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Trump Disqualified From 2024 Ballot In Colorado; Trump To Appeal Colorado Decision To U.S. Supreme Court; Trump's GOP Rivals Denounce Colorado Ballot Ruling; Ramaswamy: "I Pledge To Withdraw" From Colorado Primary; Biden: Trump "Certainly Supported An Insurrection"; Trump Repeats Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric, Denies Reading Hitler; Trump: I've Never Read Hitler's "Mein Kampf"; Haley Says New Trump Ad Proves Her Campaign Is "Surging". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 20, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, disqualified. Team Trump is gearing up to appeal a stunning ruling in Colorado that would kick the former president off the state's ballot. Now Trump's fate may be headed toward the Supreme Court. Plus, Trump says, "I've never read Mein Kampf." That's how he's responding to accusations that some of his racist rhetoric sounds like Hitler. He used some of the same language again last night.

And hitting the road. President Biden is in a key swing state today, trying to convince the voters of Wisconsin that his policies are making their lives better. As sources tell CNN, he's growing increasingly frustrated that it's taking so long to implement his signature legislative achievements.

I'm Jim Acosta in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

I want to start with the historic decision putting this country in unchartered legal and electoral territory. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump is not eligible to be a presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment's insurrection has banned. That band from the civil war era says, a person can't hold any office if they, "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

Trump's team is vowing to appeal the four to three ruling, which means he's likely headed to the Supreme Court. Here's what Colorado secretary of state said about that moments ago.


JENA GRISWOLD, (D) COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Ballot certification is in a couple weeks on January 5. And we do hope that if the Supreme Court is going to take the case that they do so quickly, because we need to make sure that the right people are on the ballots when Colorado votes in the presidential primary. But as of today, if the U.S. Supreme Court does not take the case -- if those appeals are not filed, Donald Trump is not qualified as a candidate in the state of Colorado.


ACOSTA: And CNN's Carrie Cordero and Evan Perez are with me now. Carrie, what's your take on all this? What do you think?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, obviously, this is a really, really historic case by the Colorado Supreme Court. It absolutely is going to go to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as the former president filed his appeal. And the Supreme Court of Colorado teed up a number of really weighty constitutional issues of first impression for the U.S. Supreme Court.

One being, whether or not the office of the presidency is an officer. That sounds like it might be straightforward, but actually under constitutional analysis, it's not. And then second, whether or not the district court was correct to find that the former president engaged in an insurrection.

And whether that means just by the record created by the district court that the former president can be disqualified under the 14th Amendment. So huge constitutional issues, important matters of constitutional analysis, and we'll see how this plays out with the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: Yeah. It is huge. And Evan, I do want to read from the Colorado Supreme Court ruling if I can for a second. President Trump, it says, did not merely incite the insurrection. Even when the siege on the Capitol was fully underway, he continued to support it by repeatedly demanding that Vice President Mike Pence refused to perform his constitutional duty and by calling senators to persuade them to stop the counting of electoral votes. These actions constituted overt, voluntary and direct participation in the insurrection.

Evan, I mean, they're kind of ticking through Trump's actions from that day. It's fascinating to see the Supreme Court include all of this in their ruling.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. No, Jim, they went through chapter and verse of everything that the former president did on January 6, and things he didn't do to try to stop the violence, to try to stop his followers or encouraged his followers to cease the violence. They also go all the way back two months before the election where Trump started laying the groundwork for claiming that the election was rigged if he lost.

And so, one of the things that I thought was interesting on page 130, where they say in conducting our -- their independent review of the district court's factual findings. We agree that President Trump intended that his speech would result in the use of violence to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Those are really weighty words to come from the supreme -- from this state Supreme Court and certainly will reverberate beyond this.

[12:05:00] Now, let me say this. The big thing that I think, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to have to decide is, you know, if you look at the 14th Amendment, it does not mention specifically the office of president of the United States. And so, the question is, you know, here the Colorado Supreme Court says, well, of course he's covered, right?

