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CNN International: Biden & Trump Face Off In CNN Presidential Debate Thursday; Two Years Since Supreme Court Overturned Roe V. Wade; NASA: ISS Spacewalk Called Off Due To Leak In Astronaut's Spacesuit; Awaiting Ruling On President Immunity As Court Nears End Of Term. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired June 24, 2024 - 15:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome to STATE OF THE RACE on CNN. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

In three days, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump take the stage in the first 2024 presidential debate hosted right here on CNN. It will be the third time they face off one on one.

But the political landscape has certainly changed drastically since they met four years ago. This time, it's President Biden in the White House, of course, with a record to defend Donald Trump two weeks away from criminal sentencing after being convicted on 34 felony counts in a Manhattan court.

Two years ago today, a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Courts solidified with three Trump appointees overruled the right to abortion, a decision that continues to send political shockwaves through the U.S. Every day this week, for this hour, we're going to preview the politics, the policies, and the performance of Thursday's showing, what is the earliest debate in modern election history, potentially a make or break event for both candidates.

Let's go now to CNN, national corresponding Kristen Holmes, White House reporter Camila DeChalus, on how both campaigns are heating up.

Camila, President Biden, he's been at Camp David preparing, not doing public events in advance. Tell us how he spent his weekend preparing, and was he doing mock debates as part of that preparation?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Jim. As you mentioned, Biden spent the whole weekend in Camp David really gathered around close advisors and aids while he prepares for the debate.

Now, we're told that he did everything from practicing in by holding informal conversations on a wide array of topics to holding a very formal 90 -- 90-minute mock debate, where he really tried to respond and really craft his messaging on how he would answer a lot of questions when he goes head to head with Trump.

Now, at this time, we know that Biden really wants to use this debate to really as an opportunity to talk to voters and really showcase where he stands on issues and really show how Trump is unfit for office. But we know that some of the topics he wants to talk about is going to include abortion, which marks actually today, the two-year anniversary, and we know his campaign surrogates or out there on the road in a variety of states, really touting how he wants and Biden really wants to try to enshrine these rights if he's reelected for a second term.

So we just know that at this point in time, he's spending days around his advisers, really preparing for this moment when he goes head to head to Trump and really showcase why he should be elected for a second term and why Trump is unfit for office and just try to hold him accountable in some ways.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, this has been a consistent part of his message for the last couple of years.

Kristen, Trump on the trail this weekend and you saw a banner just short time ago saying, and we've heard this from him, him trying to manage expectations. Why? Why is Trump feeling the need to manage expectations here? What's his approach and what's his expectation?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when we start talking to his advisors, you hear that everyone is trying to manage expectations. Just remember, they've spent the last several months basically touting Biden as completely incompetent and setting the bar themselves so low for President Biden to perform that now, there's a little bit of backpedaling.

We heard from Governor Doug Burgum over the weekend talking on CNN saying that Biden had been preparing for debates his whole life, that he's running for office for decades, that he knows how to debate. We heard J.D. Vance on a podcast today talking about how the bar is too low for Biden, how the system is rigged against former President Donald Trump. This is all expectations setting. This is all level setting, after what they had done themselves, which was paint Biden as capable of actually performing in a debate.

Now, when it comes to what Trump himself is doing, I talked to multiple senior advisers who essentially say, we don't use the word preparation when it comes to the former president. Instead, they talk about policy sessions. They've sat down with various lawmakers, allies, people in his orbit to talk about issues that they want to see the former president talk about on that debate stage, namely, the economy, immigration, things that Donald Trump polls highly on.

That's what they want from Donald Trump and they want him to stay on message. Now, whether or not Donald Trump can stay on message remains to be seen. This is him over the weekend asking the crowd how he should behave at the debate.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How should I handle him? Should I be tough and nasty? Or should I be -- should I be -- she's saying no. Should I be tough and nasty and just say you're the worst president in history or should I be nice and calm and let him speak?

Be tough.


HOLMES: So should he let him speak? Just a reminder that Donald Trump and his team agreed to muting the mics in-between answers, so he will be forced to let President Joe Biden speak.

