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Inside Politics

Biden Ad: Trump "A Convicted Criminal Who's Only Out For Himself"; Biden Raises $30M At Hollywood Fundraiser, New Record For Dems; Steve Bannon: Election Day "Is Judgment Day"; PEW: 25 Percent Of Americans Have Unfavorable View Of Both Candidates; Sen. J. D. Vance Wins VP Straw Poll At Far-Right Conference; Trump Says He'll Announce Running Mate At Conventional Next Month. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, a convicted criminal who's only out for himself. That's how the Biden campaign is labeling Donald Trump in a new ad as the current president leans into attacking the former president for his 34 felony convictions.

Plus, who wants to be a running mate? Countless Republicans are vying to be on the ticket with Donald Trump, but only one contender was chosen as the favorite at a conservative conference this weekend. And the surgeon general is warning that the threat of social media two children is so dire. It needs a warning label just like cigarettes and alcohol.

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

First up, the Biden campaign is airing its first ads, targeting Donald Trump's new status as a convicted felon. It's part of a $50 million ad campaign this month that Tim Biden hopes will remind voters why they rejected Trump four years ago.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House. Arlette, talk about the reporting that you have about the decision making that went into this? Because we definitely heard both sides of the argument from lots of Democrats about how heavily to lean into Trump's convictions.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. This really does mark a significant escalation of President Biden's attacks on Trump's after months of really refraining from using his legal issues in any of their campaign arguments. The campaign today is now really sharpening their attack on Trump of releasing this ad, directly calling him a convicted criminal at a time when they have their eyes on that first debate in just 10 days.

Now, what the Biden campaign is doing with this ad is laying out all of the criminal cases that have faced President Donald Trump really leaning into the fact that they're using these legal issues. As part of their argument to that he -- that Trump is unfit to serve in the office of the presidency.

Take a listen to how this ad is trying to frame the election for voters.


SAENZ: And what the narrator goes on to say is that this is a choice between a convicted criminal who is looking out for himself and President Biden, who was working for American families. Now this will be part of a $50 million ad campaign in the month of June hitting televisions and internet streaming platforms to make this argument directly to battleground state voters.

And it's also coming on the heels of a high dollar fundraiser President Biden attended over the weekend with former President Barack Obama and some Hollywood stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts. The Biden campaign said that that fundraiser brought in $30 million in that one night alone. That is the largest Democratic fundraiser in U.S. history.

And the president and Obama also use that really to try to make a stark warning about what a second Trump presidency could hold with their eye on the debate as the two men prepare to face off for the first time since 2020.

BASH: Wow. The largest hall and history for Democrats. I actually didn't know that. That's really interesting. Thank you so much, Arlette. I appreciate that. Let's kick off this week with a panel of terrific reporters. CNN's Gloria Borger, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and CNN's Alayna Treene. Happy Monday, one at all.

Jeff Zeleny, I know you've been doing some reporting about just like I asked Arlette about the decision-making process. And the pros and cons that were debated internally about this ad campaign.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, so much hand wringing among Democrats. Should President Biden and the campaign go after the convictions? Should he not? Should he focus on his own issues? One Democrat said, you know, that's largely academic. The reality is, he needs to improve his standing. And the summer they think is the time to try and keep reminding voters of that contrast.

It clearly hasn't set in with them yet. So, they're wondering and hoping that this ad by will do so. One thing that Biden campaign has is money because what Arlette was just saying, the fundraising campaigns. So, they have the luxury of now at least him spending $50 million on this ad. It's pretty extraordinary when voters -- Americans in the summer are doing other things, but they want to make this the conversations going into the debate next week and they want to frame this.


But now we have a really extraordinary moment both sides, the Trump side and the Biden campaign are both using his convictions to raise money and define this race. On the Trump side, they're saying it's part of an unfair prosecution a revenge. They're out to get him and by extension voters. And the Biden campaign is saying he's unfit for office. So, so unusual that one very thing is being used by both sides in different ways.

