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Trump Predicts "Bloodbath For the Country" If He Loses; Putin "Wins" Presidential Reelection In Russia; Men's March Madness: Picking A Champion. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a live look at the Washington Monument on this Monday morning. It's so pretty even as the sun hasn't started coming up here yet in Washington. Good morning. Thanks for waking up with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

So the last time that Donald Trump left office you may remember there was an insurrection. If he loses again this November, he is using the word "bloodbath" to talk about that. Now, the context is important here. He was talking about the auto industry but, still, listen to the former president at a weekend rally in Ohio.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line and you're not going to be able to sell those cars if I get elected. Now, if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole -- that's going to be least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country.


HUNT: "That's going to be the least of it," he says.

The former president, also in that speech, said that some migrants are quote "not people."

The Biden campaign was quick to respond to the former president's remarks. They said Trump, quote, "...wants another January 6, but the American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November because they continue to reject his extremism, his affection for violence, and his thirst for revenge."

President Biden heads to Nevada today for a campaign stop.

Joining us now, Gabby Birenbaum of The Nevada Independent, along with Mariana Alfaro, politics breaking news reporter for The Washington Post. Ladies, thank you very much for being here this morning.

These remarks obviously have sparked -- you know, Republicans are defending Trump in a somewhat predictable way. Democrats are saying hey, look, you should believe what the guy actually is saying. Listen to his words.

I think we have a slightly longer version of that clip of what Trump said about bloodbath that we can play just because I do want to make sure that we have the whole context so our viewers can just watch it and decide for themselves, and then we can talk about it. Take a look at the longer version of the clip.


TRUMP: If you're listening, President Xi -- and you and I are friends but he understands the way I deal. Those big monster car manufacturing plants that you're building in Mexico right now, and you think you're going to get that, you're going to not hire Americans, and you're going to sell the cars to us -- no. We're going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line and you're not going to be able to sell those cars if I get elected.

Now, if I don't get elected it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole -- that's going to be the least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country. That'll be the least of it. But they're not going to sell those cars.


HUNT: So, Gabby -- I mean, this is a pretty classic example of Trump saying something that has very incendiary implications and then trying to offer another explanation for it.

What was your takeaway from how that's going to affect -- especially -- I mean, he is trying to -- if he's going to win the general election he does need to appeal to Independent voters. I'm not sure that I hear a message in that for them.

GABBY BIRENBAUM, D.C. CORRESPONDENT, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: No. I mean, I think one thing -- you'll never hear Republicans admit this but I think the best thing that Joe Biden did for them -- they didn't have to answer for a few years for Trump's constant incendiary rhetoric.


I think now that he's back in front of people as frequently as he is, this is neither the first time nor the last time you'll have people on this show discussing something Trump said over the weekend, I'm sure, that people are talking about.

And so, when I talk to Republican strategists I think they often talk about -- you know, their line in 2020 was that Joe Biden was running a campaign from his basement and they made fun of that. But I think some of them wish that Trump would.

They wish that he would stop getting in front of people and doing the thing that made him -- made him Trump. You know, made him get his appeal, which is saying these things that can be dehumanizing. That can -- in the case of this bloodbath comment, can border on, potentially, authoritarian, and that he would sort of moderate himself onto the general. But I think we've seen since 2016 that's not something he's been interested in doing.

HUNT: So let's show the other sort of incendiary comment that came during this rally, which was him talking about migrants -- specifically, who committed crimes, which I'll also share how that's what Republicans are saying in terms of trying to defend the comments from Trump. But let's watch what Trump had to say about migrants.


TRUMP: If I had prisons that were teaming with MS-13 and all sorts of people that they've got to take care of for the next 50 years, right -- young people. They're in jail for years, if you call them people. I don't know if you call them people. In some cases, they're not people in my opinion. These are animals, OK?


HUNT: So let's just clarify people are people. However, Mariana, this is, of course, part and parcel to the -- I mean, this is what Donald Trump has been doing since he stepped on the national stage.

MARIANA ALFARO, POLITICS BREAKING NEWS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean, we heard him bright and clear back in 2015 and 2016 when he was calling Mexicans rapists and saying a lot of these similar terms that he's been using ever since.

The thing about this is that dehumanization is such a key component of this and just rallying to the base reminds that there's, like, others coming in. And he's spoken about acquittal (INAUDIBLE) before. He's reminding people that if you don't vote for him the country is not going to look like the way you're used to seeing it. And that's a lot of the whistles that we've been hearing again for years.

It'll be interesting to see how the Biden campaign continues touching back on these comments he's made because they try to do that contrast, right, between, like, Trump issuing all these, like, remarks that are very incendiary and hurtful to a group of people versus Biden being the uniter.

