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Trump Employee Number 4 Now Cooperating With Special Counsel; CNN Poll: Trump Trounces Rivals In Latest 2024 Snapshot; House GOP Threatens Shutdown Over Biden Impeachment; Pence: Trump's Populism A "Road To Ruin" For Republicans; Harris Asked About Biden's Age, Her Readiness To Lead; 2024 GOP Candidates Try To Make VP Harris An Issue In Race. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired September 07, 2023 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: It's a law and order plotline turned reality for the former president of the United States. We learned from a court filing that the IT manager at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property is now a government witness after the special counsel offered immunity from prosecution.
Joining me now from Mendham, New Jersey is Republican presidential candidate and former governor of the Garden State, Chris Christie. Thank you so much for joining me, you are also a former U.S. attorney. You prosecuted lots of high profile cases. How valuable do you think this cooperation could be?
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Very valuable, because this is a guy who has first-hand knowledge of what went on in the aftermath of the subpoena, grand jury subpoena being served. What were the machinations of the people around Donald Trump and perhaps with Donald Trump himself?
And so while it's not a make or break bit of testimony, I don't think it's another building block in having people who are cooperating now against Donald Trump, and going to give testimony about his conduct and that cannot be a comfortable moment for him.
BASH: Well, that was going to be my next question. You were still in his orbit and work with him. You were friends with him, you saw what happened when Michael Cohen flipped. Given that, how might he be feeling about this right now?
CHRISTIE: Well, two things will happen. One, this man will be vilified, attacked and savaged by Donald Trump publicly. And then secondly, Donald Trump will lay in his bed at night staring up the ceiling, trying to remember every conversation ever had with this guy, while he's sick to his stomach.
And this is going to repeat itself, that over and over and over again, over the course of the next number of months, it's going to repeat itself in Georgia, when some of those co-defendants invariably are going to take a plea and a cooperation deal and will cooperate against Donald Trump. And it may happen again, in this matter in the federal matters that are pending, with folks who are either indicted or unindicted co-conspirators.
And so, you know, this is what the Republican Party is facing, drip, drip, drip on the guy who's the front runner, which is why he cannot be the nominee. And if he is the nominee, he will not be Joe Biden.
BASH: You know, you have been in this race for three months as of yesterday. You've spent a lot of time hammering the former president and saying things like you just said drip, drip, drip. He is not the guy that the Republican Party should have to go against Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the former president's lead has actually expanded. We saw not just in a new national CNN poll this week, but in early contest dates where these will be decided. Why do you think Republican voters aren't buying the anti-Trump message that you're selling?
CHRISTIE: Well, first off, I think a lot of them are and, you know, we're at 14 percent, New Hampshire, and we're going to continue to climb in New Hampshire I suspect.
But secondly, look, this is going to take some time, Dana. This is a guy who has been at the front of every Republican voters mind for the last eight years. And it's not going to happen overnight. But as these things become more and more real, as the trials approach, and as they do approach, you're going to see more of what happened now with this cooperating witness.
It will become more real to people. And when it does, you're going to realize that we just simply cannot nominate Donald Trump, whether you think the indictments are fair or unfair, as a Republican. They are a reality. We now have to deal with them, and his underlying conduct that caused them.
And both of those things, in my view, are disqualified for him as a candidate. And I think that Republican voters will ultimately come around, but they're not going to come around without people like me being out there continuing to make this point, patiently and with persistence. And that's exactly I'm going to do, Dana, because it's the truth.
BASH: You know, you've touted your support, not just from the 14 percent that you just mentioned in New Hampshire, from more broadly, Democrats and independents, who you say that you're going to need in order to win a general election, you are any Republican.
And the question is, what if that same appeal is turning off Republican voters that you need to win the primary. 66 percent of GOP voters in that CNN poll said that they would never vote for you, which was the highest of any candidate in that race. Is that the result of the message that you continue to push?
