Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
CNN TONIGHT: Raskin Says He Expects Pence To Testify Before January 6 Committee; Barr On Potential DOJ Trump Indictment: "I Think They Are Getting Very Close To That Point, Frankly"; The Obamas Return To The WH For Unveiling Of Official Portraits. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 07, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I also have a new project, I want to share with you. It is a podcast. I wasn't sure the world really needs another podcast. But it's my first one. And I'm actually really proud of it. And I hope you like it.
It's called "All There Is." I started recording it along - while I was packing alone, while I was packing up my mom's apartment, at the end of last year, after she died. And it's a podcast, about the people we lose, and the things they leave behind, and how we can all move forward with, with loss and laughter, and with love.
We don't talk about loss and grief, I think, enough, in this country. And we all can feel very isolated, and alone, in our loss and in our grief. And I found reaching out to other people, and talking to them, about their experiences, with loss and grief, incredibly empowering, and really life-changing. And I want to share those interviews with you.
You can find a trailer for the podcast at cnn.com/audio, or any other place, you listen to podcasts. Apple Podcasts, it's featured there. The first episode, we'll post a week, from today, on September 14th. You'll find it on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and you can sign up, to make sure you don't miss it.
The news continues. Let's hand it over to Kasie Hunt, and CNN TONIGHT.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: I think you're absolutely right. We don't talk about grief enough, Anderson. I'm very much looking forward to listening to that podcast.
COOPER: Of course.
HUNT: Thank you very much.
I am Kasie Hunt. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
We are in the midst of another general election season that will test Donald Trump's impact, across the board. Independents turned away from him, in 2020. And as criminal investigations, widen by the day, those Independents are being reminded why they still don't like him. Two-thirds of Independents say in a new poll that they don't want the ex-president to run for office again.
And though he is not on the ballot, this November, Democrats, led by President Biden, have tried to frame the midterms, as a choice between democracy, and Trumpism, which the President defines, as a threat to democracy.
Democratic voters, meanwhile, are energized, over abortion rights, Trump, and more, 62 days before the final votes are cast. So, where does that leave Republicans, who are on the ballot? They are stuck, right back where they were, answering for the now former President's actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I don't really have any comments on this - this whole investigation that's been dominating the news for the last month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: And it is dominating the news. And while many Republicans are trying to step out of Trump's shadow, or at least ignore it, there are some others that are making moves, to potentially run against him, in 2024.
The invisible presidential primary, already well underway, with possible GOP contenders, making their way, to Iowa and New Hampshire. Let me tell you, it doesn't happen by accident. Among them, Trump's former Vice President, Mike Pence.
Let's talk to someone, who served as Chief of Staff to Pence, in the White House.
Marc Short, welcome to CNN TONIGHT. Thank you so much for being with us.
MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Kasie, thanks for having me on.
HUNT: It's great to see you.
So, frankly, based on what your boss, former boss, current boss, longtime confidant, and person you have worked with, doesn't seem like it's a question, of whether he's going to run. He's doing all the things you do, if you're getting ready to run for president. So, what's in the cards? When is the announcement?
SHORT: Oh, Kasie, I don't think there's a foregone conclusion on that, to be honest.
HUNT: OK. SHORT: I think that the way that Pences have always addressed these questions is to say, "Where can we serve best?" And that's the conversation that they're going to have, in prayer, and saying, "Where are we being called?" But they're also going to say, one of the things that we think we can contribute to this country, moving forward, and they'll look at that.
But, right now, honestly, if you would look at the Vice President's schedule, over the next 60 days, you would see him crossing the country, entirely, trying to help midterm election candidates, in both the House, the Senate.
And, as you know, he was a former Governor of Indiana, and served as a Vice President of the Republican Governors Association. So, he's anxious in trying to help there too.
HUNT: It's been interesting to watch, how he has handled, his former boss, on the campaign trail. There have been instances, where they have come in direct conflict, just in terms of the candidates, they're supporting. But the former Vice President has also been careful, not to necessarily pick fights, with his former boss, rhetorically.
I'm just curious, what is the thinking behind how he carves out a lane for himself, in the Republican Party, when the former President is so front and center?
SHORT: Oh, I don't know that he's looking to carve a lane, Kasie. I think the way he looks at it is he's always been a consistent constitutional conservative. I think he's somebody in the, when he rose up the ladder--
HUNT: Does that imply to Trumpism?
SHORT: No, I'm telling you what Mike Pence is. And I think, if you go back to the time, when he was a House member, and John Boehner asked him to serve in leadership?
It's because during the Bush years, when there was a lot of expansive spending, Mike Pence is only one of a handful of Republicans, who was consistent, in voting against Republican priorities, like Medicare Part D expansion, like the Wall Street bailout, like No Child Left Behind.
