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CNN International: Supreme Court: Presidents Have Immunity For "Official Acts"; Biden Wages Bid To Save Reelection Campaign Following Debate; Far Right Party Leads After First Round Of Voting; Simone Bills Headed To Paris After Gymnastics Trial Win. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 15:00   ET



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

We begin with a landmark Supreme Court decision that will impact generations of future presidents. The highest court in the land ruled today that Donald Trump is entitled to some level of immunity from prosecution for actions he took in the final days of his presidency, including on January 6, 2021. The decision has the potential to torpedo key parts of the January 6 federal election subversion case against the former president.

A source tells CNN the Trump legal team will likely also attempt to use the ruling as they challenged the New York hush money criminal verdict on appeal. The split 6-3 opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, along those familiar partisan lines, six conservatives, three liberals, Roberts wrote: We conclude that under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of presidential power requires that a former president have some immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts during his tenure in office. At least with respect to the president's exercise of his core constitutional powers, this immunity must be absolute.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing on behalf of the court's liberal justices wrote, quote: Never in the history of our republic has a president had reason to believe that he would be immune from criminal prosecution if he used the trappings of his office to violate criminal law. With fear for our democracy, I dissent. That was her sign-off.

As for what counts as an official act, and what does not the justices are now sending the case back to a lower court to make that determination -- although the chief justice gave some outlines, some direction for what might count.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has been following all these developments.

I suppose, let's begin with that step there. He is sending it back to the court to in effect delineate what's official, what's unofficial, which will then help decide which parts of Jack Smith's case survive. But he also gave them a little direction, right?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He did. SCIUTTO: For what prosecutors can use and what they can't use in such cases.

POLANTZ: That's right. So the reason that the full court is so split is the question the immunity around the core things that a president does. That actually is not the meat of the case against Donald Trump. The case against Donald Trump breaks down to four things, one -- five things actually, one that's immune, which is his conversations with Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department, that is no --

SCIUTTO: That's out.

POLANTZ: -- not, that's out, can't be part of the case.

SCIUTTO: Even though, by the way, he was talking to the Justice Department about falsely claiming the election was stolen to follow through on his attempts?

POLANTZ: Right. The person he was talking to was someone within the executive branch. So that, he has immunity for that, that's core to the presidency.

Four things though, that the courts are going to have to determine. The first is about how his conversations with Vice President Mike Pence. That's something that the Justice Department is going to have to go and argue, show witnesses, potentially bring in witnesses to Judge Tanya Chutkan's trial court, show evidence and try and overcome Donald Trump's claims of immunity there.

And then there are other things that the Supreme Court says probably not immune.


SCIUTTO: And that question seems to come down to whether Pence in that role certifying the votes was acting in a Senate duty.


SCIUTTO: Or an executive branch duty. But anyway, go on with the open question.

POLANTZ: Right. And they actually write that out. They say, you know, when the president and the vice president or discussing their official responsibilities, that's official conduct. This might give Trump some immunity around what he was saying to Pence. But Pence was presiding over the Senate. That's a different thing.

SCIUTTO: Uh-huh.

POLANTZ: That will have to go through the courts. That's going to lead to a lot of appeals, a lot of things.

But then those three other things that the Supreme Court says probably not immune or even more explicitly, no immunity here because they're clearly on official acts of Donald Trump, the man or campaigner, rather than the president -- the fake electors scheme, pressuring state officials and public statements related to his campaign. That also might resolve in several more hearings in the hello are court level, but they do give direction.

SCIUTTO: So -- but that last point is one that's key, right? Several more hearings in addition to sending this back to the district court.


What does this mean for the timeline of Jack Smith's case?

POLANTZ: It means it's going to be very, very difficult for this to go to trial before the election because the judge will have to rule and then Trump's team will very likely try and appeal the whole way up again to the Supreme Court, especially on the vice presidency issue, the conversations there.

But a lot is going to be -- we should be looking at what the special counsel does next.


POLANTZ: How do they cut away parts of the indictment? What does the district judge want to do here?

Courts can be really unpredictable.


POLANTZ: So we just don't know.

