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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Tonight On CNN: DeSantis & Haley Debate One-On-One In Iowa; House Panels Holds First Impeachment Hearing On Mayorkas; Hunter Biden Makes Unexpected Appearance At Contempt Hearing; Charlamagne Tha God: Biden Is A "Sh*tty Elected Official"; Judge: Trump Can't Speak At Closing Arguments In Civil Fraud Trial; Source: Christie To Drop Out Of Presidential Race. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 10, 2024 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: CNN has learned that some of those officials only learned about Hunter Biden's visit to the Capitol in real time as they watched TV coverage of his unexpected move this is according to one senior White House official.

We'll, of course, keep an eye on this story and many others, Hunter Biden's appearance is going to be part of a conversation in the next hour you will want to stay tuned for.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts in just a few seconds. Thanks for joining us today.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: With fewer than five hours out from the CNN Republican presidential debate.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Nikki Haley and Governor Ron DeSantis facing off five days before Iowa voters set the direction of this race. Can either win over the Trump vote or is this a fight for second place?

Plus, chaos on Capitol Hill when Hunter Biden shows up unexpectedly, crashing a hearing on holding him in contempt of Congress.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): You are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the oversight committee, spitting in our face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the gentlelady wants to hear from Hunter Biden we can hear from him right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you should have decorum and courtesy and don't act like a bunch of nimrods.


BROWN: Then another surprise. Hunter Biden abruptly walked out.

And as Donald Trump plans in court again tomorrow, a judge says not so fast on him taking the stand.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown. Jake Tapper is on assignment and that is because it is debate night in America.

Soon, Jake and CNN's Dana Bash will moderate the Republican presidential debate between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Tonight, these two candidates are searching for a breakthrough that could position them to become the one and only viable challenger to Donald Trump, who is the favorite to win his third straight GOP nomination.

DeSantis has consistently poured his campaign resources into Iowa while Haley trails Trump by only seven percentage points in New Hampshire. But in five days, the moment of truth in Iowa's first.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is in Des Moines, Iowa with a look at how Haley and DeSantis are sharpening attacks on each other, and Trump ahead of today's critical debate.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With just five days to go until the Iowa caucuses, the stakes could not be higher.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's going to take a lot of courage.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are able to answer lot of questions from Iowans.

ATWOOD: Tonight, CNN Iowa debate is the first time that Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley will face-off one-on-one. The Republican presidential candidates have been targeting each other for months, both eager to be the last one stating against former President Donald Trump.

Haley's campaign hitting DeSantis with a new digital ad today.

AD ANNOUNCER: Ron DeSantis, losing and lying.

ATWOOD: DeSantis targeting his attacks on Haley last night.

DESANTIS: You have people like Nikki Haley that care more about the Ukraine border than she does a better own border here in the United States.

ATWOOD: As a two rivals trade jabs, they're also ratcheting up their criticism of Trump, the clear front runner in the Republican primary.

DESANTIS: Donald Trump is not willing to sharpen the debate stage. Has he come to communities and answer questions? Has he gone to all 99 counties? Heck, has he gone to nine counties? HALEY: It is time to move past President Trump. We don't need anyone

who's getting in their feelings. We don't need anyone that's getting personal about anything.

ATWOOD: And as Haley gains momentum, particularly in New Hampshire where a CNN poll shows are only seven points behind Trump, the former president is going after her in a more pronounced way.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Nikki would sell you out just like she sold me out.

ATWOOD: The former South Carolina governor has pledged to defend herself against Trump's attacks, but said she plans to keep her criticism focused on policy.

HALEY: For those that want me to hit Trump more, I'm just not going to do it. If he lies about me, I'll call him out on it. I just think politics is personal enough.

ATWOOD: As the candidates deliver their closing arguments, Iowa voters are watching to see how they measure up against each other, and the former president who won't be on stage.

MARK FREIER, UNDECIDED VOTER: I don't think they'll have any choice but to go after each other a little bit to distinguish themselves. Ultimately, they are up against Trump and I think they are going to definitely have to bring his name up and how they differ from Trump as opposed to the other candidates.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now, the last person in that piece was Mark Freier. We spoke with him today, Pam. And he is still undecided. He's picking between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. He says he's not looking for one thing from either of them on the debate stage tonight but he really cares about border security, about immigration.

So, watch to see if either of the candidates say something on that topic that can lure Mark to go out and caucus for them -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Kylie Atwood, thanks and welcome back from maternity leave.


Let's discuss with Republican Congressman Chip Roy of Texas.

