Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

House Democrats Remain Divided On Biden After Meeting; Top Dems Say Today Is Make-Or-Break Day For Biden's Future; Source: Sense Of "Sadness" Inside House Democrats' Meeting; Tonight: Trump Rally In Miami Amid Growing VP Speculation; Trump: Waiting On Biden Before Picking Running Mate; GOP Removes Explicit Rejection Of Same Sex Marriage From Platform; Trump Denies Ties To Far-Right Project 2025. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 09, 2024 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, a fight for political survival. We're following two crucial meetings in the House and the Senate that could determine the fate and the future of Joe Biden's candidacy. As Democrats who want the president to drop out, come face to face with those who support his aggressive push to stay on the ballot. I'll talk to a lawmaker who is in the room.

Plus, down to the wire. Donald Trump admits that his VP pick is not set in stone. Just days before the Republican convention, you'll hear what he's saying about the Biden campaign turmoil and how it could impact his choice.

And I'm voting for the party, not the man. That's how one anxious Wisconsin man is explaining his post-debate support for Joe Biden. CNN's John King is getting the pulse of voters in a must win swing state.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

This is a make-or-break day for Joe Biden and his campaign knows it. Top Democrats in the Biden administration and on Capitol Hill tell CNN, the meetings of House and Senate Democrats today will likely decide the president's fate one way or another. Meeting number one in the House just wrapped up and it appears Democrats are still divided. One member tells CNN, there was a sense of sadness in the room as several Democrats refused to say whether they support keeping the president as the party's nominee or not.

CNN's Manu Raju, of course, is tracking it at all. Manu, what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. In fact, I did ask a number of members who left that meeting, whether or not they still support, keeping Joe Biden as a party's nominee. And they completely refuse to say, including Congressman Dan Goldman of New York, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Lucy McBath of Georgia, and Hillary Scholten of Michigan.

Among the members who just simply would not say, others said that they're simply deciding to back Joe Biden because he is the nominee and he's not going anywhere, and that they'll have to get behind them. And then there was some enthusiastic support, particularly among members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

At that meeting, people hear their views, hear their concerns. It was a bit of an open mic venting session, the Democratic leaders sat back, and they listened to those concerns. There was no consensus at all in the room. When I put the question to Democrats, they've made clear that there are still concerns about the top of their ticket.


REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): If the president declines to leave voluntarily, then he's going to be our nominee. And we have to make the best of a complicated situation. I'm viewing it pragmatically.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I think that there are changes that people need to see to continue to feel comfortable.

REP. SEAN CASTEN (D-IL): My takeaway is great sadness that we are not having a conversation about the fact that we have two people running for the president. One of them has a record that anybody would be proud to have. And the other one is an adjudicated rapist or twice impeached convicted felony.


RAJU: So that last Congressman Sean Casten, and I asked him well, does that mean, you support keeping Joe Biden as your party's nominee. And he said that, I simply -- that's I've said what I'm going to say. So, you're seeing the variety of views there.

The one Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who you heard from as well. She's the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She also wants to see Biden do things differently and more unscripted events, tried to reassure confidence behind his candidacy before she takes a firmer position about whether he should stay as a party's nominee.

Her group, also meeting with Joe Biden sometime later this week as Biden tries to shore up support within the House Democratic Caucus. And then later today, Dana, a big meeting amongst Senate Democrats. They will meet over lunch with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, where there are a lot of different views and some very critical about keeping the president as a party's nominee.

BASH: Yeah, there sure are. Well, we'll definitely be seeing you after that meeting as well. I mean, such an important day. We cannot underscore that enough. Manu, thank you so much. Let's talk to our terrific group of reporters here at the table. CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Hans Nichols of Axios, and NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. Hello, everybody. Welcome back to Washington.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be in D.C. on a pretty casual week.


BASH: I know, like nothing going on. We're going to go out and have a long lunch after this, I'm sure. In all seriousness, what I have heard. And I'm definitely curious to hear what you have all heard, particularly out of the meeting this morning among all House Democrats is that, yes it was a venting session. Yes, you had a variety of views and points of view.

