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Biden Heads To G7 Summit In Italy After Son's Guilty Verdict; President Biden Visits Hunter In Delaware After Conviction; Trump Has Yet To Comment Personally Since Conviction; Trump Advisor Leans Into Hunter Biden Conspiracy Theories; House Moves To Bring Garland Contempt Resolution To Final Vote; Trump-Backed Candidates Win In Critical GOP Primaries; Sam Brown, Backed By Trump, Wins Nevada's GOP Senate Primary; ND Voters Approve Age Limit For Congressional Candidates. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 12, 2024 - 12:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Today on INSIDE POLITICS, family ties. President Biden embraces his son both literally and figuratively after his three felony convictions. We'll look at the fallout for the first family and the Biden campaign.

Plus, David Axelrod is here to talk to him about whether his party needs to do more to reach out to disaffected Republicans, especially with so many progressives turning away from Biden over the war in Gaza.

And the rent is too damn high. The cost of housing is still soaring. And that's a big reason why so many Americans feel badly about the economy, despite Newsday that overall inflation is slowing down.

I'm Mana Raju in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at INSIDE POLITICS.

First up, we're tracking the fallout of the Hunter Biden guilty verdict. President Biden is on his way to the G7 summit in Italy this morning after a last-minute trip to Delaware, last night to huddle with his family. The president's son was found guilty on all three federal gun charges he was facing.

CNN's Kevin Liptak is tracking it all from the White House. So, Kevin, the White House press secretary just addressed the issue of a possible commutation for Hunter Biden for the first time. What did she say?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, she didn't rule it out. She also didn't rule it in. And what Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One was that she hadn't spoken to this -- to the President about this idea of commuting Hunter Biden sentence. She did point out that sentencing hadn't happened yet. And she pointed back to the president's very definitive comment from last week, when he said that he had ruled out a presidential pardon for his son. So, this is still a question that I think is hanging over this verdict a day after it happened. You are seeing the Biden family starting to sort of pick themselves up from this very dark moment and return back to work. We just learned in the last hour that the First Lady Jill Biden, who had been attending this trial for the last week or so will resume her campaign travel beginning tomorrow to a number of battleground states.

But you know, I think if you want to see what's in the president's head. If you want to get a sense of where his mind at the best place to look is those images from yesterday in Wilmington, Delaware. As the president was stepping off, Marine One greeting his son Hunter for the first time since that verdict was rendered with a smile, with a hug.

This is really the strategy that the president has employed for so long. When it comes to his son's legal issues is to draw him close, not push him away really kind of banish the sense of shame or stigma. And that does, I think, speak to some of the anguish that the president has been feeling behind the scenes for his son's wellbeing, for his whole family's wellbeing.

And now the president is on his way now to the G7 in Italy. He is joined on Air Force One by some of his granddaughters, those would be Hunter Biden's daughters. So certainly, that family dynamic, very much at close hand, even as the president continues his day-to-day job as president.

This is quite a stacked summit. There are a lot for these leaders to address principally among them, the war in Ukraine. But of course, the looming potential return of President Trump to the G7 if you were to win in November, I think is at the back of everyone's mind as they gather there on the Italian coast. Manu?

RAJU: All right, a lot today, said Kevin Liptak at the White House. Thanks for that. My panel is with me. Now CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, Lisa Lerer of the New York Times, and she's also the co-author of the new book, The Fall of Roe and The Rise of A New America, and CNN's Alayna Treene. Good to see you guys. You just came back from Wilmington this morning for the show.


RAJU: Just for us. Well, that -- thank you for that. It was interesting, the calculation of the president to be seen with his son last night, giving him a hug in the aftermath of this felony could have conviction. He didn't have to do that. They could have done this in private, decide it do it in public. What is behind that White House thinking?

ALVAREZ: No clear indication that he's going to keep his son close. A few things. Sources tell us that the possibility of the president going to Wilmington was floated late Monday night. It became -- it was finalized after the verdict was reached. Not only did the president rush back to Wilmington. The cameras were. There they caught the moment that Hunter Biden and his father embraced and had a moment before rushing off to the private residence where they huddled over the course of the evening.

So, clearly the president -- he wanted to be there for a son. And that has been what he has said over the course of this trial. In fact, in his statement yesterday, if you read it closely, it's really framed through the lens of a father, not a president. He talks about the resiliency of a son going through this addiction. And within the White House and within the campaign, this has been a sensitive and delicate issue of course.


But when we also talk to sources within the campaign, for them it's business as usual. They think that voters have already baked in their minds what they think about the Hunter Biden trial. It's not to their minds going to sway any voters, therefore, they're going to continue on the path that they're on. Of course, there still more trials and legal proceedings to come. But certainly, for now, it is -- this is a -- this is at the end of the day, a father, who had to come to his son's side.

