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CNN Live Event/Special

Leaders Describe 'Intense' Meeting with Biden Over Shutdown; Star Witness Does Not Recall when Fani Willis Affair Began; Biden & Trump Win Michigan, But Vulnerabilities on Display; RFK Jr. PAC: Enough Signatures to Get on AZ, GA Ballot. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 28, 2024 - 00:00   ET



REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): And Israel is the country in the world that has the most compliance with international law, that endeavors aggressively to notify civilians who are in harm's way when they are going to engage in a military action that they should get out of harm's way, provides pathways to do that. And what does Hamas do? Hamas uses their own people as civilian shields because the pain, the tragedy, and the killing is the point with Hamas.

Because as they said just after October 7th, that was the first attack, and there would be a second, a third, and a thousandth attack. And I think it's also important to note that there's a Harvard-Harris poll out today that shows that 68 percent of, of the American people are supportive of Israel. Eighty-two percent are supportive of Israel being able to defend themselves. And then Hamas is at 18. So, I mean, that's important perspective because, of course, Americans oppose terrorism and support people being able to defend themselves against it.

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It is important perspective, as is the point that there are those, including President Biden, who have criticized a response that would go over the top. Or it somehow undermined the expectations of compliance with international law. That is the crux of that issue and the notion of removing that aid or pausing it.

Last question for you, Congresswoman, tonight's uncommitted vote, frankly, I mean, that's not the only wrinkle for Democrats. RFK Jr. is getting his name on some key swing state ballots ahead of the general election. I'm talking about in Arizona and Georgia so far. I mean, you were the former head of the DNC. When you look at that taction, how big of a problem is this for the Democrats?

SCHULTZ: You know, I'm confident that from now until November, we're going to mount the most significant re-election campaign that that any presidential re-election campaign has ever run. And they're going to run on Joe Biden's remarkable record of job creation, the most in modern times, investments and infrastructure.

They just they just announced $50 million that are coming from the infrastructure bill to my district at Fort Lauderdale Airport, Hollywood International Airport at one point, one billion dollars came to our community for Everglades restoration. I mean, this is happening all over the country and voters are going to go to the polls and reward Joe Biden because the chaos and pain that would return if Donald Trump were president, including a Muslim ban that he committed to reinstate as soon as he as he takes office again. That's the kind of stark contrast that voters are going to reject returning to Trump the Trump days and make sure that the better days ahead will continue with Joe Biden.

COATES: Well, we shall see if those committed votes or uncommitted votes will translate to commitment to Joe Biden. As of right now, there seems to be something to be said for those statements already. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much.

SCHULTZ: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: CNN's continuing coverage of the Michigan primary starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Two big stories and two big victories to the surprise of absolutely no one. Joe Biden wins Michigan and Donald Trump also wins the Republican contest in Michigan. But Biden's big challenger right now is uncommitted. Significant numbers of voters are angry with him, angry enough about his handling of Gaza to send a message with a protest vote. And they're vowing that these numbers will grow. Welcome back. Top of the hour to our live special coverage. I'm Abby Phillip.

COATES: And I'm Laura Coase in Washington, D.C. Amid what looks like an inexorable march to another Biden-Trump contest in November, Donald Trump is facing another kind of protest vote. Thousands of people who, even though they maybe can read the writing on the wall, writing that says Donald Trump will likely be the Republican nominee, they're not voting for just him or for him.

They're voting for Nikki Haley. And, of course, the big question tonight is, what does all of this tell us about November? Let's go straight to Harry Enten, who's at the magic wall. Although when he's there, it's the magical wall. He is the very latest from Michigan. Harry Biden wins, but is showing some vulnerability, right?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: That's exactly right, Laura. Look, I hope any time with me is a magical time. Let's take a look. There you go, right? At midnight here in the east. Look, Joe Biden's getting 81 percent, blowing everybody else out of the water. The big question, of course, is this uncommitted at 13 percent. And I want to put that in some historical perspective for you.


Back in 2012, where there wasn't this protest vote, Barack Obama, in fact, was getting about, let's see if I can do it, 11 percent, or excuse me, uncommitted was getting about 11 percent against Barack Obama in that Michigan primary. So right now, Uncommitted getting 13.4 percent, just slightly greater than the percentage that, of course, Obama got. And, you know, I want to sort of zone in on the areas where uncommitted is doing well.

All right, let's go down to the southeast part of the state. All right, Wayne County, Detroit, uncommitted there getting 16 percent of the vote, only 27 percent of the vote in. Some of that is Dearborn, where there's, of course, a large Arab-American population, where uncommitted's doing significantly better, in fact, getting about a majority of the vote the last I looked. But overall in the county, just 16 percent. How about some other places where it's doing well?

