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Nikki Haley to Announce 2024 Presidential Run; Police Seek Motive in Michigan State University Killings; Special Counsel Alleges Crime to Compel Trump Lawyer Testimony. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 15, 2023 - 11:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and watching around the world. I'm Jake Tapper.

The race for the White House takes a big step forward in just moments. Nikki Haley will formally kick off her presidential campaign in Charleston. The former South Carolina governor and former United Nations ambassador will become the first major Republican candidate to challenge Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The announcement comes exactly three months after her former boss launched his own campaign. Haley did not mention Trump by name in her launch video yesterday. But she is calling for a, quote, "new generation of leadership" and she pointed out the Republicans have lost, lost in the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections.

That includes Donald Trump losing the popular vote twice. Today's announcement gives Haley a head start over what promises to be a crowded Republican field with big names such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence, also expect to join the race.

Let's begin our coverage now with Kylie Atwood. She's live in Charleston for us, where Haley will soon take the stage.

Kylie, what are we expected to hear from Haley as a message of her campaign?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think Nikki Haley views this as a speech to introduce herself to the American people for the first time as a presidential candidate.

She's going to focus on her biography, the fact she grew up as an immigrant child. Her parents emigrated to the United States from India. She grew up in a situation where she did face challenges because she wasn't Black; she wasn't white, she was different, in her words, in a video put out yesterday.

She'll also talk about her time leading this state of South Carolina as the first female governor, two-time governor in this state, what she did to bring people together after that awful shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME Church that happened in 2014 while she was governor. That's just blocks from here.

Then she will also likely talk about her time as ambassador to the United Nations and I'm told that, in the context of having worked with Trump in the Trump administration, she will raise the former president.

But what she's not expected to do is really take him on or criticize him in this speech. That is in line with what we've seen from her in recent comments, where she's talked about the need for a new generation of the Republican Party.

Essentially saying it's time to move on from Trump without mentioning Trump by name and saying that she's the one who is best positioned to be that new leader but trying not to alienate, you know, Trump supporters here.

We're seeing that from some other folks who are potentially hopping into this race as well. One thing I want to note, Jake, is I spoke with someone who will be on stage introducing Nikki Haley today, Cindy Warmbier.

She's the mother of Otto Warmbier, who was an American detained in North Korea. He died just days after he was released. Cindy Warmbier has developed a close personal relationship with Nikki Haley. And she says that Nikki Haley is the one who gave her strength to stand up to the North Korean regime after that awful death of her son -- Jake.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Kylie Atwood, we'll come back to you. Stay right there.

By becoming the first major Republican challenger to Donald Trump, Nikki Haley hopes to boost her standing within the party. Recent national polls show registered Republican voters favoring Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis. John King is at the Magic Wall now with a look at the race and the challenge facing Nikki Haley and any other Republican, other than DeSantis and Trump.

Tell us what you see in the poll numbers here.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You see she starts with a very steep hill ahead of her. But nobody votes for nearly a year. So consider these numbers the baseline.

Nikki Haley gets in. Politicians love to say this is a marathon, not a sprint. When they have a big mara, some runners start way in the back of the pack. That's where she starts the marathon.

Ron DeSantis 33 -- this is a Monmouth University poll from a couple weeks ago. DeSantis and Trump tied at the top; Pence, Haley and Pompeo all in low single digits, all served with Donald Trump.

Here's the challenge, can you make up that ground?

Is it possible? Of course. The Iowa caucus is the first vote, almost a year away from now. Here's one thing that works in Ambassador or Governor Haley's favor. Republicans think highly of her; 47 percent of Republicans in that poll have a favorable opinion. Only 11 percent view her unfavorably; 22 percent have no opinion; 19 percent haven't heard of her.


KING: So she opens really with either a decent favorable rating -- almost half of Republicans view her favorably. And the rest are more open minded. Only 11 percent unfavorable.

So she has a blank slate almost, a good slate to fill in if she can get momentum in the campaign.

Still the biggest challenge, Monmouth asked, what about Trump versus Ron DeSantis?

That's the mindset of many Republicans right now, that this is a two- man race. Haley has to change that. Anyone else getting in has to change that. DeSantis actually beats Trump in this hypothetical one on one -- emphasis on hypothetical -- a long way until anybody votes.

But again, here's an opening whether it's Haley or Mike Pompeo or somebody else to get into the race, half of Republicans, 49 percent, in this recent -- this is a "Washington Post"/ABC poll -- say they want somebody else.

We don't want Donald Trump again. And that's today. Think of all the legal, other political issues around Donald Trump right now and even now, half of Republicans say let's look for somebody else. Let me flip that coin.

