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Supreme Court: Presidents Have Immunity For "Official Acts"; Team Biden Scrambling To Shore Up His Candidacy; Sen. Coons: Biden "Needs To Reassure" Voters By Doing More Events; New CBS Poll" 72 Percent Of Voters Say Biden Doesn't Have Mental And Cognitive Ability To Serve As President. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 12:30   ET


ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, it's a tough case when the -- when the Supreme Court took it up, they knew that, which is, you know, if a president -- you know, in the behest of being president, you know, attacks somebody overseas or whatever, there's got to be some immunity for those decisions.

But at the same time, if they knew this was going to be complicated, they knew it had to be remanded to the lower court, why was it one of the last cases that were put out? Why didn't they dispatch this quickly? Why was this at the very end? This is very frightening because all you have to see is, you know, Donald Trump's claim that this is a complete exoneration of what we knew happened on January 6th.

And let me say another thing. So the president telling the attorney general, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen. If the attorney general doesn't do it, the president can fire him to bring somebody else in and not be held accountable. Is that the kind of country we want to live in? And I think we don't recognize the consequences of that quite yet.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And that's -- and just to be clear for maybe people just tuning in, what the Supreme Court said pretty explicitly is, yes, the president is immune from anything that you just described. You posed a question, why did the Supreme Court wait until the end of the term? What do you think the answer is?

KINZINGER: Well, look, I don't know how that process internally, maybe some of the court experts do happen in terms of like what they decide when to release something. They probably knew how this was going down months ago. They could have out of the norm released it earlier.

There were some people that thought they might actually, or they could have released it at the beginning of when when things were being released, you know, cases were being released. I don't know, except my conspiracy side of me says to delay this as long as possible, because now, Judge Chutkan is going to have to go internally, make a decision in terms of what to do, figure that out. And apparently probably will not get to court before the election.

BASH: I want you to listen, and our viewers, to listen to what the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said in February of 2021, when he was explaining why he was opposed to impeaching the then former President Trump.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.


BASH: And now they are, at least with their official acts.

KINZINGER: Yes, exactly. And this is -- I'm glad you played that because even Kevin McCarthy at one point was saying, at least I heard him privately say it, and I think he said it publicly, like, you know, the justice system can deal with this, but Donald Trump is out of office now. And that was Mitch McConnell's whole reason to vote against removal because Donald Trump's out of office and now that's in the legal system.

The problem is, is it's all about power with these folks. It's not about this understanding of what the rule of law is and what is ultimately going to happen if you determine a president can be immune. I mean, honestly, and he'd never do it because he's a decent man.

But if Joe Biden decided to use SEAL Team 6 to go after his political rivals, according to this case, he may be justified in doing that. At least it would have to go to the Supreme Court to decide if he was justified in doing that. Whereas 48 hours ago, America would have largely agreed that no president could do anything like that.

BASH: I want to ask you about the presidential race. You mentioned Joe Biden. You endorsed him right before the debate. Another anti-Trump Republican, Stuart Stevens, he's telling Democrats to stop panicking. He wrote a really interesting piece in the New York Times that said, in part, "It is easy to be for your guy on good nights, but it doesn't mean much. The test is on bad nights. My one plea to my new friends abandoning Mr. Biden is simple -- suck it up and fight. It's not supposed to be easy."

And I wanted to show that to you -- I'm sure you saw it -- because, you know, he is used -- he worked for Mitt Romney and other Republicans, and now he's sort of getting a sense of the environment within the Democratic Party, as are you. What is your sense of watching the way the Democrats are responding to the president's debate performance?

KINZINGER: Well, let me just say this. Like, I -- you know, I don't regret my endorsement because Donald Trump is an existential threat to this country. I believe that. I believe Joe Biden will win. I just ask the Democrats to do whatever, including in the campaign for Biden, is necessary to defeat Donald Trump. Prosecute the case against Donald Trump. I don't think that's been done very -- certainly was not done effectively on debate night. And the other thing I'll say is this. I don't know -- for the next week or two, there's still going to be this internal consternation in the Democrats. I'll leave that to them because they're the ones that have to decide for their party. But I don't think it does any good to pretend like the debate was just a bad night. It was really bad, and it confirmed a lot of people's fears.

Now, Joe Biden is running. He's probably going to be the guy that stays in and does it. And I will fight as hard as I can to make sure he wins election.


But I think you have to realistically look at what happened and address it from that perspective and now go forward and prosecute the case as best you can. So I have no doubts, no regrets of being on Team Biden. I'm excited to do it to beat Donald Trump. But I just think you have to take people's concerns seriously. And ultimately, in a week or two, when everything's kind of settled down, prosecute this case as hard as you can.

BASH: OK, real quick, because we're out of time. Some Never Trumpers, Charlie Sykes, Sarah Longwell and others are apparently going to talk to the Biden team and ask that they please convince him to step aside. It sounds like you don't agree with them.

KINZINGER: Well, look, I wasn't at that meeting. I was invited, but I had a plane that canceled. The meeting is not about asking Joe Biden to step aside. I think this was planned weeks ago. It's just about how these folks can help out.