Hi, Congressman. Thanks for coming on.

We're going to get to tonight's debate in a moment, but first, there's been a lot of action on Capitol Hill today. Let's start with spending.


BROWN: Conservative GOP hardliners, they staged this. You could call it rebelling on the House floor, taking down a procedural vote to show opposition to that spending deal. How long will conservatives keep the House in a state of paralysis?

ROY: Well, look, this all depends. I mean, I wouldn't call it a state of paralysis. I mean, we're supposed to come up and debate and deliberate and we have --

BROWN: But now, legislation can't move forward because of the --

ROY: Yeah. Well, we're looking for the right legislation to move forward, not just any legislation. And right now, we want to see bills moving for that are actually going to cut spending like we said we would do. At $1.66 trillion monstrosity, that's not what we signed up for.

So, we kind of body-check the conference a little bit and said, hey, let's get back in here, let's get in the room and let's go figure out what we need to do.

Look, we're in general agreement and same page of what we need to do. You have a razor-thin majority. It's tough sledding.

We got to negotiate against the Senate and the White House that has no interest in constraining spending, they have no interest in adhering to the agreement that was bipartisan at 1.59. They want all the special side deals and backroom deals.

So, you know, we want to try to adhere to that and get it done. Cut spending. If we just do a CR for the rest of the year, funding for the rest of this year through September, we will spend at $1.564 trillion, $100 billion less than this. We will restore some order. Defense will be okay, veterans will be okay and we'll reduce the bureaucracy in this country. Most Americans want us to do that.

BROWN: Mike Johnson for his part, he was just on Fox, saying, look, I agree with Chip Roy. I'm not particularly thrilled about this deal, but the bottom line is this is a divided government. As you just said, there's a very slim majority in the House and you got a Democrat- controlled Senate, a Democratic president. This is just what you have to do to get the deal done.

What do you say to that?

ROY: Yeah, I think you should take the House majority for a bit of a spin and go over to Senator Schumer and the president and say, look, I mean, we control the power of the purse, we had an agreement, a bipartisan agreement that was signed, and the president signed into law, puts caps into place, adhere to the caps.

I mean, look, it was by a majority of Republicans and Democrats. So we just adhere to the caps and we'll get to the spending restraint that we should put into place and we can move forward. And I think that's what we have to do.

If they want to shut down the government, that's on them. Look, by the way, this --

BROWN: Well, now, it's on -- it's on -- it's not on them. It's on -- it's on you and the other hard-liners, Republican hard-liners who are saying away.

ROY: Why is it -- why would it be on us? Why would it be on us?

BROWN: Well, Johnson has already announced the top lines for the spending -- potential spending deal with the Democrats. I mean, it's already been --

ROY: Right. Which is a violation of the agreement, so why would be on us? They will be the ones choosing shutdown.

BROWN: Well, they would say -- they would say no. And, by the way, no, this would be G -- this would be on GOP hard-liners if the government shuts down.

ROY: No! Why? Because what we said was there's an agreement from last year. We should stick to it like the whole point here is --


BROWN: Well, and Speaker Johnson would say we are sticking to it and I've got $16 billion in extra spending cuts and $30 billion total from what Democrats wanted initially and we are sticking to the deal that was struck. What do you say to that?

ROY: It's not. It's $1.66 trillion using bunch of side deals and gimmicks to expand the size of the government, well over the omnibus spending bills of last year.

And look, let's be very clear. This is a big give for me to say that I would even sit down to consider that when the Texas border is wide open. I want to see our border secure first.

So for me to sit down and say, look, I'll consider a CR to the end of the year that would adhere to the caps we can govern in this divided government, that's actually a give on my part because Texas is under assault by recalcitrant administration and the secretary of homeland security who was thankfully grilled today by Mark Green for lying to me under oath while people get assaulted in Texas.

BROWN: And we're going to talk more about the border later on but I want to ask before we get to that. You have openly flirted with this idea of making a motion to vacate your new speaker, Mike Johnson, as we talk about. He makes -- if he makes suspended deal that isn't tough enough on the border like what you've laid out. Is his job in jeopardy today?

ROY: And what I've said is that everything is always on the table. I mean, that's the whole point of having rules that he can hold the body to account. Nothing should be off the table.

By the way, as you know, I was not itching to move the motion to vacate in the fall. I was opposed to that move. I didn't agree with it. I don't want to do it here because Mike is a friend. What I want the Republican Conference to do is stand up and fight.

