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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Two-Way Race For The GOP Presidential Nomination; Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) Is Interviewed About The Democratic Primary In New Hampshire; VP Harris Campaigns For Biden On Abortion Rights; Rep. Nancy Mace Of South Carolina Endorses Trump; Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), Is Interviewed About Trump & Haley Now In Two-Person Race For GOP Nomination; Poll: Netanyahu Comes In Distant 2nd If Election Held Today; U.S. & British Strike 8 Houthi Targets In Yemen. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 22, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to "The Lead." I'm Jake Tapper. Tomorrow, or today if you're in Russia, marks 300, 300 long days for Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist wrongly detained in a Russian prison. Ahead, the latest attempts by his employer, "The Wall Street Journal," to try to help secure his release and the pushback they're getting from Putin.

Plus, CNN's Laura Coates one-on-one with Vice President Kamala Harris, the VP's comments on abortion rights and what she says is at risk with the potential second Trump presidency. The first clips of that interview will roll out this hour on "The Lead."

And leading this hour, one day left before the New Hampshire primary. Nikki Haley has a bit more momentum with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now out of the race. But are DeSantis voters willing to back her or are they going to side with the GOP front runner Donald Trump. Governor Chris Sununu, Haley's biggest backer in New Hampshire is going to join us this hour.

But first we start with CNN's Kristen Holmes who is in Laconia, New Hampshire where Trump is expected to speak tonight. CNN's Kylie Atwood is in Salem, New Hampshire for a Nikki Haley rally that will begin in just an hour. Kristen, let me start with you. A big three days for Donald Trump. He picked up the endorsements of former competitors, Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis. What is the Trump campaign's message today and has Trump spoken to DeSantis since DeSantis dropped out of the race yesterday?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, so let's start with the message because this is what we've been hearing from senior advisors all day, which is they want the message to be that Republicans are coalescing around Donald Trump. And that's what you're going to see tonight. When Tim Scott, when Vivek Ramaswamy, when Doug Burgum, all former opponents take the stage with Donald Trump.

The idea is, look, Republicans are joining together. These were my opponents. Now they have endorsed me. It is time for Nikki Haley to drop out and make sure that I am the Republican nominee. Now, the one person you're going to note is not going to be on that stage is, as you mentioned, Ron DeSantis, who, former opponent, did endorse Donald Trump but isn't going to be here.

And I am told that the two of them have not spoken since DeSantis dropped out of the race and since he endorsed Donald Trump. I did hear that senior advisors on Trump's team reached out to Ron DeSantis' team, giving them an open invitation to campaign with the former president some point in the future. Obviously, that time is not going to be tonight, but something to look for on the campaign trail.

TAPPER: And Kylie, Nikki Haley, she's been speaking at events all day. I think she has five events today in New Hampshire. She's pitching herself as the best alternative to Trump. Tell us what she's saying.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, she's telling voters here in New Hampshire that Trump is full of grievances, he's full of vendettas, she's the one talking about the future. She also went after Trump for saying that everything that he's saying and all the ads that he's putting out are full of lies and trying to correct the record on specific policy issues that of course she thinks New Hampshire voters care about.

When it comes to criticism that folks are putting on her campaign saying that she should line up behind the former president, she's really pushing back aggressively against that. Listen to what she told New Hampshire voters earlier today.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've watched the entire political elite yesterday and today. I've watched the entire media elite yesterday and today say that I should drop out for the good of the country to support Donald Trump. We believe in choices. So, let's get everybody out to vote. Let's show all of the media class and the political class that we've got a different plan in mind.


ATWOOD: Now Nikki Haley went on to say this is not a coronation. This is a democracy. There should be choices. And she's really pushing into her argument that she is the best poised candidate to beat President Biden in the general election. Now one of the things that we have talking to voters on the trail about today is if those DeSantis voters are going to go to Nikki Haley or Trump. Of course, Trump endorsed -- excuse me, DeSantis endorsed Trump, so they could get a large portion of those voters.

But Nikki Haley's team for her part feels like they could get some of that support and she's really working hard on the campaign trail today, pouring beers, holding babies, sitting down having lunch with people and taking pictures all across the state.

TAPPER: Kylie Atwood in Salem, Kristin Holmes in Laconia, thanks to both of you. While all eyes are on the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, there is an interesting subplot in the Democratic primary. Due to an internal party dispute, President Joe Biden's name will not be on the ballot there. Democratic primary voters are being encouraged by the Democratic establishment to write in the president's name but there are alternatives.

