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Supreme Court Allows Emergency Abortions in Idaho For Now, Stage Is Set For Historic CNN Presidential Debate; Trump Returns To GA For Debate Where He Faces Criminal Charges; Sources: Biden Plans To Frame Jan 6 As "Seismic" Moment. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 27, 2024 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: John King in for Dana Bash. She's a little busy today. Thanks for sharing this very important news day with us.

And we begin this day with breaking news on an issue we know will be an issue in tonight's CNN presidential debate, abortion. The Supreme Court today issuing a ruling that for now allows emergency abortions in Idaho when the mother's health is at risk. At first glance, a big win for abortion rights forces fighting now against new state efforts from coast to coast to further restrict abortion access.

Three conservative justices, the Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, siding with the court's three liberals in today's unusual ruling. But, and it's a very important but, they did not settle the big legal question at issue, whether federal guarantees of emergency medical care supersede Idaho's effort to impose an almost total abortion ban. Instead, today's decision dismissed the case on procedural grounds.

The newest member of the court's liberal faction, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, warning this is far from over. Writing this, "Today's decision is not a victory for pregnant patients in Idaho. It is delay. While this court doddles and the country waits, pregnant people experiencing emergency medical conditions remain in a precarious position."

The ruling comes just hours before President Biden and the former President Donald Trump debate right here at CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta, where we know abortion access will certainly be an issue.

Let's get to the policy first, though, on the big decision. I want to bring in CNN's Joan Biskupic and Caroline Kitchener of "The Washington Post." Caroline, let me start with you. What changes -- what changes right now? Walk us through the decision and how it impacts women's health today in Idaho and potentially beyond.

CAROLINE KITCHENER, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: This decision does offer very limited, temporary relief for doctors in Idaho. They can now provide abortions in emergency situations.

But the big news is really no news, because the rest of the country is just in limbo. Doctors in anti-abortion states across the south and the Midwest, they were waiting for this decision, really hoping that they would get some clarity on when they can legally provide abortions and when they can't. And there was no clarity provided today. So now they just wait. And it's very unclear when they will know.

KING: And so as they wait, Joan, I just want to put up a map that shows you some of the different restrictions in the 2 years since the Dobbs decision. Different states are imposing different restrictions. The orange color, the reddish color you see on the screen are the states with the most restrictive, essentially abortion bans with some limited exceptions.

So, Joan, as Caroline noted, this is essentially a procedural issue, so the court is punting. What will it take? I assume this issue comes back. The abortion rights forces and abortion foes will now try to find a better test case. Is that right?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That's right, and they will. And Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson took the dramatic step of reading portions of her dissent from the bench this morning to point out the difficulty here. You know, she broke from her liberal colleagues here and, of course, broke from the dissenters who were siding with Idaho. Essentially saying, this is such a politically expedient compromise at hand here.

And, you know, as I have to say, John, it really had the markings of something that Chief Justice John Roberts would have pulled off that removes abortion from the courts play temporarily and in this very hot political year, and of course, right on the same day as the CNN debate.

But it does mean that women are at risk, and that's what Justice Jackson pointed out. She said that -- she noted that women who go to emergency rooms with a ruptured uterus or other complications from a pregnancy and who are not, you know, just right at death's door could not be treated in a place like Idaho unless the justices had at least put a pause on the Idaho law.

But, John, there are, as your map showed, there are at least 14 states that ban abortion, several others that have serious restrictions. And this kind of litigation is playing out in so many other jurisdictions. And what Justice Jackson said, which is the truth, you know, while the court delays, and her word was doddles here, there's just a lot of uncertainty for women and for physicians who, frankly, some of these statutes just really have strong criminal penalties for physicians or anyone else who would assist in an abortion in Idaho unless it were to prevent death.

Now that law is now on pause. But just to remind everyone that the Supreme Court in January had let that law take effect. So this court had seemed poised to let that law stand. But in the end, there was a compromise between liberals and conservatives, not including Justice Jackson for sure, that just said we're going to -- we're going to postpone.

KING: Joan Biskupic, Caroline Kitchener, thank you so much for reporting on the big decision today. Now the political conversation with me here in Atlanta, a remarkable group of reporters and analysts.

Let me start, Kristen, I just want to start with you. When you get a decision like this, we know in the two years since Dobbs, this issue, politically, at the ballot box has almost without exception benefited the Democrats. This is a punt. But it's a very personal issue.

