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The Lead with Jake Tapper

At Least Four Dead After Earthquake Strikes Japan; Israel's Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Part Of Netanyahu's Judicial Overhaul Plan; Deadly Start To 2024 In Ukraine As Russia Ramps Up Attacks; Trump Expected To Appeal Colorado, Maine Rulings Tomorrow; Two Weeks Until Iowa Caucuses; Danish Queen Will Abdicate Throne After 52-Year Reign. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 01, 2024 - 16:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: A powerful day right off the top of 2024.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Japan rocked by a now deadly 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Aftershocks still going. Passengers are stuck on bullet trains. Homes and businesses crushed. The ongoing threat as video captures the earth's powerful shift.

Plus, a major move by Israel Supreme Court, striking down a contentious law pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, risking even more division in a country at war.

And as we start 2024, some of the 2023 political predictions that were oh so wrong. How's it looking in the New Year?


HUNT: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Kasie Hunt, in for Jake Tapper.

We start today with our world lead, and the damage and destruction after a powerful earthquake rocked Japan, flattening buildings, slicing through highways, and starting fires.

We just learned at least four people were killed when the 7.5 magnitude quake struck western Japan, just hours into the New Year, followed by a series of aftershocks. Now, Japan's weather agency is warning those aftershocks could continue for up to a week.

The earthquake also immediately triggered tsunami warnings along the coast, and residents have been urged to evacuate. Those warnings have now been downgraded, but there is still a tsunami threat. Multiple buildings caught fire or collapsed, including the home that you can see on the upper left of your screen here, reduced to a pile of rubble.

CNN's Hanako Montgomery starts our coverage from Japan, where more than 8,000 military personnel on standby to help with emergency relief efforts. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Frightening scenes as Japan woke up to the New Year. Homes and businesses destroyed by the powerful impact.

This woman, pleading for aid as she's showed the damage to the town.

Please come help us, she says. My city is in a terrible situation.

The epicenter, near Japan and Japan's western coast, causing water levels to surge, and raising fears of a devastating tsunami potentially to come. Authorities issuing immediate warnings and evacuation orders for the areas closest to the shore.

In nearby mountains, tourists rushed outside as the quake struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly, it got pretty strong. You can see all the snow from the electric wires goes down. So everybody was panicked at that time.

MONTGOMERY: Monday's impact rekindling memories of the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan. The 2011 shock which unleashed differently waves and caused a nuclear catastrophe as it impacted the fuchsia nuclear plant. More than 22,000 were killed. Authorities are saying this quake, nothing like that one.

YOSHIMASA HAYASHI, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY (through translator): Beginning with the nuclear power plant closest to the epicenter, there are currently no reported irregularities with nuclear power plants.

MONTGOMERY: The full scale of Monday's powerful quake, still difficult to assess, as thousands were left without water or power. And many remain trapped underneath the rubble.


MONTGOMERY (on camera): Now, this huge earthquake has shocked many people in the country, which was in the middle of celebrating the New Year. The holiday is associated usually with peace, as families get together with their loved ones to celebrate. But festivities were interrupted, because of this massive, 7.5 earthquake, Kasie.

HUNT: Our thanks to Hanako Montgomery for that report.

I want to bring in now, CNN's Marc Stewart.

Marc, you actually have rare access to the fuchsia nuclear plant last year. What has Japan learned since they went to that accident?


Look, there's no question that 2011 was a moment of reckoning for Japan. This is a nation that really prides itself on safety and regulation. Yet, was the backdrop for one of the worst nuclear disasters in history since that time, changes have taken place across the country.


When we were in Fukushima, one thing that struck me was the installation of sea walls. And that's exactly what they are -- giant barriers that are along the Japanese coast, to prevent water from rushing in in the event of a tsunami. In addition, we've heard from the prime minister, who has maintained that the next generation of nuclear plants are safer, and we'll be safer than ever before. There will be reinforcements.

And that's significant because, Kasie, despite everything that has happened in Japan, it is still moving forward on plans to build and to utilize nuclear power. It feels that nuclear power, even though this disaster has occurred, is still very much a part of its green energy future.