But, you know, I think you can see an avenue for the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to go in another direction because clearly, if the founders of the country intended for that office to be included, they would have said so. And I should note, these types of challenges have failed in other states, in New Hampshire, in Michigan and Minnesota. This is the first court that has found this way.

ACOSTA: Carrie, Evan doesn't sound too convinced that this is going to get through the Supreme Court. What's your sense of it? I mean, what about this aspect that the president is not technically covered under the 14th Amendment?

CORDERO: Right. So, it would require the U.S. Supreme Court to analyze that issue specifically and the Supreme Court of Colorado I think, really took pains to lay out its arguments in its opinion, in a way that provides a really fulsome analysis for the U.S. Supreme Court to review.

So, reviewing the history of that particular section, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is all laid out in the written opinion. And there is an argument that the majority makes in the Colorado Supreme Court opinion that says, it would be nonsensical every other officer of the -- that who could be elected in the U.S. government would be a disqualified except for the president. So that's one reading of it.

On the other hand, they it also goes through some history, where some early draft of the constitution of this particular section had the president listed and then was removed. So, the Supreme Court of the United States will have to do a very thorough historical analysis, looking at both the text of the constitution and the context around it.

ACOSTA: Yeah. Donald Trump taking us in all sorts of legal directions -- constitutional directions during this election cycle. Carrie and Evan, thank you very much. Donald Trump's legal problems are a big part of his political strategy right now.

Right after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled, he can't appear on the state's primary ballot. The Trump campaign sent out a fundraising email and now much of the rest of the 2024 Republican field is defending the former president who they're trying to defeat in the primary.

Here's Ron DeSantis earlier today.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was no trial on any of this. They basically just said why you can't be on the ballot? And we just say that Biden can't be on the ballot because he led an eight million illegals into the country and violated the constitution, which he has.


ACOSTA: All right. I want to bring in my political panel on this, CNN's MJ Lee, Bloomberg's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Semafor's David Weigel. Nia, I mean to you first. You have to hand it to Trump. He's going to get us to the Supreme Court. Maybe even before these primaries and caucuses get started on a massive constitutional issue.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And listen, it's hard to imagine that this Trump Supreme Court doesn't side with him. I mean, legal scholars are all over the place. In terms of this decision, obviously the courts have been split as well in the different states. But listen, I think these kinds of actions and consequences that the president face, ultimately sort of bind his base together, right.

The sort of grievances or what they see as a witch hunt. This just gins up the base. And listen, he should send Ron DeSantis a bouquet of flowers as well as everybody else in the race, the other Republicans who are trying to defeat him but are actually just defending him and helping him.

ACOSTA: Yeah. Once again, David Weigel, I mean, it just seems it's uncanny the way Trump has been able to get these Republican rivals in this 2024 field from time to time to defend him.

DAVID WEIGEL, REPORTER, SEMAFOR: He has, and they've seen what's happened to his fundraising, although it has decreased from scandal- to-scandal, indictment-to-indictment. You also have seen from the Republicans as the vote gets closer -- realization this is their last chance to beat him, a little bit of a change up in the rhetoric.

And if you -- what DeSantis went on to say in Urbandale from that speech this morning is, we don't know what else is going to happen with Donald Trump. He didn't say Sword of Damocles, but that's referring to. There's something hanging over his head that Democrats might use to get him off the ballot.

When you see Nikki Haley, she said this in New Hampshire last week. I'm leading Joe Biden by 17 points. If you nominate me, there's no more drama, hint, hint that recovers all of the stuff we're talking about. He going to be continued talking about in the courts. I can win and a bigger majority than he can, they're starting to argue to these voters that there are risks.

They nominate Biden. If you saw in the time Siena poll today, about a quarter of Republican voters say, they are worried about an indictment. Now that means 75 percent are not -- is there problem. A lot of -- most Republicans say, he's going to get off this and the fact that he's in trouble proves that he's our most electable candidate. That's where most the base still is.


