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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX); With Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD); Interview With Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 21, 2024 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): On trial. Opening statements are expected tomorrow in the criminal trial of former President Trump.


BASH: With the case in the hands of the justice system, will he accept the results?

Trump supporter and potential V.P. pick South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem joins me exclusively next.

And head to head. While Trump's on trial, President Joe Biden is ramping up his campaign travel.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In Scranton and all across the country.

BASH: As he faces a rising third-party challenge, can he expand the map this fall?

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): The stakes couldn't be higher.

BASH: Fresh off the campaign trail for Biden, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is coming up.

Plus: taking a stand. After a tortured journey through Congress, the House passes aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is passed.

BASH: Now can Speaker Mike Johnson keep his job? Our panel of experts are here to discuss.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is in session.

We begin this week with Donald Trump adjusting to an unprecedented challenge. Tomorrow, lawyers in the first criminal case against a former president are expected to give opening statements in New York, arguing over the charges that Trump falsified business records to cover up hush money payments to an adult film actress just before the 2016 election.

Trump denies the charges. He finds himself in the extraordinary position of spending four days a week in court, instead of on the campaign trail, being criticized on the stand without being able to interrupt, while his opponent, President Biden, visits key swing states.

Last night, Trump's first planned rally since the case began was called off due to bad weather. So the next time Americans will likely hear from him is likely right outside a courtroom.

Here with me now is a longtime Donald Trump supporter and potential vice presidential pick, South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us. I should say, you have a new book coming out on May 7. That is called "No Going Back."


BASH: Governor, I want to start with the opening arguments, which are expected to begin tomorrow.

The defense and prosecution went back and forth all week weeding out jurors. Now this case is in the hands of the justice system. Should Donald Trump accept whatever verdict the jury renders in this case?

NOEM: Well, my hope is that all Americans can trust our judicial system, and that's really what this case will prove out.

I think it's a little ridiculous that they have waited years to bring these types of charges against Donald Trump. If they wanted to make these kinds of charges against him, they should have done it years ago, when this happened. To do it conveniently during a presidential election, when he's campaigning to return to the White House, I think it proves that this is all politically motivated.

It's the way that Democrats are fighting these days, is using the judicial system and activist judges to do so. My hope is that the people and the jury will do what is right and hear the evidence and see clearly that this is an unprecedented trial, but it's unprecedented in how ridiculous it is.

BASH: Well, this -- these allegations happened when he was president. That is, in part, for the prosecutors, why they say that he -- excuse me -- the allegations happened while he was president. He allegedly made the payment while in the Oval Office.

But let's focus on the specifics of the case.


BASH: Prosecutors allege Donald Trump falsified business records to hide hush money payments weeks before the 2016 election. As I mentioned, he violated both state, tax and federal campaign finance laws.

So, are you saying that, even if that's true, he shouldn't have been charged and that he's above the law?

NOEM: What I'm saying is that these prosecutors are using someone as -- whose testimony has been proven to be a liar.

Michael Cohen has lied before Congress multiple times. That's their main witness. I would say that he certainly is not someone who can be trusted to do the right thing during this jury trial. They're also using a woman's testimony who signed a letter saying that this affair did not happen, that she has testified in the past that this never occurred.

And so now they're going forward with a case built on that and saying that, because Donald Trump paid his legal bills, that now he can be prosecuted for something that even the person that alleged it happened is saying did not happen.


So, that's the -- that's what is so shocking to me, I guess, Dana, is that when I'm walking around this state and talking to people, talking to people across the country, they don't even know which trial this is. They're like, I don't remember which one this isn't about. Is this the one they're coming after him for this or this?

What they really care about is that they're trying to figure out how to pay their gas bill. They're trying to figure out how to pay their electricity and put food on the table for their kids. And they want a president back in the White House that puts America first...

BASH: Yes.

