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Donald Trump to Testify in Defamation Trial Tied to Sexual Assault Findings from Previous Trial; Texas Governor Vows to Hold the Line on Razor Wire at the Border; Haley to Trump: Show Me What You Got. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2024 - 08:00   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, Phil, it's interesting. I think really got my attention specifically was, and I have a family history of heart disease, is that just one drink per day which actually increase your systolic blood pressure. Just one drink per day. So if you are somebody who doesn't even have hypertension, doing that one drink will actually be problematic. Not drinking, obviously beneficial.

But here's some of the other benefits -- liver enzymes. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver. You're not drinking, your liver enzymes will probably improve pretty quickly if you're not drinking. Your sleep and diet, that improves, and other bad habits that go along with drinking, that usually improves as well. So lots of good reasons.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's a totally rigged deal. This whole thing is rigged. Election interference.

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Trump is only there to create a political narrative. There's nothing that he can contribute to this trial as opposed to the last trial where he was found guilty of sexual abuse.

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't have a country in disarray and a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos. We won't survive it.


HALEY: You don't defeat Democrat chaos with Republican chaos.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. Glad you are with us. Donald Trump expected to head from the campaign trail to the courtroom

within the next hour. It is a critical day in the E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit. Will Trump take the stand or not? We have new reporting on what we can expect today.

MATTINGLY: And Texas refusing to back down in the border battle with the Biden administration, ignoring a Supreme Court ruling and reinforcing border barriers. A constitutional standoff possibly looms on the horizon.

HARLOW: And an unprecedented execution set for tonight. Alabama plans to use nitrogen gas on a death row inmate who survived a botched execution. The legal and ethical concerns this is all raising.

This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow with Phil Mattingly in New York. Donald Trump, will he take the stand today here in this city? That is a huge question this morning and he gets ready to head to court for his defamation trial. A live look now at Trump Tower where his motorcade is expected to depart any minute.

MATTINGLY: The jury is weighing how much Trump needs to pay in damages for smearing his rape accuser, E. Jean Carroll. Trump's lawyer says the former president does want to testify. Overnight, Trump lashed out at Carroll and the judge on his social media platform, as one does, making the same kinds of comments that got him sued in the first place. He called Carroll's sexual assault claims a hoax, her lawsuit ridiculous, and the judge extraordinarily hostile and a 100 percent Trump hater.

Kara Scannell is live outside the courthouse for us this morning. Kara, what are we actually expecting today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Phil and Poppy. So Donald Trump will be back in court today facing off against E. Jean Carroll. We are in the home stretch of E. Jean Carroll's case. She is expected to call her final witness, her former editor at "Elle" magazine where she wrote the "Ask E. Jean" advice column for nearly three decades. And then she's expected to show some clips of a videotaped deposition that Trump gave in this case. In one of those clips, he mistakes Carroll in a photo for, he thinks that it's his former wife, Marla Maples. Remember, this is the defamation case. But the jury will not be deciding the issues of defamation or sexual assault. This is just about damages.

So once Carroll finishes putting on her case, then the question turns to does Donald Trump take the stand in his own defense? He says that he wants to. The judge, though, has said that Trump can't testify about denying that he raped Carroll, saying that she's a liar, or suggesting she made up the story to boost sales of her book. He will not be allowed to testify about those things. So it will be very narrow questioning. And it's just supposed to be related to the questions of harm and damage.

That will be a fine line for Trump to walk on the witness stand. We have seen him testify now in other cases just a couple months ago in the civil fraud trial around the corner. And in that case, he didn't stick to the script. He got in trouble with the judge there for essentially campaigning from the witness stand. And that will be the question here of exactly how much does Trump test this judge overseeing this case? They already clashed last week when Trump was talking to his attorney and the judge telling him that he could forfeit his right to be here.

So this is going to be a tense moment if Trump does take the stand to see how far he goes here. He does like to say -- to deviate from the issue at hand and talk about the campaign to say this is a witch hunt, say that people are blaming him. And as you noted, he is already on social media, called the judge hostile, and repeated statements that the previous jury has already found to be defamatory. So the big question, does Trump take the stand? And how controlled is he if he does give some testimony? We will be watching for that, guys.

MATTINGLY: Absolutely. Kara Scannell, thanks so much.


Joining us now to discuss, former senior adviser to President Obama David Axelrod, former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Based on -- Kara laid it out perfectly. Based on what we saw, where he is essentially trying to get ejected from court last week, do we think he testifies, surely to try to get ejected from court this week?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I'm guessing his lawyers don't want him to. But there is a chance that he is going to, as Kara said, use the opportunity to campaign from the stand, just to show he is the tough guy. He is taking on people who are coming after him.

