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U.S. Concerned Israel's Iron Dome Could Be Overwhelmed In A War With Hezbollah; New: Biden Campaign Hires 1,000th Battleground State Staffer; Biden Will Prep For CNN Debate At Camp David With Advisers; KFF Survey: 27 Percent Of Women Voters Say Presidential Election Will Have "No Impact" On Abortion Access In Their States. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 20, 2024 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Turning now to the Middle East. Tensions are escalating between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah. In exclusive new CNN reporting, U.S. officials warn Israel's Iron Dome could be overwhelmed if there is a full blown war with Hezbollah, telling CNN that Israel officials are planning to shift resources from southern Gaza to northern Israel in preparation for a possible offensive.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins us live from the Pentagon with this new reporting. So Natasha, what are you learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Manu, so it's important to note, of course, that Hezbollah is really a lot stronger of a group than Hamas is, and with that, they have thousands and thousands of precision guided missiles and rockets and drones that, in the event of a full blown war with Israel, they could start launching, of course, right across that northern border.

And so U.S. officials are concerned that if a war were to erupt between Israel and Hezbollah, then the Iron Dome, that key air defense system that Israel has had in place for years now, could be vulnerable, particularly if Hezbollah decides to launch large scale attacks at Israel using precision guided munitions as well as drones.

And Hezbollah has already released a video of a drone purporting to strike an iron dome battery in northern Israel. They also released footage from a drone purporting to show sensitive Israeli military sites inside the country. And so there are serious concerns here that if Israel were to launch some kind of offensive against Hezbollah, then this could create a war that would require Israel to really have additional air defense systems that the U.S. would provide, but still there would be significant vulnerabilities.

Now, this is all coming to the fore at this point because the U.S. understands that Israel is planning to shift some of its resources from southern Gaza, where it has been engaging in intense fighting against Hamas to northern Israel along that border with Lebanon in preparation for a possible offensive against Hezbollah there.

So the rhetoric on both sides is really rising here. Tensions are rising really exponentially over the last several days. The U.S. working really hard behind the scenes to try to deescalate the situation, but there are still plans being made on both sides for a potential war here, Manu.

RAJU: So much to take in there and a lot to follow. Thank you for that breaking news. Natasha Bertrand live from the Pentagon. Thank you.

All right, in minutes, the first on CNN interview with a top Biden campaign official about the president's plan to try to turn battlegrounds blue.



RAJU: Now to a story that you'll see first here on CNN. President Biden's campaign has officially hired its 1,000th battleground state staffer and now has more than 200 offices across them. The campaign says its organizational heft will make the difference in the close race this fall.

Now in a statement out this hour, the campaign says it is, quote, "Taking nothing for granted and using every tool at its disposal to make sure voters know all that is at stake for our democracy, our economy, and our fundamental freedoms."

So joining me now is the National Co-Chair of Biden's 2024 campaign and former New Orleans Mayor, Mitch Landrieu. Mayor Landrieu, thanks for joining me.

MITCH LANDRIEU, BIDEN CAMPAIGN NATIONAL CO-CHAIR: Thank you, Manu. Great to be with you.

RAJU: Absolutely. So talk a little bit about the strategy here. What does the campaign actually envision these 1,000 staffers doing?

LANDRIEU: Well, listen, every campaign is specific, especially this one is going to be very close. And when you do that, you have to meet voters where they are. And, of course, the most important thing to do is to have people on the ground where voters live talking to them about the issues that are important to them. But, of course, the Biden campaign understands that.


You can't just do ads on TV, you have to get on the ground. And so today, we announced we've hired our 1,000 person that is -- or manning the offices in all of the swing states. So these individuals are on the ground. They're working every day. They're talking to constituents that listen to constituents and they're bringing them the message that Joe Biden wakes up every day, fighting for them, making sure that he's going to protect their democracy, protect their freedoms and fight like hell to lower their costs and to make their life better. And that's what they're there for.

So when you build the infrastructure on the ground, you have the ability to actually talk to folks and talk to them in a way that helps bring the vote to Joe Biden.

RAJU: Can I just talk about -- let's talk about the state of this race, because obviously this has been a neck and neck race. Polling shows that even though Donald Trump has been convicted on 34 felonies, been liable for sexual abuse, and even after January 6th, this race is still effectively tied. Some -- many polls, other than the Fox News one, had him ahead, former President Trump, over Biden. So, why is the Biden campaign unable to take advantage of any of this?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I don't agree with your premise. The people of America are going to very soon have a choice between Donald Trump, who wakes up every day thinking about himself, thinking about his billionaire friends and then thinks about how he's going to hurt people that he thinks have hurt him.

