Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

New Warnings Against Trump Second Term as He Leads GOP Primary Race; Tracking Nikki Haley's Path to the Republican Nomination; IDF Expands Ground Operations to All of Gaza. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired December 04, 2023 - 10:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: An unimaginable threat and a clear path to dictatorship. New warnings coming from Republicans this morning of what a second Donald Trump presidency could look like.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Big Pharma collides with the Supreme Court. Happening now, billions of dollars at stake as the court weighs in on victims of the opioid crisis.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: In the sports world, a stunning and controversial decision, the body that governs college football playoffs leaves undefeated Florida State out in the cold. FSU will not be playing in the playoffs.

I'm Sara Sidner with Kate Bolduan and John Berman. This is CNN News Central.

BOLDUAN: 42 days, that's how close we are now to the first real test of the 2024 election. The Iowa caucus is kicking off on January 15th. And with this countdown, there's coming new warnings from Republicans themselves about the Republican frontrunner and what a second Donald Trump presidency could mean.

Former Reagan official Robert Kagan calls a possible Trump second term a, quote, clear path to dictatorship in the United States. David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, saying it will, quote, instantly plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.

Let's get over to CNN's Kristen Holmes. She has more on this.

Kristen, this weekend, Donald Trump maybe heard this and tried to flip the script on all of this. What did he say?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. So, one of Joe Biden's biggest arguments against Donald Trump is that a second Trump term would be bad for democracy.

As we have obviously reported, Trump is facing charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election, our democratic processes. He has constantly questioned the legitimacy of elections, which are our democratic institutions. And at one point, he even called for the termination of the Constitution.

But now he is trying to flip the script, saying that it's actually Joe Biden who is bad for democracy, and using an argument we have heard him make before, essentially saying that the four indictments against him are Joe Biden's way of using the Department of Justice, essentially to attack a political opponent, that opponent being Donald Trump. Take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy, and it's him and his people.

So, if Joe Biden wants to make this race a question of which candidate will defend our democracy and protect our freedoms, and I say to Crooked Joe, and he is crooked, the most corrupt president we've ever had, we will win that fight and we're going to win it very big.


HOLMES: And, Kate, two things to note here, one being that his audience really takes him seriously. They believe the arguments that Trump is making. So, it's something to really pay attention to, even if it seems as though he is just trying to say, as John said at the top, no, you are the problem, not me.

But the other part of this to focus on is just the fact of what a Trump 2025 agenda and term would look like. And we talk a lot about these checks and balances. And what most of those articles that you mentioned talk about is the fact that Donald Trump is looking for ways around the normal checks and balances system. Many of them have grown weaker since he was in office and something that he is trying to do if he was to win a second term.

BOLDUAN: And, Kristen, also Donald Trump is also now trying to attack Obamacare once again. The Biden campaign seems more than happy to see this kind of development in the campaign, if you will. What are you hearing about this?

HOLMES: Yes. They've actually already launched an ad on this. This is a fight that Democrats are happy to take on. They want to fight on Obamacare.

As we know, Republicans, a lot of them are still scarred by what we saw back in 2017, after Trump promised to overturn Obamacare, even though they had a full monopoly on power in Washington, they were actually unable to do so. And Democrats know that this program is increasingly popular. It's actually more popular now than it was in previous years.

So, now they're running ads, essentially saying that Trump is a threat to your health care, again, something that they want to focus on.

When I'm talking to Republicans, they have no idea why it is that Donald Trump is doubling down on this. He mentioned it this weekend. He's continued to post on social media about it. [10:05:00]

But he has yet to offer a plan. And I will note that back when he was in office, he continually said he would come up with a plan that would replace Obamacare, yet he left in 2020 never having done so, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's great to see you. Great reporting, Kristen, thank you. Sarah?

SIDNER: And you're hearing all of these dramatic words about Donald Trump, but he still holds a commanding poll lead. But let's take a closer look now at what one of his strongest GOP challengers for the nomination, Nikki Haley.

The man, the myth the legend, CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten, is joining me now.

All right, first of all, how far behind is Nikki Haley and is there some sort of historical example as to what might be her path to a win?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. So, look, let's be very real. Donald Trump is well ahead of Nikki Haley at this point, though Nikki Haley does have some momentum. So, this is the prior poll, this is the latest poll. Iowa, New Hampshire, national.

If we look nationally, look how far Donald Trump was ahead in the last NBC poll. He was up by 45 points. But, again, that's smaller than the margin he was in the prior poll when he was up 52 over Nikki Haley.

