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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

DeSantis, Haley Hit Trump Harder in CNN Town Halls; Trump Phones Into Iowa Rally to Urge Supporters to Caucus; Congressional Leader Near Deal on Overall Funding. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 05, 2024 - 05:00   ET




GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is not willing to show up on the debate stage.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chaos follows him, and we can't have a country in disarray.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Taking their shots. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, trying to take down the front runner Donald Trump on live TV.

Plus, phoning it in. Trump warns Iowa supporters not to sit back next week over speakerphone from Mar-a-Lago.

And, kicking into campaign mode, Joe Biden heads to battleground Pennsylvania today to set the tone for his 2024 reelection bid.


HUNT: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Friday, January 5th. Happy Friday. We made it.

It is 5:00 a.m. here in Washington. It's 4:00 a.m. in Des Moines, Iowa, where Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley each made the case in separate CNN town halls last night, that they're the bigger choice than the front runner to face President Biden in the fall.


DESANTIS: The Democrats want Trump to be the candidate. They are going to talk about all of the legal stuff, January 6th, that will be what the election will be about. You don't want to be a referendum on Trump in the past. You wanted to be a referendum on Biden's failures and our positive vision for this country. I offer that, and oh, by the way, you need somebody that can serve two terms.

HALEY: I personally think President Trump was the right president at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies. But the reality is, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. And we all know that's true. Chaos follows him, and 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.


HUNT: And there are, of course, not just 10 days to go until 2024 voting begins with the Iowa caucuses. I do think again, a reminder, this Haley-DeSantis fight is for second place.

Donald Trump was not in Iowa yesterday, but he did call in.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT (via telephone): We love you. I'm going to be coming out there on Friday. I will be there Friday and Saturday, and then I'm coming back the following week. And I'm going to caucus probably in Des Moines -- I will be doing caucus with you. We're going to work it, and we can take any chances. And everybody has to get out because we don't want to sit back and rely on the polls.


HUNT: All right. Let's bring in Eugene Scott. He is a senior politics reporter at "Axios".

Eugene, good morning.

Let's start kind of overall big picture here. You saw Haley and DeSantis there both making the argument that they are willing to make against Donald Trump. DeSantis faced a supporter, a voter in Iowa I should say, who was pressing him on why he hasn't been more outspoken about Trump.

Is it too little too late?

EUGENE SCOTT, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, AXIOS: I don't think it's too little too late. We might not be certain of the number of people who still do not know for sure what they want to do, although it is very clear that most Republicans in Iowa are backing the former president. But these two individuals are really trying to, you know, essentially, make the case that they are who can beat Biden in a general election, and they used last night to get some of those points across to individuals who may have been tuned out quite a bit. And we'll see whether or not it's effective.

HUNT: All right, so something notable from Ron DeSantis here, he didn't immediately hit the social issues that he normally talks about. He usually talks about transgender, health care bans, wokeism, them but he did talk about abortion, which, is something that distinguishes him in some ways, especially from Donald Trump in a state of Iowa, where evangelical voters really make up the core of the Republican electorate.

Listen to how he talked about that issue.


DESANTIS: Donald Trump has said that pro-life protections even at the state level are, quote, a terrible thing. And he said that in relation to bills like what Iowa did, the heartbeat bill.

Now, this was a guy who was at the March for Life in January of 2020, and he said all life was a gift from God. He said the unborn was made in the image of God. He said there should be protections. That's what he was saying when he was president at the March for Life.


Now he's saying it's a terrible, terrible thing. So how do you reconcile those two views. Did he flip-flop? Did he not believe at the time?


HUNT: So, I mean, my sense of this having covered Iowa over the years, is if there is an argument that might resonate, Trump is obviously extraordinarily popular with caucusgoers, but this is an issue those voters care a lot about.

What do you make of DeSantis's way of talking about this?

SCOTT: It was interesting. He leaned into the argument that Donald Trump is a flip-flopper, which quite frankly many supporters of him have already accepted and it doesn't concern them to the degree that it concerns critics of his.

What I found most fascinating to your point, leaning into the abortion argument, despite how unpopular it has been for Republicans across the country, and is trying to convince these voters that he is the most anti-abortion candidate, could be successful with some of them when it comes to the GOP primary, but ultimately it is not likely to help him if he goes to the general because we know that most voters, especially independents who are going to decide the elections in so many states, not as severe on this issue as he is, and as much as he assumes these Republican voters are.

HUNT: Well, I mean, it's a good point obviously in a general election, that's not the message, but Ron DeSantis has to get out of Iowa first before he is able to start talking to those voters.