HUNT: So, Mark, how did what happened in 2011 change how Japanese families and everyday people viewed the threat from earthquakes?

STEWART: Well, I think if you live in Japan, or even if you visit, immediately, you are aware of this earthquake culture, this need to be prepared. And it's very apparent. For example, I remember lying in bed one morning and my phone went off and I got an alert that an earthquake was imminent. And then moments later, my apartment started to shake. But the technology is that good that individual movement -- slight movements can be detected ahead of time to give people some warning.

If you go to an office or even if you go to Japanese family's home. There's definitely some kind of emergency kit that they have on hand. And then, in addition, in everyday life, if you are on an elevator, for example, there's actually a bench or something that amounts to be a stool that is there, in case people are stuck in an earthquake. It allows people who may be in need, particularly elderly people, to have a place to sit on, and then again, is just a reflection of a culture that this threat of an earthquake is something that people are dealing with every day.

And as such, governments, cities, and many companies have emergency plans in place to execute in the event of a disaster like we are seeing today.

HUNT: All right. Mark Stewart for us, thanks very much for that report.

I want to bring now, Maureen Long. She's a seismologist and the chair of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Yale University. Maureen, thanks so much for being here.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that this region could see aftershocks for months.

What do you expect?

MAUREEN LONG, CHAIR OF EARTH & PLANETARY SCIENCES, YALE UNIVERSITY: That's right. Well, for an earthquake of this size, about a magnitude 7.5, we would, indeed, expect the aftershock sequence to go on for days, weeks, even months. That is the most difficult scenario for this type of earthquake. So, those who are living in this area should absolutely be prepared to experience aftershocks going forward, for weeks or even months.

HUNT: So, what are the odds that one of these aftershocks is a significant event, as a major earthquake?

LONG: Yep, that's a great question. The most typical scenario for this kind of earthquake, often we expect that the largest aftershock is going to be roughly one point down on the magnitude scale. So, for a magnitude 7.5, the most likely scenario is that the largest aftershock might be a magnitude 6.5 or little smaller. And then as you go down in size, we expect to see more and more.

So, already, in the 14 hours since the earthquake happened, we've seen about a dozen aftershocks of magnitude five or greater. The largest aftershock we've seen so far was a magnitude 6.2. Now, there is a small chance, a non-zero chance, that we might actually see an earthquake larger than that unofficial shock. That's not the most likely scenario, but we can't rule it out either.

HUNT: So, Japanese officials canceled the tsunami warnings, but tsunami advisories are still in place. Does that mean people should still be evacuating. And to these aftershocks add to the tsunami danger?

LONG: Yeah, that's a great question. It certainly is the case that people should still be cautious. As you said, aftershocks are still going on. If there is another fairly large earthquake associated, as an aftershock, you know, there may well be the possibility of another tsunami wave being triggered.

The tsunami waves from that magnitude 7.5 main shock have affected the coast. We've seen tsunami waves up to several feet, along that West Coast of Japan. I think the word going forward is to be cautious and be ready to evacuate again if that becomes needed.

HUNT: So, this is what scientists say is a relatively shallow earthquake, about six miles deep. What does that mean? What kind of impact does that have on the scale of the damage?


LONG: You've hit on a great point because the depth of an earthquake has a lot to do with how impactful it's going to be. So, all things being equal, for the same size earthquake, a shallow earthquake is going to be more damaging than a deep earthquake. Some earthquakes happen hundreds of miles down in the earth. This one is very close to the surface, and because it's close to the surface, that means that the people and infrastructure are close to the shaking.

So, in general, shallow earthquakes cause stronger shaking and more damage. They also are the earthquakes that, when they have a happen underwater, have the potential to initiate a tsunami, as we saw today. HUNT: Right. So, when we compare this, I was just talking to Mark

about the 2011 earthquake that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. How does the location of the earthquake play in distinguishing the impact of something like this?

LONG: Yep. There are several factors that affect the impact that earthquake will have. We already talked about the size of the earthquake a little bit. The other big one is location.

