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Cheney: Trump Support Risks "Sleepwalking Into Dictatorship"; Rep. Jayapal: We Cannot Say That One War Crime Deserves Another; Israel Investigating Sexual Violence By Hamas On Oct. 7; Biden To Focus On Health Care Ahead Of 2024; DeSantis: We Will "Replace And Supersede" Obamacare. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 04, 2023 - 12:30   ET



CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Some of the checks and balances work is because previously, people in the different branches weren't intent on overriding them, right? So some of that was restraint on people who held these offices.

We're doing a lot of reporting on what a second Trump administration would look like. It's a tricky thing, though, for Trump. You see, he has to say certain things to motivate his people as he did in Iowa there and, you know, people really cheer that. But he can't go so far where he will, obviously, to alarm the rest of the public.

So that's -- I think they're trying to have it both ways. And, you know, I don't know, but there is definitely a lot of concern.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Well, you mentioned the Times has done reporting on it. Others are starting to look at it. More specifically, I'm just going to read a couple of things that we've seen in the last day. This is from Robert Kagan, The Washington Post column, "Like Caesar, Trump wields a clout that transcends the laws and institutions of government based on unswerving personal loyalty of his army of followers. Will his presidency turn into a dictatorship? The odds are, again, pretty good."

And then, at The Atlantic, you mentioned, David Frum writes, "Trump would arrive with a much better understanding of the system's vulnerabilities, more willing enablers in tow, and much more focused agenda of retaliation against his adversaries and impunity for himself. When people wonder what Trump -- what another Trump term might hold, their minds underestimate the chaos that would lie ahead".

So it's the point that you made, Carl, about there were people who were there or who were kind of --

HULSE: When he want to be more established --

BASH: -- putting guard wheels on. Those people were like, I'm not coming anywhere near, plus, the fact that he has -- he, Trump, has a better understanding because he had never been in office before.

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, and I'd also add that no opportunities have been taken to restrain the powers of the presidency. So we have had these warnings growing in recent years, especially under Trump. But the insurrection act, which is vaguely worded, and which seems to give the president a lot of power to call out the military, that hasn't been changed.

For example, nobody's even really tried to make that effort. There have been some changes, the Electoral Count Act was tightened up, for example, but there's so much that a determined president who doesn't care about the Constitution can do.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's not just the president, it's that he has people working right now before he's even entered into a general election, before he is the nominee, working on workarounds, looking at the policies he wants to enact and saying, how can we do this without going through Congress?

How can we do this? If there's going to be legal pushback, what does it say exactly in the Constitution? Where are the loopholes here? And that is, again, it all is about the fact that he knows what he wants now. He didn't know what he wanted in '26.

BASH: And what's really interesting is that all of this -- and a lot of what we're hearing from people who worked very closely with him in the first term, the question is whether or not if it does come down to Trump versus Biden, even those who are criticizing him might support Trump anyway.

Listen to what Lindsey Graham told me yesterday about this idea.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think Liz's hatred of Trump is real. I understand why people don't like what he does and says at times, but in terms of actions and results, he was far better president for Biden. And if we have four more years of this, Liz Cheney, then we won't recognize America and the world will be truly on fire.


BASH: He's obviously responding to the Liz Cheney quote which I played earlier.

HULSE: Well, Mitch McConnell, who was probably the number one Republican enemy of Donald Trump has said that he would support the Republican nominee.

BASH: Right.

HULSE: And I think, you know, in the house, there'll be enthusiastic support in the Senate. Not so enthusiastic, but support.

BASH: Yes. I mean, it really is perplexing, and it is going to be a conundrum if, in fact, Donald Trump is the nominee. We're not here that -- there yet. Coming up, very different topic. We have more stomach churning details about Hamas terrorists savage rape of women on October 7th. Congressman Ritchie Torres says it calls for nothing less than unequivocal condemnation. Not all of his colleagues in the Progressive Caucus agree. We're going to talk to him next.



BASH: It has been nearly two months since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel. And today the United Nations is holding a special session on sexual-based violence, war crimes against Israeli women by Hamas. I asked Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal about this yesterday, here's part of her power exchange.


BASH: I've seen a lot of progressive women, generally speaking, they're quick to defend women's rights and speak out against using rape as a weapon of war. But downright silent on what we saw on October 7 and what might be happening inside Gaza right now to these hostages. Why is that?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: I mean, I don't know that that's true. I think we always talk about the impact of war on women in particular. In fact, I remember 20 years ago, I did a petition around the war in Iraq saying that --

BASH: Have you talked about it since October 7th?

