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Trump Ramps Up Attacks On DeSantis During Iowa Stop; Some Iowa Voters Say DeSantis Should "Wait His Turn"; 38% Of GOP Think Increased Diversity Threatens American Culture; Russian Fighter Jet Forces Down U.S. Drone Over Black Sea; Judge Cites "Barrage" Of Death Threats For Keeping Quiet On Hearing In Medication Abortion Case. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 14, 2023 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: If you're wondering what the 2024 GOP primary fight could look like, well, former President Trump just gave us a little preview of what he thinks.

Last night, in the first Iowa visit of his third White House bid, Trump set his sights squarely on his likely top rival, Ron DeSantis, days after the Florida governor visited the state.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did anybody ever hear of De-sanctis, De-sanctimonious? Ron DeSantis strongly opposed ethanol. Do you know that?

He also fought against Social Security. He wanted to decimate it and voted against it three times. Voted against Social Security.



TRUMP: You have to remember, Ron was a disciple of Paul Ryan, who is -


TRUMP: - a RINO loser, who is currently destroying FOX.

And to be honest with you, Ron reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney.


KEILAR: Joining us now, we have Ron Brownstein, senior editor at "The Atlantic," and Scott Jennings, who was a special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Scott, I wonder what you think, besides whether Trump needs to work more on his nicknames. I hate the name calling but I will say I don't know if that one is working.

We should mention, DeSantis hasn't even declared that he is running. We have to keep that in mind. But is he at risk of appearing weak if he doesn't respond here?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there is no evidence that any of the attacks Trump is leveling whether nicknames or these ridiculous attacks he somehow opposes all Social Security, there is no evidence that any of this is working.

If you look at Ron DeSantis' favorability ratings within the Republican Party at the state or national levels, they are quite high. And he has virtually no detractors in the party.

Right now, I don't know if there is any reason for DeSantis to have to respond. I think what Trump is doing looks weak, desperate, and none of it is really sticking. He is kind of flailing things at the wall. Some spaghetti here. It is kind of running down and not sticking up there.

I think DeSantis is OK for now. Obviously, Trump is not going to stop and he'll ultimately have to engage him. But he is not even a candidate yet, as you pointed out, and it doesn't appear to be hurting him.

KEILAR: What really matters is what voters or caucus goers in Iowa think about this, right? This is what some of them outside of Trump's speech said.


DENISE VASQUEZ, IOWA TRUMP SUPPORTER: True Trump voters are going to stay with Trump. He's already proven himself. So we know what he is capable of doing. And Ron DeSantis, he's an awesome governor. I love him as a governor. I just think it's not his time.

GLORIA CHIMIELEWSKI, IOWA TRUMP VOTER: I think Mr. DeSantis should wait his turn. And he is a good governor. You know, he's great. I think he would make a great president as well but he has to wait his turn and let President Trump do this again.


KEILAR: When you look at this new CNN polling, Ron, Trump is holding this slim lead over DeSantis with Republican voters. It's 40 percent to 36 percent. If you are Ron DeSantis, what are you thinking when you hear that?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, this poll, the CNN poll out today is better for DeSantis than some of the other recent national and state polls have been.

But whether the poll showed Trump ahead or DeSantis ahead, Brianna, they all show some similar patterns that I think are going to drive this race. The most important is, as in 2016, there is an enormous divide in

attitudes about Trump along lines of education in the Republican coalition.

In this poll, Donald Trump is winning 43 percent of Republicans without a college degree, which is very similar to his showing in 2016. But he is only winning 23 percent of Republicans without a degree, which is considerably weaker than his already modest showing in 2016.

Those white-collar voters, ultimately, I think have to be the foundation of any coalition that can beat him in the primary.

I think one question for DeSantis is that he is leaning so hard into culture war confrontations, basically saying he is offering Republican voters Trumpism without Trump. I will fight your cultural wars but I am not facing investigation for, you know, hush money to a porn star.

The risk for him is he is going so far in this direction that he does not consolidate what is clearly the biggest bloc of voters in the Republican electorate that are dubious Trump, which are the college educated Republicans.

KEILAR: That's really interesting.

According also to the new polling, Scott, I think something that is very significant, which is, in just four years, the number of Republicans who say the country's increasing racial, ethnic, and national diversity is threatening American culture has nearly doubled.

It is still at a minority here but that is a big minority, 38 percent. It's nearly doubled.

What do you think is going to happen here? Will that continue to shoehorn Republicans into continuing to play footsie with white nationalism even if they don't want to but they're going to go that direction?

