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Biden Campaign Hires GOP Outreach Chief to Woo Republicans; Supreme Court to Rule Soon on Two Pivotal Abortion Cases; Trump Tells Christian Conservatives to Stand Up for Innocent Life. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 12, 2024 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Unfit for office, that's how one Republican described former President Donald Trump.


PAUL RYAN, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: If you're willing to put yourself about the constitution in oath, you would swear when you take office and become a member of Congress, you swear an oath to the Constitution, and if you are willing to suborn it to yourself, I think that makes you unfit for office.


RAJU: But, that does not mean he's endorsing President Biden. It was enough for him, however, to be attacked by pro-Trump House Republicans.


REP. TROY NEHLS, (R-TX): Paul Ryan, you're a piece of garbage. You're a piece of garbage and we should kick you out of the party. Don't go spout in your mouth off and saying you are a conservative. You have spit in the face of the leader of our party, Donald Trump. I mean, grow up a little bit.


RAJU: Ouch. All right. Joining me now is CNN's Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod. He is a former senior adviser to President Obama and perhaps most importantly, fellow Chicago Bears and Cubs fan.



RAJU: And fully grown, there you go. Well, you've been talking to Republicans like Chris Christie about how they are dealing with this race. Just let (ph) our viewers listen to about Chris -- what Chris Christie has been saying.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: There are no character guardrails anymore. There are no red lines that, OK, you cross over this, I cannot be with you. And to me, that red line for character was election night 2020. When you start to screw with the Democratic transfer of power from the voters, that's it, I'm done.


RAJU: Yet, still not endorsing Biden. So, how does Biden get these Republicans on board?

AXELROD: Yeah, we should point out -- and Chris Christie is a friend of mine. I can say that because he's retired now, so I don't --


But he is retired because the voters, Republican voters rejected the argument. So, Trump has a pretty strong hold on that part. There are some Republicans holding out, but yes, Biden has to get them to cross the bridge here. They're willing to leave Trump and say, they're not going to vote for Trump. Biden has to get them, part of that is a mechanical process, Manu, and that's -- he has to ask. He has to call -- I don't believe he has had a conversation with Chris Christie.

RAJU: Right. Call him up, right?

AXELROD: And I've heard from many other Republicans who are very disaffected with Trump, who've never spoken with Biden.

RAJU: You know Biden so well. Why has he not just pick up the phone?

AXELROD: I don't know. I really don't know. Some people said, well, there's -- there was a concern that if he calls, the call would get out and if they didn't endorse that would be a reject. I mean, that's crazy. I mean, these are free agents out there and he should try and grab them because I think the more Republicans who stepped forward and say, you know what, I'm voting for Biden, the more it creates a permission structure for Republican voters who are worried about Trump's moral, ethical, and legal failing. So --

RAJU: There is an opportunity for that. I mean, just look at how the Nikki Haley voters voted after she dropped out of the primary in a number of states, including some battleground states, and 18 percent in Arizona, and Pennsylvania 16 percent. So -- and these were close primaries, since March (ph).


RAJU: So I mean, are those actually gettable voters and what specifically do they need to do? What case do they (ph) make to those voters specifically?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think the case that Christie is making about constitution, the constitution, and rules and laws, norms and institutions will appeal to some. There are others who have a wholly different view of national security and certainly, Nikki Haley does from Trump, and Biden is the one who is standing up to Putin and holding firm there. And that should be to the old Reagan Republicans, that could be encouragement as well.

But, so I think there are arguments to be made, but you have to make them.

RAJU: (Inaudible). I've heard Democrats say that Trump is an existential threat to American democracy. Have they -- are you satisfied with that message or should they be doing more?

AXELROD: Listen, I think that -- I share the concern about a guy who has absolutely no regard for rules or laws or norms or institutions, and we've seen what the impact of that is. And I think we owed Trump the respect of believing what he's saying when he says he's going to be about the business of caroling the Justice Department and going after his enemies and stuff. I think that's what he wants to do and that's what he'll try to do.

RAJU: But Biden has really -- has he been doing enough to make that case?

AXELROD: Well, here's my concern. There are a lot of people who recognize all of these things and Trump's, all of his failings.


But I keep saying, if you are talking about democracy over the dinner table, it's probably because you don't have to worry about the food, the cost of the food on your table. I think Biden has to create tangible contrast with Trump on stuff that touches people's lives. Democracy as important as it is can be an abstract notion --

RAJU: Yeah.

AXELROD: -- if you have day-to-day concerns. And I think Biden has a case to make on those day-to-day concerns on what he would do and what Trump would do.