SCIUTTO: Well, and she moved -- she's moved with more alacrity than the Supreme Court has on many of these questions. Judge Chutkan has. We'll see how she does it here.

Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much.

I want to turn now to the Trump campaign, which is a celebrating today's Supreme Court ruling. The former president is calling it a, quote, big win for our Constitution and democracy. It comes on the heels of what the Trump campaign sees as two other wins. Joe Biden's dismal debate performance and another Supreme Court ruling that the Justice Department overstepped in charging some of those who attack the Capitol on January 6.

I want to bring in CNN's Alayna Treene. She covers the Trump campaign.

They're doing a victory lap up here.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right.

And, look, Jim, this is not the blanket immunity that Donald Trump for months had been claiming that he thinks that he had, but it's really hard to see how they could have gotten much more of a win than this. And I will remind you that, honestly, Donald Trump's legal advisors and his legal team going into today, they were unsure of what the outcome would be, but they were cautiously optimistic that they would have some sort of limited immunity in that Supreme Court decision.

Of course, that is what they got, but I will say earlier on before that even had oral arguments in this case, they had actually thought of this immunity claim as a Hail Mary pass, but after they had oral arguments, particularly, I'm told after they heard the line of questioning from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, they became more optimistic that maybe they would have some sort of limited immunity. And that is exactly what they got.

And just to break down how they're actually thinking about this, this case, the January 6 case, the federal case brought by special counsel Jack Smith is one that they thought out of all his cases could potentially go to trial before the election. That's because what you and Katelyn were discussing, that Judge Tanya Chutkan has moved very quickly on this. She has been very active in making sure that things have been moving smoothly and quickly.

However, as Katelyn also pointed out, this ruling really does make it seem like its going to be very difficult for this to become before the election. And that is really the big goal of Donald Trump's legal team with many of these cases, they've been wanting to delay, delay, delay, and that's because if Donald Trump is to win the election, come this fall, we know -- I mean, people ask me all the time, is it a certain? I would argue it is. It's a certainty that if Donald Trump were to win, that he would dismiss this case as well as the other federal cases against him.

Of course, there's a question of what would happen with some of the state cases for example, in Georgia, however, there's also questions that if a state case were trying to go to trial while he was president. That would also be very difficult to do.

Now I think another key thing to keep in mind here is the reporting we have that how this decision could be applied, not just to this case, but the other cases that Trump is facing, whether it be the New York case and his appeal and his hush money case, or even if they can use some of this in his Georgia case on January 6 and his actions there to subvert the 2020 election or even his federal classified documents case. They are thinking behind the scenes, how can we apply this ruling to other cases? And I think that's very important.

We actually heard Donald Trump himself kind of ties at that publicly on Truth Social. He wrote, quote, today's historic decision by the Supreme Court should end all of crooked Joe Biden's witch hunts against me, including the New York hoaxes, the Manhattan scam cooked up by Soros-backed D.A. Alvin Bragg. It goes on to continue to attack the people working on that case.

But, look, it's very clear what their strategy is here, they want to use this as much as they can to their advantage. Of course, there are still questions about what exactly counts as official acts versus unofficial acts. It has to go to the district court to decide that.

Jack Smith has to comb through this and see what he will do with his indictment. But very much his team is celebrating this as a win and they do believe that this really does kind of clear the rest of his campaign from having any more legal issues like they did with that New York trial. And so they're feeling very confident and happy with this decision, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Alayna Treene, thanks so much.

Joining me now to break down the Supreme Court's decision from a legal standpoint, Michael Gerhardt, a professor of constitutional law at UNC, and national security attorney Bradley Moss.

If I can begin with you, Michael, you have two views of this case from the Supreme Court. You have quite a catastrophic view of it from Justice Sotomayor, quite clear in her dissent, signing off with fear for democracy.


You have the chief justice dismissing that, calling that something of an overreaction here. But going into it, Justice Gorsuch himself, so they were writing a rule, they were writing rules here for the ages, for presidents and not just former President Trump.

Which is the more accurate view of how the court decided here? Did it expand presidential immunity beyond anything the founders envisioned or did it issue something of a nuanced ruling?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNC SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, I don't think it can be fairly described at either extreme. I don't think it's terrible. I don't think it's catastrophic but it also clearly is as just been said, a political win for Trump. I don't think there'll be any criminal case now, proceeding against him before the election.