How about, let's go to Lansing. Lansing, Michigan, Ingram County, East Lansing, of course, Michigan State University, a lot of college education. Uncommitted getting a little less than 18 percent of the vote, but, of course, only 23 percent of the vote in there. Or how about, let's go down, here we go, let's go, this is Ann Arbor, the most well-educated part of the state. Uncommitted getting nearly 20 percent of the vote, 61 percent of the vote in. I will note, if you go back to 2020, Bernie Sanders got 45 percent of the vote there. Joe Biden just got 48 percent of the vote, significantly worse than he did statewide, with 53 percent of the vote. So uncommitted doing well. But not necessarily too well, Laura.

COATES: All right, that's the blue side. Show me the Republican red.

ENTEN: Yeah, all right. So, we went on the, let's see, let's go, 2024. We're going to go to the Republican side of the aisle. All right, what do we see here? We see Donald Trump with 68 percent of the vote, considerably less than Joe Biden's 80 percent of the vote, right? So, there's this question, okay, is the protest vote bigger on the Democratic or Republican side? Nikki Haley's getting 27 percent of the vote there. But, of course, Donald Trump easily winning here.

I should note there's a GOP convention. Not just a primary in the state of Michigan, where most of the delegates are, in fact, going to be allotted. Some of the delegates will be allotted based upon this primary, but we're not exactly sure how. We'll find out this weekend. Where is Donald Trump not doing necessarily as well? Well, let's go down to a familiar part of the state. Let's go down again. The home of Ann Arbor, Michigan University, University of Michigan, excuse me.

Donald Trump getting 53 percent of the vote. We just jumped up to Monroe. Let's go back. Nikki Haley getting 42 percent of the vote there. But in most of the state, you know, you go up to that Upper Peninsula. Upper Peninsula, as my dear friend Billy, who's a producer here, reminded me of. Nikki Haley just getting 18 percent of the vote. Donald Trump getting 78 percent.

Overall, Donald Trump just doing very well in Michigan. He's doing considerably better there than he did in New Hampshire, where he got just 54 percent. Or if you go to South Carolina this past weekend, you saw Donald Trump got 60 percent of the vote. Tonight in Michigan, he's doing considerably better than he's done in any of the primaries so far where Nikki Haley was also on the ballot, Laura.

COATES: Harry Enten so smooth with the magic wall. Somebody better wake up John King, he's going to be upset. Abby. PHILLIP: Thanks, Laura. Joining me now is Abraham Alyash. He's the majority floor leader in the Michigan House of Representatives, and he is the highest ranking Arab American lawmaker in the state. Abraham, thanks for joining us. Now, as you just heard there, over 60,000 uncommitted votes and counting. Do you think that this sends enough of a message to the president and his campaign at this point?

ABRAHAM ALYASH (D -MI): I think that's a question that we're going to have to ask the Biden campaign. What we know is this. Michigan is going to be a critical state in November, and there is a significant chunk of Michigan voters that are anti-war, pro-peace, and want to see an end to the funding of Israel's war crimes. And voters came out with a lot of enthusiasm with that commitment.

And now the question has to be to President Biden and his campaign. What will they do to heed the call of the people that have come out and said we are a pro-peace, anti-war movement that wants our leaders to be better. You know, it is not an undemocratic thing to demand that your leaders are better and that they do more to lead with moral clarity. And I think that's what tonight's results will demonstrate.

PHILLIP: So let me ask you what happens next. Your movement has a few demands, a ceasefire, rebuilding Gaza, conditioning aid to Israel. If President Biden does not meet all of these demands, what comes next? What are you going to be advising the ceasefire movement supporters to do come November?

ALYASH: Well, what we've seen is the ceasefire movement will be able to have a voice this August. By our indications, it looks like we will likely have enough votes in some capacity to send delegates to Chicago to continue to push the call for peace, to push the call for a ceasefire. And this is the right thing to do.

We have seen nearly 15,000 Palestinian babies murdered with U.S.- backed greenlit weapons by Netanyahu's regime. And there has not been no end in sight by what we've seen. I think people are sick of it. People do not want this country to be funding wars that are killing innocent men, women, and children for over 140 days.


So, we have 140 days roughly until the August convention, and we're going to keep pushing that narrative because it is the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do. And history will judge this moment as where did we stand as a nation when we saw all the carnage, all the chaos. And unfortunately, the callous disregard of the Palestinian humans and all the babies that we have seen murdered over the last 140 days, we want to see peace in that region. And the only way to do that is to stop funding any effort that is bombing innocent people. So, a ceasefire is the baseline to continue towards that march towards greater peace.

