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McDaniel Breaks with Trump; Israel Agrees to Hostage Release Deal; GOP Pushes Back on Electric Vehicles. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 06:30   ET





RONNA MCDANIEL, FORMER CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I want to be very clear, the violence that happened on January 6th is unacceptable. It doesn't represent our country. It certainly does not represent my party. We should not be attacking the Capitol. We should not be having violence. I do not think people who committed violent acts on January 6th should be freed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Joe Biden win the election fair and square?

MCDANIEL: He won. He's the legitimate president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he win fair and square?

MCDANIEL: Fair and square he won. It's certified. It's done.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: That was former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. She broke there with Donald Trump on the 2020 election and on his plan, apparently, to free January 6th prisoners after years of deflecting about the 2021 Capitol attack.

McDaniel left the RNC earlier this month. She was directly involved in phone calls pressuring Michigan in officials to not certify the vote for Joe Biden in 2020.

Here's what she told NBC about why she did not speak up earlier.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ronna, why not speak out earlier? Why just speak out about that now?

MCDANIEL: When you're the RNC chair, you -- you kind of take one for the whole team, right? Now I get to be a little bit more myself, right? This is what I believe. I don't think violent should be in our political discourse. Republican or Democrat. And I disagree with that.


HUNT: Well, that's quite the reversal. Let's take a look at what Liz Cheney had to say about this. She, of course, led the January 6th committee investigating what happened that day. Cheney says on X, "Ronna facilitated Trump's corrupt fake elector plot and his effort to pressure Michigan officials not to certify the legitimate election outcome. She spread his lies and called 1/6, 'legitimate political discourse.' That is not taking one for the team, it is enabling criminality and depravity."

Meghan, I have to say, this is quite the attempt to rewrite history on the part of Ronna McDaniel.

MEGHAN HAYS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes. I think money is a powerful driver and I'm sure NBC is paying her a lot of money to say what she's now going to say because that's what makes sense.

Also, I think she was sort of set aside by Trump and that - this is her way to be able to strike back in a way that, you know, makes her more relevant again.

HUNT: Shermichael, I want to show you what she had to say to my colleague, Chris Wallace, Ronna McDaniel did, previously about who won the 2020 election. Watch that.




WALLACE: Are you saying as the chair of the Republican Party that you still have questions as to whether or not Joe Biden was -


WALLACE: The duly elected president in 2020?

MCDANIEL: Joe Biden's the president.

WALLACE: No, I didn't ask you whether he's the president.

MCDANIEL: That process played out. No, I don't think that - I think there were lots of problems.

WALLACE: Do you think he won - he won the election?

MCDANIEL: I think there were lots of problems with 2020. He's -

WALLACE: Do you think he won the -

MCDANIEL: Ultimately, he won the election.

WALLACE: Pardon.

MCDANIEL: Ultimately, he won the election, but there were lots of problems with the 2020 election, 100 percent.

WALLACE: And that - and that's fair. But -

MCDANIEL: But I don't think he won it fair. I don't. I - I'm not going to say that.


HUNT: So, look, I just - we talk a lot - all kinds of politicians come in for criticism around flip-flopping, changing their positions on something.


HUNT: What's going on here is an active attempt to convince Americans that the election was not - was not free and fair. And the impact of that is real at the time when she makes those remarks.


HUNT: So, now she's turning around and trying to say, well, I didn't actually mean it.


But, like, the damage is done, no?

SINGLETON: I mean it's catastrophic. I mean there were dozens of people who have been charged, arrested. Many of them are sitting in prison. Some who have now been released. We actually had one on our network last week, an olderly -- elderly lady. She said, you know, I believe this for x, y, and z reasons, but I made a mistake. It was detrimental to my family, detrimental to my community.

I mean I think this is why a lot of people on social media were outraged by what MSNBC did. People were asking themselves, wait a minute, this person has zero credibility. And I don't think it's anything about being a conservative. I was at MSNBC. I'm a conservative. I worked in the Trump administration. I don't think people were saying, we don't want to hear from conservatives.

HUNT: Certainly not what I was -

SINGLETON: I think people were saying, we don't want to hear from people who are going to blatantly lie. And that's a - that's a very serious problem. And I think if you're a network, you've got a question, you want to be careful with your credibility, when you bring on people who are being dishonest with the American people.

