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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ballot Battle; Congress Chaos; Super Bowl Bets. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Thanks for being up early with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

This morning, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the historic attempt to disqualify former President Donald Trump from office. Lawyers for six Republican and Independent voters will make the case that Trump should be removed from the Colorado ballot because of his role in the January 6 insurrection. Those attorneys acknowledge their presentation basically needs to be perfect, but they believe that they are on firm legal ground.


NOAH BOOKBINDER, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: This case, which I think a lot of people saw as kind of a long shot case, actually legally and factually, is a very strong case. We have every expectation that the Supreme Court will take this very seriously, that they will tomorrow ask very tough questions of both sides, and that they will have an open mind.


HUNT: So Trump has used his previous trials as campaign stops, but this time he's decided to stay away from the Supreme Court's arguments. We're told that he understands how consequential this case is. Let's bring in criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. Joey, good morning. Always wonderful to have you.

Look, if you were going to make these arguments, where would your focus be? And can we also talk about, I mean, these nine justices are going to be at the center of our politics from now until November. It is an incredibly consequential day, and each one of those personalities is going to play into this in potentially very unpredictable ways. What are you watching for?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So true. Kasie, good morning to you. You know, little did we know that when President Trump was president and he appointed three Supreme Court justices, right? Who was it, Barrett, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, that he himself could be the personal beneficiary of that, right, to all these legal issues that are around him. And so, there's a lot to look for in this case. And so, you could argue that basically based upon the notion, right, that you have this majority, which is really solid, right? It's a six to three majority, that there's nothing to see here. But there are some serious, concrete legal questions. Like what? Like the issue of what does this 14th Amendment section 3 mean really and who does it cover. There's this argument about, well, it doesn't cover the president, but it says any federal office.

How's the Supreme Court going to deal with that issue? Will the Supreme Court weight into the issue of whether there was an insurrection? And if they don't, who ultimately makes that determination? Is it left to the states like Colorado, who had a five day hearing?

But if we do that, Kasie, and another state has a hearing, and they conclude that it wasn't an insurrection, then what do we do? And then, if another state has a hearing and they conclude it was, what do we do? So part of the Supreme Court is uniformity, right? You need uniform laws. So are they going touch the insurrection question?

The other issue to me is it's interesting that Trump people are arguing that, hey, I said that I'm going to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. I didn't say I would support it, what? So there's so many questions with respect to what this provision means. Ultimately, does it disqualify him from the ballot? And so, I want to know what their hypothetical questions are going to be to the litigants in the court today, and that will give us a sense of what they're leaning.

Will they uphold this? In which case the president could be, former president, could be kicked off the ballot, or will they say, nothing to see here? And as a result, Congress should impose laws, and we're not the Congress and so, therefore, we're not going touch it. A lot going on, huge implications, I cannot wait for the arguments to begin at 10:00 am Eastern.

HUNT: Yes, it's really fascinating. I'm really excited we're going to be able to hear it. Joey, can I just dig into something you mentioned on your list, this idea about supporting and defending the Constitution. And the argument that, well, I didn't say I would support it, what is that? What are they saying?

JACKSON: So what happens is the 14th Amendment section 3 speaks to the issue of the person who takes an oath, right, any office holder. And because of the insurrection it speaks to the issue of supporting the Constitution. Trump's people are saying that it doesn't say when you take an oath to be president, you take the oath to preserve, protect, and defend, not support.


So they're making the argument that to the extent that it says support, the language itself, it doesn't say protect, preserve and defend that it doesn't apply to them. The other interesting issue, in the weeds a little bit here, Kasie, is this whole notion about it says that you can't hold office. It doesn't say you can't run for office. But in order to hold office, you need to run for office. And if you interpret it after a person wins, then where do we go?

And so, there's a lot of interesting legal arguments, right, that I think the court may wade into and really ask probing questions about to get to the heart of whether or not this Colorado Supreme Court, right, ultimately, in kicking him off the ballot should be sustained or that they should reject it and allow him to proceed. That is Mr. Trump.

HUNT: I never thought it would, you know, naive to assume that someone who put their hand on their holy book and said, I will defend the Constitution would then think that they didn't need to support the Constitution.

JACKSON: Exactly.

HUNT: But I guess they're technically correct, OK. Joey Jackson, always love having you. Please come back soon. Thanks very much.

