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Inside Politics

Haley, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Christie Make Cut For Tomorrow's Debate; Four Candidates Qualify For Wednesday's GOP Debate; Trump Will Skip Another GOP Primary Debate Tomorrow; Washington Post: Cheney Weighing 3rd Party Run; Zelenskyy Appeals To U.S. Lawmakers As Ukraine Support Hangs In The Balance; GOP Demand For Tough Border Bill Threatens To Sink Ukraine Aid; White House: Failure To Pass Ukraine Funding Bolsters Putin; Now: House Committee Hearing On Antisemitism On Campus. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the final four the stage is set. Four Republican presidential candidates have made the cut for the fourth GOP debate. Get ready for some fireworks between Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley but will either take on Donald Trump.

Plus, a desperate plea from Ukraine. Senators will hear directly from President Zelenskyy about the stakes on the battlefield if they do not approve more funding. With just days left to act and the world watching, will U.S. lawmakers give up on Ukraine and hate on campus.

The leaders of three of the country's most elite universities are on Capitol Hill right now facing questions about the terrifying rise of antisemitism. Did they allow do hate to flourish? And what if anything can be done to stop it now?

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

We start today with the 2024 race. Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy will be on the stage tomorrow night in Alabama. With less than six weeks until the first votes are cast, the frontrunner will be once again noticeably absent. Instead, Donald Trump will spend his night raising money for his Super PAC after appearing at a televised debate, or at least I should say a town hall tonight in Iowa.

CNN's Alayna Treene is covering all of this. Alayna, what are you hearing from the Trump camp?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Oh, well, look. I think when you look at Donald Trump, he skipped all previous debates, and it's a strategy that they continue to think is working and is effective. When I talk to them, they argue that, you know, Donald Trump -- what they're trying to do is make it look like Donald Trump is in a different league that these debates are beneath them. And that's why he's continuing to skip these. But that's also led to a lot of frustration among his opponents. We did hear from Ron DeSantis yesterday in New Hampshire attacking Donald Trump over skipping these debates and for not showing up. Let's take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you're going to be a keyboard warrior, get out of your -- get out of your dungeon, get off the keyboard, stand on the debate stage and let's go.


TREENE: Now, Dana, I think there's two key things for why a lot of these candidates are so frustrated that Donald Trump isn't there. One is that, you know, they don't have an opportunity to attack him directly on the stage. He is the frontrunner, and they want to be able to go head-to-head with him.

And they're not giving -- the Trump campaign is not giving them an opportunity to do that. But they also want to quote a lot of the pro Trump viewers over to their own campaigns. And many of these viewers are not watching the debates because Donald Trump isn't there.

BASH: Alayna, thank you so much for that reporting. And I want to continue to talk about this with our great panel. We have CNN's David Chalian, Jonathan Karl of ABC News, former -- formerly of CNN, also the author of the new book, Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party, and CNN's Melanie Zanona. Hi, everybody. I can't believe I get to be on television. We'll talk about our history, which is long, later on.

But let's start with this news about what we expect tonight. David Chalian, I'm going to start with you. Excuse me, tomorrow night. What are your thoughts on all of it, but particularly the fact that it is now just for and how that changes the dynamic?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I would just note there's also one more element to what Alayna was talking about a Trump is not participating in this, Dana, which is that what those four candidates have done that Donald Trump has not done to qualify for the debate stage is sign a pledge that they will support the Republican nominee no matter what. Donald Trump has not done that and in his decision also to not participate in these debates.

But the meaning of tomorrow night, I think clearly, all the attention is going to be focused on Haley versus DeSantis. These are clearly the candidates who are moving into this sort of, especially as we approach Iowa, this final battle to become the clear alternative to Donald Trump.


Now, the question becomes Donald Trump is such a dominant figure in this race. Is this simply a battle for second place or is this a battle for somebody to merge that actually can thwart Donald Trump from winning this nomination? We'll wait for the voters to weigh in on that but that to me is what hangs over the debate tomorrow night.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean look, Donald Trump's got this massive lead nationally, he's got a big lead in Iowa, New Hampshire. But his lead in Iowa, New Hampshire is significantly lower than it is in national polls. He's below 50 percent in both places. So, I think there's a real chance that that he has an upset defeat in either Iowa and Hampshire or both places. So, this is, I think, an important moment. And Chris Christie barely made the stage. But he made the stage setting up a real battle in New Hampshire between Christie and Nikki Haley.