PHILLIP: And I just want to note, as you pointed out about the delegates, the threshold for getting delegates in the state would be 15 percent right now. You haven't quite hit that. It's about 13 percent from the numbers that I'm looking at. But looking forward to the convention, what does that look like? What does putting pressure on President Biden look like at that convention in Chicago?

ALYASH: We're going to explore every option, but I think you look at things like what is the party platform on sending military aid to Israel? What will be the party's platform on addressing Israel's war crimes? These are the conversations that we have heard over the last several weeks. And I want to point out, this uncommitted campaign has only been around for 21 days. And we have amassed a lot of support and a lot of grassroots enthusiasm for peace. And we are going to take that to the convention. And I'll tell you, we have folks coming from other states, actually, including Arizona and Georgia, that said, what can we do in our states to push this pro-peace anti-war measure?

PHILLIP: Do you expect that there will be protests on the floor of the convention?

ALYASH: You know, I can't really predict anything. What I will say is President Biden has a message and has an opportunity in this moment to respond to that message that Americans overwhelmingly want to see peace. They want to see a ceasefire. In Michigan alone, nearly 75 percent of Michiganders, not Democrats, not 75 percent of Michiganders, want to see a ceasefire. So if Michigan is a critical state in November, the question will be, why not listen to something that 75 percent of people want?

I tell you, as an elected official myself Abby, if I was told 75 percent of my constituency want something and it's the right thing to do, there's no reason why I would not do it.

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, look, to be fair to President Biden, he said just yesterday, he's trying to push for a ceasefire as soon as this weekend. So, right.


ALYASH: Great -

PHILLIP: So, he is.

ALYASH: He said it just yesterday. And I think that is the point. We have seen 143 days of carnage, of chaos and callous disregard for the humanity of the Palestinians. And it was just yesterday. And let's be very clear.

PHILLIP: Well, no, I don't think, Abraham, I don't think that that's necessarily fair to say. I mean, the White House has been encouraging a cessation of fighting in exchange for hostages, which I presume you want the hostages returned to. I don't think it's fair to say that it was yesterday was the first time that that was something that was voiced.

ALYASH: Well, I'll say this. For about 100 days, we did not see any conversation around the Palestinians and their pain and suffering, so much so that on the 100-day mark of this conflict, the White House did not release a single message, even dignifying the Palestinians and the pain and suffering they went through. We want peace. And we want peace for Israelis. And we want peace for Palestinians. The question is, will we have leaders that will heed that call and usher that peace forward? And you cannot do that by funding bombs to a regime that is hell-bent on, wiping the Palestinians out from Gaza, as we've seen demonstrated through the 80% of the civilian infrastructure that has been destroyed, 30,000 dead, 2 million displaced, and nearly 100,000 that are still missing or presumed dead. So, the numbers do not lie.

And what we hope to do is show that the numbers tonight will demonstrate that this president has an opportunity to lead with moral clarity and say, we will change course before November. We will change course to save lives, and we will change course to usher in an anti- war, pro-peace, democratic big ten (ph) so that we can defeat the danger in November.

PHILLIP: All right. Michigan State House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Alyash, thank you very much for your time tonight. Laura.

COATES: Really fascinating conversation. Thank you, Abby. I want to bring in my panel right now and talk about this. Now, we have been going through the numbers and, of course, the data, and the election results are continuing to come in. But this is significant for Biden and more decisive than, say, what Trump has led by over Nikki Haley, but yet and still uncommitted. This is nothing to sneeze at. There is a message that has been sent.


KAREN FINNEY, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, absolutely. But one thing I will say, it looks like in Oakland County, which is high proportion of, it's got Detroit, where you have African-American voters, Joe Biden won almost every precinct. So, I think that's actually, when you're thinking about 2024 in November, that's something you want to see. But absolutely, they sent a very important signal.

And it was interesting today as our correspondents were talking to people. They made the point they weren't necessarily voting against Joe Biden, but they wanted to send a message. They wanted people to understand how powerfully and deeply people feel. What's interesting about those numbers that we just had up, I think it was 13.8 percent. If they are able to get to 15 percent by DNC.

COATES (?): Uncommitted.

FINNEY: Uncommitted. If uncommitted is able to get to 15 percent by our Democratic Party rules, they would be able to accrue delegates. And what's meaningful about that is. If other states also do uncommitted and make that 15 percent threshold, then you're talking, you know, a decent amount of, potentially a decent amount of delegates. And what do they do with that? Do they take that to the convention?

Do they try to influence policy when we go through what's called the platform process, which is basically the policies of the party going into the convention? So that's something to watch is sort of what are they organized enough to take? What are they going to do with this? When and then what will they do with it?