BASH: I love when we get a Jeff Zeleny boiling -- boiling it all down moment. You have been doing reporting with your sources inside the Trump campaign. What are they saying about this new campaign?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, look, I think the strategy here is going to be that they're going to continue to argue that this is a sign that his conviction, but also all of the legal battles that Donald Trump is facing is the sign that Democrats and the Biden campaign are trying to prosecute their political opponent. We saw after this ad was released several of Donald Trump's top advisors. A spokesperson criticizing this ad for just that on social media.

Now, I'm also told when I talked to the Trump campaign that when it comes to debate prep next week. They know that this is going to be a core potential question that will come up. And so, they are preparing for that even though Donald Trump's campaign says he doesn't need to do debate prep, he's not going to be doing any mock debate. We'll see if that happens or not. But I know that they are walking through some of the key issues and questions that they know, the former president might struggle with. And this is definitely one of those themes.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this just is a part of the Biden campaign trying to remind voters who Donald Trump is and who he has been. And there's a lot of talk about Trump amnesia, you know, voters have forgotten about Donald Trump and all the rest. And I think this is one way. And this is all pretty current stuff of saying, wait a minute, you can't just gloss over this stuff. Here's the difference between these two fellows.

And by the way, character, the issue of character is making a big comeback in this campaign, not -- you know, we talked about competence a lot, and all the rest. You know, we've heard Joe Biden talk about character. I think we're going to see a lot of surrogates talk about the character of these two men. And I think this is one way to do it.

BASH: That's such an important point. Maybe to sort of help put meat on the bone of that point. Or maybe it's better to go into -- going to different direction as I play this soundbite. What you were saying about this issue of Donald Trump's legal battles, and how -- now the Biden campaign is using it as a weapon. And the Trump campaign has been -- and Trump himself has been very much saying, you know, I am you. Today, they're going after me. Tomorrow, it's going to be you. And they're taking it even a step further.

Steve Bannon was speaking at a right-wing conference in Detroit over the weekend one that Trump attended as well. Listen to the way he framed this same topic.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP STRATEGIST: November 5, is judgment day. January 20, 2025, is accountability day. You're going to get every single receipt. And to the fullest extension of the law, you are going to be investigated, prosecuted and incarcerated. Ladies and gentlemen, it's very simple. Victory or death. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yeah. I mean, it's -- that very strong words there. But it's also kind of echoing the message that we're coming out of Donald Trump himself. He talks about how -- you know, when he's talking to voters, how I am your retribution. And that is what the -- that is one of the things that the Biden campaign is focusing on.

You look at the ad that was released this morning. It talks about how Donald Trump is out for himself, while President Biden is out there working for you. And that is among one of the many contrasts that they want to make with president, oh -- former President Trump before the campaign.

Because I do think they're aware that President Biden's own numbers aren't good right now. If you look historically, presidents -- incumbent presidents who have had numbers as low as Biden's just don't get reelected. So, they know right now their main focus has to be pulling Trump down. And in addition to lifting Biden up, but really pulling Trump down.

BASH: And another way to look at this is an argument is being made by both candidates in both campaigns, that I'm the least bad option. I'm the best bad option. I mean, obviously, neither of them would think that they are a bad option, but they see the polls and they see what I'm going to show you right now, which is what has now become known in political parlance as double haters.


And that means that voters who are just not into either one of these candidates, look at where we are right now. That applies to 25 percent of people who talk to pew in a recent poll. And but just look at the difference, if you look historically, between now with Biden and Trump, even Trump and Biden 13 percent four years ago. Hillary Clinton, it's maybe -- at versus Trump, it was maybe the closest that it's been -- as it is now.

But I mean, we remember a lot of these very tough races, even McCain/Obama 13 percent. You go back to 1988, George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, only 5 percent of people said that they were unhappy with their choices. 5 percent versus 25 percent right now, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, they don't like them. I mean, they don't like either these candidates. They think they're both -- well, particularly Biden, they think he's too old. They don't see any great ideas. They don't see any rescue. You know, people are looking for a rescue.

Things haven't been going well. And a lot of people are full of grievance about it. And you know, they don't like Donald Trump's personality, but they think he's a fighter. And they can accept Joe Biden's personality, but they think he's weak. So, it's not great choices out there for them. And what do they do? You know, people are -- you know, undecided voters are like, well, maybe I'll give RFK Jr. a look. But there -- but what about him do you like? Well, I don't really know.