HUNT: I want to - I want to focus on Ronna and her particular - at this - this particular brand of like, say one thing, say another thing while, again, Stephen, I mean, when we think about the big picture of what was happening here, what has happened, its - covering the Trump administration was sometimes watching or feeling like Republicans in this town were frogs in boiling water, right? It was like, first it was something small. They're like, oh, it's not a big deal. Then it was something bigger. Then it was something bigger. Then all of a sudden it was Mark Milley marching across Lafayette Square clearing protesters and Republicans not having anything to say. And then it was January 6th. And it's things like what we saw from Ronna McDaniel that enabled that to happen.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. What was happening when she made her original comments was what was happening in the Republican Party as a whole, people were saying things to appease former President Trump because that was the route to power and to staying in power. Now, Ronna McDaniel is out of that and she's trying to reinvent herself in - in some sort of way. We've seen other people that were in the Trump administration, who repudiated Trump before January the 6th, who didn't buy into the stolen electron nonsense as being able to rehabilitate themselves in the more mainstream arena.

The problem is, when you come out after saying what she's said, there's going to be a backlash. She's moving away from it now. But you have to say that the trend since Trump has shown that he is going to be strong in this election, that he's going to be the presumptive nominee, is in the opposite direction. You have multiple Republican officeholders, you know, tried to downplay what happened on January the 6th, the whole election stolen narrative, because Trump is now the Republican nominee and again he is the route to being in power and staying in power. Even Mitch McConnell, a great opponent of Donald Trump, gave that rather grudging endorsement of him when he became the presumptive nominee.

HUNT: It is, I will say, the more common order of things, whereas for people to actually break with Trump, Republicans to break with Trump on January 6th, and then kind of crawl back to him, as opposed to the - what we're seeing here.

HAYES: I think the bigger issue that I have with this is, she can have her private opinions all she wants. She can go back and forth and flip-flop as much as she wants. She now has a platform to do that, just like she had a platform before to - to say these horrible things and the damage - like you were saying, it's catastrophic damage that's being done.

But now that she's given another platform to go back and it's like, what more damage is she going to do? In two months is she going to have a different view because Trump's after her again or saying things publicly about her. It's like, she doesn't have the credibility to be in a - on a legitimate news organization. And I think that's the bigger issue here.

HUNT: Let me, Shermichael, to that - to that point, she has her defenders. OK, Frank Luntz put this up, "Ronna McDaniel has an insider's perspective we would all benefit from. Instead of trying to silence her, we should be listening intently for all that we can learn. I listen to people that I disagree with all the time. It's not an endorsement, it's an opportunity to learn."

Do you buy that? SINGLETON: I don't disagree with the fact that people should be

permitted some level of redemption. I think that is true. But the idea that one should not be taken to task because of their previous statements that were, again, detrimental to the state of the democracy, I do not agree with that at all. And I am not sitting here as someone who is an anti-Trumper, never Trumper. I think there are some policies that people certainly believe in. I do understand why millions of Americans, 74 million, voted for the former president.

But on this particular issue, I don't think there is a gray area here. I don't think there's a right or wrong. There's only a right here. And if someone was on the wrong side, they should be criticized but given the opportunity to redeem themselves over time. And she's going to have to prove to the American people that these new statements, this new position is something that she holds to be true.

HUNT: And, of course, this takes place, Stephen, and I really need to - I've been wanting to kind of stack this as something in our show that we can kind of play whenever we need to because it comes up so often is, Donald Trump opened a recent rally, and he has opened a number of his rallies, by playing a version of the "Star Spangled Banner" that has been sung by people who were arrested for the rolls that they played in January 6th for breaking into the Capitol.


He now calls those people hostages, right? That is kind of where we are. It really feels like an attempt to kind of rewrite history in real time that, I mean, look, I guess Ronna McDaniel's gone the other way because everyone who's coming out and supporting Donald Trump now that he is the presumptive nominee, that is what they're backing up.

COLLINSON: And you're hearing even more mainstream Republicans almost play into that hostage rhetoric. This people aren't hostages. They've gone through a legal process. They were found guilty by juries, hundreds of them in some cases, and they're serving their time for what was, you know, a crime against democracy.