But because the leadership, Hakeem Jeffries, and frankly, former leaders who have a lot of sway, are very clearly in a position where they don't -- they're not signaling that they are getting ready to go to the president and say, get out. It seems as though, even for those who want him gone. It is a fait accompli, that Biden is going to be on the ticket. And there is frustration, there is sadness, but resignation.

COLLINS: Yeah. I think whatever you hear lawmakers of any political stripe, talking about how their meetings are family discussions or listening conversations. That's Washington diplomatic speak for they're having really difficult conversations behind closed doors, about who their nominee is, you know, just 40 days out from the Democratic convention that's going to be happening in Chicago, not that far from now.

And yes, I think you're seeing a lot of them too afraid to come out and say, explicitly what they really feel behind the scenes. Because behind the scenes privately, we're hearing from so many Democrats who say, they are worried about Biden's capabilities, whether or not his fitness to serve, but his ability to perform in November.

And that's really another group of lawmakers that I've been watching closely coming out of this House meeting today. But also, the Senate lunch that's about to happen with Senate Democrats is the ones who are going to be in difficult seats and difficult districts.

Look at people like Bob Casey, who's up for reelection, or people like Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin. Those are the voices to watch to see how they're talking about it because they're worried about having to overperform the top of the ticket.

HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: It's so striking how lawmakers are saying one thing privately and another thing publicly. And I don't know if that sort of divergence continues and they're able to speak with forked tongues throughout this next week. But at least publicly, they're not coming out. And I think that's where you're getting the resignation.

One note of caution on all this, is it, we don't know how long this is going to play out. There's no shot clock. We don't know if it's 24 hours, 48 hours, we don't know if it's a week. We do know there are four big events this week, the two House meeting -- the House meeting, the senate meeting, the whole NATO conference, and then the press conference. But even after that, there's no guarantee that Biden's just gets, you know, a free pass and then it's done and over. You can always come back.

BASH: Well, on the idea of saying one thing in private, one thing in public. Maybe the best example that we have seen this morning on that is Jerry Nadler, who is a longtime veteran, House Democrat. Who -- our reporting was that he made it very clear in a private meeting with top committee Democrats, and Hakeem Jeffries over the weekend that he thinks it's time for President Biden to step aside. Here's what he said in public this morning.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): President has determined that he is the best candidate and given the fact that he's won the nomination and he's got all the delegates. Raise your support for the president pragmatic consideration. Given his president said, you made it. He said he's going to remain in. He is our candidate and we're all going to support him.


AYESHA RASCOE, HOST, NPR: Well, I think at this point, what they're saying publicly may be the most important. Because at the end of the day, if you really want Biden out, you got to get out there and you got to -- you know, kind of put some bass in your voice and say, I want you out.

And so, the fact that they're not doing that, it's also -- you know, looking at the idea that you cannot make him go. We've learned so much of the past, you know, however many years that you know, this whole idea of maybe you can just kind of gently say to someone, can you go, can you go. Look at George Santos or anybody else. If you really want someone out at this point in the game, you got to kick them out. And I don't think they're ready to do that.

BASH: And it's also, as you know, it's not that easy. It's a totally different.

RASCOE: It's not -- it's totally -- it's very hard.

BASH: Guys, one of the statements when I saw it, I kind of guessed. I covered the hill on and off for 20 years. And all of the time I was up there. Senator Patty Murray was a United States senator. She won in the year, the woman '92. She got there in 1993. Served for more than a decade -- well over a decade with Joe Biden. She is the president pro- tem. So, she is a very senior member of the United States Senate, the most.

Here's what she said. I believe President Biden must do more to demonstrate he can campaign strong enough to beat Donald Trump. At this critical time for our country, President Biden must seriously consider the best way to preserve his incredible legacy and secure it for the future. I mean, talk about saying something very clear without using direct words.