JACKSON: Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. The bipartisan border deal is now officially dead after the Senate failed to advance it yesterday. The failure came at the hands of the very Republicans who have been demanding it all along. After four months of onerous talks, the negotiators of that deal are frustrated, to say the very least.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AR): After all of their cable news appearances, after all those campaign photo ops in the desert, after all those trips to the border, this crisis isn't actually much of a crisis after all. Sunday morning, there was a real crisis at the border. Monday morning, that crisis magically disappeared.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): This is the pin that I was handed at that desk when I was sworn in to the United States Senate. There's no reason for me to have this pin if we're just going to do press conferences. I can do press conferences from anywhere, but we can only make law from this room.


HUNT: Well, the divided GOP conference now must decide something else, whether to pass the foreign aid piece of this package without those border security provisions. Let's bring in Andrew Desiderio. He is senior congressional reporter for Punchbowl News. Andrew, good morning. It's always good to have you.

I was really struck by Lankford's speech and kind of what he said and how he presented this as basically saying out loud that the people that are putting pressure on Republicans he named, a prominent commentator didn't say who the person was, but he was talking about the commentary, right? They put all kinds of pressure on Republicans in the House and Senate, and they respond to it. He said that this person said, if you help President Biden solve the border crisis in an election year, I will destroy you. That's what Lankford said.

Just a stunning turn of events here. You were covering all of this as it unfolded last night. What did senators tell you?

ANDREW DESIDERIO, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes. Look, first and foremost, Senator Lankford is not someone who is a flamethrower. You know that, Kasie. And to hear him go after his colleagues, the way in which he did, and sort of rebut point by point what we're hearing from some Republicans who ended up killing this deal was quite stunning.

I mean, James Lankford is one of the most conservative members of the Senate. He's been endorsed by Donald Trump several times throughout his campaigns. He's been a reliable ally of Donald Trump in basically everything he's done as it relates to Congress. And to hear him go point by point to rebut his Republican colleagues this way, it really was quite stunning, especially when he talked about the idea of holding press conferences, right?

Because he was talking about the fact that there are so many Republicans who go to the border, these partisan trips where they like to talk about how bad the situation is. And Lankford said, look, you were given a chance to address the crisis, what you say is a crisis, and you walked away from the table. I think it's an indictment of our politics. I think it's an indictment of the Republican Party and where things are today.

HUNT: Yes.

DESIDERIO: And Senator Lankford is one of the few Senate Republicans who's willing to actually call that out and acknowledge it.

HUNT: Yes. It's really, really remarkable. And as you say, again, very important underscore, very conservative guy. He's been a serious legislator his entire time in Congress.

I also want to just remind everyone how we got here, right? Now, the Senate is going to try to consider the foreign aid by itself and leave the border security out of it. But it was Republicans who demanded that border security policy changes and border money be included in this package. I want to show you a compilation of them saying this on the record multiple times over the course of the past few months. Take a look.



REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'll just tell you that any national security package has to begin with the security of our own border.

I have also made very clear from day one that our first condition on any national security supplemental spending package is about our own national security first. The border is an absolute catastrophe.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): We're not going to consider the other package of Israel and Ukraine aid, even though I support both of those until and unless we deal with the border.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Yes, the package can get through the house if it has real border security.


HUNT: So here we are. I mean, what happens next for the other piece of this, the national security aid that so many in Congress. I mean, if they were to just straight up put Ukraine funding on the floor of the House, it's likely to pass. But obviously, Speaker Johnson controls that. I mean, what is the future for those soldiers fighting on the front lines in Ukraine, what should they take away from this?

DESIDERIO: Right. The irony here is that Republicans are about to move forward here with a package that includes no border money, not even border management funds that President Biden asked for in his initial supplemental funding request. And now they're holding up the entire package, the foreign aid package, right now, unless they get votes on border related amendments.

Now, that was just hours after they killed the bipartisan border security supplemental, right? So if you're calling for votes on border related issues and it's a Senate where 60 votes is required, and you just killed the only bipartisan path to an actual solution here, what, in effect, are you doing? And I think the answer is, it's Republican senators who are against Ukraine aid looking to kill this package altogether.

I think that's, really, the big factor about this that hasn't been considered as much, is the fact that Ukraine really is this big inflection point, this flashpoint right now within today's Republican Party. It is the root of the conflict between Mitch McConnell and those newer senators who have sort of ridden the coattails of Donald Trump into the United States Senate.

And as a result, right now, the Senate Republican conference is really rudderless. They are in real utter chaos, and their conference meetings regularly devolve into these snipe fests over this exact issue. And what senators were saying yesterday at their caucus lunch was that we just have to get this chapter behind us. We have to get this over with.

