Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Today, Trump, Haley, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Campaign in New Hampshire Days Before Primary; Trump Slams Biden on the Economy During New Hampshire Rally; Roger Stone Allegedly Discusses Assassinating Democrats. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 17, 2024 - 07:00   ET



MADISON MARSH, MISS AMERICA 2024: And I hope that she knows that and the rest of America can see that as well because, really, this entire year is dedicated to my mom, Whitney.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Before we go, what were your classmates at the academy? Have you talked to any of them since this happened? I would love to know what their thought process is.

MARSH: I mean, everyone was so supportive. There was -- I remember there were times at the Academy when we were trying to work with my schedule on how I was going to make competing and being a cadet work. And so I have tons of students and teachers that have been reaching out in support, and it really meant a lot getting messages from some of the women that I went to the academy with, saying, thank you for showing the country that we serve beyond our uniform and that we can lead as women in and out of it.

And so I'm super excited to get to carry all of them with me throughout this entire year.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Madison Marsh, so many congratulations. I think your name is one we're going to be talking about for years to come.

MARSH: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thank you. CNN This Morning continues now.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Roughly half of the Iowa caucus donors that made another choice. There is an appetite for a different leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you make it that long? Are you going to end up with money?


ANA NAVARRO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She needs to stop tiptoeing around this issue and she needs to call it out.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We really got to get back on to Biden and not wasting a lot of time with these two.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They won't punch back at him. If you actually want to be a leader, you have to be willing to stand up.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump is taking his campaign to the courtroom.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For jury selection in the penalty phase of E. Jean Carroll's federal defamation lawsuit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get the most important witness, E. Jean Carroll herself.

TRUMP: I'm going to go to one of these phony cases.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You the jury need to send a message above and beyond whatever dollar figure you can put on this. He needs to be stopped.

ROGER STONE, ADVISER TO FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former Trump associate Roger Stone caught on tape talking about killing Democratic members of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Urging violence will lead up to January 6th, Stone at the center of yet another controversy.


MATTINGLY: Well, a good Wednesday morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. I'm Phil Mattingly with Poppy Harlow in New York.

And right now, the battle for New Hampshire is ramping up with only three Republicans left standing, the frontrunner, Donald Trump continuing to balance the campaign trail with the courthouse and his legal trials. He is expected to attend day two of the defamation trial brought by E. Jean Carroll.

He will then travel back to New Hampshire, where he will be holding dueling rallies with Nikki Haley. And Ron DeSantis is ramping up his ground operation with just days left in what could be a make or break primary.

The harsh reality for both Haley and DeSantis is that Trump can literally slam the door shut on this race with another dominant victory that resembles what he did in Iowa.

During his rally in New Hampshire last night, Trump making it clear he sees only one opponent standing in his way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Ron DeSanctimonious, he go down like a rock. I don't even want to talk about him because I don't want to waste it. I do want to talk about Nikki because this perception that she's gone up, she's not tough enough.

We have a country that's in such bad shape. We have to take it back. Nikki Haley is a disaster.

I moved her to the United Nations and, honestly, she was not a good negotiator.


HARLOW: Well, last night DeSantis also sharpened his attacks on Haley during CNN's town hall. You see him there with Wolf Blitzer. He argued that Nikki Haley cannot beat Trump after finishing third in Iowa.


DESANTIS: She said in her campaign said that there's only two tickets out of Iowa, that the top two out of Iowa would be viable, and that she would finish at least second, and then that would be the race. Well, guess what happened?


HARLOW: Omar Jimenez live in Manchester, New Hampshire, with us. Good morning to you, Omar.

Haley has really been betting so much on New Hampshire. She's polling way above DeSantis in New Hampshire. Where are we just a little under a week out?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, really, at this point, both Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are trying to cut into Trump's dominance but it's really Haley that's better positioned here to actually give him a serious challenge with polls at least in recent weeks showing her within single digits of the former president, which is a threshold that no other candidate has been even close to at this point.

That said polls are one thing, securing votes in these final days is something else entirely.


JIMENEZ (voice over): The Republican race for president is refocusing in New Hampshire with all three candidates campaigning in the Granite State after former President Trump's landslide victory in Iowa.

Do you think what happened in Iowa is going to happen here in New Hampshire?

SHELLEY ROY, NEW HAMPSHIRE UNDECIDED VOTER: I think that is a strong possibility of yes. JIMENEZ: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is sharpening his message to try to cut into some of Trump's overwhelming GOP support and criticizing his GOP rivals for not debating in New Hampshire.

