them back to Mexico.

Now we don't know if what you just saw are the first signs that this executive order is actually in effect because we've seen this before. That is what we've seen in the title 42 era, for example, when there's very swift removals. What we do know from a source is that we would expect to see more of that happen very quickly. Migrants being very quickly returned either swiftly to Mexico or we would see more deportation flights to other countries to return them back.

Now, there's important nuance here because Customs and Border Protection will still be fingerprinting these migrants. They will still be doing background checks to see if there's national security risks. And if migrants do express fear, then there will be credible fear interviews that will be conducted either at Customs and Border Protection or ICE facilities.

But the standard, Dana, that migrants will have to meet to seek asylum will be a lot higher. So, the probability that those migrants will be returned, just like you saw in that video moments ago is a lot higher.

Now, I know we're almost out of time, but I have to add this. When this executive order is not in effect, that doesn't mean that the laws are not going to be applied. This, Dana, is simply and the easiest way for me to explain it. Is border security on steroids? Everything just happens a lot faster. Dana, back to you.

BASH: I'm so happy that you explained it the way that you did. We're extremely lucky to have you down there with all of your expertise, with all of your sources and putting it all in perspective and really showing us the reality of what happened with just the stroke of a pen yesterday. Thank you so much, Rosa.


And on the politics of this, the executive order that Rosa was just talking about laid bare a split in the president's own party. Progressives on Capitol Hill warned about consequences.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The concerns that -- that the right is raising around the border are resonant in a lot of electorates. But our responsibility is to develop solutions that work.

REP. DELIA RAMIREZ (D-IL): It means more people are going to die in the Rio Grande and people are still going to come to the ports of entry, not just the actual issue. REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Today's executive order does not reflect the America I know, the America I love. A country built by immigrants.


Now moderate -- Democratic moderates maintain that that order that the president signed was necessary.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (I-WV): This is something that had to be done. It should have been done sooner. But I'm happy it's done. Now I support the president for doing this.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): No one is happy when they look at the southern border and feels like it's going well. So, it's not perfect, but I am supportive of the action that he took today.

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): With my Republican colleagues not wanting to take action on this. We're at this point where the White House is taking some steps that I truly believe is going to make a big difference.


BASH: Mark Kelly there obviously, senator of a border state. Let's talk more about this with my great group of reporters here at the table. CNN's Isaac Dovere, Nia-Malika Henderson of Bloomberg and CNN, and Hans Nichols of Axios. Hello, everybody. Happy Hump Day.

Let's kind of take a step back on the politics of this. I mean, obviously, I just laid out the very deep rub in and among Democrats on this issue. But the question that we genuinely don't know the answer too and it is the gamble that President Biden is making, is that this is going to help to soften the very big political problem that he has on the issue of immigration.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, listen, it gives Democrats a talking point, right? Ruben Gallego, for instance, who wants to be a senator in Arizona. He welcomed this because they are now seeing that the politics around immigration have moved to the right, which Democrats who go to vote for Democrats. They have a problem with the scenes from the southern border.

So now they're able to say, President Biden is doing something on this. And look at what Donald Trump did and look at what Republicans who are in Congress now, they rejected an even more comprehensive approach to securing the border. So, I think the politics of this are great for Biden in the sense that you have progressives hammering him. So, he does now look like sort of the moderate in the centrist, which I think most Americans want a sort of pragmatic solution.

BASH: Except that he needs those progressives to get out and vote for him.

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: He does, but he also needs a lot of other people to get out and vote for him. And I think to me it's funny. That you have a situation here, where -- look I was at the White House yesterday when the president announced this and afterwards saw some of the reactions that were coming from all those people who stood with him.

And they said, people like Tom Suozzi, won that special election. A lot of it on the immigration issue he said, this is not what we wanted to happen. What we wanted was that bipartisan deal in Congress. He said -- I mean sort of funny. He said, you know, we all joke about how Joe Biden is a creature of the Senate, nobody wanted a legislative deal more than Joe Biden, whether or not that's true.

We can debate but it is definitely the case that there was movement toward a bipartisan deal that was stopped in its tracks by Donald Trump saying to Republicans, he didn't want it to happen. And so, what Joe Biden does get to do here is take -- it's not just saying something he's done something now, and we'll see if it has the effect that he wanted to have. But it does something, it puts a direct contrast to Donald Trump. And it is absolutely in the context of the run up to the debate at the end of the month.

BASH: Let's listen to what his opponent, the former Republican president -- current Republican candidate Donald Trump said about this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice over): So, first of all, it's a nothing what that he did and allowing massive numbers of people still to come in. And it's just misinformation, disinformation, and just another hit you up. This is a public-relations executive order, that is meaningless.