He's facing primary challengers including the author Marianne Williamson and Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota who joins us now. Congressman Phillips, thanks for joining us.


So, the latest CNN poll in New Hampshire says 63 percent of likely Democratic primary voter's plan to write in President Biden, you're at 10 percent support. That's a poll, not an election result, but previous Democratic incumbents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama got north of 80 percent in New Hampshire. So, you argue that Biden is vulnerable since he's polling at just 63 percent. What would a successful result look like for you in New Hampshire? Double digits, 20 percent, what are you looking for?

DEAN PHILLIPS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Jake, good to be with you. And, you know, I love you and I think your pollster is a little bit off right there. I think Joe Biden is indeed going to show his weakness here in the Granite State tomorrow evening. And I think we're doing a lot better than that poll suggests. But you know what? I like to under promise and over deliver.

I -- if we're in the 20s, that would be a great achievement. Just 10 weeks ago, Jake, no one knew my name here. I was at zero percent. And I'll tell you, if we're at 20 some percent, that would be fabulous. But what's really important here is demonstrating frankly, that Joe Biden, a good man is not electable. The data is pretty clear in all the polls. He's losing in the battlegrounds. His approval numbers are historically low. You cannot recover from those. Most people know that.

And tomorrow night. New Hampshire voters will probably show the same thing. I'm trying to wake up my colleagues, my friends, fellow Democrats into the reality and end this delusion and at least stop this coronation and have a thoughtful competition with others. I'm one candidate who can win. I think there are others too, but we got to end this nonsense and do away with this delusion.

TAPPER: Why do you think his approval ratings are so low? Why do you think he is so vulnerable?

PHILLIPS: Well, first of all, I just want to refer to the data. And I can't speak for all the American voters who have opined, but they sure made it pretty clear. In fact, 70 percent, Jake, of this entire country, they don't want a Joe Biden or Donald Trump matchup. And I think we have to practice democracy. You know, having the audacity to actually enter into this race should actually be met with people who welcome competition, you know.

Look at the GOP right now, Jake. You just interviewed or showed Nikki Haley. They had about seven people on the stage at first. They were generating countless hours of primetime TV energy, introducing themselves to the country, and Democrats have been silent. We need competition. Right now, it's Marianne Williamson and me competing against Joe Biden.

And the sad truth is Joe Biden won't debate. He won't show up. He won't face voters. I've not seen him answer a question from the press that was not unscripted. And look it, democracy dies in that kind of silence. And there's a lot more going on here, as you already noted, with the writing campaign, including, including a letter that was just issued by the New Hampshire Secretary of State to the Democratic National Committee. A cease and desist for the unlawful suppression of voters.

Jake, there's a lot going on right now that people are not aware of and it's got to be called attention to. And I'm going to say the quiet part out loud as I've done from day one.

TAPPER: What is the biggest policy difference between you and President Biden? What is the most different issue where you disagree with him?

PHILLIPS: Well, I'll tell you, Jake, I've been listening, and that's what I do when you campaign for any office, you listen to people. And I'll tell you, it's costs and chaos. When I'm president, I'm going to introduce something called American Dream Accounts, the federal government endowing every baby born in America with a $1,000 account that will grow through their years, early years, and through high school.

They'll actually learn about investing in high school and elementary school. When they turn 18, if they graduate high school, they get an account that would -- could be worth upwards of $20,000 so that we actually have the equality of opportunity in this country. Early child care, early child education, child care. I want to have health care for all, a national health insurance program that will actually save us money.

Build seven million homes so that every American has one and we put downward pressure on pricing. Education, from pre-k to college without debt. And then most importantly to so many right now, chaos in our cities and our neighborhoods, the southern border, Jake, the Middle East, and Europe. People are really fearful.

And I'll tell you something, last night, I saw a Trump rally outside of mine. I walked up to the line of people a mile long. And I simply said, hello, I was met with 50 people going to the Trump rally who were friendly, hospitable, thoughtful, and some who said they voted for Barack Obama, some said they were Bernie Sanders supporters, about half of whom had never been to a Trump event before.

So, to everybody watching right now, Donald Trump is on a big mission to win and Joe Biden is going to get creamed. And I just wish Democrats would wake up and ensure that at least we give it our best shot because right now I'm afraid we are diluted into a nightmare.