But in so far as the immunity recognized by the Supreme Court, it sounds conventional in the sense that the court did invoke the principle no one's above the law, and the distinction between official and unofficial is not new. However, I think the court did begin to sort of enter into new territory by suggesting there's a presumption of constitutionality for a presidential action as long as the president deems whatever he said, or did is official.

Well, needless to say, that's what every president will do now, right, before they do something, they'll characterize it as official and that could be a pardon. It could be a coup. It could be any number of things. And the court is saying, well, that's going to presumption of constitutionality, that is what ought to strike fear in the hearts of people who care about the rule of law.

SCIUTTO: I mean, listen, Sotomayor, she went as far as to say that -- well, and I'm quoting from her here, a president, quote, orders the Navy's SEAL Team Six to assassinated political rival, immune organizes a military coup to hold onto power. Immune takes a bribe and exchange for a pardon -- immune, immune, immune, immune. That's her read of it.

I do want to ask you, Bradley Moss, it's -- Justice Roberts said, no president is above the law. Certainly allowed paths for prosecution of a president, but he did set some restrictions on those paths to prosecution. For instance, ruling that testimony or private records of a president or his advisors would not be admitted at such a trial. So you're thinking about conversations with some of his senior officials in the midst of an alleged attempt to overturn the election or throwing it back 50 years. The Nixon tapes, right? That would not be admitted.

And he also set limits saying that a prosecutor may not inquire into presidential motives either. It strikes me. If you're allowing a path the prosecution that makes a prosecution pretty darn hard, does it not?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Yeah. It would be almost impossible to actually successfully prosecute a pre -- a former president for what is arguably an official even if its not a core function, even if it's not something that's absolutely immune, so long as its presumptively immune, the amount of evidence you can't rely upon based on the majority opinion, the amount of restrictions the government would have on trying to bring out sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption would make it incredibly difficult.

You have to imagine somewhere the ghosts of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford are shaking their head going, oh my God, why did we do that? We apparently were just fine all along and we never -- never needed to be a resignation or a pardon because as you would have almost certainly been entitled to immunity. Gerald Ford certainly would've needed -- wouldn't have needed to pardon him.

And this is the biggest concern I have with the majority opinion is that it makes clear, yeah, no one is above the law, even the president. But when it comes to a president, including a former president, they will treat them as if they were above the law unless that person agrees to leave voluntarily to become a former president, and then the next administration is able to overcome that high hurdle, to overcome that presumption.

SCIUTTO: Yes, certainly gives an incentive, right, to maintain the trappings of the office.

Michael, as a practical matter, when we look at the special counsel's case, I'm curious in your view what survives here. We discussed briefly when I was speaking with Katelyn before that the state pieces of that case, pressuring state officials, for instance, or creating these fake electors, would seem to be outside the purview of official acts what, first of all, do you agree with that? And second of all, is there anything else that could survive from his -- from his case, from his indictments after this ruling?

GERHARDT: Well, I do agree. You know, the easy thing for Jack Smith is wherever the court said, this is not -- not appropriate, this is part of official conduct that goes, that's easy -- easy to follow that. It's harder in some cases, even, for example, with regard to Mike Pence, the idea that some interactions might be unofficial and some might be official is going to be a hard line to draw.

[15:15:07] As Mike Pence himself said, though at the time back in January 6, he was acting as the presiding officer of the senate, which ought to mean that even conversations with Pence at that point where between the president and the presiding officer of the Senate, therefore, not clothed with executive privilege.

The other thing I might just add to this conversation is that I think the court also has a big mistake, at least in my opinion, in suggesting that conversations with lawyers and others are, going to be part of the official conduct. There's been no privilege yet recognized in American law for anyone including the president to use executive privilege to facilitate the commission of a crime but the court seems to be suggesting that might be possible with the president, which reinforces the point previously made, which is for all products excellent purposes, there's going to be one person in this country, the president, it doesn't have to follow the law like everybody else.