But again, what Donald Trump actually shows up on that stage on Thursday really is anyone's guess. We can talk over and over again about how his team is preparing him, what they are doing to keep him on message. But whether or not Donald Trump stays on message, that's really up to him, and the kind of Donald Trump or the version of Donald Trump that shows up on Thursday.

SCIUTTO: Well, I mean, central to his message are quite personal attacks and we've seen that in a number of events going back here.

Camila DeChalus, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much to both of you.

For months, poll after poll has shown Iraq remarkably stable and close race between Trump and Biden. This Fox poll from this month shows Biden 50 percent, Trump at 48 percent. That is within the margin of error, though a slight increase in support for Biden since the most recent Fox poll prior.

Thursday's debate could be one of the few opportunities for either campaign to shake things up. How can they score points for themselves and against their opponent? And what two previous debates show us about that?

Joining me now is Frank Luntz, longtime Republican pollster, veteran focus group researcher. He spent many debates watching exactly how voters react to candidates on stage.

And, Frank, it's great to have you. I read your piece in "The Times" describing what you learned through the years, watching focus groups react to debates, and you say quite clearly here that the things we tend to talk about, whether it's a verbal gaffe or a stumble, that kind of thing, are not what voters focus on.

You say the focus in your experience has been when candidates attack each other and defining ways or undermine the political case at each wants to present to Americans. Viewers will quickly decide whether the accusations are fair and the responses effective.

Tell us why you believe that's the real thing that viewers takeaway?

FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, I've watched 32 presidential debates in my adult lifetime with voters, and they tell me three things. Number one, they are listening for the quips, the quotes that Ronald Reagan will not hold the age and inexperience his opponent against him. That was the end of that debate. Or Reagan in 1980 asking the question, are you better off now than you were four years ago? Those are memorable.

But in the end, what matters most is the personality, the humanity of the individual. Do they like the individual? Do they trust them? It this one gives them confidence.

You see that I'm here in the middle of an airport. I've been flying back and forth between Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin because those are the three states that matter. And they told me two things, affordability and immigration.

Affordability, that's health care and housing, food and fuel. And immigration, do they feel safe? Is the border is secure? And that's what they're going to be looking for.

But in the end, it's how the candidates present the issues are as coordinates, the issues themselves.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you that because when you talk about humanity, right, and well, however you want to use that term, but if you look at the most recent debate between Biden and Trump four years ago, that was not a quality that many Republican or Democratic commentators ascribe to President Trump's performance there.

Does that in your view, then give Biden an advantage to some degree if that's a focus of voters as they watch?

LUNTZ: Believe me, that's the outcome of this debate. Donald Trump does the same thing that he did in that very first presidential debate, he will lose this election, because in the end, suburban women listened and they watched him and they didn't like what he did to Joe Biden. It's not that they disagree with him, they thought his personality was too much.

Now, voters, I think, are going to be listening to Joe Biden even more. Is he up to it? We know what he's done over the last four years, what she going to do over the next four years?

I believe it's going to be a record viewership, at least on CNN. I think that people are going to be paying attention to every word. I'm glad that there's going to be those commercial breaks because we're going to be interviewing undecided voters, and you have no idea how hard it is to find an undecided voter in Pennsylvania or Michigan, or Wisconsin. Everyone's made up their minds.


LUNTZ: We wanted to track them because I want to see how important personality is versus how important policy is.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

There's a lot of expectations management going on for both sides now, particularly as Kristen Holmes was just detailing the Trump campaign, the feeling it seems to be that they have so attacked Joe Biden's mental sharpness that now they feel like they need to say, well, actually, maybe that's not true. He's so experienced, et cetera. [15:10:17]

Why -- why do you think that is happening from the Trump camp right now?

LUNTZ: Because he started listening to voters and voters started repeating exactly what Trump has been saying. And when you're repeating it, any expectations are that low for Joe Biden as they were for George W. Bush back in 2000, you set the expectations that low becomes easy for your opponents who exceed them.

I think that was a fundamental mistake of the Trump campaign that they're so vicious and so consistent in saying that Joe Biden cannot complete a sentence, is not capable of being president. And now, if Biden does well in that debate, it's going to make Biden even stronger and it's going to be very tough thing for Donald Trump to overcome.