RAJU: Yeah. But, you know, as you mentioned, we're in the middle of the political season. There's a decision and a calculation behind everything, you know, it was a decision to be seen. But as Priscilla knows, they don't believe there'll be any political backlash on the president, at least not yet.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, look. This has been a grueling and deeply emotional thing for the Biden family. This is, of course, a family that's been marked by tragedy. That's quite close. You saw that on full display in this trial. I mean, there were tears. It was really emotional testimony.

But look, the name of the show is INSIDE POLITICS. So, the politics of this, they also think while it may not move voters. They -- I have talked to several sources inside the campaign, inside of the Democratic Party, who think it is good politics or better politics for the president to be seen as a supportive father.

To be there supporting his son, who has dealt with these issues of addiction, like so many Americans have dealt with issues of addiction. And that he will get credit in some voters' minds for showing up in that way. So, I think it is both personal. But also, of course, as you point out political.

RAJU: It's really interesting that Trump, you know, he has been talking about, where's Hunter, where's -- remember they -- that was the whole campaign mantra in 2020. Hunter Biden is in the center of the investigations on Capitol Hill. Here he is convicted of felonies, and Donald Trump has said nothing.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's why we only saw a statement from the campaign, and it didn't even really mention the Hunter Biden's conviction --

RAJU: And it was from a spokesperson --


TREENE: It was from a spokesperson, and it said that it's a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden family. Look, it is a difficult situation for Donald Trump himself. Because as we know, and he discussed this on Hannity earlier this week. He comes from a family that has struggled with addiction. Donald Trump has been very public about that.

And so, in some ways, I think the former president is a bit sympathetic toward Hunter Biden. However, that doesn't mean he's going to stop attacking Hunter Biden overall for what the Republican Party has really made a target to show that the Biden family is corrupt.

Now, I will also say the other side of that is it does take a little bit of the wind out of his campaign sails, when it comes about talking about his own conviction.

RAJU: Yeah.

TREENE: Because the key thing that he has been saying over and over again, that is playing very well with voters as well, is that this is a two-tiered justice system, that they're only prosecuting Donald Trump. Having the president's son be convicted, does hurt that argument, of course, that's not going to change Republican --

ALVAREZ: Well, and in 2024, Donald Trump did go after President Biden -- in Hunter's issues at the time. And that moment -- during that debate, when we're on the cusp of another debate, it resonated because it ended up being the president -- President Biden now, sort of an acknowledging the difficulties of struggling with a son with addiction. And the campaign looks at that as a very strong moment that relate -- that he could relate to Americas.

RAJU: And you know, perhaps one of the reasons why that Trump has not said a whole lot is that Republicans have kind of been all over the map in the reaction. I spend a lot of time talking to a lot of Republicans. The speaker of the House, that it was an appropriate thing for him to be convicted. Other said it was not appropriate, and some dabbled in the idea of some conspiracy mongering.


REP, THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I don't think anybody should be prosecuted for that infraction. There're millions of felons in this country just waiting to be arrested because there are millions of marijuana users.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): And what they got Hunter Biden on was lying on a gun form. That would be like getting Jeffrey Dahmer for littering. It just seems like a prosecution as of a near for the real devious conduct.


RAJU: OK. But over the real devious kind, of course, there's nothing been proven that Joe Biden has done anything Cropley (Ph) that's been part of the Republican impeachment investigation that has not led to any sort of effort to impeach him yet, because they don't have the -- they haven't proven what they've been looking out for.

This is what Stephen Miller, he's senior advisor to Trump wrote on X yesterday. Said, DOJ is running on election interference for Joe Biden. And he says -- he goes on to say why because all the evidence would lead back to Joe. DOJ is Joe's election protection racket. They're all over the place.

LERER: Yeah, look. I think sometimes with campaigns it matters what they say, but it also matters what they don't say. And the Trump campaigns, you know, sort of broad silence except for the one statement speaks volumes here. And the reality is this is a complicated political issue for them.

RAJU: Because some like Thomas Massie said, he shouldn't have been prosecuted as they believe in the Second Amendment -- and yes.


LERER: Second Amendment and gun issues, and obviously there are a lot of strong supporters of gun rights that vote Republican. So that's complicated. The addiction issues are complicated. You know, there's a lot of Americans dealing with addiction. And I also think they didn't get the headline they wanted, which was, it would have been better for them in some ways to have a hung jury because they could have said it's an unfair system.

Instead, they got a headline where, you know, Hunter was convicted -- Hunter Biden, and also that doesn't link anything that went on the trail to the president. So, well, I think, you know, Miller statements will help rally the Republican base -- in the MAGA base who are with Trump anyhow.