We saw this happen last week, too, when he was making fun of Biden's stutter. Then Biden came out and talked to a young boy with a stutter, trying to use that contrast that may seem how Biden is as kind of going against Trump's records.

HUNT: Right. Well, I mean, immigration is a particularly challenging issue for a president, but this is one way that I think they see a clear contrast that they feel like Americans are willing to hang with them on, right? That they don't use the dehumanizing language.

Let's take a look at how a couple of Republican senators tried to defend both of these comments over the weekend -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Let me say first, he was speaking about the possibility of criminals being among the immigrants. And that -- those are the people he was saying may not be people if you will.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): With regard to the auto workers that he was talking to, he is showing them or he's telling them what has been an economic downturn for them.


HUNT: So, Gabby -- I mean, to your point, now -- with Donald Trump as their nominee and the party pretty firmly coalesced behind him, they are going to have to start answering for this stuff.

BIRENBAUM: Absolutely, yeah. They'll be on the Sunday shows talking about the censure every Sunday.

Last year, he talked about immigrants poisoning the blood of the country, and so this is just one other comment in a long line of comments about immigrants that I'm sure we're going to be discussing throughout the campaign.

HUNT: There is one person, Gabby, who has not lined up between -- behind former President Donald Trump, and that is his former vice president, Mike Pence, who also was on over the weekend kind of talking about and explaining this. Let's watch a little bit of Pence.


MIKE PENCE, (R) FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It should come as no surprise that I will not be endorsing Donald Trump this year. During my presidential campaign, I made it clear that there were profound differences between me and President Trump on a range of issues -- and not just our difference on my constitutional duties that I exercised on January the sixth.

Donald Trump is pursuing and articulating an agenda that is at odds with the conservative agenda that we governed on during our four years. And that's why I cannot in good conscience endorse Donald Trump in this campaign.


HUNT: Gabby, it's -- obviously, he says it's about more than just January 6. But there's now a contrast between Mitch McConnell, who broke with Trump after January 6 but has since gotten on board, and Mike Pence, who says look, I'm not doing that. I am not doing that.

I'm not sure I would have predicted that this is how this played out, especially considering Mike Pence did spend those four years with Trump. I mean, there's plenty of footage of him basically gazing adoringly at the former president. But then also, there was a mob of people that threatened to hang him, right?

What do you make of how Pence is handling this?


BIRENBAUM: I mean, I think Mike Pence -- absolutely, I think the red line for him was clearly his boss threatening violence against him quite realistically.

And I think the difference between McConnell and Pence is that McConnell is looking forward in thinking even though he won't be the party leader if -- and the majority leader if Republicans take back the Senate they're going to have to work with Donald Trump. And I think there's increasing recognition among senators that if Trump wins they're going to have to work with him on a whole host of issues. A lot of them are interested in 2025 when a lot of the Trump tax cuts expire. They're going to have to renegotiate a lot of policy in that arena. And so, that's going to have to be a functional relationship.

Whereas, Vice President Pence -- his campaign for president didn't pan out and he is, I think, a bit more free to speak his mind.

HUNT: Indeed.

All right, Gabby Birenbaum, Mariana Alfaro. Thank you both very much for being with us this morning.

Coming up next, a landslide "win" for Vladimir Putin. Was it really an election? I'll go with no.

And the brackets are out. Let the madness begin. What you need to know to win your office pool.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Vladimir Putin has claimed a landslide reelection victory in the Russian presidential election-style event. The result means he will be in power until at least 2030. While touting his victory in the predetermined election, Putin took aim at what he calls, quote, "the so-called democratic systems" of the United States.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If you would like to know if our elections are democratic or not, I think they are democratic. In some countries -- for example, in yours -- can you consider it democratic to use the administrative resources in order to attack one of the presidential candidates in the U.S. using, at the same time, the judicial system?

We don't have a preference for any of the U.S. presidential candidates. We will work with whomever the voters put their trust in.


HUNT: Who sounds like Donald Trump? Putin sounds like Donald Trump. Joining me now is contributing writer for The Atlantic and the author of the new book "Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters," Brian Klaas. Brian, good morning. Thanks for being here.


HUNT: So, Brian, you write in your most recent piece that we should not call what happened in Russia an election. We should call it an election-style event. Explain.

KLAAS: Well, I think that Putin's game is to try to get legitimacy both in the domestic sphere and the international one. And I think everyone understands that this is an election-style event because it's not actually an election. It's not democratic at all. People voted but the main opposition leader died recently in a Russian prison.

There's no free press. There's no freedom of expression. None of the democratic institutions exist in Russia.