I don't think that's going to happen. I think we're going to be watching for both sides, through gaps (ph) on both sides. I know that they're drinking games being created on both sides. I believe this is the most important night in this election campaign. And this is the most important debates since JFK versus Richard Nixon in 1960s.

SCIUTTO: Wow, notable. Just in terms of the overall picture, you follow the polling quite closely. And as we were coming in, we described the polling is quite consistent for a number of months, although recently of the Fox News poll being one of them, showed a slight movement in Biden's direction. And you saw some of that in the wake of Trumps felony convictions there.

Do you agree there's been a slight move in Biden's and I'm emphasizing the word slight here, or do you think it's noise in the polling?

LUNTZ: We did a focus group, "The New York Times", the night of that announcement. of Trump's conviction and there was a slight movement. I don't think it's significant, and the national polling doesn't matter. The only -- and this will be the takeaway for everyone watching right now, three states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, that's all that matters.

And in the debate, it's who you are, not just what you believe that matters. I urge listeners, viewers to go to the New York Times today, take a look at it. Because this debate really matters. This election really matters once, so does American democracy.

SCIUTTO: No questions.

So to that point, when, when polls ask voters about their top issues, the economy, certainly affordability, as you mentioned, is huge. Also, democracy. Now I wonder on that issue of democracy because Biden has made that central to his campaign, saying Trump is a threat to democracy, but it struck me as interesting that you will have those on the right who will -- who will say democracy is the top issue, but they see Biden is the threat-to-democracy, whether that's substantiated or not. Do you find when you speak to evokes voters groups that they look at both candidates to some degree as a threat to democracy, depending on what end of the spectrum they're coming from?

LUNTZ: Up until a few months ago. That was strictly a Joe Biden issue. But Donald Trump and his campaign has made it an issue of election corruption, whereas Biden will talk about voter suppression, not having the ability to vote.

In the end, if our democracy is at stake, it tells you exactly how important this election is. And in the end, the negativity, the viciousness, the back-and-forth that's already been worse than anything you've seen, they're going to jump to $2 billion on these swing voters in swing states and all of its going to be negative. I just hope that Thursday night, when that debate is over, people turned away from their computers, turned away from televisions, feel better, and feel more optimistic about the future.

I don't think that's going to happen. I think were going to have a battle royale can be formed, feel more like a wrestling match, and I think we're going to be worse off on Friday than we were on Thursday.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. I mean, I share your hopes, Frank, but I -- but I also share your skepticism.

Frank Luntz, always good to have you. I'm sure it's not the last time we talked to you about this.

LUNTZ: But it'll be the last time from the Denver Airport.

SCIUTTO: OK, fair enough. Well, we appreciate -- I'm sure I was in that airport recently. Thank you, Frank.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A reminder, we're just three days away from the debate hosted by CNN. Don't miss President Biden, former President Trump, head-to- head Thursday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Notable day. Today marks two years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Heading into the first presidential debate, former President Trump continues to tout his role in that. After the break, we're going to dive into how that issue has and will continue to shape the 2024 election.



SCIUTTO: Two years ago on this day, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion. More than a dozen states have since implemented bans forcing women to travel out of state for abortion access if they can. It is a top issue heading into the 2024 election as a number of states are looking to put protection measures on the ballot enshrining access to abortion.

CNN medical correspondent Meg Tirrell, she joins me now.

So we're two years later. Where do things stand in? How many states is Trump is abortion effectively banned at this point, given the limitations applied?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jim. So, 14 states have banned abortion almost completely. I mean, there are narrow exceptions to save the life of the person who's pregnant. Also, some exceptions in some states, for cases of rape and incest. But seven additional states have banned abortion between six and 18 weeks of gestation.

And most recently Florida, May 1st, did that, really cutting off an access point for abortion across the U.S. They implemented a ban at six weeks. So this is still changing very dynamically.

Interestingly, though, the data actually show that there were more abortions in the formal health care system in 2023 than there were before the Dobbs decision. This has increased. It's the highest level now to -- in a decade, now to more than 1 million abortions in 2023.


And experts say this is for a couple of reasons. One is that states that have kept abortion legal have actually worked to make it even more accessible. And many people are traveling out of state to access abortion 171,000 according to the Guttmacher Institute. We also know that medication abortion, especially via telehealth, has increased substantially over the last few years. And so that's enabling people to get more access.

