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Inside Politics

Biden, Trump Preparing For Debate In Radically Different Ways; New Fox National Poll: Biden, Trump Statistically Tied; Biden Campaign Hires 1,000th Battleground State Staffer; Waiting For Blockbuster Supreme Court Cases As Term Ticks Down; High Court Keeps Country Waiting On Trump Immunity Case; Momentous Rulings Coming In Final, Frenzied Weeks Of Term. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2024 - 12:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the stages set one week out from the CNN presidential debate and we're getting breaking details about what it will look like, who will talk last and how it was all settled.

Plus, supreme suspense. The court just issued four opinions, but they gave the country reason to keep paying attention by holding back blockbuster opinions on Donald Trump, executive power, insurrectionists and abortion. And new fear unlocked. U.S. officials warned all-out war between ally Israel and terror group has blogged could render the Iron Dome a scrap heap.

I'm Manu Raju in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first, brand new information on next week's CNN debate. And now everything will look when you turn on CNN one week from today. President Biden won a coin flip this morning to determine who stands where on the stage. He chose screen right. Donald Trump will appear on the left. The Trump campaign then got to choose the order of closing statements and decided that Biden will go first, and Trump will get the final word.

And critically, it will be just the two men on stage. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. did not qualify for next week showdown. Later today, President Biden will head to Camp David to begin an intensive week of debate prep. And we have new details on how that prep is going for both candidates.

So, I want to get straight to CNN's Kayla Tausche, who is live at the White House. So, Kayla, what are you hearing?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Manu, President Biden is going to be arriving at Camp David late this evening. He plans to huddle there through the weekend with aides in preparation sessions that sources say could lead right into the debate on Thursday, with the White House preserving the possibility that the president travels directly to Atlanta from Camp David, depending on how much prep they see as still required.

Now, that structure is going to evolve over the course of these next few days, starting with sort of informal conversations about topics, material, policies, potential questions, potential responses, and potential rhetoric coming from Donald Trump. That is going to culminate in the next few days into formal 90-minute mock debates where the president is going to be on his feet, expected to be responding to the draft set of questions that his team has put together.

And while the team is still compiling the list of which Trump responses they're going to be practicing with. There is one that has stood out in some of my conversations with sources and that is Trump's comments in December 2023, that he'll be a dictator on day one, expect President Biden to respond directly to that.

Now the debate is going to be testing the Biden teams' theory of the case that voters have been largely disengaged until now. And so, they think that it's going to be a workable strategy to retread some old Trump material to put it on the radar of voters. And it's going to be the first debate for either candidate since the last election.

And President Biden is leaning on some familiar territory, roughly the same aides will be in the room led by Ron Klain. And sources say Bob Bauer, the president's personal attorney, who stood in for former President Trump four years ago in those practice debates could easily replay that role, though casting, Manu, is still open.

RAJU: A critical few days ahead with major implications. Kayla Tausche from the White House. Thanks for that. And let's bring in our great group of political reporters was following all of this, CNN's Alayna Treene, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, and The Washington Post's Leigh Ann Caldwell. Good to see you all. Thanks for coming.

Alayna, I know you've been doing a lot of reporting on the Trump side of things. What are you hearing about what Trump is doing ahead of this critical moment like?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, one thing he's not doing is what Kayla just laid out about mock debates. Donald Trump is not doing that this time. It is a departure from his past debate preparation. We know that Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie have stood in for his opponents before in mock debates. Trump's team is not doing that.

Now, they are trying to say that Donald Trump does not need a lot of debate preparation that he's doing rallies, interviews, that sort of thing is his preparation. However, of course, he is preparing for next week's debate. Donald Trump's team, they told me that he knows -- they know he needs to do his homework. They know that the stakes of this debate are very high.

And so, what we've seen is actually over the past several weeks, Donald Trump has been meeting with vice presidential contenders, senators, different policy experts and allies, former administration officials of his, for what they're deeming or dubbing, I should say policy discussions.


One of those meetings happened a couple of weeks ago at Mar-a-Lago. He met with J. D. Vance, a top presidential contender. They talked about the economy and inflation. We know last week Donald Trump met with Marco Rubio, another presidential contender and Senator Eric Schmidt, where they walked through his handling and rhetoric around the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

I know that Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Rick Grenell, all people who served in his previous administration have been holding some of these policies sessions with them. So that's really what their focus has been.

What's interesting, too, I just want to add is, it hasn't just been policy discussions. A lot of it has been talked about his rhetoric and reining in some of his aggression. We know in past debates, he has been very aggressive -- he's gone after the moderators. They want to rein that in.

RAJU: Well that, you know, that have muted -- he's going to be muted when he is not speaking and some people who then actually could help Trump in some ways, because remember the last debate, you know, the 2020 debate, he was interrupting Biden left and right. And it was not his best moment.