JENNINGS: I totally reject the idea the Republican Party is based on or has anything to do with white nationalism. I think it is completely wrong.

You do not have to do anything with it in order to be the Republican nominee. It has no place in our party and no place on the American political spectrum.

I do think there are legitimate concerns being raised by Republicans out there about corporate endeavors and other sorts of cultural push and pull that, you know, some people on the left want.

Some people on the right want to go against that. So you're going to have that kind of debate.

But it is a far cry from saying, if I oppose, say, DEI, you know, and Corporate America, I am somehow in bed with white nationalism. So I just don't really accept the premise of that idea. [13:40:06]

Trump - to go back to what Brownstein said a minute ago, I think he's exactly right. Trump, on the non-college, totally correct. DeSantis, on college educated is correct.

And I would say, I have an easier time believing DeSantis can cut into the non-college than I think Trump could cut into DeSantis' existing college educated base.

That is why I've always thought, even in the polls that show Trump ahead DeSantis has more room to grow than Trump because I'm not sure where he'll find the extra coalition out of college educated voters.

KEILAR: Scott, let me just be clear in what I'm talking about, which would be, at some time - I mean, I think, if you think back to McCain, right, and how he would make sure to speak up and push back on maybe something that a voter would say or he would be very vociferous.

And this is something you used to hear more from Republicans. That if there was another Republican who was saying something that they thought was bigoted, and they didn't think should represent the party, they would come out against it. Right?

I mean, but sometimes you'll see that they don't come out as vociferously as they used to.

I wonder if, when you're looking at voters trending in that direction, if that is going to make it more difficult for Republicans to do that.

JENNINGS: Well, I will just think back on recent examples of this, since you're saying sometimes, which is a nebulous term.

But the most recent example of this is when Donald Trump had Kanye West and that other freak over for lunch and virtually every major national Republican from every wing of the Republican Party immediately denounced it.

And so I think what you'll find, if you look into it, is that when people stray off in this ridiculous direction, most Republicans actually know the difference between right and wrong on this.

I'm not saying Trump does necessarily because he obviously makes terrible decisions.

But I think, at least in that most recent example, where somebody was trying to include somebody that has sort of a stupid and horrific ideology, it was widely condemned by virtually every corner of the Republican Party.



KEILAR: Sorry, Ron. Go on.

BROWNSTEIN: Could I just say something real quick?

Look, it is a continuum. There are very few Republican voters, very few Americans over all who share the precepts of outright white nationalism.

There is no question the Republican coalition, particularly in the Trump era, is centered on the voters most uneasy about the way the country is changing, demographically and culturally.

You see in polling, up to three-quarters of Republican voters say discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.

Over 70 percent say the growing number of immigrants is undermining American culture.

Three-fifths to two-thirds say society is too soft and feminine and it's punishing men just for acting like men.

Donald Trump, in his speech in Iowa, noted last night that he got louder applause talking about how classroom teaching of race, gender, and sexual orientation than talking about economic issues.

That is where the energy in the party is now. That is what DeSantis is trying to appeal to by essentially offering Trumpism without Trump.

The question remains, though, is that a national majority? I mean, the dividing lines between the parties now is not so much economic as it is how you feel about the way the country is changing.

That is a fundamental fault line in our politics. And it is clear the energy in the Republican Party is for candidates who express resistance to that in all sorts of ways, from classroom censorship to book bans to what is happening on LGBTQ rights in the red states.


Scott and Ron -

JENNINGS: But you can't compare -


JENNINGS: Wait a second. You can't - it is not right to compare a -


BROWNSTEIN: That's the thing.


JENNINGS: - a Republican parent who has concerns about what is happening in the classroom with a white nationalist. It is just not correct to say, well, I think schools ought to have this kind of curriculum. That doesn't make you a white nationalist, to be concerned about what is being taught in a school. (CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: I'm not saying -


BROWNSTEIN: You are trying to link them together but it is not true.

KEILAR: Scott, I take your point.

BROWNSTEIN: No, it's not. It is not the same thing but it is on a continuum of concerns about the way the country is changing.

KEILAR: Scott and Ron, thank you so much for the spirited discussion. I do really appreciate it. Certainly, one that I think has to be had. It does.

Thank you, gentlemen.


And we do have some breaking news, of course. A Russian fighter jet forcing down a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. How Washington is responding, next.