So, Eugene, the other thing, of course, that was brought up last night with Nikki Haley is the question about what it means to be a woman presidential candidate. Because she obviously has enjoyed this surge of momentum.

During Hillary Clinton's run for president back in 2016, there was a lot of attention paid to this issue. Haley herself has been attacked for having said things that -- positive things about Hillary Clinton as a trail blazing woman candidate, not about -- they disagree on policy obviously. But Haley had a chance to answer this question for herself last night. Take a look at how Haley responded.


HALEY: As a country I think America has been ready for a woman, but it has to be the right woman, right? I'm one of those -- I don't think, and I think a lot of women will agree to this, we don't support women just because they're women.

I mean, we love to see women do well. I love -- I think women are rock stars. I love to see women do well. But it president is a big deal, and it's a serious issue.


HUNT: What do you make of how she handled that?

SCOTT: It's an interesting point. I mean, whether America is ready or not, it might not be the main focus right now. The question is, is the GOP? And right now, the GOP is backing someone who many of his critics and even those within his party consider sexist, and who repeatedly has to answer for misogynistic comments, and in the past and present, and even policies that some individuals in this country aren't convinced are in the best interest of women.

And so, it seemed like her effort was an attempt to communicate to these voters that she could do it and the time is now, but it doesn't seem like many of them agree based on what the polling in Iowa says right now.

HUNT: All right. Eugene Scott of "Axios", Eugene, happy Friday to you. Thanks very much for being here.

SCOTT: You as well.

HUNT: All right. Still ahead, President Biden set to make his first major campaign speech of the year. At a historic Pennsylvania site.

Plus, new report reveals Trump raked in millions from foreign governments during his presidency. China the leading spender.

And voters from two more states join the push to try to remove Trump from their primary ballots.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Congressional sources say House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are moving closer to an agreement on overall funding levels for the federal government.

But that doesn't mean a government shutdown will be averted later this month. The two sides still have to agree on which federal programs to fund, many House Republicans want money to go to clamping down on immigration at the southern border. Let's take a global view of this, because Italy is also dealing with

its own migrant issues. Italian prime minister is trying to solve that problem with strong investments in African countries. They're saying, quote, what needs to be done in Africa is not charity, what needs to be done in Africa is to build cooperation and serious strategic relationships as equals, not with predators.

To talk about all this, let's bring in CNN's Max Foster. Max, happy Friday, always good to see you.


HUNT: So let's talk about this. I mean, this -- I realize that some people may look at how we have said this, up and say what does this have to do with anything? But in terms of driving, why are these two things related? I think the way the migrant crisis in Italy has been driving Italian politics in many ways to the right, to the point where they are having conversations about how do we fix this at the source, it really does mirror what is going on here in the United States in the way immigration plays into our politics, particularly right-wing politics and there have been conversations about how to solve the problem in Central America to help people be able to stay where they live, presumably where they would like to be able to live safely, but they can't.

So how do you see how this is playing out in Europe, how this is playing out in the United States, and how it impacts our politics really across the globe?

FOSTER: Well, it's a global issue, isn't it. Whatever country tries, it is just not working as they strengthen borders, the number of migrants is increasing.


So I think there is a realization that they need a longer term solution. And all the experts will tell the politicians that you have to address it at the source. You need to stop people wanting to leave these countries, to leave to richer countries.

When you talk about America, you talk about a billion dollars I think it was last year that was invested in Central America. Why has that not fed through? Well, if you take the fact that just in Mexico has a GDP of $1.2 trillion, it's really a drop in the ocean. That is just one country.

And what you are really doing is asking migrants to be motivated to want to leave to a richer country. So if you are going to invest in a nation, make it richer, that takes years and years and years. Certainly to make people feel richer, they need to see in their schools and their economy, and it just does not have been that quickly.

So it probably is the resolution, I think a lot of experts would say, but it's going to take time to feed through and you need the patients of people and politicians to see it through. HUNT: Right, and, of course, the argument that many hard-liners will

make on these immigration policies, you know, I know this played into questions around Brexit, too, and I'm kind of interested in your view on how this is something that, you know, how the Brits have handled this as well. Here in the U.S., I mean, what we're getting right now from especially Republicans, and you know the House Speaker Mike Johnson particularly is hard-line on this, the House Republicans are hard line on this, they want to change fundamentally the asylum system that says, that when these migrants come to U.S. shores, U.S. law says, that they can stay here.

That is obviously something that has been part of how we have thought about, you know, humanitarian efforts in western democracies for a long time. That has been pretty fundamentally challenged right now.