But take a moment to appreciate just the bizarreness of this moment in history. This is the GOP frontrunner, very close to being the GOP nominee, who is on the stand for defamation for a woman a court has credibly decided he sexually assaulted. That's nuts. That's never happened before in our country. We're kind of just glossing over it. I think it's pretty much a 50-50 chance that he does testify because it's Trump and he doesn't listen to advisors.

HARLOW: Yes. David, what's your read on this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The whole week is kind of mindboggling to me. The guy, he just won a big victory in New Hampshire. It should be a great week for him. And he went nuts on what was supposed to be a victory speech and gave this incredibly nasty speech about Nikki Haley, which he continues to this moment. All he had to say was thank you, great campaign, shake her hand, and we're on to the general. And even if she ran, he deprived her of the oxygen she needed. Instead, he goes on these misogynistic rages. And now he's going to court in this particular case and add to it. I mean, you know, odd strategy.

HARLOW: Can we listen to how Haley is responding to Trump? Here she was.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump got out there and just threw a temper tantrum. I know that's what he does when he is threatened. And he should feel threatened.


HARLOW: So that's how you deal with a bully, effective communications expert?

GRIFFIN: I think incredibly effective. I think that women in particular, but frankly, any decent person who watched his so-called victory speech that night, a bunch of men on stage nodding, smiling, and laughing as he mocks her, derides her, makes comments about her dress. That is so unappealing when what he learned that night is he is toxic with moderate Republicans, with independents, and by the way, women, especially with college degrees.

So he just stepped in what was already a bad night for him showing his vulnerabilities. But for her to just gloss over it and call him out and move to her message, she ended that clip by saying, I'm here to focus on what the voters want. She's doing something. It's going to hard for her to takeoff just with how the decks are stacked for Trump. But it's important what she's doing. She's calling him out.

AXELROD: Look, I believe Donald Trump will be the nominee of the Republican Party. I just think the things are lined up for him here. but one of the things you hear in focus groups among swing voters in the general, or persuadable voters, and there's not a huge universe of those, is concern about his behavior. They say, well, I like what he did, but I just don't like the way -- why does he have to be a jackass all the time? And then he goes and does this on a week of triumph.

So this is the headache that his campaign team has to deal with on a day to day basis. They do the rational things, and they have done it very well in these first two contests. And then he, between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., he can undo the whole thing.

MATTINGLY: My question, you made such a great point right off the top of this moment of today at a defamation trial that is tied to an already -- a court already finding liability for sexual assault. He is going to be the Republican nominee by all accounts. There's still a race going on. Anything can happen.

And what I think we're trying to figure out is, if you are the Biden campaign right now, you've loved the last three days. You wanted this opponent. He turned back into the old Trump. Whoever thought he wasn't going to, goodness, you need to pay attention to something. If you are the Biden campaign, are you saying right now, let's just chalk these days up as wins?

GRIFFIN: Probably. But they need somebody. They need to identify who their killer messenger is. And maybe it's not the president or the vice president who is going to go out there and attack Donald Trump on the fitness question, on the way he talks about women, on, frankly, the fact that he is on trial for this defamation case. They have kind of wanted to, I think, not punch down in that regard and keep it more about policy, democracy, and abortion. But they need someone who is going to be that fighter and remind voters of what's going on. Voters don't pay attention to all these little micro-dramas, and they need someone who is going to put it front and center.

AXELROD: In campaigns you look for comparative advantages. One comparative advantage that worked for Biden in 2020 was decency. People wanted some decency. And that contrast still works for him. And Trump is accentuating it here.

But he clearly has decided that a campaign from the courthouse steps is helpful to him. It has been helpful to him in the primaries. The question is, will it be helpful to him in a general election to wage this war of victimhood from the steps of the courthouse?


MATTINGLY: Do you think it will?

AXELROD: No. I really don't. I think it will galvanize his base, continue to. But as we know, his base is not enough. And it could turn other voters away. It's interesting, he has never -- Trump never loses an election. He either wins or it's stolen. And every judge who rules against him is corrupt, a Trump hater. The pattern -- this is a man with patterns, and these patterns are evidencing themselves.

HARLOW: Alyssa, to Axe's point, Michael Bender and Lisa Lerer have a really interesting piece about after Trump's two wins where his vulnerability is in a general. And I just love the way they put it. Outside the soft bubble of Republican primaries, Mr. Trump's campaign is confronting enduring vulnerabilities. Do they understand that?

GRIFFIN: I think that they do, evidenced by just how he has been behaving since New Hampshire. I don't think he expected Nikki Haley to perform that well. Some polls had her behind by 20 points. She showed something. Granted, a lot of these were independents or even people who were Democrats that turned out for it. But he showed a vulnerability with voters he cannot get elected in a general election without.

And one of the striking takeaways was a FOX News stat that 32 percent of Republicans that voted could not vote for him. That number only goes up if there's a conviction, which very well may happen before the election takes place.