But, Jim, we've been traveling the country, hearing stories from women and families affected by this changing landscape. We've heard about people who've had to travel for pregnancy complications that required abortions that they did not want.

We've heard about doctors leaving states with these strict bans. We've heard about impacts to miscarriage care and also, of course, an Alabama with IVF. So these are long and far-reaching implications.

SCIUTTO: No question. Of course, the Supreme Courts still has a role in this. It's her two other cases on abortion, though in terms of medication abortion, it did allow mifepristone, did not banned and access to that, which of course, key, given the statistics you were just talking about here.

But tell us about the two pending cases and their potential impact on reproductive rights.

TIRRELL: Yeah. So, the one that we are still waiting for is one in a case that's referred to as EMTALA. That's when hospitals provide emergency abortions to people who need them to preserve the health of the person who's pregnant. So this arose from a case in Idaho which has one of the strictest bands in the country.

The question is, does that ban which allows an exception for the life of the pregnant person, but not the health. Does that conflict with this federal law that requires hospitals provide stabilizing care to preserve somebody's health.

So were expecting to hear potentially from the court on that even as soon as this week, even though as you noted on that first case, the court upheld access to medication, abortion, but folks are expecting to continue -- continued challenges to that through either the courts or depending on how the election goes through other measures -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Meg Tirrell, thanks so much.

Well, Vice President Kamala Harris, she's been campaigning across the country, marking the anniversary. Earlier today, she laid the blame for overturning Roe v. Wade squarely at Donald Trump's feet.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, our daughters no fewer rights than their grandmothers this is a health care crisis and we all know who was to blame.

In the case of the stealing of reproductive freedom from the women of America, Donald Trump is guilty.


SCIUTTO: Of course, Donald Trump itself has claimed credit for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe.

Here to break down how this plays into the 2024 race, Meghan Hays, former White House director of message planning, and Doug Heye, Republican strategist, former Republican National Committee communications director.

Good to have you both on.


SCIUTTO: It's been interesting in recent days and weeks, Trump attempting what to do -- two things, right? Claimed credit for appointing the justices who overturned Roe while somewhat moderating or at least attempting to moderate his position here, he declined to endorse, for instance, a national abortion ban.

Over the weekend, he spoke on this issue. Have a listen. I want to get both your thoughts on this.


TRUMP: And I believe in exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest. Some people do. I think most people do actually, but some people don't. You have to go with your heart, but you have to also remember you have to get elected.


SCIUTTO: I mean, he's speaking specifically just to those exceptions for incest or danger life of the mother, attempting some moderation here.

I want to get both your views.

Meghan, can he moderate that position in your view?

And, Doug, I want to get your thoughts.

MEGHAN HAYS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I mean, I think that he is -- he's losing fight here, that he's a person who appointed these Supreme Court justices that overturned Roe. I also think that this is a losing issue for Republicans, that's lost every time it's been on the ballot.

And I think that when you come down to states like Arizona, which they put that abandoned, a place, this is 10,000 votes that Biden won by last time. This is a massive problem for them.

I'm not -- I'm confused while Donald Trump continues to talk about this. This is a huge issue for them and it's not a winning one -- and it just those suburban women that are going to -- that are going to decide this election, those are the people that this impacted them, their families. And I just I really think that he should not be talking about how abortion any longer.

SCIUTTO: Doug, do you agree on that? Do you see any way that he could try to win back some voters in that space?

HEYE: I think he can potentially win some -- win back some voters, but it's a very tricky path for him.

Two reasons. One, there's not a lot of nuance on this issue in 2024, in part because yes, Donald Trump nominated those Supreme Court justices and so forth. But because this issue is being defined, not in Washington, but in the states, and we have state legislatures that are essentially legislating out loud and we see what happens in South Carolinas certainly as Meghan mentioned, Arizona, that defines the issue potentially nationally.

The other reason is Donald Trump is trying to have nuance here. Donald Trump is not nuanced. Donald Trump is blunt force trauma. So this isn't really terra firma for Trump. It shows that he gets that this issue is not necessarily a winner for Republicans, but how he navigates those waters, I think are very difficult because he can't define them.


SCIUTTO: Yeah. Can he navigate those waters?