What's interesting about the way Trump is doing it, he's almost laying the groundwork for a new election, which if he loses, he says, this is - he will say this is the same thing, the system is broken. T here is fraud. And - and this is what he does, he sets the groundwork for delegitimizing an election even before it happens so he can kind of operationalize it. And this is part of that. But it is quite a chilling moment when you're in one of those rallies to see this unfold. And there's a - I think he does, at the end, a refrain at the end, which is almost the dirge (ph) of a really extremist rhetoric with this foreboding music. And you see the rally turn from, you know, almost a comedy show, as it in some cases, into something a lot darker. And that plays into this idea of this second term he would devote to retribution.

HUNT: Well, and they're literally printing - there are printed signs that say, too big to rig, right? He's making the argument to his supporters that his margins need to be so big that no one can claim that it was rigged. I'd just like to point out, Democrats are not the ones currently foreshadowing that the election may be rigged. And here we are, you know, months and months away still. That's the kind of - the kind of rhetoric we're going to be dealing with for the rest of the year.

All right, still ahead here, waiting on Hamas. Will they agree to a new hostage proposal already approved by Israel?

And Shohei speaks. The MLB superstar about to address the press for the first time since his interpreter was fired in a gambling scandal.



HUNT: All right, 45 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani will address the media today for the first time since allegations of illegal gambling surfaced around his former interpreter. Major League Baseball says they plan to investigate.

Georgia DA Fani Willis says the election interference case against Donald Trump is still on schedule despite the investigation into her romantic relationship with her lead prosecutor.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: That's not something that I find embarrassing in any way. And I know that I have not done anything that's illegal.

There are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.


HUNT: The train is coming. Willis says Trump's attempt to remove her hasn't worked and her team has continued to work on the case.

The first fatal mountain lion attack in California in two decades claimed the life of one man and left his brother injured. The two were hunting in El Dorado County this weekend when they were attacked. The 90 pound male cougar has been euthanized.

And New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy dropping her bid to replace embattled Senator Bob Menendez. That leaves Democratic Congressman Andy Kim as the favorite in the state's June 4th Democratic primary.

All right let's go overseas now.

Israel is waiting on a response from Hamas after agreeing to a U.S. proposal on a prisoner-hostage exchange. The deal would release around 700 Palestinian prisoners, 100 of whom who are serving life sentences for killing Israeli nationals. In exchange, 40 Israeli hostages would be released by Hamas in Gaza.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Doha, Qatar, with more on this.

Good morning to you.

Paula, what is the likelihood of Hamas accepting this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, it's interesting because just about ten days ago we had a counter proposal from Hamas, and they had said that they wanted to see between 700 and 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released. So, this is within that realm that they gave in that proposal.

Now, the technical teams are still here in Doha with the mediators. So, none of the decision-makers are here. What we're hearing from CNN analyst Barak Ravid is that this counterproposal will then have to go to Gaza, to potentially the tunnels in Gaza to the man in charge, Yahya Sinwar, and he will make a decision. Now, he is quoting Israeli government sources as saying it could be between one and three days before they get a response.

It's interesting to note, though, that all the sources, all the leaks at this point are coming from the Israeli side. Clearly feeling domestic and international pressure to push this process forward. So, what we could see in the coming days is some kind of response. It's worth a reality check, though, this is just one part of one phase of this overall deal. So potentially no massive breakthrough is imminent.


HUNT: All right, Paul Hancocks for us, live in Doha. Paula, thank you very much for that.

Our panel is back with us and let's bring in Kim Dozier. She is CNN's global affairs analyst.

Good morning, Kim. Wonderful to have you join us.


HUNT: So this all comes as Israel's defense chief is set to visit Washington this week. This is something that the Biden administration had wanted to have happen weeks ago ahead of Ramadan. Obviously, it did not. What is holding this up? What do you make of Paula's reporting? What are you looking for in the coming days?

DOZIER: It's all up to Hamas at this point whether to say yes to this. They could make another demand to stretch this out, because the longer Hamas stretches this process out, the more time they buy, the more they hopefully forestall some sort of Israeli operation in Gaza.


