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Special Counsel: Hunter Schemed To Not Pay $1.4M In Taxes; Trump Expected To Take The Stand Monday In NY Civil Fraud Trial; Harvard President Apologizes After Failing To Say Calls For The Genocide Of Jews Violates School Policies; Doug Emhoff Criticism Of University President: "The Last Of Moral Clarity Is Unacceptable"; Top College Presidents Facing Bipartisan Backlash; 38 Days Until GOP Iowa Caucuses. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 08, 2023 - 12:30   ET



ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And there's a chance that a judge can keep some of this out. Because if you're establishing that an individual number one didn't file his taxes, and number two tried to evade his taxes, it probably isn't relevant that he was doing so in order to pay off sex workers or buy drugs or whatever else.

Now, maybe prosecutors can say that you have to know why -- where the money was going in order to establish sort of his intent to not pay his taxes, but it creates this little bit of a legal quagmire over, is this just designed to embarrass this defendant, or is it relevant information? And a judge is going to have to sort out every -- sort of every little bit and piece here.

You know, it's a valid question -- back to what you were talking about with Evan as well, it's a valid question as to what took so long now. Look, a prosecutor can bring a case wherever there are facts to suggest that that crime took place.

And this is, we should note, Los Angeles, as opposed to Delaware, there, I guess, are some factual differences between the two cases. But, you know, that doesn't -- that's not presented to the jury. It's not for them to decide why cases brought when it was.

So I think there are political questions surrounding it. But, you know, this is not going to end and someone going to jail for 17 years, I will say that. You might go to jail, it's not going to be for 17 years, on account of all the things we're talking about.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Let's switch gears, Evan, and talk about what we are going to likely see, what we think we're going to see --


BASH: -- on Monday, and that is the former president back in a courtroom, and not just in a courtroom, but actually on the witness stand in the case that he is battling that has to do with his company, and whether or not his company can exist in the state of New York. PEREZ: Right. I mean, this is -- I talk about having huge legal consequences for the former president because, obviously, the idea that his company may get essentially dissolved in the state of New York, and he can't do business, there is a huge thing, consequentially for Donald Trump.

But one of the things that he's going to try to do on Monday when he appears, is to try to button up this case. To say, look, real estate is one of those squishy things, it's -- there's always, you know, bravado, there's always marketing, and who's to know how much things are worth until someone decides to pay for it, right?

BASH: Right.

PEREZ: And that's going to be a very, very strong case that he's going to try to make to try to wrap up that case on Monday.

BASH: And Elliot, really quickly, the idea of him taking the stand, his attorney, Donald Trump's attorney says that her advice was not to take the stand but he wanted to.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it is almost never in a defendant's interest to take the stand to be perfectly candid, Dana, because of the risks that can come. Number one, you can contradict yourself. Number two, you could get even more under the judge's skin than you already are.

And as is the case, as we've seen here, you know, the Trump Organization seems to have rankled the judge a little bit. So there is a very narrow line here. Now, look, they have already found fraud in this case. So it's kind of their last best chance.

The court has found fraud. It's -- and it's sort of the Trump team's last best chance to sort of stop the bleeding a little bit and perhaps putting the defendant on the stand is the way to do that. But absolutely, I would be with that attorney 100 percent. It's always risky to make the defendant take the stand.

PEREZ: Especially this defendant.


BASH: Yes. Yes. All right. Well, we'll be back here on Monday talking about that very thing. Thanks to you both.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BASH: Up next, the president of Harvard apologizes after bipartisan backlash to her Capitol Hill testimony this week. We're going to talk about that and the strange political bedfellows all of this is creating.



BASH: I'm sorry, words matter. Harvard President Claudine Gay is apologizing for failing to say calls for the genocide of Jews violates Harvard's policies. That comes as the second gentleman is joining the growing outrage against university presidents and others who can't or won't unequivocally denounce Jew hate.

Here's what Doug Emhoff said at that National Menorah lighting last night.


DOUG EMHOFF, SECOND GENTLEMAN: Seeing the presidents of some of our most elite universities, literally unable to denounce calling for the genocide of Jews as antisemitic. That lack of moral clarity is simply unacceptable.


BASH: Our great reporters are back. I neglected to say that Doug Emhoff is the first Jewish, was the first second gentleman but the first Jewish person in any of those roles.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So it wasn't surprising to hear him talk about it. But, you know, when you say there's a lack of moral clarity, that's tough stuff. And I think these university presidents are suffering as a result, because they couldn't just say the obvious.

And it seems to me that, you know, they were all talking about context. Well, as Elise Stefanik asked, what does that mean? And there was no answer for that question.

BASH: Yes. So we did see, obviously this all and I think people faring well know by now, there was a hearing earlier this week, three of the Ivy League university presidents testified. They couldn't say, under questioning from Elise Stefanik, Republican, in the leadership in the House, whether or not saying genocide against Jews is allowed there.