So I want to get to the issue that Meghan brought up which the ballot measures does it are going to be including it in key states here, seven states have voted on abortion ballot measures since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, deeply red states, they all failed to restrict Michigan, Vermont, Ohio in California, all past measures to protect abortion. Democrats are counting on these measures to drive the vote, right?

Printing out the vote for them and Meghan then Doug, ladies first, do you believe that it can be a voter driving issue, a turnout driving issue, and one that can help them potentially when those states.

HAYS: Yeah, I absolutely do. I think that it's really scary when you look back and you think one in three people, one in three women, don't have access to reproductive health care and to abortion rights. And I think that people take note of that and they find it extremely scary.

They also don't want their seats legislating that. They want to have these discussions with a doctor and make their decisions with a doctor. And so I do think this drives people will drive people to the polls in November and I do think it will help the entire ticket from the president on down.

SCIUTTO: So to that point, Doug, four states have abortion on the ballot in November, all looking to protect it. Six states also considering adding measures to protect abortion access. Are those warning signs for Republicans in those states, given that folks may want to come out and vote to support the right to abortion then might also at the same time vote for Democratic candidates.

HEYE: Well, on the presidential level, those states aren't really in play, but you certainly can look at state legislature contests or Senate and House races, where that could play an impact. But we should remember what that yes, this has been a motivator for Democratic voters. We certainly we saw that in the last midterm elections.

One of the reasons that Joe Biden is expected to talk about this Thursday night in Atlanta on CNN is because this is the only issue that when you look at polling on individual issues that Joe Biden is on offense and the Democrats are on offense on, and he's -- he's massively underwater on the issue of the border, massively underwater on the issue of prices and what things cost. He has to come up with solutions to those, but he's talking about abortion because it looks like the only political winner that he has. He has a very weak hand at this point for an incumbent.

SCIUTTO: Meghan, bigger picture. What does Biden have to do to have a good result on Thursday night?

And then, Doug, I'm going to get your view on what Trump asked to do.

HAYS: Yeah, I think he needs to come out strong. I think optics matter a lot here and he needs to come out strong. He needs to be extremely coherent and concise with his answers.

I think he needs to lay out what he's done for the American people. And then when plans to do for the next four years. These are job -- this is a job interview, right? So he needs to say why he's good at this job and what he will do, what moving forward.

But again, optics here matter, he needs to come out strong and he needs to come out like he did for the State of the Union. SCIUTTO: Doug Heye, we had Frank Luntz earlier, as you know, experienced Republican pollster. He said that historically how candidates come across, right, is important, and that angry Trump did not work for Trump in 2020.

What does Trump have to do to be successful Thursday night?

Well, and we also know that first debates typically don't go well for that incumbent president. And it's going to be interesting to see if we have more than one debate. I'm not betting high on that at this point.

But if I'm advising Donald Trump, I'd tell him what I would tell them all the time, dial back on the crazy. It scares potential voters away. Those double-hater voters, the 25 percent of voters who say, I don't want to see this movie again, I don't like my choices.

They're trying to decide, are they going to vote? If so, for whom, or are they going to stay home?

Donald Trump has to give them reasons of why they should vote for him, and/or not stay home. And the way that he tends to go about this with going about shark attacks and weird things that just aren't on voters minds, or I'm going to take my shirt off, please don't do that, Donald Trump. Are things that voters don't want to hear. They want your answers and solutions.

SCIUTTO: Well, I won't talk about that either, Doug Heye. I promise.

Doug and Meghan, good to have you. I know we'll be talking to you about this as the week goes on.

HEYE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, what we're learning about these frightening moments caught on camera for some villagers in China or something has seen plummeting towards Earth.



SCIUTTO: A spacewalk today at the International Space Station was scrubbed because of a leak in one of the space suits. It's the second walk-in days abruptly called off, and this added to the delayed return of the Boeing Starliner astronauts who after their June 5 launch were originally scheduled for a week-long trip. Now the return flight is set for July.

This is ground teams attempt to learn more about the issues that plagued the crews journey up to the International Space Station.

CNN's Tom Foreman has been covering this story.

Tom, I mean, listen, space is hard. There are always issues. Some we hear about, some we don't. Is this unusual? Can you -- can you break down how big a deal these are?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's unusual. It's -- I mean, space is tough. It's a tough thing to do. There are always challenges.