He was the consistent conservative calling Republicans back to their standard. And that's what he's always been, and that's what he's going to continue to be.
HUNT: What is your sense of how the raid on Mar-a-Lago, or the search of the former President's home, in Mar-a-Lago, how has that impacted the behind-the-scenes thinking, for Republicans, who were thinking about challenging him?
Because, I mean, the Trump team blasted out, today, several weeks-old story, about how DeSantis fell in polls, against Trump, because this raid happened, and it energized Trump's base.
SHORT: Well I think there's truth to that, Kasie. I do think that it energized a lot of Republican supporters, back behind Donald Trump, because I think they felt like there had been an out-of-control state here.
And that - and what I mean by that is, think about it. The first action, the former President had, with the FBI, was Jim Comey actually lying to him, and coming in, during the transition, and saying, you're not a target of investigation, when clearly he was, and the FBI knowingly passing around the Steele dossier that they knew was false.
And so, there is enormous skepticism, among a lot of Republicans, about Department of Justice and the FBI. And so, I do think that that probably rallied a lot of people, around him.
Having said that Kasie, I think, as we head to the midterms, we're going to be more successful, if we're talking about Joe Biden.
We're going to be more successful, if we're talking about crime, in Joe Biden's America and our inner cities; about a catastrophe, at our border, with 200,000 border crossing, each and every month; if we're going to be talking about this idiotic energy policy, that seems to be something we're trying to import from Europe that's going to leave a lot of Americans, without the energy that they need, in pursuit of a green energy policy that is providing subsidies that people can afford $65,000 electric vehicles.
That's how we're going to win in the midterms, if we're talking about Joe Biden, and some referendum on him.
HUNT: But that seems tough, though in light of - and look, I take your point about some of the skepticism, especially among the former President, his closest aides, about how things were handled, in the beginning.
However, you fast-forward to now. I mean, you've seen the pictures of the classified documents that he took with him. I mean, Mike Pompeo, who also was making some of the similar moves, to potentially run in 2024, he said those documents should be returned.
Do you agree with that? I mean, it seems problematic. And it seems to be Independent voters think it's problematic.
SHORT: I think for a lot of us who had concerns about Hillary Clinton transferring classified emails to a personal server, we'd have--
HUNT: I mean, she would say that nothing she had was classified.
SHORT: Which I think Jim Comey himself has repudiated.
HUNT: He did.
HUNT: Then, it was changed back. But? SHORT: I think that this - for the same those of us, to be consistent, I think it's also questionable, as to the documents that the President has, in an unsecured place, at Mar-a-Lago. So yes, I would certainly share some of that criticism. But there's--
HUNT: I mean, do you think he should give them back?
SHORT: There's a lot more we don't know, at this point, Kasie. And I do think there's an extra burden, on DOJ and FBI, to be transparent, because of that history.
HUNT: Let me ask you about Bill Barr, the former Attorney General, whom you know, from working with him, in the administration. He's coming up pretty strongly, actually, in the past couple of days. I think a lot of us, who have covered him, in - here in Washington, for the past couple years, have been surprised.
Now, he did raise concerns, about the possible indictment, of a former President. But he's been very critical. Were you surprised by that? Why do you think he's had this change of heart?
SHORT: Yes, because I'd be a little bit surprised, because I also think that the efforts here seem rather unprecedented. And what I mean by that is that it seemed like there could have been still another way, to get those documents, without a raid on a former President's home.
Having said that, I think Bill Barr came back, to serve in Donald Trump's administration, because of his concerns, about the politicization of the FBI and DOJ. And so, I take - I think he's a very credible person, to give commentary on the subject.
HUNT: One of the other things that's going to come up here, as we head into this midterm season? And I take your point, Republicans want to focus on other things. But we are going to see more January 6th committee hearings.
Congressman Raskin, who's a member of the committee, was out talking about this, over the weekend. Take a look, and I'm going to ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Vice President Pence was the target of Donald Trump's wrath, and fury, and effort to overthrow the election, on January 6th, the whole idea was to get Pence, to step outside, his constitutional role, and then to declare unilateral, lawless powers, to reject Electoral College votes, from the States.
So, I think, he has a lot of relevant evidence, and I would hope he would come forward and testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, he said he hopes that he would come forward and testify voluntarily. Is that going to happen?
SHORT: Kasie, I think that there'd be a lot of concerns with that. I think that the events of January 6th, and the aftermath had been pretty public.
And in fact, despite the pressure campaign that Congressman Raskin talks about, Vice President Pence was pretty open, in writing an open letter, to Congress, and the American people, explaining the decision- making, he went through, and the decisions, he reached, on January 6th.