ACOSTA: Yeah. Let's show that. I mean, we have that poll handy. Dave, thank you for cueing that up for us. If Donald Trump wins the GOP primary and is convicted, 70 percent say he should still be the nominee, 24 percent say he should not be the nominee. MJ Lee, let me go to you. I mean, you're over the White House, you're talking to the Biden people. What do they make of all this?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, publicly and officially, they're not commenting. And I do think there's a real element of the White House, the Biden campaign. They too, are processing all of this in real time, like everybody else right, the unprecedented nature of all this. And it's not like Jim, there's some like playbook at the White House that they can refer back on the ---

ACOSTA: It's just of our 14th Amendment playbook.

LEE: Right. There isn't like a strategy that they use in the past that they can refer back to. What they said officially this morning is that they're obviously not going to comment on these ongoing legal proceedings, but that they look forward to beating Donald Trump or whoever else ends up being the nominee.

I mean, I think that last part is really key, whoever else potentially ends up being the nominee. There's no sort of guarantee, there's no absolute sort of assuming that Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. And I think Democrats clearly are thinking about that more as something like this last night happens that there is very much the possibility that it isn't going to be a Biden versus Donald Trump.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And Nia, I mean, one of the other, I guess, responses to all this came from Vivek Ramaswamy. We can play some of that talk about on the other side.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I pledged to withdraw from the Colorado GOP primary ballot, unless and until Trump's name is restored. And I demand that Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie and Nikki Haley do the same thing. Or else these Republicans are simply complicit.


ACOSTA: Nia, what happened to states' riots?

HENDERSON: Yeah. I mean, listen, this guy, you know -

ACOSTA: I guess he's going to be around until Colorado.

HENDERSON: He thinks he's going to be around. I mean, he can withdraw, he can be on the ballot. He's not going to win the nomination. He's not going to win a single state. And listen, it looks like it's hard to imagine any of these other folks at this point winning a single state either. I mean, you look at the polls, there is still such a low admiration, respect for Trump among GOP ears.

ACOSTA: And just a few moments ago, we got some reaction from President Biden to all of this. He said, "I think it's self-evident that Trump is an insurrectionists. So, this from the president talking to reporters on Air Force One in Milwaukee. He went on to say, whether the 14th Amendment applies, I'll let the court make that decision.

So, MJ, we were wondering, what is the White House thing about this? What does the president think about this? I mean, he has been pretty outspoken from time to time, hasn't been in recent days about the dictator comments and echoing Hitler and so on. But the president has been outspoken from time to time. He wants this to be about democracy -- preserving democracy in this next one.

LEE: Yes. And that has been completely central to the way in which this current president has talked about his predecessor. And that this idea that if he were to be the GOP nominee again, what kind of threat we are talking about is like this existential threat to the country, threat to democracy and all of that.

I think he is more than happy clearly to make that argument. The thing that he's still not going to touch just like his campaign, White House officials is the legal side of things that that really is in the courts hands to decide.

ACOSTA: Yeah. Dave, do you think the White House -- do you think the Biden people have been too hesitant to dive in on this to touch this subject to talk about it?

WEIGEL: I don't think so. Look at what has happened to them politically in the Republican conversation around Hunter Biden's legal problems. If you want some evidence, the president is not personally commanding the DOJ to do his bidding. There's the fact that his son has been indicted twice. And that does not ameliorate any of this Republican conversation that Joe Biden is leading the deep state, disqualify Donald Trump.

I think they have to be cautious because if you turn to the conversation on X at Trump rallies, the narrative is very set. They're so afraid of Donald Trump that they are going to use every mechanism they have in the federal government to disqualify the only man they're afraid of. It's a good idea for the president to back out of that conversation.

ACOSTA: Very good. Guys, a lot more to talk about. Up next, we head to Des Moines, Iowa with a look at what all this means for the former president's campaign in that critical battleground state.




ACOSTA: Welcome back to Inside Politics. You're looking at live pictures right now. Nikki Haley, she's hosting a town hall at Burlington, Iowa, trying to convince voters there that she represents a new generation of Republicans who can move the party past the chaos of Donald Trump. And we saw some of that last night of the Trump rally in Waterloo, Iowa. CNN's Jeff Zeleny was there. Jeff, again, things that I never thought I would be saying during a campaign cycle. But we heard the former president invoking Adolf Hitler. What can you tell us about that?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we did the former President Donald Trump was making his fourth visit to Iowa in less than a month, really trying to deliver a decisive victory here in the Iowa caucuses and talking about Adolf Hitler. Insisting that his words against immigrants, his heated rhetoric and racist rhetoric against migrants were not inspired by Adolf Hitler.