If you're a woman, especially who lives in a red state, it's a life and death issue. It's a can I get access to this treatment in my own state? Do I have to go somewhere else? Any sense of what this does to the current political debate?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Now, for the most part, this is an issue that very few voters say is their top issue, but that doesn't mean it's not important. For an awful lot of voters it's the sort of thing that is almost a deal breaker issue. It's the kind of issue that a voter says, if you're not with me on this, it's hard for me to pull the lever or push the button for you in November.

And so where this will have the most potential effect is think about that map that you put up earlier. A lot of those states where abortion is very heavily banned are pretty red states. They are not places where Republicans are at significant risk of losing out. But there are states like Georgia, like Florida, where there are more restrictive policies in place, and it could complicate things, especially with a state like this in Georgia being so crucial to the president.


Robert and so we will see what we hear tonight, right, 8 hours from now, plus a little bit, the two candidates will be on the debate stage. But we know this is already a big issue in the campaign.

And the President of the United States, Joe Biden, is going to say, we are having these conversations, these debates, these court cases, about 15 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, about emergency medical treatment, like it's the case the advocates, he will say we're having this for one reason and one reason only Donald Trump's picks to the Supreme Court.

Here is the President and then his rival's latest response.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn't about states' rights, it's about women's rights. Donald Trump is worried voters are going to hold him accountable for the cruelty and chaos he created.

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's now up to the will of the people in each state. Some states will be more conservative, other states will be more liberal.

Just about all the Democrats and all the Republicans and conservatives and liberals, they all wanted it that way and we did something that was amazing --


KING: Kaitlan Collins, you know, from your own reporting, the President of the United States thinks this issue is a loser for Republicans. Will he say that on debate stage tonight that what I did was amazing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We've never seen him tested on this issue in this way before. One, we haven't had a presidential debate since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Every time Donald Trump has been questioned on abortion, he's dodged or deflected. And so this is going to be the first time. It'll be so fascinating to see how he does handle it, because if you go back and watch the debates in 2020, it was before Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court. She was confirmed by the Senate four days after that second debate.

And so it'll be fascinating to see how he talks about it, because he's gone in certain ways where he understands politically it is not a winner with the people that he needs to win over. He's got everyone else already in his camp. They're not on the fence of considering voting for Joe Biden. And so how he defends it, who he tries to appeal to tonight, that's the thing to watch.

And whether he takes full ownership of the three justices that he put on the court, proudly so, as he bragged in 2020 about that ability and about his judges, how he handles that tonight will be one of the biggest things to watch.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: And John, what's been fascinating about the last 2 months is the consistency the former president has had on his message when asked about this. What you played is some form or fashion of that answer about getting it back to the states, is the only thing he says.

And he really gets challenged with follow ups or multiple follow ups. And even if he does, he says states again and again and again. Joe Biden, the president and his team will need to draw him out. And on some level, the decision today, the opacity and the uncertainty is the point. I think when you talk to Democrats.

The fact that blue states, sure, they can do their own state restrictions, state laws or however they want it to be. But when you look at both, what the president can do himself in office via executive authority, and you look at the fact that so many people, so many doctors -- there's an ad that the Biden campaign just popped with an obstetrician from Idaho talking about how this all happened, very personal stories. Drawing Trump out on that and making him have to face those types of questions, I think is a key priority for them today.

KING: And so if you look, Kristen notices this is a Quinnipiac Poll, and again, you could give more than one answer. What are the big issues you want to see important to your vote? Preserving democracy, the economy. The Supreme Court and abortion are right there, you know, three and five, when you look at it like that, instead.

When you're out, you're traveling, you're talking to voters and the like, it can be about a specific issue or it can be kind of who's on your side in a certain fight, or do you trust Trump or Biden if it's future Supreme Court picks, or in this now state-by-state, who knows over abortion rights?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's right that this is kind of a signaling issue about kind of where you stand. But the other place I would ask that this could matter is a place like Arizona. I was just there. There's going to be abortion referendum -- abortion rights referendum there and -- on November. And you see democratic groups already trying to create a coalition of Democrats, liberals, even kind of libertarian folks who think the government should stay out of this issue as a means of driving energy from the top of the ticket. That's not there at the top of the ticket.

I think when you talk to state directors, when you talk to people on the ground, they mentioned this concept of reverse coattails that maybe Biden isn't going to drive enthusiasm going down, but maybe what's happening on the local level and then on issues like abortion actually fuels Biden and drives enthusiasm in places where he hasn't done that.

