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Trump: Foreign Students Graduating From College Should Get Green Card "As Part Of Your Diploma"; Sources: Biden Lawyer Bob Bauer Will Play Trump In Mock Debates; Still Waiting For Supreme Court Ruling On Trump's Immunity Claims. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 21, 2024 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump caught a lot of his critics and supporters off guard with this new immigration related promise if he's reelected as president.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I want to do and what I will do is you graduate from a college. I think you should get automatically as part of your diploma, a green card, to be able to stay in this country.


RAJU: Automatically get a green card. And he said that includes all four-year and two-year junior college grads. And, of course, that is a very big turn from his hardline immigration rhetoric, including saying that immigrants steal American jobs.

My panel is back. So, Trump surrounds himself with these hardline immigration activists and people who are in his ears. Stephen Miller comes to mind, among many others. What explains that, that shift?

MARIANNE LEVINE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, I think it's -- I think this caught a lot of people by surprise. I mean, it's worth noting that Trump did make a very similar statement in 2015 about green cards. But this comment that he made on the podcast is very -- it's a contrast not only to his anti-immigrant rhetoric that he's made very central to his campaign, but it's also a contrast to the policies and restrictive immigration policies that he applied towards legal immigration during his own administration.

And I think it's telling that his campaign has quickly tried to walk back some of what he said. His campaign spokesperson shortly after Trump made these comments essentially said that, well, the students would go through heavy vetting and that essentially this would not apply to people who hate America and what have you. And so it's definitely -- it does not seem like this is going to be a common feature on the campaign trail, just given what -- how his campaign has reacted in response to his most recent comments. RAJU: I mean, since you've mentioned the campaign, if you want to say clean up job, clean up job. This is what this spokesperson said in a statement after Trump said this. "President Trump has outlined the most aggressive vetting process in U.S. history to exclude all communists, radical Islamists, Hamas supporters, America haters, and public charges. This would only apply to the most thoroughly vetted college graduates who would never undercut American wages or workers."

And perhaps that response was after there was some backlash on the right. Just look at Congressman Chip Roy of Texas who tweeted, "Wrong" immediately after the news broke. Is Trump trying to have it both ways?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: I think part of this is that he is trying to have it both ways because what you are still seeing is this unlikely bedfellow relationship with some very heavy hitting tech investors who are worried about what they see in Washington with potential regulation being potential donors to him.

So on the one hand, he's trying to speak out of one side to these potential investors in his campaign and his future administration. And on the other hand, retain some legitimacy given that cracking down on undocumented immigrants wasn't just a proposal, it defined his entire campaign from day one in 2016 and has carried throughout.


RAJU: It's such a good point. He's really speaking to two different audiences. This one side, those tech entrepreneurs, this billionaires really who we talked about in the last segment were opening up their wallets and a lot of them do want skilled immigrant labor, people who could get green cards very quickly. And then the hardline immigration activists who he's been so close to over the years and have such influence with him and may potentially his future administration.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it doesn't seem that mysterious. I think in general, there's not been a lot of subtlety from Donald Trump in terms of his motivations on some of the positions he has taken recently on immigration. When he suddenly came out and, you know, was trying to convince Republican lawmakers to vote against and stand against the bipartisan immigration package earlier this year, he was pretty clear.

This is because I don't want to give Joe Biden a political win. So this seems to be something else that falls generally in the basket of doing something for political reasons, because it is so inconsistent with his general worldview when it comes to immigration.

RAJU: And so, was he just speaking off the cuff as he tends to do?

LEVINE: It seems that it was more of an off the cuff remark and probably playing to the audience that he was speaking to on this podcast. So that seems to be likely what the case was.

PRZYBYLA: I don't think many of those people will ask, well, how are you going to screen for pro-Hamas or communists, but it may be effective counterweight.

RAJU: All right. We shall see.

All right, coming up, the man who played Joe -- Donald Trump in Joe Biden's 2020 debate track -- prep and sources tell us he may do it again next week. But first, he'll be right here with me on set. That's next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vote now. Make sure you, in fact, let people know you're a senator. I'm not going to answer the question because --

TRUMP: Why wouldn't you answer that question?

BIDEN: -- the question is, the question is, the question -- will you shut up, man?

TRUMP: Who is --


RAJU: All right, that was one of the most memorable moments from the first 2020 presidential debate. And we're learning more about President Biden's plans for debate prep now, less than a week out from next week's main event.