BASH: He's not the other two?


ZELENY: For sure. I mean, one thing that has changed so much, obviously, since that 5 percent Number 1988 is just the partisan media and social media. If you go on TikTok, if you look at one sort of highly edited moment of Biden or something that's negative, you're suddenly fed 100 of them. So, it's just how we get information.

But one thing, I think talking to voters out there, who are sort of exhausted by it all. The question is, will they see this election as an important one to vote in? And that's what both sides are really trying to do. So, it is still early in the sense of, you know, people are living their lives in the summer.

And when I go out and ask voters their opinions are like, why are you doing this now in June? Like, give me a minute. So, I do think that double haters are not an unenthusiastic vote counts the same as an enthusiastic vote. The question is, do they go and vote? So that's why ground game matters. That's why some Republicans are worried about the Trump campaign does not have one. So here we are.

BORGER: And Trump is out there, telling people I don't really need your vote.

BASH: Yeah. Well, I don't. I don't know that his campaign thrilled about that.

BORGER: That doesn't help. Yeah.

BASH: Standby, because coming up.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I noticed he happens to bear the list of potential vice presidents. Would anybody like to see him as a vice president?


BASH: Who is Donald Trump talking about? We're going to tell you after a quick break.




BASH: This weekend, Senator J. D. Vance got a show of support in his bid to be Donald Trump's running mate. The 39-year-old Ohio senator won the VP straw poll at the turning point action convention of far- right organization with close ties to Trump and the MAGA movement. Here's Vance at that conference talking about what Trump needs in a vice president.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): We need to have people who are supporting Trump, not trying to stab him in the back. It's very, very simple. We need people who are supporting the agenda, fighting for the agenda, not fighting against it when the cameras are off.


BASH: The panel is back. Alayna, you have been doing -- reporting along with our colleagues about where Donald Trump's head is, where his campaign is. And I'll just put up on the screen. Again, all of the contenders who we are told have gotten paperwork in order to start the background process to start being considered.

TREENE: Right, right. Well, it's funny because these are the same names. I think all of these faces you see on the screen aren't surprising. We've been talking about them for months and months. However, Donald Trump and his campaign consistently say, he's going to make an announcement close to the convention. I'm told behind the scenes, that's still the timeline as well.

But also, when I talk to his advisors, they say, look, the list is still fluctuating. One day, J.D. Vance might be the one that he's thinking about and asking questions at. When he's at Mar-a-Lago or his club in Bedminster saying, what do you think of him?

The thing that -- I think everyone has to keep in mind is that -- and this is what they tell me. This is Donald Trump we're talking about. Until he actually announces who he is going to pick, it's so hard to play this game. And we know from just covering these race or these campaigns in the past that it's always hard to predict in the horse race politics of VP stakes. However, with Donald Trump, it's even harder.

BASH: Yeah.


BASH: Yeah. I remember covering the process in 2016. How kind of -- will he or won't he, he was up until the last minute when he picked Mike Pence. As you all come in. I want you to listen to another contender who was out over the weekend, Byron Donalds, talking about him as a potential right-wing.



REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): It's obviously the toughest job, the biggest job, not just in our politics, but really frankly in the world. Look, I think that I would have an ability to step in. I'm actually pretty intelligent. I can sit through issues really, really well. It's about judgment. It's about logic streams. It's about how you make decisions at the end of the day. Do I believe in myself? 100 percent, I do.


BASH: I mean, this audition process is like nothing I've seen.

ZELENY: It's also about loyalty. And that's what every one of these television interviews is also designed to do to see who can appear to be the most loyal or whatnot to the former president. Look, there's a reason that he talks about different people every day, because part of it is to have them in the spotlight, day after day. Sometimes he travels with Doug Burgum, the North Dakota governor. Sometimes he's with J.D. Vance, as he will be later this week. Sometimes he's with Tim Scott.

So, it's just to a get -- no, it's an evolving interview process. It's sometimes, you know, before an event. So, the reality is that at the end of the day, who can be the most loyal, is Donald Trump. It's different than 2016 in the sense because he doesn't need the piece of evangelical voters that Mike Pence brought him or that sort of the backing of conservatives. He needs someone to be loyal.