And so, I think, that's another place I would add for us to look in November is particularly in a swing state like Arizona, where the margin was so small in 2020, this abort -- the abortion rights referendum on the ballot can actually be something that brings Democrats much needed enthusiasm that we are currently not seeing at the top of the ticket.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And I think in Georgia, I mean, here we are, it is a key swing state, 11,779 votes, as we all know well, because former President Donald Trump asked for them to be counted his way.

But look, talking to voters here this week, this is one of the -- if you look at the swing states in the upper Midwest, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, they have democratic governors and largely have already had at least one say on the abortion question. Georgia voters have had a governor's race, yes, but this could be an energizing factor, a motivating factor for democrats here. So it does matter state by state by state.

However, tonight, the former president who 4 years ago said, who says it's on the ballot, abortion. Now we know it is on the ballot. It is definitely on the ballot. Can he also say, look, the Supreme Court had a six/three ruling today. It's not as draconian as you think. State by state might be more palatable to some people. So we will see.


But I'm with Kaitlin. That is one of the most fascinating things we're going to hear Donald Trump try and navigate here. He's been really walking a fine line. We'll see how he does it tonight.

KING: And it's both the substance of what each candidate says, but also the tone, how they say it. Do they say it with empathy? Do they say it to reach out? You mentioned the blue wall states, essentially, the Trump won in 2016 and Biden took them back in 2020. I want you to listen to two voters here. One is a young voter in Michigan, college age voter. This issue is very important to her, but so is Israel, Hamas, and she's wrestling with this.

She's a Democrat. She wants to be for Biden, but she says the Hamas thing is hurting. And then a Pennsylvania voter who voted for Nikki Haley in the primary, he's a Reagan Republican, but he's having a really hard time with Trump.


JADE GRAY, MICHIGAN VOTER: We are certainly not safe because no state is safe from a national ban.


GRAY: And that could be our reality if Donald Trump is elected this year.


GRAY: So, no, I will continue to remind people about abortion as a very important issue.

MICHAEL PESCE, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: Abortion is going to be a big thing in this election. I mean, I'm an old guy. It's not a choice that I have to make. That's a personal thing. And I don't think we can just rule it out.


KING: Michael Pesce at the end there has five daughters. He says, not my call. That's their call. Doesn't think the government should be involved in this. The idea of a national ban, is that on voters' minds, is that a potential split point where Biden can score points tonight?

ANDERSON: Well, it's a split point within the Republican Party. I mean, the challenge that Trump is facing on this issue is that Democrats are very united. They believe that the precedent set in Roe v. Wade should be reinstated, that abortion should be protected across the country. And for Republicans, some believe in a national ban, some don't. Some believe in 15 weeks is where the line should be drawn, some say six. There's no consistency on the right.

And now you're also seeing this debate bleed into things like a debate over IVF, a debate over contraception, things Donald Trump does not want to have to talk about tonight, but perhaps I'll have to.

KING: Well, we'll see if the president can press on that, that's our point.

When we come back tonight, Donald Trump, Joe Biden will be in the same room for the first time since 2020.

Ahead, some fresh reporting on their final debate preparations. And the big issues, abortion and beyond, we know will trigger debate clashes.



KING: Welcome back. Just hours away now from the face off that many believe could be the most important moment of this 2024 campaign. The candidates have 90 minutes to debate. No studio audience. CNN's Dana Bash and Jake Tapper posing the questions.

Two men who don't like each other making history tonight. A former president trying to get his old job back and debating the man who took it from him. The national polls tell us this is a very close race now inside 19 weeks to election day. The battleground state polls, though, tell us there's a slight, but real advantage for Donald Trump when it comes to assembling that path to 270 electoral votes.

According to one new poll, more than 70 percent of voters plan to tune in tonight. So it goes without saying every moment could matter. CNN's MJ Lee is here ahead of the president in Atlanta. MJ, the president is scheduled to get on Air Force One a little bit later this hour for the trip south. What are you hearing about the final debate preps and final strategy?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it really is calm before the storm right now. The president is still at Camp David with only a few of his advisors that are still there. and it's unlikely that there would be any mock debates today.

Over the last week, we've really tried to do a lot of reporting to try to get everyone inside Camp David in all of the days of debate preparations. And that's not just us being sort of nosy political reporters. The reason that we have cared about all of the details down to what the team has been eating, who has been playing who in the mock debates, all of the issues that the Biden team has been preparing for is because it all comes together to try to capture that full picture of what the Biden team believes is really at stake tonight.