COLLINS: Yeah. It was pretty striking to hear -- her say that. And it seems like some of the women senators have -- Democratic senators have been maybe more candid in their statements about, you know, acknowledging reality and what we did see in the debate and what Democrats are so concerned about their conversations that they're actually having privately, and what this is going to look like.


And obviously, I mean, this is everything for the Senate because how they do in November could determine the control of the Senate for the end -- until the end of the decade. And so, I think that they are taking a very real look at and what this looks like. And you're seeing others say, well, he is the nominee and we're sticking behind him. But we still very much are hearing those concerns. I don't think anyone has come out and said, he has completely nullified any concerns that I have.

BASH: One of the -- one of the dynamics -- the driving dynamics, I am told, and have been told for the past several days has been the incredible support that he has from the Congressional Black Caucus. And that has been in their huge caucus, like actually with numbers and also with power. Let's listen to what some key members of the CBC have been saying about Joe Biden.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We will take Joe Biden any day over a convicted felon.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NV): President Biden is our nominee. The Vice President Kamala Harris is his running mate. They are the team that will ensure that we move America forward, and there will be no other nominee then President Biden.

REP. GLENN IVEY (DMD): The Congressional Black Caucus has been solidly behind the president. The Biden, Harris ticket is the way we want to move forward.


BASH: Now, with the exception of Steven Horsford, who was the middle soundbite, you just saw there. Most, not all, but most members of the CBC are in pretty safe blue seats, which is part of the frustration I heard this morning from members is that it's the frontline seats. Those who could very well lose in any scenario, but especially they fear with Joe Biden at the top of the ballot right now.

They are concerned and perhaps -- again Steven Horsford is in pretty swingy district. So, I'm taking him out of this. But generally speaking, there is some frustration among non-CBC members that they have such a strong voice and that they -- not that they have a strong voice, but that they are so powerful in their plea for Biden to stay.

NICHOLS: They are the cornerstone of the Democratic Party. They have enormous amount of sway, and they don't have to face voters in the same way that the frontliners do. I make the same point about Senator Murray. Senator Murray is from a very safe state. If Senator Murray is in trouble, Democrats have big problems, right. She is in a solidly Democratic state.

And that I think, is the dynamic that we need to watch going forward with this senate meeting to see what those vulnerable senators say. Now, some of them said something, but I think we're going to hear more.

RASCOE: But some of this is, you know, you're hearing the CBC representing their constituents who, you know, reporting on this network, shows them saying, look, stick with Biden. I think there is an acknowledgment, and often you hear this from the black base. This may not be the best that we can do. This might not be the best person, but he's what we got --

BASH: And they're loyal.

RASCOE: So, we got to stick with it, right?

BASH: And they -- and they rightly so, believe that he's done a lot for the black community. Kaitlan, you spoke to Bernie Sanders last night. I want to play a little bit of your conversation.


COLLINS: You're saying he needs to get out there. What does that look like, press conference, interviews?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): Look, he is talking about his cognitive issues. And they're real and legitimate. I'm suggesting --

COLLINS: I'm talking about voters' concerns, not my concerns.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yes. And you're right. And I think what he has got to do is get out there, interact with people, turn off the teleprompter, and people can make a judgment for themselves.


BASH: What was your takeaway from that conversation?

COLLINS: Bernie Sanders has been one of the most forceful defenders of President Biden's since that debate. It's actually been pretty remarkable to watch. He had a Sunday --

BASH: His former opponent.

COLLINS: Exactly. And he had a Sunday show appearance. And then last night with me, we had a very lengthy back and forth over this and he kept turning back to the issues. And he very clearly wants President Biden to articulate his message very differently than he has been. He wasn't saying, it was a great debate performance.

He said the Biden campaign is not doing what he thinks they need to be doing. He said that he does believe Biden can beat Donald Trump come November, only if he talks about certain issues that Bernie Sanders obviously cares so much about the retirement crisis in America, social security, affordable housing, and these issues. But the question also is Biden being the messenger himself, not just what the message is and what the issues is and that concern. But it is remarkable to see Bernie Sanders come out and be as forceful as he was in his defense of Joe Biden, someone who has always kind of had a soft spot for going with their time on the Hill together. I don't think it's a surprise, but he did talk to President Biden before he came out and deliver that message last night.