DESANTIS: I'm the only candidate that actually agreed to come to New Hampshire to debate.


I'm the only one who's not running a basement campaign at this point.

JIMENEZ: Trump took a detour to New York to attend jury selection and the defamation case brought against him by E. Jean Carroll before heading to New Hampshire. A long line of supporters waited for him in the blistering cold to get into his campaign event.

TRUMP: I said, will people show up? But they always show up.

JIMENEZ: Trump is trying to secure an equally dominant finish in New Hampshire to secure his path to the nomination.

TRUMP: We really got to get back on to Biden and beating the Democrats and not wasting a lot of time with these two.

JIMENEZ: Meanwhile, Haley is staking her campaign on a strong finish in the first primary state by courting support from more moderate voters.

GARY HOULE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INDEPENDENT VOTER: I am looking for an alternative Republican to run against Joe Biden.

JIMENEZ: Her competitors say she say can't the primary without Republican support.

TRUMP: Nikki Haley, in particular, is counting on the Democrats and liberals to infiltrate your Republican primary.

DESANTIS: To win a Republican primary, you can't rely on Democrats coming in and changing their registration. You got to be able to win core Republicans. You got to be able to win conservatives. And she cannot do that.

JIMENEZ: Haley's allies are hoping for a strong finish as she campaigns on a message of generational change.

HALEY: Don't you think we need to have mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75?

These are people making decisions on our national security. These are people making decisions on the future of our economy. We need to know they're at the top of their game.

JIMENEZ: But Haley's also facing criticism for how she answered a question about racism in the United States during an interview Tuesday. HALEY: We're not a racist country, Brian. We've never been a racist country. Our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday. Are we perfect? No.

JIMENEZ: Her campaign clarified her remarks in a statement writing, America has always had racism, but America has never been a racist country.


JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, that was something that Haley allies like Larry Hogan agreed with, and even Ron DeSantis, when he was asked about it, despite, of course, periods like slavery and segregation, where racism was literally a fundamental part of this country.

That said, all these candidates are going to be back out on the campaign trail today. Trump, in particular, is expected to start his day in court in New York before making his way here to New Hampshire. Poppy, Phil?

HARLOW: The three-fifths clause as well. There's a lot there, Omar. Thank you very much.


HARLOW: Let's talk about it all. Former State Department senior White House adviser in the Trump administration, Matt Mowers, is with us, and Steve Duprey, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, who is backing Nikki Haley. Good morning to both of you.

Steve, let me just ask for your response on that, the comments that she made on Fox came a couple weeks after she didn't say slavery is what caused Civil War. Her campaign did put out that statement later. What's your response to it?

STEVE DUPREY, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Yes, I don't think that's a big deal in New Hampshire. I think people are going to give her a pass. They understand what she meant that we're not a racist country. Obviously, we've had racism. I think it's a non- issue.


DUPREY: One correction, Governor DeSantis and President Trump keep saying Democrats are going to infiltrate the New Hampshire primary. If you were a Democrat and you wanted to switch to vote, you had to do it by a month-and-a-half ago. Only 3,500 Democrats switched their registration from Democrat to independent. So, that claim is factually false by Governor DeSantis.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Steve, I'm glad you brought that up, because throughout listening to the piece, it kept popping into my head, it's important for people to know that's not actually how it works.

Matt, we first met when you were Chris Christie's man on the ground in New Hampshire back in 2016. You ran for office in the state as well. What's your sense right now of Christie getting out of the race? He had decent numbers in the state. Does that change the dynamic? Does he convert? Do those supporters all convert to Haley going forward?

MATT MOWERS, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, not all of them, but certainly most of them. And part of the reason is that if you're a voter who is looking at Governor Christie up until about a week ago, given his message about Donald Trump, given his -- where he staked out ideologically, you know, certainly more middle of the road, talking about the need for compromise, talking about the need to bring people together.

You don't have a lot of homes right now. I mean, it's an incredibly shrunken field. You're down to essentially two, and with all due respect to Ron DeSantis, half a candidate in New Hampshire, where New Pole came out today showing him only polling at 5 percent.

And so you're naturally -- if you're inclined to support Governor Christie a week ago, your only home right now is really to support Ambassador Haley. And she's seeing some of the benefit of that. A new poll came out today showing her now, you know, moving upwards into the mid-30s, some of that previous polling had shown her in the high-20s. But she still has a lot of room to catch up.

And the challenge right now for her is that she has to both maintain that base she has of more moderate Republicans, independent voters, while also now pulling conservative voters away from Donald Trump, who's getting closer and closer to that 50 percent mark.