And even though there were lawyers advising the President that this extraordinary power that never been used in 250 years of our Republic somehow had magically been found, and they were conversely saying they would never want Kamala Harris, to unilaterally be able to choose, not to accept electoral votes, from Texas or Alabama? The Vice President was very open, in his letter. And then--
SHORT: And then, a couple weeks later, there was another controversy, about the 25th Amendment. And he wrote another very open letter to the American people, and to Congress, about it.
And so, I do think there are very significant constitutional concerns about, at this point, you know, what the Vice President did, you know, the pressure campaign, you know his explanation for decisions made.
If they're asking for personal conversations, between a President, and the Vice President, that I think has executive privilege. And I think Democrats should be careful, what they wish for, because if they go down a path of subpoenaing the Vice President--
HUNT: It's not just Democrats, though. It's Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger.
SHORT: As I said--
HUNT: But you don't count them?
SHORT: As I said, if they go down that path, Kasie, I think that you're going to have the reality that, Republicans will soon be taking over the House. Do they want Republicans to be subpoenaing Kamala Harris?
And you might say, "Well, that's different. She's an incumbent Vice President versus the former Vice President." Also, as a former Vice President, in the Oval Office, who I think a lot of Republicans are anxious to know about Hunter Biden's $50,000 a month contract for Ukraine, when Joe Biden was Vice President of the United States.
So, I think this is a very dangerous path that they're pursuing.
HUNT: So, do you expect to subpoena? SHORT: I am not going to anticipate one way or the other, what the committee is going to do. And I think that'll be a decision, if that comes between the Vice President and legal counsel.
HUNT: I did speak to Liz Cheney, a few weeks ago. Take a quick look at what she had to say about the Vice President - former Vice President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Vice President Pence was a hero, on January 6th. And that it's very clear that there was tremendous pressure, from a number of different places, on him. And he did his duty, and he didn't succumb to that pressure. And if he had succumbed to that pressure, things would have been very different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Do you want praise, from Liz Cheney, like that?
SHORT: I think that Liz Cheney has actually a very strong conservative record. I think she's - has a lot of great service to our country. I do have concerns about this committee though, Kasie. I do think it's a partisan committee. I think its makeup is partisan.
And I don't think there's enough conversation about the fact that the very person, chairing the committee, is somebody who voted against certification, in 2004, when there was no evidence of voter fraud, nor there are other members of that committee, who also voted against certification, in 2016, when there was no evidence of fraud, against - in the Trump-Pence victory.
So, I have a lot of concerns about the committee. Having said that, I think that she has served our country, very admirably, in a lot of ways. And I appreciate her conservative voting record.
HUNT: She certainly thinks very highly, of the former Vice President's actions, on January 6th. So, there is that.
HUNT: Marc Short, thank you very much for your time.
SHORT: Thanks, Kasie. Thanks for having me.
HUNT: We really appreciate the conversation.
We have much more to come, on the interesting, shall we say, evolution of Trump's former Attorney General, Bill Barr. He is not dodging questions, about the classified documents scandal. Instead, he's leaning into them. We'll tell you why that's news in and of itself. That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HUNT: So, at one point, former Attorney General, Bill Barr, was one of Donald Trump's staunchest allies, shielding the former President, from legal scrutiny, and defending some of the President's most controversial decisions.
But since Trump's refusal, to accept election defeat, things have apparently changed. Barr has emerged as one of Trump's most notable critics. He has appeared, on Fox News, three times, in the past five days, to criticize Trump's legal defense, in the Mar-a-Lago search.
And today, he said this, about the Justice Department's case, against the former President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think, you know, as I've said all along, there are two questions.
Will the government be able to make out a technical case? Will they have evidence by which that they could indict somebody on, including him? And I - that's the first question. And I think they are getting very close to that point, frankly.
But I think, at the end of the day, there's another question is, do you indict a former President? What will that do to the country? What kind of precedent will that set?
DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS HOST: Yes.
BARR: Will the people really understand that this is not, you know, failing to return a library book that this was serious?
And so, you have to worry about those things. And I hope that those kinds of factors will incline the Administration, not to indict him, because I don't want to see him indicted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Joining me now, former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu; CNN Political Commentator, Bakari Sellers; and CNN Political Commentator, and the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Dispatch, Jonah Goldberg.
Thank you all, for being here. Really appreciate it.
Shan, let me just start with you, on the legal stuff, here. I thought it was striking, to hear Barr say, "Well, I think the DOJ probably has evidence to indict, at this point, or at least they're very close." I mean, what do you think, is behind the sudden shift?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what's behind the sudden shift, I don't think is anything illegal. I mean, most people are agreeing that there's a certain critical mass of evidence here that makes Trump face some serious exposure.