TAPPER: There's a robocall of unknown origin targeting New Hampshire residents that features an AI voice resembling President Joe Biden advising against voting on Tuesday. Take a listen.


UNKNOWN: It's important that you save your vote for the November election. Voting this Tuesday only enables the Republicans in their quest to elect Donald Trump again.



TAPPER: What's your response to this? Do you have any concerns that a group maybe supporting you might have had something to do with it?

PHILLIPS: Jake, a group supporting me? First of all, if that was true, I'd be the first to announce it.

TAPPER: No, I -- I don't know who's behind it. I have no idea.

PHILLIPS: Well, I'm just saying, if that was somehow a group support -- first of all, I don't understand why that's the case. The only people that have received a cease-and-desist letter for the unlawful suppression of voters is not Dean Phillips, it's the Democratic National Committee, Jake.


PHILLIPS: And I'll tell you, but let me say something more important. Artificial intelligence already surrounding us, it is coming at us like a freight train. This administration is comprehensively ill- prepared for the disruption to our economy. Forty percent of jobs are going to be disrupted by it. We have deep fakes that are misleading and misguiding people and we have no guardrails, no laws in place to protect us from it, and nobody willing to actually use it to increase delivery of services, to reduce costs for Americans.

I'll tell you, this is an example of why we need regulation right now. I'm telling you, Jake, whoever did that, it's wrong, and it's exactly why we need a leader who's not 80-some years old who can understand what is coming. And that's part of the chaos that I'm afraid that if we elect either of these two men for different reasons, we are in big trouble, but particularly Donald Trump.

He is a danger to democracy. Democrats have an obligation to do what they say they're going to do, which is promote competition and end this nonsense now before it's too late.

TAPPER: Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota, thanks so much for your time. Today, Vice President Kamala Harris picked off an abortion rights toward describing what she calls the harm and confusion in the United States in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned. What the Vice President told our very own Laura Coates. That's next.






TAPPER: And we're back with more on our "2024 Lead." President Biden is putting abortion rights at the center of his re-election campaign today. Vice President Kamala Harris already is leading the effort in Wisconsin, one of the key battleground states, hoping to use today's 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision to mobilize voters around this issue. CNN's Laura Coates spoke exclusively with Vice President Harris, who says abortion rights are at stake in November election.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: When you were a prosecutor, this was an extraordinary focus, crimes against women --

HARRIS: Yes. And children.

COATES: -- violence against -- children.


COATES: I know you've been very passionate about this for a very long time, in a variety of different fields.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

COATES: But I do wonder, when you talk about the states in particular, you hold Trump responsible for the nomination of three Supreme Court justices who you believe intended at all times to then overturn this important precedent, as you say. Fifty-one years later, here we are with it now being in past tense. If it's a state-related issue, is the election or candidacy and campaign of Trump as important?

HARRIS: Well, let's first be clear that the previous president expressed his intentions quite clearly and fast forward to just recently, says he's proud of what he did. And let's be clear, so by inference, he is proud that women have been deprived of fundamental freedoms to make decisions about their own body. By inference, proud that doctors are being penalized and criminalized for providing healthcare. Proud that women are silently suffering because they don't have access to the healthcare they need.

So, let's understand that the stakes are so very high. And listen, Joe Biden, President Joe Biden has been very clear. When Congress puts the protections of Roe back into the law, he will sign it. Similarly, President Joe Biden has been very clear. If these extremists achieve their other goal, which is to have a national ban, which means state by state by state, Joe Biden will veto that. The stakes are high.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: You can catch Laura Coates' full exclusive interview with Vice

President Kamala Harris tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Let's bring in CNN's MJ Lee live from the White House. And MJ, we just heard Vice President Harris talking about how abortion rights are at stake in November's election. How is President Biden trying to convey this message today?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, this is really a joint effort by the White House and the Biden campaign to try to put this issue front and center ahead of the 2024 election. Here at the White House, what the president is trying to do is highlight some of the efforts that the administration has made to try to remedy for the fact that Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court.

They're talking about things like expanded access for contraception and also emergency medical care. And when the president convened his so-called task force earlier today on this issue, he used the word cruel to describe what Republicans have been doing on this matter. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Cruelty is astounding. And a front to a woman's dignity being told by extreme politicians to wait, to get sicker and sicker, to the point where her life may be in danger before you can get the care you need. That cruel reality is the result of extreme Republicans who for years have made it their mission to end the Roe v. Wade decision.


