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Supreme Court Could Announce Today Whether It Will Fast-Track Ruling On Trump Presidential Immunity Claim; Detroit News: Trump Recorded Pressuring Michigan Republican Canvassers Not To Certify 2020 Election; U.N. Security Council Passes Gaza Resolution; Haley Pressed By Iowa Voter To Get Tougher On Trump; DeSantis' Support Has Waned Throughout Campaign. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 22, 2023 - 12:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Phil Mattingly in today for Dana. The Friday before Christmas, it's supposed to be slow. But there is no shortage of major news right now, including a new report about pressure the then president put on local officials in Michigan after the 2020 election.

But first, at any moment, the Supreme Court could announce whether it's backing a decision on Donald Trump's claim that he's (audio gap) 2020 election. Prosecutors want a trial as possible. We start things off with CNN's Katelyn Polantz. She's in Washington. Katelyn, what's so striking here is it may seem wheezy or procedural, but my goodness, the stakes here could not be higher.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They are. I can't resist getting into the weeds. But on this, let's sit back because it is a really big deal. What's happening here. And that was became so apparent in the way that the Justice Department wrote about this issue to the Supreme Court yesterday. They wrote that this issue of presidential immunity is so important for the country that someone needs to decide it definitively and that would be the Supreme Court.

And that is why they should skip the intermediary court, the D.C. Circuit and go right to -- Justice Department's issue of great constitutional moment. That is this question of whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution from sitting trial because he was the president.

And what the Supreme Court ultimately decides here is how we as a country will understand the presidency. How we understand the constitution. It's never been tested in this way before. There's never been a former president on trial before.

Of course, Phil, we are waiting for the Supreme Court to act in some way. There is no predicting when they will respond on whether they're not they're going to take this case, whether they're going to address this question. There is a question to trial timing for Trump, but it's the Supreme Court. They can do whatever they want. MATTINGLY: Yeah. But it is very clear, it could happen as soon as today. You know, Katelyn, we constantly talk about kind of the car crash of the politics in the legal here. Trump's got various teams of lawyers working on various criminal and civil cases. It seems like everything's running into one another as we head into 2024.

POLANTZ: It is. Phil, there's so many times where we're talking about the trial schedule for next year for Donald Trump. You know, when he's going to physically need to be in court or be on trial, either in a civil proceeding or a criminal case.

But actually, there is a ton of things that have to happen before trial in all of these cases, the Jim Carroll case, the Supreme Court reviews. What happens with the question of whether he can be on the ballot and the 14th Amendment in various states, like Colorado.

And so now, there is a moment where his lawyers are furiously at work in several different aspects and having to come to conclusions of what they say in court. Is that going to be different than what Trump says on the campaign trail?

Just an example of this. One of the contradictions is that he has to argue that he might not be an official office holder of the U.S. in Colorado, but at the same time, he wants the protection of the official office holder of the presidency in this immunity case. So, a lot of things colliding even before we get to the trial schedule.

MATTINGLY: Katelyn Polantz, we are one on the same on the weeds, my friend. Thank you very much. Now over to Michigan where the Detroit News has obtained the audio of a call from 2020 between Donald Trump and Republicans on a local canvassing board. It sheds new light on how the then president was pressuring minor local officials to help him overturn the election. I spoke with the reporter behind that story this morning.


CRAIG MAUGER, REPORTER, THE DETROIT NEWS: There are investigators at multiple levels looking into the pressure and the effort by Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the election in Michigan. And these recordings seem to fit with a lot of other information that we have already.


MATTINGLY: CNN has not heard the audio or independently verified it. But notably, there have been no denials from the participants. CNN's Marshall Cohen has much more on this story. Marshall, I went back and was reading all of our clips from that time your byline is on all of them and everything since. What else in this report makes this call so critical right now?


MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Phil, it seems like this call maybe was only 10 minutes long but there was a lot in there and a lot of it very damning for Donald Trump, and it could factor into the criminal case that you were just talking about with Katelyn.

So, look, this is November 2020. Trump lost Michigan. He lost it by more than 150,000 votes. But he was trying to convince anyone that he could get on the phone to violate their oath of office and block certification of a lawful election. That's why he was on the phone with these local election board officials.