LULU GARCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, this is something that I think is really interesting because I'm a former Middle East correspondent. I spent a lot of time in the Middle East. And I understand that what they're asking for now is a ceasefire. But I can tell you that that's not going to be the end of things, because once you have a ceasefire, first of all, it's going to be temporary because they're still negotiating.

Secondly, we haven't really had access to Gaza. But once international film crews get in there and see the damage and get to talk to the people, you're going to have a lot of people who get their news from social media, young people who are seeing this war for the, you know, a war that they haven't seen like this before for the first time. All these images replaying over and over again. I just don't think that this issue is going to go away for the administration. I think it's going to perhaps, you know, really impact what we see in other states.


COATES: And what a great point on that, too, in my way to talk about that. But. That's a great point, because what you describe is an uncertainty. The campaigns have no idea when that might happen, when that shoe would drop.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think some of this social media attention to this issue, it's already happening right on TikTok. Seeing these images, very heartbreaking images out of Gaza, 30,000 folks dead at this point. This is a real issue for Joe Biden because it cuts at a very important part of his base. Arab American voters, obviously, in Michigan.

I think there were something like 150,000 who voted in 2020. You know, they likely voted mostly for Joe Biden. We see that pain showing up in the uncommitted vote. And so, they have really got to figure this out. It's black voters. It's Arab American voters. It's young voters. It's highly educated voters as well. And then you're going to have a third party presence in some of these states and folks who are very much further to the left on this issue than Joe Biden.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEFGIST: But one thing I think that's the concern for the president and for Democrats. What happens when you have younger voters, younger voters of color having solidarity with the Palestinian people? And you start looking at some of the battleground states, you realize the president didn't win by substantial margins. What does that look like? Do some of those voters vote third party?

When you do incorporate third party candidates like RFK Jr., then you really start to see the maps changing drastically more in favor of Trump. And I think the White House has to be very careful here because we do see that a majority -

(CROSSTALK) FINNEY: I don't think the people who care about the Palestinian people are going to necessarily.

SINGLETON: That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying the states could go in favor of Trump if you see some of the younger individuals finding solidarity saying we're going to vote third party or stay home or not vote at all.


FINNER: Or not vote at all.

SINGLETON: So, I think that's a legitimate concern. And then finally, really quickly here, I will say the president has to be careful. There are about 15 percent of moderate leaning Republicans who voted for him in 2020. They support Israel. Do you make a policy decision that could turn off some of those voters?

FINNEY: But two quick things to mention. Number one. Who is the person who has been pushing? Netanyahu, the hardest. That is Joe Biden on the phone night and day, pushing him to care about the hostages initially to continue to move him towards a two -- back to a two state solution to move him towards a ceasefire. And I think the hope of the administration is I completely agree with your point, Lulu.

But at the same time, if in three months what we're seeing is an American leadership in rebuilding, then that's a very different imagery and that's what they're-



GARCIA: I agree with you, but I will just say that Bibi (ph) Netanyahu is no friend of the Democratic Party necessarily. He has made that clear over his very, very long tenure. And he is in a very precarious situation himself where the incentive for him is to keep this war going as long as possible because his entire political future is based on -


SINGLETON: With the hope that Trump is re-elected.

FINNEY: But the Israeli people don't want him.


HENDERSON: I think part of what Biden needs to do, you can talk about sort of the comparisons with Donald Trump and what Gaza would look like if Donald Trump were there and his Muslim ban, but Joe Biden has got to meet with these folks. He's got to hear their pain. He's got to hear their stories. And we know there's pain, obviously, on both sides, Jewish folks as well as Arab Americans here as well. Joe Biden has this sort of pastoral effect to him. He needs to employ that. He's got to go to these communities and talk to these folks. That's part of it. Sort of they don't feel seen. They don't feel heard. Tonight they sent a big message to the White House.

COATES: Surrogates are one thing. The actual president of the United States there in person, a very different ballgame. And I think you're all right. I mean, uncommitted is the phrase that they're using. But I think they're saying don't take our vote for granted, which is a very common sentiment among voters through particularly marginalized groups. Everyone stick around because next the clock is ticking tonight towards a government shutdown.

And my expression is because I'm so accustomed to the inefficiency of these moments. After an intense meeting- between President Biden and congressional leaders, we're still here. Plus, the mayor of New York City wants to roll out and roll back some sanctuary city protections and deport some migrants. And why did the star witness for the Trump team, frankly, fail to deliver damning testimony against Bonnie Willis in the Georgia case?