So, the biggest difference between this earthquake and the 2011 Japan earthquake is the size. That was a magnitude nine. This was a magnitude 7.5.

So, the 2011 earthquake was more than ten times bigger. That's a big factor. Kind of related to that is the location of the east coast of Japan is located very close to what we call a subduction zone. That's the tectonic setting where we can see those very large earthquakes. And the west coast of Japan, we still see damaging earthquakes, as we saw today, but that area is not prone to those very largest earthquakes, the magnitude nine's, that can be created by a subduction zone.

HUNT: Is there anything we can learn from what happened today about what may happen in the future? Is there anything about this that's predictive?

LONG: I think that anytime we have a large damaging earthquake, there are always lessons for us. And, you know, your reporter was talking about how Japan is a place that has a very high level of earthquake awareness and preparedness. I think that something that we can all take away from this.

That, you know, if you live in earthquake country, in a place that's prone to earthquakes, knowing what to do, knowing that you should drop cover and hold on if you feel earthquake shaking, having a preparedness kit in your house, having an emergency plan, I think events like this always show us that being prepared and being aware helps to deal with natural disasters when they come.

HUNT: Common sense advice is so important.

Maureen Long, thank you very much for being with us today. Happy New Year.

LONG: My pleasure. Happy New Year to you.

HUNT: All right. Coming up here, the legal move that we expect from Donald Trump in the next 24 hours that could have a major impact on his 2024 race for president.

But, first, divisive ruling today by Israel Supreme Court, putting it at odds with the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.


[16:17:01] HUNT: All right. We're back now with our world lead, Israel can soon plunge into a new constitutional and political crisis, on top of its ongoing war with Hamas.

Today, the Israeli Supreme Court narrowly struck down part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's polarizing judicial overhaul plan. The law was recently passed back in July, after months of massive protests in dissent, due to its severe limitations on the Supreme Court's ability to provide oversight of the Israeli government.

Let's get right to Elliott Gotkine who is in Tel Aviv for us.

Elliott, tell us more about this unprecedented ruling.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: So, as you say, it's unprecedented for a couple of reasons. Is the first time all 15 Supreme Court justices have set to hear a case, and it's the first time they have ever struck down a basic law or an amendment to a basic law, and these laws are the closest equivalent that Israel has to a constitution because it doesn't actually have a written constitution. So, that's the significance there.

In terms of the ruling, the 8 to 7 ruling, striking down this law, this part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's flagship judicial overhaul that caused so much controversy in division in Israeli society months upon months of protests, tens of thousands of people taking to the streets on a weekly basis to protest against this government plan, which they said was going to erode democracy.

And broadly speaking, the Supreme Court agrees with that sentiment. First of all, let's talk about what the actual law was that was in question this time. It was the so-called reasonableness bill. The government passed a law saying that the Supreme Court would no longer have the power to strike down government decisions on the grounds of reasonableness.

I'll give you an example. The government wanted a man called Aryeh Deri. He's the leader of the Shas Party, which is in the governing coalition. The government wanted Deri to be a minister. The problem there, he's been convicted three times, most recently of tax fraud. The Supreme Court said, no. It's unreasonable for you to make this minister given his convictions. As a result, he did not become a minister.

So, that's the kind of thing the Supreme Court, with the power to strike down laws, and decisions on the grounds of reasonableness could do. And now, thanks to this decision, the Supreme Court retains that power, Kasie.

HUNT: So, what does this mean for Netanyahu?

GOTKINE: That's an interesting question. We've heard from Yariv Levin, his justice minister, the architect of this judicial overhaul. He said the timing of this decision was the opposite of the kind of unity that is needed right now with Israel's war against Hamas. We've heard from far-right minister national security minister, Itamar

Ben-Gvir, saying that it's illegal, and then it should -- the Supreme Court should not have struck down this law.

We've heard from Benny Gantz, who is now in the war camp, was a member of the opposition, saying this verdict must be respected.

But there's a voice missing here, isn't there? The voice of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has yet to say what he thinks, if he will abide by this decision of the Supreme Court.


