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Inside Politics

Haley Campaign Announces $24 Million Haul In Q4; Haley On Trump: "When People Get Desperate They Lie"; DeSantis: "I Don't Think Donald Trump Can Win An Election"; New Christie Super PAC Ad Slams Rivals As "Trump Sycophants"; Speaker Johnson Leads 60+ House Republicans To Southern Border; Biden: Federal Govt Needs More Funding To Address Border Crisis; Current Surge In Migration Outpaces Past Migration Spikes; House Republicans Look To Put Biden On Defense With Border Visit; Poll: Biden Approval On Immigration Issues Just 26 Percent. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 03, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on INSIDE POLITICS, temper tantrums. That's what Nikki Haley says we're seeing from Donald Trump. She's calling him a liar and slamming him for avoiding the CNN Iowa debate, as her campaign tries to cast the GOP nomination as a two-person race with the former president.

Plus, down by the border. Speaker Mike Johnson and dozens of House Republicans are taking their immigration fight directly to the spot where thousands of migrants have been arriving every day and they're blaming President Biden for the surge. Now they're also opening impeachment proceedings against his homeland security secretary.

And hitting the trail. President Biden will use the insurrection anniversary this weekend to kick off his 2024 campaign push, leaning in on his argument that the former president is a danger to democracy.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at INSIDE POLITICS.

First up, the 2024 race. You are looking at live pictures of Kingston, New Hampshire where Nikki Haley is about to speak. Just 12 days to go before votes are cast in Iowa, GOP candidates are in early contests states pushing for every last vote.

They can find CNN is all over the trail with those candidates. Eva McKend is following Nikki Haley in New Hampshire. Jeff Zeleny is with Ron DeSantis in Iowa. I want to start with Eva. Eva, Nikki Haley's campaign announced a pretty big fundraising haul.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: They did, Dana. Her town hall, her first one of the day just about to get underway here. Behind me $24 million in the last quarter that -- in the latest quarter rather, that's up from $11 million in the last quarter.

So that really tells you that she continues to have some momentum in this contest that perhaps some of the folks that exited the race and some of those donors have moved over to her. And this seems to be an illustration of that.

Something that we noticed on the campaign trail is she does seem to be confronting former President Donald Trump more directly, more forcefully. That's because a Super PAC associated with Trump is hitting Haley on her position on the gas tax back from when she was governor of South Carolina. Where she says she supports no such thing and it's sounding off on this. Take a listen?


NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I see the commercials that you see. And I've noticed that President Trump has given me some attention. And I appreciate that because that means he sees what we're seeing. But in his commercials and in his temper tantrums, every single thing that he said has been a lie. Every single one. I looked for some grain of truth, every single one. So, if he's going to lie about me --


MCKEND: So, Haley has two more town halls after this one. This afternoon she'll be joined by Governor Sununu. Sununu telling New Hampshire voters last night that this is crunch time and really imploring them to support her in the first in the nation primary. Listen, Chris Christie has a strong base of support here in New Hampshire as well. He has events in the state Thursday and Friday. Dana?

BASH: Thanks, Eva. We'll talk a little bit more about the Christie dynamic there in a bid. I want to first go to Jeff Zeleny in Iowa, where Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is Chris crossing the state today. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Dana, Governor DeSantis just finished the first of four stops. So, we're making in Iowa today, trying to make the case to voters that they can change the dynamic of this Republican presidential campaign and he was starting to stop here in Waukee, in the critical Dallas County suburbs of Des Moines. Making the case to voters here, visiting once again that he should be the Trump alternative.

But there was a very interesting exchange for one voter who says that he does not believe Governor DeSantis has been strong enough -- tough enough against Donald Trump. DeSantis had this to say.



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), 2024 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think Donald Trump ultimately can win an election. There just going to be so many voters that are activated to come out and vote against him. That it's not even related to policy. It's related to other things. And we've seen it on the ballot. How many times now? 2018, 2020, '21, '22 most recently in '23 and the whole election will end up being a referendum on his behavior. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So even though the race for second place is front and center right now between DeSantis and Nikki Haley. There is still an electability argument also overlaid on top of that. Talking to many voters. They do have questions about the former president. What is his legal circumstances going to be? Should he become the nominee?