BASH: And it's interesting what you said about Donald Trump. Let me get to in one second, Melanie, because that's a point that you have been making internally here consistently, which is he's not taking his foot off the gas in Iowa. It's not as if he's just sitting at home eating bonbons or whatever it is.

CHALIAN: No, I mean, he's back.

BASH: He's back.

CHALIAN: Yeah. He's back in Iowa today to do this Fox townhall. He was just there over the weekend. His campaign has clearly kept him going back and back to Iowa. Yes, he has his eyes set on a general election content with Biden. But the Trump campaign if they -- if John is wrong, if indeed, he does win Iowa, let's say in New Hampshire, part of the Trump's success, if that is the outcome is going to be never lifting his foot off the neck of Ron DeSantis. They have been adamant to continue that effort despite his big national lead in the primary field.

BASH: And Melanie, I want you to listen to the ads that we're hearing from the DeSantis camp, from the Haley camp, going into this debate and where their focus is.


BASH: Not exactly subtle, who she's talking about.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Exactly. And you know, they have limited time at this point to try to catch up to Trump. I mean, it's only six weeks now until the Iowa caucuses. And at this point, it is shaping up to be -- a battle to be the Trump alternative.

And meanwhile, you have Chris Christie, who's still on the debate stage and there are growing calls for him to drop out, so that they can coalesce around a single anti Trump candidate. Now Chris Christie has argued that he's going to show strength in New Hampshire and that he's going to hang in there. But the pressure is growing and the time is running out.

BASH: Well. There's a big New York Times story about that very question Chris Christie. I'll read a quote from Sarah Longwell, who's a GOP strategist who is very much anti Trump. Time is a flat circle, and everyone insists we relive, beat for beat the 2016 election. And she went on to say, the main thing that Christie could do to make a difference this time is to drop out, Jonathan?

KARL: Well, look, he's not going to drop out. And Christie has been practically living in New Hampshire and his town halls are attracting more people. He's generating more excitement. As you know, Dana, New Hampshire, independent voters can vote in either primary there's no primary on the Democratic side. So, Christie is poised to do very well in New Hampshire. And he knows that. And he's not going to be answering any of these calls to drop off.

CHALIAN: And he's starting to post up against Nikki Haley, in a way in anticipation of this in a more aggressive way. Since its old home week here at CNN. I'll note that Peter Hamby, our former colleague, who was at PUC now did an interview with Chris Christie this weekend and asked about that very ad, right.

And Chris Christie had no patience for it. He dismissed it as somebody who's not willing to actually take on Trump directly that you don't cite Trump's name in that line and that you're trying to play cutesy with not offending, but whereas he's making the argument that the only way to beat him is to actually go at him frontally and argue to voters why you are different. And he says Haley has shown an inability or unwillingness to do that.

KARL: I think, it's not impossible that he wins New Hampshire. I mean, it really isn't. I think back to 2000, when I was with this network, running around with John McCain, and the way he came through and had that -- was ultimately a huge victory in New Hampshire over George W. Bush. The fact that independence can vote, the fact that Christie speaks to those independents in a way that perhaps Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis simply don't.

BASH: Speaking of the never Trump field or wing of the party, Liz Cheney is out with the new book. And I want you to listen to what she said -- or I'm going to read you what she said about the potential of her running a third-party race.

Several years ago, I would not have contemplated a third-party run. She said, I happen to think democracy is at risk at home, obviously, as a result of Donald Trump's continued grip on the Republican Party, and I think democracy is at risk internationally as well. You covered her for a while on Capitol Hill. What do you think?


ZANONA: Yeah. And that is a shift in tone from Liz Cheney. I remember talking to her back when she was in Congress, even she was on her way out the door. And she said this is my Republican Party. I am not going to be kicked out by these bullies. And now you see her saying that she would be willing to entertain the idea of a third-party. I mean, she just is trying to make the case that the stakes are so high that she would even be willing to do that.

Now, whether that would work or not. And who that would actually peel votes away from, I think is an open question, right? There's no love. There's not a lot of love right now for Liz Cheney in the Republican Party, at least among the base. But clearly, there's still an appetite for someone, perhaps anyone to try to take on Trump.