Take a listen to how he described why he says he's not inspired by Adolf Hitler.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: They're ruining our country. And it's true. They're destroying the blood of our country. That's what they're doing. They're destroying our country. They don't like it when I said that. And I never read Mein Kampf. They said, oh, Hitler said that in a much different way.



ZELENY: So, he's been talking about immigrants in that fashion. Jim, you'll remember of course for quite some time. But the rhetoric has gotten even more intense, more sharp, more pointed, clearly trying to tap into what is an actual issue in this election, an issue in this country is immigration. But he's going beyond any solutions or ideas and talking specifically in this type of language.

When you talk to voters about how they react to it. They say, oh, that's just Donald Trump being Donald Trump. We miss his policies. But if they get his policies, of course, they'll get so much more. But Jim, 26 days before the Iowa caucuses, he's leading this race without question. But as you said, Nikki Haley trying to make her case, Ron DeSantis here in Iowa as well. So not a single vote has been cast but it seems like the die perhaps it has. Jim?

ACOSTA: Yeah. Jeff, and I'm just wondering, when you talk to those Trump supporters, you've indicated this a little bit there. Are there looks of bewilderment on their faces when he mentions Adolf Hitler and Mein Kampf. Or is it -- I mean, do they just say, oh, there goes Trump again and they lap it up?

ZELENY: It's more the latter, but there was really not a lot of applause. It was a very low energy. Trump rally, as many of them recently have been. Jim, you've been to many of them, of course, over the years as have I. And it's -- you know, there is not a lot of energy. And the supporters aren't necessarily hanging on every word. They liked the idea of him. But at that moment in the speech talking about Hitler, in fact, there was very little response at all, positive or perhaps even more importantly negative as well. Jim? ACOSTA: All right, Jeff. Thanks so much. Let's bring back our political panel on this. And yeah -- I mean, Nia, when I listen to Donald Trump talking about Hitler and Mein Kampf, I was wondering if I've had too much NyQuil the night before. I mean, it's a little fever dreamy. It's a little strange. And we shouldn't know when he says, well, I haven't read Mein Kampf. I don't own a copy of Mein Kampf.

I mean, we should note there was a 1990 Vanity Fair article where, you know, it was reported that Ivana Trump, his first wife said, Donald Trump had a book of Hitler. And so, this has come up in biographies about Donald Trump. People talking about Donald Trump, his past and so on, that he has had something of a fascination with Adolf Hitler over the years. Again, so real to talk about, but let's talk about it.

HENDERSON: This is where we are. And listen, this is where we have been with Donald Trump right, on a fascination with dictators, a fascination with the idea of white America, and sort of the idea that outsiders can sort of spoil white America. That's essentially what he was saying.

And listen, Donald Trump knows what he's doing, right? He is going into the Iowa caucuses. You think about the group of voters, they're white evangelicals. White evangelicals, if you look at sort of the broad spectrum of Republican voters, why evangelicals are among the most anti-immigrant group of voters?

I mean, it's one of the reasons why they were so attracted to him in 2016, similar rhetoric, build a wall. Mexico is going to pay for it. His initial speech was about Mexicans coming to America and raping and killing Americans. So, this is Donald Trump. I think it has a broad appeal among those folks in Iowa. And that's certainly what he's doing it.

LEE: And I still remember that so clearly from -- when I covered Donald Trump back in the 2016 campaign and talking to voters across the country. Yes, like there's sort of extreme -- you know, offensive things that Donald Trump will say that, you know, voters are willing to sort of either push off to the side or say, I think I know what he means.

Like, he doesn't totally mean exactly what he's saying. But the bigger point, I understand, and I sort of connect with and that is this idea of outsiders coming into the country. It's exactly what you said. And a lot of voters really were sort of reassured by that.

