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First Look At CNN Presidential Debate Stage; Soon: Biden Campaign To Hold Democracy Press Conference In Atlanta; Allies Urge Trump To Focus On Inflation, Immigration, Crime; Biden Remains At Camp David For Sixth Day Of Debate Prep; GOP Spreads Trump Claim That Biden Will "Be On Something"; Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Government In Social Media Case. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2024 - 12:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, great expectations with CNN's historic presidential debate just 33 hours away. We're getting new insights from the Biden and Trump teams. As we reveal a behind the scenes look inside the debate hall that you're about to see for the first time.

Plus, a supreme decision on free speech. The highest court of the land rejecting Republican lawsuit, challenging the Biden administration's efforts to combat misinformation on social media.

And one of the most progressive Democrats in Congress out of a job. We'll tell you about Jamaal Bowman's laws and what it means for the future of the squad and for Democrats on the ballot in November.

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

And we start with video debuting here on Inside Politics. You're looking at the debate stage at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta, where Joe Biden and Donald Trump will stand tomorrow night, just eight feet apart. This is where the event that may define this entire presidential race will take place. There will be no audience and here are the podiums.

Biden will be on the right. Trump on the left. If Biden won a coin flip to pick which side he wanted. And this is where Dana Bash and Jake Tapper will sit as they moderate the 90-minute debate.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Atlanta, of course, getting ready for the big night. So, Jeff, the stage as you see there literally set, it's almost go-time. What are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Manu, the stage is set and a history making one indeed. But the history books have little guidance for what we're going to see tomorrow evening. The 45th and 46th presidents of the United States, making their case to the American voters and indeed a global audience for why they believe they deserve a second term in office.

Of course, so much has changed since the last time the two men were in the same room together on the debate stage four years ago this fall. Of course, there is the invasion of Ukraine, war in the Middle East here at home, of course, inflation front and center. Voters of course will have their eyes on all of this.

We know that President Biden has been hunkered down at Camp David, taking debate to preparations very seriously. Donald Trump also taking debate preparations more seriously than he may have been letting on. Also trying to expectations set along the way.

We've been talking with some voters who of course are going to be tuning into this. It's also in battleground Georgia, a key battleground state that Donald Trump narrowly lost to Joe Biden four years ago. Kelvin King is a conservative Republican, a longtime leader here. He said he has his eye on this.


KELVIN KING, POLITICIAN: This is not just, you know, a president's perspective -- or a president's perspective versus a prior president's perspective. That's not what this debate is about. We're looking at all types of things from the physical characteristics, the movements, the pace, the types of words, the grammar, like we're paying attention to every nuance of this debate. Oh, and also policy too.


ZELENY: Also, policy too, of course, policy will be front and center, and they are very distinctive. But it is the style and substance and how these two presidents come across that certainly could change the trajectory of this race. So here in battleground Georgia and other battlegrounds across the country, and indeed the entire country. Voters will be tuning into certainly the biggest moment of this presidential race so far. Manu?

RAJU: No question about it. Jeff Zeleny from Atlanta, thanks for that. And I want to turn now to CNN's Arlette Saenz who is live at the White House. And Arlette, you have some new reporting on how team Biden wants to pay Trump tomorrow night.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Manu. You know President Biden remains at Camp David, preparing for this debate. And you just showed images of that debate stage. The stage craft of this debate will be so important for Biden and that is something that they are running through as these mock debates have played out.


He is preparing standing at a podium. He has watched a video that a staffer had taken of walkthrough to identify different areas of the debate. So, he knows where the cameras are, so we go through the moderators' car are all as he's trying to make his arguments against Trump. Now the president is fine tuning the messages and the contrast he wants to draw with Trump on that debate stage. Advisers believe and hope that domestic issues will really define this debate and the upcoming election, things like democracy, economy and abortion rights.

But they also are cognizant that foreign policy could emerge at this debate. And that is one area where they believe they can draw a stark contrast with Trump, with Biden and prepared to paint Trump is too dangerous and reckless to be in office. Now, while the president is at Camp David, his campaign team is already down in Atlanta. In just about 90 minutes, they are set to hold a press conference relating to democracy.

I'm told by a campaign official that they will have three special guests that includes former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, former Lieutenant Governor of Georgia Geoff Duncan, two Republicans who have endorsed Biden, as well as Harry Dunn, who was on hand as a Capitol police officer on the day of that January 6 attack.