BASH: Such a great conversation. Thank you all. Don't go anywhere. Coming up. Back in the spotlight. Tonight, Donald Trump is hosting a rally in Miami, and one of his potential running mates will be there with him. We'll talk about that after a quick break.



BASH: Today Donald Trump is holding his first rally since the day after the debate. It is at his Doral Golf Club in Miami, close to the home of Senator Marco Rubio. A top contender for his running mate who will also be there with him. Now Trump told Sean Hannity last night that his decision is still up in the air.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voiceover): I haven't made final decision, but I have some ideas as to where we're going. And a little bit, you know, we wanted to see what they're doing to be honest, because you know, it might make a difference. I don't know. I'm not sure that it would. But there are those that say Trump's waiting until he finds out what's going to happen with crooked Joe Biden, and we'll see what happens with Biden.



BASH: CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us live from Miami. There are those who are saying that he's waiting. I mean, he's the guy. Is it a thing that he is waiting or is this just, you know, sort of classic trying to get people off whatever scent he wants to get people off of, which by the way is not unique to Donald Trump. Every person who's running for president, tries to have a surprise element and who they pick.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And there are those who are saying it was kind of Donald Trump's baseline. So that generally means that Donald Trump himself is thinking something. But yes, there are those who are saying that -- and there are those who are saying that everyone is waiting to see what happens with President Joe Biden. Among the people waiting is former President Donald Trump himself, who has been sitting back largely out of the spotlight, watching this kind of Democratic spiral. They are curious what is going to happen next.

And in terms of the campaign as a whole, they are in a bit of a holding pattern. If President Joe Biden stepped down, everything in this campaign is going to change because remember, they have spent millions of dollars on modeling and data on how to beat President Joe Biden. But they can't really do anything or change any of their strategy until they actually see what happens with the president.

But when it comes to that vice presidential pick, here's what we do know. There are three people who have been in constant consideration at the top of the list. And this is according to numerous senior advisers and allies, people who talk to the former president on a regular basis. They are senators Marco Rubio and J. D. Vance, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Now who is at the top of that list, Dana? That is really depends on who Donald Trump has just spoken to and who you, we as a reporter, have just spoken to. There are people who come out of conversations with him, that say that it is 100 percent going to be Marco Rubio. Others who say it's going to be J. D. Vance.

And right now, I don't think anyone actually knows. The two big things that we are waiting for is who that person is going to be and when that announcement is going to be. And all we know right now is that it's going to come before Monday, but one source told me it could come as late as Monday morning.

Of course, we are going to be reading every single TV that is out there and watching for the interaction between Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. Tonight, he is the only one of those top contenders who is going to be there. Right now, it's really a big question mark in this campaign.

BASH: Kristen, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. And our panel is back here. I feel like it was yesterday. I was standing outside the governor's mansion in Indiana. Governor Mike Pence was in there and it was suddenly became clear that he was going to be the pick. So many different calculations this time around than back then.

But nevertheless, they are calculations. And so, I guess the first question, Kaitlan, I'm going to start with you because you are very deeply sourced in Trump world. Is, nevermind the pick. What are the most important things to Donald Trump at this point when he's considering?

COLLINS: What Kristen says it's a big question. I mean, it is for the candidates themselves for this job. They also have been buying behind the scenes, even when they're playing it cool in interviews. Senator Marco Rubio with you saying, I'm not really that, you concerned about who the pick is. They're all talking about it behind the scene.

No one has a good distinction or a clear view of who it was. It's the same way as it was with Mike Pence and Chris Christie back in 2016. We're watching it all play out again. Trump could have a big event to announce that he could just post it on Truth Social. I mean, there's a lot of questions behind the scenes.

It does seem that Trump has coalesced around someone in the way that he's been talking about this privately. I think when it comes to the characteristics that are important to him, I mean, it is similar to the Mike Pence role in the sense of he doesn't want them to be Mike Pence and to do what he did on January 6, obviously. We've seen how that played out.