Joe Biden wakes up every day fighting for the American people, making sure that we're going to protect people's freedoms, protect democracy, and lower cost.

RAJU: But why is the race so close?

LANDRIEU: This election --

RAJU: Why is it so close? Given all the things, advantages you have, why is it so close?

LANDRIEU: The election is five months away. Elections take a lot of time. They take a lot of effort and they take a lot of work and you have to build a team to actually make that happen. That case is being made as we speak. Polls come, polls go. The only one that matters is the one on Election Day and I feel very confident that when people show up, they're going to choose Joe Biden because he fights for them every day.

In order to do that, you have to be on air. You got to be on the ground. You have got to raise the money to do that. And that's what the campaign is in the process of doing as we speak.

RAJU: So CNN is reporting President Biden and his aides are gathering at Camp David to prepare for CNN's presidential debate next week. So what is the president doing to prepare and how much do you expect him to focus on Trump's conviction?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, as you know, Joe Biden has already debated Donald Trump twice and beat him before he got 8 million more votes and beat him in the presidency and the president is going to show up in real time like he always does. You always have to prepare for these things. They're very important.

The moderators, as you know, CNN is going to do the debate are really tough. And the questions they're going to ask in the president, as he should is preparing for this just like he prepares every day to fight for the people of America. The fact of the matter is that Donald Trump is not only a convicted felon, he also went bankrupt six times, and he has very difficulty in his personal life, in his business life, in his political life.

RAJU: Do you expect --

LANDRIEU: Seventeen people that work for Donald Trump, people that he picked, that he picked quit and asked us not to do it. So the president is going to ask Donald Trump questions. He's going to want to know why he appointed three justices that eviscerated Roe versus Wade and put women's lives in danger.

He's going to ask Donald Trump why he threatened democracy of this company -- country and help with the insurrection. And now wants to pardon those folks. He's going to talk to him about why he continues to seek revenge and retribution and try to give his friends, his billionaire friends, another tax break. And why he hurt the country so badly when he was president. You can expect our president to speak about those issues with Donald Trump.

RAJU: I want you to listen to a claim that former President Trump has made a few times about President Biden ahead of the debate.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's going to be so pumped up. He's going to be pumped up. You know all that stuff that was missing about a month ago from the White House? What happened? Who left it? Somebody left it there.

Somebody didn't pick up. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine. I wonder who that could have been. I don't know. Actually, I think it was Joe.


RAJU: What do you say to the former president who keeps saying that on the campaign trail?

LANDRIEU: Don the con. He's going to talk trash like that all the time because that's what he does. The other day, you may remember, he was trying to question our president's mental acuity and he could not remember the name of his own doctor. So tell President Trump, bring whatever he's got, President Biden will be standing there ready for him. He beat him twice before, he's going to beat him again.

RAJU: So I want to turn to the issue of abortion, because obviously that will come up undoubtedly in the debate, and it's a huge issue in the campaign. According to a new poll from Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly a third of women voters say this presidential election will have no impact on abortion access in their states.

So, I'm wondering about the Biden campaign strategy. Have you done enough to engage voters on this issue, or did the Supreme Court's mifepristone ruling actually hurt that argument that abortion access is at risk? [12:45:08]

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, the important thing to know is that Donald Trump has spent his presidency in his time hurting people especially women. He has taken credit for and he deserves credit for overturning Roe versus Wade by appointing three Supreme Court justices who did just that thing. That got returned to the states and many of the states are eviscerating women's right, not just on abortion, but on contraception on IVF and some of the incredible extreme measures that are being exacted upon women across this country in many states.

The President Biden is going to talk to President Trump about that. That is just a fact. And women are being hurt. President Biden believes in women. Donald Trump believes in states. That's fine. We should have that debate because the American people are clear that that decision should be left between a wife, a mother, a doctor, a husband, a partner, a friend. That decision is for the woman to make, not the states.

RAJU: So I know the campaign ideally wants to win every battleground state, but take me to Election Day. You're looking at the map. What do you view, Mayor Landrieu, as the absolute must win bellwether state in order for Biden to stay in the White House?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, this is going to be a very close election. Not just like the last one was, but the one before that and the one before that. Everybody knows where the battleground states are and everybody's going to be on the ground trying to win every one of them. Every one of them is an opportunity for us.