RAJU: Interesting.

AXELROD: You know.

RAJU: And so, let's talk a little about the debate, which is coming up here on CNN in just a matter of a couple of weeks, June 27th. Biden, his preparation for those, and how much do you think he should hammer home the fact that he's running against a convicted felon, or is that becoming a little bit more complicated given the fact that his son was just indicted (ph)?

AXELROD: I go back to my last answer. I think Biden -- I think that, that will undoubtedly come up. There will be points of reference here, but there are people out there who are saying I know all that, but my groceries or too costly, my -- you know, my rent is getting too high. I can't get insurance and so on. Biden needs to really lay out the fact that he is fighting for them. Trump is fighting for himself. And they're beginning to strike that theme. But I think that's something think that's as important to drive as these democracy messages in this debate.

RAJU: And how should he deal with -- inevitably, Hunter Biden is going to come up. How should he deal with that?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think that there's -- I think there's solicitude for him as a father. I don't think the Hunter Biden thing is currently hurting him with voters. I think what may be interesting (inaudible), I could absolutely see Trump, who doesn't want to ruffle the feathers of the gun lobby, saying to Biden I can't believe you're going to let your kid go to prison on that.

RAJU: That would be an interesting turn, but we'll see. We do remember, the last time they had that debate in 2020, there was a better moment from Joe Biden about the Hunter Biden situation.

AXELROD: It was. Yeah. But if it comes in on a left-handed kind of way, that would be a challenge for Biden. If I were prepping, I might prepare him for that.

RAJU: Yeah. All right. Well, David Axelrod, thanks for this discussion. You'll want to tune in to CNN's Presidential Debate, which is if you can believe it, in only two weeks. That's on Thursday, June 27th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, of course, moderated by Dana Bash and Jake Tapper.

All right, coming up, the cost of housing is a critical economic challenge for millions of Americans and a critical political challenge for Democrats.



RAJU: This morning, consumers got some welcome news, that inflation has slowed more than expected and that's according to new numbers from the federal government. But underlying that good news was the fact that the cost of shelter is still rising faster than the overall rate. CNN's Matt Egan joins me now to take a deeper look.

So Matt, explain what is going on and what explains the rising housing costs?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Manu, today's Inflation Report overall was encouraging. We actually did see prices drop on a monthly basis for things like gasoline and new cars and air fare. But one of the big problems, of course, is how expensive it is right now to rent and to own a home, and that is really pushing up the overall inflation rate.

So, we can see that shelter costs were up year-over-year last month by 5.4 percent. That is well ahead of the overall inflation rate of 3.3 percent. And this is, of course, a big problem because, one, shelter is a huge part of our monthly budget. So this is something that Americans really feel.

Of course, this is also a problem because this is a big component of the overall inflation rate. And one of the reasons why this is happening is because there's just not enough supply out there whether we are talking about supply of homes or the supply of affordable units to rent, there's more demand than supply and that has pushed up the cost here.

Now, when we look at the trend for shelter inflation, two things stand out. One, we are much at better place than two years ago, right, costs are going up, but not as rapidly as they were. The other thing that stands out though is that the progress has been slow and shelter inflation is still well ahead of what people would consider normal from right before COVID. Now, the good news here is that there are some more timely market-based indicators on rent that do show some improvement, but some of that has not shown up in the government statistics, at least not yet.

For homeowners, one of the problems here is the cost to get homeowners' insurance. We've seen premiums skyrocket, in part because of extreme weather, right, hurricanes and flash floods and wildfires. I spoke to a woman in California this week who told me that, overnight, her home insurance rates doubled with no warning and that really blew a hole in her budget. So, that's another problem that we need to pay attention to. And all of this has really emerged as a major issue in the 2024 election.

I think one of the other issues that we have to pay attention to is the cost of borrowing, right? Because if you want to go and buy a home right now, or you want to sell the home you have to buy a new one, the problem is that mortgage rates are very high, 7 percent. Some context, that's slightly higher than where things were at this point last year, twice as high as the rate was three years ago and a lot of this is going to be decided by what happens with the Federal Reserve.


As we speak, the Fed is meeting, debating, trying to decide whether or not they want to signal a desire to start lowering interest rates. Not something that's like let it happen today, but everyone on Wall Street and everyone at home is going to be paying close attention to whether or not the Fed signals it will lower interest rates in the coming months. One of the big questions, Manu, is whether or not the Fed is able to cut interest rates before the election. The last meeting before the election is in September, so time is running out.

