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Inside Politics

Trump In Court For Civil Fraud Case As Trial Nears End; GOP Demands Tough New Border Rules In Exchange For Ukraine Aid; University Presidents Under Fire Over Antisemitism On Campus; Democratic Divisions Grow As War Enters Third Month. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 07, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump spoke on his way into a New York courtroom today calling the $250 million civil fraud trial against his Trump Organization, a witch hunt.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you value a place like Mar-a-Lago at $18 million, what it's worth, anywhere from 50 to 100 times. This case should be over. This case should have never been brought. This was a political witch hunt by an attorney general who's out of control.


BASH: CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins me, along with CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes. It's INSIDE POLITICS, so let's start with the politics. And you've been reporting for some time, along with our team about the collision between Donald Trump, the defendant on multiple fronts and Donald Trump, the candidate.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's only getting more and more closely knit. And what we're seeing now is Donald Trump did not have to be in court today. He wanted to sit through some of this testimony.

Now part of that is because these are his witnesses, the people who are going to say what he wants to hear. But the other part of that is that we've seen him really use these court appearances as campaign events. He had nothing on his schedule.

And now we are taking sound from him at a courtroom, because he's talking to cameras, talking about his legal cases. They are really trying to seek to amp up these events as campaign rallies. And as we know, Donald Trump is expected to testify on Monday, and you can expect he's going to try to take control the narrative of that as well.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, I think today, he had a witness in there who is an expert for the defense, who makes the case that look, people make different calls on valuations of real estate all the time. It doesn't mean that you are trying to defraud, it means that people have different ways to value things.

And so that's a very good case that he's trying to make. And one way to do that is by showing up in court, one way to draw attention to that to what he was -- his lawyers are trying to do is by having Donald Trump show up in court. So there is a strategy. I mean, oftentimes we wonder whether it's a strategy, I think there was a strategy.

But for the for president, I think one of the things that I think gets more complicated is how does he navigate the campaign trail, and all of these trial dates that have come in that he has coming up.

BASH: Let's dig down, you mentioned that he is going to be testifying, we believe on Monday. Can you remind people because there's a lot of news about a lot of different trials --


BASH: -- and a lot of different legal battles that he's waging this particular case, and what it could mean for his company?

PEREZ: Well, the -- beyond the $250 million, that's at stake, it's also whether his company can continue to do business in the state of New York. It really, you know, calls into question, you know, the viability of his company. And that's one of the reasons why he's fighting so hard.

But I think as Kristen points out, you know, one of the things that he is trying to do is seize the trial calendar, the calendar, the legal calendar, and turn it to his advantage for his political benefit. Because he's not really going to be the guy out there kissing babies in Iowa or anywhere else, right? He's not a regular politician, right?

So these trial events don't really have that kind of an impact. But he's instead trying to use it to seize it to his advantage. You'll see that political calendar right there. You know, he's got so many things, including, of course, the trial, the big one in Washington coming in March. And he's going to try to find a way to turn out to his event.

BASH: Which is a criminal trial.

PEREZ: Right.

BASH: Very different from what we're seeing now. Real quick, what are you hearing from your sources about what to expect on Monday in this civil trial?

HOLMES: Well, we expect Donald Trump to take control of the narrative. If you remember when he testified, and he was cross examined by the other side, he was already trying to take control the narrative, however, the judge stepped in.

This now means that his own lawyers are going to be asking the questions and he's going to get to say what it was that he wanted to say before. He will be in control of this. And you should expect that he will try to take control of the entire experience.

Just like we saw last time, he testified every single moment of that day. Anytime he was allowed out of the courtroom, he was in front of the cameras talking. And I think you'll -- we're going to see that again.

BASH: Kristen, Evan, good to see you. Thank you so much for your reporting. Both of you.

Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have sent billions of dollars in aid to Israel and Ukraine. Will the President given to the Republicans demand? We'll explore after a quick break.



BASH: The President is in a bind. He wants to send tens of billions of dollars in new military aid to Ukraine. He says the global stakes are existential and that Ukraine's war with Russia is a battle between good and evil. But Republicans in Congress even the ones who support Ukraine support him in that argument say they're not going to vote to help protect the borders of Ukraine until President Biden protects America's southern border.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me now from the White House. So Priscilla, what is the White House doing now to try to salvage this and make some kind of deal? Is that even possible?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, put simply, it's trying to find some sort of compromise which the President is open to, according to his remarks yesterday. And sources tell me that the White House telegraphed to Senate negotiators last week, what they might be open to that includes two key issues, raising the credible fear standard for asylum seekers, but also casting a wider net of undocumented immigrant ones that are eligible for a fast track deportation procedure. That latter point being similar to what was attempted under the Trump administration.