It's not -- that kind of thing is not going to break through to voters who is small sliver of voters who may be undecided, or people who are on the fence about dropping out, it's not going to get them the kind of mass support that they could have ran with against those other two scenarios.

RAJU: And some are still saying two-tier justice system and something that does undercut the idea of a two -- so called two-tier justice. And that's what Jason Roe who's a Republican strategist for the chair of the Michigan GOP center political yesterday, throws a bit of sand in the gears of people suggesting the Biden Department of Justice has been engineering -- engineered to go after Trump. One feature of the modern Republican Party is ignoring facts that don't support the argument and sometimes embracing the conspiracy theories that do.

TREENE: I think -- I think that's pretty fair. I think that's why this case is very difficult for them to handle. You laid it out perfectly. Their biggest -- I mean -- and I will say from being on the ground, specifically, I talked to so many voters at these Trump rallies, some of them who say, one of their driving issues for wanting to vote for the former president is because of all the charges he is facing.

So, this really does undercut their key argument. I think that's why you're seeing the silence. While you're not hearing much on this because we know Donald Trump is going to continue to run on being a persecuted political opponent.

He's continuing to fundraise insane amounts of money after that guilty verdict in Manhattan a week or so ago. And so, that is so core to their campaign. They do not want to draw attention to the fact that the president's own son was also found guilty here on the Biden administration.

RAJU: And both sides seem to be willing to move on -- leave the voters -- the voters' thing. All right, coming up. In contempt, House Republicans are poised to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress. We're live from Capitol Hill. Next.




RAJU: Moments ago on Capitol Hill, a vote to move forward with holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress was approved by just one vote in the House. It's all over the Justice Department's refusal to turn over audio tapes of President Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill for us. So, Lauren, that was a very slim margin. But Republican leaders are still confident that it will be approved better today.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Manu. This vote happened along party lines. Actually, there were a number of absences contributing to the fact that that vote was really tight. But once again, it has forced Republican leaders to do a double check of their tally, make sure that they are in the right position to move forward later this afternoon. That is what we expect GOP leaders to do however.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise said this morning, this was something that Republicans need to get off their docket. And I will tell you, I was talking to a number of Republicans across the ideological spectrum. After that last vote series, Marjorie Taylor Greene said that if Republicans vote against moving forward with this contempt resolution that they're going to have to explain themselves to GOP voters.

I also talked to Anthony D'Esposito, who is a moderate Republican from a swing district who told me that he does plan to support it. So that gives you some indication that even people who have tuff reelections coming up in November. They are leaning to vote and support this bill, Manu, obviously, we'll be watching at 3:30. Republicans arguing they have to move forward with this because they want the audio tapes released from Special Counsel Robert Hur's interview with President Trump. Manu?

RAJU: Yeah. Merrick Garland says he would not do that because of the jeopardize how they do future investigations when they bring people behind closed doors. Lauren Fox, thank you for that report. And last night's primaries proved Donald Trump still has a strong grip on the Republican Party.

Candidates endorsed in multiple states, walked away with victories. That includes South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace. She overcame a primary challenge backed by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who of course she voted to depose.

Some other big wins last night, Sam Brown secured the GOP nomination in the Nevada Senate race. And Trump sided with GOP leaders to support the army veteran in that marquee race. And in a ruby red district in Ohio, Republican Michael Rulli won a House special election, but he did far worse than Trump did in that same district four years ago.

Democratic Strategist Simon Rosenberg tells POLITICO, quote, when the choice of MAGA and other alternatives are presented to voters, MAGA underperforms public polling. So, let's dig into that. Is that actually accurate? So, this is how what happened here last night in this Ohio special election.

It's a red district -- a very red district. Trump won it by almost 30 points in 2020. Last night, the Republican candidate just 10 points. So, what does it tell us? One thing that it could tell us is, Trump does better with voters who vote infrequently than voters who vote frequently.

This is what registered collar voters versus people who did not vote in 2020. Donald Trump, up -- in battleground states up six points among all registered voters up 17 points, among people who did not vote in 2020, meaning they're not voting so frequently. So, Lisa, should Democrats be as hardened as maybe Simon Rosenberg says they should be.

LERER: Well, Simon Rosenberg is the Democrats big hope meister in these days. Look, we all -- all of us who follow politics and read these tea leaves, we love special elections. We think they give us unlock clues. The predictive clues of the universe, you know, they're not a bad barometer.


I think they can tell us some things about the environment. We have seen that Democrats have overperformed in elections since President Biden won in 2020. So, there is a bit of a trendline there. But the reality is people are going to be voting next fall. Early voting, of course, will start in September, not now. So, you know, there's some lessons Democrats can take from here.