LEE: And Jake, a big push that the Biden campaign is trying to make is to put faces to some of these real-world consequences. We saw that new ad from the campaign featuring that Texas doctor and mother who said that she had to leave the state to terminate a pregnancy. She said that this was every woman's worst nightmare. Now, campaign officials have told me that they believe these kinds of testimonials are often more successful than a campaign speech or even a news article. So, this is the kind of model that we should be seeing a lot more from the campaign going forward, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee at the White House for us. Thanks so much.

Coming up now versus then. Former Republican Congresswoman Nancy Macy represents a key swing district in South Carolina.


Hear what she's saying about Donald Trump now compared to her comments about him right after the January 6th Capitol attack.


TAPPER: And we're back with our "2024 Lead." Let's play the music. Yes! It has been a little more than 26 hours since Governor Ron DeSantis stunned voters and dropped out of the presidential race. And already, according to a campaign spokesperson, Nikki Haley has raised half a million dollars from grassroots donors since DeSantis exited the race.

Panels with me, Paul Begala, let me start with you. Nikki Haley getting what she's always wanted, but Republicans behind the scenes always say they wanted a one-on-one race between Donald Trump and a strong Republican competitor.


But CNN poll shows that might not actually help Haley. Trump's support would grow, according to our poll, in New Hampshire from 50 to 54 percent with DeSantis out.

Haley would take up from 39 percent to only 41 percent. So those DeSantis voters, though there weren't many of them in New Hampshire, Donald Trump was their second choice.

PAUL BEGAL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Which you saw in a lot of states. So, you're right, now we will see. Tomorrow we will see. And I'm not a person who, in a two-person race, who believes in expectations, right? Nikki Haley has to win. Donald Trump has to win. You play second in a two-person race, that's called losing, you know. And so, this is what a lot of the never-Trump or Republicans have said they wanted, talented, well-funded, well-respected candidate taking on Mr. Trump.

There's no state better, except Vermont. There's no state better situated for her to win in a primary. Even her home state is not as favorable to her because independents can vote, and even New Hampshire Republicans tend to be more moderate, even some are liberal. So, if she can't win there, you know, as we say in Texas, spit on the fire and call the dogs, the hunt's over.


BEGALA: I cleaned it up for you.

TAPPER: I appreciate it.

: That's a lot of spit.

TAPPER: This is (inaudible) -- I know. I don't know who can put out the fire with spit. But this is -- remember 2016, this is what one of all the Republicans behind the scenes were begging for. They wanted Kasich or Rubio or Cruz to drop out so there would be one of them versus Trump and then everybody could consolidate against the non- Trump Republican. Here's their chance if they want it. I don't sense a lot of Republicans running to Nikki Haley though.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, but the problem is that the Republican electorate in 2016 is different than the Republican electorate in 2024. It's a smaller party, it's a Trumpier party. A lot of people made peace with Donald Trump and a lot of people who have huge problems with Donald Trump have just literally left the party. And so, there's just -- I mean, we saw in Iowa, it was at 56,000 votes. You know, out of three million people in Iowa, that's the thing that set this whole thing.

It's a -- Trump is putting the rump in rump party, right? It is his party to a large extent. And I agree entirely with Paul, Nikki's only path to victory here is to take a lot of the people who have otherwise left the party and would not vote for Donald Trump if he's the nominee.

TAPPER: And it could be done. McCain had a victory over George W. Bush in 2000, it's 24 years ago, but I mean, upsets do happen. We'll see what happened. But in terms of the party and how it's different today than it was in 2016 to the even different than it was in 2020, today South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace endorsed Trump for president.

She posted on X, quote, "I don't see eye to eye perfectly with any candidate until now. I've stayed out of it, but the time has come to unite behind our nominee," unquote. He is of course not yet the nominee. There's only been one contest. But remember, Mace was critical of Donald Trump in the days following January 6. Here's what she had said on the House floor on January 13, 2021.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Not only were our lives in danger, but if my kids were here, their lives would have been in danger too. The two most precious people in my life. I believe we need to hold the president accountable. I hold him accountable for the events that transpired for the attack on our Capitol last Wednesday.


TAPPER: So, the campaign message I guess there is, our lives were in danger, my kids' lives were in danger, Donald Trump is responsible, vote for Donald Trump.