NOEM: ... that decides that Americans should be a priority and not let an invasion like we have happening at the southern border continue to happen, that they really care about the citizens that are here in the United States.

BASH: Governor, I just want to push on this question of what actually happened, because Donald Trump himself acknowledged in 2018 that he authorized payments to Stormy Daniels and reimbursed Michael Cohen.

We actually have the reimbursement checks to Cohen signed by Donald Trump. So those are the facts. Are you comfortable with this?

NOEM: Michael Cohen worked for President Trump. President Trump paid his legal fees. He paid his -- Michael Cohen legal fees and bills, and that's what this trial will bring forward, hopefully, is the truth.

What a ridiculous case that this is, and that it's based on the narrative today that is coming from a man who has proven to be a liar. So I'm hoping that this judge makes the right decision. I'm hoping these jurors can come in and be unbiased, and will let this case go forward in a swift manner that allows President Trump to get back on the campaign trail. Americans deserve to hear from their candidates, and the Democrats and

the activists are using this trial to derail him, to keep him in court, instead of out talking to Americans about what their real concerns are. And their real concerns are their everyday lives. They need a leader in the White House who gets up every day and puts them first and doesn't raise their taxes, doesn't overregulate them...

BASH: Yes.

NOEM: ... take away their freedoms and give all our money to other countries, instead of making sure that we're taking care of America first and keeping us safe and secure.

BASH: I just want to say for the record there's absolutely no evidence that President Biden is involved in this. This is the case that is being brought in the state of New York by the Manhattan DA.

NOEM: And that's what I think is remarkable, is that, if you look at President Biden and what he's done and what his son has done, and the fact that...

BASH: That has nothing...

NOEM: ... they are not being prosecuted for some of their crimes...

BASH: That -- OK, that has -- that has nothing to do with this.

NOEM: ... that they have committed, it's really kind of unprecedented.

BASH: That has nothing to do with this. So, my question is...


NOEM: ... two completely different...


BASH: Yes. And...

NOEM: We have a judicial system right now that's being used against certain members of certain parties, and not against others.

BASH: My other point that I want to make, Governor, is...

NOEM: We appear to have a two -- go ahead, Dana.

BASH: You mentioned that he was paying his legal fees to Michael Cohen.

One of the things that they are going to talk about in this trial is the fact that it wasn't just a retainer. It was actually a payment to Michael Cohen because Michael Cohen put the money out for Stormy Daniels on his own.

But kind of big picture, Governor, if Donald Trump is convicted in this trial, will you still support him in November?

NOEM: If my choice is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, every single day of the week, yes, I will support Donald Trump. I have from the very beginning.

He has been someone that I have supported since 2016 because I recognize that he didn't think he was better than anybody else in this country. He wanted to go run for this office so he could serve the people here and fight for them every single day. And you know what?

He's one of the few...

BASH: It looks like...

NOEM: ... did by outside noise and judicial system and cases and lawsuits that come that are being used to weaponize our judicial system against him.

I'm focused on what he did when he was in the White House. And when he was in the White House, every single day as governor, I got to be on offense. I got to solve problems. And since Joe Biden has been in the White House, I just have to defend the freedoms of my people in South Dakota.

I'm every day trying to push back on what this federal government is trying to do by increasing costs for the everyday families that get up every day and go to work. So, yes, Donald Trump should be back in that White House. I'm going to do all I can to help him win.

And, Dana, I have run 11 campaigns, and I have won them all. I don't know how to lose. So I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I help Donald Trump win again.

BASH: OK, Governor, I want to turn to the issue of abortion.

Donald Trump now says that, even if Congress were able to pass a federal abortion ban, he wouldn't sign it and it should be handled by the states. When you were in the House, you co-sponsored legislation multiple times to ban abortion at the federal level.

Now you also say that it is a state issue. What changed for you?

NOEM: Well, the environment changed when Roe v. Wade was overturned. That returned the power back to the states, which is appropriate. And Donald Trump is exactly right.