Now, this is unlikely to sit well with some of the President's allies who see this as essentially reducing the number of migrants who might be eligible for asylum and also putting more migrants on track to be deported more quickly. But the reality of the White House is facing here is that the situation on the ground is dire.

They're facing more than 10,000 encounters daily, and that alone, stresses federal resources. And so all of this just puts a very political or delicate political issue at the center of his foreign policy agenda, leaving compromise as really the only option. Dana?

BASH: I mean, compromise on immigration. I mean, it sounds so easy. Priscilla, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Our reporters are back with us. I mean, let's start with Ukraine. And this quote from the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. He said, "In the case of Ukraine, if resilience fails today due to lack of aid and shortages of weapons and funding, it will mean that Russia will most likely invade NATO countries. And then the American children will fight."

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, I don't think there's an invasion of NATO country in the near future. But the basic point I think is correct. I think I have a lot of criticism of the Biden administration for not giving more aid earlier. This sort of hurry up and wait dynamic I think was politically unwise.

He could have gotten away with giving a lot more aid up front. But at the same time, Biden is on the right side of the big picture argument, which is that we should be helping Ukraine, the Republicans on the wrong side.

That said, I think what the Republicans are doing here is smart politics, you can argue with the policy. And I also think that Ukraine eventually gets the aid, just maybe not on the timetable that they want.

BASH: Talking about Republicans pushing smart politics, I mentioned at the beginning there that even Republicans who are very, very supportive of Ukraine and its mission and wants the U.S. to help are saying, not without immigration.

Listen to what Lindsey Graham said on that.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We need to help Israel. They're fighting for their lives. Putin gets way the Ukraine will be in a war with NATO, because he won't stop. We need to help Taiwan stand up to China, but we need to secure our own freaking border.

I'm not going to send any money to Ukraine or anywhere else until we fix our broken border. No money for anybody until we secure our border.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, but Democrats are not in a position to really negotiate on this issue. We already see President Biden really vulnerable with a lot of his core constituencies. I'm not surprised that they are in this position on foreign aid, at least, I think despite the platitudes.

On both the left and the right, there is real concern as Americans are struggling about the political argument of giving more foreign aid, although we see it more pronounced from House Republicans. Democrats have that concern, too.

But I think that Senator Padilla's statement on this of California really reflects where a lot of Democrats are. He says that he's concerned about harmful changes to our asylum system. He suggests it's bad politics for Democrats and that permanent policy changes would set a dangerous precedent. So that's why we don't see buy in from Democrats here.

BASH: I'm glad you brought -- forgive me for interrupting. I'm glad you brought that up, because we should dig a few inches deeper into what we're talking about here on immigration, what Republicans have on the table.

This is what was in the House bill. A new restrictions on the asylum process. Requires the Biden administration to reinstate Remain in Mexico policy. Construction 700 miles of the border wall. Require E- Verify by employers. Banned grant funding to nonprofits that help migrants restricts the use of presidential parole for migrants, which a lot of people in the immigration space thinks is helping. I mean, these are big policy changes.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, big policy changes that can't pass through the --

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: -- Senate and it can't get to the President's desk and House Republicans know that. So that's going to be a non-starter here in terms of -- that's not going to be any end result. That's not the compromised position. That's the whole position of the Republican House conference.

I think different perhaps take then out Padilla and the Democratic caucus and the Senate. We heard from Mark Warner, a more moderate Democrat from Virginia yesterday, who is very much in the space of willing to want to negotiate some kind of border security enhancements and some of these pieces. But even he says HR-2 is just so far to the right from their perspective that it's not going to be part of a final solution here to a negotiation.

BASH: And real quick, politically speaking, is it beneficial for the President to do something on immigration, which is an Achilles heel.

CHALIAN: Achilles heel is a kind way to put it. I mean, it's literally one of his worst issues that gets tested. So obviously if he could have some kind of an immigration policy victory to take out to the campaign trail that could be beneficial, but as Eva noted --


MCKEND: A victory for who, not for progressives.

CHALIAN: Well it depends on what's in it. It's all about what's actually in the details. Perhaps there could be a victory that unites the Democratic Party. The other politics of this that we saw with the Obama administration, and Joe Biden, as well as part of his turn, taking the fight to the campaign trail and not an actual past policy can also work to --

BASH: Which is what we've seen on immigration reform for --

CHALIAN: -- enhances coalition.