Let's talk about individually, the space suit issue. That actually hasn't been so unusual lately.

What happened here is they had some leakage appear to be happening where this umbilical cord went from the space station to these space suits. They actually had already entered a phase where they were technically space walking already, but they weren't really going anywhere.

And what happened is they had this little bit of leakage and it's incredibly cold or it can be on the sunny side of the space station. It can be about 250 degrees Fahrenheit on the shady side, 250 below zero and Fahrenheit.

So the bottom line is they had this leakage. They said they had sort of a snow storm of ice around them. And they said we really can't go on this way. So they brought them back inside.

But a few years ago, they had a leakage issue. They suspended spacewalks for about seven months. And in 2013, they had a leakage issue into a space suit. And the water started collecting in zero gravity and there was fear that they would have the first astronaut ever to drown in space.


FOREMAN: So they deal with those issues.

The issue of the ship, though, is different. The fact that Boeing finally got the ship off the ground after many, many, many delays, they got it up to the space station and now, they're having trouble bring it back because they discovered these helium leaks, which they believe they've all contained now, but also problems with the thrusters, which also seem to be linked to the helium leaks.


Helium is often used, Jim, in circumstances like this because it's basically nonreactive. They can use it to pressurized tank so that in a zero gravity or microgravity environment, the fuel is being forced down to where it needs to combust. It doesn't just float around inside the tank. Some kind of issues there.

They say they're just going through all the steps, but the fact that they haven't brought them back when they should've come back after just a week up there. That's a big deal.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. No question. It means they're taking it seriously.

All right. So I mean, they're up in space. You can't like Amazon does stuff up there.


SCIUTTO: I mean, no endless supplies of food, I mean, is there any limit to how long they can -- they can overstay this particular trip?

FOREMAN: The target limit here is about 45 days these and that has to do more with the power supply to the part of the spaceship, the module that connects to the docking spacecraft.

That's really the issue is not so much food and water at this point, although in a limited environment like that, with a limited number of people, if you increase it by two bodies, obviously, that puts more of a strain on the supplies.

The bigger question here, Jim, would be, if they reach the point of saying for any reason, we don't think this spacecraft can come safely back to Earth. They are not saying that now but if they did that, that would disrupt the entire schedule of who is on the ISS? How long they're on ISS? How do you get them off the ISS?

Then you start talking about more questions about supplies and things like that. Fortunately, there are other ways to get there. You know, Boeing doesn't want to hear that right now because they want to prove that there one of the ways, but there are other ways to get supplies up to the astronaut.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, it would raise questions as to whether Boeing is an option going forward, at least in the near term.

FOREMAN: Well, and that's -- and, from Boeing, yeah. They've been fighting for years and years for this. They've struggled a great deal.

This is absolutely what they did not want. Even if they managed to bring this all together and everything is more or less fine, this is not something that engenders a lot of confidence in NASA and the space community to finally get up there and not be able to take off.

SCIUTTO: Tom Foreman, thanks for covering.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Speaking of other stuff from space, dramatic video circulating on social media appears to show a piece of a rocket raining down on a Chinese village, pretty dramatic there.

Steven Jiang has details on the satellite launch that might have scattered that debris.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: These dramatic social media videos emerged not long after the state-owned Chinese company responsible for this launch hailed it as a complete success in a statement online Saturday, describing this mission as a Chinese made Long March 2C rocket, carrying satellites jointly developed by Chinese and French scientists into space. Now, we have reached out to this company and the Chinese government

for comment before many people on the ground watching these suspected debris plummet towards their village. They felt quite differently about this mission with one witness telling CNN that they thought they had seen a pocket far down right in front of their eyes with other people on social media saying they heard a loud explosion after the debris is falling to the ground.

A since-deleted notice from village authorities posted on social media showed that local officials were telling villagers that they were about to conduct a rocket debris recovery mission. And advising people to stay away from these debriefs, avoid been harmed by toxic air and explosions.

Now, that assessment echoed by experts, CNN spoke to with them telling us that these degrees are likely from the first stage rocket booster and are indeed highly toxic. Now, if this fallen debris incidents confirmed, it's not without precedence in China. Just last December, debris from another rocket launch from the same center in Sichuan province landed in a nearby region, damaging two houses according to state media.