BEGALA: Make him the most powerful person in the world. And add to that, I'm old enough to remember 2022. The doom recesses of the past, the midterm election, Ms. Mace, because she had criticized Mr. Trump, was challenged by Katie Arrington, who had been a nominee of that seat before, backed by Trump. So, she had a Trump opponent, and Governor Haley supported Mace against a Trump opponent, and it helped Mace win, and this is how Mace pays her back.

Kind of the same way Tim Scott, who's a -- he was Senator Tim Scott because of Nikki Haley, how they're paying her back. It's a tough business and not a lot of loyalty.

TAPPER: Ron DeSantis, I do want to take a couple seconds to just discuss him. He came into the race, people thinking, finally Republicans -- Republicans were thinking, finally a very conservative Republican who's been a successful governor, won re-election overwhelmingly, who can break the fever, who can rest control the Republican Party and actually deliver a presidential victory. What happened?

GOLDBERG: Well, look, it is an entire cottage industry, journalistically, to do these post-mortems on the DeSantis campaign. TAPPER: I read 30 of them before he dropped out.

GOLDBERG: You know, I know, exactly. So, like, I think there are a lot of reasons. First of all, he planned a post-Trump campaign in a non- post-Trump party, right? And when Trump's still the guy running, you can't say, well, I'm gonna, you know, I'm new Coke when you still have Coke running, right?

And then you have, I just think a really bad theory of the electorate, where he wants to solidify the sort of hardcore ideological Trump base first, and then maybe later reach out to the people who don't like Trump.


And so, he let a lot of easy pitches go. I think historians will go back and say that the decision to rally to his defense in the face of the criminal indictments --

TAPPER: Rally to Trump's defense.

GOLDBERG: Rally to Trump's defense was the point at which basically the party declared he's the de facto incumbent Republican and we all have to support him no matter what.

TAPPER: We should point out Nikki Haley did pick up an endorsement today from New Hampshire's Union Leader Newspaper. I want to read this quote from the op-ed, which says from the editorial which says, the dinosaurs from the last two administrations have indeed had their shot. And Nikki Haley is the fireball from the heavens to wipe them out. Lovely pros, not sure if it's accurate. Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, yes, when you have a candidate who has universal definition like, Mr. Trump, endorsements don't matter that much. You know, the governor of Iowa supported Mr. DeSantis. He was crushing. The governor of New Hampshire, wildly popular, Chris Sununu, is supporting Governor Haley. She's trailing in the polls. The Union Leader used to be able to deliver a whole lot of votes, it doesn't anymore. Voters decide this out, outside of the context of who's endorsing whom, especially when there's a high saliency race, whose last time you ran into? He said, Jay, I've never really heard that guy Trump. Let's see like, Jonah, you know.

GOLDBERG: I -- as someone who in 2016 wrote a column endorsing the Sweet Meteor of Death, I really liked that language because it fuses, it basically that's Nikki Haley is the Sweet Meteor of Death candidate in this metaphor. I should note, the "Wall Street Journal" today, it doesn't outright endorse Nikki Haley. But it makes it pretty clear that they think Nikki Haley is the person that should take over the Republican Party.

TAPPER: Interesting stuff. Good to see you, have both of you here. What does Nikki Haley want to see tomorrow night other than a victory as she decides the next steps in her 2024 campaign? I'm going to ask her biggest supporter of New Hampshire, the state's governor, Chris Sununu. He's going to be here next on The Lead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: And we're back with more on our 2024 Lead, we are less than seven hours away from the first polls opening in New Hampshire as Nikki Haley faces her biggest battle yet, trying to demonstrate that she can win enough votes to be an actual threat to Donald Trump, in his path to the Republican presidential nomination.

With me now is his -- is her rather biggest supporter in the state, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who has endorsed Nikki Haley. Governor, this new CNN poll shows that without DeSantis in the race, 54 percent of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire will support Donald Trump, 41 percent will support Nikki Haley. If tomorrow's results show similar numbers, will that be enough to justify her staying in the race?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Oh, of course, look, there's only been two things, number one, anyone who says this is a must win for Nikki Haley, I heard someone mentioning that in the studio, tell them they overpaid for that online political science degree. There's only been three goals here, right? One, was to make sure she got a second place, we got that. Two, was to make sure there are only two candidates left in the race. And we're ahead of -- we're head there. She's wiped 12 candidates off.