PHILLIP: In Washington, the clock is ticking yet again, as Congress has until this Friday to reach a deal to avert another government shutdown. Senate Republican leadership, leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson, both met with President Biden and other Democratic leaders earlier today over at the White House. Now, after that meeting, McConnell expressed some optimism around reaching a deal, saying that the group had made some real headway on this issue.

My panel is back with me. Alice, at some point, they're going to have to figure this out. I mean, this has been kicking the can down the road, kicking the can down the road. Do you get the sense that Mike Johnson, because really the ball is kind of in his court, at this point, does he have a handle on this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He thinks he does, because his sentiment after the meeting was similar to McConnell's, was that he was optimistic that they will make progress on this spending deal and avoid a government shutdown. The problem is, if he is successful in that, the likelihood of him losing his position is very high, because Republicans in the House will not like caving in any way, shape, or form to agree with something that the Democrats would support.

Here's the issue we have in Washington, right now, and this goes on both sides, Republicans and Democrats. It is so transactional. Right now, we have a government shutdown. We have Israel. We have Ukraine, even Taiwan. All issues extremely important. Each and every one of them on their own should seek bipartisan cooperation.

But everyone wants to have transactions in Washington. I'll give you X if you give me Y. That is extremely disingenuous to each of these issues, but it's dangerous. It causes conflict on all of these issues. But this is the situation we're in. I do think Johnson will be able to make some progress, but it's going to be at his own peril. JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know what, Abby? I'm sorry. I don't think, Alice, I don't think that it is that transactional. I think it's actually the opposite of transactional, because if it was transactional, you could say, oh, I like this, I don't like this policy, but you do, so I'll give you a little bit of that policy and we'll trade. Instead, it all seems political. It all feels like I don't want to give the other side a victory. And that is the problem, I think, for getting these bills passed, is, the Republicans, in particular in the House, because I think the Senate is trying to do business, the Republicans don't want to give the Democratic president any kind of a victory in an election.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, because it's like, I want X, I want X, I want X. Well, here's X. Never mind, I want Z, I want Z, I want Z. That's what the Republicans are doing right now. They did it on the border bill. They go in, they say it's optimistic, and then they come, Mike Johnson comes out and immediately pivots, like, but what about the border? And it's like, can we do multiple things at once? Can you govern? Can you do your job? And the answer is, they can. But they don't want to.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, House Republicans are simply ungovernable. I mean, this is not just because of Johnson. This is the speaker before. This is even, you know, the votes to get McCarthy there in the first place. This is consistent with them. And it's partially because we have seen a Republican caucus that has transitioned from being one that's more top-down to the individual members having such power that they can be a kind of island of one to these demands that we're talking about.

The Republican kind of MAGA wing of the party is completely uncontrolled by the top. They can go on their own podcast. They can do -- they can raise their own money. They can, you know, speak directly to Donald Trump, who is having his own imprint. They have a sense of power that's outside of where Mike Johnson is. And when he's trying to wrangle them, or even if there is any incentive to make government work, they are thinking politically, and they've been rewarded for that by their base.

And so, you know, I was just at CPAC this week in Washington, D.C., a kind of, you know, the-the home of this kind of wing, right? And they are celebrating the idea of a government shutdown. They are looking forward to that type of prospect. Its active, its not passive.


PHILLIP: This is the big question. This is the big question.


Do they even want -- I mean, is there a world in which Republicans actually fund the government here? I mean, because that's -- this has been the question for about six months now, and it seems like the answer is no.

STEWART: Well, there are the far-right MAGA wing of the House GOP is perfectly fine with a government shutdown, because they feel like that's a good way for them to get their points out there on the border and support for the border.

The problem is Mike Johnson is the House speaker. Donald Trump is the House whisperer. He is going around to all these House members saying, let's not pass Border Patrol -- border control, because we want to save that for our administration, which they had four years to do and they did nothing about it.

That's the crux of the issues here, is Donald Trump has such a stronghold on Republicans in the House and the Senate right now, that that is -- they want the perfect -- the perfect is the enemy of the good, and they'd rather get nothing than something, all because Donald Trump wants it that way.

PHILLIP: Just to that exact point, I mean, the pressure that he's exerting is pretty extreme. You -- he had -- Senator John Thune endorse him. And when Mitch McConnell was asked about this by Manu Raju, here's what he said.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Over the weekend, Senator Thune came out and endorsed Trump. The other lieutenants have endorsed Trump. Why are you holding out in endorsing the likely nominee?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I don't have any announcement about that today.


PHILLIP: I have to chuckle. That's a classic Mitch McConnell move: "I don't have any announcements on that today."