Let me read for you a few quotes. The Detroit News published from this call. First one here, Donald Trump, "you can't let these people take our country away from us." "Everybody knows Detroit is crooked as hell."

These were the county commissioners in Wayne County, which is home to Detroit and obviously a massive Democratic stronghold. That's where Joe Biden gets all his votes that propelled him to victory in Detroit.

Also, Phil, Ronna McDaniel, she was the RNC chairwoman still as today. She is from Michigan. She was on the call too. Listen to what she told or not listen. I'll read for you what she told the officials. She said, do not sign it referring to the official election certification. Do not sign it. We will get you attorneys and then Trump says we'll take care of that.

OK, wow. Why would you need an attorney if you're not doing anything wrong? They went on to say, Trump in the call, "how could anybody signed something when you have more voters than people? Again, referring to his false claim that the election in Detroit was rigged. Phil?

MATTINGLY: All right, Marshall Cohen, much more on this to come, I'm sure. Thank you. For more, I want to bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Joey, I want to share with you because I think for people who woke up to this morning or read it last night online. They probably thought that sounds really familiar. And if you thought that well, here's another call that happened.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: So, look, all I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


MATTINGLY: That is one piece of a very long call with the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. And that call has been mentioned and is central to too legal cases. The president is now facing. Joey, is this going to play a role in the January 6 investigation and the indictment that Jack -- that the Special Counsel brought?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, the short answer is that it depends. OK. And let me tell you why. First of all, big picture, Phil. It depends upon whether or not the president has immunity from prosecution. And you know, which case it will not play any role because the Supreme Court, if they take the case will apply that the president is acting in his official capacity, and therefore this immunity there will be no prosecution.

However, should that not be the case and the president goes on trial, there are two ways to spin this narrative. Prosecutors will use this as damning evidence. They will use it to suggest that the president was into meddling. The president was involved overly.

The president was engaged in a conspiracy in order to overturn an election that was democratically held where there was no proof of any fraud whatsoever. And he was getting others to do his bidding to hold up the process and was acting in a lawless capacity.

On the other hand, his defense team will say, what are you talking about. The president has an obligation in good faith, believing the election to be stolen to speak to anyone and everyone to see and to make the determination that it was not.

And to the extent that he had a reasonable belief that there were votes that were missed. It was his duty and obligation and his official capacity to make that call and to state his point of view. So those will be the competing options, which one ultimately resonates will be up to a jury, Phil, if we get there.

MATTINGLY: You know, Evan, I think it's important to think back and remember as far as reading all of Marshall's clips and you were involved in those as well. So much happened in that time period that I think a lot of people have started to gloss over it a little bit or maybe think that this was just kind of par for the course.

If you look at the timeline there, these two canvassers voted against certification then after major public pressure, they've changed their votes to vote for it. Then the Trump call happened, which we knew called happened. We didn't know what it was. They denied there was any pressure, doesn't seem like that's the case.

Then they tried to change where they were on it. When it was too late, there was no legal mechanism. When you see all of this and obviously you have been covering the Special Counsel very closely. What do you think they're thinking right now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look. I mean, we don't know whether they have this recording. We know that there's not a rock that they have not turned over as part of this investigation. And I think if they -- certainly if they did not have it, they are certainly making the appropriate calls today to try to obtain it.


Because Phil, it fits into the pattern that they make the case. And as part of the indictment here they talk about how this was part of a conspiracy to pressure state officials to try to overturn the election. And specifically, it goes to the -- to one of the charges which talks about the effort by the former president to deny people the right to have their votes counted. That's where this comes in handy for prosecutors.

And again, if we get -- as Joey points out, if we do get to a trial and if the prosecutors are actually standing in front of a jury, this helps make that case because it's part of the pattern. We know that Trump and his allies were pushing, for example, Pennsylvania -- local officials in Pennsylvania to disregard the entire vote in Pennsylvania.

You know, now have this example in Michigan. You know, of course, chapter and verse from Georgia. And we also know of calls in Arizona. These are the key states. These are the states which swung the presidency. And that's what Donald Trump was trying to do according to what prosecutors are saying.