I think what's behind the shift is, it's just self-serving. I mean, he wants to point out that, if he was leading DOJ, maybe he would have moved faster. I might agree with that. Maybe they should have moved faster on this.
And he's also, at the same time, supporting his ideas of protecting presidential power. I mean, I think it's kind of funny, for him to say that Garland is going to exercise prosecutorial discretion, when he himself exercised it so blatantly, to distort the Mueller report.
But he's right. It's very much a question of discretion for Garland. And that's what it's going to come down to.
HUNT: Jonah, what do you think's going on? You're a very sharp political observer.
JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CO-FOUNDER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DISPATCH: I don't know.
HUNT: Of folks, like Bill Barr, who's been around Republican politics, a long time.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I mean, I think it's - Bill Barr, who I've met a couple times, and he is - he was never quite the Trump sycophant that he was portrayed, by a lot of his critics as.
He was - he's one of these guys, who comes by - he came by his support, for Trump, honestly, because of his dislike of the Left, and his belief in sort of presidential prerogatives, and presidential power, and his own theories about the Constitution. I disagree with a lot of his positions on very - or tactical decisions, on a lot of things.
But his book was quite critical of Trump. The things, he's said, over the last year, have been quite critical of Trump. And I think, on this, I think what he's doing here, is he's just telling the truth, as he sees it, which is so strange, in the current political climate that we all, I think, it's too clever by half, there must be something else going on.
HUNT: Bakari, what's your take?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE MEMBER, (D) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: First of all, I have never met Bill Barr.
But I can tell you that I think all three of us agree that he does remain steadfast, in one thing, and that's the principle of protecting presidential power, and presidential authority. I mean, I think we can all agree on that that that is where he's coming from, and that's where this kind of refreshing view emanates from.
What most people have a problem with, and just to - just make it as simple as possible, for people? When you have Merrick Garland, and many others, who echo that term, like you tell your children, "No one is above the law?" But then you see, not once, but twice, Bill Barr, this same person, when he talks about the Mueller investigation, and he talks about the obstruction of justice, and the evidence is pretty clear, and it's laid out pretty clear that there is a case to charge someone with obstruction of justice? That does not happen.
And then you heard in his statement tonight even, or today even that the question should be, should a president - former President, even if the evidence rises to beyond probable cause, should a former President be indicted?
SELLERS: For me? I don't know how Jonah feels. I don't know how you feel. But for me, the answer should be yes. Now, the politics aside--
SELLERS: --whether or not you can get a jury, to find him guilty, is another question. But the three of us will be indicted by now. Well, at least I would be, for sure (ph).
HUNT: So, your answer is the same as the answer Liz Cheney gave me, when I interviewed her about this, because my question has been--
SELLERS: You're trying to make her never win a Democratic primary--
HUNT: I'm sorry. I apologize. Although there are a lot of Democrats lately, who are fans of Liz Cheney, actually.
But Jonah, what's your take on that? The politics of this, what it would mean? I mean, is there, in your view, a valid reason, to think about that? Or is that just a really bad idea?
GOLDBERG: So, first of all, I actually think it's never been true that the President isn't - above the law, below the law is the wrong, I think, the wrong framing of it, you hear it all over the place. It is - there's just a different standard for presidents. The sitting - the standard position of the Justice Department is you can't indict a sitting president.
HUNT: But this guy's not a sitting president, anymore.
GOLDBERG: No, I understand. But my only point is that we just treat presidents differently, in this country, in all sorts of ways.
Personally, I've been meaning to write this for a while. I think the ideal scenario would be for the Justice Department, to indict Trump, and then for President Biden, to take one for the team, and actually pardon Trump, on the condition that he never run for office again.
That would hurt him politically. It would be self - it would be patriotic and good for the country. It'd be a profile in courage. Democratic Party would hate him for it. Republican Party would hate it.
GOLDBERG: But you could - I totally respect the position that Trump should be indicted, and that the President shouldn't be above the law. But let's not kid ourselves that doing so is a drastic thing politically that will have bad--
SELLERS: To his--
GOLDBERG: --bad consequences.
SELLERS: To his point though, one of the things that, if we want to look back at history, the failure to actually indict Richard Nixon, is why we're here--
SELLERS: --and the why we have this lawlessness and recklessness. So, if we're going to have a legal standard, we need to abide by it.
And we're talking about two different things. Whether or not Joe Biden pardons Donald Trump is truly a political question, which I actually think he may consider doing. But he should be indicted.
WU: Yes. I mean, the whole idea is if you're too concerned about looking political, as a prosecutor, you become political.
And Barr, of course, very political prosecutor. And for him, to sit there, and say, you should be concerned about what happens in the country, et cetera? That's not what Garland should be concerned about. I mean, if he's true to his word, he should be concerned about following the evidence and the law.