Of course, if he doesn't, then we could be on our way to a constitutional crisis.

And when Wolf Blitzer interviewed him earlier in the year in July, early last year, sorry, 1st of January, forgetting that, in July of last year, Netanyahu didn't really give a direct answer, generally answer the question as to whether he would respect this verdict.

For now, to be perfectly honest, I think everyone is focused on this war. So, any divisions that may return to the fold will be for after the war, Kasie.

HUNT: Well, it's only one day to 2024, Elliott, so you are forgiven.

Let me ask you about something else as well because today, a senior U.S. official said that Israel's announcement on a troop drawdown in Gaza means that they're entering a lower intensity phase of the war. What are Israeli officials saying about this?

GOTKINE: So, Kasie, this lower intensity phase of the war is, of course, something the United States has been pushing for. As it seeks to get Israel to ensure that it takes more care, vis-a-vis civilians in the Gaza Strip. Israel is saying that these soldiers, these troops, about 20,000 give or take, are being allowed to return home to their communities, to their families to their jobs, to allow them to recuperate, to refresh, to retrain in some cases. And also, to give a bit of a fuel (ph) to the Israeli economy, which is been suffering as so many key workers have been drawn into this war.

So, maybe we'll see lower intensity in some parts of the Gaza Strip, like the north. But no such luck I think in the rest of the Gaza Strip, where this war remains ongoing until Israel achieved its objectives -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Elliott Gotkine for us in Tel Aviv, thank you very much.

All right. We go now to Ukraine, where the first day of 2024 is a day of mourning. The death toll from Friday's massive Russian air assault climbed to 52. And overnight, a fresh wave of attack drones launched from Russia. Ukraine's army says it intercepted more than 50.

That wave retaliation for Ukrainian strike on the Russian border city of Belgorod over the weekend. That killed 24 people. Both Russian and Ukrainian officials say children were victims of the weekend's retaliatory attacks.

CNN's Clare Sebastian brings us the solemn New Year messages from each country's leader.



CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One gave a detailed account of the war.


SEBASTIAN: The other, never directly mentioned it.

In very different ways, this was two leaders calling on their conflict weary populations to stay the course.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And just like that, December 31st, today, we say we do not know for certain what the New Year will bring us. But this year, we can add, whatever brings, we will be stronger.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have proven more than once that we can solve the most difficult problems and will never back down.

SEBASTIAN: Vladimir Putin's speech was pared back, less than half the length of the previous year. And this time, no assembled company of military serviceman.

Still, it was an opportunity to project strength and confidence as he positions himself for a fifth term as Russian president.

PUTIN (through translator): We were proud of our common achievements, rejoiced as our successors, and we're firm in defending national interest. Our freedom and security, our values, which have been, and remain and unshakable support for us.

SEBASTIAN: And, yet Russia's security has been shaken, increasingly brazen attacks on Russian territory have brought the war closer to home. The year closing with one of the deadliest attacks from Russian civilians yet, and the border region of Belgorod.

And Putin faced one of the most direct threats to his war yet, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's aborted march on Moscow in June. A plane crashed two months later closing that chapter for good.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): We defeated the darkness.

SEBASTIAN: Amidst just stepped up Russian aerial campaign and waning Western weapon supplies, President Zelenskyy stuck to his well-worn tactic of accentuating the positive, including Ukraine taking one small step closer to E.U. membership.

ZELENSKYY (through translator): This process will definitely have a logical conclusion, full-fledged membership in strong Europe, a powerful one from Lisbon to Luhansk.

SEBASTIAN: And yet, this past week has shown Ukraine enters 2024 increasingly vulnerable. That message, even spelled out by Putin in his first appearance of the New Year, promising a group of wounded Russian soldiers the strikes would intensify.


SEBASTIAN (on camera): New Year's Day is a day of mourning in Ukraine for the victims of Friday's attacks. Ukraine may be on the back foot here, but it is very far from bowing out. Zelenskyy promising in his speech, that Ukrainian made weapons would make an even bigger impact this year. The enemy, he said, will feel their wrath -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Our thanks to Clare Sebastian for that report.