So any time you have this style of voting it's clearly rigged from the beginning and we shouldn't validate it by calling it an election. It's an election-style event because it has the sort of charade of voting and campaigning but none of the underpinning aspects of democracy.

HUNT: Brian, can you help me understand why and help our viewers understand why it's so important to Putin to put on this show that the election represents?

KLAAS: Yes, and there's a few reasons why dictators win elections and then rig them.

The first is that they want to silence the opposition. So if you have a landslide victory like this it looks hopeless. And when people are in a close contest -- if this election-style event had ended with a 53-47 verdict instead, the opposition would be emboldened. And because it's so lopsided, people think do I want to risk my life for something that's a hopeless gambit?

It's also a way to figure out who is loyal to you, right? It's a loyalty test both for the lieutenants who are senior in the government and also for ordinary citizens to force them to publicly display loyalty to you.

So dictators aren't trying to fool that many people. No one really believes, in Russia, this was actually a competitive election. But it's still something to sort of play a political game and to claim on the international stage -- with a smirk, I would note -- that oh, yes, I'm a legitimately elected leader of Russia, and that's what Putin is trying to do.

HUNT: So, Brian, let me ask you about -- I mean, we heard -- we heard Putin there basically saying that the U.S. judicial system is rigged, which is the argument that Donald Trump is making about his own court cases. And then we had these comments from Donald Trump over the weekend at a rally in Ohio -- watch.


TRUMP: We're going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line and you're not going to be able to sell those cars if I get elected. Now, if I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath for the whole -- that's going to be the least of it. It's going to be a bloodbath for the country.


HUNT: So, Brian, the Trump campaign is trying to explain that away as him talking specifically about the auto industry. Do you buy that?

KLAAS: Well, I think regardless of that one comment, this is a long pattern that Trump has had of using incitement and violent rhetoric throughout his campaign.

And for goodness sake, the beginning of that campaign rally started with Trump saluting what he called the January 6 hostages, listening to a National Anthem rendition that they sang into the phone in jail. And then saying that he would basically release them upon becoming president.

I mean, you have to sort of give him an unbelievable benefit of the doubt every single time he does this. It's part of his strategy.

And he already inspired a violent mob on January 6, 2021, so the risk of violence around this election are enormous and Trump is pouring gasoline on the fire constantly. I mean, he started this reelection bid in Waco, Texas on the 30th anniversary of that attack.

So these are the kinds of things where let's take the quote as it is, but it's part of a larger universe of incitement to violence, and that is something very, very dangerous in Trump's campaign.

HUNT: Yeah. Let's just show everyone exactly what you were talking about. This is from the top of the rally in Ohio about the January 6 hostages -- watch.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the horribly and unfairly treated January 6 hostages.

TRUMP: And you see the spirit from the hostages -- and that's what they are, is hostages. They've been treated terribly. Unbelievable patriots -- and they were unbelievable patriots and are.


HUNT: I mean, let's just call them what they actually are, which is criminals. They are people that have been convicted by the justice system here in the U.S. I mean, I was there that day at the Capitol complex and I -- every time, it's almost an out-of-body experience to listen to that kind of thing.

What is he doing when he does this?

KLAAS: Well, I think he's creating a sort of structure of permission for his supporters to engage in violence and to also think about things like January 6 as completely legitimate political action, right? I mean, he calls them patriots. I mean, these -- the people who are in jail are not people who just wandered into the Capitol by and large. These are people who attacked police officers. And they were seeking to overturn a democratic election that Trump lost to install someone to be effectively an authoritarian leader because he was unelected.

And I think that sort of rhetoric is something where you cannot explain it away with saying this quote was taken out of context. He's unapologetically saying that he would free them from prison. I mean, he praises them.

HUNT: Yeah.

KLAAS: So a supporter watching that doesn't have to read between the lines to figure out the message Trump is sending. He's saying this is the kind of stuff that I approve of and endorse. And that is so dangerous heading into what is going to be another contentious election in the United States.

HUNT: Definitely contentious.

Brian, let's talk briefly about your book. I'm actually very excited to read it. I'm reading, kind of, the excerpts here and it kind of got very, very down into it.

You say that there are flukes that define history, basically. And the one that you argue may have given us Donald Trump is the joke that Obama cracked at a White House Correspondents' Dinner. I was in the crowd when this happened. I could see the top of Trump's head. Let's show everyone and remind them what that is.


BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example -- no seriously. Just recently, in an episode of "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE," you didn't blame Lil' Jon or Meat Loaf, you fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night.


HUNT: I couldn't imagine -- I actually greeted Trump. I spoke to Trump on that night and I would not have imagined that however many years later he would be the person that was being invited as President of the United States to that dinner.

Explain how this fits in with your book.

