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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

DeSantis, Haley Debate For 2nd Place As Trump Teases Veep Pick; Christie Ends Campaign, Skewers Haley, DeSantis on Hot Mic; EU Official Recalls Trump's Promise to "Never" Help Europe. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2024 - 05:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Kasie Hunt. It's Thursday, January 11th, 5:00 a.m. here in Washington. It's 4:00 a.m. in Iowa, where there are now four days until the caucuses.

Just hours ago, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley went to head to head on the CNN debate stage in the fight for number two, both deploying the pants-on-fire strategy.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have said it again, Ron should stop lying.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And, then she said she never said. Of course, you're lying.

HALEY: It doesn't change the fact that Ron's lying because Ron is losing.

DESANTIS: I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley may give him a run for his money.


HUNT: You get the point.

They both also took some time to go after the no-show, faraway Republican front runner, Donald Trump.


HALEY: I think what happened on January 6 was a terrible day and I think President Trump will have to answer for it.

DESANTIS: He sat in the White House and tweeted law and order. But he did nothing to ensure law and order. As your president, I will never let our cities burn.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: So at that very moment, Trump was on Fox where he was lobbed some pretty easy questions, and himself lobbed a few of the typical shots at his opponents.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You like Ron DeSantis? But he wouldn't even be around today. He'd be working in a pizza shop or perhaps a law firm if I didn't endorse him.


HUNT: OK. Trump also called Haley unqualified, and dropped this teaser.


MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS MODERATOR: Who would be in the running for vice president?

TRUMP: Well, I can tell you that really. I mean, I know what it's going to be.


TRUMP: I'll give you -- we'll do another show sometime.


HUNT: So, Trump's gong to voluntarily appear in a New York courtroom today. Again, voluntarily, keyword. We're going to have more on that a little bit later in the show.

But the sound heard round the world this morning is some sound that no one was ever intended to hear. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he was caught on a hot mic last night right before he started the speech where he dropped out of the presidential race. Listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's going to get smoked. And you and I both know it. She's not up to this.

DeSantis called me, petrified that I would --


HUNT: Petrified of what? We don't know because the mic cut off right there. And to be clear, she, the one who's going to get smoked according to Christie, is Nikki Haley, who now is in the strongest position behind Donald Trump in the state of New Hampshire.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator and Georgia's former Republican lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, also the host of "Can We Please Talk?", Mike Leon. Good morning to both of you. Thank you so much for being here this


The amount of political news we have is a little over the top for one hour of show. Let's -- I do want to show, Geoff Duncan, we played a little bit of Christie's hot mic moment. I also want to play a little bit of the speech that he did get before he dropped out of the race late yesterday at night. Listen to that.


DESANTIS: I did call on him just because I thought he was being treated poorly with all these people saying like, you know, you should go. And I said, you have every right to do this and I --

CHRISTIE: And I feel no differently today because this is the fight for the soul of our party and the soul of our country. Why have we resisted the calls to drop out of this race? Because unlike some of the other candidates, we're fighting for something bigger than ourselves.


HUNT: I mean, Geoff, that sounded a lot to me like President Biden, quite frankly. That's the way he talks. And, you know I just want to take a moment on what Christie did here. He doesn't seem to think any of his rivals could. When he doesn't seem like he's going to be endorsing any of them, but he is sleeping the, race as the one person will took a very hard line against Donald Trump.

What's your view on this?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, every card-carrying Republican, whether they're going to vote for Chris Christie or not I think hopefully view him as the great American, somebody who took on the challenge of taking on Donald Trump and it was important work to be done.


And quite honestly, I think other should've taken the same approach that he took, right? It's pushing forward and calling balls and strikes in an honest and fair way. Instead, we see ourselves starting to split hairs and walk around the edges of Donald Trump and the other candidates, and we see what we get. We get a distant second place.

And so, sad to see Chris leave, I do think he made the right choice if we're going to have any chance at all to beat Donald Trump, it's going to be us to consolidate quickly as possible.

HUNT: Mike, in terms of consolidation and the rest of the field, I mean, the overarching theme of that debate last night between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis was them just completely unleashed in their attacks against each other. I mean, I -- it may be easy to lose sight of the world liar, has been used so much in our politics and the last frankly since the Trump presidency. It didn't used to be something that people throw around terribly cavalierly, but both Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley used that about each other basically throughout the night.

What were -- what were your top takeaways from the back and forth on stage? And do you think they did any favors to themselves and actually trying to take on the guy who's leading the race?

MIKE LEON, HOST, "CAN WE PLEASE TALK": Well, let me say, without plugging it a little bit more, right? And somebody who's built websites and product and technology, including the ones that people are watching this on this platform, it's pretty good that they had that up, and ready for her.

And you're right, Kasie, like the back and forth I thought in a two person sitting with Jake and Dana moderating, it would be a lot easier, and you would get more policy vision as opposed to talking over each other and her promoting the website, we're not going to give anymore attention that it deserves. But my overall takeaways, I watch it different.