What this press conference is aiming to do is really trying to draw a contrast with Trump over democracy, the need to preserve democratic institutions. This is something that has been central to Biden's campaign. And it's also something that they believe can play with those Republican voters who have been turned off by Trump's four years in office, including his actions around the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

So, all of this serving as a preview of how exactly President Biden could go after Trump on that debate stage. So, they're prepared to face off for the first time since 2020.

RAJU: All right. Arlette Saenz from the White House, thanks for that. Let's bring in our great group of reporters to break this all down. CNN's Alayna Treene, CNN's Isaac Dovere, Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times. Nice to see you all.

Alayna, you've been talking a lot to the Trump campaign about this strategy, tried to pivot back to immigration, talk about the economy, talk about crime. Do they really think Trump can do that?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I'll put it this way. Anyone who argues they know which version of Donald Trump you're going to get on the debate stage tomorrow is lying. Even Donald Trump's advisers admit that, look, we want to push him toward talking about kitchen table issues. We don't want him to focus on his grievances. We want him to talk about those three topics, the economy, crime, the border. All things Donald Trump is pulling better than Joe Biden in for the most part. And all the issues they think that he will do well on come November.

However, they also recognize that it really does depend on some of the answers how Donald Trump is feeling in the room. He obviously likes to meander and can -- depending on what Biden says react in a certain way. We see some meanness come out. However, I will also add that, you know, it's interesting in some of my conversations with Trump's advisers, initially when they got the rules for the CNN debates where you're not going to -- where you're going to be able to shut off the mics. They're going to be turning the mics off, as well as, I'm having no audience. There was skepticism around that.

Now in recent days, I've actually been told that they think those rules may actually help Donald Trump. One is with the mics. We remember back in 2020, on that first debate that they had between Biden and Trump. Donald Trump repeatedly talked over Joe Biden, wouldn't let him get a word in at some points and we saw him Donald Trump fall in the polls shortly after that. It's something Trump himself remarked on the other day.

With the audience, he also likes to feed off a crowd. And so, some of his advisers and people close to Trump have argued, you know, maybe without the audience and can actually help him stay on message. So that's kind of what the discussion has also been about behind the scenes. How to try to rein in some of that rhetoric and make sure he's in the right place, so that he does a good job on the debate stage.

RAJU: You know, those podiums are eight feet apart. I'm sure, you know, they're muted. Perhaps, if someone speaking loudly could be picked up on someone else's mic. What do you think -- what are you hearing from the Biden team about if Trump does not go down the path of what he tends to do? Petty grievances or trying to talk over and tries to be more sober minded and turns to immigration, to the economy, the crime. How will Biden deal with that?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, Biden is going to try to rile him up, clearly and push him to defend some of the positions that he's taken on these things, while contrasting it to his record and saying, I'm the sober, competent one. You're the one who had all these wild things go on, while you were president are proposing even more wild things now.

But this is a tricky thing for Joe Biden. You know, we -- for all the fanfare about the debate, all the preparations, everything standing up there on stage. Even though Joe Biden has debated a lot of times before and he's debated Donald Trump twice before. In 2020 after that first debate, which was intense, if we remember, even before we know that -- knew that Trump had COVID.

Biden walked off stage. And what he said to his aides, the first thing he said is that was embarrassing. And he felt bad about being in the middle of such a mess of a debate. He was saying, couldn't get a word in and talked about -- and how he thought he had done badly and had to be reassured by aids that actually most people thought Trump had done that.


RAJU: Yeah. I mean -- and Biden perhaps -- Trump was ridiculous before being low energy, but he may need to be low -- be low energy for him this time, maybe what his team wants him to do. LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, CO-AUTHOR, WASHINGTON POST'S "EARLY BRIEF" NEWSLETTER: Yeah. It worked in that first debate in 2020 actually. Yeah, this is obviously going to be high stakes for both of them. The Biden campaign is very well aware that this is an opportunity where a large swath of Americans are actually going to see them together for the first time in four years, perhaps potentially now just paying attention to what is going on.

But everything that Trump is doing, leading into the debate has been quite predictable. It's the same tactics that he used in 2020 and 2016. I was speaking to a person close to him yesterday and said, look, none of this is shocking. This is the exact playbook about attacking the moderators or saying that Joe Biden is going to have to be on drugs. He did that in 2020. He did it in 2016 with Hillary Clinton as well. And so, it's an -- it's an attempt strategy to discredit the entire process, should he not do well.