And then she wants to build on that momentum out of Iowa. She got 20 percent. She's going to more than double or exceed that here. The last point is their polls. Last time I checked, they're always wrong, right? So you never know. The same poll on the day I got elected governor said I was going to lose by 11. And we won by a couple percent. So, you know, it's all about the voter turnout. It's all about the enthusiasm. Where's the energy, not just what people say on the phone or how they, you know, respond to an online text or something. It's really about the energy of that campaign. Trump has no energy. The guy can barely read a teleprompter right now. All the wind is behind Nikki sails. So I just think the sky's the limit.

TAPPER: So let's assume she has a decent showing tomorrow, doesn't win, but it get us something in the 30s, let's say. What is her path to the nomination because she's not competing in the Nevada caucuses, which come after that? And right now, according to polls from South Carolina, she's running far behind Donald Trump. She has a month to make that up. How does she make it up? What's the argument? Where does the money come from? Where does the support come from?

SUNUNU: Yes, look, Nikki was in single digits, but a little over a month ago here in New Hampshire, and she skyrocketed and knocked everyone out. Now she goes back to her home state where she's won before with plenty of time to build the same type of momentum she had in New Hampshire, in a state where she knows the voters where she's actually achieved real results, where she's creating jobs, created opportunity for those citizens. So to be able to go back to your home state with that kind of momentum, I mean, that's the opportunity. It's handed right to her. So again, this isn't necessarily, you don't have to win New Hampshire. You just want to keep that momentum building and make sure it's a two person race, and she's done that.

TAPPER: But Donald Trump, you keep saying that Nikki Haley has knocked all these people out and you've said it twice now. I should know just for the record.


TAPPER: I think Donald Trump is knocking them out. But beyond that, let me just say all these Republicans are --

SUNUNU: Oh, no, no, no, no. Nikki Haley is surging, Jake, Nikki Haley is surging to barely -- to be barely behind Ron DeSantis in Iowa, when he had put all his resources there. That has nothing to do with Trump. That's Haley pulling DeSantis voters. We're on the trail today and the DeSantis voters are coming on board. She knocked Chris Christie out. Her voters are now coming on board. Vivek Ramaswamy never had a chance anyways, he's kind of crazy.

But the point is, is that one by one, right, they were all fighting each other. Trump wasn't on that debate stage. He was too chicken. So they were all fighting each other, right? And Nikki knocked every one of them out.

TAPPER: OK, but all those people that were on the debate stage, so many of them are now coalescing around Donald Trump. Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina, Ron DeSantis from Florida, and then you have Congresswoman Nancy Mace today announcing that she's endorsing Trump even though Trump ran a candidate against her, Katie Arrington. And Nikki Haley supported Nancy Mace and still Nancy Mace is, is backing Trump. Same thing with Tim Scott, he's only a senator because then Governor Haley appointed him to the Senate and he's still endorsed Donald Trump.


SUNUNU: That's right.

TAPPER: It's got to sting for Haley for all of the establishment to rally around Trump.

SUNUNU: No. Nikki Haley doesn't want establishment endorsements. She doesn't want any of them. She really doesn't. Look, Trump has become the -- gone from the disrupter to this establishment guy. He's never held the Senate accountable. Nikki Haley wants term limits. She says none of them should get paid unless they actually do their job, right? She wants to hold the Senate in Congress accountable because they don't do anything.

Well, so of course, they're going to go with the guy who when they -- when kind of he rolled over for them the first time, well, he's going to roll over for them the second time as well. No, Nikki is breaking that trend. She's breaking that mold. She wants accountability in government. Trump never held him accountable on anything. She could care less about these establishment guys. Congratulations, Donald Trump. You're everything that you pretended not to be.

TAPPER: All right. Well, I'll have what Governor Sununu is having. Governor Sununu, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

SUNUNU: It's great, man. It's a party.

TAPPER: All right. Appreciate your time today.

SUNUNU: Thank you buddy. Be good.

TAPPER: Families of Israel hostages disrupted the Israeli parliament, the Knesset today, their new message for lawmakers as Prime Minister Netanyahu turns down the latest deal for a hostage release. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our World Lead now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political future is looking very grim according to a new poll by CNN affiliate Channel 13 in Israel. That poll shows if new elections were held today in Israel, Netanyahu and his party would come in a distant second place while Benny Gantz, the head of the National Unity Party, who joined Netanyahu's war cabinet from the opposition. Pentagon says a clear lead. Meanwhile, the Israeli families of hostages held in Gaza demand action. More than a dozen of those families disrupted Israel's parliament today. The Knesset holding up signs that read, you will not sit here while they die there.