SCIUTTO: That's a remarkable piece there, right, because it would seem to your point, for instance, I mean, I mentioned this before. Trumps conversations with Justice Department officials during his attempt to overturn the election in which the chief justice has now said that's testimony or private records of the president is advisors not admissible. That included Trump saying the following, quote, just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen, these according to contemporary notes by Justice Department official.

Bradley moss, do you agree with Michael there that in effect the Supreme Court has created a special category here, a category whereby the law is not equally applied under those circumstances?

MOSS: Yes, I do. And it's rather ironic that this ruling is coming down this week, the week of July 4th weekend, you know, the history of us going off a monarch and essentially the Supreme Court said, okay, we're not a true monarchy, but basically a constitutional monarchy. And the president is essentially above the law unless, until proven otherwise.

And so, looking at this case going forward, and everybody trying to figure out what Jack Smith is going to do -- I mean, look, there certainly lawyers and everyone, far smarter than I but if I'm Jack Smith, got most of the indictment in D.C., limited just to the fake electoral scheme, is the most obviously easy element that's beyond even the outermost reach of executive authority has far less witness testimony that'd be at issue. You don't have to rely upon Justice Department information and Justice Department official testimony.

That is arguably the easiest way to get this thing back on track. Whether or not Jack Smith will do that, we'll all find out probably in the next week or so.

Michael, on that point, if he were to do that issue, I suppose what you would call a superseding indictment focus on the state issue here, which the court seems to have clarified already, is that something that he could then accelerate or does that still require a whole host of hearings and so on before you can get to the next stage? GERHARDT: Well, I do think part of what Jack Smith's got to think about is speed. Now, I -- one could argue whether or not that's the right thing to be focusing on, that -- I'll leave that to others. But I think he could shed some of that indictment, try and expedite to try and zero in on something he thinks is clear and can be done quickly.

However, we also know that Trump's lawyers will try and delay it, and has also been mentioned before, whatever happens in the trial court is going to end up being appealed to a higher courts. That's going to take a lot of time and the election is rapidly approaching. So this remains a victory for Trump because I don't see any path by which any criminal trial begins before election.

SCIUTTO: And let's be frank, the Supreme Court could have dealt with this more quickly, right? And I certainly dealt very quickly, for instance, with the state ballot issue as it relates to Colorado, complicated ruling, but took months to get where we are.

Michael Gerhardt, Bradley Moss, thanks so much for sharing your perspectives with us.

Still to come this hour, the Biden campaign is in damage control as questions about his age continue to swirl about that debate at -- following that debate performance. We're going to have a follow-up on that story, next.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

It is day four of damage control in the Biden campaign. Surrogates, allies and the first families scrambling to restore confidence in President Joe Biden after his debate performance prompted a barrage of calls for the presumptive Democratic nominee to end his campaign.

Publicly, First Lady Jill Biden has been the president's biggest champion. She told "Vogue Magazine" in a cover interview that they, quote, will not let those 90 minutes define the four years he's been president. We will continue to fight.

But what is happening behind closed doors, anything different?

With me now for insights, CNN senior reporter Isaac Dovere. He covers the Biden campaign.

Isaac, lots of private conversations. I just wonder if all those conversations are heading in one direction. Are they all supporting the president staying in or are there voices, perhaps private ones, pushing him to go another way?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, look, Jim, I've been speaking to people all through the weekend and I will tell you that conversations that I've had and we've got a straight up on our site about this, are that many of the potential replacement, Democrats people talk about, had their phones start ringing and buzzing about five minutes into the debate and they haven't stopped since, there are some preliminary plans going on here, what it would look like, how it would go to head into a convention where a nominee would be sorted out for the first time in decades, how they would go up against the other potential people.

What this -- all of this is happening as people are waiting out a decision from the president, even though the president has said he's made, this campaign is keep saying, no, he's not dropping out, but there is still a lot of thought that he may reconsider, that the pressure may be on him to take a pass on the election given what happened on Thursday night?

SCIUTTO: So, publicly, the campaign sticking to full steam ahead is the message. There's a new ad out today, I want to play a bit of it for viewers, notably, the sound in this ad is from Biden's rally on Friday, not from the debate. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you see Trump last night, I mean this sincerely, the most lies told in a single debate.