And back in 2022, charred remnants from a Chinese rocket booster plunged and controlled back to earth in an incident widely criticized by many Western experts as irresponsible and risky behavior by Chinas a national space agency.

All of this of course, is taking place at a time when China's not only catching up, but also trying to get ahead of the United States in an increasingly heated space race.

Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.


SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the role foreign policy is expected to play in CNN's presidential debate between President Biden and former President Trump this Thursday.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Foreign policy and America's role in the world will take center stage as well this Thursday as President Biden, former President Trump prepare for the CNN debate.

Joining me now to discuss, Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group and GZERO Media.

Good to have you. Thanks so much for joining.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Jim, thanks. SCIUTTO: So listen, there are a lot of big issues the next president

will face, whether it's Biden or Trump internationally, long list. Do you expect the issues for instance, of the war in Ukraine, the war in Israel, Gaza relationships with Russia and China, North Korea will play a central role in this debate.

BREMMER: I think they will -- I mean, of course, you know, the part of the question is how are the moderators going to handle it? But Trump has been saying, we didn't have big wars when I was president. Now we've got big wars under Biden. That's because he's weak. He won't stand up to the enemies. They'll take advantage of him.

Whether or not you're sympathetic to that argument, it's an argument that is effective with this base. He's been using it a lot, certainly on the Middle East, certainly on Russia, Ukraine.

It's also kind of an extension of what he says on the border, right? You know, he was willing to hit the Mexicans hard, so as a consequence, they were willing to do more on their own southern border and that Biden has been slow to recognize a tougher policy on immigration was required. So I suspect that is where he's going.

How they talk about details, and how Trump would actually get America out of wars that are going on right now and look pretty serious, right, is a very open question.

SCIUTTO: I mean, that's -- it's a hard one for him to answer honestly, right, because as you and I know, these are strategic decisions by the Russias and Chinas and Irans of the world, right? It doesn't change with whether Trump or Biden or you or are or in that position?

Let me ask you this because there are genuine differences between how Biden and Trump see America's role in the world, but Trump's own former advisers have told me he's likely out of NATO. He will -- may pull out of other defense alliances around the world, certainly a more isolationist role.

Politically, how does that play out with voters? I mean, is the America first isolationist wing, not just to the Republican Party, is that growing?


I mean, is that -- is that a more popular position than we realize?

BREMMER: It's unclear to me that isolationist is the right way to describe it. I call it unilateralist. So example, one of the biggest differences between Biden and Trump is that Biden wants a strong Europe as a partner because he sees them as a aligned with the United States on values. Trump doesn't care as much about other countries values. He wants them to do America's bidding.

So he wants a weak Europe. He liked Brexit. Biden opposed it.

He wants the French to leave the European Union, always pushes Macron on that when he sees them. Biden absolutely opposes that. So Trump would much rather have a dominant position vis-a-vis Europe,

and he wants to Europeans to spend a lot more on NATO.

Now, remember, he didn't leave NATO. He was president for four years. What he did do is whack the Europeans around a lot and I suspect that if Trump becomes president, he will say that the reason they're spending more on defense right now is because of him, which isn't wholly true. A large part of it is because the Russians invaded Ukraine, but he'll -- he'll make a victory lap there.

It's not clear to me that he's going to want to say, okay, now I'm out. I think he'd rather say I'm in because, you made it successful.

SCIUTTO: He -- I mean, he came close in 2018 according to his own advisers, but I hear you. I hear you on that. He may change his calculation.

The war in the Middle East seems to be an almost unwinnable issue for Biden, right? Because he has attacks from his right and left flank. Progressives will say he's too pro-Israeli, those on the more conservative. So whatever you want to call them will say he's not pro- Israeli enough.

I mean, you and I know the reality is that a Trump presidency would be -- whatever progressive think of Biden, would be more pro-Israeli.

But how does -- how does Biden win that issue politically? Can he win that issue in this debate?

BREMMER: So, look, it's hard to be an incumbent when there were major wars going on that people want to see the end of.


BREMMER: These wars aren't going super well and they're certainly not going in the direction that the Americans are trying to get them to go. If you're Biden, I think the best way to argue this is saying that under Trump, you'd be America alone, and with Biden, it's America with allies.