KARL: And she's also not rolling out voting for Joe Biden. I mean, she's made it very clear----

ZANONA: Again, also remarkable to hear Liz Cheney.

KARL: And she has been incredibly consistent about this. I interviewed her right after she was thrown out of leadership of the Republican Party more than two years ago. And she said then that her single biggest goal is to ensure that Donald Trump never gets anywhere near the Oval Office.

BASH: Do you think just got really seriously thinking about it? Or she just keeping it?

CHALIAN: I think she's keeping the door open. I think she's selling a book. But I think that she has made it very clear. She will do the cold math and calculus. And if she determines that her presence in the race will do more help to Donald Trump than harm, she's not going to do it.

BASH: It's a really good point. All right, everybody, such a great discussion. Don't go anywhere because coming up, time is running out for Ukraine. Well, Congress approved new funding to help them beat back Russia. President Zelenskyy is making a personal appeal to Senate Republicans today. We're going to go live to Capitol Hill next.



BASH: Time is running out for Congress to approve critical money for Ukraine's war against Putin's forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will make a direct appeal to U.S. lawmakers today. The White House warns a vote against more funding will hurt democracy and help dictators.

As my colleague Stephen Collinson puts it this morning. Russian President Vladimir Putin's grim bet that America and the West will tire of his brutal war before he does is looking better by the day. CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill with the latest. Manu, what are you hearing at this moment? Is that going to happen?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are real fears in the Capitol that all of these issues, Ukraine aid, Israel aid and dealing with the southern border could get punted into the next year because of deep divisions on both sides of the aisle, as well as just a dispute over the process to take up all these issues, whether to do it all in one, or do it separately.

But the center of all this is the issue of immigration. Republicans have demanded changes stricter policies at the southern border in order to agree to more aid for Ukraine and Israel, even skeptics, and we're skeptical of Ukraine and supporters of Ukraine aid on the Republican side, say immigration must be dealt with first before they agree to funding for Ukraine and Israel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: The White House is warning that Ukraine funding is running dry. And if this is not done by the end of the year, Russia could have serious gains in Ukraine. Does that warning concern you at all in any way?

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): But any warning from this administration goes on deaf ears. They're the ones that caused it.

RAJU: Caused the war in Ukraine?

NORMAN: They're the ones that caused the border security.

RAJU: I want to make it crystal clear that I'm not going back to South Carolina and talk about helping Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel without answering the question. What about our own border?


RAJU: And Graham there has been central to these negotiations. And someone who's actually been pushing for immigration changes for some time, but it's been decades for Congress -- for Congress has struggled to deal, with issues of immigration, unable to deal with for so long.

And so, the real fear in the Capitol among Democrats and Republicans alike is whether or not they will be able to come to any sort of agreement on this intractable issue, and if not, will all this fall by the wayside. And will Ukraine fall to Russia as a result of the paralysis on the hill. Dana?

BASH: Thank you so much for that great reporting. And thank you for clarifying. Ralph Norman's comments about who's to blame for the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Thank you so much, Manu. And the panel is back here.

It really is remarkable to hear someone like Lindsey Graham, who is probably the biggest supporter of the U.S. helping Ukraine, in the entire Congress saying, I'm not going to do it, unless we get immigration, especially given someone like him has been -- he's been involved in these conversations for what 15-years about immigration that has largely gone nowhere. So, he understands how difficult it is.

ZANONA: Yeah. And Mitch McConnell to I would add to that equation, yeah. For him, this is this is a huge issue. He has been pushing for Ukraine, and yet he is aligned with his party and insisting that they also get stricter immigration and border security provisions. And I think there is an acknowledgement even among these GOP defense hawks, that among the base popularity for Ukraine is waning fast.

And so, they are trying to use this as a leverage point. They are trying to fight for this. But those divisions even within the GOP about exactly how far to go. The Speaker Mike Johnson wants to include H.R.2 which is a very hardline strict House GOP bill, but the Senate Republicans have said he'll take whatever we send over. So even if they can get agreement in the Senate, which is so big if, there's no guarantee it's going to pass the House.

BASH: So, the question is whether or not what is happening today? The Ukrainian president making a direct appeal is going to move any of these votes.