RAJU: Speaking of describing the thoughts before you jump, Zolan, about the unsubstantiated claims that Joe Biden will be full of drugs come Thursday. That is what Trump and his allies have been saying across the airwaves over the last several days.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I expect he's going to be up on energy drinks or whatever they're going to give him. And he did. He was overly aggressive at the State of the Union.

He jumped right over the introduction because he was so hyped up. I expect that's the Joe will see at the debate --

REP. MARIANNETTE MILLER-MEEKS (R-IA): Many of the doctors in Congress felt that he was on some type of stimulant, whether it was Ritalin or steroids or something else. So, we anticipate that for this first debate, he will be on something.

CHRIS LACIVITA, TRUMP CO-CAMPAIGN MANAGER (voiceover): You know, he's probably going to be filled with Adderall, like he was at the night of the State of the Union.


RAJU: Again, there's no evidence at all about any of this. And even, you know, Mariannette Miller-Meeks was a swing district Republican going as far as saying, oh, these are the doctors believe, he was on something.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We're seeing a little bit of a shift here, too, when it comes to the messaging here. I mean, it wasn't too long ago that I remember, former President Trump saying that Joe Biden was the worst debater. Now we're hearing, oh, he might be on stimulants. Again, without any evidence.

We're hearing he might be a worthy debater that it seems like as we're getting closer to this actual debate. We are starting, you know, one consequence of these statements is you're starting to see the bar lowered a little bit as well with, you know, some of the kind of misleading videos we've seen on social media as well of Biden as particularly at the G7.

You have to wonder if there is anxiety as well, when it comes to the Trump camp and Republicans that the bar has now been lowered as well for President Biden, particularly here as you see this shifting --

EDWARD-ISAAC: This is one of those say it was -- where we say, oh, it's unsubstantiated. They're saying without evidence. They're not. They're just making it up. They're saying it's not they --


EDWARD-ISAAC: This is not like some belief that they have like, maybe there'll be a movie star one day, right? This is made up and it's made up with an intention. Look, in 2020 remember, there was a whole thing was Biden wearing some kind of listening device that was feeding him and I was looking at the creases in his shirt, it was the rosary that his late son Beau wore.

Like you said, the drug stuff has come up before. This is intentional. And it's to make it part of the conversation, but that Mariannette Miller-Meeks, she's a doctor. And doctors usually don't diagnose without examining the patients.

RAJU: By sitting in the -- sitting in the audience, and saying, wait a second, maybe he was, yes, that's typically not what you do as a doctor.

TREENE: No, I just wanted to say one point to all of this, as well. And some of my conversations, I talked with one Trump adviser who noted that there was a turning point in them going on offense with the idea of wanting to manage expectations. And that was when they realized that Biden was going to be spending an entire week at Camp David, solely focused on debate prep.

That's when they were like, OK, we need to start changing the narrative around this because he is going to be in there. Jason Miller said this on a call with reporters yesterday. He said he's going to be super soldiered up. That is kind of -- there was a turning point once they realized. And I think it just speaks to some of the feelings behind this.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And before it was like almost blind confidence a weeks ago, coming from --


KANNO-YOUNGS: The actual expectation, saying, you know, he might be a worthy debate.

DOVERE: I mean, they could think -- could have also prepared for the debate.

(CROSSTALK) CALDWELL: Well, well, and also, they're saying that -- they're saying that Biden preparing is a sign of him not being able to do it. Well, this is very normal. Most people who are heading into a presidential debate, spend a week preparing for the debate days. They clear their schedule, and this is what they focus on. And Donald Trump has -- they are making -- the campaign is making a point. He is still continuing to have lunches and fundraisers and talk to people, but he is preparing.


TREENE: But Trump's preparing.


RAJU: Yes. Expectation setting a big part of all this. And I'm sure we'll hear a lot more of that in the day ahead. OK, you know about it, we're just one day away from the CNN presidential debate of course, moderated by our great colleagues, Dana Bash and Jake Tapper. Don't miss President Biden and former President Trump when they go head-to- head tomorrow at 9 pm eastern.