He lied about the great economy he created. He lied about the pandemic he botched, and then his biggest lie, he lied about how he had nothing to do with the insurrection in January 6.


SCIUTTO: And, of course, the difference with an ad, frankly, is that many people tune out during campaign ads. I think a lot of us do, but also it was not head-to-head with Trump as the debate was.

I mean, do they expect the ads to make up for the debate?

DOVERE: I mean, look, a lot of people tune out for the debate too, and unfortunately, even though it was the CNN broadcast debate, but I think that what the Biden campaign is hoping for is that people sort of mix up whether which one happened on the debate stage in which one was that. But I clearly if Biden had been acting and had had the energy that he had in that North Carolina rally on the debate stage, it would be a very different thing, people will point out that he had teleprompter is in North Carolina --


DOVERE: -- and that's part of what was going on there that maybe was the difference.

But this is a moment in Joe Biden's life as Joe Biden says, it's 90 minutes to judge him against and the rest of his presidency and the rest of his political career. But that's what happens. He -- it's not like it was news to him that Thursday night was going to be a very, very big deal. And in fact, and indeed, it was and could continue to be no matter what goes on in this campaign.

SCIUTTO: And let's be frank, it wasn't just those 90 minutes, right, because the questions were quite public prior to the debate as well.

Isaac Dovere, thanks so much.

DOVERE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So let's bring in two reporters. He spent a lot of time writing about President Biden and reporting on it, Alex Thompson of "Axios" and Seung Min Kim of "The Associated Press".

Alex, you've been covering not just Biden book concerns, questions about his age for years often to the chagrin of the White House your peace yesterday on the fallout is headline top aides shielded Biden from staff, but couldn't hide the debate.

So I wonder, are there some who saw that debate performance coming? Some insight that the Biden camp?

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, this is what people in the White House are so angry about because there are lots of people in the White House watching that debate and were shocked. And that shock very quickly turned it in -- turned into anger because the feeling is and I don't have any reporting that people observe this behavior before, but I think but I know many people in the White House were like this, couldn't have been the first time that Joe Biden act like this, acted like this in a sustained period.

And that is what has led not just the sadness because of how this could affect the election, but anger at the top inner circle of Biden world and dealing that they may have been keeping information from them, from the public, from other Democrats, and that they let him go onto that stage and humiliate himself, knowing that this was a possibility.

SCIUTTO: Seung Min, there's been a lot of talk about how the Biden team is going to look for indications that this has been damaging following the polling -- I mean, the polling the night of showed that I think two thirds of people saw Trump winning. There has been some polling since then, saw Trump winning that debate, polling sense then that confidence in Biden's mental ability has declined since that the debate it was already low.

But have there been any hard numbers that the team has since the debate to indicate as to whether it had an effect on his support in polling?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They pointed at the public to sort of step polling and sort of the gauging that they did during the debate where they said Donald Trump's weaknesses were all full on display, especially when the conversations about January 6 and his unwillingness to fully sort of accept the results of the election.

But I think the strategy for the Biden camp I paid right now is to stay the course. You know, there are some discussions about perhaps some strategic decisions that would maybe get him out there more, do some more public events, may be subject himself in more interviews and more time with the press.

But in terms of big strategy decisions like that, that's not -- those decisions aren't going to meet until we get more numbers come in, whether it's their internal polling or public polling from news outlets and see exactly how bad the damages. So, initially, you have -- you had a lot of the initial freak out of immediately after the debate. But right now, a lot, you know, his core campaign team as well as members of Congress. A lot of donors as well are in this wait-and- see mode to see how exactly bad the damages before the party kind of chats or charts a new path forward.

SCIUTTO: Alex, a lot of attention in the wake of the debate of commentators, right, calling for Biden to step aside and influential ones. I mean, "The New York Times" editorial. Over the weekend, though, we saw lawmakers step up and continue to back the president.


I want to play some of those comments and get your thoughts.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I'm for Biden-Harris in this campaign.

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): The president has done a really good job and he deserves a second term.

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I'm with Joe Biden.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Joe Biden's decision to go forward is a decision that we will all embrace.