But meanwhile, having the Israelis come here, especially the defense minister, who was at odds with Bibi Netanyahu, he's a guy that U.S. officials are going to trust to give the real answer, not the political answer. Why he feels the defense military necessity to invade Rafah. And they're really going to be able to battle test the plan to move people out of the way and possibly also enlist U.S. aid in getting U.N. and other aid agencies to cooperate with moving people, which is something the Israelis have had a hard time within the past.

HUNT: Yes.

So, let's look at the vice president, Kamala Harris, was talking about this question of Rafah in an interview over the weekend. Watch what she had to say.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're looking at about 1.5 million people in Rafah who are there because they were told to go there, most of them. And so we've been very clear that it would be a mistake to move into Rafah with any type of military operation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A mistake, but would there be consequences if he does move forward?

HARRIS: Well, we're going to take it one step at a time, but we've been very clear in terms of our perspective on whether or not that should happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ruling out that there would be consequences from the United States?

HARRIS: I am ruling out nothing.


HUNT: Meghan Hays, I mean what do you see in her saying that she's not ruling out consequences? What could that mean?

HAYS: I don't think the administration is taking anything off the table. There's a huge humanitarian crisis going on that they need to address as well, and I think that they want Israel to take it seriously. I think this is why they're having these meetings. But I think she's, you know, she's saying, we're not - we're not taking anything off the table and we are serious here. This is - we are not - we are not playing around with you in essence. We are going to take every measure. That we are going to have consequences for every action that you take that's not appropriate here.

HUNT: Tough - it's a tough political spot for the administration for sure.

Kim, I also want to dig in a little bit to what we are seeing in terms of the fallout from the awful terror attack in Moscow over the weekend. There was a U.S. warning around intelligence related to something like this happening. I want to show you what Senator Tim Kaine I had to say and then we'll talk about what Vladimir Putin is trying to claim is going on. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): The U.S. did warn Russia. And Vladimir Putin gave a speech on Tuesday discounting the warning, saying we were trying to metal and create confusion. We also warned Iran a couple months ago about a potential attack by ISIS-K there. If you want to know the difference between democracies and authoritarians, we will tell nations if we're worried about their civilians. Russia or Iran would never tell us if they had news that there was going to be a terrorist attack in the United States.


HUNT: So, Kim, Putin is now trying to say that there is Ukrainian involvement or links to what went on. What do we actually know and what is Putin going for with that?

DOZIER: Well, look, Putin needs a fall guy because his security services had been tracking an ISIS threat, had publicly announced disrupting various ISIS plots in Russia and the Caucasus. And, you know, a couple years ago, ISIS-Khorasan, the group in Afghanistan, had attacked Russians - Russia's embassy there. So, there was this long- standing threat from ISIS operatives.

Putin needs to convince his people that he didn't leave them unprotected while he was pursuing a war of choice and aggression next door in Ukraine. That's why I think you're seeing reports that the U.S. and Britain have dismissed as not credible, that these suspects, these four Tajik suspects, were captured on their way to Ukraine, on their way to a border area that's mined and full of patrols and, sure -

HUNT: Definitely the way I would choose to get out if I wanted to maintain my life.

DOZIER: Absolutely.

HUNT: Briefly, Stephen, "The Journal" headline is, attack in Russia deals a blow to Putin's strongman image. Is that what's going on?

COLLINSON: Yes. This is humiliating for Putin. He's set himself up as the ultimate guarantor of Russian security, portraying himself as a bulwark against all these different forces that he argues are trying to infringe on Russian sovereignty. And when, you know, the history of this suggests that when Putin is humiliated, that leads to more repression at home and more aggression abroad. And you've seen even over the last few days, very intense missile attacks on Ukraine, which were taking place before this attack but carried on through it. And that's a way of, you know, trying to take attention away from what happened in Moscow.

HUNT: All right. We're - we're going to take a pause here and take a little bit of a hard turn. I'm just going to acknowledge that.

But I did want to talk about this. This was in "The New York Times" on Sunday. The latest front in the Republican culture war hitting our streets, literally. The fight against electric vehicles kicked into high year when the Biden administration rolled out new tailpipe rules to try and boost the sale of EVs and hybrids. Donald Trump has been out front in this fight, claiming that the move to EVs will ruin the American auto industry.


And there are Republicans that have started echoing the former president. Iowa Congresswoman Ashley Hinson, she posted this, that the Biden administration is, quote, "forcing Americans to buy electric vehicles." That is not the case, although there is some, you know, changes to how - the production of vehicles.

