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Inside Politics

Trump Clashes with Social Conservatives on Abortion; White House, Biden Campaign Holding Separate All-staff Calls; Trump Campaign Tight-lipped amid Growing VP Speculation. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 03, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': Republicans are gearing up to confront the major dividing issue inside the party right now, and that is abortion as they prep for the official party platform, it is supposed to be adopted as part of the GOP convention later this month. In fact, the clash has already begun and here is the issue, will the platform endorse a national ban on abortion which it has for years, or will it change to reflect Donald Trump's current view, which is that abortion laws should be left to the states.

Joining me now is Marjorie Dannenfelser, the President of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Thank you for --


BASH: -- being here. Now, you can call me Dana the entire time.


BASH: Tell me this current status --


BASH: -- of what the debate is right now and whether or not you think as somebody who believes that this should be a national issue, not a states issue, where it will end up.

DANNENFELSER: Well, I can tell you where I hope it will end up. WALKER: We know what the president's position is and that is that the state is the frontline battle, and that it should only be there. And so, he does take issue with what the party platform has been for 40 years since Ronald Reagan. Our view is don't mess with what has been there for 40 years. Yes, of course, pursue the approach that you think that you should, but don't mess with that.

And the reason that I say don't mess with the 14th Amendment justification for any type of federal legislation, not just a complete ban, but say of 15-week limit or a 12-week limit, or a 20-week limit. That language is justification for federal action and if you take that away, it is very demoralizing to the people. For instance, for over the last decade, we've reached 30 million homes and we know these voters in the battleground states.


We know that they support -- the people that we are reaching are not necessarily the diehards. They really support these modest kind of middle-ground consensus measures. And that is a perfect contrast with the view of Biden and the Senate Democrats who are running in those battlegrounds. So to take that away is really demoralizing to the energy, the excitement, the youth that are involved in going and doing this work in every battleground.

BASH: So what you are saying is that you're not just coming at this from the stance where you're completely anti-abortion?


BASH: You're coming at it from the stance politically, strategically --


BASH: -- from the idea that if a woman is living in a state with no exemptions, really strict bans --


BASH: -- that it would be better for them to have a national ban that at least has some exceptions, and abortion is not till 20 weeks.

DANNENFELSER: Well, the federal minimum standard that we have been trying to get accepted by the party and used as an important thing to run on, has been a minimum standard. So, a baby at seven months in California has the same rights as a baby at seven months in another state. So that's a minimum standard. States can go further than that, but they can at least -- they would at least establish that place.

BASH: I see, got it.

DANNENFELSER: That contrast makes sense to most people, not people who are in the rabid pro-choice side and the excited pro-life base, but it is a consensus and that's where we are in this nation post-Dobbs. That's what I think were required to do. Focus on saving those lives, as many as we can, and serving women.

BASH: How about the process? Because I have heard complaints from people in your camp about the fact that the people in the Trump campaign have been taking those who want to keep a national ban in the GOP platform off the platform committee.

DANNENFELSER: Well, we are closed out, so I can't tell you what I think is going on. It's very, very different I call to know. We've been lobbying for what we want. Nobody wants to be closed out. It is the first time it has happened in anybody's memory. It is the prerogative of the president -- former president to do this as he wants. I don't agree with how it is happening and I wouldn't agree with changing things up and causing a problem where there shouldn't be. But, that is the reality of what we are dealing with.

What we don't want to communicate to our voters and to voters in the middle is that there is no job that can be done in Washington to address this on a national level, on a minimum standard level. That would be a bad communication and it would be demoralized.

BASH: So, you are shut out of the process?


BASH: Just to be clear, because I hope I didn't confuse our viewers with my question to you. Your stance is a national abortion ban, you call it limits?

DANNENFELSER: Yeah. I mean, I of course am pro-life. I believe that life begins at conception. Also, I know that we are at a place in our country to build consensus. So the national limit, 15 weeks with exceptions is such a moderate -- modest --

BASH: And that's what should be in the platform?

DANNENFELSER: And that would be a great extension of that fundamental language. That fundamental language is, a 14th Amendment justification for any legislation, that should be retained.