BASH: Just a quick fact check. When he was president, and he couldn't get things out through Congress or actually things were moving to Congress that he didn't want to sign is probably a better way to put it. He too signed an executive order that was overturned by courts.

And that is part of the reason why the Biden administration has said for virtually the entire time that the crisis has been escalated that they didn't want the president to do what he did yesterday because they assume that it will be challenged in courts, and it already is.


HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: And they also need money. That's the big question. I mean, that's why the border report from your correspondent there was so good. This executive order is going to test the proposition on whether or not you can unilaterally shut down the border without actually having any funds. When you look at the mechanics of what's going to happen on the border. People are going to come in, they're going to apply for asylum.

Once we hit this trigger, they're no longer -- they can be turned away quickly. But at a certain point, you have to listen to these people and their claims. And that requires agents, people on the ground. So, I mean, by the White House's own math, when they initially requested, they asked for 13 billion. I think in the ultimate Senate package, it was 20 billion. It's a lot of money. And there's a real recognition across all parties to solve this. You need the funds and Biden still doesn't have it.

So yes, to Nia's point he has a talking point. He has a counter. I'd also sort of suggest that any day that the country is talking about immigration is probably a day Republicans like as opposed to Donald Trump's court challenges or any other host of issues. They like it when the conversation is focused on the border.

BASH: No, that's an -- that's an interesting point. Let's go back since President Biden's speech happened after our program yesterday. And I want to just specifically play the part where Biden was clearly speaking to his progressive Democratic brethren.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For those who say the steps I've taken are too strict. I say to you that be patient. And goodwill American people are going to -- wearing thin right now. Doing nothing is not an option. Today, I've spoken about what we need to do to secure the border. In the weeks ahead -- and I mean the weeks ahead, I'll speak to how we can make our immigration system more fair and more just.


DOVERE: Like, this is -- I mean a problem for him. As he said, we've progressed also for people to say like, OK, is this just hardline stuff? Is this just Joe Biden being doing what Donald Trump would do?

BASH: Right.

DOVERE: And that's something that you hear from a lot of Democrats, especially among progressives who say, things like -- we absolutely opposed Donald Trump, but we don't want to be complicit in Joe Biden in doing things that we don't like.

HENDERSON: And I think some of these conversations were having last go around when they were thinking about a backing this bipartisan bill that ended up stalled in Congress because of Donald Trump.

A lot of the activists I were -- I was talking to, sort of were ready to swallow the pill on that, as long as there was something else moving forward that was more comprehensive, more compassionate towards immigrants who are here now. And so, I think, you know, the politics on this are complicated. But I do think in many ways, progressives were sort of prepared for this based on what was happening before.

BASH: And this, of course, is just one issue where progressives are not thrilled with their party leader in the White House. You have great reporting a scoop this morning, talking about a different group on a different topic. The group called Sunrise really upset about Biden and what he's not doing necessarily on climate change. For now, the group -- this is Sunrise.

For now, the group is taking a wait-and-see approach. But officials are clearly sounding the alarm that Sunrise activist may not support Biden, even after he passed historic climate legislation that they helped craft.

NICHOLS: Right. Sunrise was a big youth movement, very progressive, very involved in drafting Biden's climate agenda, the unity agenda with Bernie Sanders in 2020. They were in there helping him draft it. And they're upset with him on two issues. One, he's gone a little far and some of the fossil fuels hasn't been enough fossil fuels, the Willow Bay action.

But when you read what they're saying carefully, they're also very upset about Gaza and the war, the Israel-Hamas war. And for that group to be effective, it's a volunteer grassroots group. They have to have their volunteers motivated and they have to have their volunteers ready to talk to their friends and make the case for Joe Biden.

And what the group is saying now, nothing is final. They can come out and give a full-throated decision. And in all these decisions, it's always a question of the alternative, like Sunrise is not going to endorse Donald Trump. I think we can be pretty careful on that. Just pretty clear in that -- just how apathetic they're going to be. And it speaks to a larger challenge that Biden campaign has, which is motivating their young people and motivating progressives.

BASH: Exactly. And so, I wanted to get that in. It's great reporting. Everyone standby. Coming up, dramatic new details from inside the courtroom in Hunter Biden's gun trial. An ex-girlfriend is now on the stand after his ex-wife was there earlier.

And Senator John Fetterman says, he never thought an award from Yeshiva University would be on the bingo card for his life. But if you see there, his life has taken a turn, particularly his political life. Thanks to his steadfast support for Israel. He's going to join us later this hour.