Actually do what we said we would do, and that's what I want to see out of this. And so, look, everything should be on the table today, we took down a rule saying look, guys, let's sit down, do our job and spend it the level we are supposed. The people I represent, they want us to cut spending, secure the border. That's what we need to do.

BROWN: All right. Let's talk about that. Very quickly, I want to ask you about this impeachment hearing today for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border crisis.

ROY: Yeah.

BROWN: You have legal expert Jonathan Turley who has been a GOP witness in the Biden probe, frequently cited by conservatives. He wrote, quote, no current evidence, there's no current evidence that he is corrupt or has competed an impeachable offense. He could be legitimately accused of effectuating open border policy but that is a disagreement a policy that is traced to the president. He also says this could set a dangerous precedent by impeaching cabinet members that you don't like because of policy disagreements.


Are you concerned you're setting a troubling precedent here?

ROY: Yeah, no, first of all, I mean, I'd like to see his specific definition of what rises to the level of impeachment, right? That is something that's debated overtime in memoriam.

The fact is when you violate your oath, when you do not take care to see that the laws are faithfully executed when in fact you have American citizens who are getting harmed, you have people dying from fentanyl poisonings, you have wide open borders that are empowering cartels and empowering China, that is a blatant disregard of his duty.

And important, he did, in fact, lied to me under oath, when I presented with the statute that says you're supposed to maintain operational control of the border. He said one thing to me in the Judiciary Committee, went to another committee and went over the Senate and said totally different things, and that actually matters because he was trying to tell the American people that they were, in fact, having operational control of the border and they didn't.

And he was using the language to try to skirt around it. I pressed him on it. Mark Green did a great job on Homeland Security today demonstrating that, in fact, he did like to us under oath.

BROWN: All right. So, I want to just pick apart a little bit of what you said because some of what you said, DHS has come back and, said, look, no laws have been violated here. You know, this has been a continuum -- continuing issue, fentanyl poisoning coming across the border and so forth, that they say they've done more to combat the fentanyl coming across the border in the last two years in the last five years prior to that. That is what DHS is saying.

And I actually even spoke to a former Trump administration DHS official today who says, look, I don't like the way the borders being run by the Biden administration. I disagree with it. But it would be more productive to work on policy enhancement then waste time with an impeachment. What do you say to that?

ROY: Well, number one, we are working on policy enhancements. That's why we passed HR-2, the best border security bill that we ever passed on the House floor. It is sitting over in the Senate languishing because the Senate Democrats and the president don't want to secure the border.

BROWN: They say they have a supplemental that they have proposed more funding for border patrol agents and so forth.

ROY: They want more funding so they can process more people. They don't actually have the laws in place that would allow us to actually secure the border. And in fact, we do have laws in place right now which they are blatantly ignoring. And the fact of the matter is that --

BROWN: Of course, the White House says no laws are being, or this is about policy disagreements. I want to make sure we --

ROY: Yeah. I tell you what, I tell you what, I will send you the Secure Fence Act chart that I put in front of Alejandro Mayorkas, you read it and tell me if they're violating the laws. It is plain black letter text and he's violating the law.

And by the way, about fentanyl, six kids in the school district in which my family resides died from fentanyl poisoning last year. So, for those who are saying, look at us, we are doing so much better --


BROWN: And no one said -- no one says that it's still not an issue. That's not certainly what the White House said.

ROY: They come down -- I want Alejandro Mayorkas to come down and talk to my kid -- the parents of those children and looked him in the eye and, say I'm doing everything I can to stop fentanyl pouring into the communities that are killing Texans.

BROWN: We have to admit, it's also poured in under Republican administrations, too, correct?

ROY: At much smaller numbers. And by the way, the number of people coming across the border at the end of the Trump administration, because of remain in Mexico and because of Title 42, was far lower, like 30,000 a month. We have 302,000 people who were apprehended in December, 302,000.

And Mayorkas just went to the border and he admitted they are releasing 85 percent of them.

BROWN: That's according to Fox News -- sources telling Fox News at that. I did see that. CNN has not corroborated.


ROY: It's according to the Border Patrol agents I talk to. I call the Border Patrol agents, they said it was more than 85 percent. That's the truth, we know it. The evidence bears out.

BROWN: All right. Let me just ask you before we, go because it's important to get your take on the debate, of course, you've been pushing for Ron DeSantis. What you want to see from him tonight?

ROY: Look, I want to see the governor keep doing what he's been doing since I've been on the campaign trail with him, and as long as he's been in office, that standing up for the people that he represents. He's done a phenomenal job. There's a lot of enthusiasm, lot of energy. He's on the right trajectory.