BASH: Well, it's loyal, but it's also -- I mean, I'm told, I'm sure you're all told, isn't this is the like, Captain Obvious here. For anybody who's watched Donald Trump for more than five seconds. He wants somebody who's good on TV. And by the way, speaking of that that tease that we showed of Trump saying to the audience. Maybe I'll just pick him. He was talking about Byron Donalds.

So, at any given moment, he's talking about different things. But the difference also now is that whoever he picks, is going to be the heir apparent, but the Republican nomination for the right time.

BORGER: Right, right. And he -- you know, I don't know that Trump thinks about that that much. He thinks about who's going to be loyal to me. Who's going to look. And this sounds ridiculous. But who's going to look like a vice president? I mean, he thought that Mike Pence, with the white hair and all the rest look like a vice president. And he thought that Rex Tillerson, with his white hair looked like a Secretary of State --

BASH: At central casting.

BORGER: So, he is casting his vice president, obviously loyalty matters, et cetera. But when the two hold their arms up together, it's got to be a picture that Donald Trump likes. And you know, you can't underestimate that.

BASH: Well, one of the people who it seems pretty clear he thinks would look great in the picture with him is Doug Burgum.


BASH: And on the loyalty question, Burgum -- I mean, J.D. Vance was extremely critical of Donald Trump in 2016. We could talk about that another time. But when it comes to Burgum, he said originally, that he wouldn't do business. Doug Burgum is very wealthy from business. And he said that he wouldn't do business with Donald Trump. Well, over the weekend, he changed his tune.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): I wish every American could see him the way Kathryn and I have got to know him in the last six months, because this guy is tireless, he's committed, he's smart, he's funny. He's nothing like he's portrayed in the press. And so, if you asked me that same question today, I'd be like, absolutely, I would do business with him.

Because when you think about how successful we've been, whether it's a -- whatever it is. I mean, whether it's in TV, real estate, politics, or all the things that he's done. We should be grateful that we've got someone who's willing -- with those that kind of talent from the private sector that's willing to put himself back into the presidential race again.


KIM: Right. I mean, not only are these television interviews a chance to show their loyalty or to tout their own credentials. But it's a good clean up opportunity for some of these people who have had critical comments for -- about Donald Trump in the past. You're talking about J.D. Vance, Doug Burgum, even Tom Cotton yesterday. He sort of massage the differences between him and Donald Trump when it came to the certification of the 2020 election.

So, this is what Donald Trump likes to see. He likes to see his guys on television, saying nice things about him. And he'll absorb all that information until -- right up until --

BORGER: I think like Marco Rubio.

KIM: Exactly.

BORGER: Marco Rubio --

TREENE: I will say too, though, just with all of -- from all my conversations with the Trump campaign, you brought up, you know, who could -- whoever he picks could potentially be the heir apparent. Donald Trump actually is thinking about that. In my conversations -- and he said this publicly sometime, he wants someone who could potentially be a vice president, God forbid, you know, that's his words, anything happens.

But he also -- it is loyalty. He also really wants someone that he really likes, and that he thinks will not get in his way. And that's really what a lot of this comes down to. When you hear Donald Trump even in private conversations, he says, he doesn't think the VP is going to make a difference in who wins the election. So, he wants someone who he likes, and he can get along with it -- he has to meet the party.

BORGER: He had the most loyal vice president ever. And Mike Pence -- remember Mike Pence saying, we all stand on Donald Trump's broad shoulders and until January 6. [12:25:00]

BASH: Yeah. All right, guys. We're going to take a quick break. Very different story coming up. Vice President Kamala Harris will highlight Hamas' depraved use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. I'll talk to a lawmaker who's heard some of the firsthand accounts from former hostages held in Gaza. That's next.


BASH: What's worse? To get kidnapped, to be raped, or to get shot? That is a quote from Tolly Beiner (Ph). It's what she said, she was asking herself amid the chaos at the Nova Music Festival in Israel on October 7. And she was a lucky one. She was able to hide from Hamas terrorists as they raped and slaughtered scores of people.