HUNT: All right, Shan Wu, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
Bakari, Jonah, you guys are going to stick around. Thank you.
Next, a long White House tradition was broken, during the Trump years, another long White House tradition. But today, it returned, along with a warm welcome, for former President, Barack Obama, and former first lady, Michelle Obama. They finally had their official portraits unveiled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle. Her grace, her intelligence, and the fact that she's fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: See it for yourself, coming up next.
[21:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Barack and Michelle, welcome home. Welcome home.
(CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: A warm and emotional reception, today, for former President Obama, and the former first lady, back in the White House, for the first time, since they left in 2017.
The occasion was the unveiling of their official White House portraits, a long-standing bipartisan tradition that hasn't been celebrated in a decade. The last time was back in 2012, when Obama hosted President Bush 43, of course, the opposite party. President Trump, in contrast, hosted no White House events, for Obama, who was his predecessor.
Now, portraits of the first Black president and first lady will be on display, in the hallowed halls, of the White House, alongside past presidents, even the style of their portrayals making history, by breaking from the past, with their contemporary look.
For Obama, that meant choosing artist, Robert McCurdy, and hyper- realism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
B. OBAMA: What I love about Robert's work is that he paints people exactly the way they are, for better or worse.
And Robert also paints his subjects looking straight ahead, so it feels like you're face-to-face, forming a connection.
And what I want people to remember about Michelle and me, is that Presidents and first ladies are human beings like everyone else. We have our gifts. We have our flaws.
And when future generations walk these halls and look up at these portraits, I hope they get a better, honest sense of who Michelle and I were. And I hope they leave with a deeper understanding that if we could make it here, maybe they can too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: As for the former first lady, she chose artist Sharon Sprung, who depicted her, in a modern strapless gown, Jason Wu, seated in one of the most formal rooms, in the White House. It's something that Michelle Obama says she never could have imagined, would be part of her story.
While calling out Trump without naming him, Mrs. Obama underscored the value of tradition. Whether it'd be the peaceful transition of power, or the unveiling of White House portraits, she says, it's these traditions that lay the foundation of our democracy, and the promise that comes with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Traditions like this matter not just for those of us who hold these positions, but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy.
You see, the people, they make their voices heard with their vote. We hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. And once our time is up, we move on.
And all that remains in this hallowed place are our good efforts and these portraits, portraits that connect our history to the present day, portraits that hang here as history continues to be made.
So, for me, this day is not just about what has happened. It's also about what could happen.
Because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there, next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house, and she definitely wasn't supposed to serve as first lady.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right, coming up, we're going to go beyond the portraits, and look at the relationship between the 44th and 46th presidents. That's ahead.
And we'll look an announcement, tonight, in the most closely-watched Senate race, in the country.
We'll be right back.
HUNT: Former President Obama following up his trip, to the White House, today, by hitting the campaign trail. A source tells CNN that he is expected to campaign for a number of candidates, this fall, not just congressional candidates, but also some down-ballot.
Joining me now is Jonathan Martin, National Political Correspondent, for The New York Times. And Bakari Sellers and Jonah Goldberg are back with us as well.
Jonathan, let me start with you. I mean, the relationship between President Obama, and President Biden, is certainly an interesting one.
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes.
HUNT: The idea that they're both going to be out on the trail, also pretty interesting, to me. What do you make of what tension is there? And what can Obama do on the trail?
MARTIN: Well, thanks for having me. Alex Burns, and I wrote about their relationship, in our book, "This Will Not Pass." And it's important to--
SELLERS: Oh, my goodness!
MARTIN: No, it's important.
HUNT: He was talking about this, before the break.
MARTIN: The peanut gallery over there, it's--
GOLDBERG: It's still available? Is it available, available of sorts?
MARTIN: And to talk about--
SELLERS: OK, all right.
MARTIN: Well, the idea that they had a personal relationship, Biden, and Obama, was always overstated. Look, every pick, for VP, going back, throughout the history of the country, is a political choice. It's done for political purposes. And that was certainly the case, with Joe Biden, in 2008.
And so, look, I think they developed more a personal rapport, over the course of those eight years, in the White House. But it was always more transactional than it was portrayed in the press.
And I think we've seen the reality of that since Biden became president. Because yes, there are still tensions. I think Biden has sort of liked the fact that he has the potential, at least in his mind, to be a bigger sort of figure on policy, than potentially Obama. And he's mentioned that in private, as we reported in the book.
And Obama himself has been frustrated, I think, by some of the coverage of Biden, as being more transformational than him. Because, to Obama?
MARTIN: What is missed in the coverage is that when he was President, Obama, there were a dozen Joe Manchins, in the Democratic Party. It was a more conservative caucus that Obama was dealing with 15 years ago.