This is Trump's advantage in a crowded field; 44 percent say nominate Trump. If Donald Trump can stay in the high 20s or low 30s or get close to that, there are six or eight other candidates, winner take all rules in the Republican primaries, that's the challenge.

Trump is weakened but not weak. I want to show you this number.

People say what do you care about what Democrats think of Joe Biden on this day?

But nearly six in 10 Democrats want somebody other than Joe Biden right now.

Why do I point that out?

Democrats want someone other than Biden. A lot of Republicans want somebody other than Trump. If there's an opening for somebody like Haley, Jake, as she gets in from a low positive, it does seem across the American electorate, all voters are at least open to the idea of somebody new, somebody fresh.

The question is, can she start today from a very low position and make that progress?

That's the challenge.

TAPPER: It's a challenge but there's a lot of time. John, come over and join us. I want to bring in CNN senior political correspondent Abby Phillips and CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN political director David Chalian.

Also with us CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover and CNN senior political commentator Scott Jennings.

Abby, let me start with you.

Do you think that, by being the first major Republican candidate to jump in and challenge Donald Trump, that gives Nikki Haley any sort of advantage that, you know, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, will not get?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think she gets some free air time for a little while, maybe even a few weeks. Think about the way they rolled this out this week. A video yesterday, an announcement today. They're trying to maximize what, in the business, they call earned media, which is basically being out there and doing something newsworthy and having folks cover it.

As soon as other people start getting in the race, that's going to change. And look, I think Nikki Haley is aware that she is, as John put it, starting from the back of the pack in this marathon.

And the idea here is to get some of this pure coverage that is just solely focused on her, her biography, her story, which they think is one of her biggest strong suits. And that may be enough to help her with the fundraising, which might be the next biggest hurdle that she has.

She has to have money to run this thing. Right now, she's running against Trump, who has a massive war chest by comparison. And she has a long way to go to catch up.

TAPPER: Let's go to the two Republicans on our panel to see what they want as Republicans, who, I believe are open-minded in having a nominee other than Donald Trump.

Scott Jennings, let me start with you.

What do you want to hear from Nikki Haley today?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I want to hear how she's going to differentiate herself from Trump but also the rest of the crowd.

The challenge for Haley and really the challenge for all these people who don't hold an office or have a platform, how do you prove to the average Republican voter that you don't just understand sort of the things that Republicans are worried about but that you have been fighting against them, that you've been doing something about it? This is where DeSantis has got an huge advantage, starting with COVID and up through these other issues he's been dealing with in Florida, whether it's Disney, the college board, you name it.

He actually can say, I have been listening to people complaining but I'm the one doing something about it.

Haley's video that she launched, which was a nice video, it's her sort of reciting what everyone is worried about. So I want to hear how she's going to try to make that connection with Republicans. And I'm not just a complainer, I'm a fighter.

That's really, to win a Republican primary right now, that's what you have to do. Prove to the voters you will fight and not back down.

TAPPER: And Margaret Hoover, one of the interesting ideas here is that Haley was a member of the Trump administration. So she has one foot in and one foot out, as somebody who is trying to distinguish herself as not Trump, saying she stands up to bullies, et cetera.

What do you want to hear from her today?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, she should do exactly what Scott said, distinguish herself, differentiate herself and then try to own the non-Trump lane without alienating all of the Trump supporters.

She alone is uniquely positioned to be able to do this. Just bear with me, Jake. Think about the number of cabinet members that were part of the Trump administration that Donald Trump fired by tweet.


HOOVER: That left in disgrace, that left with the base, loving them at first and then hating them at the end, really disliking their disloyalty to Trump.

Nikki Haley is the only member of Trump's cabinet who left on her own terms, in her own time. She will rely on her biography over and over again and remind people she has always exceeded expectations.

That is the subtext of everything she's going to share about her biography.

And the catch and the question is, will she be able to walk that line of being able -- there are some people who will always be for Trump and never be for her.

Will she be able to win over the moderate edge of the Trump support and then solidify the support in the rest of the party?

And there's room for that for sure.

TAPPER: Dana, in her campaign video, Nikki Haley did not mention Trump by name but pointed out Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the eight last presidential elections, including two Donald Trump popular vote losses.

And she said now is the time for a new generation of leaders. Another not so subtle reference to the man in his late 70s, the only other declared major Republican nominee. Take a listen.



HALEY (voice-over): The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again. It's time for a new generation of leadership, to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose.


TAPPER: Nikki Haley is 51 years old.

How well do you think she is doing at what Margaret said, distinguishing herself from Trump without alienating his base?



BASH: -- it's the ultimate challenge in the Republican Party as the party tries to figure out if it is ready to move beyond Donald Trump or not.

And if so, who is going to do it?

Is it somebody who is kind of in the middle?