It's time to finally vote on Ukraine aid because it's been this issue that's been hanging out there for so long for Republicans, ever since Republicans took back control of the House. And suddenly Ukraine aid, future Ukraine aid, was an open question for them. So there's a lot of uncertainty right now about what's going to happen coming up on Capitol Hill later today.

I think Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to have to agree to some sort of amendment votes related to the border. Those will obviously fail, and then they can get on with the rest of the foreign aid package. But, of course, it's the Senate, none of that is guaranteed.

HUNT: It never is. It never is. And let's be honest, these delays at this point, Andrew, are a decision, right? They are -- the Ukrainian military is running out of ammunition. And by not doing anything, they are effectively leaving that status quo in place.

Andrew Desiderio of Punchbowl News, always grateful to have you, Andrew. Thank you very much.

DESIDERIO: Thanks, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Up next here, Nikki Haley vowing to stay in the race through Super Tuesday. How she plans to get there, up next. And people have been taking prop bets that Travis Kelsey will marry Taylor Swift at this Sunday's Super Bowl. What he's saying about that ahead.




JIMMY KIMMEL, TALK SHOW HOST: I like the idea that people took time to wait in line to vote for none of these candidates. Like going to the Wendy's drive thru and yelling, nothing for me, thanks. By the way, this race is shaping up. None of the candidates is probably the only thing American agree on right now.


HUNT: Nikki Haley suffering bit of an awkward defeat in that non- binding Nevada primary on Tuesday. Voters opted to cast their ballots for "none of these candidates." Instead of for Haley, Donald Trump's last remaining challenger, he was not on the ballot, but she did brush off the loss yesterday. She promised to stay in the race until after Super Tuesday. And she had this warning.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a blessing on the other side of this. It's going to be messy. It's going to hurt.


HUNT: It's going to be messy indeed. Nevada caucusgoers are going to have a chance to vote for Trump tonight. But before that, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments over whether he'll be allowed on state ballots despite his involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Let's bring in CNN national politics reporter Daniel Strauss to talk about all of this.

Daniel, good morning. This stings a little bit to lose to none of these candidates. But I thought what she said about things being messy before as we go on through here was interesting because there is this kind of loaded conversation behind the scenes when people talk about why they're supporting Nikki Haley or what her role would be in the race because of all of the challenges that are facing Donald Trump and so many unknowns about how his candidacy is going to unfold here. What do you make of all of this?

DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: I mean, it hits at a core bet that Haley has made as the Republican primary field has dramatically shrunk, which is that just staying in the race is part of a gamble that there will be some liability, some dramatic change that follows the pattern of Donald Trump being his own worst enemy. In this case that's, is there some kind of court case that keeps him from appearing on the ballot or forces him to drop out of the race.


That hasn't happened yet, though. And it's pretty clear from the Nevada election results, and the election results in both New Hampshire and Iowa that the groundswell of support for Haley among rank and file Republican voters only goes so far. She just -- her support is limited against Donald Trump.

HUNT: Fair enough. So, Daniel, I want to talk a little bit about the sort of effort behind the scenes to take down Trump from a political perspective as well, not just the legal front. I want to show you a little bit of this new ad from -- it's the SFA fund. That's the super PAC that's supporting Haley.

I wonder if they'd started doing, know, six or eight months ago, calling out Donald Trump this way. I do feel like, who knows, something different might have happened but they are doing it now. Take a look at this ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: SFA Funding is responsible for the content of this advertising.


HUNT: That also seems aimed at really poking the bear, so to speak, and making him mad.

STRAUSS: Yes. And it's an argument, though, that Haley did not introduce. There have been other candidates in this primary field, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, who made the same argument that said Donald Trump was too chicken, too cowardly to come on stage to debate. And neither of those candidates are now in the race.

But it's clear that the pro-Haley super PAC is airing this ad because their data suggests that this breaks through with some voters. And it reminds, or it's meant to remind voters, that for all of Trump's eagerness to show strength and express strong strength in supporting the primary, there are some who probably view him as not as strong as he presents himself.

I mean, we've seen this again and again in advertising and attacks throughout this cycle, so there's something that Republican strategists in these campaigns opposing Trump think is breaking through with these attacks.