BASH: Right now, Hunter Biden's ex-girlfriend Zoe Kestan is on the stand. Her testimony comes after his ex-wife Kathleen Buhle testified about how her husband of two decades struggled with addiction. Prosecutors are hoping these witnesses will help prove that the first son was using drugs when he bought a gun in 2015.

CNN's Evan Perez is in Wilmington, Delaware. Evan, first of all, this is moving very quickly. But tell us what happened with Hunter Biden's ex-wife? And whether prosecutors got out of her testimony what they were hoping or whether or not she may be helped the defense more than prosecutors anticipated. EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, she certainly was one of the most anticipated witnesses. Dana, you know that she is the former wife, and she came here under subpoena, she told -- she said that in court. And she was here to sort of help prosecutors with their -- with the major part of their case, which is that she witnessed him, again found -- finding drug paraphernalia.


She witnessed some of the drug use around the time that that they're interested in which is 2018. He bought this firearm on October 12, 2018, and prosecutors don't have any evidence that on the day that he bought the gun, he was using drugs. That's what -- that's what Abby Lowell, the defense attorney is sort of driving home and prosecutors have tons of evidence. And you're seeing the volumes there being presented to this jury.

Kathleen Buhle was on the stand for the prosecution about 15 minutes, under cross examination from Abbe Lowell. She acknowledged that she did not exactly remember the date when she found some of these -- this proof of his drug use. And that's when she found out that she had that he was using drugs.

That's perhaps a little helpful for the defense. But the evidence that the prosecution has is overwhelming and they're trying to essentially overwhelm the jurors. Zoe Kestan just took the stand a little while ago. And one of the things she talked about is that she met Hunter Biden at a gentlemen's clubs and that she saw him smoking from what she said was a strange pipe. And she assumed it to be crack cocaine, which of course, Hunter Biden has admitted he was using during this period.

Now the question is for the jury, will they buy what are the doubts that Abbe Lowell is trying to solve with some of his arguments? Dana?

BASH: All right. Evan, thank you so much for that reporting. Really appreciate you being there in that courtroom for us. I want to bring in criminal defense attorney Ron Kuby. Thank you so much for being here, Ron. I just want to start where Evan left off, based on what we're hearing from the testimony of Kathleen Buhle.

What is your sense of the impact of that, considering that the prosecution was trying to get her to talk a lot about Hunter Biden's drug use and of course, considering that they were married for two decades.

RON KUBY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's no doubt whatsoever that the prosecution is successful and will continue to be successful in portraying Hunter Biden during this general period as a drug addled wreck of a human being. Indeed, Hunter Biden himself admitted as much in his own memoir, which we'll just call that a confession, which he then helpfully narrated in audiobook form, which was played yesterday at trial.

But what the defense is doing here is kind of remarkably clever and remarkably careful whether or not it's going to work. First Abbe Lowell was arguing that Hunter Biden didn't knowingly lie on the form because he thought -- when he was asked, are you using drugs? That meant right now. That is, you know, it's like Clinton's is -- are you right now stoned, and they can't prove that he was.

And number two, that as addicted as he may have been, like many addicts, he didn't identify as a drug addict. He resisted internalizing his addiction until, you know, he went for rehab and treatment and finally came clean. So, I think it's a good defense. I just don't know what's going to work.

BASH: And just taking a step back for our viewers who are not very familiar with the charges. We call it a gun trial. The idea is and the indictment is about possessing a gun and not telling the truth on the form, that he was, in fact, allegedly an addict. Because you mentioned that audio book and what they played in court yesterday. I want to play that for our viewers.


HUNTER BIDEN, JOE BIDEN's SON (voiceover): No honor among us crackheads. In Nashville I was a bloodhound on the scent like everywhere else I'd bought crack. I knew I could go there cold and in a no time assess what highway to get on, what exit to get off at, what gas station to pull into, and what unsavory looking character to choose in my newest most trusted associate.


BASH: I mean, jurors on that human level. This is just sad, incredibly sad. He has obviously very publicly talked about his addiction. Yes, that could play into the prosecution's case. And the prosecution is hoping it will. But the flip side and I want you to speak to this as a -- as a veteran and famed defense attorney. Could that actually make Hunter Biden more sympathetic to the jury?

KUBY: It totally makes him more sympathetic. And what Abbe Lowell really is doing is a variety of jury nullification defense. And in order to do that, in order to get the jury to kind of disregard some things, first you need to make them want to acquit your client. And I think the evidence is doing that. You know, there's a redemption here.