And the Biden team's debate camp ethos has really come down to leave nothing to chance. Because every issue that they have been preparing for, every version of Donald Trump they have been preparing for, they've gone to these lengths because it all comes down to the fact that they believe tonight is really the best chance that President Biden has to make his case to voters.

And that includes voters who have really not been tuned in, voters who don't often see the president, maybe with the exception of in, you know, 15 to 30 second clips on social media. And he wants to be able to say there is a binary choice in November and I am the only acceptable choice.

KING: MJ Lee, important reporting on the president. Let's shift now to Donald Trump. He's returned here to Georgia. Jeff Zeleny he noted a few moments ago, just might hold special significance. It's a state he lost famously by 11,779 votes back in 2020, and it's now where the former president faces criminal charges for allegedly trying to illegally reverse that loss.

CNN's Kristen Holmes has been following the former president's last minute preparations. Kristen, what message does Donald Trump want to bring to the stage tonight?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we're in a very significant time right now, John, as we have said over and over again, because it's the first time you have a former president and a sitting president up on that debate stage.


And the message they want to send, Donald Trump wants to send is that your life was better under my administration than it is under Joe Biden's.

Now, whether or not he can actually get that across remains to be seen. But they want him to do this by focusing on three things in particular, the economy and inflation, immigration and crime rates, because recent polling shows that that resonates with voters when it comes to Donald Trump.

Now, we did see that team release a new ad today that's going to air in battleground states as well as Washington, D.C., that hits on those themes. Take a listen.

KING: Thought we were going to -- no ad there. OK. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. Thought we were going to have an ad there. We don't.


KING: But we'll come back into the room with our great reporters and analysts. Sorry, a little technical glitch here. They happen in CNN World Headquarters.

So I'm going to go voters first here, that's my perspective just from my nice new job. I get to travel the country.

Issue number one is almost always the economy in a presidential race. So let's call it the economy. A lot of people talk about inflation. I want you to listen to these voters from several different of the battleground states. For them, it's a cost of living issue. Even those who support Biden say things are tough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gas prices are still pretty high. Food, when you go to the grocery store, every time, it's just me and my wife and it's $200 every time I go to the grocery store.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm buying diapers. I was buying formula. The gas prices, I've done some things to change the places where I shop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything here in Georgia is so expensive. I can only afford so much, you know, with whatever job I find. KING: Are your day to day costs the same now as a year ago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, they're higher.


KING: Oh, no, they're higher, was the point at the end. Is there anything the President of the United States brings to the table tonight? Anything new he can say to get at that? He sometimes gets himself in trouble by saying, hey, the numbers are great -- the national numbers are great. People out there in America don't feel that.

MATTINGLY: When you talk to folks either in or around the Biden team camp, they have long stated, and I think a lot have seen it covering him over decades. You're the decades guy. We're just a couple years.

KING: Point set Mattingly.

People like Joe Biden, when they see him, it was always kind of his superpower before he got to the White House. He has a level of empathy that connects with people that was long considered his strongest position, the strongest thing he brought to the table, connecting back on that front.

They have been -- they've had very difficult times trying to get him to separate both those top line numbers, but also his belief that people don't understand his accomplishments, they don't understand what his administration has done. He's frustrated about the lack of credit that he's gotten. How are you able to kind of thread those two things together?

But I also think when you talk to them, Democratic advisor told me earlier this week, there's a frustrating amount of collective amnesia that they've been trying to break through over the course of the last. How do you show that Donald Trump is chaos? How do you show that Donald Trump remind people of why they didn't want him in 2020. Can they do that? Can Joe Biden needle him into not being disciplined, not caring about the mute button, not caring about any of that type stuff? I think it's a dual track effort here.

ZELENY: Voters don't care about who's yelling at who or the hectoring. Voters care about what they see in their daily lives. And I was talking to Marianna Davis (ph). She's a manager at a boutique here in Atlanta. I've talked to her a couple times throughout the course of the Biden administration. She likes Joe Biden.

I said her, are things better off for you today than there were 4 years ago? She paused. She said, well, it's not worse. But that is not a winning message for the Biden campaign. So overall, one of the fascinating things to watch will be President Biden talking about his accomplishments. Sure, people care if the roads are fixed and other things, but they want him to say his version of feeling their economic pain.

But this record or this debate tonight is about his record. ANDERSON: Yeah.

ZELENY: That's the biggest difference from four years.

KING: And so let's listen to a piece of that. The American people tonight will get to see the last three and a half years of their life, President Biden and the four years before that. President Trump standing right there. It's never happened in any of our lifetimes. It's never happened.