JAYAPAL: And I've condemned what Hamas has done. I've condemned --

BASH: So that's typically against women?

JAYAPAL: -- all of the actions. Absolutely. The rape, the -- of course. But I think we have to remember that Israel is a democracy that is why they are a strong ally of ours. And if they do not comply with international humanitarian law, they are bringing themselves to a place that makes it much more difficult strategically for them --

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: -- to be able to build the kinds of allies to keep public opinion with them.

BASH: Yes.


JAYAPAL: And, frankly, morally, I think we cannot say that one war crime deserves another. That is not what international humanitarian law says.

BASH: OK. With respect, I was just asking about the women and you turned it back to Israel. I'm asking you about Hamas. In fact -- JAYAPAL: I already answered your question, Dana. I said it's horrific.


BASH: Several of Jayapal's Democratic colleagues took to social media to disagree with her take. One of them is Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York who joins me now. Thank you so much for being here. What do you think it's difficult for some members of your party to unequivocally call out the barbaric sexual violence against Israeli women?

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D), MEMBER, HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Look, there's often been a double standard against Israel when it comes to condemning the sheer butchery and barbarism of Hamas. Public officials have a moral obligation to speak with clarity, rather than caveats.

And I found it deeply troubling, for example, that the U.N. woman, the so-called woman's rights arm of the United Nations, went 50 days without commenting on or condemning the sexual atrocities in the mosque perpetrated against Israeli woman. For me, this is not about politics, this is about decency. It is indecent to deny or downplay or both sides the rape and sexual violence against Israeli women on October 7th.

BASH: My colleague Jake Tapper reported on Israel's investigation into sexual violence committed against Hamas a few weeks ago. I want you to listen to what one human rights law expert told him and I want to warn our viewers this contains graphic and disturbing accounts of sexual violence.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy named chair of the Civil Commission on October 7 crimes by Hamas against women and children points to one reason why the investigations have been so difficult.

DR. COCHAV ELKAYAM-LEVY, CHAIR OF THE CIVIL COMMISSION ON OCTOBER 7 CRIMES BY HAMAS AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN: We'll never know everything that has happened to them. We know that most women who were raped and who were sexually assaulted were also murdered.


BASH: And Congressman, since that reporting that Jake did, in fact, over the weekend, more has come out. And again, I want to warn our viewers this is tough, but it's important to hear. This is from The Times of Israel. 39-year-old witness, Yoni Saadon, who attended the Nova Music Festival on October 7th said, "She fell to the ground, shot in the head, I pulled her body over me and smeared her blood on me so it would look as if I was dead, too. I will never forget her face. Every night, I wake up to it and apologize to her saying I'm sorry. After an hour, he peeked out.

I saw this beautiful woman with the face of an angel and eight or 10 of the fighters beating and raping her. She was screaming, "Stop it -- already I'm going to die anyway from what you're doing, just kill me." When they finished they were laughing and the last one shot her in the head."

So this is the kind of barbarism that we are hearing more and more about. And you mentioned, Congressman, that it's hard for people to speak out about this when it is Israel. Can you explain why that is?

TORRES: Look, there's been a long standing pattern of of antisemitism directed against the Jewish state. You know, Israel is the only country on Earth whose existence is called into question that's targeted for both destruction and delegitimization.

And so Israel's combating double standards and delegitimization campaign, even as it seeks to defend itself after the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. So this is nothing new. This is just repeating a pattern that we've seen before.

BASH: And you said this, it goes beyond politics and that is an understatement. But I do want to ask about what is going on inside your Progressive Caucus, because I've certainly heard that there was a lot of of turmoil. I do want to say that the chairwoman, who I had on yesterday, has been, one, who like you, who has called what happened on October 7th, the terror attack.

She has not used that I've seen the term genocide, which is what other members of your Progressive Caucus have used using that word incorrectly, to describe what Israel is doing to retaliate. Can you describe the division and, frankly, what I've heard is anguish inside the Democratic Progressive Caucus over over this?

TORRES: I mean, the word division gives the impression that it's evenly split. I mean, almost every member of the Democratic caucus has been unequivocal in condemning the sheer savagery of Hamas.


There is a fringe that uses provocative language dishonest, like ethnic cleansing or genocide. But that is fundamentally unrepresentative of the mainstream of not only the Democratic caucus, but also the Progressive Caucus.

BASH: Congressman, I really appreciate you coming on today and giving, as you said, you believe is the majority of the Progressive Caucus's point of view. Thank you, Congressman.

TORRES: Of course.