KARL: Look, there is a growing movement within the Republican Party that is not just skeptical of Ukrainian but outright opposed to it. I think that Donald Trump's a big part of this. I think, as Tucker Carlson told me, recorded in my book, Trump is much more radical on this issue that he lets on, and you know, where Tucker Carlson is on Ukraine. This is no longer the party of Reagan's, on the party of McCain, something party of Bush or Romney.


So, while you do have people like McConnell and Lindsey Graham who are still very much, you know, in favor of and talking about the urgency to support aid, they are within a party where they have gotten a show that they get something.

BASH: Using immigration, frankly, as a way to sync it. And this is what Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas said. There's a misunderstanding on the part of Senator Schumer and some of our Democratic friends. This is not a traditional negotiation, where we expect to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the border. This is a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental,

CHALIAN: It couldn't be more clear than corn has been there who -- by the way, may be seeking to, you know, be a majority leader one day in the United States Senate and playing his politics as well. But I think, so there's the immediacy of the immigration politics, but put that to the side for a moment it gets into what John was saying about where the Republican Party is on this issue of Ukraine aid?

I think we have two dramatically different worldviews about America's role in the world that's on display here. This is real Trumpism. As you said, in terms of foreign policy here, somebody who has said he wants to get out of NATO. Doesn't appear all that interested in the European Alliance with U.S. here.

Joe Biden believes his ability to hold NATO together and bring Europe together in this battle that he thinks is sort of an existential battle for democracy on the globe. And he thinks it's one of its greatest accomplishments. So, imagine in a Biden versus Trump world, that issue alone of the role America plays is just such a dramatically different vision for each of those.

KARL: And the divide within the Republican Party is just massive on this because you do have the real hawks that are in that tradition, the Reagan tradition of, you know, America be having a strong role in the world. But you have the cartoonish version in a Marjorie Taylor Greene who -- that not only is opposed to Ukraine aid. But sees Zelenskyy as the villain in this fight with Vladimir Putin. But you know, there's a lot on that other side that is not just opposed to more money for Ukraine, but openly hostile to the idea of supporting Ukraine. BASH: Thank you all for letting us see the forest and not just the trees. That was really interesting. Learn to live. Up next, the epidemic of antisemitism on college campuses. Top university presidents are testifying as we speak on Capitol Hill. We'll ask Larry Summers, former Harvard president. What's happening there and all around the country.




BASH: On Capitol Hill, university presidents from three elite universities Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and MIT are testifying on Capitol Hill about antisemitism, which is on the rise spiking really on college campuses. Joining me now is Rene Marsh. Rene, what's happening so far in the hearing?

RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, about two hours into this hearing and the goal today for lawmakers is really to hold these campus leaders accountable as these antisemitic incidents explode on school campuses. Now these three university presidents, as you mentioned from Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania.

At times it felt like they were facing a public shaming from, especially from Republican chairwoman of the committee, Virginia Foxx. She told them and I'm quoting, antisemitism and hate are among the poisoned fruits of your institution's cultures. And here's more from Foxx to all three of those university presidents just earlier today.


REP. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-NC): Do you have the courage to truly confront and condemn the ideology driving antisemitism? Or will you offer weak blame shifting excuses, and yet another responsibility dodging task force? That's ultimately the most important question for you to confront in this hearing.


MARSH: Well, as you know, Harvard, MIT and UPenn, they've all been criticized for failing to quickly condemn these antisemitic rhetoric and protests happening on campuses. But all three university presidents in their opening statements today were direct in their condemnation of the Hamas attack and antisemitism. They did that today and they were very direct in that.

They laid out how they are confronting antisemitism, as well as Islamophobia, which they all said is also running rampant on campuses. And they made clear that they are struggling and continuing to struggle with this balance between robust debate and free speech and making sure that Jewish students certainly feel safe on campus. Dana?

BASH: Rene, thank you so much.

MARSH: Sure.

BASH: Harvard University has been at the center of the debate over how systemic antisemitism has become on college campuses. In the aftermath of the October 7 attack, there's been a striking increase, a spike in antisemitic speech and war on campuses, particularly at Harvard and colleges really across the country.

Former Harvard University President Larry Summers wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled: the cancer of antisemitism is spreading. Colleges must take the right stand. And Larry Summers was also the former treasury secretary is joining me now. Thank you so much for being here.