Let's get right to CNN's Nic Robertson in Tel Aviv. Nic, is there any discernible movement on hostage talks with Hamas?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Not really, at the moment. But certainly, you saw the anger there inside the Knesset building at the Financial Committee meeting where family members went in and very passionately made the case for their loved ones who are still being held by Hamas inside Gaza. Some of those family members did meet with the Prime Minister. And he said he had an initiative. But it's also been very clear, he's not about to cut a deal with Hamas, the one Hamas wants, which is give us all our prisoners back in your prison, end the war forever and for good, and then you can have the hostages back.

His -- Prime Minister has said absolutely no to that. So there really doesn't seem to be movement. But I guess one piece of movement in the puzzle that keeps Prime Minister Netanyahu where he is in government and doesn't bring about the collapse of his government that would trigger the type of election you were talking about just now. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the very hardline right wing politician who is the security minister here in the government with the Prime Minister has once again said if you, Prime Minister, cut a deal and stop the war, I'm out of the government. And Prime Minister Netanyahu knows that means the end of his tenure. TAPPER: And Nic, European leaders are calling Netanyahu's recent stated opposition to a two-state solution unacceptable, disappointing. But now it seems like he might actually be more open to some flexibility behind the scenes?

ROBERTSON: It certainly President Biden appears to be. You know, I think there are several things happening here. One is the European politicians are beginning to think that we have a divergent view from the United States. They're headed from foreign affairs, if you will, at the E.U. has said it's unacceptable. We had the Irish Prime Minister said today the same words, we heard it from other European leaders. So it's a very strong block and a view there, this divergence to United States are setting out a position.

You know, Europe's diverging here a little bit from where President Biden is. And President Biden is indicating that he has a softer view when Prime Minister Netanyahu says no to a two-state solution. President Biden thinks -- he seems to think that there's an interpretation on a two-state solution. He's mentioned as much that he was talked about there are states at the United Nations that don't have a security, don't have a security apparatus. And that will perhaps be one of the red lines for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

But I think there's also a calculation here, that if and when Prime Minister Netanyahu's government falls, there will be another leadership here in Israel, that the White House will be dealing with and the options may be different under that leadership too.

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson in Tel Aviv, thanks so much.

It's Tuesday in Russia, meaning in his prison cell, it is the 300th day of American journalist, Evan Gershkovich's wrongful detainment in Russia. His crime practicing journalist from the Wall Street Journal reporter is currently serving his pretrial detention in the notorious Lefortovo Prison, after Russia Secret Service -- Security Service, the FSB, detained him for allegedly trying to steal state secrets, a charge at Gershkovich, his employer, "The Wall Street Journal" and the U.S. government have all extensively denied and there has been no evidence proving the contrary.

If convicted, he would face up to 20 years in prison. Assistant editor at "The Wall Street Journal," Paul Beckett joins us now. Thank you so much for being here, Paul. It's good to see you. So just a few days ago, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, met with Evan at Lefortovo Prison. She said, he remains strong. He's grateful for support. What's the latest you've heard on how he's doing?

PAUL BECKETT, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think he works extremely hard at staying OK. It's a miserable place as you say. I think he meditates. He reads a lot. He's, you know, he's engaged as he can be to maintain his equilibrium. And we're grateful for that and we hope that he can maintain it.


TAPPER: Yes. You're working full time on leading "The Wall Street Journal's" efforts to secure his release. What's your biggest obstacle other than Putin?

BECKETT: This will ultimately be resolved by a government to government negotiation between the United States and Russia. So it's our job to really do what we can to keep Evan in the news, to help his family in any way we can, to make sure people don't forget about him and try and create a landscape on which those negotiations can happen. But those are not negotiations that we will conduct ourselves, that has to come from the U.S. and Russia and any other interested government that's out there that can help.

TAPPER: The U.S. it seems based on reporting has made offers to free some pretty awful people in exchange for Evan being freed. It just seems like Russia doesn't care as much about its people being in prison as we Americans care about our people being in prison. Is that fair?