People who are very much anti-Trump say that she's just wishy-washy on it and is not strong enough on it. But maybe she's got the magic sauce there.

What I also want to point out is that, as part of her biography and everything else, this maybe goes without saying but she's a woman. And it's likely that there might not be another woman in the Republican primary race.

Liz Cheney, we'll see; Kristi Noem of South Dakota, we'll see. But the fact that she is the first person getting out after -- getting in there, I should say -- after Donald Trump and is not just a woman of color but probably the only female generational, in every way she looks and is different from the other men, white men, unless Tim Scott gets in.

TAPPER: And David, that's not a small point. Republican strategists will say, off the record, acknowledge, although it's getting better but that Republican base voters often have trouble voting for women candidates. Again, that's improving but it's not quite where it needs to be. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN HOST: Yes. As Dana is saying, the very embodiment

of looking at Nikki Haley on the stage tonight and what she represents, a woman, a woman of color, the daughter of immigrants, the whole story, the executive of the state, what she's going to try to portray is lean into all of that in an attempt to widen and broaden the Republican brand appeal nationally.

I always look for something, Jake, on announcement day, which is, when you watch the speech, think, is this candidate going to give the same speech at the convention, on the eve of the general election?

Because we have found that the most successful presidential candidates are ones that can run on a consistent message, from their first day all the way through the tape at the end of the election.

So watch how she navigates the red meat part, where she has to throw some stuff out there for the base and keep them enthused and engaged, but also in really reaching out, thinking about the general election audience this far in advance, even though the primary comes first.

Can she frame a message that can be consistent all the way through?

That's something to watch for.

TAPPER: And John King, Nikki Haley so far has avoided any serious criticism from Donald Trump except for the fact that she had previously said she wouldn't run if he was running. She obviously has gone back against that. But Donald Trump runs a fairly brutal smear machine.

KING: Yes, he does.

TAPPER: That does not rely upon facts or even basic standards of decency. Nikki Haley has been through a lot. South Carolina is a rough and tumble state. But I suspect they're girding for some really ugly attacks from the Trump people.

KING: And so one of the advantages of getting in, if you test him early on and if he directs the ire at her -- again, Donald Trump has a problem with strong women. We just watched it play out throughout his career.

So it could actually, if she handles it right, turn out to be an asset and get her more of that attention Abby's talking about. You get in early and -- his only statement so far to Kaitlan Collins was, I wish her well. That won't last very long.

So she -- but to me, the big challenge here is she has a message question and then a map question. The message question is, and Margaret Scott can understand this better, we don't know what the Republican presidential electorate looks like.


KING: Because Donald Trump ran in 2016, eviscerated a field of incredibly accomplished politicians. You might not like them, watching at home, but people with elected experience, 144 years of total elected experience, people that had won elections.

Donald Trump wiped them all out, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, the list goes on.

But what does the Republican presidential primary electorate want?

He was unopposed in 2020. We got a little taste of what the Republican primary electorate wanted in 2022.

But is that the same?

So can Nikki Haley create a lane, number one?

And then number two, the map. Iowa, can she survive Iowa?

Then you go to New Hampshire, the Republican governor might run there. Then you get to her state, South Carolina. If she's viable, the map might help her.

TAPPER: We'll bring you Nikki Haley's remarks when she speaks.

In the meantime, police are searching for a motive in that horrific mass shooting that killed three Michigan State University students and wounded others. Authorities say the gunman had a note threatening more schools. We'll have details on a live report. That's next.





TAPPER: We're learning new details on the mass shooting that killed three students at Michigan State University. Authorities are identifying the victims as 20-year-old Brian Fraser, 19-year-old Arielle Anderson and 20-year-old Alexandria Verner.

Investigators are learning a lot more about the man who carried out this horrific carnage. Adrienne Broaddus is live in East Lansing, Michigan.

What can you tell us?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we are learning not only about those who were killed in this shooting here Monday night but we also learned the name of one of the five that was critically injured.

She is from southwest Florida and a student here at MSU. Her family identifying her as Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez. Her family says they are happy she is still with them; however, her road to recovery will be significant, saying it will take months and she will need extensive rehab.

Meanwhile, as far as the victims whose lives ended here on campus, you mentioned Arielle Anderson. Her family affectionately called her Ari. She was studying to become a doctor.

There were two other students, Alexandria Verner and Brian Fraser. Fraser was the president of his fraternity here on campus. And Verner was a star athlete in high school.

The question on the mind of everyone is, why, Jake, this happened?

We may never know the why. Investigators still do not have the motive. They say that 43-year old had no ties, no connection to MSU. And his father told CNN, about two years ago, he noticed his son starting to change following the death of his mother. He said his son became isolated, bitter and what he described as "evil angry." Jake.