BASH: Got it.

KINZINGER: So I think it's wrong to say they were going there to get him to step down.

BASH: Got it. Thank you. That's important clarification. Always good to see you.


BASH: Thanks so much for being here.

KINZINGER: You bet. See you.

BASH: Stay with us. More on today's pivotal ruling from the Supreme Court. We're going to be here with a great panel of reporters coming up.



BASH: A big win for our Constitution and democracy. That's how Donald Trump is framing today's Supreme Court ruling that he's entitled to some immunity from the -- some immunity from prosecution rather, in the January 6th case. It comes on the heels of what the Trump campaign sees as two other wins.

Joe Biden's just not very good debate performance and another Supreme Court ruling that the Justice Department overstepped in charging some who rioted at the Capitol on January 6th with obstruction. Here is a great group of reporters with me.

CNN's M.J. Lee, Axios' Hans Nichols and CNN's Kristen Holmes. Nice to see you one and all. Kristen, what are you hearing from team Trump?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, this is a really good week for Donald Trump. I'm talking about the full seven days here. When it comes to the immunity, they believe that this is an absolute win, both legally and politically, because it's not blanket immunity, right? That's not what they went in for.

But what this does is this is likely to delay the case past November, which is really all that they wanted in the first place. The whole goal here, when you look at all the legal cases, they don't believe that any of these cases are going to be brought to trial before the election, except for this potential January 6th trial. That was still the one that was looming out there.

Judge Chutkan has moved incredibly fast. There was still the potential that she wouldn't care about the politics and that she would try to rush this before the election. Now they don't believe that's possible. And for them, that is a win. Also, this gives Donald Trump the leeway to not have to focus on a bunch of trials and those legal issues, but to actually focus on the campaign.

BASH: What are you hearing, Hans?

HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, look, regardless of the details of this court case, which matter immensely, let's not sort of gloss over this, just as a big picture, this does take the conversation away from the debate. And regardless of what adjective we use to describe the debate, when I would say it's dismal, disastrous, difficult, bad, you know, not a great night, I think is a fair way to put it.

It does shift the conversation back to what the Biden campaign wants to talk about, which is democracy, which is the -- where the country is headed and what sort of presidency we can expect from Donald Trump. So at least in the conversation change, I agree with you, Donald Trump has had, you know, a pretty good couple of days. But at least on the sort of changing the subject from the debate, this helps.

BASH: Yes. And on that note, the Biden campaign put out a statement where they said that electing Donald Trump based on this would hand him the keys to a dictatorship. "Today's ruling doesn't change the facts, so let's be very clear about what happened on January 6th. Donald Trump snapped after he lost the 2020 election and encouraged a mob to overthrow the results of a free and fair election. He thinks he's above the law and is willing to do anything to gain and hold on to power for himself."

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this is the Biden campaign making the most of the situation, seizing on this new cycle, as you said, to at least try to drive home the point again, that was supposed to be one of the major points heading into November.

And one of the messages that they hope the president would deliver most forcefully, by the way, on the debate stage, that January 6th represents just everything that is wrong about Donald Trump, that he is reckless, that he is dangerous. It is not surprising to me at all that they would use this new cycle to release a statement like that.

I will say, you know, I'm not saying that anyone at the White House or the campaign has ever said this on the record or publicly because they're so careful about not giving off the impression that they're sort of trying to, you know, politically or publicly influence anything coming out of the judicial system.

But, yes, would Democrats generally have been really, really happy if, you know, if they could have seen the president admire in another, you know, trial heading into November, that would have made them really happy. And it seems like that is increasingly sort of remote, particularly after what we saw today.

BASH: Yes. I mean, what they're trying to do, and it doesn't take a lot because this is very wide reaching and much more focused on presidential immunity than I think maybe many people thought, saying you need to be afraid, be very afraid. We'll see if that has any impact, especially given what you talked about, which is the debate. And let's talk about that after a break.

A bad night, bad preparation, bad staffing. That's what Democrats are saying publicly. Privately, they are very much, as we speak, still trying to assess the damage from the president's performance. We'll talk about that next.



BASH: It was just a bad night and the alternatives are worse. Those are the messages President Biden's team is pushing to supporters and also the media today. But what can the president do to communicate that he is still capable of not just beating Donald Trump, but serving as president for four more years?

Well, here's what one of President Biden's closest allies and defenders told Kasie Hunt this morning.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), NATIONAL CO-CHAIR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2024: So here's what we're seeing on the screen that you're showing right now. A president who is, frankly, thunderstruck by just how aggressively Donald Trump is lying about everything. I think that President Biden needs to reassure those who were paying attention by giving more and more of the sorts of interviews and impromptu events and engagements that put him in America's living room in the first place.


BASH: Our great reporters are back now. M.J., you have some new reporting.


LEE: Yes. First of all, just on what Senator Coons was saying and what the president needs to potentially do differently, I just think the issue is that, sure, he can have more events, he can do more interviews. I don't know that for most people that is going to be enough to wipe away the really indelible images that we saw from debate night, where he just looked old and looked as though he wasn't fully there sometimes.