So, Bakari, just before we move on to some other politics, I just want to underscore that the historic nature of what we saw, at the White House, today, I mean, what does it mean to you that the first Black president's going to be hanging, on the halls, of the White House, and, the fact that Trump ignored it, for all this time?
SELLERS: I mean, I don't really care about Trump. I think that just kind of, the - disregard him, for the purposes of the moment.
What you saw today from the former first lady, wearing braids, as she gave that eloquent speech, about her not supposed to be there? The love that those two share, the admiration, him saying one thing about Michelle, is that she's fine, having just them speak about not just what this country was, or what it is, but what it can be.
For me, I think it's amazing to see that this couple, this very highly-educated, successful couple that rose to the highest office, in the land, the definition of Black excellence, when they rose to power in 2004, and then again, became president in 2008, how those eight years could lead to so much White grievance politics. And that's what we saw the rise of the Tea Party, et cetera, in 2010.
And it's just fascinating that we were able, in this country, and historians will one day look back at it, to go from this figure, to Donald Trump, in one election. And I think that that is what you saw on display. You saw what this country can be versus that backdrop.
HUNT: Well, certainly, and this actually turns us straight, to midterm politics, because at the end of the day, Trump only got one term. You are correct, that obviously he played on all these grievances. He continues to do it, I mean, to this day.
But a lot of Republicans in elected office, I think, are really wishing he would just go away. And Jonah, you mentioned this. You wrote a column yesterday, and it's titled "Sure enough, Trump is sucking the air out of the GOP's midterm momentum."
"The Washington Post" recently noted, there are Republican campaigns, who are leaning into Trump, to boost GOP turnout, though, getting him to be more engaged.
Walk us through kind of like what you think about how the President is interacting in this midterm cycle. And I mean, is this a "Can't live with him, can't live without him," kind of situation?
GOLDBERG: Yes. So, first of all, just on the portrait part, if I were president, I would not commission a hyper-realist painter. I would go more like Jackson Pollock--
GOLDBERG: --or something to obscure this hot mess!
HUNT: Note for history. Jonah Goldberg, when he becomes president, Jackson Pollock--
GOLDBERG: More peculiar my rewriting that--
GOLDBERG: Yes, look, I actually think there's something of a symbiotic codependent relationship, between the current president, and the former president, in fact.
GOLDBERG: In the sec that - that Joe Biden very much wants to make the race about Donald Trump, Donald Trump very much wants to make everything about Donald Trump. It serves both of their purposes. It sucks all the oxygen out of the GOP primaries.
And the problem is, going back to 1862, there have only been three times, where the, out-party didn't win seats, in a midterm election. And that - a big part of the reason for that is that when you're the, out-party, you get to make it just - you can be all things to all people, and you can make the election a referendum.
HUNT: It's all about them!
GOLDBERG: "It's all about them! And they're doing it wrong. We're backseat drivers. We would drive better." And the controversies, with Trump, and his role, in the thing, reminds people what it's like to feel like when he's president, and it makes it a choice, rather than a referendum.
MARTIN: And look, the clip that you shared earlier, about Mitch McConnell, doing the "No comment" that's been sort of all over the internet today? If you watch that clip a second time, you'll see that he's actually, in McConnell's very cryptic way, he's venting, as he says what he says.
HUNT: Yes, a 100 percent.
MARTIN: He says, "I have no comment on this story that we've all been watching now for the last month."
HUNT: That's been dominating the news.
MARTIN: Right. That's been dominating the news for the last month.
MARTIN: I mean, that's sort of his elbow at Trump without actually doing it in a way that's going to extend the story too, too much. But no, that gets to the heart, I think, of the frustration, right now, on Capitol Hill, in the GOP, who see a golden opportunity, to take back at least one chamber, if not both chambers of Congress, if they can make this about--
MARTIN: --the party in power rather than a choice election, based upon them, and their former President.
SELLERS: But that ship has sailed, because one of the things that happened, early on, was no Republican stopped Trump, or if they could stop Trump, from weighing so heavily, in these Republican primaries.
SELLERS: And so, now you have candidates like Blake Masters, now you have Mastriano, now you have Herschel Walker.
SELLERS: Now you have these candidates who although--
SELLERS: --some of them may win, but now you have these candidates, who pose a significant problem, to winning Independent voters, or the middle of the--
GOLDBERG: Also, post Dobbs, it also doesn't feel like Republicans aren't driving policy, right?
GOLDBERG: The post Dobbs climate, you have state legislatures doing things about abortion--
GOLDBERG: --that just makes it feel like the Republicans--
GOLDBERG: --are not backseat drivers that they're actually making policy.