With all due respect, Governor Haley she's been stumbling. There's hardly been a day over the last two weeks where there hasn't been a gaffe where she is basically mocking the people of Iowa, saying the people of New Hampshire need to correct Iowans. I think we'll see tonight in the debate some pretty good exchanges.

Look, I'd love to see him ask her about Boeing. While she was sitting on the board of Boeing and they were giving out, you know, stock buybacks, what was going on in making sure that, you know, bolts aren't missing and we don't have plain windows blowing out?

Look, we need to restore American manufacturing. We need leadership. We don't need people who are more interested in corporate cronyism than holding corporations accountable and standing up for the little guys out there who want to get by in life dying from Biden inflation, dying from the fact that we have all these EV mandates and regulations that's killing them.

We need somebody who can lead in an office and that's -- that's Governor DeSantis. He's been knocking it out on the campaign trail in Iowa. I look forward to joining him again probably on Friday. I'm not sure. It depends on what we're doing here.

BROWN: The bottom line is, he's not polling so well when you look at New Hampshire. And if he doesn't win Iowa, he's put all his eggs in the basket. If he doesn't win Iowa, you think it's over for him or no? I mean, Nikki Haley is making up a lot of ground especially in New Hampshire, I think only seven points behind Trump.

ROY: We'll see when the people going to the voters to make a decision. I mean, right now, we know on the ground, there's a lot of enthusiasm for Iowa. We have 1,600 captains, precinct captains who are enthused. We are talking to them on the phone the other day. Casey and I were driving through southeast Iowa when the governor had to go back to Florida for the state of the state.

They're enthusiastic.


We have thousands of people who are, you know, engaged and have already signed their cards to caucus for the governor. Look, what's on the ground is very different than what's on the polls. So I think we'll see that on Monday.

BROWN: All right. Republican Congressman Chip Roy, thank you for your time. Appreciate you coming on.

ROY: Thanks, ma'am. God bless.

BROWN: The CNN debate is tonight, only five days out from the Iowa caucuses. Watch it live here on CNN tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

A congressional hearing today over President Biden's son, Hunter, got real explosive real fast.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no balls to come up here --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, point of inquiry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lady's recognized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the gentlelady wants to hear from Hunter Biden, we can hear from him right now, Mr. Chairman. Let's take about and hear from Hunter Biden. What are you afraid of?



BROWN: That got fiery. Hunter Biden's surprise appearance igniting an uproar among House Oversight Committee members who are starting proceedings to hold him in contempt of Congress for not complying with the subpoena for testimony.

CNN's Manu Raju has more on today's came tensions ordeal on Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: House Republicans moving to hold the president's son Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress, but not before he appeared on Capitol Hill unexpectedly, infuriating the GOP and setting off a sideshow.

MACE: You are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the oversight committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed. What are you afraid of? You have no balls.


MACE: I think that Hunter Biden should be arrested right here right now and go straight to jail.

Yes, I'm looking at you Hunter Biden as I'm speaking to you. You are not above the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debacle. I just -- you know, he shows up, it's just a show. REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): He should've had his but over to the judicial

hearing because we are doing contempt over there.

RAJU: Two House committees moving to refer the matter to the full House next week, coming as Hunter Biden's legal team implements an aggressive new strategy to take on Republicans directly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are they afraid of?

RAJU: Republicans had subpoenaed Hunter Biden to appear before a private deposition in December. But he defied that subpoena, saying he would only testify publicly. That offer rejected by Republicans who demanded he first testify behind closed doors.

REP. JIM COMER (R-KY): We will not provide Hunter Biden with special treatment because of his last name. All Americans must be treated equally under the law.

RAJU: Hunter Biden already facing a criminal indictment for tax violations and gun charges, set to appear in court for an arraignment on Thursday.

ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR HUNTER BIDEN: Chairman Comer made an explicit offer that people like Hunter had the option to attend a deposition or a public hearing, whichever they chose. Hunter chose a hearing where Republicans could not distort, manipulate or misuse that testimony. Honoring --

RAJU: The chaotic scene on Capitol Hill comes as Republicans are moving ahead with an impeachment inquiry into Hunter Biden's father.

REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): In my opinion, this committee is not interested in prosecuting Hunter Biden. The facts show that President Biden profited from his name and the person that arranged the deals was Hunter Biden.

RAJU: But so far, they do not have the votes to bring articles of impeachment as they continue digging for anything connecting Hunter Biden's business dealings to the president's actions, something they have yet to prove.