So, talking to many voters there are still undecided voters are trying to decide between Haley, DeSantis perhaps even Vivek Ramaswamy. So, these final 12 days are very critical in terms of people finally tuning into this race in the new year. But Eva was talking about the $24 million that Nikki Haley raised.

Dana, you can see the fruits of that labor on television ads here. So, she is ending something in a remarkable way, really with more money than Ron DeSantis. He is very much trimmed down his campaign ads almost to nothing. So that is certainly been a crescendo from Haley really matching a decrescendo from a DeSantis here in the final days of this race that few people would have predicted a year ago. Dana?

BASH: Yeah. I was just thinking the same thing. I mean, think about how much money Ron DeSantis had at the beginning of his race. Before I let you go, we have to talk about the man who is still far away the frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire. But let's stick with Iowa right now where you are. Former President Donald Trump has a new message today for his base. Jeff?

ZELENY: Look, he is looking to get his supporters out. I mean, one concern that the Trump advisors have had for several weeks is complacency. So his message to the base is, look, you have to come out and vote. This is where we can close down the campaign rather than begin it. This is where we can close it, Dana.

Dana, one thing that is remarkable, certainly different from eight years ago when he was running for the first time. The Trump campaign has an organized ground game underway. They know what the caucus organization is. And what that is, is organizing a series of meetings across the state at the same time on Monday night, January 15. So, his messages -- he needs their votes complacency is their biggest worry. Dana?

BASH: That sure is. Thank you so much for that, Jeff. Appreciate it. Let's talk to our panel with our excellent reporters here. CNN's David Chalian, Jackie Kucinich edge of The Daily Beast and CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. Thank you so much, one and all for being here.

So, let's just start with what we're seeing today. David Chalian, you heard our reporters, Eva and Jeff on the trail. What do you -- sort of give us a David Chalian 30,000-foot view of the snapshot of the race at this point?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's just so odd to me that we are in this place what are we now. 12 days to go to the Iowa caucuses. And the bulk of our conversation is about a race for second place. And I keep wondering to myself, well, what do you get in the nomination race if you come in second? You get nothing, right -- I mean, at the end of the day.

So, it's just an odd configuration given what we believe is Donald Trump's ultimate dominance here. And to A, I think we are eager to get voters to weigh in here to sort of confirm whether he is that dominant or not. But B, I do think what Jeff was just talking about the diminished money for DeSantis. And the increase in advertising for Haley and the momentum that we've been seeing.

I do wonder how much margins will matter here at the end of the day. Because if Ron DeSantis ends up coming a lot closer to Donald Trump in Iowa than people expect right now, you could imagine that being fuel for some donors to get back in the game for him and keep him alive a little bit longer. And so, I think we're now in a waiting game to see what these margins are more than anything else.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. I think that's right, David. And but usually, I mean, I feel like in years past there, you've seen been able to see the rise, right? If someone particularly -- in Iowa you're starting to -- you start to feel momentum even you're there, just not seeing that in the same way that we've seen in years past.

Now, Donald Trump kind of broke the mold with how these contests go. So, you know perhaps, that's happening again in another way because, you know, these both New Hampshire and Iowa do love surprises. However, personally 30 points flat.

BASH: For you -- I have to correct something. You've worked for the Boston Globe?

KUCINICH: I do. I do.

BASH: Yeah, yeah. So, I was in a way back machine in my head. And now we're back to 2024 younger (Ph) now. We all are. That's how it works. Perfect. Go ahead, Priscilla.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I was just going to say that the Biden campaign is looking at it the same way. I mean, they had a call with reporters just last night. And the entirety of the call was about Donald Trump going after him and the threat that he poses to American democracy.


It wasn't until they were asked about the other candidates in the Republican race that they went on to say, well it's too little too late for them. They've embraced Trump's policies rhetoric message anyway. So, it's all the same.

So, looking at it from the Biden campaign lens, this is still just the run for a second place. They are all in the same bucket. Even if we're hearing them on the campaign trail, try to create some sort of distinction.