BASH: So, you would be happy if there was a support for a national ban at 15 weeks with exceptions for the health of the mother, rape and incest?

DANNENFELSER: Yes. As long as that language stayed intact, that appeals to the 14th Amendment.

BASH: So, I checked in with the Trump campaign, Chris LaCivita to be specific, before this interview to get a sense of what they're saying about this notion that you're shut out and here is what he said. It is the natural -- it is the natural way of conventions that the leading campaign ensures it has supporters in those roles. This is Donald Trump's convention, not Marjorie's.

DANNENFELSER: He is exactly right and he gets to do what he wants.

BASH: And --

DANNENFELSER: Of course, we don't --we don't like this. I am not the head of the party. We -- the pro-life movement is not a function of the Republican Party. It is a one cause 14th Amendment press. It is a human rights movement of our day. We are not Republicans first and pro-lifers next. So, it is all -- what Republicans do will determine what we do.

Now, let me tell you what we are going to do and it is still a contrast. We are still in those battlegrounds. It is just a plea to -- from the outside to the inside, to retain that language and the heart and soul of the of the pro-life movement which has served the Republican Party for quite some time.

BASH: And you're going to be still out there trying to get people to vote?


BASH: Are you also saying that you're worried that this will dampen enthusiasm?

DANNENFELSER: I think it could. I think it would. After 40 years of having this specific language that justifies what we might do for children in California, children in Oklahoma, children in a diverse nation, some kind of minimum standard -- and to take that language out would be demoralizing.


BASH: How big of an enthusiasm problem might you have?

DANNENFELSER: Well, I mean, we hear reports of all sorts of people saying they are not going to vote, will have profile like people out there in the pro-life movement. I would think that would be a mistake. Clearly, the contrast is still very advantageous for Trump. We cannot have a law that would wipe out every single pro-life protection in the country. But I do think it will be demoralizing and we see evidence of that.

BASH: One last question --


BASH: -- and then we got to go. Would you like any protections for IVF in the platform?

DANNENFELSER: I think there is a lot of good conversation about this. I think that more fertility treatments are called for. The American public poll after poll shows they don't like the development of a lot of embryos just to be destroyed. So that is the conversation we are having about --

BASH: That you (ph) want to be part of the platform or stay out?

DANNENFELSER: I think it would be fine to communicate what the Republican Party is for in the platform.

BASH: OK. We are going to have you back to talk more about that. Thank you so much for coming on.


BASH: Appreciate it.


BASH: And we are staying on top of the very, very big story this hour, which is President Biden facing a serious threat to his re-election campaign. More with the panel next.



BASH: Right now, the president and vice president are having lunch together at the White House. Also happening now, Biden Chief of Staff , Jeffrey Zients, is holding an all-staff call with White House staff and Biden's Campaign Chair Jen O'Malley Dillon and Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez are holding their own call with campaign staff.

So Zolan, Jeff and Jackie are back with us. So, that is all happening as we speak. So as soon as we get the reporting on that, we will bring it to you. In the meantime, I just want to return to the story that MJ brought us and give a little bit more of the details of that story about the president's thinking.

In Tuesday's private conversation, Biden was also chastened as he blamed himself and not his staff for the terrible debate last week. He said, I have done way too much foreign policy, this person said. Biden said that the back-to-back trips to France and Italy, and the jet lag and exhaustion that had caused was detrimental for the debate but wanted to put the debate in the rear-view mirror. And so that's the question. Is there a rearview mirror?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Right now, no, because they haven't dealt with --there has been so many explanations as to why that happened. Was he sick? Was he tired? What -- but what was it? And so, I think because there has been -- there hadn't -- there wasn't a clear answer coming out of that debate and there has been the reluctance to deal with the fact that the president is aging from the campaign and the White House for that matter, that just -- it just leaves more questions.

And the fact that he did not reportedly reach out to anybody after that debate, he didn't talk to Congressional leaders. He didn't talk to allies, all of that kind of created a stew that they haven't quite figured out how to serve. I think we can go with that.