Up next here, the court filing expected tomorrow from team Trump, and what it could mean for his 2024 campaign.


HUNT: Former President Donald Trump's dueling legal and campaign calendars top our 2024 lead. Trump's legal team fighting to keep the former president on primary ballots in Colorado and Maine after those states removed him, saying his actions on January 6th violated the 14th Amendment's ban on insurrectionists holding federal office.

Let's bring in CNN's Evan Perez, and Kristen Holmes.

Evan, we expect Trump's legal team is going to appeal these Colorado and Maine decisions as soon as tomorrow.

How do you see this playing out?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we expect now is that this is going to be in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is where I think the former president thinks he's going to win, which is, you know, the idea being that, you know, several states have already reviewed these filings and these challenges and have decided that the 14th Amendment, that section of the 14th Amendment does not quite go as what Colorado Supreme Court and what Maine secretary of state have said.


And so, I think most legal experts believe that the Trump campaign is right, that they will supersede these things. But it will take a while. And you'll see that it will have this effect that is already having. You have other states where these types of challenges or coming up.

Oregon, it's already starting. I think a number of other states you can anticipate, I think you can see already there's a number of states where some of these minor challenges have been filed, but major ones, well founded ones are coming soon.

HUNT: Right, it all makes it clear that the courts can have to weigh in.

Kristen, how are Trump's rivals responding to all of this?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, since the beginning of all, this essentially, unless you're Chris Christie, who has made taking on Donald Trump a core part of his presidency, or's candidacy, none of them are really responding in any kind of real way. But as we've gotten closer and closer to the Iowa caucuses, and we've seen Donald Trump's huge lead, all these candidates kind of scrambling to try to chip away at that margin, we have seen some pushback.

We heard from former Florida Governor Ron DeSantis went after Trump not really only just for his legal issues, but also for the criticism that we have heard from the left and from anti-Trump Republicans that if he were to get back into office, he would be a dictator. So, take a listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not somebody that is confused about how constitutional republic works. As a governor, as a president, I'm not a ruler of the people. I'm a servant of the people.


HOLMES: It's pretty clear, there I think we know it is trying to say. I'm not a ruler. Again, what we've seen in the last couple of weeks, even when we have these kind of pointed attacks, if something else happens like the Colorado Supreme Court ruling, like the secretary of state in Maine, you have all the candidates coming out in rallying behind Donald Trump, which is exactly where he wants them to be.

HUNT: Right. So, there's gong to be plenty of opportunities, it seems for those candidates to rally behind Trump's legal challenges. Because, I mean, look, Kristen and I are going to be out on the campaign trail, or I think we're all gearing up for that. Layered on top of it this time, something very different.

PEREZ: That's insane is how, the collision course between the political calendar, which we knew. That was set in stone. We know in the Iowa caucuses are. We know when Super Tuesday is. We knew -- we knew when people go vote.

What we didn't anticipate, obviously, was how much legal morass the former president was going to be in. And you could see, look at that calendar, with the coalition --

HUNT: More red than yellow, more legal stuff than we've got things.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. That's like a nightmare that right there.

And, look, the former president making the point, that is affecting his ability to campaign. Of course, he's not like the going to the Iowa state fair and kissing babies kind of guy anyway, right? So, you can see at that calendar, you can see how this is going to collide. I think the courts are going to have to bend to that calendar.

HUNT: So, Kristen, let's talk for a second about New Hampshire because I have to say, I'm a little obsessed with it as a potential turning point in this race. We heard from Governor Chris Sununu over the weekend, and he had some tough words for Chris Christie. What did he say?

HOLMES: Well, he's essentially saying, you need to drop out. If you don't, you're helping Donald Trump. So, let's listen to that.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: In fact, the only person wants Chris Christie to stay in the race is Donald Trump. I'm sure that this is a two person race where if Trump can't get 50 percent of the vote, which he cannot in New Hampshire, then he's in trouble. And finally, we can start moving forward as a party bringing everyone together.