BASH: And you still have in New Hampshire, Chris Christie, pounding away at the notion that nobody in this race is going to get anywhere close to Donald Trump unless you hit Donald Trump harder and more directly, not around the margins, but on the issue that he says matters the most, which is the question of democracy. He has a new ad, both on TV and on radio on these issues. Let's listen.


I should say that was a Christi Super PAC.

CHALIAN: Exactly, yeah. His Super PAC is clearly aligned with the candidates' message day in and day out on the show. It is a trick because you hear Haley and DeSantis when they do amp up their contrast with Trump, but it's on things like the debt during his tenure as president, or even DeSantis was doing it on electability. But it's not on this notion of his legal peril and his potential threat to American democracy.

I shouldn't even say potential -- I mean, potential because if he gets elected. Donald Trump, he should just -- he has promised part of his pledge is to govern in undemocratic ways is to use the government to go after political enemies. That's not conjecture. That's Donald Trump's promise to voters.

BASH: And you know, Chris Christie, I interviewed him in New Jersey. Now I guess it was a couple of years ago, and he said he still thought Donald Trump was a better president again than Joe Biden. Now he's put out a press release, echoing what he said on television that he's not going to vote for Donald Trump if Donald Trump is the nominee, which is way further than anybody else has got. But Jackie, what I --

CHALIAN: It also breaks the pledge that he made in term of support to get on the debate stage with our answers.

BASH: Because now they're older (Ph).

CHALIAN: Exactly.

BASH: That's a really good point. I didn't knew, we'll think of that. One of the things that has been fascinating to me has been the sort of Chris versus Chris, and Chris Sununu and Chris Christie who genuinely are friends. We're friends, hopefully, for their sake, they will be after this is all set it done, no matter how it ends.

But Chris Christie was clearly not happy that Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire was backing Nikki Haley said on Sunday with me that effectively that Chris Christie should get out of the race. Let's listen to what both of those men said on television this morning.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris Sununu, as you'll recall, was one of the most vocal Donald Trump critics in this country. The shame of this is that Chris has now abandoned his principles in order to try to, you know, get himself some political favor inside of his own state. GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): A lot of folks are understanding Chris has an opportunity to be kind of the hero here, not just bow gracefully but help consolidate this race. Help to do the right thing. Help to deliver Trump that loss in New Hampshire that we all know is very possible.


KUCINICH: You want a friend in politics, get a dog. But no, no, I think -- I mean, it's also cool to just talking about is that, you know, Haley really does seem to have some momentum in New Hampshire. Now, does the math work if Christie does drop out for Haley? I don't know that it does.

I mean, all of his supporters would have to go for Haley, which is a hypothetical. However, I mean, I'm sure if you're Chris Sununu that couldn't hurt. And Christie, based on the Super PAC ad, doesn't seem to be going anywhere but he does have a decision to make.

BASH: He also has some money to spend.


CHALIAN: Yeah. He does have some money spent as the Super PAC. I don't know it's going to spend -- he has enough to spend all the way to the convention as you promised to stay in.

BASH: Yeah. Before we leave this conversation, there's something that really was striking. Just before we came on the air, Nikki Haley went on Fox, which she does quite frequently. And she went on with Harris Faulkner, who is an African American host, conservative host.

And Harris really pushed her again on the whole slavery thing that happened last week, effectively saying, I know you've been asked about it, but you haven't been asked about it by me. And it got kind of contentious. Let's listen to part of it.


HALEY: But Harris, really -- the media is the only one that has talked about this issue.


HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: No, that's actually not true. On a re-ask what would you have me say about slavery was your answer. Clearly, you have plenty to say about slavery.

HALEY: 150 town halls I've done Harris. And so, one question, I should have said slavery. I didn't do it. I immediately the very next day came out and said, I was wrong. I'll do that. We're moving on.


BASH: Now, this is a platform of conservative media, which is a place that Nikki Haley goes a lot, so does Ron DeSantis and frankly, most of the other Republican candidates. But I do find it interesting that that this was a week-old story, and she wanted to bring it up, and you wonder bring it up for a reason.

ALVAREZ: And that she's still doing cleanup. I mean, this is the big question is whether these slip ups and we talked about this last week too, because in the grand scheme of things, what kind of rhetoric have we talked about when it comes to the former president versus what we're hearing from Haley on slavery. It does matter.