TAPPER: Adrienne Broaddus, thank you so much.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration is facing a lot of tough questions from senators on Capitol Hill right now.

Billy Nolen said new procedures are being implemented to avoid a repeat of the outage that caused flights to be halted across the U.S. last month. Gabe Cohen is following this.

What else did the FAA administrator have to say?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The focus of the hearing so far has really been on that NOTAMs system that failed, which led to the first national ground stop since 9/11. And it was caused by human error, by someone accidentally deleting files during system maintenance.

So the FAA's acting administrator has really been pushed on that, on why there isn't more redundancy and why the agency, why the FAA, hasn't actually modernized their system to this point, despite years of funding.

Now he has said they expect -- the FAA expects to transition to a new system, a much more moderate system, by 2025. And in the meantime they have put some safeguards in place to try to prevent another one of these meltdowns, another national ground stop potentially.

And as you mentioned, there's also these safety issues that are on the table that are being discussed, two near collisions at JFK and Austin and now this recent incident we learned about this week of a United 777 flight plunging toward the ocean just after takeoff from Maui.

We still don't know why the pilots went into that dive. The FAA hasn't said. So take a listen to their acting administrator respond to some pointed questions about safety.


BILLY NOLEN, ACTING FAA ADMINISTRATOR: Overall, I have a good sense about where we are.

Can I say to the American public that we are safe?

The answer is that we are. Is the question is, can we better, be better?

The answer is absolutely. And that's the piece we're working on.


COHEN: And a big part of that, Nolen says, is a new, sweeping safety review that FAA is going to be doing, including a summit next month, with partners from across the aviation industry, Jake. And they want to figure out how many more of these incidents like the 777 scare are happening.

TAPPER: All right, Gabe Cohen, thanks so much.

Sources are telling CNN now that federal prosecutors investigating Donald Trump's handling of classified documents are asking a court to force his attorney to provide additional testimony.

Prosecutors now say in a filing that one of Donald Trump's attorneys helped him commit a crime. Paula Reid is live in Washington.

This is the most aggressive move yet by a very aggressive special counsel, Jack Smith.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Very aggressive, indeed, Jake. This is just one of the many steps we've seen him take in just really the past few weeks even.

Previously the Justice Department had raised the possibility of criminal conduct; that's how they got the search warrant from Mar-a- Lago over the summer. But this is the first time we've seen special counsel Jack Smith raise the possibility of criminal conduct.

Here, one of Trump's attorneys -- we know three attorneys of his has that have gone before the grand jury -- Adam Corcoran, he went before the grand jury and he invoked executive privilege several times when he was asked about the events leading up to that search of Mar-a-Lago.

Of course it is absolutely his right to insert (sic) that privilege into any potential testimony, as any good attorney would be expected to do. But now prosecutors are asking the court to invoke one of the few exceptions to attorney-client privilege by raising the idea that Corcoran was used -- or his advice was used -- in furtherance of a crime by the former president.

Now it is unclear if this will ultimately be successful but it will be really interesting to see. And Jake, as we know, it's never good when your lawyers need lawyers. And this is one of several Trump attorneys, who have gone before the same special counsel grand jury.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Senators will get a classified briefing this afternoon on China after the U.S. military shot down the Chinese spy balloon two weeks ago off the coast of South Carolina. Since then, of course, the United States has shot down several other unidentified aerial phenomena.

Lauren Fox is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, there has also been a bipartisan resolution introduced to condemn the Chinese government. Tell us more.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean that bipartisan resolution by Jon Tester and Susan Collins, both condemns China for this surveillance balloon that was shot down two weeks ago as well as urges the Biden administration to give them more information about what they know when they do know it.

The briefing today is going to be a broader briefing on the U.S.-China relationship.

And according to the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, in his notice he sent out to senators, Pentagon officials are going to be giving more insight into the surveillance capabilities as well as the research and development and weapons capabilities of the Chinese government in today's briefing, Jake.

But this comes after another classified briefing yesterday, where senators grilled officials about what they knew and what they did not know about those aerial objects shot down over the weekend. Still a lot of unknown questions to be answered.

Expect that senators are going to be digging in today, when Pentagon officials sit down with them to give them the broader context on the U.S.-China relations.

TAPPER: All right, Lauren Fox, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Nikki Haley is about to make her first appearance as a presidential candidate. You see there, Cindy Warmbier speaking right now, who credits Haley with giving her the strength to continue fighting against the North Korean regime after the death of her 22-year-old son, Otto, a former North Korean prisoner.

Nikki Haley, of course, also thrust into the national spotlight after ordering the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capital after a horrific massacre in her state. We'll discuss her record next. Stay with us.