NEHLS: I think it should go to the House floor for a vote but I don't know if we have the will to do it. I don't know if it would pass. I


RAJU: And that is a reality facing Republicans on Capitol Hill. Many conservatives are itching to impeach President Biden, but simply there aren't the votes to do just that. A number of Republicans in swing districts in particular are not there yet.

But they are there on a different question, impeaching the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who faces first impeachment hearing just today.

And just moments ago, I asked the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee if he believes he has the votes to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas. He said there will be the votes to impeach Mayorkas in the weeks ahead -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

So, how much is Hunter Biden a political liability in this 2024 election year?

Plus, the sharp words about the president from an influential voice who has endorsed Biden in 2020. What is he saying now? We're going to get a response from the Biden campaign.



BROWN: We are back with our 2024 lead.

As President Biden looks to show voters why he should be reelected, an influential voice who endorsed him back in 2020 is not 100 percent onboard now. Radio host Charlamagne Tha God, he explained why to CNN's Abby Philip in rather blunt terms. Listen.


CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, RADIO & PODCAST HOST: I think President Biden historically has been, lack of -- lack of a better word, a shitty elected official. But, you know, Donald Trump is the end of democracy as we know it.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: So, you'd vote for Biden again?

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: I'm not saying either or.


BROWN: Let's bring in Cedric Richmond, former congressman from Louisiana and now co-chair of Biden's reelection campaign and the senior adviser for the Democratic National Committee.

Thank you so much for coming on, Congressman Richmond.

Now, say what you want about Charlamagne Tha God, he is expressing how many voters feel. In his words, he also said Democrats struggle with messaging and said Biden's attempt to court Black voters, at Black churches and soul food restaurants, as Biden did in South Carolina this week, is not effective anymore for Democrats.

What is your reaction? What do you say?

CEDRIC RICHMOND, CO-CHAIR, BIDEN RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN: Well, one, Charlemagne is a respected voice in the Black community. Two, I agree with the main thing of what he said, is that Donald Trump is the end of democracy as we know it.

As he talks about where we campaign, how we campaign and that today's different we have to message different I think he's right. But my overall point would be the president is going to go everywhere where Americans are facing and struggling with ends (ph) right now. So, in the Black community, he went to Mother Emanuel Church, which is a significant place of importance and he's going to tout his message.

So, here's the important part, and I think Charlamagne was hitting on this. You have to tell people what you did, why you did it and how it benefits them.


And so, one, he expressed a threat that Donald Trump poses, which Charlamagne also expressed. But he also talked about the investment in HBCUs, $7.3 billion, the fact that black wealth is -- went up 60 percent, that the racial wealth gap is the lowest it's been in a long time. That he reduced the price of insulin to $35 to help seniors who have given blood, sweat and tears to protect this democracy.

And so, whether it's the infrastructure bill, lead pipes, there is a plethora of things that president and the vice president did to support African-American communities and the country at large, and you have to go there, and you have to look them in their face and you have to tell them what you did. And you have to tell them what you're going to do in the next term.

And so, we reduced student debt, forgiven student debt for 3.6 million Americans, but we have more work to do, and we will do that in the second term so that we cancel all student debt. So, that's what the president was doing.

BROWN: But why hasn't the president been effective then with the messaging touting those accomplishments, as you say, to constituents, to, you know, voters of color? That Charlamagne is speaking, on behalf of essentially when he, says look, I'm frustrated, I don't feel like he's done enough and what he's doing now just isn't cutting it?

RICHMOND: Well, the truth is Charlamagne and I share frustration. Mine is a little bit different because I believe that the president is doing -- and the vice president, their role, which is President Biden wakes up every day trying to figure out how he can make this country better for you, for your community, for your families. And he keeps his head down and he does the work, which is why he has so many accomplishments.

It's up to people like me, political pundits and others to make sure that we talk about those accomplishments and help them breakthrough. Look, this is election year. This is the year you go out and tell people what you are able to do that you promised to do. And then you tell them what you're going to do in the next four years if you're reelected.

And so, now, you will see the president out there talking about the things that he was able to achieve. And, look, will be able to remind people, in one day when we came in office, 50 percent of the schools in this country were closed. Kids were learning from home. And we will remind them of the Trump years that has been soundly rejected since 2018 and in 2020.

BROWN: I want to talk about tonight's CNN Republican debate before we let you go. Of course, it's between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Donald Trump's dueling town hall will happen at the same time. How is Biden and the campaign preparing to respond to the attacks against him tonight?