Every state's laws will look different based on what the people in those states want to be their law when it comes to abortion. And we should be focusing on these women that are in crisis and they're in unprecedented situations, and they need help and support and all the information that they can possibly have.


So my state's laws may look different than what's going on in California or Arizona or New York. And I think that's entirely appropriate. We -- I may be pro-life, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm a dictator and that I get to decide that.

Donald Trump recognizes the constitutional authority of the states. And I love that. I love that we have somebody running for president who actually follows our Constitution and recognizes, on this issue, that having that decision made at the state level is the appropriate decision.

BASH: After what happened in Arizona, when a civil rights (sic) era law came back and is now the law of the land there, the former President Donald Trump said that state law goes too far.

The state, the law in your state, is similar. It's an abortion ban, including areas where a woman is raped or in times of incest. So do you believe that the law in your state goes too far, just as he said about Arizona? Are you with him on that, or do you think that he's wrong?

NOEM: You know, it's interesting because the law in my state was passed decades before I ever became governor. It was a trigger law that said, when Roe v. Wade became overturned, that this would be the law that would go into place.

So that may be a topic that will continue to be discussed in South Dakota. Our law today allows an exception to save the life of the mother, but the people in South Dakota will decide what their laws look like.

BASH: What do you think it should look like?

NOEM: And I can have an opinion and I can weigh forward and I can look at the science and what we have learned about babies in the womb and believe that we should protect life, but I think that our law today is what South Dakota wants.

And they will continue to have that debate, and I will continue to follow through on my role, which is to make sure the will of the people is enforced.

BASH: Do you think there should be exceptions for rape and incest, for example?

NOEM: And I think that every state's going to look different.

BASH: What do you think?

NOEM: That's what different, Dana, is that I have constantly looked and we rely in South Dakota on the fact that I'm pro-life and we have a law that says that there is an exception for the life of the mother.

And I just don't believe a tragedy should perpetuate another tragedy. I believe in taking care of mothers that are in a crisis situation and that we should be locking alongside them, giving them all the information and the best information they can make before they have to be put in a situation where an abortion is the only option that they have. So I will continue to do that and love mothers and families through

these situations, recognizing that they are often challenging and scary and many times they're feeling very alone. And, in South Dakota, I hope that that's never our story.

BASH: Governor, you are a potential V.P. contender for Donald Trump. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Senator J.D. Vance both have said that, if they had been Donald Trump's vice president on January 6, 2021, they would not have certified the election.

Would you have?

NOEM: Mm-hmm.

I think you can go back and keep talking about January 6, but the fact of the matter is that was a day we hope we never see again here in this country. We did not do justice by our country by showing and fighting over that day.

We should focus on our freedoms and continue to uphold our Constitution. So, talking in hypotheticals is not something that I do. I deal with the reality of what I'm dealing with today and every single day. And what I'm going to do from now on until we get to November continue to go across this country and talk to people about Donald Trump, talk to them about how he's the right man in the White House that will turn this country around and make sure their freedoms are defended.

BASH: So, when Mike Pence said that he talked to lawyers and he felt that he had absolutely no ability to reject the election on January 6, do you think he was wrong when he did that?

NOEM: You know, I wasn't in Mike Pence's shoes. And the information that he had at that time, I don't know how he based his decisions.

I think he's a nice man. I think that he's failed Donald Trump since that day, because he certainly does not recognize that we need someone in the White House who needs him out on the trail advocating for him, instead of constantly criticizing and going back and ripping him apart.

We are running -- this is -- race is about people who love America and people who are trying to destroy America. And Joe Biden is trying to destroy America. I'd encourage Mike Pence and everybody else to get out there and to help Donald Trump get elected, because he is the only person in this race who is going to make sure...

BASH: OK, it looks like we -- it looks like -- Governor, forgive me. Your shot is freezing a little bit.