HUNT: Interesting. So let's talk about what we're going to see unfold today at the Supreme Court. And the thing I kind of want to focus in on here is the role of the court itself, because trust in the Supreme Court has simply collapsed. Only 11% of voters, according to our recent poll, have a "great deal" of trust in the court to make the right decision. 31% say they have a moderate amount. A full quarter of Americans say they have no trust at all in the Supreme Court.

This is their biggest sort of political crisis, honestly, that they're facing since they had to deal with Bush versus Gore. What are you looking for today on the political side as these arguments unfold?

STRAUSS: I mean, just any sign that really underscores that. We've seen in the past few years, really, a strong or a very serious sort of loss of support and trust in major American institutions. It's not just the Supreme Court, it's Congress. It is the White House. It is just any federal or longstanding national institutions.

Americans are incredibly skeptical about how much those sort of bedrock pillars of american society actually helps them. And any skepticism about the Supreme Court, which used to be one of those sort of entities that Americans very much trusted and didn't really think more about now is a prime example of what they see as a disconnect between their needs and interests, and the people who represent these organizations.

HUNT: All right. CNN's Daniel Strauss, Daniel, always great to have you. Thanks very much.

STRAUSS: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Happening right now, we've got these live pictures out of Southwest Iceland. That's a volcano. It's erupting there for the second time this year. Look at that lava flowing toward that road. We're going to have much more ahead on CNN.



HUNT: Welcome back. If the Chiefs win the Super Bowl and Taylor Swift is celebrating on the field with Travis Kelce, could he propose? Well, in some places, you can actually bet on whether or not that's going to happen. Andy Scholes has this morning's bleach report.

Andy, you are the kind of real sports fan who is in a good position to tell me why Taylor Swift angers so many real sports fans. So I'm sure you are just thrilled to be doing this story this morning. Tell us more.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: I'm one of those people who doesn't bother me, right? Yes. They show her every once in a while, it's fine. I kind of want to see her reactions, you know? I'm one of those people. But, Kasie, when it comes to this, I give Travis Kelce proposing to Taylor Swift at the Super Bowl a less than 1% chance of happening. But there are people that are wagering on these things. And at US Sportsbook, prop bets like these, they're forbidden, but not in other places around the world like Canada. And Kelce proposing on the field after the game, it pays more than ten to one. You could also place bets on what color top will Swift be wearing at kickoff. Red, of course, is the heavy favorite.

And yesterday, Kelsce, while he was asked what he thought about all the different wagers that are out there.


TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: These bets are crazy. Being worldwide is way different than just being famous in Kansas City. I mean, everybody's having fun with it. And it's not like you guys are up here teeing off on me left and right. Everybody's having a good time with it, so how could I be upset about it?


SCHOLES: The Chiefs go into Sunday's game as two point underdogs, but a win would give them a third title in five seasons and also make them the first team to repeat a Super Bowl champs. The Patriots did it back in 2005. Now, Rob Gronkowski, who won four Super Bowls, he told CNN's Coy Wire that Kansas City's on the brink of being ranked among the greatest dynasties in NFL history.


ROB GRONKOWSKI, 4-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: You got to win three Super Bowls, I would say. That's the standard. You got to win three Super Bowls in a decade and go to many other championships as well. So they are that close to a dynasty, like that close. So if they win this game, they are technically, I would say, they are a dynasty. Even if they lose and then win a Super Bowl next year, I would say they're a dynasty. They just got to get that third Super bowl win over a decade.


SCHOLES: All right. Meantime, Gronk's former teammate, Tom Brady, says he's surprised that their old coach, Bill Belichick, remains unemployed after parting ways with the Patriots last month. And on his "Let's Go" podcast, Brady admitted, bit of a head scratcher.


TOM BRADY, 7-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: I'm surprised that greatest coach ever doesn't have a job, you know, absolutely. But, you know, I'm surprised a lot of things in the NFL. I'm surprised. When I was a free agent, there was a lot of teams that didn't want me. There's a lot of things that happen, know, for one reason or another, don't go exactly the way you think they should go.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [06:00:16]

SCHOLES: And Belichick's good friend, Nick Saban, meanwhile, he did get another job. Not in coaching, though, Kasie. He's going to be on ESPN's Game Day next season. So it's going to be fun watching coach with the crew there every Saturday morning.

You know, it'd be a shame to not have Nick Saban in our lives in college football. But don't worry.

HUNT: Yes. You say that. I'm a big fan girl.

SCHOLES: (Inaudible), yes.

HUNT: All right, Andy, thank you very much. And thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. CNN This Morning starts right now.