BASH: -- like two decades, which is part of the problem. Real quick, Jonah.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I think the way to think about the immigration thing is part of it, it's the issue of immigration itself. But part of it is the chaos at the border. It's very reminiscent to me of the BP oil spill, which just the sense like, oh, my gosh, this isn't ending, this isn't stopping and it freaks people out.

And it contributes to this idea that there's chaos that Biden is not in control of things. Doing something to get control would help him a lot.

BASH: Thank you so much. Great discussions throughout the entire panel segments.

Next, I'm going to talk to a Jewish Democratic Congresswoman on the complicated politics of being a proud progressive right now. Stay with us.



BASH: The University of Pennsylvania's Board of Trustees just held an emergency meeting after this disastrous testimony from the school's president this week.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R), NEW YORK: I am asking, specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?

LIZ MAGILL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: If it is directed and severe or pervasive, it is harassment.

STEFANIK: So the answer is yes.

MAGILL: It is a context-dependent decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In that moment, I was focused on --


BASH: Said she should have spoken differently. And that, yes, calling for genocide is deeply threatening. She is one of multiple college presidents under fire for their response to rising antisemitism on campus. I should say, maybe lack of response.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Becca Balint from Vermont. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.

REP. BECCA BALINT (D), VERMONT: Thank you for having me.

BASH: Can you explain why this is so hard? Why leaders of some of the country's most elite universities could not say, yes, calling for the genocide of Jews's harassment? BALINT: Yes. I think what we saw in that moment are people who are stuck in their heads on these issues. And honestly, it should have been abundantly clear that in that moment, what they needed to say is absolutely. Calling for the genocide of any people is harassment and threatening and not comfortable.

I think we are at this point where everybody feels like they're walking on a tightrope, and they lose their compassion, they lose their humanity in these moments. And it was shocking. Watching that testimony was absolutely shocking. And I think we all have to do better about bringing our heart and our compassion every single time we talk about these issues.

BASH: Why are they forced onto this tightrope? What about the culture and higher education right now makes them feel like, if they say, yes, calling for genocide against Jews will hurt them with their -- either with their leadership, with their professors or their student body?

BALINT: Like, I don't know. All I can tell you is, we all have to get back to basic humanity here. And we get so hung up on words, right? And it is so clear when we talk about this horrible, horrible war between Israel and Hamas, that there are all of these outside pressures forcing us to try to say certain words in a certain way. And then what happens is, we end up saying nothing, nothing of substance.

BASH: I want to play a part of a video that you released when you were campaigning for the House in 2022 talking about your family history.


BALINT: I know what can happen when we turn away from each other. My grandfather was murdered on a death march in the Holocaust. I grew up with the knowledge that people can be led astray when they're scared.


BASH: You are a, obviously, the granddaughter of somebody who was killed in the Holocaust. You are a proud progressive Jew. What is it like to be you, to have all of these competing pressures right now, when you do see a lot of the progressive movement --


BASH: -- being outright antisemitic in some spaces?

BALINT: The antisemitism has been unmasked, in the same way that the Islamophobia in this country has been masked by this. And I think what has become so clear to me is people are not willing to hold complexity. People are not willing to hold nuance that both things can be true.

That what happened on October 7, was absolutely disgusting, attacking civilians in their homes, killing babies, you know, raping women, that is abhorrent. And also seeing those civilian deaths in Gaza is also abhorrent. And somehow, right now, we're not able to hold the complexity, but we need to. This is not an easy issue. BASH: I want to play an exchange, part of an exchange that I had with the chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal on State of the Union on Sunday.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D), WASHINGTON: Rape is horrific, sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.



BASH: A few days later, she released a statement saying, "Let me be clear, again, that I unequivocally condemn Hamas's use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war." Taking you behind the scenes in your caucus, why did she need to do that? How much pressure was there on her?

BALINT: You know, I -- since I'm not her I can't speak to the pressure that she felt. I know, for many of us within the Progressive Caucus right now, I think we are struggling with the fact that we all feel similarly but that is somehow isn't being heard by so many of our constituents.

We all want an end to this war. We all want there to be a safe and secure Gaza with no Hamas in charge. We want all the hostages released, we want the same things. And it is so clear to me that in these moments that when we struggle so hard to hold both complexities that sometimes we say but however instead of yes, and. Because it's a yes, and every single time.

BASH: Becca Balint, I'm so grateful that you came on for this important conversation. Thank you so much, Congressman.

BALINT: Thank you, Dana.

Thank you for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after a quick break.