But here's a key nugget to keep in mind. Look at Iowa, New Hampshire. Remember, primaries are sequential contests. So, if we look at Iowa, the first in the nation, Donald Trump still has a commanding lead over Nikki Haley there, but it's 27 points compared to 45 nationally. Look in New Hampshire, it was 27, now it's 22 points. So, the idea is you win, or you do better in Iowa than expected for Nikki Haley, then maybe you win in New Hampshire and then you take off nationally.

And there is one historical analogy I would sort of point to. This is the 1984 Democrats. Look, Walter Mondale led at this point. He went on to win the nomination. But it was a much smaller win than a national popular vote than it was at this point. At this point, it was 39 points. He only won it by two. How did Gary Hart do it? He finished stronger in Iowa than expected. You could see Mondale's margin here was smaller than the poll lead at this point. And that catapulted Gary Hart in the state of New Hampshire. He was down by 42 points at this point. He actually won the state by nine.

So, look, it's a long --

SIDNER: It's a possibility?

ENTEN: It's a possibility. There's a chance.

SIDNER: Yes. So, you're saying there's a chance?

ENTEN: Yes. SIDNER: All right. Let's look at what she may look like. I mean, could she continue to build this momentum as Gary Hart did in places like Iowa, New Hampshire? What are we looking at?

ENTEN: Yes. So, I think a key thing to keep in mind is non-Haley voters, their mind is made up in the GOP primary, just 44 percent of non-Haley voters said their mind is made up in Iowa. In New Hampshire, it's just 57 percent. So, there's still a lot of voters out there who's kind of swimming around saying, who should I support? So, this is a potential pool for Nikki Haley.

Here's the other thing to keep in mind. What comes after New Hampshire? It's South Carolina, which, of course, is a third of the nation contest where Nikki Haley was the former governor. Look, she's down significantly at this point. But, again, it's a smaller lead for Trump than it is nationally. It's about 29 points.

But this, I think, is key to keep in mind. View very favorably, this tends to be correlated with votes in the primary. And you can see Trump's lead on this metric. He still holds a lead, but it is smaller. It is smaller than his lead in the primary choice. It's only 14 points. If Nikki Haley does something in Iowa, catapults herself in New Hampshire, then comes in the South Carolina, I wouldn't be surprised to see that margin shrink more.

Again, tough path, but there is a path that you can look to historically. The '84 Dems, if a slight few things went differently, maybe Gary Hart was the nominee in '84. And maybe this time, hey, you never know in this era.

SIDNER: And always reminding people it's a snapshot in time, but it does tell you something about what might happen coming forward.

Thank you, Harry Enten.

ENTEN: Thank you.

SIDNER: All right. John?

BERMAN: All right, with us now is CNN Political Director David Chalian.

David, I want to go back where it began this hour with all these new warnings about what could happen if there is a second Trump presidency. Robert Kagan writes, the country is on a clear path to dictatorship. David Frum says, it could put the country in a constitutional crisis more terrible than anything seen since the Civil War. The New York Times writes that Trump is always exhibited authoritarian impulses. But this time, basically, he's got the policy to back it up. So, Trump sees this, and his response, and we played this out a little while ago, was to basically say, Joe Biden is the destroyer of democracy. What do you see in that defense?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, let's add one more to the list, John, that you just went through, because it's not just observers. Donald Trump himself has stated, if he's re-elected to be president, he will use the Justice Department to go after his political enemy. So, that's just a point of fact. He has stated what would be a destabilizing agenda for American democracy. And yet, as you know, what he's trying to do is this political jujitsu, where he's taking this perceived weakness of his and trying to thrust it upon his opponent.

We've seen this time and again. We saw it in his business career. We saw it throughout the last eight years of his political career. And he's trying now to convince people that Joe Biden is the threat to democracy, because that's why Donald Trump is being charged with these crimes, because Joe Biden's Justice Department is coming after Joe Biden's political enemy.

There's no evidence, zero, that Joe Biden's Justice Department is doing this to achieve political goals for Joe Biden.


That's not stopping Donald Trump. And, significantly, John, it's not going to stop tens of millions of supporters of Donald Trump who believe wholeheartedly what he is describing here.

BERMAN: Is there a sense in the Biden campaign? Because all of these calls -- first of all, yes, you're correct in pointing out the Donald Trump saying in himself, but these calls are coming from outside right now. These warnings are coming up from outside right now. How much of the Biden re-election campaign do you think will be focused on this, the Trump threat to democracy as they see it, or Trump wants to get rid of Obamacare, which is something that they're leaning on right now?