All right, coming up. A big Supreme Court case on censorship, the First Amendment, and social media. We'll talk about the ripple effects from today's decision on combating online disinformation.


RAJU: A major Supreme Court decision this morning at the intersection of free speech, social media and politics. The court ruling in a six- three decision at the federal government can request social media companies remove posts the government deems misinformation.


The decision was on technical grounds, but it means that federal law enforcement can continue to urge companies like Facebook and X to remove posts that for instance the government believes is the work foreign agents seeking to influence the election.

Joining me now to unpack this decision, CNN national security analyst Carrie Cordero and Washington Post and CNN Catherine Rampell. Nice to see both of you. Thanks for joining me. Carrie, first to you. You've been following this case very closely. What are the implications here when it comes to the federal government and how it plays at social media?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's really important going forward, particularly, Manu, as it relates to the election of 2024. This case was about government efforts to direct social media companies -- alleged or efforts to direct social media companies for how they handled COVID related disinformation but also election related disinformation.

And so, although the Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiffs on the standing issue, the impact will be that it will give government agencies at the professional levels more opportunity to be able to coordinate with social media companies as it relates to election disinformation.

And there is already information that there could be foreign efforts to influence the election. It will help the government be able to have those open channels of communication with the social media companies as it relates to election, cybersecurity issues, as well. So, it really will have a practical impact on freeing up the government to be able to do the work that it thinks it needs to do to protect in those areas.

RAJU: And I want to read a part of Justice Amy Coney Barrett's majority decision on this case. In this case, she says without evidence of continued pressure from the defendants, the platforms remain free to enforce, or not to enforce their policies, even those tainted by initial governmental coercion. And so, for Catherine, this isn't doesn't comply those companies to comply with these government requests, but how do you expect these social media companies to respond now?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's a really interesting question. The argument here is about whether the government suggesting that some content be taken down or moderated or, you know, demoted in some way in the algorithm comes with an implicit or else, right? That's what part of the concern here is.

Is it a suggestion? Is it an urge? And then the companies themselves have the freedom to either accept that request or deny it? Or are there potential consequences implicit in that request. And to our knowledge, so far, that has not been the case. But one might imagine that under a different administration, those orders or those requests, or just whatever you want to call them, might be delivered differently and heard very differently.

After all, we saw time and again, when Trump was president before that he threatened media companies, for example, to take away their licenses or the like, if he did not like the content that they were producing. One might imagine that with the social media platforms, there might similarly -- at least be some bluster, some verbiage, suggesting that if the companies don't comply with whatever content moderation policies, the president and his staff prefer that there could be some consequences.

And in that situation, it's really hard to know how a company -- how a CEO or the board for that matter might react, might they try to be more conservative, and therefore, conservative in terms of limiting potential retaliation, and therefore be more compliance. And that's where I think we don't know where this is headed. You know, to what extent is this suggestion, to what extent is this an order?

RAJU: And quickly, Carrie. Do you think this will have a significant impact on the election or no impact, minimal impact, particularly when it comes to all these doctored videos that have been going around on social media? CORDERO: Well, I think they'll have an impact because it -- again, it opens up the channels for the government to be able to communicate with social media companies. This court decision when it was originally at the district court level, really did chill relations between government agencies, including extensively like the FBI, the DHS, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA.

So, it really did have a chilling effect. So that part of it will not exist. But what Catherine is describing is a legitimate issue because the fact that the Supreme Court in this case just decided the issue on standing, it did not get to the merits.

What it didn't do is the court did not provide guidance to the federal government about what the rules are regarding what crosses the line into coercion against the social media companies and thereby implementing the First Amendment.


So, it left open that they really don't know how to act in this particular case. It just says that now they have the freedom to, and it will be up to the administration to determine how to do that. Because the original opinion really -- and the record in this case did not paint a flattering portrait of certain Biden administration political officials.

And hopefully what this will do is provide an opportunity for those at the professional levels, the non-political civil servants doing the work to try to protect the election. It will enable them to be able to have those conversations with the social media company.

RAJU: Well, I suspect we will probably see this back in court sometime in the months ahead. Catherine Rampell and Carrie Cordero, thank you so much for your insight and expertise on this major case. All right, coming up. Republican Congressman Mike Waltz is here with the Trump campaigns take ahead of tomorrow's debate. And later, primary results are in. A GOP firebrand keeps her seat, while a democratic lightning rod loses his.