FOSTER: Yeah, well, here in the U.K., particularly, they are trying to de-motivate people coming out from France on small boats by trying to create a system where people are sent to Rwanda to be processed. That has been caught up in parliament and the courts, because it's very difficult to see that working, ultimately a lot of the opposition politicians saying, even if it does get approve, there's going to be so few people that actually get sent, it's not going to be a motivating factor.

I think what Meloni is doing in Italy is interesting. She is a right- wing politician, and she is really taking some of the ideas from the left, which is to use aid money to invest in African countries, to try to improve those, in the same way as America's trying to do with Central America.

If you look at the language, you mention it when you came to, me she's really emphasizing this is not charity, it is investment. I think the left will be impressed by, that the experts will be impressed by that, but what she is trying to convince is the right that this is not charity. We are not just giving money away as a left-wing policy. It is actually investment in the future.

I think what will be interesting in her case is whether she can convince the right that investing in Africa is the resolution, and maybe the American right could take lessons from that. Can they use a similar type of language, she is pretty far right a lot of people would argue.

HUNT: Yeah. You know, we will see when the American right starts taking lessons from European politicians. Although in fairness, we have seen people like Steve Bannon head over there for, you know, the particularly far-right corners of what is going on on your side of the pond.

Max Foster, thank you very much for being with us this morning. Have a great weekend.

FOSTER: Thanks, Kasie. Thank you.

HUNT: We'll see you Monday. All right. Still ahead here, New York City's mayor suing bus companies. We'll explain why it has to do with what we were just talking about.

And who will see snow over the next few days? We're going to have the latest on a weekend storm headed for the East Coast, up next.



HUNT: All right. Quick hits across America now.

Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil after a 17-year-old killed a sixth grader and wounded five other people including, the school principal in a mass shooting at Perry High School near Des Moines in Iowa on Thursday. It is already the second school shooting in 2024. The government died from self inflicted injuries.

Voters in Illinois in Massachusetts now moving to take Trump off the 2024 ballot, invoking the 14th Amendment Insurrection cause. The new court filings at the challenges here already faces in several states that could ultimately lead to a Supreme Court decision on the issue.

New York City is suing 17 charter bus companies that transported migrants from Texas to try and recoup $700 million already spent on caring for them.

Mayor Eric Adams blames Texas Governor Greg Abbott.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We cannot bear the cost of reckless political ploys from the state of Texas alone.


HUNT: All right. Let's go now to weather, we have had a major winter storm expected to bring in snow and ice to parts of the mid-Atlantic this weekend, and the Northeast as well. Some of these regions haven't seen significant snow for almost two years.

Our weatherman Derek Van Dam has been tracking it all for us.

Derek, I'm very personally invested in this forecast. What do we got for the weekend?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, you're not the only one.

OK, here it is. A broad stroke look at the weather forecast we have for this weekend, this is going to be a central interior of New England snow thump, right?

[05:25:01] It is going to bring a potential for 6 to 12 inches of snow. Boston towards Worchester, and the Hudson Valley, and you can see it stretches across higher elevations of Pennsylvania. But, of course, the devil is always in the detail with these. What will happen as the storm reaches the coast. I will try to highlight that here.

Here's a storm developing across the nation, midsection, a broad look at how the evolution of the storm will take place through Sunday. Remember, this is a Saturday night into Sunday morning timeframe. Timing it out for your home.

The nation's capital, you will get your first bout of winter mix, probably mid-morning on Saturday. Then we will get some of our heaviest precipitation along the coastal areas, Philadelphia to New York, mainly rain for this particular system, especially along long island. Boston, you should see mainly snow, especially as you mercury way away from the city center.

This is interesting, very telling as well, Weather Prediction Center has a marginal risk of excessive rainfall, notice, that includes New York, Philadelphia, and the nation's capital. So we do believe this will be a majority rain event for the I-95 corridor, but it will be a tight gradient oil changes to snow, probably just west of I-95.

And you can see that sharp cut off right here, I will draw that, line notice, that is what makes this forecast so difficult unexciting at the same time. Long Island, you can see Delaware all the way to Baltimore, Washington, don't get me wrong, we still could break that snow drop. Remember, we need one inch of snow on the ground to break that near 700-day snow drop, and we cannot forget the potential of icing across the Carolinas for the system of well, that will be very impactful.

And then yet another storm next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, for the East Coast. So, very active pattern setting up -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Our weatherman Derek Van Dam -- Derek, have a wonderful weekend. Thank you. We'll let you know.

VAN DAM: You as well. All right.

HUNT: How it goes down here this weekend. See you soon, my friend.

All right. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley taking questions from Iowa voters on issues like abortion, immigration, and, of course, Donald Trump. Well, the big takeaways from last night's town halls, that's up next.

And President Biden hoping to channel George Washington near Valley Forge today.