You know, I was on in August talking about Nikki Haley in the first debate with eight people, and how she used the H-word, and humanize when Martha from Fox asked about abortion and women's reproductive rights and how Republicans have been getting hammered in different state ballot initiatives and she answered it great. And I was with Republican and Democratic strategists at the time filming our show, and both of them, were both females, are more like that's the way you answered until now what I see today, or last night excuse me, which was really a lot of attacks the way, you know, Jake asked her the question at the end, what do you like about Ron DeSantis? I like that he's governor of Florida. I mean, you can tell that she's taking this very personally.

And I think both of them, back to Geoff's point, I think both of them are missing the key things that they should be talking about with the former president. I get why they're not doing it, they're trying to appeal to folks that are trying to caucus for Donald Trump, to swing for her or him, but there was a lot of personal attacks lobbied last night. And it just didn't feel like we lost some of the policy visions and strategy from both of them with the personal attacks.

HUNT: I mean, honestly, probably going to drive got both of their negatives, and Haley in particular.

And speaking of the former president and how they approach him, Geoff, you once said on CNN, you called -- you said that Donald Trump has, quote, the moral compass of an axe murderer, end quote. And my colleague, Dana Bash and Jake Tapper asked Haley and DeSantis about Trump's character specifically. I want to show you how they both answered that question.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN MODERATOR: Do you believe Donald Trump has the character to be president again? DESANTIS: Well, I'm running because I'm the guy that's going to be

able to engineer a comeback for this country. I appreciated what Donald Trump did. But let's just be honest, he said he was going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, he did not deliver that.

He said he was going to drain the swamp, he did not deliver that.

He said he was going to hold holt Hillary accountable, and he let her off -- let her off the hook.

TAPPER: Do you believe Donald Trump has the character to be president again?

HALEY: Well, I think the next president needs to have moral clarity. When you look at Donald Trump, I have said, I think he was the right president, at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies, but his way is not my way.

I don't have vengeance. I don't have vendettas. I don't take things personally.


HUNT: Geoff, why do you think they as two to, clear of taking on the character more directly. I mean, I will say, Haley, it's the first time I've really heard her say, I don't have vengeance, I don't have vendettas. That is kind of going to this question of how Trump would be in his next term, the revenge question. But still, certainly not as far as they could go on this.

DUNCAN: So, that was the easiest question asked all night, right? It should have just been clear cut, no, he does not have the character to be the president. He has 91 indictments sitting over his head right now. He will definitely be convicted of one of those at some point in the relatively near future. And, then this whole litany, of other issues that have followed him his entire life and certainly through his presidency. And, oh, by the way, he lied about the 2020 election.

So, that's -- that's very, very simple answer. But, you know, I think it's a huge missed opportunity. And I think when we do a postmortem, if Donald Trump becomes a nominee, in us which is really a 60 percent swath of the Republican Party, pulls back into a postmortem analysis. We're going to say, gosh, we should've come right out of the. Gaetz and develop serious, narrative that Donald Trump is wrong.


And he is bad for this country and he's evil minded and he is self- centered and, he's a horrible candidate.

And what really started off as folks trying to gain short term sugar- highs and latching themselves on Donald Trump, now three years remove, feels like a boat anchor. And I think we're going to have more regret than we ever had as a Republican Party postmortem with Donald Trump.

Whether that, he gets beat by Joe Biden, again, over whether or not he shows up in the White House day one and decides to go on a four-year vengeance tour.

HUNT: Yeah, we're going to talk a little bit with you guys later on in the show about what Trump had to say last night as well, because he was a counterprogramming in the town hall.

Thanks to both of you. Do stand bye. We're going to pick this conversation up in just a few moments.

But, first, just ahead, Donald Trump plans to show up in court in New York today, even though he doesn't have to.

Plus, Hunter Biden's Capitol Hill surprise, the president's son crashes a hearing about him.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Former President Donald Trump once vowed that he would never help Europe if it came under attack. That is according to a commissioner for the European Union who recalled a private meeting with then- President Trump and E.U. officials at the World Economic Forum in Davos four years ago. Trump also claimed according to this reporting, that the U.S. would pull out of NATO.

Trump spokesperson did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

Let's bring in CNN's Max Foster who is live for us in London.

Max, good morning. It's always good to see you.

What do you make of the timing of this recollection right now, Max? I mean, it does seem to be concerned that Trump is going to become -- is going to get reelected?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and the idea that America might stop funding for the war in Ukraine, in which case all the pressure would fall on Europe to pay for the war in Ukraine, and how do they cope with that. So there is a big debate at the moment. You know, if America pulls out, how does your keep supporting Ukraine, and actually there is a trend in this part of the world that they shouldn't keep funding Ukraine. That is certainly a big argument on the right for these parties really dressing up as we look ahead to elections this year.

I remember talking to Donald Trump when he was running to be president, obviously the first time, and this was right at the beginning of the Ukraine crisis where Russia invaded Crimea, and I remember asking him what would you do about Crimea? And him saying to me, well, that's Europe's problem. Why doesn't Germany intervene and get involved in that? Why is America getting involved in that?