And since then, we just started by saying the Harvard president just apologized. There was a video that the Penn president put out saying, yes, in fact, it is wrong and it should be against policy but she didn't apologize.


The fact that Elise Stefanik is pushing this is really interesting because she doesn't have traditionally a lot of Democrats saying you go girl. And in this particular case, she does. Ritchie Torres, who likes to turn a phrase very well, he said, and he's a fellow New Yorker, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day. She continues to be an odious demagogue."


SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I think the -- well, the conversation about Doug Emhoff too reminded me just how forceful the White House has been in speaking out against a lot of these antisemitic acts that we're seeing across the country. And I know we're broadly focused on, obviously, the White House's policy and handling of the war and Hamas, or war against Hamas right now. But every time a lot of these incidents pop up over the country, whether it's the harassment of the Jewish deli in the Pennsylvania area, certainly after the hearing with the college presidents, the White House, particularly, the press office has been very, you know, unequivocally pointing out just that this is antisemitic, it is unacceptable, we support the Jewish Committee, and that's been very important to this White House to point out to the public.

BASH: Yes, go ahead.

TALEV: I was just going to say, I think these three university presidents misunderstood what that moment and that hearing was, in the context that this was a political event. And they were clearly trying to balance in their heads and then say it all at the same time, a way to balance protecting students and being against genocide with protecting academic freedoms, which is the most important aspects of university even when it's very controversial.

I will say this, not only are these three female presidents Claudine Gay, he's also the first black president of Harvard, but they're also new in their jobs. Two came into their jobs this year in 2023, and one in 2022. These are not people who have all had accomplished academic careers, political scientist, scientist, lawyer, they do not have expertise on the hot seat in one of the biggest --

BASH: You're being very generous. But like, you have to just live on planet earth --

TALEV: 100 percent.

BASH: -- to be able to say that genocide --


BASH: -- saying genocide against anybody's is wrong. But I take your point and it's an important context.

TALEV: I'm not trying to apologize for --

BASH: No, no, I know you're not. I know you're not.

TALEV: I'm trying to contextualize. That's my point.

BASH: Let's -- and I appreciate that. That's important, Margaret. Let's look ahead, because this is not over. Elise Stefanik knows that she has caught fire with this and she has a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, talking about Harvard again.

And then she also continues to say, "The failure to call out and punish those demanding the genocide of Jewish people is the consequence of decades of appeasement of radicalism and watering down to principle at our most hallowed institutions of higher education, which were founded as bastions of moral clarity, and pursuit of truth." She is a Harvard grad, and so are a lot of the most conservative high profile people that we're seeing, not just talk about this, but just out there and we have them all on the screen. And it's very interesting, because this is not new. This whole idea of conservative saying, higher education is too woke.

This is just done through the narrow prism of antisemitism, which these university presidents are not calling out. And it doesn't say -- it doesn't negate the fact that there certainly is antisemitism on the right, but it is -- when you look at the political spectrum, you are seeing antisemitism on the far-right and on the far-left, and you're seeing calling out antisemitism. In this case, colleges on the right and on the left. It is such strange bedfellows in both sides.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. And, you know, one thing that's important to know about Elise Stefanik, is she is the chief messenger for House Republicans as the conference chairwoman. So we have seen even in the last couple of weeks, you know, them bringing in families who have hostages of -- in Hamas, and also talking with the number of the students, kind of bringing them around the hill.

But this was really a moment regardless of, you know, are there these political talking points that Republicans are trying to make in defense of Israel? This was a moment and she's definitely taking that moment, especially as there are some conversations of, you know, does she want to be potentially considered as Trump's VP?

So there is some politics, but again, we need to separate that from, of course, what we have seen which it should have been an easy answer.

BASH: Yes, yes. And we should say that the former president likes to boast about the fact that he went to an Ivy League college. She says it over and over again.

All right, guys, standby. Coming up, Nikki Haley's steady climb is jolting 2024's undercard race. Is she the only one left with a chance to take Donald Trump down? Stay with us.



BASH: 38 days, that's how long GOP presidential candidates have to convince Iowa voters that they are deserving of their vote, but can any of the Republican hopefuls toppled Donald Trump's sizable lead?


Let's talk about that right now with David Kochel, who is a veteran Iowa Republican strategist. He's guided multiple candidates from Jeb Bush and in the Senate race of Joni Ernst. Jason Osborne is also here, who worked on multiple campaigns from Donald Trump to John McCain.

Boy, that's a whole another conversation. That's a big difference between those two candidates, Jason. But let's stick with 2024 right now.


BASH: I want to start with something from a fundraiser of Ron DeSantis, Roy Bailey, and listen to what he said about Nikki Haley. He said, "I admit that she's had a rise and good for her, but it's not amongst conservatives. And conservatives win primaries in the Republican Party and not Romney moderates. She needed to be outed that -- she need to be outed on that, may be able to put some fuel in her tank, but they can't win her votes."