BECKETT: We did here last month, the USA made an offer and Russia rejected it. So we're hopeful that the U.S. will now be going back to find out, you know, what it would take to get Russia to release, Evan. I think really what's behind this, as you've seen Russia, take American reporter as a hostage to try and gain leverage over the United States and send a message, the independent reporting is not welcome in Russia at such an important time.

TAPPER: Yes, there's also Russian American journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva, employee by Radio Free Europe, detained in October last year for what Russia claims was failing to register as a foreign agent. What do you know about her detention more broadly, is it -- is no American journalist safe in Russia right now? Or, even more broadly, is no American safe in Russia right now?

BECKETT: Well, we feel terrible for Alsu and her family, obviously, and they're working her case very hard over RFE/RL. And we're helping them however we can. I think it sends a message that American reporters are not welcome in Russia and the kind of information that Americans rely on from Russia to make smart decisions about America's place in the world, are being stifled.

So you did see after Evans detention, a large number of American correspondents leave many of them to Berlin, to Dubai, to Warsaw and to other places to try and keep reporting in Russia. But there's nothing like being on the ground.

TAPPER: How is his family doing? We had his parents on, I think it was for the 250th day he was president. I believe it was 50 days ago. How are his parents? How is his sister? How are they?

BECKETT: Wonderful people in a very difficult situation doing everything they can to bring Evan home. And we --they're really relying, as we all are, on President Biden's promise that he will bring Evan back and the sooner the better.

TAPPER: The Kremlin has been unwilling to discuss any sort of prisoner exchange publicly for Evan and Paul Whelan, who is also been in prison for years, former U.S. Marine, also considered unjustly detained by Russia. You get the sense that any movement is happening behind the scenes?

BECKETT: We're confident the U.S. government is taking it very seriously. And obviously we did see last month that an offer had been made and rejected. So we'd be hopeful that the next step is to figure out, you know, what another solution to this might look like? We're in favor of any creative solution to get this done. If it's a swab, or if it's some other mechanism, I think we just have to have confidence the U.S. government has made it a top priority and will act quickly to get this resolved.

TAPPER: All right, Paul Beckett from "The Wall Street Journal," thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir. Good to see you.

BECKETT: Thank you Jake. And you've been a leading light in this. So we really appreciate it.

TAPPER: It's the very least I can do. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Breaking news, the United States and United Kingdom have carried out a new round of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, sources tell CNN. Let's get straight to CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. Oren, beyond the fact that the Houthis are backed by Iran, what more do we know about the targets?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this round of strikes marks the eighth time the U.S. has attacked Houthi targets in Yemen over the course of the past two weeks. But notably, it is only the second time the U.S. and U.K. backed by number of other countries, including the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain and Australia have carried out attacks here, not quite as large as the first round of strikes we saw on January 11th. But the U.S. says they targeted eight different sites used by the Houthis for underground storage, as well as locations associated with the Houthi missile and air defense and surveillance capabilities.

So you see the target list widening here, not just anti-ship ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, which is what the U.S. has gone after to try to disrupt Houthi launches against international shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. But now you see the U.S. going after a larger set of targets here as they try to disrupt and degrade the Houthis ability to launch against critical waterways in the Middle East.

We have seen at this point, more than 30 such attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden over the course of the past two months or so, including to last week that struck U.S. owned and operated vessels. So this sort of response, a larger response perhaps, very much expected as we saw this widening here, Jake. It's also worth pointing out that the attempt to go after Houthi assets in Yemen in these offensive strikes now have a named operation that is operation Poseidon Archer. TAPPER: Operation Poseidon Archer. All right, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

In our Health Lead today, medical science is getting closer to screening for Alzheimer's disease with a simple blood test. Currently, patients have to undergo either a brain scan, or a spinal tap to test for Alzheimer's. That can be so expensive there -- those tests are out of reach for most people. But a new study finds a blood test currently being used for research can screen for Alzheimer's with about 80 percent accuracy. The test searches for a key biomarker, which increases at the same time as other damaging proteins build up in the brain.

As voters head to the polls in New Hampshire tomorrow, our live coverage will start well before the polls closed, tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN and streaming on CNN Max.


And quick mention before we go, a big congratulations to former lead supervising producer, former State of the Union executive producer. And now big shout at CNN, Katie Hinman, who helped launch the show. She also just launched this little guy, Henry Reed Hinman. Katie says Henry made his arrival into the world first thing Sunday morning in the honor a State of the Union, no doubt. Mom and Henry are doing great and both are gorgeous.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.