RICHMOND: Look, it's the same thing we saw back in 20 -- in 2020. Trump made all of his attacks personal. But you won't hear them talk about, they won't talk about you, they won't talk about your family, they won't talk about your community.

They won't talk about protecting freedom. They won't talk about standing up for democracy. They won't talk about how to lower child poverty, which we reduced in half in the first year.

So, they're going to talk about a whole bunch of stuff but he will not, at the end of the day, talk about a family. So, if you look at what we've been able to do in terms of lowering costs for families, in terms of empowering families, in talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, looking at new business start-ups, all of those things, we will get to go around and tout.

But at the end of the day, I think what you're going to see tonight is that Republicans are going to continue to cater to the top 1 percent of big corporations and they're going to make things personal and we're going to continue to talk about the American people, how do we preserve this fragile democracy. You see Trump double down on rooting for an economic crash.

Who does that? Who roots for pain for American people just for political gain? So, that's what you're going to see. But you're going to see us continue to talk about preserving democracy, building the economy that works for everyone.

BROWN: You talk about recent comments Trump made about the economy, saying he hopes he doesn't crash under his watch.

All right. Cedric Richmond, thank you very much for your time tonight.

RICHMOND: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: Well, as we countdown to tonight's debate, has the Republican side of this race now become a fight for second place? We're going to talk about that up next.



BROWN: We are back with a live look at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where the stage is set for tonight's CNN presidential debate, Republican debate, we should say.

Let's bring in Jonah Goldberg and Ashley Allison.

Great to have you both here.

Jonah, let's start with you. Obviously, the pressure is on Ron DeSantis in particular to blunt Nikki Haley's momentum here.

In your view, is this a race for second place?

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, objectively, it sort of is, although just in the last 48 hours, it now feels like there is a scenario, not a likely scenario, but a scenario in which Haley could end up winning in New Hampshire. And that blow to Trump's inevitability in the way he would respond to it would possibly create some sort of opening. There's this puzzle but how Christie might drop out.

And so, there's really a feeling of momentum around Haley. People in New Hampshire are going to be watching an Iowa debate. It's not like it's only broadcast in Iowa.

BROWN: Exactly.

GOLDBERG: So, I think that is going to be going on in the background.

BROWN: You watch it on CNN. We're hosting the debate.

GOLDBERG: Exactly.

BROWN: So, a little plug there.

Ashley, there's an editorial that was published today in "The National Review" and it's arguing that it isn't too late for Republican voters to rethink nominating Trump. But they argue one reason his rivals haven't had much traction is that Trump squashed any electability argument with his strong polling against President Biden.

And they write: The Democrat is so weak, he could lose to Trump, but the former president is still a risky bet compared with another candidate without his baggage.

What is your response to that?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The point does give Trump may be some wind in its sail. But if I was Nikki Haley, if I was Ron DeSantis I would, say he's already a loser to Joe Biden. The problem is, they aren't going to say that because they won't definitely call the election for 2020 because they don't want to upset the MAGA base.

But if they just took it to Trump and was like, he's a loser, he'll be a loser again and did that when they first announced, I think Trump would be pulling where he is if the whole field attacked him the way Chris Christie and Asa Hutchison were earlier.


BROWN: Yeah, you're seeing Ron DeSantis kind of ratchet up the attacks a little more. ALLISON: Yeah.

BROWN: But I mean, this has been a more -- a newer phenomenon.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of should-haves, could-haves, would-haves going back to the beginning in all of this. But the basic dynamic is that nobody wants to offend Trump's base, his fans. And they tap danced around that for a very long time. I think the thing that really destroyed a lot of their strategies were the indictments. There was this rush to circle wagons around him, they refused to use the indictments, saying, see, this is the problem that you get with this guy, just all this drama.

And now, the electability argument, which I think it's the best way to move Republican voters at this point who don't want to hear bad things about Donald Trump, it just gets all muddied. But it's absolutely true.

I mean, look, Biden unveiled his threat to democracy thing as the fundamental theme of his campaign. That would not work on Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis or any of these people. But it would work on Donald Trump, arguably so, which is why Biden is doing it.

BROWN: Let's talk about messaging. It's a good pivot to the conversation I just had with former Congressman Cedric Richmond, top advisor to Biden. You know, he gave this response to radio host Charlamagne Tha God and why he regrets endorsing Biden. And he basically agreed in large part with Charlamagne in terms of his criticisms, but it has to do with messaging of what President Biden has done for Black voters, for instance. Were you surprised by that?