I mean, is that a -- is that a no? Or is that I'm holding out the possibility? Because if there's one thing which Mitch McConnell is, he is pragmatic. And if he's got to endorse to get things moving, he'll probably do it.

SIMMONS: He is pragmatic. I mean, listen, there's this Mar-a-Lago hotline, it feels like, going on between Florida and Washington, D.C. and the Capitol. Remember when they were trying to get the first speaker, then Kevin McCarthy. And there was a video or a picture of Marjorie Taylor Greene's phone, and she had Donald Trump on the phone. He was talking to members on the floor while they were trying to get this done.

Nobody else has power in this party. We all just accept that in the House. Maybe Mitch McConnell has a little bit of power left in the Senate and he's trying to hold onto it to see what he can get for endorsing Trump.

But every other part of this party is run by Donald Trump.

HERNDON: Every single Republican event that I go to or Trump event that I go to, there's a part where they boo Mitch McConnell. There is a -- this is a person who needs the Trump lane to keep that access to power.

But at the same time, they need him, because this is a kind of policy project that they understand requires some negotiation of the Senate. So there's a kind of transactional nature that puts them both in each other's camp.

But I do think this is a little different of a Trump operation this time. They are kind of pitching more frontally to their own voters that we are not going to be deferential to "the swamp," quote, unquote, this time around.

And if we come back, you can expect us to upend, and that should be a part of your choice. That should be your expectation of this campaign.

And so I think that that was -- you know, Donald Trump, explicit always. But I think now it's an explicit promise of what they're offering to voters. And I think we should think of a Republican base, which at least for the hardcore slash (ph), which is not the majority, which is not the 67 percent we're seeing tonight. But for some of them, they want that.

PHILLIP: And if you're the Democrats, you're actually making that very same argument, that Donald Trump is going to come back and do all the things that he promised but do them more effectively. That's actually the Joe Biden argument, as well.

Everyone stick around for us. Coming up next, he was billed as a star witness in the efforts to disqualify the Fulton County D.A., Fani Willis; but a Georgia lawyer could not deliver the promised testimony about Willis's improper romance with her lead prosecutor. Our panelists will discuss that, coming up.



PHILLIP: In a surprising move tonight, New York City Mayor Eric Adams is calling for a major change to the city's decades-old sanctuary policies. He now wants to deport migrants who are accused of violent crimes by handing them over to federal immigration officials.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: I don't believe people who are violent in our city and commit repeated crimes should have the privilege of being in our city.

There's some people that feels that they should be able to remain here, keep doing the actions until they're eventually convicted. I don't subscribe to that theory.

New York has been dealing with several serious incidents involving migrants, including a shooting of a tourist during a robbery in Times Square.

Now, Adams would need the city council's support to change the sanctuary city laws on this -- Laura.

COATES: You know, that legal topic is firing up the right. And now there's one that, frankly, might be firing up the left.

Let's go down to Georgia, because there was another dramatic day in court as Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis is trying to stay on the case against Donald Trump in Georgia.

Attorneys for Trump, in other words, they're trying to prove that she lied about her romance with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, the man she hired to run the case.

CNN's Nick Valencia was there. Nick, what happened?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, Terrence Bradley was again back on the stand, and again, he was the star witness that wasn't.

The judge determined that some of the questions that he refused to answer the first time around when he was testifying were not actually covered by attorney-client privilege.

So he was back on the stand on Tuesday, and he was repeatedly asked about any personal knowledge he had about a romantic relationship between Willis and Wade, and he repeatedly answered that he either could not or did not recall.

Tuesday's hearing ended without the damaging testimony the defense attorneys had expected.

Another hearing is scheduled for Friday. And at that hearing, defense attorneys are expected to introduce phone data, which they got from a subpoena, which they say shows thousands of phone interactions between Willis and Wade before they started dating -- Laura.


COATES: Thank you so much Nick for saying on this case. I want to bring in my panel now.

You know, with all the focus that we've seen, in this case, what we haven't heard about is, obviously, underlying facts about the case. This is not about the election subversion. This is more about -- some would call it a procedural sideshow, although very significant, nonetheless.

My question, look at all these things in connection, I'm often wondering who has got the harder hill to climb at this point. You've got Biden confronting the "uncommitted" with foreign policy. You've got Trump and his laundry list and a lot of things with legal issues.

When you look at its expansively, who has the harder hill? Which is going to be more of a problem for the voters? What do you think?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I'm going to come straight in the middle on this and say they both have an equal hill to climb here. We know what the issues are. I think one of these sort of underlying problems is it's all

unpredictable. You can't tell what's going to happen with these court cases with Donald Trump.