Here was this drug addict and now here is this fine looking clean sober man. The jury is going to want to find a reason to vote not guilty. And Abbe Lowell is trying to give them a variety of reasons to vote not guilty in this kind of hunt for reasonable doubt. And once the jury has decided to hunt for reasonable doubt, they'll usually find it, and this isn't -- say again.

BASH: Oh. I didn't say anything. Keep going. I think there was a little bit of a -- of an interruption finish at that place.

KUBY: Oh, I'm sorry. You know, it basically, jury nullification works in these kinds of cases where nobody was seriously injured. The offense was transitory. It can be explained through addiction. And now the defendant is a much better man. Although, frankly, jury nullification has a bad history in the United States when it comes to crimes of violence, particularly against people of color. But that's not this. This is a basic drug or gun case.

BASH: Ron, I always learned so much from you every time we speak. Thank you so much. I hope you come back soon.

KUBY: That's up to you. Just got a call. Thank you, Dana.

BASH: We have your number. So as the First Lady sits in the federal courtroom where she is again with her son. The president is in Paris, kicking off a five-day state visit that begins with commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day that's tomorrow. But even overseas, President Biden can't escape his election, your challenges.

Today Democrats are pushing back hard on his behalf. On a news story from The Wall Street Journal, quote, behind closed doors, Biden shows signs of slipping. Now that is based on accounts from what the journal says is dozens of people, nearly all Republicans who have interacted with Biden recently.

Democrats say, the reporters ignored people with positive things to say. The White House responded, in part, quote, congressional Republicans, foreign leaders and nonpartisan national-security experts have made clear in their own words that President Biden is a savvy and effective leader. Now in 2024, House Republicans are making false claims as a political tactic that flatly contradict previous statements made by themselves and their colleagues.

Let's talk a little bit more about this. Hans, I know you have thoughts.

NICHOLS: Well, admit some of these thoughts on other reporters reporting that we all know and respect, maybe we shouldn't air all those out here. Let me just try to stay within what I think it's fair. OK.

BASH: Good move. Yeah.

NICHOLS: If this were a bar, I'd have a totally different role. But let me -- let me just --

BASH: If this were a bar, it would be a very good show. Go ahead.

NICHOLS: And we can argue on that. We'll talk about the piece. Look, what the story did is it laid out the best case -- the best public case that people are willing to make right now. And it had senior Republicans and leadership or out of leadership, making these allegations against Joe Biden. I think the most interesting quote was from Senator Risch, senator who could potentially be chair. I think he gets foreign relations. I think that's what he's up for next.

But Risch was basically saying, what you see with Biden in public is what you see in private. And that's the kind of -- I think that seems like the safest reporting ground to be on. But as you mentioned, the White House thing is the kids -- that were the kids say they have some thoughts. I think the White House had some thoughts on this piece.

DOVERE: Yeah. I mean, look, there were a couple of things. First of all, the story includes that the White House is very carefully monitoring the reporting on this --

NICHOLS: Which is a little creepy. And when you -- when you get calls, saying I hear you talk.

DOVERE: Right.

NICHOLS: I think it's well within the bounds (Ph) and fine.

DOVERE: And the reporting that I've done on this topic, I have found that too that they're very sensitive on it. But some of it is what plays out in public. As I said, I was in the room with Biden yesterday. He is slower walking. He is slower talking and responding. Then he was even in 2020 when he was running, certainly when he was vice president. He is showing his age in some ways.

But I have had the conversation with a lot of people who've been behind closed doors with him. And either, this is a massive conspiracy covering up a president in full on dementia. Or there are some things that happen when you get old. I mean someone said to me a year ago, who's known the president longtime.

Isaac, he was rambling a lot. And I said didn't Joe Biden always ramble a lot. And he said, you know, that's true, but everything looks different with the context of age. And the last thing just I would say on this is that we do have this conversation about Joe Biden. We don't usually have it about Donald Trump. If you put aside the content of what Trump says, yes or no, and that there is a syntax -- getting problem.

BASH: Nia, I am going to --

HENDERSON: No, I think that's right. I mean, my response to the piece when I read it was now do Donald Trump, right. And we saw some of this play out in public when he gave that very rambling, disjointed speech on Friday. He is not the person who used to be.

BASH: We are going to talk more about Donald Trump, and I'm going to come to you first. Great. But before we get there, coming up, we have an always outspoken Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. He's going to be here live. Lots of questions. What does he think of progressives warning. They won't vote for Biden. And what the president should do to pull up another win in his key battleground state of Pennsylvania.