What most importantly, though, I think, look, we in the United States have gone around the world for years sort of saying that no one is above the law. And the next few weeks really -- we're going to find out whether that's true or not because the Supreme Court is going to tell us whether this is a trial that can go forward based on what Jack Smith has alleged.

MATTINGLY: That's such an important 30,000-foot frame. And Joey to that point. Do we have any idea -- there's not a precedent here, but in terms of what Supreme Court might do?

JACKSON: So, we don't, right, we think that we may know based upon how they ruled before, but I would hasten to add the following. We do know that it's six to three, it's conservative. But remember what the Supreme Court does feel is they established precedent.

And in establishing the precedent, do you really want to establish a precedent that says that the president is immune from prosecution, even when they're acting in a way which could be perceived then is largely believed to be in a non-official capacity to interfere with to pressure and to otherwise have people have a different view of the election, right.

And so, I think what the Supreme Court does is going to be telling but it will be precedent setting. And so, if they look to protect Trump. If it's six to three, you can't just look at Trump, you have to look into the future at who else would benefit from having a wholesale immunity.

And so, to Evan's point, if we're really going to value everyone being equal under the law and the application of the law applying to everyone that I think the Supreme Court has to be careful, but I will not say that simply because they're six to three. They will vote for Trump. I think they will take that, you know, much more seriously than that, and hopefully make a ruling predicated upon the law and the facts.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. It's an important point -- a moment of enormous consequence. Evan, Joey, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

PEREZ: Thank you. MATTINGLY: And as we got a break, stay tuned. We have some breaking news out of the United Nations. We'll fill you in on what's going on next.




MATTINGLY: The breaking news. The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution regarding the war on Gaza. It's been subject to days of intense debate behind the scenes negotiation. CNN's Alex Marquardt has been closely following this story for us. The behind the scenes has been fascinating. They now have an outcome. Walk us through what happened, Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Phil. These have been some fierce negotiations, evidenced by the fact that this vote that we've just seen happen at the United Nations was delayed several times this week. It has now finally happened. This resolution has been passed. 13 countries voting in favor of this humanitarian aid resolution for Gaza. Two countries abstaining, including the United States.

Now, Phil, the big picture here is Washington. The Biden administration wanted to get this resolution to a place where they would not feel like they had to vote, no. Where they would not veto this resolution, a resolution that is designed to help the people of Gaza.

So, the negotiations were tough primarily with the United Arab Emirates. And it was -- the differences were mainly over a monitoring mechanism for the aid going into Gaza. The United States felt what was being proposed by Egypt and the UAE was too cumbersome would slow things down.

So, the negotiations got to a place where the U.S. felt like they could support the resolution. And what appears to have happened, Phil, in terms of why the U.S. abstained, and instead of voting for it is that this resolution as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador who you see there on your screen.

She just said that it fails to condemn what Hamas did. And she said she will never understand why some members of the council will not condemn Hamas for the atrocities on October 7. But she did say that obviously this is a great resolution that will support the people of Gaza. It will help not only get aid into Gaza but will help it be distributed.

But the U.S. today, Phil, not voting in favor. They are abstaining but at the same time that is a success for the U.N. Security Council. They are able to say that this resolution supporting the people of Gaza has now been passed, Phil?

MATTINGLY: Alex, quick take a step back. Your reporting on this has been so informative and helpful for me. And I know talking to administration officials, this isn't the first time that there have been intensive talks related to how the U.N. Security Council was going to operate in the Hamas, Israel war. Practically, what does this do? How does this matter? Why is there so much effort going into it?

MARQUARDT: Well, it's an excellent question. Because at the end of the day, this is not something that Israel necessarily needs to respect. It is as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the ambassador just said. This puts the weight of the U.N. Security Council behind this resolution. And this is something that the U.N. would like to see happen in terms of more aid getting into Gaza in a much more -- in a much smoother way.


The complication here, Phil, was that Egypt I'm told wanted to put in place a mechanism as it's being called to make sure that it was the U.N. that was monitoring this aid going and essentially putting a lot more weight on what the United Nations had to do here.