And so here's how lately they've been talking about the economy. Again, the president upbeat, the former president saying things are bad and it's his fault.


BIDEN: We have literally the strongest economy in the world right now -- in the whole damn world. Remember, Trump had infrastructure a month for 4 years, didn't build a damn thing.

TRUMP: I mean, we had the greatest economy ever. And he's got an economy that is so bad with inflation, no matter what happen, you can never override. Inflation is a country buster. It has been for hundreds of years. You go back to Germany of old. It's a country buster, and it's busting our country and its destroying our people.


KING: Mattingly teed it up. So I'm going to take the bait. People say, what campaign does this remind you of? I go back a ways. This reminds me of 1992, where George H.W. Bush was president. We had had a mild recession. The numbers were a lot better, but people didn't feel it, their legs were tired.


In this case right now 2024, tired from COVID, tired from cost of living. You look at the data all the time. You do the focus groups all the time. I know you're a Republican. But what -- how, if the president's going to convince people I'm on your side and I'm trying to fight for you here, and I know it's tough, what's the language change he has to make?

ANDERSON: Well, what he has to focus on is the fact that even though he wants to paint Trump as Mr. Chaos, and that is a label that Trump has been willing to embrace for many, many years. Trump is going to come tonight and try to say, no, no, no, it is actually Biden who is the one who is not in control of things.

You saw that ad that we showed a little bit of a clip of. You see images of things like the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, et cetera. That is going to be both in terms of style and substance, what Trump is going to try to convey. That Biden, when in charge, promised he'd be the adult in the room, and whether it's the economy, whether it's foreign policy, whether it's immigration, all we've gotten is more chaos over the last -- COLLINS: Well, and that's where the Trump campaign feels the most confident going into this is on the economy. Yes, they're worried that Trump will talk about his grievances, his vow to get retribution, January 6, and pardoning the rioters there, his own criminal conviction. But on the economy and on this issue, they feel the strongest.

And to underscore Jeff's point, you know, 4 years ago, yes, Biden had a record as a senator and as a vice president, but he had not been in charge of the country. Now he has. And voters have also had 4 years of distance from the Donald Trump chaos. And so that is what they are walking into this with and where the tables have turned so much in those 4 years.

HERNDON: If President Biden tries to lecture the American people into saying this economy is good, as he sometimes says down on the trail, I don't think that's going to work. We know kind of consistently through data, through our own reporting that that's not how folks feel to your point about prices.

But, you know, I mean, call me crazy, I think President Trump has a lot of pressure on him tonight to actually to actualize that message. Because the biggest impediment to him really focusing on Biden has been himself. If he focuses overly on those grievances, if he gets tied in to the kind of a Donald Trump MAGA show rather than a clear, consistent attack on President Biden's administration.

And so I think, you know, for Trump, there is a chance here to really speak to a coalition of people who are dissatisfied with President Biden. But that has to come through a message that is policy driven, and that has to come through a lessening of a chaos that could remind people of the 4 years that did not serve Donald Trump in the first place. The reason he's not in office right now.

KING: Right. When you talk about that, I think one of the challenges the Biden team outlays is, let's say Trump is pressing the case right there. And a lot of people when you travel, they have some nostalgia for the pre-COVID Trump economy when he inherited a great economy from Barack Obama. That's just a fact. He did.

And then his tax cuts did juice it. We could debate the deficit, if you want. But they did juice it and the economy was doing great. Well, President Biden's challenge tonight is to say, that's not what I want you to focus on. How about democracy and January 6th.


BIDEN: The 2024 election is about two fundamentally different visions for America. Donald Trump's vision is one of anger, hate, revenge, and retribution. He embraces the insurrectionists of January 6. He's running on it. And as mentioned already, he promised to be dictator on day one, his own words. And he calls for -- you know, he means it. And he calls for another bloodbath when he loses again.

TRUMP: This guy is so incompetent, he's so bad. And the only chance they have is all of this weaponization stuff. They're going after everybody. If they focus the same energy on making America great again, it would be -- I probably wouldn't have even run. I ran because I saw such stupidity.


KING: That's a huge question for me when people see them side by side, do they remember all of Trump or just the good part of Trump? We'll continue that conversation in just a moment.

Up next, the baggage they carry. Biden's age, Trumps character, how are voters weighing them and what do they want to hear tonight?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't feel comfortable with Biden's age and I don't feel comfortable with Trump's mouth.