Some of the polling does suggest, if there is conviction, some Republicans might waver a little bit. Those independence certainly, I'm sure would sort of question their support of Donald Trump if he is, in fact, convicted.

Whether or not that happens, we don't really know.

In terms of Joe Biden, again, who knows what's going to happen on the ground in Gaza; with foreign policy more generally; with both of their ages, right? These are men, he -- Joe Biden's 81. Donald Trump is 77, probably not the healthiest person. I heard he eats two fish fillet sandwiches at a time. Those are delicious sandwiches, by the way.


HENDERSON: Not the healthiest. But that's fine. I mean, I do love fried fish. I don't know that I love McDonald's fried fish, but anyway, I digress.

COATES: It is shamrock season, shamrock shake season. Just tell them you like that.

Go ahead.

HENDERSON; So yes, yes. I think they both have identifiable issues, and they're sort of equally difficult for both sides.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think one of the really interesting things for me, when I look at Joe Biden and Donald Trump, is that this is the rematch from hell. I mean, I just -- can I say that?

I mean, I don't want this. I don't know anyone else who wants this. I don't even think, other than Donald Trump, I don't even think Joe Biden would have necessarily wanted this.

And so when we look at these two people together, and you see the polling, one of the things that comes up again and again and again is that people know who these two guys are, and they have real feelings about them either way.

And the question is how much movement is there really going to be? That's why I guess what's happening in Michigan is so interesting. That's why the IVF situation is so interesting. Can that move the needle?

I mean, I don't know, because truly when you talk to people, people have an opinion about Donald Trump. People, they either love him or they hate him. People now have an opinion about Joe Biden. They've seen him for three years.

And so I just don't know how much movement there's going to be. There is no mythical -- I think, in my opinion -- independent voter that's going to come save the day.

COATES: Well, what about the issue of IVF, by the way? Because this is -- this is really -- you know, we know that even since the Dobbs decision, abortion was going to remain on the ballot in many respects.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is part of why as a movement, we started talking about reproductive freedom overall, because it is all encompassing. And because once Dobbs was overturned, we saw it's not just access to abortion. It's IVF. It's contraception. It's, frankly, discrimination against women when they're pregnant.

And so there's a whole swath of issues.

And how do you say to a woman, how are Republican candidates going to say, I trust you to do complicated IVF, but I don't trust you to make the best decision for yourself about whether or not you should be pregnant. And I don't trust you to take that medicine. Man, it's going to be ridiculous.

And so I actually think yes, both men have challenges, but I think Joe Biden actually has more positives to run on in terms of his actual record, what he's actually done for the country that, you know, look, they have not done a good job communicating it. I don't know where the disconnect is.

But I'd rather have that hand and and be moving that ball down the field than the Trump trials, whereas we saw, in case after case, just so far, you don't know what's going to come out. And so -- and that is going to, I think, harden those people who already know they don't like Donald Trump.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think for Trump, the best thing for him politically speaking is to try to delay these things as long as he possibly can. As was mentioned, if he's found guilty, a significant portion of Republicans, not just the ones who have supported Nikki Haley, but even many of the ones -- that 60 percent that are voting for Trump, have said, we won't vote for a convicted felon to lead the country.

So Trump needs to try to delay this thing until beyond November 5th.


However, when you look at some of the pluses for Trump compared to Biden, people trust him more with the economy. They trust him more than migration. They trust him more on the issue of handling some of the international crises that we currently are facing.

COATES: Is that Republicans more broadly on those issues?

SINGLETON: When you look at -- when you look at the data, it appears that voters writ large, writ large, appear to trust Trump more than Biden on those issues.

The economy isn't connecting with the average American person, despite the fact that unemployment numbers are low. The cost of goods, these very real, saleable things for everyday people, they can't afford it, Laura.

FINNEY: But I will say that following that, I've seen shows -- the economy, you have to remember, when we talk about democracy, the economy affects everybody differently, particularly black voters. How black voters talk about the economy and think about it is not the same.

It's -- yes, it's groceries and gas, but it also has to do with money in their pocket. And if they are feeling like I am dealing with racism and bias at my job, then I'm not getting the pay that I deserve, that's an economic issue.

SINGLETON: Most people can't even afford $1,000 emergency, particularly black people.

COATES: But that's not new.


HENDERSON: I think that's the problem, right? It isn't new. And so a lot of folks in these communities, black/brown communities, sort of working-class communities, they've lived in these communities. Maybe they sent their kids to HBCUs. The HBCU campuses are run down, and their neighborhoods are run down, as well.

And so you've got Joe Biden out there and Kamala Harris saying, listen, we've poured all this money into HBCUs; there's so many jobs. But people don't feel it, because they are living the same sort of, you know, barely above water kind of existence.