RAJU: And so, (inaudible) by the -- just the rules based.

CALDWELL: By the rules, right. But I was speaking yesterday to Philippe Reines, the guy who played Donald Trump for Hillary Clinton's debate, a little preview of my newsletter tomorrow morning. And he said, thoroughly brief notes, joking. But he said that this is going to be really fascinating these rules and how Trump and each candidate abides by it.

And there's going to be themes that are set on the stage, that might seem off because the audience won't hear it. But Trump and Biden will hear each other. So, they might be responding to each other and might say -- seem like a comment that comes from out of nowhere -- when they're responding to each other because we can't actually hear the -- all the interaction between the two of them. But --

RAJU: Unless they speak so loudly that the mic picks it up.


CALDWELL: Yeah, I guess that's true.

TAUSCHE: And we'll be in audience.

CALDWELL: Right, right, but the television audience. And so as far as the preparations are concerned, another thing that Reines said is that presidents historically often do very poorly in the first debate. It is something that they don't like to do, they don't like to prep for it. They really don't like to spend a lot of time and have someone barking at them and telling them what they're doing wrong. What they're saying is wrong.

RAJU: I mean, Obama struggled against Romney --


RAJU: You know, Trump is not really -- he didn't do any primary debates. He doesn't do really any really tough interviews and mostly friendly interviews. Is he ready for this?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, 100 percent. And look, I was talking to Secretary Jen Granholm recently. Where you might remember played Palin in debate prep sessions with Joe Biden. And she was saying, look, the challenge for debate stage is really in -- and when you're approaching it, is you want to talk about your record, but you have to balance that with going on the offense as well.

And, and for both of these individuals, it'll be interesting to see how they can -- how they can sort of meet that challenge. Is Trump ready for this? I mean, I know that the Biden campaign and Biden states, they are focused on honing in on not only his record, but also recent statements that he's made as well. They want to put a spotlight, not just on Biden's time in office, but almost make this sort of a assessment, if you will, of the -- state of the country when Trump was president.

You know, I do think one area in particular that I know Biden's aides are preparing him to on is with these recent executive actions on immigration. One on enforcement at the border, one providing relief to undocumented immigrants in the country. They think that that in turn, just as an example of this can put a spotlight on Trump's approach to that policy, which was family separation.

So that's an example of how they're going to sort of balance actions that the Biden administration has taken. And then in virtually also putting a spotlight on how the former president approached the --

RAJU: I want to turn to the state of the race right now, because there were interesting new polls that came out from Fox News last night about Biden probably the best he has looked in months. And again, this is a neck and neck race according to public polling. There's no clear leader here.

It's within the margin of error, all the rest, but there have been a few different polls -- two other polls. In recent weeks, they've shown a slight uptick for Joe Biden. Some of them may be post-conviction, is he getting a post-conviction bump?

CALDWELL: And so, if you talk to Democrats, that's what they said --

RAJU: Post Trump conventional --

CALDWELL: The post, yeah. RAJU: Maybe that was posts, Hunter Biden conviction is separate issue.

CALDWELL: Good clarification.

RAJU: But first, most Trump conviction bump.

CALDWELL: So, if you talk to Democrats, that's what they're saying. And they say that this actually is not expected. Despite the Donald Trump thinking that the convictions will actually help him. It might help them -- it helps them perhaps among his base, but this poll yesterday -- this Fox News poll, like you mentioned, it's not a complete outlier because the polls have actually been tightening over the past couple of weeks.


RAJU: Yeah. But it's showing if you break down issue by issue about what is extremely important to country, it was interesting also what voters said according to this poll. The future of American democracy considered the highest, even more so than the economy, which, of course, is always typically the dominant issue at every single election cycle, all are down to abortion just under 15 percent.

There's been an uptick on Biden support. He's up by six points about the democracy issue. And the economy, Trump is leading by five, but that is down from where 13 points, but Trump was up by 13 points in the economy in the same Fox News poll. So, you talk to the Trump campaign all the time. Are they concerned that this numbers that they think that they're in good position right now?

TREENE: They think they're in a good position. I also think, you know, they often criticize and question some of these polls. But look, they actually do think even though the Fox News poll was showing that American democracy is number one. They think the economy is number one. They keep pushing that. It's the economy stupid.

And so that's really the message, even though of course, there's a number of things. The three main things for the Trump campaign going into November is the economy and inflation, crime and the border. They recognize that they really do think the biggest area where they can win on is around the economy. So, they dispute a lot of these polls whenever I asked them about it.

RAJU: And before we jump in, Zolan, there was also part of this poll. Just talked about the voters and choice for president by group of voters who is voting for men. Trump winning by 15 points of men, Biden 17 points among women. And then the urban rural divide so sharp between Trump versus Biden.