They liked that there was finally a candidate who was openly talking about this idea of -- all these people from the outside coming in and taking away our jobs. There's a big population, a big segment of the population that wants to hear that message. And that obviously, is what Donald Trump is once again harnessed.

ACOSTA: Yeah. But you know, Dave, after he's been aware of the fact that he is echoing Adolf Hitler, he again repeats these comments. He says, they're ruining our country. It's true. They're destroying the blood of our country. That's what they're doing. They're destroying our country. I mean, you know, people can say, oh, this is just Donald Trump. He's just being Donald Trump. It sounds as though, and I mean, it just is the case. This is what he believes this stuff.

WEIGEL: And he's operating in a political context where he's confident, most voters even if they wins are going to agree with him. The way that the phrase I often hear Republicans used to blow up, everything Trump says mean tweets. And he had some mean tweets but look at the policies we had.

So, he's operating in context where -- when he's talking about immigration, when voters are thinking about immigration. Are they thinking about his quote or are they thinking about Eric Adams saying, New York falling apart because of migrants?


Are they thinking about reports of Chicago who sent centers where migrants are being held and staying protests in the neighborhood about that? Are they thinking about chaos? And if you're thinking about chaos, they're going to be ready for me, no matter what I say. He does get led into these coldest acts where somebody's discussed on TV. He gets irritated. He talks about it. It blurts out his message.

But for him a day, where people are talking about immigration, no matter how he talks about it. Is a good day. I mean, a lot of these ideas building a wall, mass deportation. Look at the polling from when he left office to now, it is popular. So, I think Democrats are trying to change the conversation to his rhetoric. And he's very confident now that if it -- no matter what his rhetoric it is, people will quietly agree with him.

ACOSTA: And Nia, I mean, Nikki Haley is the other story. I think, right now as we head into Iowa, New Hampshire, she is surging to some extent, whether it's to the extent that she could even come close to overtaking Trump in any of these states. That remains to be seen. But she was talking about how Trump is coming after her now, others are coming after her. Let's listen to that.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you hear that sound? That's the sound of us surging, because now Donald Trump's running an ad against me. And we'll be happy to take it. And what Trump's ad says, is a lie that Ron already got called out for. He says I wanted to raise the gas tax. That's absolutely not true.


ACOSTA: I mean, I guess if she's being attacked, that's a good thing, right?

HENDERSON: It's a good thing. Listen, she's only at what maybe like 20 percent, I think in New Hampshire, maybe around there in Iowa as well. She's got a lot of ground to make off. At this point, she was able to obviously, kind of push Ron DeSantis to the side. And some of that was he's just not very good at running for president or being a politician. And so, yeah, and she is very good at that. She's been very good at debates. She's very charming. You can see in some of these polls, she does very well with independents and women. But it's unclear if she'll be able to get to that point right and overtake the big man on campus. Who is Donald Trump, who still is beloved among GOP base voters.

ACOSTA: And the other key question is if she can beat Donald Trump in New Hampshire, what happens in South Carolina?

WEIGEL: Where she's failing -- New Hampshire voters aren't the electorate is different. It's going to be half independence, probably given the Democratic primary and that's not like any other -- Michigan looks a little bit like that no other state does.

And so that that is a problem she has not overcome. The way she talks now though, she's in a position that a lot of surging candidates like to be in, which is nobody attacked her when she was five or six percent in the polls.

Now that she's being attacked, the substance the attack doesn't matter. The fact that she's being attacked, you can say they're scared of me. I'm being attacked because I'm winning. They're wrong because they're losing, and they want to beat me. I don't know how long she can get away with that. Since been away with it for a few really since the third debate that's been her message. If they're attacking me, the substance is irrelevant. It means that I'm going to win this thing.

ACOSTA: All right, guys. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Great discussion. In the meantime, President Biden is back on the road today to talk up the economy convincing Americans is better than they think it could be. That is the key to his reelection at this point. New reporting on the pulse inside the president's campaign headquarters. That's next.