Every one of them is a risk, that's why you have to do everything. That's why putting 1,000 people on the ground in these several battleground states are important. That's why talking about the fact that Donald Trump is going to seek retribution is important. That's why character and the fact that Donald Trump is a convicted felon is important. And we're going to tell that story in every one of those states and hope to win them all.

RAJU: All right. Mayor Landrieu, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your views.

LANDRIEU: Thanks, Manu. Good to be with you.

RAJU: Coming up next, we'll get reaction from Trump world about what we just heard from the mayor. Stay tuned.



RAJU: Welcome back. I want to bring in Republican strategist and former Trump campaign adviser David Urban. I want you, David, I want you to do your reaction to this new reporting to the Biden campaign. They're beefing up staffers. They say they have 1,000 staffers in battleground states across the country ahead of the election. What is your reaction to that? DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, they're going to need it, Manu. They're going to need it. They're behind. You were talking to the mayor about, right? All those good things he was saying about, you know, he's a great surrogate. The Biden campaign are lucky to have him on their team because they're going to need it in state after state after state. You see poll after poll after poll.

Americans just aren't buying what the Biden campaign is selling. They have greater faith in former President Trump's ability to rectify this tragically flawed economy, to fix the border, the poorest border, to, you know, restore hope in America. People, you know, they answer the question, they're being asked the question, Manu.

Are you better off now than you were 40 years ago? And they are resoundingly answering no. And so the things that the mayor is talking about, you know, we're going to go out and talk about, you know, jobs and democracy. You know, those things are great.

If you could afford to fill your gas tank and pay for food on your table, but real wages have lagged inflation dramatically during the Biden administration. And people are concerned about those issues and don't have faith that current president is going to do anything to reverse that.

RAJU: So the Trump campaign is dismissing the effectiveness of President Biden's latest attack ad highlighting Trump's recent criminal conviction. But as you see, David, Biden is inching past Trump in some of the polls. Yes, there's a margin of error, but there appears to be -- there could be some trend here. Do you believe there are signs that the Trump conviction is actually helping Biden right now?

URBAN: Look, Manu, I don't think that's the case. Look, as you know and I know, this is going to be a close race. America is pretty much a 50-50 country, right? In my home state of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth, you know, a landslide is 1 percent. In 2016, we won that race by roughly 45,000 votes. And in 2020, the Biden administration, they went in -- they came to be by a whopping, you know, close to 80,000 votes.

So this election is going to be close at all those states in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona. So, I don't buy the fact that one snapshot poll is a snapshot in time. I don't buy that a couple polls are going to make a difference here. I don't think that the conviction here in New York State or any place else is going to really dampen the support of President Trump.

There's a great editorial today in the Wall Street Journal that talks about why Republicans are flocking to Donald Trump, why Independents are flocking to Trump because of what they perceive as lawfare.

RAJU: What's the -- as we head into the debate next week, a week from today, what is the biggest concern you have about how Donald Trump performs at the debate?

URBAN: Yes, look, listen, I hope President Trump, I hope he looks forward right now. The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror in your car for a reason. And I hope the former president kind of thinks about that analogy.

RAJU: So it doesn't talk about the election. You say -- you're saying he should not talk about the election being stolen. Is that what you're saying?

URBAN: I know. Exactly. I think we want -- I think Americans want to hear about the answer to the question. I think Donald Trump should walk onto the stage and say, Joe Biden, American people, do you feel that you're better off today than you were four years ago? I believe that people are going to say no.


And if President Trump talks about his record of accomplishments during his time in the White House and talks about the things that he plans on doing for the next four years to close the border, to crack down on crime, to make Americans feel more secure in their jobs, in their financial life, in their home life, I think he's going to be the clear winner on November 5th.

RAJU: Yes.

URBAN: I think that that's what he needs to do and not talk about the past election in '20.

RAJU: Yes, I suspect if he reiterates those false claims about an election being stolen, it will be the Biden campaign. They'll be very, very happy about that. We'll see if how Trump did performs and Biden next week.

All right, David Urban, thank you so much for joining us.

And a reminder --

URBAN: Thanks, Manu. Thanks for having me.

RAJU: And a reminder -- absolutely. We're just seven days away from the first presidential debate of the year hosted by CNN. Don't miss President Joe Biden and former President Trump go head to head on June 27th. And, of course, that is at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after a quick break.