GOV. WES MOORE (D), MARYLAND: I am all in supporting President Biden.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): I'm not so cynical as to believe that the American people are going to choose a president based on a 90-minute debate.


SCIUTTO: I mean, those are consequential voices, right? You got Fetterman from a key state, Pennsylvania. Warnock, he won a swing state last election, Georgia. Wes Moore, rising voice in the party, Clyburn, who, of course, was the one who really brought Biden to the fore in 2020.

Is that lasting, Alex, right? I mean, when I spoke earlier in the hour, there's some sense that well, folks are kind of seeing where things go. But is that just the message for now or are they all in for the long haul?

THOMPSON: It's just a message for now because to Seung Min's point, everyone is waiting to see what this polling is. Does it basically show just maybe one or two point drop? Does it show 10-point drop? And the fact of the matter is that there are tens of millions of people in this country that would vote for Joe Biden at 110 instead of voting for Donald Trump, Donald Trump is the greatest mobilizer of Democrats in Democratic Party history and that could still be enough to win.

Now, the real question is, I think the two things that we're still waiting to see polling, but the other thing is reporting, because as we were discussing earlier, there is some open questions about how severe Joe Biden's sort of maybe cognitive lapses as that like he had in the debate were behind the scenes, and what aides knew. And there, I don't have any reporting to share here, but if there's new reporting, that could actually take us into scandal territory.

SCIUTTO: Seung Min, we talk about numbers, the CBS poll among Democratic, we should note, Democrats, shows a 9 percent drop on the question of whether Biden should run again, 64 percent of Democrats said yes in February. That right after a surprisingly good performance from Democrats in the midterms. Now, it's down to 54 percent.

That is already one indicator there. Of course, it's one poll, but we do know Democratic donors as well are watching the polls before making a determination.

KIM: Right, right, and you're -- the Biden team was contending with the issue that there wasn't an overwhelming confidence from the Democratic base in the first place.


KIM: I mean, we at "The Associated Press" and obviously in other news outlets have done so much polling, have so much have done, have had so many conversations with Democratic voters. I myself had talked to a lot of voters who say, we liked Joe Biden. He is a good man. He has been a good president, but we do not want him to run for a second term.

So this message, they were already contending with a base that was skeptical about Joe Biden, particularly because of its age and particularly because of concerns about his fitness for office and now I have to see their concerns unfurl in plain view in a 90-minute debate, it's a deep, it's for deep concern for the Biden campaign that those numbers are going lower.

SCIUTTO: Indeed. We'll look for more numbers.

Seung Min Kim, Alex Thompson, thanks so much to both you.


SCIUTTO: In other legal news today, former Trump strategist, Steve Bannon, reported to a federal prison in Connecticut today to begin a four-month sentence for defining January 6 Committee subpoenas. The Supreme Court rejected his emergency appeal on Friday to postpone the sentence, while he attempts to appeal his conviction.

Like any inmate entering prison, Bannon was subject to a strip search and a mental health evaluation, but ever defiant, Bannon told CNN, he'll be more powerful while in prison. And have an even bigger impact on Trump's reelection campaign.

Still to come, the far right party leads the first round of France's parliamentary elections, dealing a major blow to President Emmanuel Macron. An update coming up.



SCIUTTO: A week of campaigning and political bargaining has now begun in France ahead of a second round of parliamentary voting. Sunday's first round dealt a major blow. President Emmanuel Macron's Centrist Alliance which slumped to a dismal third place in the polls with just over 20 percent of the vote.

The far right party of Marine Le Pen is leading after the first round, it got more than 33 percent of the vote. The left-wing coalition known as the New Popular Front, came in second. Thousands of protesters gathered in Paris show their opposition to the far right. The second round of voting takes place next Sunday.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins me now from Paris.

Melissa, what happened here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what his many people here in France, the political moderates, the members of Emmanuel Macron's own party scratching their heads over, Jim. This is an election that President Macron did not have to call. It came in the wake of European elections at saw the far right maker historic score. They came first, but these were European elections. There was no need for these parliamentary elections to be called at all.