CHALIAN: Well, I don't think it's an either/or proposition. I think that you're going to see both arguments from the Biden team. But I think they are eager to have the Obamacare fight because that is something that is very tangible for tens of millions of Americans. It's a kitchen table issue. It's one that has been proven politically successful for Democrats in the years that Republicans have been trying to upend it as recently as the 2018 midterms when Democrats won control of the House.

I would just note, John, you've seen an uptick in sort of the democracy arguments from the Biden-Harris campaign team, I would say, even since the summer. There was a lot of caution of not wanting to meddle in some of these cases that are ongoing. But they've put that to the side to really talk about the issue directly, especially as Donald Trump makes it front and center. But those economic, health care bread and butter issues, they're going to be the centerpiece of the Biden campaign.

BERMAN: Let's talk about Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, who had what on paper should have been a positive week in a campaign. He debated Gavin Newsom publicly. A lot of people saw that as a positive. He went to Iowa, completed the full Grassley (ph) 99 counties visited there. He's got these endorsements in Iowa, and yet, and yet, David, there continues to be chaos within his campaign apparatus. It's the super PAC that's backing him. What's going on here? CHALIAN: Yes. And it's such an interesting example, John, because we've never seen a campaign do what we've seen the DeSantis campaign do in terms of turning so much of the campaigning infrastructure over to the super PAC.

It used to be -- super PACs would just raise a lot of money and go on television with ads. The entire ground organization was built by his super PAC. And, remember, legally, the DeSantis campaign and DeSantis himself can't coordinate on strategy with the super PAC.

So, yes, this should have been a sky-high weekend of accolades for Ron DeSantis six weeks before the caucuses, and yet you see three staffers getting fired or departing the super PAC, more chaos in that super PAC where the DeSantis team has put so much responsibility to actually get them across the finish line.

BERMAN: Very quickly, I want to play something Ron DeSantis said about the impeachment inquiry into President Biden. The House might formalize that inquiry in the next few days. This is what Governor DeSantis says about it.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they run the risk of doing an inquiry that doesn't necessarily lead anywhere, while they've been ignoring a lot of the problems that our voters are talking about.

Make sure you're not ignoring all these other issues and don't use that inquiry as kind of a Trojan horse to not then meet your responsibilities on all these other things.


BERMAN: Unexpected, David?

CHALIAN: My ears perked up when I heard that because I would think DeSantis would just want to sidestep the issue as much as he can, leave it to the congressional Republicans to deal with. But to actually caution against going down the road here sounds like he believes that this would sort of rebound negatively on Republicans going full bore into an impeachment inquiry and putting some vulnerable Republicans on the line to make a tough vote here.

He didn't sound -- I just had not heard that from DeSantis before, and so it was really intriguing to hear politically where he was trying to advise his Republicans in Congress to go.

BERMAN: It was very revealing.

All right, David, challenge great to have you on. Thanks so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Kate? BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, new video showing Israeli ground forces now operating in Southern Gaza, the first apparent confirmation of an IDF operation there in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

Plus, right now, the Supreme Court is getting ready to take on the $6 billion bankruptcy settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and the family behind it. Should the Sackler family be given wide-ranging legal protection related to the devastating public health crisis that came with OxyContin.

And the big controversy in college football, undefeated Florida State denied a spot in the playoffs. All of that coming up.



BERMAN: All right. Just in the CNN, Israeli ground troops are now operating in southern Gaza. CNN has geolocated video that shows an Israeli tank three miles from the southern city of Khan Younis. Again, that is in the southern part of Gaza.

This comes just one day after the IDF announced it was ready to begin expanding its combat operations. The IDF then ordered Palestinians near Khan Younis to clear out. The United Nations estimates that more than 80 percent of people in Gaza have been displaced.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is in Tel Aviv this morning with the very latest. Alex, what are you hearing?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. We're just north of Tel Aviv and that number of displaced is 1.8 million, according to the United Nations. Israel making very clear that it is expanding its operations. It's expanding the ground operations across the entire Gaza Strip, we are told.


Israeli officials have said that their soldiers have come face-to-face in fighting with Hamas operatives. At the same time, they are continuing to pummel the Gaza Strip from the sky, at least 200 strikes overnight, according to the Israeli Air Force. And they are telling Gaza residents to flee even further south.