So that, I think, is one of the reasons he's not connecting, because you can explain what the unemployment rate is. But if people don't feel it, they don't feel it. And they're not going to go to the ballot for you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I think also you just see Democratic surrogates all the time talking about the infrastructure bill. And yes, I mean, do you remember it was like every week was infrastructure week under the Trump administration.

And so when it finally happened, oh, my goodness. And it was, you know, a very impressive and consequential bit of legislation.

But the fact is, it's dispersed all over the country, and it means road works. And it means a lot of different things in different places. It means bridges, sure, but you have Republicans taking credit for some of that money and saying, look what I brought to my district.

And so it's dispersed. And so a lot of -- a lot of the problem that this administration has had is really saying, Look, I've made your life tangibly better.

And let's not forget, we're coming out of a terrible time in America, the pandemic, where people still are hung over from that. And so, you know, in a way, it's hard for Joe Biden to do right. FINNEY: Right. Right. I think it would have been hard for anybody to

do right. I will remind you that the Michigan governor won her first race on fix the damn roads. So that's an economic issue for Biden.

SINGLETON: She should call Joe Biden then.

FINNEY: Well, they have, and that's an economic issue for a lot of people.

COATES: I love a conversational platform: fix the damn roads, the rent's too damn high. I mean, it just resonates with people. We're talking about fish sandwiches. I mean, it's a whole thing, right? It's a whole thing.

Take note, everyone.

Stick around. Up next, supporters of RFK Jr. say that he'll be on the ballot in two key battleground states this November. So what could that mean for Biden or Trump's narrow margins? Harry Enten will look at the data.


PHILLIP: A super PAC supporting RFK Jr. says that it has enough signatures to put him on the ballot in Arizona and in Georgia. Those are two key battleground states.

President Biden beat former President Trump in both states by the slimmest of margins. Harry Enten is here to tell us really how significant this is going to be.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, you mentioned slim margins. I'm not quite sure, unless you go back to Florida and 2000, where it was, you know, 537 votes, you're going to get margins as slim as what we saw in 2020.

In Arizona, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by a little bit more than 10,000 votes. You go over to Georgia, a little bit less than 12,000 votes. Any slight thing could move the needle, Abby.

What's something that could slightly move the needle? How about if we introduce Robert F. Kennedy Jr. into the ballot test? All right, let's look at Arizona. This is among likely voters. "The New York Times"/Siena College poll back in October and November of last year.

Look at RFK, getting 24 percent of the vote. How about in Georgia, a similar 23 percent.

PHILLIP: That is really wild.

ENTEN: It is.

PHILLIP: But where's this vote coming from? Is it coming from the Trump column, the Biden column, maybe a little of both?

ENTEN: Yes. It's a little bit of both. I will note first that this is, in fact, the highest percentage any independent candidate has polled since Ross Perot's polling back, not in 96, but in 1992.

Now you asked, where is this vote coming from? OK. The Biden versus Trump poll margin without Kennedy in Arizona, Trump plus five. With Kennedy, look at this. It shrinks down to a tie. Very significant change there.

But in Georgia, interestingly enough, you actually see the opposite pattern. Trump was up by five without Kennedy. Now you add Kennedy into the equation, and you get Trump-plus seven.

So I think there's some real question of who this would help, who this would hurt. It's not necessarily clear, like with a Cornell West, where I think it's pretty clear that it would hurt Joe Biden. Kennedy, much less clear as to where it would take votes, right?

PHILLIP: Yes. Where is he on the ballot, just in general?

ENTEN: Yes. So where are some other states that he's on the ballot? You mentioned Arizona and Georgia as possibilities. OK. RFK Jr. has ballot access to other states Biden won by less than eight points in 2020.


The super PAC that we spoke about earlier trying to get him on the ballot in Michigan and Nevada, both two very close states that Biden won by less than three points.

How about New Hampshire? He's got the signatures there already. That could be a surprisingly close state. Biden won it rather easily back in 2020, but in 2016, it was decided by less than a percentage point. So RFK could play a bit of a role.

PHILLIP: I've got to tell you, if it is a plurality victory for either Biden or Trump --

ENTEN: You know it.

PHILLIP: There's a psychological thing that is going to happen to this country, if that is -- were the case.

Harry Enten, thank you very much.

And thank you all for watching our special coverage of Michigan's primary elections.

COATES: It's all -- all done? I had, like, four more hours. Let's just go, Abby. What do you mean?

PHILLIP: You could stick around for another. OK, four and a half minutes.

COATES: We'll be back tomorrow night. CNN's coverage of the elections continues after this break.

PHILLIP: Have a great night break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)