HOLMES: Okay, let's talk about why exactly he saying this. Obviously, we know that he supports Nikki Haley. He has endorsed her. The person who has the most to gain from Nikki Haley's gaffe last week is Chris Christie. He has taken every opportunity to hit Nikki Haley. And what we've seen is that Nikki Haley is having a surge in New Hampshire.

Remember, Chris Christie's entire bet is on New Hampshire. He didn't even spend any money in Iowa. This was all about New Hampshire, New Hampshire, New Hampshire. He needs to take Nikki Haley down.

Obviously, the Haley camp knows that Christie is the one who benefits if things go south for her.

HUNT: Indeed, she does.

All right. Kristen Holmes, Evan Perez, thank you guys both very much. Happy New Year.

All right. Look out for two big 2024 events.

On Thursday Night, back to back Republican presidential town halls. First up, at 9:00 Eastern, CNN's Kaitlan Collins with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And then Erin Burnett with former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley. Again, both of those are this Thursday night, right here on CNN.

And then next week, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate the CNN Republican presidential debate. That is next Wednesday. January 10th, just five days before the GOP Iowa caucuses.

All right, next here on THE LEAD, what bad political prediction in 2023 might tell us about campaigns, elections, and legislating in 2024?



HUNT: No holiday for Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. There he is. In desperate need of a campaign boost, the Florida governor said that spent the last hour and a four sports bar in Iowa. Stuck around a bit to watch the Iowa Hawkeye's get absolutely crushed by Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl, 35-0. That's a shame.

Iowa's Republican caucuses, meanwhile, are two weeks from today, and already, predictions about who might come on top starting to roll in. If we've learned anything in the last few election cycles, it should be "predict with caution". Some of the biggest hot take from 2023, for example, turned out to be flat wrong.

Let's bring in former senior director of cabinet affairs in the Obama administration, Nayyera Haq, and Republican strategist Doug Heye.

All right. Guys, thank you so much for being here on this New Year's holiday.

Let's start with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who I know you know, Doug.


On January 7th of last year, McCarthy said he was, quote, 1,000 percent and, quote, confident that he would serve a two-year turn as speaker. He lasted ten months. In October, he said he would not resign. Watch.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I will not resign. I've got a lot of work to do.

REPORTER: You're not resigning?

MCCARTHY: No, I'm not resigning.

REPORTER: So you'll stay the entire term?

MCCARTHY: I'm staying. So don't worry. We got a lot of work to do.

REPORTER: Thinking about running for reelection?


(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: I'm not sure anyone really thought that that was the case at that moment in time. He, of course, projected certainty that turned out to be very uncertain.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, what else was he supposed to say? Other than 1,000 percent. Any number smaller than 100 he should pack his bags immediately. You know, it's about the speculation of somebody go to run for reelection or not.

If they don't say absolutely they are. Everyone else in the district is lining up to beat them. So, that's what you say. Whether that becomes true or not is another thing.

HUNT: It's on you to make a true, right?

HEYE: On the issue of resigning, though, I mean, I can tell you when Eric Cantor lost his primary, his intent that next day was to say he'd serve his term. And the reality was, about six weeks, he left. It was a similar timetable for Kevin McCarthy, because you then move into a new phase.

When you're the speaker, the majority leader, you have two jobs. You're also the member of Congress for your district. It's a very different existence, different offices, smaller office space. In my case, smaller staff I had to go.

So, members then make that decision when they leave leadership.

NAYYERA HAQ, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CABINET AFFAIRS, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Also, the responsibility, he no longer has to deal with of really the Republican conference that exists right now. And so, you can look at and say, of course, he has to say the things that do these things. But 13 multiple round votes to become speaker was not anticipated. Given history and how things typically work.

But the lesson that we're getting from this is, it is actually very predictable that the MAGA wing of the party will absolutely choose to disrupt whatever the process, whatever the issue is. Rather than look for a way to move an agenda forward.

HUNT: I mean, to your -- to your point about not wanting to stick around, Nancy Pelosi, former speaker, still in Congress.

HEYE: And she's the outlier on that, and that's also unprecedented for speakers to do it in that manner, yes.