West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito had this to say.


SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-WV): In terms of the EV mandate that came through, or the regulation that came through today, I would suggest to all of you, if you've ever been skiing at Snowshoe or Canadian Valley or at Timberline, don't drive your electric car over there. You may not get there.

Its steep, its cold. But if you do get stuck there, there's some really nice coal miners nearby and they'll help you push your car up the hill so you can recharge.


HUNT: OK. Shermichael Singleton, as the Republican at the table, I am - I'm a car person, right? Like I love cars. So, it's part of why I'm so interested in this. But it has become a culture war issue.


HUNT: I mean are - do you think Democrats are going too far in a way that is going to have ramifications for politics in this?

SINGLETON: No, I don't think so. I mean, look, Mr. Elon Musk, Mr. Tesla, Mr. Electric Car clearly appears to be more on the Republican side than on the Democratic side. So, I would caution my Republican friends there because some of those individuals may need some of Mr. Musk's money when it comes to re-election.

With that said, though, the average American person aren't going out and purchasing $90,000 Teslas. It's just not the reality. I think many of the major auto giants looked to move in that direction and they realized, most people just don't want electric cars.

HUNT: Right. Well, I mean, and that's actually here. Look, they - look, the electric car revolution is losing its charge.

SINGLETON: And there we go.

HUNT: And it's for this reason. I mean, Meghan, this is - this is the part that I actually think politically is really the most interesting because the thing about EVs - and, look, I don't own an EV. I would buy one. But I live on the coast, right? One of the coasts. And charging networks out in California are, frankly, even way more advanced than they are here on the East Coast. But when you live in a city, you're driving short distances, this is something that might make sense in your life.

The urban/rural divide is increasingly one that's, you know, absolutely critical in our politics. Is the Biden administration, like, how are they thinking about that, because there are an awful lot of people who, you know, if - if these companies are forced to produce more EVs and hybrids to meet the demands of this new regulation, there is a world where it could push up prices for combustion engine cars that some Americans are still going to need.

HAYS: No, I think you're absolutely right, but I do think that they're trying to invest money in these charging stations and in the network to make it more efficient and make it more doable for just an average person. I do agree with you, that the cost of EVs are really high and it's not - average people cannot afford to have an EV, as well as with having a charger installed in their house and being able to like map out where they're going every day to make sure that they are hitting their charging station. So, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done. I think the administration is taking steps to have tax incentives and some other things to help people along to buy EVs, but it's not perfect by any stretch.

HUNT: Yes.

I mean, Stephen, where do you think the country actually is on electric vehicles?

COLLINSON: You know, I'm -

HUNT: Like, are they ready for it?

COLLINSON: I'm surprised that this issue has not come up most strongly before in the election because traveling around the early states this year, it was one of the things that people brought up unprompted along with, for example, the president's age. I think it - people are very skeptical in say the middle of Iowa, for example, where they don't see any time soon there's going to be a charging station. They used --

HUNT: If you've ever driven down I-80 in Iowa -


HUNT: Man, it is a long, straight road.

COLLINSON: Right. And they just don't see it.

Look, the issue here, though, that Trump is saying, that Biden is going to give the, you know, the U.S. auto industry to China. The way the world is going, if the United States doesn't lead in this, China is going to take over anyway. And it's going to be the dominant force. So, it's a - it's a - it's a juxtaposition between what happened - what's happening now, transactionally that Trump follows and a longer- term perspective.

HUNT: All right, well, speaking of dominant forces, I will leave you with this. The empire striking back at the Empire State Building.


HUNT: "Star Wars" taking over the iconic New York City landmark to launch a host of new toys and products for their March to May 4th campaign. You see what they did there. Just look at these projections on the building and, of course, Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader was on hand.


HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN, ACTOR: I have brought peace, freedom, justice and security to my new empire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your new empire?


HUNT: Hayden Christiansen, the actor you saw there, flip the switch at the top of the Empire State Building, turning that building Sith red.


HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN, ACTOR: It's really nice to be here and help kick off the "Star Wars" takeover of the Empire State Building. "Star Wars" has been a very important part of my life.


It's a real pleasure to get to be here and see this amazing show that they're going to put on. So, thank you.