ALLISON: Look, you don't live or die by one poll. But there seems to be some traction that people are saying, particularly in the Black community and with young voters that the message and what Joe Biden has done for them, they are not feeling the impact. And it is not because this administration has not done things for the Black community or for young folks, but they do need to get out there.

And so, Cedric Richmond, I agree with Charlemagne, and I agree with Cedric Richmond just said, is that they have to get out there and tell people what Joe Biden has done for them. But that is not going to be enough. And I think that is what Charlemagne was also getting, is that you have to tell me what you're going to keep doing for me.

So often, Joe Biden, says don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative. I think Black voters are starting to say, don't ask me to just rely on what you say you're going to do. Actually do it for me, and tell me what you've done for me and make me feel it. And if the Biden campaign can do that and the administration can do that in this last year, I think Joe Biden can close some ground.

But they do have work to do and that's why I was happy that the former congressman agreed but I was surprised that they were acknowledging that.

BROWN: Forthcoming, acknowledge it.


BROWN: Right.

Jonah, I want to go to you because there's been a lot of action on Capitol Hill today. Moments ago, we heard from Congressman Chip Roy, the Republican, saying a motion to vacate Speaker Johnson should be on the table over objections from the House Freedom Caucus to a budget deal he cut with Democrats. In an article that you just wrote for "The Dispatch", say if Republicans want a better deal, they need to win more elections.

Explain that.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, look, it's a math problem. The reason why Johnson is doing what he's doing is the same reason why Kevin McCarthy was doing what he was doing. They basically now have a two seat majority for the Republicans. There's just no leverage. There's no wiggle room there.

The problem is, is that you cannot expand your caucus so that you can actually get things done when the people who are defining the brand of the Republican Party are out there setting their hair on fire, doing like the stuff Nancy Mace was doing today into Hunter Biden thing.

You actually need -- I know it's a radioactive thing to say on the right, but you actually need more RINOs, you need more squishes, you need more Republicans from moderate districts that builds up the size of your coalition. Instead, this is a problem with both parties. Both parties behave as if the voters -- only voters they're afraid of losing are their base voters.

The whole point of the basis of the bases always, with you the people need to attract in popular elections to build a majority coalition are the swing voters, people in the middle. And yet the incentive structure, or the media complex, make it very difficult for Biden to pivot to the center and make it very difficult for Republicans to be appealing to anybody who doesn't come from a district that's already 20 percent Republican -- 20 percent leading Republican.

BROWN: What do you think?

ALLISON: Well, I think it's a little different for Democrats and Republicans and then independents. I think for Democrats, this is a concern that we just for speaking about with Black voters is independents will vote Republican or Democrat. But the Democratic base just might not vote. That is a problem.

So, it's not that they're going to flip parties. It's like, will they show up because they feel like you're the candidate for them?

GOLDBERG: That's fair.

BROWN: Yeah, and we've seen some of that reflected at the polling, right?


BROWN: So, all right, thank you both. Appreciate that conversation.

Well, Donald Trump prepared to speak in his own defense in his civil trial tomorrow. Why the judge today said that isn't going to happen and blames team Trump.



BROWN: Now to hybrid law and justice and politics lead.

The judge presiding over former President Trump's New York civil fraud case just swatted down Trump's request to speak during closing arguments tomorrow. Just yesterday, Trump dropped on his D.C. Court of Appeals immunity hearing as he tries to seize the spotlight five days before the Iowa caucuses.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has the story.

So, why did the judge deny this request, Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, he says it's because nobody told him that Trump was going to follow the rules of the court. Campaign is court in the world of Donald Trump for a lot of these days. Yesterday, he made a speech after the court and tomorrow, what was set up to happen and what is set up to happen are closing arguments in this civil fraud trial.

He's already been found liable, he and his businesses, by this judge, Judge Arthur Engoron. He is set to hear the arguments over how much Trump's companies should be fined or face consequences for defrauding the state of New York related to their business practices.


So, what happened over the past week was a back and forth where Trump's lawyers told the judge, Donald Trump wants to speak and address the court as part of these closing arguments. Now, that on its own is extremely unusual, doesn't happen, defendants don't do that and arguments. And the judge said, okay, if he wants to, he must follow the rules of trial.

He can't bring in new evidence, he can't testify, he can't offer commentary and he can't make a campaign speech. I will cut him off if he does that. And they went back and forth and ultimately, today, the judge says, okay, you're deadline is noon. Trump wants to speak, tell me by noon today and tell me that he will agree to comply with all of my rules of the court. No response.