So the Europeans and Americans are shouldering the burden together. They're much more aligned and that Trump will have a harder time getting allies to support him.

If you're Trump, you're saying Biden's weak. Biden's letting the Israelis walk all over him. He's letting the Iranians walk all over them. And that's not a good position to be in.

So I think that they're going to have very different strategies, but you're absolutely right that Biden's in an untenable position, specifically on the Middle East. On Russia-Ukraine, it's easier because he's leading a very strong coalition of literally dozens of countries. NATO is stronger today than was when Biden became president. And he's built that alliance.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. BREMMER: On the other hand, the U.S. relationship with Israel today,

its most important ally in the Middle East, is much weaker than it was under Trump. And certainly the prime minister of Israel is making it very clear that he has contempt for the American president. That's something that Trump wants to lean into.

SCIUTTO: No question. But by the way, that's been a political -- you know, he may view it as a strategic decision by Netanyahu as well to align himself more with the party rather than the country there.

Listen, a lot of threads to this and it's going to be highly contested on that stage on Thursday.

Ian Bremmer, always good to have you on.

BREMMER: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the multiple major cases including presidential immunity, still left outstanding by the U.S. Supreme Court with the end of term just a few days.



SCIUTTO: The Supreme Court is running out the clock with a host of major cases still awaiting rulings as we near the end of the month, the traditional marker for the end of the court's term. This includes blockbuster consequential cases on topics such as presidential immunity as well as abortion.

While we wait, the justice are looking to next term saying this morning they will hear arguments on another significant issue, whether states can pass laws banning transgender care for minors already, nearly half of states have done so this according to the human rights campaign.

CNN's Paula Reid joins me now to discuss.

So, Paula, they're going to take this up. This is courts decision for next term. What have you learned about the case?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This is huge, Jim. This is the first time the court is really going to delve into the complicated and politically fraught issue of gender affirming care. Of course, as you said, we're still waiting to wrap up this Supreme Court season. But here the justices, they have selected a blockbuster case. I mean, this will have nationwide implications when they hear it next term.

Now this case specifically focuses on a transgender care banned in Tennessee. The state law enacted last year, it bans hormone therapy and puberty pretty blockers for minors. It also imposes civil penalties for doctors who violate the law. And a number of states have put in place similar bands, as you said right now, nearly half of all states have bans on transgender care for minors. Republican lawmakers who support the band say decisions about care should be made after an individual becomes an adult. But opponents argue that in addition to violating the civil rights of trans youth, the law conflicts with parents rights to make decisions about their child's medical care.

Now, here, the Biden administration, along with families of transgender minors, challenge the law in Tennessee, along with a similar law in Kentucky. But the Supreme Court specifically agreed to hear the challenge out of Tennessee and they're expected to hear this case in the fall.

SCIUTTO: A lot of other big cases, we're going to hear the decisions on before the end of the week. I think you have to put at the top of the list, the presidential immunity case here.

Just remind us what we're waiting for.

REID: Yeah, no doubt. Well, in speaking with my sources on the Trump legal team, this is certainly top of mind for them. The question of whether the former president has immunity to shield him from the federal prosecution he faces related to January 6 and efforts to subvert the 2020 election. That is definitely one of the biggest cases that they're hearing. So people were surprised they even took it up.

And it sounded normal arguments like they might find some limited immunity which would toss this case down. It basically guaranteed, Jim, that it won't go before the November election.

There was a similar case related to January 6. The defendant who is challenging than one of the many counts he faced was related to obstruction and saying that the way they charged obstruction related to January 6 is not what the law intended, depending on how that's decided, that too could help or hurt the former president.

Another big case that I think could have the most significant impact for the election itself is an abortion case out of Idaho, where the justices need to decide what happens when you have a state with restrictive abortion laws that come up against more permissive federal laws, specifically in this case related to emergency room care.


That's one to watch.

Also big cases about the power of federal agencies, the record settlement with the Sackler family over opioid use and the rights of social media platform. So, Jim, they've three days on the calendar this week where they're going to release opinions. It's going to be there Super Bowl.

SCIUTTO: The country needs answers.

Paula Reid, thanks so much.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining me today for STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.