We definitely got everything in there that you wanted to say. And I don't know if you can hear me now, but I really appreciate you coming on this morning. Thank you so much.

NOEM: OK. Thank you, Dana. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. BASH: And up next: bad news for President Biden in a key swing state

this week. I will ask Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker about the Democrats' third-party threat next.

And the House passed aid for Ukraine finally. Will House Speaker Mike Johnson loses job over it? The latest on that coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

While Donald Trump was in court, you may have missed President Biden blanketing the swing state of Pennsylvania this week. But Biden's path in Michigan got more complicated, as third-party challenger RFK Jr. qualified for the ballot there, as well as in Hawaii.

Here with me now is Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who was in Michigan just yesterday campaigning for President Biden.

Thanks so much for joining me.

Let's start with that RFK Jr. news, that he will officially be on the presidential ballot in Michigan this fall. A new poll shows him getting 9 percent among Michigan voters, and he's polling 20 percent with independence. That's, of course, a state that Joe Biden won by just three points in 2020.


Does Kennedy being on the ballot there pose a real threat to Joe Biden's reelection?

PRITZKER: Well, good morning, Dana.

And I was in Michigan yesterday. And the enthusiasm level among Democrats in Michigan is very high. I was in even a Republican county meeting with the Democratic leadership there, and we had a huge crowd. People really are knocking on doors, talking to people about what's important in this election.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. being on the ballot in Michigan I think is going to have little effect on the ultimate result. People understand that there are really only two candidates that have a path to victory in this country and in Michigan. And, of course, that's Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

And the challenge for people is, you're looking at two very different sets of values. And I think people understand that it's Joe Biden that stands for American values, the values of standing up for your neighbors and your community, of standing up for working families and women's rights.

And the contrast is huge between those two candidates, where Donald Trump wants to take away people's right to get an abortion if they want to, wants to take away people's -- workers' rights, and wants to lower people's wages, and indeed is the one who sent jobs overseas, while Joe Biden is the one who's brought American jobs back to this country.

BASH: But, Governor, you're talking about this as if it's a binary choice. And the whole point in Michigan and perhaps, as we see the other states decide who's going to be on the ballot, other swing states, it's not a binary choice.

And RFK Jr. does provide a third way for people who just don't like what Joe Biden or even Donald Trump, for that matter, but, in this particular case it's Joe Biden I'm asking about, don't like what he's selling.

PRITZKER: I'm not suggesting there aren't other names on the ballot. I'm suggesting simply that, when people go to the ballot box in November, they're going to see that there are really only two choices, because it's throwing away your vote if you're a Democrat and you vote for someone else on the ballot other than Joe Biden.

And I believe that people will see that contrast of values that I'm talking about and understand that they have got to vote for Joe Biden if they want to make sure that the United States does not fall into the hands of someone who is, frankly, a sociopath, that has been indicted 91 times, and is someone who would take this country backward.

BASH: The Democratic Convention is in your hometown of Chicago just four months from now. The divisions in your party over Gaza and other issues are really raw.

And just this week, pro-Palestinian protesters blocked the highway to O'Hare Airport. We saw similar protests in San Francisco and New York. How worried are you that 2024 Chicago, that convention could look a lot like the infamous 1968 one, which, of course, overshadowed what happened inside?

PRITZKER: Well, again, let's start with the stark contrast that people are going to be faced with and just understand that Joe Biden is fighting for peace in the Middle East, is fighting to end the hostilities between Israel and Gaza, and make sure that we're providing humanitarian aid there.

You can imagine the complexities that are faced by this administration in the Middle East with one of our most difficult enemies in Iran firing missiles at Israel and with the challenges that Russia is posing in the Middle East as well.

So, when you think about the protests, it's Joe Biden that's standing for peace, and a lasting piece, at that, and it's the Republicans that, frankly, would stoke the flames of war in the Middle East.