CHRISTIE: Sure. It's a result of the fact that there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable at this moment with the truth being told about Donald Trump, but that will change over time. And the fact is that you have a party that's divided essentially into three lots.
One that's with Trump no matter what. Another part of the party that is against Trump no matter what. And then third part of the party that says, I might vote for Trump, but I am definitely willing to consider an alternative, that can be Joe Biden.
I'm appealing to those people who are in that middle, that alternative, folks -- the folks who are looking for an alternative, and also for the folks who would never vote for Donald Trump. And look, any of the other folks who say they're for Trump right now and unwilling to change their mind, who does change their mind will be wanting to welcome them to.
BASH: Here in Washington, House Republicans are making noise about launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden related to his son Hunter's business dealings. Just on the simple question of impeachment, is that the right way to go for House Republicans?
CHRISTIE: I don't think bringing in impeachment, Articles of Impeachment right now, is the right thing to do. I think that the fact is that we don't have the evidence to do that at this point. But I do think given everything we just heard in the last segment, about the Hunter Biden situation, you know, the fact that they're now willing to do this means that the either the fix was in the last time, or there was rank incompetence on someone's part, because these things were obvious to me in the weeks before the Hunter Biden plea deal.
All of that smoke and fire around Hunter Biden definitely makes us absolutely need to ask questions about whether or not the President was involved in Hunter's business dealings. And however the House chooses to do that, whether it's through their oversight function, or some other mechanism, I think it's right for them to do it, but not just them. The special counsel needs to be doing it as well.
BASH: Before I let you go, Donald Trump says he does not plan to attend the next Republican presidential debate but he did say recently that he would debate the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, because he doesn't like the way she dealt with the queen. You're smiling.
CHRISTIE: Look, he says so many ridiculous things. I think there is absolutely no interest in either Donald Trump or Meghan Markle, debating about anything. And if people really want to have the real issues that are concerning their lives, like inflation, our role around the world, our troubled education system, crime and law and order in our cities debated, we need to have serious candidates on that stage.
CHRISTIE: I tell all people, go to chrischristie.com, donate, keep me on that stage and keep plugging. We're going to keep telling the truth, Dana, and let him go and talk to Meghan Markle. Maybe they can have a Spotify broadcast together.
BASH: OK. Those are fighting words. Governor, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on.
CHRISTIE: Dana, thanks for having me.
BASH: More in INSIDE POLITICS after a quick break.
BASH: This morning on CNN, former Vice President Mike Pence said his party faces a time of choosing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought it was important to seize that moment at Saint Anselm College and really lay out what I think is a clear choice for Republicans whether we're going to continue on the path of those time honored conservative principles, of strong national defense, American leadership on the world stage, limited government, fiscal responsibility and reform, a commitment to the right to life and values.
Or whether we're going to follow what I call the siren song of populism and more to conservative principles. And my former running mate, frankly, some of his imitators in this field are increasingly walking away from all those same principles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: But are his words resonating with Republican voters. My panel is back here. You go out in the field. I mean, everybody talks to sources and so forth, but you were most recently in New Hampshire. And you talk to voters there. I'm going to play a clip from a voter in a second, but just generally speaking, is that a message from Mike Pence, that people who are going to vote in the Republican primary and in New Hampshire and other places interested in in 2023?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: If they are, they're not appearing so yet. I mean, he's trying to make them interested in how to get this. He's trying to essentially remake the Republican Party to the pre-Trump era. That's a tall order. That's a very tall order.
And you saw the response from some of his rivals, including Vivek Ramaswamy who went after him aggressively. But look, this is one of his arguments. But one thing he does potentially have going for him are those independent voters in New Hampshire.
I was at a town hall that Scott Brown, former senator, held for Mike Pence on Monday night in New Hampshire and one independent voter used to be a Republican, he left the party after January 6, was thrilled with what former Vice President Mike Pence said. So there is a market, a lane, but boy, it's a pretty narrow one.