And yet, one of the lessons from this first round, even as we look ahead to what is likely to be the victory of the far right, whether or not their majority will be absolutely there's no question that they're likely to be the dominating force in the French parliament, often next Sunday's second round.

Even if you leave that aside, what this election has meant for Emmanuel Macron's own centrist party is astonishing, Jim. The first round of voting saw in terms of outright seats, 139 seats won by the coalition that is around the far right. Thirty-two seats won around the coalition, that around the left. At just two seats, one around the Biden coalition that is around Emmanuel Macron's centrist party.

So that this party that was formed, again eight years ago, and it was a political gamble of its own. You brushed aside the traditional right, brushed aside attrition left at a time when the populist wave is sweeping the United States and the United Kingdom as a very different idea of what policies would like progressive multilateral, pro-European, pro-engaging with partners and former alliances.


And eight years on, it is the collapse of his party that we're witnessing, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Next steps now, we have another round on Sunday. What's the most likely end game here?

BELL: So it's very difficult to predict because of the nature of France's political system. But there are some more than 500 seats now up for grabs. Some of them will involve three-way races. Some of them will involve two the way races.

At the end of the day, the polls vary wildly in terms of whether or not the far-right gets that absolute majority. And yet all the poles are pretty clear that that will now be the far right, will be the dominant force in the French parliament. And that is a significant shift I think Marine Le Pen has been credited with detoxifying the party, but remember that for a long time, this was a party considered so extreme as to be fringe and whenever it came close to power in the shape of the second round of French presidential elections, there was a huge outcry that had gotten so far. Here it is now center stage or France's political landscape, and that is something that no one could have predicted three weeks ago before these election, a European elections led Emmanuel Macron to call for this dissolution of parliament, still a perplexing, a call for many who have been watching from within his own party, and there's a great deal of anger that he's done it at all, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sure. And I suppose the open question whether that's detoxifying genuinely or just on the surface. I suppose we'll learn.

Melissa Bell, thanks so much.

When we do come back, more on the Supreme Court's blockbuster ruling on Donald Trump's immunity claim. What it means this year and for presidents going forward.



SCIUTTO: Recapping our top story, the Supreme Court has ruled that former President Trump has immunity from prosecution for all official acts. The ruling means that Trump is entitled to some immunity in the ongoing January 6 case, and it means the trial for those charges likely will not happen -- happen before the November presidential election.

It was a decision once again, six to three on ideological lines.

Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, said the ruling means, quote, the president is not above the law, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor and her dissent warn the impact would be quite the opposite, writing a president is now a king.

CNN's Supreme Court expert Joan Biskupic was in the room when the decision was read. Very few journalists have had the chance to be in the room for these moments. And you've covered this case closely. I mean, the difference of opinion on this case, dramatic, right, diametrically opposed. Sotomayor accused the majority of an atextual, ahistorical, unjustifiable decision here. She said she now for years for democracy. Roberts dismissed that view.

What does this mean for that dynamics on this court?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well actually, there was such a deep bitter split between the left and right on this court. And it played out in this case and I just want to remind you, Jim, of, you know, how past Supreme Courts have normally handled the separation -- these problematic separation of powers cases, they've tried to close ranks and get unanimity.

Back in 1974 with the Richard Nixon case, they bridged their differences to be unanimous back in 1997 with the Bill Clinton case, they do the same here. That doesn't even look like it was ever possible.

And the divisions that you've just spoke of, you know, from the writing there, they were so evident in the courtroom. Justice Sotomayor's voice was at times dripping with disdain, as she said, that the majority decision reshapes the institution of the presidency. You know, you quoted the chief saying, no one is above the law, but this ruling does put former President Trump above the law in major ways.


BISKUPIC: It's a very expansive reading of presidential authority and it's a very expansive reading of what would be official acts that president would have taken and be immune for any criminal prosecution for it, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Justice Roberts, who you've covered closely. You've written a book about him.

You know, he famously said, you know, there are no Republican judges, Democratic judges, and you have a lot in the court who will say, and the institutionalists, they don't want to give the impression that you change the bodies and you change the law.


SCIUTTO: But the fact is you've changed the bodies and on everything from abortion to guns, to affirmative action to voting rights now, to immunity, it is a vastly different view of the Constitution, the country, is it not?