HARLOW: Steve, Phil counted, and the tone from Trump about Nikki Haley was conciliatory for 22 hours. Is that right?

MATTINGLY: Yes, a little bit more, a little bit more. It's a big -- almost day.

HARLOW: Yes, almost. He had a stop watching.

But in all seriousness, Trump has since then merged Nikki Haley's face in this sort of weird, morphed photo with Hillary Clinton, and he's using dog whistles by pointing to her and misspelling her given Indian name. How does she need to hit back in the next six days to try to close that gap with Trump in your state?

DUPREY: Well, first, I think we should note that President Trump actually has a very good campaign organization this time. In 2016, he ran as a celebrity, 2020 as the incumbent. This year, he has a very sophisticated campaign operation.

But I think what Nikki Haley needs to keep saying is that I can achieve the Trump agenda without the chaos, without the distractions, without the negativity, without the name calling. And I think she's doing pretty well, obviously, having Chris Sinunu, one of the most popular governors in the country, out campaigning for our helps.

And if you look back at -- I'm going to look at the (INAUDIBLE), in 2000, it was a 17-point spread from McCain over Bush because the independents broke at the very last moment and added to his total and created that big margin.

So, I think she has a lot of room to grow, it's clearly do a die here, and like Matt said, and I was proud to be a supporter and a friend of Matt's for a long time, still am.

MATTINGLY: Still a friend.

DUPREY: I think -- still a friend and a campaign supporter if he runs again. But I think he's correct. The governor of DeSantis really doesn't have a campaign here. In order to do well in New Hampshire, you have to come across as likable, and Governor DeSantis, for whatever reason, hasn't been able to cross that barrier yet.

MATTINGLY: Matt, last word before we have to go.

MOWERS: I'll just say, you know, I think in order to see an upset next week, we're going to have to see a surge of independent turnout. Governor Sununu is very popular with independent voters, so he's got a lot of work to do in the next week. But I'm sure with supporters like Governor Sununu and Steve, Ambassador Haley, has a chance to maybe close that gap.

MATTINGLY: All right. Matt Mowers, Steve Duprey, still friends, which is a good development. I appreciate you both. Thank you, guys.

MOWERS: Thank you.

DUPREY: Thanks for having us.

MATTINGLY: Well, new insight this morning about the call made to 911 requesting an ambulance to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's home on New Year's Day. We'll have it.

HARLOW: And despite low unemployment, cooling inflation, the state of the economy remains a hurdle for President Biden heading into the general election. The president's top economic adviser is with us next to talk about that and a lot more.




TRUMP: The next Trump economic boom will begin on November 5th, 2024. That will be an economic boom. And, you know, the only thing that they have now is a stock market that's going up, and it's only going up because people think we're going to win the election.


HARLOW: Not the only thing that's good about the economy right now, just to point a fact, Donald Trump in New Hampshire last night campaigning on the economy, not giving specifics, said he would, quote, rescue the economy from what he calls disaster spending policies by President Biden. I will point out the White House and many economists point to factual indicators that this economy is remarkably strong. They point to historically low unemployment, cooling inflation.

The message is not breaking through in the polls. In ABC News/Ipsos poll at this week shows just 31 percent of Americans approve of how Biden is handling this economy, 56 percent disapprove. And this is interesting, just 13 percent of Americans say they've gotten better financially since the president took office.

Let's talk about that and some news with President Biden's top economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, who is the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

I know you don't like to talk about polls. I know you're not in charge of the political operation, but I will ask you prices are still high, housing, for example, there are still real pains in this economy for Americans. What is the White House going to do about that between now and Election Day?

JARED BERNSTEIN, CHAIR, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, great to be with you. I think the most important thing for us to do is to continue to execute on the president's vision to lower costs while maintaining the strong economy in the background that you just referred to.

As you know, inflation is down two-thirds off of its peak, and some of the highest prices have come down as well in areas like airfare, milk, eggs, T.V., toys, things like that. And that's been really important to help give families some breathing room. But as you say, and as the president says, whenever he talks about it, prices are still too high. So, we have to continue to reduce junk fees wherever they see them while maintaining the very tight job market.

You will remember that economists assured us that we'd be in a recession by now. In fact, the economy is growing with some real strength. Real wages are up. That helps families buying power. So, we just have more work to do to build on the progress we've made. We're even seeing some of that progress reach some of these polls and sentiment indicators that are improving.

HARLOW: It's a fair point. Many, many people said recession, recession, recession. Few said soft landing, and we may have achieved just that.