KEILAR: Back to our breaking news. A Russian jet has forced down a U.S. drone over the Black Sea in international waters after spraying it with fuel and colliding with the drone, damaging its propeller.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon gathering new information.

Oren, I understand that you have some new details.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we have the latest update from the National Security Council where the U.S. says it will continue to fly drones over the Black Sea in international waters, where it has flown drones and Reaper Drones such as this, surveillance platforms, and spy platforms since even before the start of the war.

The U.S. defiantly saying, if Russia's intent was to deter the U.S. from flying in international air space, it simply won't work. And there is no need to use the deconfliction line between the U.S. and Russia to keep carrying out these missions, carrying out these operations over the Black Sea.

And that very much is the U.S.'s intent, even after a Russian fighter jet or two Russian fighter jets tried to disrupt a U.S. Reaper Drone earlier this morning and then damaged the propeller, forcing it down.


The U.S. says it will also reach out via the State Department to Russia to see if there is any explanation or information from the Russian side about this.

CNN has also reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense to see if there is a comment about what the U.S. is calling an unsafe and unprofessional intercept carried out by these two Russian fighter jets against the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper Drone.

One other point that's worth noting here, just to give our viewers a better perspective of this, this isn't some small, little commercial drone. The Reaper Drone is a large platform, 66-foot wingspan, 36 feet long and, when fully loaded, it can weigh more than $10,000 pounds.

For a Russian fighter jet to essentially ram this or collide with it in the air, even puts that Russian jet at fairly significant risk. And U.S. Air Force, Europe, also points this out, that that collision risks downing more than just the drone but the Russian aircraft as well.

An extremely severe incident here as we wait to find out not only how the U.S. will respond, but also the latest on the recovery incident.

U.S. Air Force, Europe, saying they brought down the drone in international waters of the Black Sea. So we're waiting for an update on whether that has been recovered and how that operation is going at this point - Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Oren, thank you so much for the latest on that from the Pentagon.

Here just ahead, the judge in a major case involving abortion says his court has been targeted with a "barrage" of death threats. We have that next.



KEILAR: A federal judge in Texas is citing a "barrage" of death threats and other harassment directed towards his courthouse for why he told lawyers not to publicize a hearing in a major medication abortion case that is set for tomorrow.

Media outlets and legal experts have criticized this judge, who is Trump-appointed - Matthew Kacsmaryk is his name - after "The Washington Post" reported that he was privately trying to delay announcement of the hearing.

He's overseeing a lawsuit seeking to block the use of medication abortion nationwide.

With us now, CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.

Jess, what more can you tell us about how this all went down?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this really was all shrouded in secretly until Judge Kacsmaryk finally announced tomorrow's hearing would be happening. He made that announcement last night.

Our team has obtained the transcript from what was a hearing late last week where this judge explained why he wanted to keep the date and time of tomorrow's hearing off the public docket until the very last minute.

He put it this way, "Because of limited security resources and staffing, I will ask the parties avoid further publicizing the date of the hearing. This is not a gag order, but just a request for courtesy given the death threats and hazarding phone calls and voicemail that this division as received."

"We want a fluid hearing with all the parties being heard. I think less advertisement of this hearing is better."

But, of course, news outlets over the weekend ended up reporting all of this. And the judge did finally announce the hearing last night.

And the reason this is all unfolding with so much scrutiny and a little bit of secrecy is because this is the first major abortion case since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.

And this judge is being asked by an anti-abortion group to block access to an abortion pill that's been approved by the FDA for 20 years and it's used in the majority of abortions nationwide.

Meaning, the majority of abortions are now performed with this medication. So if this drug, Mifepristone, is blocked, women in states that already ban most abortions, they'll have their access to abortion virtually disappear.

And even women in states where abortion is still legal, they will have a much tougher time because access to in-person clinics will be harder to come by if this medication abortion is no longer available since it's the most common method of abortion up to about 10 weeks.

Brianna, there is a lot on the line here in this politically charged case that really could affect millions of women who might rely on medication abortions now and in the future.

So this is a hearing that will play out in a Texas courtroom. It will be tomorrow morning. 9:00 a.m. Central time, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

It has drawn a lot of scrutiny, a lot of controversy, and who knows what we'll see outside the court tomorrow. But obvious concerns about any violence or protests - Brianna?

KEILAR: Many people will be watching this across the country.

Jessica, thank you for that.

That does it for me. We have much more on our breaking news on Russia, a Russian jet colliding with a U.S. drone over the Black Sea forcing it down. Stay with us for that.