HAQ: But it's not unprecedented for folks who are aging in office to decide to hold on to office.

HEYE: Absolutely.

HAQ: There is a trend here of folks in their late 70s and 80s --

HEYE: Thad Cochran rule, Tom --

HAQ: -- you know, maybe would not to do it themselves otherwise. HUNT: Not unfair.

All right. Nayyera, let's talk about this one. Karl Rove predicted that President Biden would face a serious primary challenger this year. So, he wrote this, in an op-ed. January 2023, quote, Mr. Biden declares that he's running for reelection. A significant Democrat realizes the danger this represents, and ala Ted Kennedy 1980, runs.

So, the only person we really have challenging Joe Biden is Dean Phillips. That is hardly the Gavin Newsom that might represent something like that.

HAQ: Yeah, what is the danger, right? So, for Karl Rove, the danger might be the what they like to say is sleepy Joe Biden. For most Democrats, the danger would be of weakening Biden's position. The danger would be a Trump presidency, and what that would mean for the long term stability and reputation of American democracy, domestically and abroad.

So, in that context, it's obvious that they would most party Democrats will be looking to keep the field clear. Now, Dean Phillips, you know, he was the former CEO of Talenti and has his own personal ambitions. But we haven't seen anybody, like a Whitmer. Who can bring forward a different type of coalition than Biden try to really make a run for it.

HUNT: What was it that made Rove wrong here, Doug? What happened that kept the people from challenging?

HEYE: I think, one, it was the strength of how Biden operates within his own party. I think that something that gets underestimated. If you look at his polling numbers, they're terrible. It's quite reasonable to think that a Newsom, a Whitmer, somebody else other than Dean Phillips, and let's not forget Marianne Williams, that's easy to do sometimes, would step in.

The reality is the Biden campaign, and the Biden White House, has handled this very skillfully. They have pushed people out. Sort of like Nancy Pelosi. People talk about Tim Ryan, a good example of challenging her. They learn very quickly, you don't do it.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, people like to talk about the Republican Party, and kind of the apples that get thrown there. But let's say -- I mean, the strong arm politics and said that today's Democratic Party are just as intense. They're just not --

HAQ: They have a lot of experience herding cats.

HUNT: So, let's talk about this, Doug, because so many people predicted that the U.S. would end up in a recession in 2023. You had JPMorgan CEO, Jamie Dimon. The Bank of America predicted this. The Fed predicted this.

None of it ever happened. Why?

HEYE: Well, we've had what we would call a soft landing. I think we're starting to determine if the plane is going to land on time. And so forth. What we saw from the data, it holds those more likely than not that we would find a recession.

And then when people who make predictions, I tend to not make them, they look at what's the most likely outcome, they say that's definitely what's going to happen.


So, every football game that we've seen over the past few days, there are six white dudes on a panel, say this is not going to happen. Careful, you might be right.

HAQ: The challenge with the economic piece also, there are things that can be done, using government policy and tools. And that's where the regulations come in. That's for passing legislation, investing in certain sectors of the economy, and by all accounts, Biden has helped increase jobs, consumer confidence has been increasing. Inflation has stalled.

But the prediction of the recession, well wrong, has fed into this idea of the vibes of the economy. That people aren't feeling great about the economy. But the data is all there. And the work that the government, whether it's Democrat or Republican, a government needs to put in work and effort to keep an economy stable.

HUNT: But people are not buying what Biden is selling. Why?

HAQ: The vibes piece of, it I think that gets to all of these indicators, stabilize a broader system. Individual households feel things differently. For example, that idea of the price of eggs, or milk increasing. And you go in your grocery bill is $20 more.

And that doesn't go back down, right? Like gas prices, some things are sticky. The prices stick. And while they're not increasing, that inflation isn't there, people still remember that.

HEYE: The dumbest word we heard on the economy was the word transitory. Inflation is transitory. What people spend isn't. And yes, milk, gas, eggs may go up and down, but what people pay at grocery stores or at restaurants, or at movie theaters, and all those other things, or what they don't spend it on, because they can't afford the financing cars and homes, those prices don't go down.