Now, remember, they had told Gazans from the northern part of the strip to head south, many of them going to the city of Khan Younis, where there has been heavy fighting, and now Israel telling people in Khan Younis to go even farther south. Israeli and American officials believe that Hamas leadership is in that city.

And the way that they have been telling Gazans to evacuate is through social media, through leaflets being dropped from the air that have Q.R. codes on them that take people to websites with these complicated maps of different grids, trying to explain where to move into different sectors if strikes are coming. But, John, it is extraordinarily complicated for Gazans to even get online. We just heard from the Palestinian cell phone company, Paltel, saying that all of communications are out in Gaza City and in the northern part of the strip. So, it's not a given that these Palestinians will even be able to get this message from the Israelis.

At the same time, we are hearing increasing alarm from American officials about the way that Israel is prosecuting this war and the number of civilian deaths. We heard the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, over the weekend saying that Israel could achieve a tactical victory against Hamas but still be strategically defeated because of all these civilian casualties. Take a listen.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You see, in this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat. So, I have repeatedly made clear to Israel's leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative.


MARQUARDT: And, John, this renewed fighting has been going on for four days now after that fragile pause fell apart on Friday. Hundreds more people have been killed in Gaza. According to the Hamas- controlled Ministry of Health, the death toll in Gaza since October 7th is almost 16,000 people. John?

BERMAN: All right. Alex Marquardt, north of Tel Aviv this morning, Alex, keep us posted. Thank you. Sara?

SIDNER: The need for humanitarian aid in Gaza is, of course, becoming more dire and more difficult to deliver. On Sunday, 100 aid trucks drove into Gaza from the Rafah crossing, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. The trucks contained food, water and medical supplies.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is joining us now from Jerusalem.

Ben, there is also this big effort to get some people out of Gaza as well. How is this all coming together? What are you learning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: While some people, some of the injured, are getting out, and those with second citizenship are slowly getting out. But, really, the main concern is about the people who are still stuck inside Gaza, 80 percent of whom have been displaced.

And according to the U.N., at this point, despite the Israelis putting out this map with a grid that shows people where they should go and where they shouldn't go, the problem is there really is nowhere in Gaza that is safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WEDEMAN (voice over): Look around. This is Gaza City's Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, where the wounded are treated in the open on wooden pallets. The emergency ward is already jammed.

The courtyard is full of body bags. Dozens were killed in a series of Israeli strikes Saturday, many more still under the rubble.

Israel claims one of those strikes killed a senior Hamas commander who helped plan these 7 October attacks. He was, perhaps, one dead among many, many others.

This woman lost her daughter and grandchildren and names them all.

And may God judge those watching us die, she cries.

It's a similar scene in an Al-Aqsa Martyr's Hospital in Central Gaza, more wounded, many of them children, and more dead, many of them children.

They bombed an entire street, says Saad (ph). He pulled his brother, Mohammed (ph), from under the rubble.


But his brother, Mohammed, was dead, says Saad, let me say goodbye to him.

My father has been killed, cries this boy after a strike on the Jabalya refugee camp Sunday. The seven-day truce seems like the distant past.


WEDEMAN (on camera): And this afternoon, we were able to get through to the head of the pediatric unit at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, the only functioning hospital in Northern Gaza. He explained to us that there was an Israeli strike on one of the entrances to that hospital, killing or injuring at least ten people.

This is a hospital where there are about 5,000 to 6,000 people taking refuge there in the hopes that they might be safe.

And we also have some sad news to report from the CNN family. Our producer in Gaza, Ibrahim Dahman, who has fortunately been able to get out of Gaza, was informed that nine of the members of his extended family, including his aunt and uncle, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Northern Gaza. And we want to extend our condolences to Ibrahim and his family. Sara?

SIDNER: Ibrahim has been doing an incredible job from inside Gaza, showing us everything that they've been going through as well as the civilians there. Our heart goes out to him and all the civilians who are suffering with all this tragedy.

Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for all your reporting as well. Kate? WEDEMAN: And coming up still for us, a lifelong get out of jail free pass. Why a federal judge says that is exactly what Donald Trump does not have in the federal election case against him. What this new ruling now means for the former president's defense strategy.

And right now, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on a huge bankruptcy case, not just about how far bankruptcy protections can extend but also getting at the heart of the multi-billion dollar settlement involving the family behind the company that makes OxyContin, the drug that has fueled the opioid public health crisis that's killed hundreds of thousands of people.