HUNT: And they're--
MARTIN: And the candidates that Bakari just mentioned, this is an important point, the candidates Bakari mentioned, reflects what I call the demand side problem that the GOP has. A lot of their voters, in these primaries, want Trumpy--
HUNT: That's what they're demanding.
MARTIN: --want Trumpian candidates.
MARTIN: It's not that Trump is sprinkling magic Trump dust, and like blessing these candidates. It's that 40-plus percent of voters in these primaries prefer a Trumpian candidate. And that can be a lot of votes, in a multi-candidate primary. And so, that's why you have some of these candidates, now, on the ballot struggling--
MARTIN: --because it's what their voters want. And that's the longer- term challenge, Kasie, for the GOP.
MARTIN: Isn't just Trump. It's what their voters want.
HUNT: Yes, in some ways, they've awakened the Dragon. And, of course, Mitch McConnell knows this, better than anybody else. It's part of that frustration, we saw.
All right, Jonathan Martin, one bestseller! Bakari Sellers, two bestsellers! And Jonah Goldberg, three bestsellers!
SELLERS: Oh, come on--
HUNT: Thank you all for being here, tonight. We really appreciate it, here.
MARTIN: "This will not pass."
SELLERS: Oh, my goodness! I don't know what you want to--
HUNT: Everyone's arguing about who has the most bestsellers here at the table!
Coming up, the battle Americans are fighting, for one of our most basic needs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you drink out of the water fountain in school?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I will die!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Sara Sidner is in Jackson, Mississippi, getting answers, from the new head of the EPA, in a continuing crisis that goes well beyond the South. That's next.
HUNT: In Jackson, Mississippi, today, EPA administration - Administrator, Michael Regan vowed that the Biden administration will do, everything it can, to help a city, struggling with what he called a public health, social justice and economic crisis. Regan visited the water treatment plant, at the center of this problem, with local and state officials, including Mississippi governor, Tate Reeves, who offered this update.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): We are doing investigative testing, on the water.
If you're producing perfectly clean water, out of the facility, it typically takes about three days, to get the entire system flushed out, with the water that was already in the system.
I do think, as you get into the weekend, and into early next week, we will have a better idea, of the samples, and what the quality looks like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: CNN Senior National Correspondent, Sara Sidner, is in Jackson, tonight.
Sara, the Governor went on to say that while those early tests are positive, they're just not where they need to be. And that means that this problem continues for so many people. You spoke with a father, and a son, who are among those impacted.
SIDNER: Yes, and not just a father and son. We spoke to a lot of different residents, about what this has meant to them. Really, they are furious that in the capital city of Mississippi, in the United States of America, they do not have clean drinking water, coming out of their taps.
CHARLES WILSON III, JACKSON RESIDENT: E--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E--
WILSON III: --is for egg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --is for egg.
SIDNER (voice-over): Charles Wilson III, is a single dad, who wants nothing more than to protect his children. He helps with homework, and takes part in playtime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bell!
WILSON III: I love him to death.
SIDNER (voice-over): He never thought the biggest danger to his little boy would be the tap water flowing through the pipes, of his hometown, Jackson, Mississippi.
SIDNER (on camera): Can you drink out of the water fountain in school? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I will die!
SIDNER (voice-over): A 6-year-old, worrying about death, over the government's failure, to ensure safe drinking water.
WILSON III: I mean, do you have a heart? What God you serve? It's an insult, the capital city, of the State of Mississippi. And this is what we go through.
SIDNER (on camera): You don't have clean drinking water?
WILSON III: No.
SIDNER (voice-over): Wilson uses bottled water for drinking, and boils water every day, multiple times a day, for everything else. This time, it was a flood that took out the water treatment plant, where pumps had already been failing, leaving 150,000-plus residents, without safe drinking water.
SIDNER (on camera): Do you remember when the water seemed to go bad here, in Jackson?
WILSON III: Well, really bad, 10 sort of (ph) years maybe, in that area.
SIDNER (on camera): More than a decade?
WILSON III: Yes. This really good worse.
SIDNER (voice-over): But families, in Jackson say, the water crisis, in the capital city of Mississippi, started long before the emergency that got the country's attention.
Even the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency knows that.
MICHAEL S. REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Just this year alone, we're going to make over $10 billion available for investments in clean water.
SIDNER (on camera): It sounds like an emergency, like the National Guard should be in here, like the Army Corps of Engineers should be in here that everyone should be trying to make sure that the kids of this community have drinking water. Where is everybody?
S. REGAN: We're here now. I think you've seen a federal state and local presence here. The last time, I visited Jackson, the community members said, "We don't want any more finger-pointing. We just want our government to work."
SIDNER (on camera): People are waiting for that tap water to be clean and safe. How long do they have to wait to have clean drinking water?