In terms of efficiencies. I'm told that would have actually slowed things down. It's understandable that Egypt owning less responsibility here. But at the same time, it was not as efficient as the U.S. thought it could be. There have already been all these complications around that Rafah border crossing, and in terms of the number of trucks that can get into Gaza.

So, the U.S. focus here was to make this as efficient as possible. They do feel like they have landed in a place that has made that mechanism less complicated. But of course, the proof will be in the pudding, Phil, in terms of whether that aid actually gets to the people who so desperately need it right now.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. It's such a good point. Alex Marquardt, thank you. And up next. Nikki Haley's tricky balancing act when it comes to a party's presidential frontrunner.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anti-Trumpers think I don't hate him enough. Pro-Trumpers think I don't love him enough. The reality is, I just call it like I see it.





MATTINGLY: As Nikki Haley tries to build a coalition of voters looking for a Trump alternative. She's getting pushed back for not being anti- Trump enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our former president is just a grave danger to the country and to the Christian church. And my concern is that by people not saying that out loud, we're making it seem like it's OK and that it's normal for people to talk like he talks.

HALEY: I don't think it's good for the country for Donald Trump to become president again. I've made that very clear. The problem is what I have faced anti-Trumpers think I don't hate him enough. Pro-Trumpers think I don't love him enough. The reality is I just call it like I see it. It's not personal for me. What is personal is I don't want my kids to grow up like this. I don't like the discourse that we have. I don't like the chaos in the insanity. We feel like we're in.


MATTINGLY: I'll bring in my panel -- political panel on this very important and newsy Friday. The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter, New York Times' Astead Herndon, and Molly Ball of The Wall Street Journal. Guys, welcome. I'm so stoked that so many awesome people are hanging out with me on a Friday afternoon before Christmas.

Amy, I want to share with you because I feel like there were two moments yesterday that really captured everything about the Republican primary. That and then something we'll get to in a minute that Ron DeSantis was talking about. But what you saw in that clip with Nikki Haley is kind of the question of the primary, which is, can you walk that line and beat the frontrunner?

AMY WALTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: That's exactly right. I mean this has been the challenge for every non-Trump candidate. Since the beginning that even if you make the argument that Trump's core support isn't maybe as deep or as big as it looks in the polls. The reality is you've got to be able to put together two coalitions in order -- in a one-on-one contest in order to beat him.

And those coalitions are very different. As Nikki Haley pointed out, they're anti-Trumpers people who are really committed to turning the page. They do not want Donald Trump as the nominee. And those who say, you know, I liked Donald Trump. I'll probably vote for Donald Trump, but I'm willing to look around. I must sometimes Trump voter.

And finding the issues that bring them together has been really challenging. Ron DeSantis failed at being able to do that. The candidates who've dropped out, obviously failed to do that. Nikki Haley is trying to make that balance.

And the real challenge for her when you look at the polling, is she is really still consolidating more of the anti-Trump vote than the sometimes Trump vote. And we're going to see, obviously, we've got Iowa, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire has a lot of those anti-Trump voters, have a lot of those voters who are part of the coalition of people who are more friendly to a Haley candidacy. But get outside of New Hampshire and those type of voters, there are fewer and fewer of them as we get into South Carolina and then Super Tuesday. MATTINGLY: Yeah. It's such a good point. Molly, I want to zero in on New Hampshire in a moment. But Amy mentioned that Ron DeSantis has failed to kind of do what he set out to do to some degree. If you want to know how much he has failed in that sense. You look at the support, show with a trendline.

We've got to pull it up here about where DeSantis was earlier in the year, 33 percent all the way down to December where he's at 11 percent. The numbers don't lie. And he made the point in an interview yesterday that part of the issue that he's been dealing with is all of the oxygen has been sucked out of the room by 91 charges against the frontrunner here. And that comes at the same time the Trump and legal news has rocketed back to the forefront of things with just three plus weeks till the caucuses.

MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, sure. I mean, it was interesting in that analysis by Ron DeSantis that he didn't mention that he's defended Trump on all these charges. So, if Trump has gained strength from all of the charges against him.

In large part, it's because the candidates who are ostensibly running against him have not used that as an occasion to make the case that they are disqualifying whether they represent some kind of reason that he might be a risky bet for the nomination.