BASH: Let's go with that, yeah.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And we have reporting as well that after that sort of lag in reaching out to key allies that the president himself did reach out to a key ally and expressed that he may not be able to salvage this (inaudible) unless over the coming days, he can turn the tide here and sort of convinced the public, as well as Democrats that the debate was a one- off and that he is up for the job.

It just reinforces the idea that the next -- the actions by the White House and by the president specifically in the coming days are so crucial to the future of his campaign now. And I will say, I'm also talking not just to Democrats outside the White House, but those inside the campaign that are also watching this meeting with the chief of staff today, watching his events to see sort of what the future is for this campaign at this time. The anxiety also runs within the administration right now.

BASH: And again, we should just emphasize that everybody I've talked to frames it with one clear goal, keeping Donald Trump out of the White House and what is the best way to do that.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And unity is something that Democrats will be searching for. That is one of the topics to be discussed by optics and actual agenda at the governor's meeting tonight. But you mentioned that campaign call going on, urging staffers to stay focused, that is their biggest worry of all. This has taken their eye off the ball on Donald Trump and the contest.

That is why, someone said to me this morning, it took Biden a long time to decide whether and when to run. He is known to be a very deliberate/slow decision-maker. They say he does not likely have that much time in this scenario, A, because the convention is coming up, but B, just the amount of lost time here. Again, the silent campaign has been the Trump campaign because they know this is beneficial to them.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And let's also remember, while all this is going on, one still needs to keep governing too. This is a pivotal time with two wars going on and the NATO Summit in Washington, D.C., that has now taken on even more important when it comes to domestic politics as well with that coming just next week.

BASH: Yeah, really good point. OK, everybody standby. We are just two weeks away from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. One important question remains, who will Donald Trump choose as his running mate? Stay with us.



BASH: Donald Trump and his team are focusing on the busy sprint to the Republican National Convention. There is a lot of speculation about who will be his VP pick, but Trump is being uncharacteristically quiet on what could be a defining moment in this race. CNN's Kristen Holmes has been covering the former president and is covering the so-called veepstakes. What are you hearing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I want to say that in the last hour, I said Donald Trump has been laying low and not doing any interviews. And apparently, the campaign said he did a Virginia local radio show, so I want to correct that.


HOLMES But this is uncharacteristically --

BASH: That's low-ish.

HOLMES: -- it is low profile. BASH: Yeah.

HOLMES: And when I said are you arguing that he is laying low, there was no response on that.


HOLMES: He clearly is staying out of the messaging and that is how they want it right now. They are letting this wave ride and see what exactly happens. Now, what we had originally been told is to expect a potential VP announcement next week. Now, it seems to be the timing is shifting. It seems that everything is in flux and what they are really doing is riding this through, seeing what happens next with what is going on with Biden. And they really have shifted their interest in what is going on with Biden as well.

The last 24 hours, I have been getting call after call after call as to what exactly is being talked about in terms of what might happen next. They clearly are looking at this --


BASH: Meaning they are asking you what is happening in Biden world (ph)?

HOLMES: Exactly. One of the things, obviously --

BASH: Yeah.

HOLMES: -- you've talked about before --

BASH: Yeah.

HOLMES: -- when they start coming for information --

BASH: Right.

HOLMES: -- they need to figure out their plan of action. Now when it comes to VP, we are still told that the top contenders remain the three, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Marco Rubio, as well as J.D. Vance. Trump has a rally in Miami that they are planning in --on Tuesday, and I'm told point-blank over and over again, do not read too much into that. It does not mean anything. Obviously, Marco Rubio's hometown there, but they are having a big rally on that day as well. A lot of speculation building, but whether or not he ultimately does it, that's going to be his decision and anyone around him will tell you, they just don't know.

BASH: Yeah. I think that's the one thing we do know.


BASH: Kristen, thanks for that reporting. Appreciate it. Nice to see you.

Thank you for joining "Inside Politics." A quick programming note. Join me on 4th of July. I will be hosting CNN's "The Fourth In America" special along with my colleague Boris Sanchez. You can see live firework shows all across the country. It is must see TV, musical performances that you don't want to mess. It is going to all start at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. "CNN News Central" starts after a quick break.