So we did see a protest at O'Hare this week. But I think you should notice that protesters were out and about across the country. And it was in Chicago where they ended that protest soonest. Our Chicago Police Department was able to get those folks off the highway faster than any other city in the United States.

And they're prepared for the Democratic Convention. Look, we believe in free speech, and we're going to allow people to protest and say whatever it is they want to say. But the reality is, we're also going to make sure that people have ingress and egress and that they're safe in our state.

I want to add one thing; 1996 was also a year of a Chicago convention. And it was a terrific convention. It's one of the best conventions. And I have been to every one since I was able to vote. It was one of the best conventions in my lifetime.


So I think we're going to see something more like that. And, of course, we -- in the Democratic Party, we support people's right to protest and have their voices heard.

BASH: Governor, I want to ask about the issue of abortion. You were at a meeting with Vice President Harris earlier this year where you and other governors urged the Biden campaign to focus more aggressively on abortion rights.

Is President Biden specifically being aggressive, aggressive enough on the issue? Do you want him to go even further?

PRITZKER: Well, he's talking about it virtually everywhere he goes. Again, Joe Biden is the one that's going to preserve a woman's right to choose. It was Donald Trump that took that right away from more than half of women across the United States.

So it's the Democratic Party, it's the pro-choice president of the United States that's going to stop the ban that the MAGA Republicans want to put on women's reproductive rights. And he's the one who's going to restore rights to people across the United States.

That freedom is hugely important. It's the Republicans that are trying to take away your right to IVF, that are trying to take away your right to contraception, your right to an abortion. It's Democrats that are standing up for those rights. And I think, again, that contrast is clear to people.

BASH: I want to ask a very different strategy question when it comes to the Biden campaign.

We, of course, have seen the split screen that we're going to continue to see, President Biden campaigning, former President Trump in court. Biden is deliberately avoiding talking about Trump's legal issues on the trail because he doesn't want to play into the claims that he's orchestrating the political prosecution, which I guess I should say again that there's no evidence of.

But just as a political strategic matter, do you think ignoring it is a mistake, or should Biden be reminding voters at every turn that the Republican nominee is currently on -- involved in a criminal trial? He's the defendant. PRITZKER: Well, when your opponent is dropping in the polls, when

your opponent is creating challenges for himself, you don't want to get in the way of that.

So I actually think that the president is handling it perfectly. He is talking about Trump. He's just talking about all of the other things about Donald Trump. People aren't going to want him to be president of the United States for the next four years -- four years, because they saw what he did during the four years when he was president.

And it's -- again, Joe Biden is the one who's created millions and millions of jobs. We lost jobs under Trump. I think those are the kinds of contrasts that Joe Biden ought to be talking about. And let's let the courts have their say about Donald Trump's crimes.

And I don't think that Joe Biden needs to be talking about that, when he can remind people about what's at stake for their future when they go into the ballot box at -- in November.

BASH: Before I let you go, a lot of talk already about whether there will be a debate between the president and the former president. Would you encourage Joe Biden to debate Donald Trump?

PRITZKER: Look, I think we're used to having debates. There's no doubt.

I will say that whenever I look at Donald Trump's debating style, he lies and lies and lies. And it's so hard to respond to that in the middle of a debate. You only have 30 seconds or 60 seconds to respond. Do you talk about what you want to do for the future or do you respond to the lies that have come out of Donald Trump's mouth every minute?

And I -- so I'm concerned about that, just to be honest with you. But I also think that Joe Biden is a terrific debater. He understands the issues. Donald Trump doesn't read, doesn't understand any of these issues. And so he will just prevaricate the entire time, while Joe Biden is actually showing people a great future for the United States.

BASH: Governor Pritzker of Illinois, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.

PRITZKER: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: And up next: Mike Johnson's future as House speaker. Did he call Marjorie Taylor Greene's bluff?

My panel is here to discuss that next.




REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I don't walk around this building being worried about a motion to vacate. I have to do my job. We did. I have done here what I believe to be the right thing, and that is to allow the House to work its will. And as I have said, you do the right thing, and you let the chits fall where they may.


BASH: And fall, they did.

Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

The House adjourned after finally passing a foreign aid package that is now headed to the U.S. Senate.

My panel joins me now. Nice to see you all.

We have a real live actual House Republican congressman here, Tony Gonzales of Texas.


BASH: So you voted yes on the foreign aid package. Do you have confidence that, at this point, given that it is still possible that Marjorie Taylor Greene will push to vacate, to kick him out of the speaker's chair, that he can survive?

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): He will survive.

Look, the House is a rough and rowdy place, but Mike Johnson is going to be just fine. I served 20 years in the military. It's my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags.

Look, Matt Gaetz, he paid minors to have sex with them at drug parties. Bob Good endorsed my opponent, a known neo-Nazi. These people used to walk around with white hoods at night. Now they're walking around with white hoods in the daytime.

I -- look, it didn't surprise me that some of these folks voted against aid to Israel, but I was encouraged to see by a nearly 10-1 mark that Republicans supported our allies on the battlefield.


BASH: Wow. OK.

I should say that the federal government did look did Matt Gaetz and those allegations, and they decided not to prosecute.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I -- well, unlike Joe Biden's poor Uncle Bosie, I think Mike Johnson's going to avoid the cannibals in his own party here.

He stood up to him this weekend and the adults retook control of the U.S. Congress. And I think people got sick and tired -- he's one of them -- of Marjorie Taylor Greene being in charge of their life. And they just finally said no.

And so I think and I hope that the Democrats will continue to stand with Mike Johnson here for a functional Congress. It strikes me Johnson's trying to -- there's a wide middle in this country.

He's trying to drag our politics back into something away from the dysfunctional fringe and back into this wide middle, where Congress can function, parties can have disagreements, but we're not in this constant turmoil. Because someone has a policy disagreement, we're going to toss them out? It's crazy, and it needs to stop.

I wish they had changed your rules. I know he's not going to do it, but maybe he won't have to.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I think he should absolutely get credit for taking a bold position here. I think he probably decided, you know what, this job isn't worth having if I'm not actually doing something.

And so -- and I think it was impressive. And I think the way he laid out a values-driven argument for the aid money, particularly to Ukraine, was very impressive. And he clearly bucked the hard right of his party.


BEDINGFIELD: I'm maybe a little less bullish on the idea that this represents a sea change in how Republicans are going to operate on the Hill.

I think we have seen time and again that, if it requires this level of political courage to get even sort of the most basic, ultimately, bipartisan legislation done, that doesn't bode well for the way Republicans are going to operate moving forward. It's -- requiring people to take this kind of profile in courage moment is generally not the way you get things done.

But I would absolutely say Mike Johnson deserves credit for standing up.

BASH: And if there is a vote, should Democrats back him?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a lot of Democrats will look to keep him because the alternatives just really aren't that great.

I'm -- I'm old enough to remember when Republicans had what they call the Hastert rule, right, where you needed to have the majority of the majority in order to pass any bill. Now it seems that if you want to govern in the country, you have to find a way to work with Democrats if you're in the Republican Party, because there aren't enough Republicans who are willing to do the right thing on these big bills.

BASH: Well...

BEDINGFIELD: In part -- but I would just say, in part, because Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, right?

And so you have the hard right of the party...

JENNINGS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Well, no, no, no, no, no.

BEDINGFIELD: .. taking their cues from Donald Trump. So, until that dynamic changes...


JENNINGS: Mike Johnson went to see Donald Trump. What did Donald Trump say about Ukraine? Their survival is important to the United States. He did not come out against Mike Johnson's plan.

And I think the people who were against Congressman Johnson were sorely disappointed. I mean, I think Donald Trump wants to get to a place where he's president again so he can be part of solving it.