RAJU: And the question, of course, is, will voters feel the impact of any good economic news before November. All right. Matt Egan, thanks for that report.

EGAN: Thanks, Manu.

RAJU: Coming up, the supreme court is poised to issue the biggest abortion decisions since it overturned Roe v. Wade. That's next.


RAJU: The supreme court could rule as soon as tomorrow in two pivotal abortion cases. One of them was severely restrict abortion medication like mifepristone even where abortions remain legal, the other is about whether state abortion bans actually override federal rules for treating patients in a medical emergency. Lisa Lerer is back with us, along with Elizabeth Dias, they are the authors of the new book, " The Fall of Roe: The Rise of a New America." And I have it right here as well. It's a great read. I encourage you to take a look at it.

Elizabeth, thank you for joining us. Let's just dig in a little bit more about the significance of these cases and what you guys write about in this book. You say, whatever the court's decision and whoever won the 2024 presidential election, it was clear that the case would not mark the end of the post-Roe religious rights, legal and political efforts to row back America's cultural transformation, of course, referring to Dobbs. If its efforts with Roe showed America anything, it was that its success never dependent on just one argument. This is part of the law -- people may think that Dobbs was the end of it. It is certainly not the end.

ELIZABETH DIAS, THE NATIONAL RELIGION CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, Dobbs was the beginning. And I think it's a misunderstanding maybe that some people have or something that many Americans are learning more about right now, is that this is a long game. Right? This is a moment when if you do not understand the history of how America got to Dobbs, there's -- it's going to be very, very difficult to understand the stakes going forward.

Abortion has always been a very complicated issue for sort of normal folks, even those of us who follow it closely, to understand what's going on. But when you strip away, just -- are able to look at the big picture of how did the anti-abortion movement become so successful? What were their legal strategies? How did they get to this point? You can start to see the groundwork for cases like we are waiting for at the supreme court even now.

RAJU: And of course, as we look at public opinion about the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is pretty clear where voters come down. 34 percent, just 34 percent approve of that nationally compared to 65 percent disapproval, that's really been consistent along the line. And one of the things that you guys get into in this book is Donald Trump, how he has handled this issue, and how voters viewed him in 2016.

You guys write, many voters assume that Trump's opposition to abortion rights was just part of the political game to win the White House. The new president was a celebrity and Americans believed if they knew his history, a Manhattan businessman who didn't know how to pronounce the books of the New Testament seemed unlikely to be the guy who eradicated abortion rights. So much has changed.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So much has changed, but yet, so much has not changed. And I think you see former President Trump doing the same pivot now in a different way, of course. He tries to take credit for appointing the three justices who returned Roe, which of course he did, but he's also trying to sort of moderate his stance in some ways on abortion. He's trying to have it all the ways, which is really as we show in our book, what he's done throughout his career. He, of course, started as a supporter of abortion rights, then became anti-abortion, and then became really a champion of the anti-abortion movement.

I think anti-abortion activists, a lot of them are with him, because they have now been with him for eight years. The question is whether this is convincing to swing voters who now are very attuned to this issue.

RAJU: And just so viewers know how Trump has dealt with this just recently, he talked to an anti-abortion group, but did not use the word abortion.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now is the time for us to all pull together and to stand up for our values and for our freedoms. And you just can't vote Democrat, they're against religion. We have to defend religious liberty, free speech, innocent life, and the heritage and tradition that built America into the greatest nation in the history of the world.


RAJU: He wants credit from the right, but not to be punished for appointing the justices who overturned Roe.

DIAS: What was interesting, when he's speaking to these anti-abortion, really like true believers of the movement and I'm just this week, in these comments, he's at an event at the Southern Baptist Convention and many he of the people who are listening to him in that room are actually on the most extreme edge of what the anti-abortion movement wants to do. They want the complete abolition of abortion, many cases for them, no exceptions even for cases of rape, incest, in some cases life of the mother. So it's a very odd game of trying to say one thing, but also the very hardcore which was able to use him really to advance their cause, still with him.


RAJU: As you reported in this book, what was your big takeaway? What did you find out real quickly, what a surprise -- what surprised you going in?

LERER: I think one thing that surprised us was how long the anti- abortion movement had worked and how detailed their plans were, that they just pushed in every direction. They took advantage of every opportunity and this was a generation's long fight. While they were thinking in generations, supports of abortion rights were thinking in election cycles and it ended up being asymmetrical warfare. Chess verse Checkers.

RAJU: Yeah. Really, really fascinating. Thanks for coming and thanks for sharing your reporting. And thank you for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after the break.