And then independents, Biden is leading according to this poll by nine points and the voters over 65, 15 points. Those are the most frequent voters, voters over 65. That is also been somewhat consistent about when there's a polling.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Yeah. That's going to be welcome news for the Biden campaign. And for President Biden's aides here, I think they are going to want to focus on those independents and continue to build support their constituency groups. And that's also part of the timing of this debate. They hope that having this debate earlier will sharpen that contrast and continue to give them a boost.

RAJU: And there's some -- also some news as well, a lot of news this hour. We had more to come. One here, that to the Biden campaign just announced that they reached, but they -- they're calling it quote, critical organizing milestone. They say they have 100,000 battleground staffers, sorry, excuse me, one thousand battleground staffers across over 200 offices in battleground state. They argue that this is far more than what Trump has at this time in the -- as a campaign season significant.

CALDWELL: It's absolutely significant. And they have been saying for months that they are well ahead of the Trump campaign. Alayna would know better than I would, but I have -- but from what I'm hearing from Trump people and Democrats and people in states is that Trump does not have a very active organization on the ground.

And so ultimately, with this funding -- this funding advantage that Joe Biden has a lot of that money, of course is going to television ads, but also to this on the ground operation that's going to be crucial.

RAJU: Is it Trump campaign that far behind it?

TREENE: They have a totally different way of how their ground game strategy looks this year. They are far more focused less on quantity and quality, their words, not mine. They're actually relying very heavily on outside groups to do a lot of the battleground, ground game strategy, be the boots on the ground, one of these key states we know turning point action.

Other groups have really been spending tons of money. A lot of this is also the Trump campaign has been lagging in fundraising compared to the Biden campaign. And so, they're trying to plan out their ground game that way.

RAJU: All right. We'll see what happens. Next, more on the Biden campaigns battleground state plan. We've got a first -- and we've got a first on CNN interview with the campaign co-chair about that. Plus, supremely slow. The court again makes the country wait and the most watched cases, including the ones dealing with Donald Trump.




RAJU: Is the Supreme Court getting ready for a Friday case stop. Today the court released four more rulings, but there are still 19 cases it needs to weigh in on. We're just a few days left in the courts term. That includes the biggest of all. Our presidents are immune from prosecution. CNN senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic, and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig join our panel. Good to see you both. Joan, you came running over from the Supreme Court as you usually do. By this hour, you were there this morning. What is taking the court so long here?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, you know, I'm sitting there, and I'm right in the front row of the press section, like, you know, like -- so eagerly awaiting. Any of these opinions that we've been so waiting for, you know, and Justice Kavanaugh, I suspected was going to read one of them because his parents were sitting in some guests' seats. There were some clerks who had come in also.

So, you sort of thought maybe -- maybe we'll get one of the biggies. And we did get a fairly decent tax case -- fairly decent tax case. I know that sounds bad. But it was a case that if the court had ruled actually that this federal tax from 2017 was invalid, it would have had great repercussions.

So that was a little bit of a -- it was an important case for the federal government for the Biden administration. But it wasn't one of these big ones. So, what we're waiting for is obviously major Trump case developments, specifically, whether the former president is going to have to stand trial before the November election.


And then -- but it also in the court cases, well this is the thing. You know, everyone say, will come tomorrow, we do not know. We know there'll be in tomorrow Friday. We know there'll be in probably about three days next week. And typically, they try to be finished by the end of June. That's their goal.

But this year because of the -- where the July 4 holiday falls toward the end of the following week, there's a good chance they could come in again on Monday, July 1, which might be when we get their final opinion.


BISKUPIC: I know. The two things have been people think, oh, they just wait till the end when everybody's on vacation. But part of it is the deadline pressures. We all know what it is, is like to write on deadline or do anything on deadline. And the justices actually have some of that. They're exchanging drafts right now. They've actually decided all the cases.

I don't anticipate at this point, there's going to be any switch vote, but sometimes that happens at this very last moment. So, they're engaged in dueling footnotes. They're going back and forth. And I presume that we will get at least four or five opinions tomorrow. But you know, we just don't know at this stage because they are up against their own internal deadline.

RAJU: Yeah. So as of Tuesday, 110 days have passed since the court had agreed to hear the Trump immunity case. And in the Watergate case, it took 254 days, once it reached Sitecore, there's a New York Times opinion piece, who said about this is, something rotten -- something's rotten about the justices taking so long on Trump's immunity case.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Something rotten, I respectfully dissent from that view. I do not think something's necessarily rotten or erroneous, or out of the ordinary. Let's put this in perspective. Watergate was a different era. The Supreme Court just doesn't function like that anymore. And Watergate involves the sitting president under an active criminal investigation.