Two sources tell CNN that Biden lawyer and former Obama White House Counsel Bob Bauer will likely stand in for Donald Trump in mock debates like he did in 2020. And Bob Bauer is here with me right now. He's also the author of a new book, "The Unraveling: Reflections on Politics without Ethics and Democracy in Crisis."

Mr. Bauer, thanks for joining me. I really appreciate it. And here's the book right here.


RAJU: So before we get into the book, can you confirm you're playing Trump this time around?

BAUER: I can't discuss anything related to the debate.

RAJU: Oh boy, highly secretive.

BAUER: Pardon me?

RAJU: It's a --

BAUER: You know how lawyers are.

RAJU: Yes.

BAUER: They're not always very informative.

RAJU: No, that's very true. Well, I had to try. So let's talk about a little bit about your book because in the 2020, you talk about the 2020 debate prep --

BAUER: I do. Yes.

RAJU: -- in your book. And this is what you say. You say, "I, as Donald Trump, played my part, lying and blustering and bullying my way through the mock sessions. To prepare, I watched hours of tapes of the 45th president, as a businessman, 2016 candidate, and then in office. We set aside special sessions during which I was expected to be at my Trump-worst -- as personally insulting and unhinged as Trump can be."

So take us inside that debate prep process.

BAUER: This is what you have to do in debate prep, whether -- and I played other candidates before in other debate preps in that election cycle and before. And the requirement for doing it effectively, and I'm not saying I did it effectively all the time, but the requirement is to so immerse yourself in what the opposing candidate has said. The style of argument they've used, the tone that they've deployed, that you recreate as well as you can for the candidate you're helping, what the experience of debating with that candidate will be like.

And so that's what I did. I threw myself into the history of Trump commentary, in debates, interviews, speeches, and I did the same thing when I played other candidates. I write in the book, I believe I wrote in the book, that I also played Al Gore in the debates with Bill Bradley, or mock debates with Bill Bradley in the Democratic primary contest in 2000. And I've done other candidates as well, and the approach is always the same.

RAJU: Do you do a Trump impression? Do you sound like Donald Trump? Are you talking in your normal voice?

BAUER: Whenever you do this, you want to strike a balance between trying to approximate the experience, but it's not an opportunity for theatrics. That's a distraction. So you want to find some balance between recreating the experience and not attempting to, if you will, audition for Saturday night long. That --

RAJU: You can't do a Trump impression right now.

BAUER: No, I'm afraid so.


BAUER: I don't think I'll ever be doing it outside of debate prep.

RAJU: So what did you see then as, and perhaps now is what his weakness is. What is Donald Trump's weakness as a debater?

BAUER: I don't know that I really should speak to that. What you do try to do is not so much anticipate what the response would be, but just put that candidate forward in the most realistic possible way. And then it's really up to the other side, if you will, the candidate you're trying to help, to probe the weaknesses, to detect them, and to find ways to respond to them.

RAJU: Interesting. And then what about his strength? What is Trump's strength as a debater?

BAUER: Well, same thing again. That's something that will either be appropriately on display in the way that debating style is recreated or, if it's a failed debate, perhaps it won't be on display.


But you're trying to give a balanced -- you're trying to do it exactly the way or as close as possible to the way the candidate you're trying to help will experience it. And whether that will include if there are strengths, it will include those strengths. If there are weaknesses, it should include those weaknesses.

RAJU: You mentioned you did write about other people. You played --


RAJU: -- Bernie Sanders, Al Gore. How different is it playing Trump than those?

BAUER: You can imagine that going from Bernie Sanders to Al Gore is a journey. It's sort of an intellectual and psychological odyssey. And the preparation is the same, it's just the candidate whose experience you're trying to bring into the debate prep is so totally different.

RAJU: Whether or not you're involved in this debate, which you won't confirm, but how different do you think this debate prep will be compared to 2020? Or will it be pretty similar?

BAUER: In my experience, the format for -- again, there are always tweaks and modifications. It depends on what individual candidates would like to do, how often they want to do a full dress mark, how often they want to break down segments and do them separately. That varies from candidate to candidate.

It may vary from debate to debate. And so, it's really going to depend on what the candidate and his closest communications and political advisers think will be most helpful.

RAJU: What do you think Biden's weakness is in the debate?