BASH: And coming up, who thought Obamacare would be an issue in the 2024 Republican race? Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are promising it will be. Plus brand new CNN reporting from the Biden campaign and what their message will be on a prescription for 2024 win.



BASH: New reporting just in, President Biden has a prescription that campaign says for 2024 turnaround. This is for undecided voters and it includes a major focus on health care and cutting prescription drug prices.

Arlette Saenz is back with us now with this new reporting. Arlette, what are you hearing?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, President Biden and his campaign have been seizing on former President Donald Trump's threat to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president even expressing surprise that Trump would reopen this conversation as Biden has talked with his aides about it.

But beyond just attacking Trump and laying out the stakes of what's under threat, the advisors also acknowledged that the president needs to talk about what he will be doing in a second term when it comes to healthcare. It's expected that in the coming weeks, there will be a more concerted push for Biden to talk about some of these agenda items.

Now some of the items that he's expected to push it for in a second term would include extending those price cuts for insulin and other drugs that are currently benefiting Medicare enrollees trying to expand that to the full American public.

Another issue is also trying to extend the enhanced federal premium subsidies that have made Obamacare -- health care obtain on the Obamacare exchanges more affordable. Those are currently set to expire in 2025. He is hoping to make them a permanent beyond that.

But Democrats and the White House recognize that health care can be a very politically potent issue for them. It's something that they've worked on before. And it's something that they've really been eager to draw a contrast with Trump as he's made these recent threats.

BASH: Yes, I'm sure they definitely are eager. Thank you so much for that great reporting, Arlette.

Our panel is back with us. Let's talk about a little bit more -- we talked earlier in the program but a little bit more about the contrast that Arlette was talking about. Let's listen to what the former president said in Iowa over the weekend on Obamacare.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're also going to fight to give much better health care than what you have right now. This is a newer subject, but Obamacare is a disaster. And I said we're going to we're going to do something about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Not a newer subject. We'll talk about that in a second. But first, I want you to listen to what Ron DeSantis said on this subject yesterday.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump promised that he would repeal and replace Obamacare, and he didn't do it. But I think it's important to point out, he's running on a lot of the things he campaigned on in 2016. So Obamacare hasn't worked. We're going to replace and supersede with a better plan.

BASH: And that plan, he said, will come out in the spring. See where he is, in the spring, he, meaning DeSantis. Is this a winning issue for Republicans?

PONNURU: I don't think so, no. The politics of it flipped pretty comprehensively back in 2017 when Republicans actually tried replacing Obamacare. It does not appear that any lessons have been learned by Republicans when they talk about health care.

They haven't figured out what they want to do instead of Obamacare. And they act as though the main challenge is coming up with the right verb to describe how they want to pulverize it, repeal, replace, supersede. There's a huge healthcare system with a lot of problems.

A Conservative or Republican I think does need to have a platform having to deal with that. Having that platform exclusively look at a particular set of changes that was made 13 years ago, some of which have then been changed since then, I think it makes no sense at all.

BASH: So we were around during the votes --

HULSE: Then thumbs down.

BASH: Well, thumbs down and then even before that, when they actually put Obamacare into place. And at the time, you remember Rahm Emanuel, who was the White House Chief of Staff and others inside the Obama administration saying we might take a short term hit, but it'll be hard to take away something once it's there.

Look at this from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The red lines are people who oppose Obamacare, blue support. I mean, it just goes up, up, up, up, up as people are getting more and more used to having that benefit.

HULSE: Democrats cannot believe their good luck, right? Talk more about getting rid of something that actually has become popular, and as a winner for them. I think in some respects, one of their challenges is going to be reminding people what it was like before Obamacare, preexisting conditions, that sort of thing, disqualifying you from insurance.


The reason they haven't come up with a replacement is because it's really hard. It's really expensive. There's only so much you can do. So, I mean, I think the Republicans have stepped in on this in a major way.

HOLMES: Yes. And overall, I don't think Republicans want to take this on. I mean, I think this is a Donald Trump thing. I mean, he rather --

BASH: But he is like the Republican.

HOLMES: He is the Republican but I think everyone was one surprised when you put this out there because team has been putting out policy video after policy video, absolutely nothing on Obamacare. They did not know this is going to be at the forefront. This is completely new for them after he read this Wall Street Journal --

HULSE: Greatest hit.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. And do keep in mind that he promised a version of healthcare when he was in office and didn't do it. So I think that most Republicans wish that this would just go away.

BASH: Thank you so much, all of you. It's great to have each of you here on this happy Monday. Appreciate it.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.