I understand the stakes here. But let's put this in perspective. The Trump immunity case, first of all, was the last case argued. All the other cases that Joan referenced, were all argued many months before. Second of all, it's completely normal to get this sort of case dumped in late June, sometimes into early July. This is when we get the big decisions. Third of all, everyone relax. We are going to have this opinion within -- maybe tomorrow, maybe within a week, but sometime really soon.

And finally, if you look at the actual timeframe here, the Trump immunity decision was rendered at the district court, Judge Chutkan in December. To go from a district court ruling to a Supreme Court ruling in seven months is lightning speed. I understand everyone wants this as soon as possible. I understand the widely felt, not universal, but widely felt desire to get this case back to the District Court.

So, if there's going to be a trial, it can be held before the election. But I think people are sort of maybe venting some anxiety inappropriately at the Supreme Court. By the way, if you want to vent it somebody, look at DOJ who took two and a half years to charge this case, not the Supreme Court that's taking a grand total of a few months to decide it.

RAJU: Southern Democrats would agree with that. I want you to listen -- just to remind viewers of that argument that was happening about what the Trump team that lawyers were saying about why Donald Trump deserves in their view immunity. And what Justice Elena Kagan was pressing them about?


JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN (voiceover): He ordered the military to stage a coup, and you're saying that's an official act -- that's immune.

JOHN SAUER, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP (voiceover): I think it would depend on the circumstances, whether it was an official act.

KAGAN (voiceover): Is it an official act?

SAUER (voiceover): On the way you've described that hypothetical, it could well be. I just don't know, you'd have to again, it's a fact specific, context-specific determined.

KAGAN (voiceover): That answer sounds to me as though it's like, yeah, under my test, it's an official act. But that sure sounds bad, doesn't it?


RAJU: Is that argument going to convince any of the conservative justices?

BISKUPIC: Not necessarily, but it just goes to why this is taking -- could be taking longer. And that's because the justices are grappling with, should they actually delineate what would be an official act, that could frankly protect the president from criminal prosecution. And what he did and what actions he took that it might be regarded as private.

So, we know that that tied up the justices a lot during oral arguments. And a really important question here is, when they rule one way or another in terms of President Trump and whatever kind of immunity he can claim, are they going to get down into trying to define private versus official acts? Because that will make a difference when the case goes back to Judge Chutkan.

RAJU: Yeah. And there's also a major abortion case that we're also waiting for. The question at hand is whether or not, in Idaho law that prohibits abortion supersedes, a federal law that requires hospitals to provide an abortion to patients during an emergency who need one.

I mean, just the Supreme Court just ruled -- kept the move across town (Ph) abortion pill essentially on the market because they ruled on procedural grounds. In some ways Republicans breathed the sigh of relief because they took that issue at least momentarily off the ballot. But this -- if they rule in against the Biden administration here that this could be a problem for some Republicans they fear.

CALDWELL: Yeah, absolutely well. And the Dobbs' anniversary is Monday. And so, it is a very politically hot topic at this moment. It has been for the last two years, but especially right now, we're Democrats from the Biden campaign all the way down to a state level. Democrats are honing in on this topic of abortion and trying to remind voters again and again where Republicans stand and their lack of -- their lack of ability to have a coherent -- cohesive opinion.


RAJU: Do we think the Supreme Court will try to figure out a way out of this like the way they did?

HONIG: They're not going to have -- yeah, they're not going to have that kind of procedural offering. When it comes to standing, it's really interesting to see from sort of the legal and the political traditional roles are almost flipped here.

I mean, we're talking about Republicans dreading the possibility of an opinion that's restrictive on abortion and Democrats sort of politically hoping for an opinion that maybe goes the opposite way. It's like, opposite world here. But I guess that's where we are.

KANNO-YOUNGS: It shows just how abortion is such a top issue right now. One that the Biden campaign and Democrats really are eager to put a spotlight on to draw the contrast between the policy and the agendas of their political opponents here.

Just to go back to what you were saying Elie, as well, in terms of the politics of this, some of the anxiety that I think people are venting when it comes to some of these decisions that have to do with Trump are directly connected to just how seismic timing is politically for these decisions. Obviously, these delays have a legal process. But also just politically, when you talk about both Democrats and Republicans, they're watching to see if these cases are going to get pushed back after the election.

RAJU: Yeah.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Right. I mean, that would -- that could be the difference, particularly for the federal cases, you know, depending on who wins the election on whether or not there's any accountability for January.

BISKUPIC: So, you remember the court already last December rejected Special Counsel Jack Smith's request to hear that case earlier. And by hearing it in April, which is a very tough month for the justices because it does -- as Elie said, come right after they've heard so many other oral arguments and are trying to write opinions. April is their toughest month. And they could have -- they could have if they wanted to answer Jack Smith and the Department of Justice had heard --

RAJU: As a result of these cases, no matter what happens likely will not reach a verdict before November. All right, more to come. Coming up. New CNN reporting on American fears that Israel's Iron Dome could crack.