AXELROD: I don't think those number -- I think those numbers should be taken seriously but not literally, because we are so partisanized that once you get into tribal choices between Republicans and Democrats, most of those Republicans are going to come back. But this is going to be a marginal race. So that small number that might not, that's a problem for Donald Trump.

MATTINGLY: That's the most salient point. This is going to be close no matter, no matter what happens, and any little bit of margin matter. And as Alyssa noted, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, who the entire national party has coalesced behind, will be on trial today in a defamation lawsuit tied to being found liable for sexual assault. David Axelrod, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks, guys.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

MATTINGLY: Texas defies the Supreme Court ruling to grant border access to the federal government. Why the state is claiming it has every right to ignore the highest court in the land.

HARLOW: Also, a CNN exclusive on the congressional ethics probe into Congressman Matt Gaetz who the committee reached out to as it investigates claims that Gaetz had sexual relations with a minor, a claim that he continues to vehemently deny.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

The Department of Homeland Security demanding full access to a Texas park right along the US-Mexico border by tomorrow. The blockade of Shelby Park has left some migrants trying to cross the border, actually trapped in the middle, stuck between layers of razor wire, unable to turn themselves into US Border Patrol agents.

Just earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration does have the legal authority to remove that razor wire along the border. Texas though, defying the courts still blocking agents from accessing Shelby Park to do that.

Despite this ruling, Texas is now -- look at the video -- reinforcing barriers. That's what this new video from the State Department of Public Safety shows you there. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is vowing to "hold the line" on the US border and claimed in a new statement that Texas law is "the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary."

A source tells CNN the government has no immediate plans for a mass removal of the razor wire.

Joining us now is constitutional expert and lawyer, Steve Vladeck. He's a professor at the University of Texas law school also author of a fascinating book, "The Shadow Docket."

Steve, thank you so much. I am completely riveted by this and fascinated and it has huge implications for the system that we live by in federalism. Who has the right here? The Supreme Court said Biden administration, you can go in and do this. The state is just saying no.

STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, Poppy, this is really a mess, and I think the mess is partly by design. I think this is exactly what Governor Abbott wants. Confusion only enables his ability to appear to be standing up to the federal government, but it is also worth stressing, Poppy, that the Supreme Court's decision on Monday is actually very limited.

The justices in this unexplained, unsigned, five to four order only cleared the way for the Biden administration to remove the razor wire along the border. They didn't say that anything Governor Abbott has done is unlawful. They didn't say that he is ultimately going to lose this lawsuit.

So what this really comes down to, Poppy, is whether governors like Governor Abbott have the ability under the federal constitution, to claim that they are being invaded, and to use that claim as a basis for not following federal authority.

HARLOW: So the word "invaded" is really important here, right? It's not only rhetoric that's been used by some on the campaign trail, it's really important because it's in the Constitution.

If you look at Article I Section 10, it says essentially, no state shall keep troops in a time of peace unless actually invaded. That is the crux of the argument the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton is making, that the Texas Governor Greg Abbott is making. Do you read the Constitution in this part of it the way that they are to make this argument?

VLADECK: No, and there are two big problems with the way that Texas is interpreting this language. The first is, I think the obvious one, which is whatever you think of immigration, whatever you think of the influx of unauthorized immigrants along the Texas border, that's obviously not an invasion as the founders intended it.

But Poppy, even if there were ambiguity on that, even if there were doubt, the reason why this clause exists is because at the time the Constitution was written, the federal government was tiny, the federal military was tiny, Congress was out of session most of the year, and so the idea was that if there was an invasion, British troops from Canada, French troops from Louisiana, Spanish troops from Florida, states could react without having to wait for the federal government.

It's not an open-ended invitation for states to take it upon themselves to do what the federal government either isn't doing to their satisfaction or is doing differently.

HARLOW: What does this mean other states can do? Steve, you brought up other states, right? And if Texas prevails in this in opposition to a Supreme Court order, other governors in other states who we think we can too on other issues, no?


VLADECK: Yes, I mean I think the real problem with Governor Abbott's position here is that it's basically just a 21st century version of what's called nullification of the argument that every state can decide for itself, which federal laws are and are not constitutional, which federal rules they are and are not bound by.

And, you know, folks might be sympathetic to Texas taking that view on immigration, or to California taking that view on environmental regulation.

Our federal system is predicated on the idea that no one state is allowed to usurp that kind of claim, that no one state is allowed to basically decide for itself which federal laws they will and won't follow.

There are remedies, Poppy, for those who think the federal government is not doing enough at the border, for those who are dissatisfied with President Biden's immigration policies. Those remedies do not include every state for themselves, otherwise, we risk not just a constitutional confrontation, Poppy, we risk a physical confrontation between state and federal officials in and around Eagle Pass. That's something that we all should be invested in avoiding.