BASH: Can I just bring you in on that? Because I have never heard -- I mean, I have heard you say a lot of things. What you just said at the top of this discussion was intense.

And is it your sense that -- well, I'm just asked from your own opinion and own perspective. You're trying to put them in a box and put them in a corner.

GONZALES: Members -- members are tired. We're exhausted. It has been a brutal Congress. But we're also dug in.

For some reason, these fringe people think as if they have the high ground. They do not. I assure you the rank-and-file members that normally are kind of easy-going, doing the right thing, put their head down, they vote yes or no, but they're not public about it, those days are over.

The fight is here. And this whole pushing -- someone's going to poke you in the chest, the way you take care of a bully is, you bloody their nose. And that's where we're at. We're at a point where we're just trying to govern. And that's what Mike Johnson has done, govern in an honorable way.

You do not leave your allies on the battlefield to bleed out. I know that because I served 20 years in the military and five years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The politics is pretty thick right now, but we have to stand up.

Now, more than ever, I think you're seeing Republicans go, we want to govern.

SIMMONS: That's a big deal.


SIMMONS: Thank you for standing up. Thank you for your service.

GONZALES: Of course.

SIMMONS: And, also, thank you for doing that.

I think this -- we, again, are at a point where the Republicans in the Congress can't be trusted to do the things that are going to actually make the country go well without Democratic help. That says something about the Republican Party today that I think will matter in November, when people go to vote.

BASH: I mean, not to Be Pollyanna, but isn't that kind of the way it's supposed to work?

JENNINGS: Mike Johnson said, I'm going to let the will of the House work. I'm going to let it work its will.

BASH: But I mean bipartisanship.

JENNINGS: The will of the House -- the will of the House was that Republicans and Democrats, just like they are in the country right now, came together and expressed a viewpoint on helping our allies and defeating these dictators and terrorists and thugs around the world.

It worked the way it was supposed to work, and it did it under a Republican speaker.

BASH: OK, everybody, stick...

SIMMONS: Two hundred and ten Democrats, 101 Republicans.


BASH: Everybody, stick around, because we have a lot more to discuss.

One candidate is on trial. The other is on the trail. How that shifting dynamics, so to speak, of the presidential race is affecting what is happening, what could happen at the ballot box. Stay with us.



TRUMP: I'm not in Georgia or Florida or North Carolina campaigning, like I should be.


We're having a hard time with the New York state system. And I'm sitting here for days now, from morning until night, in that freezing room, freezing. This is really a concerted witch-hunt. Very simple.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

That was former President Donald Trump, who is in a courtroom. He was last week. He will be this week.

My panel joins me now.

We saw that Monday -- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. I'm thinking, what is that, "Godfather," Monday, Tuesday. (LAUGHTER)

BASH: You're welcome, Scott.


BASH: Let's talk about the politics of this.

How do you think this plays out, particularly if, at the end, he is convicted?

JENNINGS: This trial seems to be less important to people than the other issues he's facing. It feels that way to me in the polling.

I do think it's kind of confusing. And I also do believe that, because it's happening in New York, Trump's statements about it being politically motivated and so on and so forth are resonant with people. I have always thought the January 6 trial, if it happens, would be more problematic if he is convicted.

It's amazing. Trump is more popular today than he was four years ago. Biden is less popular today. And we know everything there is to know about Donald Trump. And so I guess I'm a little dubious that a conviction here is going to tank him.

I maintain that there will be voters who, if he is convicted in any criminal trial, may hesitate once they get in the ballot box in November. But this one seems to be trivial. It seems to be politically motivated. And I do think what Trump says about it is having an impact on Republicans.

BEDINGFIELD: But I also think any time the backdrop of your campaign is a courtroom, that's not good, right?

I mean, Trump -- we know that this is an argument that -- this argument that this is a witch-hunt has been motivating to the MAGA base. Got it. That is very clear. But we also saw throughout the primary process a not-insignificant number of Republicans refused to vote for him and would vote for Nikki Haley even after she dropped out of the race.