S. REGAN: The honest answer is we didn't get into this situation overnight. We're not going to get out overnight. But we're working around the clock, as quickly as possible, to provide some stability, to the system.
That, again, is why this Administration fought so hard, for the bipartisan infrastructure law. And that $50 billion historic investment, it will go a long way, in rebuilding the infrastructure, and rebuilding the trust, in this country.
SIDNER (voice-over): The EPA Administrator knows that trust is going to be hard to come by. Because even when Jackson said the water was safe, over the years, it wasn't.
WILSON III: My son has ADHD. He has emotional and developmental disorders. And he's not caught up with his class.
COREY STERN, ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY: Jackson had a number of violations, from the Environmental Protection Agency, over decades.
SIDNER (voice-over): So, 10 months ago, attorney Corey Stern, sued, on behalf of hundreds of Jackson residents, who he says are suffering the effects of lead, in their tap water.
FLOYD BELL, FLINT RESIDENT: Your heart goes out to them, because we've experienced that.
SIDNER (voice-over): No one understands the suffering of people in Jackson better than these folks, residents of Flint, Michigan. In 2014, their city changed water sources, to save money, but failed to treat or test it properly. The result? Deadly bacterial contamination, and lead poisoning, of its residents.
AUDRA BELL, FLINT RESIDENT: Well the problem for kids especially is they are developing, and they are growing. So, you don't know the effects that the lead poison that they experience, today, is going to have on them, in five years, 10 years, 20 years.
So, why does this say--
SIDNER (voice-over): The Bell family says high lead levels, in their 7-year-old grandson, resulted in developmental issues.
LEE-ANNE WALTERS, FLINT RESIDENT: And we're not the only family that still suffers from rashes.
SIDNER (voice-over): Adults aren't immune either. Their next door neighbor testified before Congress, about Flint's wanton negligence and lies.
WALTERS: We started experiencing hair loss. We started experiencing rashes, and blood pressure issues. So, we're being told everything's fine.
SIDNER (voice-over): Eight years on, Flint is using a different water source, and replaced many pipes. But she and her neighbors still cook with and drink bottled water, using upwards of 10 cases a week.
SIDNER (on camera): Do you drink out of your tap water?
A. BELL: No. I'll never drink the water again.
SIDNER (voice-over): Flint, like Jackson, is predominantly Black, with a low tax base, which experts say plays a significant role, in their water woes.
SIDNER (on camera): What does justice look like to you?
WILSON III: Well, we know they're not going to have the truth. We know that they're not going to admit. So the only thing I can think of is legal action.
SIDNER (voice-over): The children of Flint won a $626 million settlement, over their poisoned water. But the people of Jackson are still waiting, just for clean drinking water, never mind justice.
SIDNER (on camera): What kind of justice can they get?
STERN: There is no justice, for the people of Flint, or the people of Mississippi, when it comes to fixing what has happened to their children's brains.
WILSON III: And I'm so happy that the spotlight is on what's going on, in Jackson, because I'm not the only parent, who has a child that is suffering because of this water.
HUNT: Such an important story. Sara, the issue of unsafe water, it simply isn't limited to Jackson. As bad as it is there, how big is this problem?
SIDNER: We talked to an expert, someone who had studied the safety of water, across the United States, Maura Allaire, with UC Irvine. She's associate producer - sorry, associate professor.
She said that 7 percent to 8 percent of the population is living with unsafe water, in this country. That's about 20 million Americans. And so, we put that to the EPA Administrator, who we met, here, in Jackson, today. And he confirmed that that sounded about right, and that that needed to be taken care of, as fast as possible.
HUNT: That's wild! 7 percent to 8 percent of the entire country, the population of the entire country.
HUNT: Have officials offered any timeline, to come back to Jackson, for when people there will finally be able to drink water, out of their taps?
SIDNER: This is what has people so frustrated, because the residents here say, "Don't let what you're hearing from officials fool you. We've been dealing with the boil water notices, long before this flood ever showed up, and long before America ever saw, what was happening to us, here, in Jackson, Mississippi, the capital of the state."
They are furious that they are not getting any kind of idea, as to exactly a timeline, as to when they're going to be able to trust the water coming out of their taps. And, at this point, because they have been going through this, for so many years, I think that trust has been eroded, and that trust might be eroded, indefinitely, just like when they're going to get clean water.
HUNT: I mean, I was just going to say it seems like the kind of situation, where ultimately, like the people you spoke to, in Flint, the trust is just permanently broken, between many - between these people, and their governments.
Sara Sidner, thanks very much, for your reporting, tonight.
HUNT: We will be right back.
HUNT: Thank you so much, for watching with us, tonight. I will be back, tomorrow.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: I envy you, Kasie! Now you get to go home and rest. I got two more hours to work!