BAUER: I can't speak to that.

RAJU: OK, I'll try it again. All right, so a major focus of the book is talking about what you call bad politics. And I want to read to our viewers an excerpt of this. It says, "Political actors know the difference between good and bad politics, but many can get caught up in the game driven by their own ambitions or demons, and they suppress whatever flickers of conscience they may experience. Bad politics is rationalized easily enough, blood sport, or the other side started it first, or the goal is winning and so very sorry about that, but we did what we had to do."

So, who do you think is pushing America towards what you say is bad politics?

BAUER: We have clearly seen a deterioration in the quality of our public life. Now, it's a complicated story. I can only give my perspective, and so I speak from my own experiences in the book. I'm giving my own perspective as a lawyer who's been involved in politics, and I cover that whole lifespan.

I don't want to go into how old I am, but I've seen a good number of years of politics and election cycles and the like. And as you know, there are different explanations for where we are. Polarization, the depth of our polarization, the depth of disaffection with our institutions.

But it is clear that it is taking place. And the one point I'm trying to convey, again through my own experiences, through the stories that I can appropriately tell consistent with attorney-client privilege and client confidence and whatever. The one point I'm trying to make is that at the end of the day, if we care about norms, we care about democratic norms that are so important to sustaining our democratic way of life.

The people who have responsibility in government and politics have choices to make every day, those who write speeches, so to write campaign ads, those who give legal advice and on and on, those in government who have decisions to make about how to advance a public policy debate.

They have decisions to make every single day that bear on the health of these institutions. And if all that matters is winning, by the way, a particular debate or a particular election and they're prepared to sweep aside all of those other considerations having to do with the health and robustness of our democratic norms and institutions, we're going to be in a sorry state because the people have it in their hands to really make a difference day by day will have failed us, and that is a profound concern.

We're going to slide from a democratic politics, small d, to a democratic anti-politics.

RAJU: How does this -- you know, we're waiting, of course, for this ruling coming from the Supreme Court about former President Trump asking for total immunity here. How does that ruling impact what you call the unraveling of our politics? Does it have any impact on that?

BAUER: The ruling could be complex, and there's so many different ways it could come out, so many different potential divisions on the court that we could see. I will say this, before I wrote this book, I co- authored a book with my colleague Jack Goldsmith, who's a professor of law at Harvard, on reform of the presidency.

The need to have that institution, and by the way, that relates very much to the health of our democratic institutions, to reform that presidency from a variety of perspectives, but including dealing with the question of keeping the president within legal bounds. And, as you know, the question of presidential immunity has been hanging out there for some time.

The Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice has twice ruled that the president has complete immunity from prosecution as a matter of executive branch law. Complete immunity from prosecution while in office. But we've never had a ruling that is going to be as, I think, potentially as comprehensive and as significant about where the president stands in relation to the rule of law as the one that's coming up.

So as --

RAJU: Do you want the Supreme Court to uphold this circuit court decision on this?


BAUER: I'm not going to speak to my personal views. I don't want to be confused with the views of people that I represent at the moment.

RAJU: But I --

BAUER: But I do hope, I do hope that it is a decision that can bolster public respect for law and for what the Supreme Court -- the job that the Supreme Court will do here and protect the president.

RAJU: I do want to ask you one quick thing about the Robert Hur investigation you were involved in the president's defense. And in that report, Hur said Biden would appear to a jury as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory, and of course that has been cited time and time again by Republicans. Was it appropriate for the special counsel to include that?

BAUER: No, it certainly was not. I don't think it was consistent with DOJ guidelines. The case legally ended up where it had to end up. He was absolutely correct. There was no violation of law here.

However, the decision in this report to give his, you know, opinions and impressions, which, by the way, were belied by the transcript once it was released, his personal opinion didn't even stack up from the impression that people got from reading the transcript. I don't know why he did that and I was critical of it at the time and I think rightly so.

RAJU: OK. Bob Bauer, thank you so much for coming in and sharing your views. Really appreciate it.

BAUER: Thank you very much.

RAJU: And we'll be right back.



RAJU: A reminder, we're just six days away from the first presidential debate of the year hosted by CNN. Don't miss President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump go head to head on June 27th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks for joining Inside Politics. I'll be back on Inside Politics Sunday. That's at 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Eastern on Sunday morning. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.