So I don't know that that is enough of a strategy to turn things around. But the reporting that we have today is that, obviously, we have seen House Democratic lawmakers largely stay behind the president. You know, publicly, they are still saying, we are behind him. He is going to continue running for reelection. He is our nominee.

I think the big question is whether that is a permanent state of being or whether that is the temporary sort of where they have to be for now as they wait for more data and more research to come in. One member that I was talking to said Congress is our firewall and we need to have one of the bodies. And they were saying there is agreement, private agreement among the House Democratic lawmakers that if they do get research in the coming days, that really strongly suggests that President Biden and the debate performance is going to cost them the House.

They described this as the shoot. He's not just going to lose the presidency, but he's going to lose the House data. That is when the dam might break. And you are likely to see lawmakers who, again, so far have said they are behind the president come out and say, we can't move forward like this anymore.

BASH: Yes, I mean, the question about the president is one thing. The question about down ballot, which I talked to Nancy Pelosi about yesterday on State of the Union, that's a whole another question. She actually had an interesting answer, which was, you know what? They can run effectively. My words, not hers. They can run against him just like they ran against me. Like, you know, we'll see what happens.

You also have some reporting. And I'll just put the headline of your piece up. "Nervous donors await polls before making a call on Biden." So you talked about the lawmakers. You're talking about the money.

NICHOLS: And they're all looking at the same thing, which is the data, which is the polling. And now we can finally settle for once in all whether that data is singular or plural, because the question is, how many polls are people going to need to see over what time span and what's the time horizon? Because in the next three or four days, there will be polls that will give us some indication.

The question is, what are the polls in mid-July say, right? Because if there is going to be a move against the president of the United States, by members of their own party, whether that's top donors and its elected elected lawmakers, they're going to want to see more than one poll. And they are bracing for the worst because, you know, something could surprise us.

You know, President Biden could go up in the polls. I don't suspect that will happen. And that's what everyone wants to see. You know, what's fascinating about this story, and I think we're all kind of in this right now, we're in the point where our sources are calling us for information.

And, you know, you reach a point in the story where you, like, people asking you what you know --

BASH: Yes.

NICHOLS: -- what are you hearing. And that always tells you something about where the story is. And it's a real tipping point.

BASH: It's a scramble.

NICHOLS: It's a scramble. It gets to just how concerned Democrats are right now.

BASH: Yes. I mean, honestly, yes, I can -- I was just thinking of several other points in my reporting career. Maybe I shouldn't mention them right now, because maybe that's not fair. But one of them really very much comes to mind. That's just like that.

And you mentioned the surrogates. It has been amazing the way that the Biden campaign, which has been criticized up and down, right and left for lots of things that they have really hunkered down and spread out and put the phone calls out to every member of Congress they can to, you know, give them the talking points to, you know, make sure that they're on board.

Also, the other -- to the donors, to other, quote, unquote, "stakeholders." And if somebody strays, they hear about it.

HOLMES: Well, it's absolutely right. But I think at the end of the day, even if they're all staying together, it does come down to President Joe Biden and his performance and what he does. And I think to M.J.'s point, talking about getting him out there and doing these various events, I would actually take it a step further.

Most of America doesn't watch these political rallies. They don't watch these interviews. They don't watch what either candidate is doing. Most of America doesn't like either candidate.

BASH: Yes.

NICHOLS: They clearly watch this show, just to be clear.


BASH: Obviously. HOLMES: Yes, they just watch the speeches. And my point is that they did watch the debate, that people saw those clips as clips rang all over social media.

BASH: Yes.

HOLMES: They have a lot of work to do, and it's not going to take just surrogates who are on message to get where they need to go.

BASH: And our colleague Isaac Dovere has some other great reporting talking about the what-if scenario. If Joe Biden does step aside, "They're terrified by nearly every scenario. Going forward with Biden, a Kamala Harris nomination, a nomination of someone else who would, in that case, have beaten the first black female vice president, long nights of multiple ballots, spilling ideological and personal feuds on national television, even just revelations of embarrassing details about people who have never been vetted by a national campaign."

And this is talking about the concept of quickly trying to find somebody else.


Never mind that, as I bring you in here, our friend Dan Balz at The Washington Post was reminding us of history, that the last time something even came close, Lyndon Johnson said he wasn't running earlier in the cycle. There was a big fight at a convention in Chicago, and Richard Nixon, the Republican one.

LEE: No, it would be chaos of just epic proportions. And I think it is difficult for them to even get their heads around this possibility. But I think also that is why they are digging in so hard right now because they don't have a choice. I will say just one thing about, you know, you're talking about the campaign giving out talking points and hearing when others are being critical.

Some of the language that the campaign has used, like bedwetters, I have privately heard from a bunch of people in the party who have said they find that language really offensive and off key right now, that they think it is reasonable that people are completely freaking out. And it just ends up sounding dismissive and snarky.

BASH: Very interesting. OK, guys, great reporting. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.