BASH: Because in New Hampshire, you can --
ZELENY: Independents can go to the Republican primary. Sure.
BASH: Independent and go to Republican primary. You mentioned Vivek Ramaswamy. This is what he said about the push that Mike Pence is doing not just on CNN, but it was a speech in New Hampshire. It was an op ed in the Wall Street Journal, saying that this populism in the GOP is wrongheaded.
Ramaswamy said, "It's not 1980 anymore. It's painful to watch old school Republicans recite slogans they memorized in a bygone era. It's almost as if candidates like Mike Pence just stepped out of their DeLoreans and awoke from deep slumber to realize the world and what voters care about isn't what it was 40 years ago". He obviously saw back to the future.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Vis-a-vis, that was his DeLorean reference since he is still a millennial. I will say that 40 years ago is a stretch. I mean, we're talking about this -- the bygone era. This is the era before Donald Trump. This is the before 2016 Republican Party. It's not talking -- you know, when they reference Reagan, they're not referencing Reagan as just because of the time period.
They're talking about the old Republican Party --
HOLMES: -- which is something that we've all reported on extensively. And I think this cycle in particular, was one in which we were all looking to see if you have an open primary with Republicans. And you have some of these Republicans who are from that era, the traditional Republican conservative party.
Is there a large enough group within the Republican Party to get behind one of those candidates? And right now, the answer is still no. And when you look at the party, the party is Trump's party. It has shifted, and that's really what the argument here is from the Vivek Ramaswamy. It's not a bygone era about the 80s, it's about the fact that the Republican Party is just a fundamentally different party now, and it is still led by Donald Trump.
BASH: OK, everybody standby. A predictable question, but an especially delicate one for Kamala Harris. Her answer next.
BASH: Today, a new interview with Kamala Harris and a familiar question. But an answer that carries extra consequence this time around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you prepared to be commander in chief? KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I am, if necessary. But Joe Biden is going to be fine. And let me tell you something. I work with Joe Biden every day. The work that under Joe Biden's leadership our administration has accomplished is transformative. I think the American people most of all, want a leader who actually gets things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: My panel is back with me now. What do you make of that answer? And more broadly, how she is shaping up to have a role in that re- election campaign.?
DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It's clear that Harris wants to defer to Biden and really reinforced the argument of that -- this administration that he is vital and up to the job. At the same time, she also clearly wants to alleviate concerns that Republican candidates are trying to push that a Harris administration would be worse than a Biden administration.
But there's also a tension of Harris talking about this at all. We've seen in our polling today, and in general that there are other Democrats in the party who would prefer someone else other than Harris to succeed Biden. And that -- we shouldn't be surprised that there are politicians who want to be the next president of the United States and Democratic politicians. That's what happens all the time. But that Harris, the sitting Vice President isn't the de facto choice is telling to the party's confidence in her.
BASH: And it is true that the Republican candidates, most specifically Nikki Haley is pounding away relentlessly at the notion that Kamala Harris could be president and you don't want that.
ZELENY: She can do it in a way that most of her rivals can't because she's a woman. So she can make this argument and she is making it. She made it repeatedly .I was with her in New Hampshire this week. She makes it -- and look what that really is a proxy for that the President Biden's old, that they're liberal, so it's a lot going on here, but there's no question that the Vice President is at the center of attend from all different sides now.
There's also question, if you play this out and if there would be another nominee to somehow replace President Biden which isn't going to happen, she is still the leading person in that race. She's the Vice President of the United States.
So I think that is, you know, for all the discussion in Washington about how, should we not be living up to things, our people in the country, African American voters, women voters, others who liked to see more of her. So whether she likes it or not, we are going to see more of her.
BASH: And now she's abroad, when she comes back, she's got a swing states tour. She's going to Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, so they're definitely putting her out there and the Biden reelection campaign.
Thank you all. Appreciate it.
Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after this.