And so, the judge said, Donald Trump is not going to be speaking in court tomorrow. It doesn't mean he won't be there and speak on his way in and out of the courtroom. But in the closing arguments itself, won't be there. And he now has its opportunity to attack the judge further and say he disagrees with how the judge has handled this trial.

BROWN: Wouldn't be surprise if that happens. All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much.

This just in to CNN, we're getting some news here. Source tells CNN that we should stand by for a major announcement from the campaign of Chris Christie. He's expected to speak at the top of the hour. More 2024 coverage ahead right here on CNN. We're back in just a moment.



BROWN: Back with our world lead, although the war between Israel and Hamas was half of all the way, Jewish and Muslim Americans are experiencing the effects firsthand. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have skyrocketed since the October 7th Hamas attacks on Israel, and according to new data by the Anti-Defamation League, a 361 president Trump when you compare the same time period in 2022 and 2023.

Islamophobia is also up between October and December 2023. The Council on American Islamic Relations says it's 172 percent increase in requests for help and reports of bias compared to a similar period in 2022.

Behind those numbers are real people experiencing real fear in the communities they call home, fear for their family members.

And as CNN's Paula Newton reports, this alarming trend does not stop at the United States' northern border.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A morning ritual, school drop off at Yeshiva Gedola. Students hustle in and as usual, Rabbi Menachem Karmel is meeting them out the door. It's a typical morning in Montreal, right down to the snow covered streets. Except for this. Police watching every move.

In November, Montreal police say the school was targeted not once but twice by gunfire. Students were not there at the time, there were no injuries but also no arrests so far.

For Rabbi Carmel, an American and grandson of Holocaust survivors, the fact that it could happen here --

RABBI MENACHEM KARMEL, YESHIVA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: It's scary, scary. What is so shocking to have such an act in such a community. It's like -- it's almost like we're in a bubble here. The fact that as a religious school, very identifiable Jewish, that this becomes a go-to plays to protest, to express your anger, it's so misconstrued, it's hurtful.

NEWTON: And police across Canada say it's far from an isolated incident. Last week, a Jewish owned deli in Toronto was the target of an arson attack. No one was injured, no arrests have been made but Toronto police call it a tipping point.

STAFF SUPERINTENDENT PAULINE GRAY, TORONTO POLICE: This is a criminal act. It is violent. It is targeted. It is organized.

NEWTON: Canada's prime minister has admitted there is new found fear on Canadian streets.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We're seeing right now a rise in antisemitism that is terrifying.

NEWTON: Canadian authorities say hate-inspired incidents have spiked since the Hamas attack in Israel, punctuated by tense protests across the country.

SAUL EMANUEL, PRESIDENT OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CONGRESS: Before you go to the tipping point, try to bring back, try to pull back.

NEWTON: Rabbi Saul Emanuel voices concerts not just as a parent with children at the target of school but community leader looking for security and less impunity.

EMANUEL: It's become accepted that you can go after any Jewish target.

NEWTON: That real fear being targeted simply based on your religion is one shared by many Muslims here as well who have also reported an increase in hate inspired incidents.


NEWTON: Sameer Majzoub speaks to us in a Montreal mosque that was recently targeted with hateful graffiti.

MAJZOUB: When we refuse hate, when we refuse violence, when we refuse intimidation, we refuse it against each and every individual.

NEWTON: And this Montreal synagogue, they pray for peace in Israel, astounded by how that faraway war is affecting their everyday lives.

NATAN SCHECHER, FATHER: Our day schools, our synagogues have always been sacrosanct.


NEWTON: And sacrosanct no longer, Pam. Now, of course, you and I as parents can obviously relate to how alarmed people here are, we're at the school right now, pick up is just wrapping again with that added security.


But what's going on here really does resonate around the world and for good reason.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, look, if Canada can't figure this out, a place that has such rational tolerance in most times, what corner of the world can figure it out? Pam?

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Paula Newton. We got some big news coming up about Chris Christie. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Big news coming into CNN, Chris Christie expected to drop out of the 2024 presidential race, expected to make this announcement according to a source talking to CNN.

I would go back to our panel.

Ashley, first to you, your reaction?

ALLISON: It was always a long shot for him to get the nomination. It helps Nikki Haley in the long run in New Hampshire. I hope you still keep throwing punches at Donald Trump if the other two folks won't do it.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, I don't think we're going to see Christie endorsed Nikki Haley, because I think an endorsement would hurt for a guy who's got net negatives like 40 points. But his voters will probably go to Nikki Haley.