Talking about American families, we saw bipartisanship in Congress yesterday in a really important way, releasing -- lawmakers working together to release a $78 billion tax package that would enhance the child tax credit, potentially lift about 500 -- let me just check the numbers on there, a thousand kids out of poverty.

BERNSTEIN: 400,000, yes.

HARLOW: Yes, 500 went fully implemented, that's what I was pointing to, but also some tax breaks for businesses. I know it's not as much as the White House wanted, but will you guys get behind it?

BERNSTEIN: President Biden is very proud of the effect of the child tax credit, and that's part of what you were just talking about, Poppy, that was in his rescue plan. This cut child poverty nearly in half. That is a really smart investment.


So, yes, we're very supportive of expanding the child tax credit. We'd like to work to get it back to where it was when the president managed to have such great effects in the rescue plan. We haven't seen all of the details of this plan. Interestingly, it's paid for, which is pretty important right now.

So, helping hundreds of thousands of kids get out of poverty, reaching 16 million kids with a more fair child tax credit, that sounds like a really smart idea to us.

HARLOW: All right, so that's a yes.

Let's move on to some news that you have. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this morning is issuing these new rules that would limit how banks can charge overdraft fees on people. Can you explain how they would work? I don't -- it's not a surprise to you that the American Bankers Association is urging you guys not to proceed until they can assess the economic impact on community banks and credit unions.

Explain how this works and why it's important.

HARLOW: Did we lose Jared? Oh, okay. We're going to try to get him back. We'll try to get him back and finish the conversation in a little bit.

MATTINGLY: In the meantime, notorious Trump ally Roger Stone under investigation for allegedly discussing assassinating Democrats. Who Stone says is actually responsible for the comments, that's next.

And E. Jean Carroll said to take the stand today as a jury is asked to decide how much Donald Trump owes her for defaming her.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Monday, the chairman of Florida's Republican Party was ousted because he was under criminal investigation for sexual assault. Yes, no one under investigation for sexual assault should be chairman of the Florida Republican Party. They should be the Republican nominee for president.




MATTINGLY: Long time and staunch Donald Trump ally Roger Stone under investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police and FBI for allegedly threatening to assassinate House Democrats. Take a listen.


STONE: It's time to do it. Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election. They need to get the message. I'm just not putting up with this (BLEEP) anymore.


MATTINGLY: Now, Stone is referring to Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell and Congressman Jerry Nadler, who served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during part of Trump's administration.

Now the website, Mediaite, first obtained the tape. CNN has not independently verified its authenticity.

CNN's Zach Cohen joins us now. Zach, what more are we learning about this?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Phil, sources are telling me and our colleague, Kristen Wilson, that the U.S. Capitol Police and FBI are taking this seriously. They are looking into these comments that were allegedly made by Roger Stone in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, but are only surfacing now after Mediaite published that audio recording you just played in.

Look, as you know, USCP, FBI take threats against lawmakers incredibly seriously. And based on the content of this recording, it certainly seems to fit in that bucket.

Now, Roger Stone is basically denying that he ever said this and that that's him even on the audio recording. He's calling it total nonsense. He accuses it of being A.I. manipulation and he calls the whole thing absurd.

But, look, this is not the first time that Roger Stone's comments and his actions related to the election have been under scrutiny. He obviously was a close ally of former President Donald Trump. He was actively involved in various efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to evidence the House January 6th committee put forward. And he was at Trump's Stop the Steal rally on January 6th. And, of course, he was also convicted as the result of Robert Mueller's probe way back when his prison sentence was ultimately commuted by Trump before he ever had to go to jail.

But, you know, Roger Stone, a very familiar name popping up in a very familiar context.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about that. Have we heard anything from Congressman Swalwell or Nadler?

COHEN: Yes. I'm told that neither Congressmen had heard or knew about this recording before Mediaite published it. But, look, Swalwell specifically released a statement expressing really deep concern about what he heard on this audio recording. He says, the Roger Stone assassination plot recording may seem like the ravings of a wannabe. It's not because I'm one of Trump's loudest critics. Stone put a hit out on me. This threat and other threats of violence by Trump and his supporters must be taken seriously by not only law enforcement but also by my colleagues.

And, Phil, as you know too, look, threats against lawmakers have been up in the time since January 6th, 2021, and USCP and the FBI seem very intent on looking into these comments by Roger Stone.

MATTINGLY: All right, great reporting. Please keep us posted. Zach Cohen, thank you.

HARLOW: This morning, U.S. officials bracing forward retaliatory attacks from the Houthis after striking Houthi targets in Yemen for a third time in the past couple of days. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper joins us on the growing tensions across the region, next.