KLAAS: Yeah. So the book is basically making the argument the chaos theory applies to our social world. And so, the idea -- whether it's completely true or not, we don't know because we don't know what's in Trump's head -- that a joke could have triggered him to run for president is something that is how the world works, right? That maybe if the joke hadn't been written, maybe Trump doesn't get angry at Obama and maybe he doesn't make a sort of rolling back of Obama's achievements -- the center of his presidency and so on.

But also, that evening, Obama was ordering the special forces to go into Afghanistan -- into, rather, Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden and gambling his presidency on it. And that could have turned out slightly differently depending on some arbitrary, slightly random forces.

So we have this narrative that we apply to history and to politics that everything is this neat and tidy story. And a lot of times jokes matter, and personality matters, and arbitrary forces matter. And I think we're living with some of that today with Trump's presidency and the total chaos that was embedded within it.

And also, going into 2024, I don't know who's going to win that election because a lot of stuff is going to happen that we can't predict before November, and that's the way the world actually works.

HUNT: Right. If anything, it feels more unpredictable than its ever been.

Brian Klaas -- the book is "Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters." I really appreciate you being here. I hope you'll come back.

All right, let's turn now to sports. March Madness is here. Time to start filling out your brackets in the women's tournaments. The number-one seeds are undefeated South Carolina, Kaitlan Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes, along with USC and Texas.

Andy Scholes with me now to help sort out which of the men's teams have the best chance of winning it all. Andy, good morning. This is awesome. What do you got?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, Kasie. Happy bracket Monday. Always such a fun day to start staring at this thing trying to fill it out. Get your paper and pens because I've got some notes for you to try to help you, Kasie, because everyone likes to try to find an upset and maybe find a Cinderella. It's always fun to brag that I did that.

But if you want to win your bracket pool it's all about trying to find that champion, right? And there's a stat that can help you do that. It's called KenPom. It measures a team's offensive and defensive efficiency. And every single champion since 2002 has been top 40 in offense and top 22 in defense.

[05:55:03] So who qualifies for that right now? You've got Houston, UConn, Purdue, Auburn, Arizona, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Marquette. Those are the only eight teams as of right now that could win the national title.

You're like, Andy, there are some good teams missing, right? Well, let me tell you why. Creighton just missed out. They're not good enough in defense right now. Iowa State clearly not good in offense even though their defense is spectacular. Kentucky -- their defense not even close to being able to win a title, according to KenPom. Duke -- they are close but as of right now, according to KenPom, could not win.

So what are some other trends we look at? The last 19 champions have been the top 12 in the week six AP poll. Kind of a quirky stat. But who's not here? Auburn. They're not there. Now, UConn -- they're the top overall seed, the favorite to win it all.

But since 1974, these are the only two teams that have been able to win back-to-back titles. Duke in the 90s; Florida in the 2000s. Winning back-to-back tournaments is a very hard thing to do. Can Dan Hurley and the Huskies do it? They could but you might not want to pick them just because of how hard it is.

Now, if you lost your first conference tournament game, they've never gone -- a team that's done that has never gone on to win the national title. That happened to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament so you can cross them off.

Take a look at this map. Look at this line down the middle of the country. Every single champion since 1997 has been east of that line. Arizona -- they're on the wrong side.

So what can we do with all this information? Let's do some cross-offs, Kasie.

HUNT: I was just going to ask you for this very graphic, Andy.

SCHOLES: Yeah. Cross off Arizona, OK, because they're on the wrong side of the line. Tennessee, who lost their first conference title game. Auburn wasn't in that week six poll. I'm crossing off UConn just because I think it's so hard to win back-to-back titles.

So you've got Houston, Purdue, North Carolina, and Marquette, Kasie. Who should you pick? Well, one-seeds win the majority of the time. Since 1979, 26 times a one-seed has won.

And if you're like me, Kasie, and you went to a school that is a one- seed, like the Houston Cougars, that's who I'm going with. The Houston Cougars all the way.

But you've got time. Hopefully, you took some notes. Brackets are due Thursday by noon.

HUNT: You did go through them very quickly. We've got Houston, Purdue. What are the rest?

SCHOLES: Let's see. I said Houston, Purdue, North Carolina, Marquette. Those are the four teams --


SCHOLES: -- I would hone in on to have as one of the champions here.

HUNT: Marquette.

OK, excellent, excellent. I'm going to -- if I -- if I win, I will -- I'll have to share the winnings with you.

SCHOLES: Credit me. Just credit me.

HUNT: All right. Andy, thank you. I really appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: See you tomorrow.

All right. Ahead here, Donald Trump's chilling prediction for America if he loses the November election. Plus, Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan joins me live. Don't go anywhere.