I think we have seen what Simon is talking about there in that quote, that they have rejected some of the anti-democratic tendencies, certainly the anti-abortion plank of the Republican Party, whether that is still the dominant issue come next fall with economic concerns, immigration concerns, foreign -- a very unstable foreign policy environment. We just don't know that. That is unknowable right now.

ALVAREZ: And the Democratic strategists that I've been talking to this morning, also point out that there was voter turnout, right. So, it has also made it very difficult to kind of gauge what the enthusiasm is and whether they can make any real conclusions from the primaries.

But to your point about abortion, Nevada is really interesting with Jacky Rosen there. She is -- she has sort of put herself in a more moderate position. She is also trying to use abortion and casting it as the reproductive freedoms like the Biden campaign has done. And they do hope that that could help them out in Nevada, which is also, you know, an important state for them nonetheless.

RAJU: Absolutely. And there was interesting about how Trump is handling all of this. In that Nevada race, he aligned himself with Republican leaders. Ultimately, he gave a late endorsement to Sam Brown, who's actually already on the path to winning that Republican nomination there. But that was who the Senate GOP leadership had been behind.

Trump has been aligned with the Senate GOP leadership in this cycle, unlike last cycle when they sparred over some candidates and ultimately didn't take the majority. But last night, just to look at how Trump has dominant -- his candidates have dominated in the primaries. Nancy Mace, who he got behind. She was one of the eight voted to oust Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy wanted her out.

He also backed William Timmons, who is a -- this is an interesting race too, because right wing members of the House Freedom Caucus tried to oust Timmons. He said he was not conservative enough, but Trump copy on Timmons that he won, and also Trump won against Doug Burgum, the North Dakota governor. Maybe his VP of the North Dakota governor's fund race -- GOP primary backing Kelly Armstrong, instead of Burgum's pic in that race. What does that tell you, Alayna?

TREENE: I mean, Trump's endorsement continues to be incredibly powerful. I mean, something we know that clearly all of these candidates and other candidates in other races we've seen across the spectrum, continue to clobber for that support because they know it makes a difference. But I just want to talk a little bit more about Nevada because I found that race so fascinating, because Donald Trump had endorsed in every single Senate battleground state, except for Nevada until Sunday.

And I think what that shows is that, you know, sure, Sam Brown won, but they already knew he was on the pathway to winning before he offered his endorsement. And that was a very interesting race because the GOP was really split and particularly people in Trump's orbit were very split about what to do there. There was a lot of fierce conservatives who wanted Jeff Gunter to be the person that Trump got behind.

RAJU: It his former ambassador --

TREENE: Exactly, a former ambassador to Iceland. And he got behind Sam Brown. And a big part of that I'm told is one, of course, Steve Daines, and the establishment Republican Party was asked -- was going after and supporting Sam Brown --

(CROSSTALK) TREENE: Yes. And also, they saw the writing on the wall that he was very much expected to win. And that's a huge part of all of these endorsements. When it comes down to Donald Trump, a key thing that they want is that to make sure that if he's going to get behind a candidate, that that they can win. That did not happen in 2022. It was very embarrassing for Donald Trump.

That's why you're seeing such -- so many fewer endorsements this cycle. They argue it's because he's preoccupied with his own election. But there's still very much that bitterness from going and endorsing a lot of candidates that ultimately hurt the party overall during the midterms.

RAJU: Absolutely. And he was also interesting in North Dakota. This was a ballot measure that was approved last night, pretty unique with a congressional age limit ballot measure. So that it's really approved. Candidates can't turn anyone by the end of the term. And that applies to U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

You know whether this is constitutional. That's a whole different question. I'm sure it'll be challenged. But for two aging candidates, it shows you that there's one state, I'm sure this is probably a pretty popular ballot measure across 50 states.

ALVAREZ: Yeah. Is there any doubt that voters are thinking about age this election? I mean, this has been front and center. And the Biden campaign just went -- has launched seniors for Biden. So, this is top of mind and obviously something they're going to -- they're going to have to grapple with in the states in November.

LERER: It's funny because when you pull voters on this issue, how old is -- it's too old. They can't quite agree on what the limit should be. So, to have a ballot measure that sets it for you, it's clear like that will get broad support for them.


TREENE: What they can agree on I think -- we all know too, is that, so many Americans are unhappy with the two candidates and they're running for president. And a huge reason for that is they think both are too old. Donald Trump's birthday is on Friday. If he were to win election in November, he would be older than President Biden was when he started this term. And so, it's something consistent and I hear this on the ground all the time too regardless of party. They don't like that the two options they have are two very old men.

RAJU: No question about that. All right, next. Is President Biden doing enough to win over anti-Trump Republicans who supported candidates like Chris Christie and Nikki Haley. We'll go one-on-one with Democratic strategist David Axelrod after the break.