BISKUPIC: It is. And even some of the justices themselves have taken to saying more often that the court is looking like all you need to do is change the personnel and you change the law. And there's no getting around the fact that the six justices in the majority here, were all appointed by the Republican president. They're all conservatives and the three justices who dissented are all liberals who are appointed by Democratic presidents, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear to, right --


SCIUTTO: It's not -- and you know this way better than me, that precedent over decades, right, was changed in that -- I mean, it's not like it's the first time the court because dealt with these immunity for sure, but, you know, the portion decisions, affirmative action, the Chevron decision on government regulation, right? I mean, they're overturning the decisions and the wisdom and the judgment, are they not of judges over many, many years?

BISKUPIC: Oh, yeah, precedent from the 1970s has been falling like dominos, and I have to say, even though in this case, there was no, you know, major precedent on the question of whether former president could be shielded from criminal liability. There had been precedent dating back to the 1980s that set a precedent would be shielded from civil fines, civil liability.

But in that case, Jim, the justices really spoke specifically about civil liability and left for another day, criminal liability in today as the Chief Justice John Roberts relied on that ruling back in the '80s to say, now a president and can be immune from criminal liability. Justice Sotomayor said, no, none of the justices wrote that decision back in the '80s thought that it could be expanded the way you do today.


SCIUTTO: Yeah, and listen, it's not like it's a total hypothetical here, right? Because we have a president who's been indicted by grand juries multiple times for allegedly illegal activity. But those prosecutions unlikely to happen this year.

BISKUPIC: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Joan Biskupic, thanks so much.

BISKUPIC: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Still to come on, an entirely different topic. Simone Biles, she's back. The superstar gymnast booked her ticket to the Paris Olympics with a big win at U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials.


SCIUTTO: Simone Biles will officially become the fourth American woman gymnast to compete in three Olympic Games after placing first in the all-round competition at the 2024 U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials just over the weekend.

The reigning world champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist clenched a spot on Team USA after posting the top score. Biles delivered a strong performance during a vault routine despite a shaky, uneven bars. Biles received a standing ovation after a dazzling floor routine.

Let's see it there.

CNN's Don Riddell is following all this.

Don, big come back for Simone, memorably withdrew from the 2020 Tokyo Games.

DON RIDDELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, just a huge comeback, and what a huge accomplishment, just the fact that she's going to her third Olympics, as you say, only the fourth American woman to do so. A reminder that gymnastics is a young sport, and it's a sport for really, really young athlete.

She's 27, which, of course, is such a young age for most people. But in gymnastics is not and Simone Biles is still bringing it.

And given everything that she's been through a lot of us remember what happened in Tokyo three years ago where she got the twisties, which was an incredibly dangerous mental health situation for a gymnast to be suffering. She could have been seriously injured with that. You mentioned she pulled out of a number of events in Tokyo. And we all wondered if she'd ever be back competing at this level on this kind of stage again.


And here she is, she says that she sees a therapist religiously every Thursday, and that is one of the reasons why she's back competing like this and, of course, she must be such a big hope for more gold medals in Paris in just a few weeks time.

And talking about the therapy aspect, because mental health is so important and all sports now, the U.S. gymnastics team actually brought their own therapy dog, their own emotional support dog to this event over the weekend in Minneapolis. That's Suni Lee with Beacon, the four-year-old Golden Retriever who was there offering belly rubs and links to anybody that needed it.

And based on the photos that we've seen, in the video footage that we've seen, these gymnasts absolutely loved it. U.S. gymnastics has been known in the past for its toxic culture. I think they're trying to move on from that and do something to be more supportive of their athletes. Beacon doing his bit behind the scenes.

Apparently, he was exhausted afterwards having to absorb all that stress from so many athletes for the whole weekend. But a great, great weekend for the U.S. gymnastics team, all of them heading to Paris with high hopes.

SCIUTTO: Well, of course, it would have to be a Golden Retriever. We have a Golden Retriever at home. And if I was going to pick one for that task, it would be exactly a Golden.

RIDDELL: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Don Riddell, thanks so much.

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