Jason, I'll start with you. What are your thoughts on that?

OSBORNE: Well, I think there is a certain dynamic of truth to that because if you look at the Iowa results in the past and then compare it to this time around where Nikki really kind of has that niche to herself, and then it's a combination of -- if DeSantis is pulling any of those votes or is he more pulling the conservative votes.

And again, Iowa is so unique. I mean, I think David has much more history in Iowa than many people I know. And it was 1,700 polling sites. And it's so, you know, neighborhood or familial-based voting that is the moderate approach going to win the day or is it going to be who's better than Trump and who can win it.

Now, I think DeSantis right now, he has a couple things going for him in the sense of the organization, and organization in an Iowa caucus can win the day.

BASH: Yes.

OSBORNE: I mean, we saw it with Ted Cruz. We saw it in other races in the past. But I don't know what Nikki has on the ground. And David could probably speak to that better than I can.

BASH: Well, we don't -- you can speak to what she has on the ground. Let's first look at what she has in the air. And that's a brand new ad. Let's watch that.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to build the wall.

DESANTIS: Build the wall.

TRUMP: Judges are a priority.

DESANTIS: And honestly, made in China and ship Russia.



BASH: And, David, that was Nikki Haley's Super PAC. Is that kind of message going to work in Iowa?

DAVID KOCHEL, FORMER SENIOR STRATEGIST, JEB BUSH CAMPAIGN: Well, it's a little bit of a troll and it might effective, I think, you know, in particular, DeSantis and Trump kind of going after the same voters. They're both going after evangelicals.

And, you know, I think they're trying to make the play here that they're going to split some of that vote and she's going to be with more mainstream Republicans. So it could be effective, but it's also a way to sort of diminish DeSantis in general. And I think the way they've gone back and forth at each other, it might be an effective tool at this point.

BASH: Yes. OK, so you mentioned Donald Trump. We, of course, have to talk about him because that's the big question, is what is going to happen in the first contest in Iowa. I was talking to a strategist who has done work in Iowa, like you have, David, who said that we have to keep a focus on turnout because in the Trump orbit, they hope that there's higher turnout because that will mean that there are likely maybe first time caucus goers, people who don't traditionally go out.

There are more Trump voters or caucus goers. And in the DeSantis and Haley camps, DeSantis, in particular, their hope is that it's a lower turnout because it means they're more traditional conservatives, evangelicals. Is that how you see it?

KOCHEL: Yes, that's kind of how I see it, although there's a bit of a dynamic I'd be concerned about if I was the Trump campaign, which is with the national poll numbers having him at, you know, 55%, 60%, with these huge leads. Some voters who don't follow this campaign on a day- to-day basis might think this thing is already over --

BASH: Right.

KOCHEL: -- and so they may be less motivated to go out. The thing about the caucuses that are interesting is you can have turnout as low as 90,000 people, which we did, I think, in 1996, and 185,000 people like we did in 2016. The huge Gulf there, the difference there and who shows up and who doesn't show up is really what's going to make or break this campaign. But organization will be critical.

BASH: Yes. All right, we're going to have to leave it --

BASH: Go ahead. Real quick, Jason.

OSBORNE: Yes. I think if you look at the traditional Trump voter, it's not the high propensity voter. And in Iowa caucuses, those are the highest of the highest propensity voters.

BASH: Yes.

OSBORNE: They're the ones that are willing to go out in the middle of January -- BASH: Yes.

OSBORNE: -- and go to a small congregation and vote.

BASH: Guys, thank you so much. Appreciate it. We're going to talk again soon for sure.

And now, you know, her as a tennis champion. But Billie Jean King is so much more. In the latest episode of our Being series, I spent time with the legend who 50 years ago led the way for equal prize money at the U.S. Open, won that famous battle of the Sexes tennis match and changed not just her sport, but the world for women.


Last month, she turned 80 and is very candid about that and revealed to me one goal she never achieved yet, running for office.


BASH: Hard to say that maybe you should have run for office.

BILLIE JEAN KING, AMERICAN TENNIS PLAYER: After the King Riggs match, I think everybody in the country probably would have known my name. You know, for a lot of politicians, they can't get through the clutter of people even though you know who they are.

BASH: Is it something that you wanted to do?

KING: I think if I did not have sports, would have gone to law school and definitely tried to be president of the United States. Why not.

BASH: 80 is apparently not something that is disqualifying to be president. So that's possible.

KING: No, that's another thing. I have experienced ageism now too.

BASH: Really?

KING: Yes, and it's not fun.

BASH: How so?

KING: Just people kind of given up on you. They don't think you're any good.


BASH: Well, I don't know very many people who have done that. She is a legend. And you can see much more of this, Billie Jean King -- Being Billie Jean King, it premieres at 10:00 p.m. Sunday on CNN right after CNN Heroes.

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