HARLOW: For sure. Steve Vladeck joining us from Austin, Texas. Thank you very much.

VLADECK: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, Donald Trump going on a new tirade against Nikki Haley and her supporters, what he says will happen to anyone who was financially backing her campaign, that's next.




NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't have a country in disarray and a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos. We won't survive it.


HALEY: You don't defeat Democrat chaos with Republican chaos.

Bring it Donald, show me what you got.


MATTINGLY: That was Nikki Haley daring Donald Trump to go after, it's like waving a red sheet in front of a bull. Trump now going full scorched earth on Haley and her supporters.

He posted on social media yesterday: "Anybody that makes a 'contribution'" -- in quotes, we're not sure why -- "to bird brain" -- his name for Nikki Haley -- "from the moment forth will be permanently banned from the MAGA camp. We don't want them and will not accept them because we put America first and always will."

HARLOW: This comes after CNN reported that Trump was "seething" when Haley did not drop out of the race after Trump won New Hampshire.

With us now, former Trump White House communications director and now Trump critic, Anthony Scaramucci appreciate it. Good morning. ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Trump

realist, I don't really see myself as a Trump critic.

HARLOW: Okay, fair.

SCARAMUCCI: Just a Trump realist.

HARLOW: Okay, fair.

SCARAMUCCI: But good morning, guys.

HARLOW: Give us your real take on Nikki Haley. I just wonder if she can taunt Trump effectively in a way that hurts him.

SCARAMUCCI: Oh, she's hurting him. I mean, you know, you have to look at the case that she's making against him and then you have to look at the exit polling on the voters that are saying they're not going to cross over to Donald Trump, and so, she is hurting him. He knows she is hurting them.

And if you look at the results in New Hampshire, if you're on his campaign, you can pretend that they were great, but they're really not that great. He got 50-ish percent of the vote, which means that 50 percent of the Republicans really don't want him. And then when you do the exit polling, it was 43 in, I think Iowa, 70-plus percent of the Haley voters in New Hampshire said we're not voting for Donald Trump in the election.

You know, that killed Hillary Clinton with the Bernie Sanders voters in '16.


SCARAMUCCI: And of course, Barack Obama got 75 percent of the Hillary Clinton voters in '08. So this is really hurting Donald Trump. He knows that, which is why he's so frustrated and why he is launching all of these threats and the invective.

MATTINGLY: The irony of New Hampshire is it almost for sure locked up the eventual nomination for Donald Trump or made that very clear. And yet, it also proved that Haley's theory of the case for this race is largely accurate on the donor side of things. Haley can run as long as she has money and she has had it and people like her, people up here on Wall Street like her.

What are you hearing when you talk to Republican donors, big money guys who are watching this race right now?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think they're nonchalant to Donald Trump's threat about being not being with his campaign. I don't think they really care.

You know, guys like Tim Draper, venture capitalist, billionaire does not care. The Koch family, trust me, they do not care. And I think Governor Haley is doing a lot of really smart thing. She is setting herself up for 2028. She's making the case that this is a failed candidate. This is probably the only candidate that the Republicans could put up, that would lose to President Biden based on the polling.

And I would submit to everybody listening, who is going to vote for Trump this time in 2024 that didn't vote for him in 2020? Has he really expanded his popularity? And I would submit that he hasn't and those exit polls show you that he hasn't.

And of course, if you get a rock slide on the legal proceedings, he's really in a lot of trouble. He knows that, he's not stupid. He knows he lost the election. He knows he's under the gun here as it relates to this campaign, he knows that the mosaic of the country, this beautiful, colorful mosaic of the United States has changed from 2016 into 2020 and now, 2024.

So it is a totally different country from a demographic perspective, and he's going to lose.

Now, he'll win the nomination, but I think it will set up the Republican Party for renewal in 2028.

HARLOW: The political arm of the Koch network, Americans for Prosperity in their statement after New Hampshire on Nikki Haley said, "This is still an uphill battle. Now, all eyes turn to South Carolina where she has a steeper road ahead." But they are staying there with the money.

I didn't wonder how much money you think -- I was with some liberals- ish or were this week that said they are fundraising for Nikki Haley.

I mean, how much of that kind of money can come to her now that would sustain? I would just wonder if you're hearing similar things?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, no, what I'm hearing from Wall Street people is that they're quietly giving to Nikki Haley.


SCARAMUCCI: They are trying to stay out of it, so they don't end up on Donald Trump's radar screen and I think she'll get those donors as well. She will make a calculation how long to stay in the race.

I think it would be very hard for her to leave the race prior to South Carolina because she was the governor there. She was popular there and she may want to make a last political stand in '24 in South Carolina.