There's clearly some concern about him. And what this does is, it just reminds people of the chaos, particularly for women. For women voters, I think it is more problematic, we have seen, than it is for men. They -- I think they -- sort of generally, this reminds them of how he behaves and how he treats women.

So, I agree it is probably not fatal for him. But it is not helpful. It is not something that is helping him build a broader coalition, is not helping him get stronger with the voters that he needs to win. And it gives Biden the opportunity to do what he did this week, which is to be out campaigning, talking about what he's going to do for people.

GONZALES: It's pretty clear.

Look, in my district, I represent nearly half of the overall southern border. Nobody is asking me about what happened in Donald Trump's trial this week. It is about immigration. And I think this election is going to be about immigration.

And it's really going to be less about Donald Trump and what about, what is Joe Biden doing to secure the border? And, here, look, yesterday, there were 7,000 people that came over illegally, last month, 190,000. We are on pace for 2.5 million people to come into this country illegally.

If Joe Biden doesn't get this under control, he's going to lose the election. And it is spreading. New Mexico -- I'd say New Mexico is in play. New Mexico is getting crushed now more than ever. And if you live along the border, your number one issue is immigration, immigration, immigration.

BASH: And you see the president going to Florida this week, which is a state that they think might not -- might now be in play because of that state's new very restrictive abortion law.

SIMMONS: Listen, that law does not make it any easier for Donald Trump to try to hold on to Florida. Florida is a tough case, but the president's going to make, I think, a very compelling case in the state and the campaign will do a good job in making it competitive, at the very least.

Listen, I think Donald Trump is like that figurine that might have been on your grandmother's like mantle, right? From a distance, it looks really pretty, but the closer you get, you realize kids have been knocking it over for years. It's got a bunch of cracks in it, right?

And I think the closer we get to Donald Trump, we see the cracks that are evident in his candidacy. It's just evident in the fund-raising numbers. He's being outraised by an extraordinary amount. He's being outspent by the president an extraordinary amount.

You look on the ground, everything you need to know to me is being told in this one thing. They had 38 community outreach offices that were supposed to be going after people of color inside these communities. They're now down the seven.

But what they are increasing, 15 states now have election protection directors in those offices because they're focusing on post-election legal strategy. That tells you what you need to know about how they're going to wage this campaign.

BASH: OK, I want to I want to circle back to one of the things I was talking about with Governor Pritzker.

And that is what happened this week in Michigan, RFK Jr. on the ballot in that critical state. He, I mean, kind of tried to blow it off. You're not feeling that.

BEDINGFIELD: Look, I well, I think this is going to be an incredibly close race. And I think every Democrat should be concerned and focused on any potential third-party threat. We've seen historically...

BASH: You think it's a problem?


BEDINGFIELD: I think it is -- I think it would be foolish for the Democrats and for the Biden campaign to not treat it like it's a problem.

I think the good news is, they are. I think they have worked hard to continue to define Robert F. Kennedy Jr. You obviously saw members of the Kennedy family come out this week and endorse Joe Biden. And I think they are continuing to drive a message that a vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not a vote to put him in the White House. It's a vote to put Donald Trump in the White House.

And that's what their educational challenge is going to be. And I think they're on it.

BASH: Final word.

JENNINGS: Michigan -- Michigan's a mess for Joe Biden. Rank-and-file autoworkers are not happy.

They're out there catering to the "Death to America" people in Dearborn. And then you have got this RFK complication. Major mess. I think Trump's winning Michigan right now.

BASH: OK, great conversation. Thank you so much.

Nice to have you here, Congressman.

We will be right back.



BASH: The first former president to face criminal charges. Opening statements in the hush money trial of Donald Trump are expected tomorrow in New York.

Join us for special live coverage. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Fareed Zakaria picks it up next.