The document, or the conversation you just reported, on speaks to a similar theme in what he is saying. You know, there are problems in the world which aren't necessarily America's problems, and certainly, Europe has enough money if you take it as a whole to be able to sort out some of these problems on its own.

So, you know, I think it is interesting, and it reflects the concern in Europe that if he gets in again, Ukraine is going to be a real issue for them.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean and to dig -- to dig into that a little bit, I mean, I think there's definitely an assumption here that of Trump were to get reelected, it is very unlikely that the U.S. would continue funding the war in Ukraine because so much of the -- you know, the antagonism that exist right now in terms of that money is coming from so-called MAGA Republicans in Congress, who don't really want to pay for it.

I'm kind of -- I'm curious, Max, I mean, the -- what Donald Trump said about why he wanted to pull out of NATO, or not necessarily say that out loud, but why he was skeptical of NATO I should say, just to correct myself, was that people were not paying their fair share. Other countries weren't paying their fair share.

What has actually happened since Donald Trump said that as we sort of contemplate this possibility that he could be returning to power?

FOSTER: Well, you know, overtime, you know, people around the world got used to looking at some of -- taking away some of the inflammatory parts of a Donald Trump, says and really cutting down to the core of it. And if you cut down to the core of the argument, he's right. You know, other countries weren't putting in what America did, and many of them weren't paying much at all.

So I think there is an acceptance that, you know, he had a correct argument there in terms of funding of NATO. It's not clear exactly what he means about NATO, does he not believe in the principle itself? In which case just pulling out of NATO out of principle, or will he stay in NATO if other countries continue paying their way, or increase the amount that they pay. Often, they don't live up to their promises at all, and America does have to pay a lot of NATO all the time. But I think are a better place to explain exactly what he means.

HUNT: I don't know. I mean, fair enough. But also, who knows, right?

Max Foster, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it. See you tomorrow.

FOSTER: All right, Kasie.

HUNT: And just ahead here, the next big 14th Amendment battleground is going to be in Oregon. We're going to have more on the decision that is due there any day.

And, new tornado threats in the storm-ravaged south.


HUNT: Welcome back. We got quick hits across America now.

One skier was killed and another person injured in an avalanche at Tahoe's key resort in California. It is not clear when the mountain will be able to reopen.

A House panel held its first hearing to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the border crisis. Republicans accused Mayorkas of dereliction of duty for the high number of border crossings.

And the Oregon Supreme Court set to weigh on whether Donald Trump can appear in any of the states ballot as a result of the 14th Amendment insurrectionist ban. Trump appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after he was removed from the primary ballot in Colorado.

All right, let's go now to weather. A sense of deja vu today as more than 80 million people across the country are bracing for more severe storm threats on the heels of that powerful system, that already wreaked havoc over the last two days.

Let's get to our weatherman Derek Van Dam.

Derek, good morning. Lots of threats out there today.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I'm calling this a very hyper active weather pattern across the United States, and you, know, I was in New Orleans, in Panama City beach covering tornadoes yesterday. Now, we are covering avalanches and the threat of additional tornadoes today.

That avalanche, by the way, there was winds clocked at 110 miles per hour in and around Lake Tahoe, and that is nearly category three hurricane status, so a powerful category two equivalent winds. Just amazing.

So, there's a lot of energy moving from the West Coast towards the interior. You get these collision of air mass, typically in the springtime, but this time we are going to have a multifaceted storm unfold from today, right through the early parts of the weekend, including the snow through the Rockies, blizzard conditions, potentially all the way across the Midwest, including Chicago. But as this cold front slams the southeast, the potential for severe weather is what we're going to keep our focus, at least for the time being.

Today, we have an enhanced risk from the Storm Prediction Center, heads-up Little Rock to Shreveport. That's a level three of five.

You have a greater chance of EF2 tornadoes, that is winds over 110 miles per hour within that shaded area. Then the threat shifts eastward for the day on Friday, a large swath of population density across the Southeast, including Atlanta, all the way to the areas that were hit hardest by tornadoes earlier this week. This is where the greatest chance of strong tornadoes exists. We're going to keep a close eye to the sky. Then on top of that, Kasie, the coldest air of the season and the

coldest air in years for many locations, expected to spill in behind this cold front. It is likely, and, Chicago we will not reach zero degrees before the potential a couple days and bitter cold wind chills will accompany that as well -- Kasie.

HUNT: And, of course, what's right underneath that Arctic Air, Iowa, and the caucuses.

VAN DAM: Ah, drinks.

HUNT: Were it is said to be, at this hour of the day, negative 20 degrees on Monday, where I will be --

VAN DAM: That's right. You've been doing your homework.

HUNT: -- hopefully inside and not outside, but we shall see.

Weatherman Derek Van Dam, Derek, thank you very much for that.

VAN DAM: Bundle up. All right.

HUNT: All right. Just ahead here, Chris Christie drops out of the race, but not before dropping this about Nikki Haley on a hot mic.


CHRISTIE: She's going to get smoked, and you and I both know it.