HUNT: And that money is gone.

HAQ: And one of the things about job numbers, avoid one interesting, if you look under the hood, it's the type of job that people are getting. Many people are still not being placed in the jobs that they're trained for.

HUNT: Right. All right. Happy New Year to both of you.

HEYE: Happy New Year.

HUNT: Thank you very much for being here. We really appreciate it. And look out for a big interview in the political space this week,

Jake Tapper goes one-on-one with House Speaker Mike Johnson. That's going to be Wednesday, right here on THE LEAD.

Up next, caught off guard, the surprise announcement from the queen of Denmark, Europe's longest reigning monarch.



HUNT: 2024 is starting with a royal shake up in Europe, as Denmark prepares for a new king, and a surprise from the queen, announcing she will end her 52 year reign and abdicate the throne to be replaced by her son later this month.

CNN's Max Foster has the story.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new year, a new era for Denmark, and for one of the world's oldest monarchies. Queen Margrethe II will end her reign of more than half a century, a sharp decision delivered in a live address to the Danish people on New Year's Eve.

QUEEN MARGRETHE II, DANISH QUEEN (through translator): I've decided now is the right time, on the 14th of January 2024, 52 years after I succeeded my beloved father, I will step down as queen of Denmark.

FOSTER: Denmark's ruler became Europe's longest reigning monarch after the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth in 2022. Queen Margrethe put the decision down to her fragile health. Recent surgeries on her back have limited her royal duties.

QUEEN MARGRETHER II (through translator): Time takes its toll. The number of ailments increases. One cannot undertake as much as one managed in the past.

FOSTER: That sense of duty won the hearts of the Danish people, and drew comparisons to Queen Elizabeth to whom Margrethe look to for some inspiration. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was quick to praise the only monarch that many Danes will ever have known.

On behalf of the entire population, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to her majesty the queen for her lifelong dedication and tireless efforts for the kingdom, Frederiksen wrote in a statement.

Like other constitutional monarchies, the Danish sovereign stays above politics. But feathers can be ruffled. In 2022, the queen removed the titles of prince and princess from the children of her second son, Prince Joachim. It was an effort to reduce the royal establishment and allow her grandkids more privacy. But Prince Joachim went public with his four children's hurt feelings, and Queen Margrethe later apologized, but did not change her decision.

QUEEN MARGRETHE II: There was more pressure on the young people have today than there were when I was a child.

FOSTER: Margrethe's decision to advocate places the weight of the crown upon her eldest son's head, Prince Frederick, a man equally faithful to the crown, but with a slightly more reserved public persona.

Frederick will rule alongside his Australian born wife, Princess Mary. The royal couple met at a bar in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. Mary Donaldson, a marketing executive from Tasmania, swept into a fairytale.

QUEEN MARGRETHE: I really like her very much indeed. I hope she knows that and feels that.

FOSTER: The new queen won't have far to look for a role model.

Max Foster, CNN.


HUNT: Our thanks to Max for that report.

Here in the States, up next, how a new law on the books today takes on department store toy aisles.



HUNT: Welcome back.

New Year's Day means a host of new laws going into effect, many of them serious. And, of course, there are too many to mention here.

But among our favorites, minimum wage goes up to date in 22 states in Washington, D.C. Other states are raising it later in the year. Under a new retirement laws, some employers can match qualifying student loan payments with a contribution to the employees for the 401K retirement account. Ask your boss about that one.

Illinois is prohibiting book fans in libraries. In California, mom, this one's for you, cursive writing, remember that, has to be taught from first to six grades. California is also requiring gender neutral toy aisles in big department stores. Although additional and separate, boys and girls toy departments are still okay. Happy New Year.

All right, now this, before her slew of NFL game appearances and that midnight kiss with Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift faced a court battle over her hit song, "Shake It Off". Go into the music world and explore that case in a CNN special called "Taking on taylor swift". It airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Happy New Year to all of you. Don't go anywhere. Our coverage continues right now with Brianna Keilar in "THE SITUATION ROOM".