But I think people look only at that and forget about how Mike Pence navigated Donald Trump for four years, which was in a way that very few people in the cabinet or inside that west wing, or the Republican Party overall for that matter, knew how to do. And so, it's looking for someone who can play that backup role to Donald Trump and not overshine.

BASH: Well, backup role, but also, I mean, obviously, the most famous, now infamous moment of him pushing back against Donald Trump was on January 6. But we know so many more instances where it happened over the four years that he was in the White House.

And so, the question is, whether Trump learned from that and said, I don't want somebody who's going to even quietly push back against me or not. So, that's the question that we just don't know the answer to.

I want to turn to policy and to the -- what would he do of it all if he gets the White House back. And first start with what they are doing in Milwaukee already ahead of the convention next week, which is the GOP party platform. We talked a little bit on the show yesterday. Now we have some of the actual language and we want to compare it to the last time this was an issue, which was 2016.

Let's start with the issue of same sex marriage or the culture of marriage. However, they put it back in 2016. That it is based on marriage between one man and one woman. That is very clear against same sex marriage. This time around, promote a culture that values the sanctity of marriage.


Now let's look at abortion 2016. We support a human life amendment that is to the constitution and legislation to make clear that the 14th amendments protections apply to children before birth. So, a national ban. Now, they're talking about this time around. No person can be denied life or liberty without due process, and that the states are therefore free to pass laws protecting those rights.

So, let's just start there. Because what the Trump campaign who have made it very clear that they are in charge of this platform, this time around, are trying to convey is to borrow a phrase, a more compassionate conservative. That's what they're trying to convey, but?

NICHOLS: Well, they're suing for peace on the culture wars, at least in the platform. And I love talking about party platforms. But we all know, they don't really matter. They matter for about the week before and after the actual convention. And the rest of the time, you have to look at what presidents are actually spending their time, talking about and what their staff are preparing to doing.

And for Donald Trump, he's talked a little bit about a revenge. He's talked a lot about tax cuts. But you look at what his staff and the people that are going to actually staff, the administrative state have a potential Trump's second term. And they are very interested in rolling back many things that the Biden administration has done all across the board in ways that none of us have really fully priced in.

BASH: And he is trying very hard to distance himself from Project 2025, which is like an eight or 900 page, a document. I think tank document about what they want him to do, which has a lot of very strident things in it. He's trying to distance himself, but there are people who worked very closely with him in his White House were behind to this.

RASCOE: And the thing of it is that people need to understand that when you have a president, it is the staff, it is the people that work in the government who are actually doing the things that are going to impact your life. And we know that president -- that when Trump was president, he's not a details man. OK. He's not in there, looking at every little thing.

It is those people who are going to be coming from places like the Heritage Foundation, and what have you who are going to be coming into government. Those are the people that are going to be making those decisions. And I think when you look at the sanctity of marriage, you know, I've talked to experts who look at this push against, like no fault divorce.

Now, that's not a federal issue. But when you look at that, this is a part of this move to make marriage much harder to get out of, to focus on families where you can live on one income, which usually means women not working, like this is an overall GOP push.

BASH: OK. You have 15 seconds to put this all in context.

COLLINS: I think Trump distancing himself from it is because he doesn't want anyone taking credit for anything that he is doing. That is why you saw him come out and say that. And also, his campaign has tried really hard to do that. I don't think that the idea that none of this will actually be put into place, if he does take office is realistic.

Obviously, these are people who worked in his administration and could be there. Is it as close to Trump? His Democrats are trying to say in the President Biden's campaign, no. But is it something that you'll likely see if he takes office to degrees? Yes.

BASH: That was great, 15 seconds. We're all done.

COLLINS: I've got my timer ready.

RASCOE: She's professional.

BASH: Thanks, guys. Don't go nowhere, because coming up the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says, it still stands with the Biden, Harris ticket. The caucus chairwoman will be here next.