And I think that was the question going into this week is, is that just a new cycle that ended and that she could sort of move on as we head into the primaries? And clearly the answer is no. And there's also room there because again, this came up too in that call with campaign officials last night with the Biden campaign, is them using this type of example to note that she is not far from the former president, even if their rhetoric is different.

One more extreme than the other, however you want to describe it. There is still just enough alignment there for them to put everyone together and unite the Republicans in just that one category that can't define the civil war for what it was.

BASH: OK. Everybody standby. Up next. Disorder at the border. The new House speaker is taking dozens of Republicans there today to highlight the unprecedented number of illegal crossings. We're live on the ground in Texas after a quick break.




BASH: Few issues have bedeviled the Biden administration like immigration and the unprecedented number of migrants crossing illegally from Mexico. Today, House Speaker Mike Johnson more than 60 House Republicans are at the southern border to try to draw attention to the issue.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Eagle Pass, Texas waiting for the members of Congress to come there. What are you hearing about what to expect?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this contingency of Republican House lawmakers will be here in several hours. They're expected to get a tour of the area here along the Rio Grande from the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety as we've documented over the course of the last year and a half or so.

Texas state officials very much in a fight with the Biden administration over how to best handle the migration crisis here along the U.S. southern border. And what these lawmakers are going to find is just the extent to which the infrastructure here along the river has been built up over the last year.

Several miles of razor wire, steel shipping containers trying to block access to the Texas side of the border here. But despite all of that in the thousands of federal, state and local law officers that are also in the area. This area has still seen some of the largest numbers of illegal crossings over the last year.

And in the last month in December, record levels of illegal crossings all along the U.S. southern border more than 225,000 illegal crossings. That is a number we have not seen in 20 years. But the situation has also changed rather dramatically in the last few days, especially after Christmas with several high-level members of the Biden administration traveled to Mexico and met with the Mexican president.

We have seen a kind of a downturn in the number of people crossing here in the Eagle Pass area. Anecdotally, we spoke with the head of a migrant shelter on the other side of the river, Dana, who said that in the last few days, checkpoints that Mexican immigration officials used to control the movement of migrants on the Mexican side has become much more robust in recent days.

And they thought that perhaps that had something to do with the number of migrants being able to reach the Texas side of the border. But everybody here in Eagle Pass that we've spoken with say, you're also expecting that migration flows ebb and flow and that they expect in the coming weeks, the number of people crossing here illegally could change dramatically as well.

But right now, those lawmakers expected to spend several hours on the ground here in Eagle Pass. And we're hearing from a lot of those lawmakers who clearly wants to continue to put more and more pressure on the Biden administration when it comes to immigration reform.

BASH: Yeah, no question about it. And the problem for the Biden administration is that the migrant pattern that it's been flowing much more than Epping recently. That is -- that's the challenge. And thank you so much for that reporting. I really appreciate it.

Our reporters are back with us. And Priscilla, you talk to Biden officials all day long every day. They are very well aware of how big of a problem, first and foremost, just the substance of what we're talking about. Unless you set the table, you've heard Ed, talk about December.

We don't have the official numbers yet, but it looks like they are the highest on record, the number of migrants coming from the Mexican border. Just in perspective, let's look at what we've seen in the past. 2014 thought it was pretty high then, not even 500,000, 2019 not even a million, 2023 2.6 million.

ALVAREZ: Here's what the Biden administration is up against record migration across the western hemisphere. They're right on that point. After the Coronavirus pandemic, many thousands of people started moving north because their economies had downturn after the pandemic.

But I haven't covered this for a while but also since the beginning of the Biden administration, they never were able to quite dig out of the unaccompanied children surge of 2021. The president came in with this big ambitious immigration agenda. And boom, right away. We saw a surge at the border, and they had to scramble to respond to it.

After those few months, they never were able to quite seize the message on the border anymore. And then instead there were sort of these constant surges that kept coming up and kept putting them in this rapid response mode. And they haven't really been able to come out of that time.


And so, in all of that Republicans have been able to seize on it. Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to send migrants to Democratic led cities. And frankly, it kind of worked because all of those cities are slamming the White House. And it has started to almost change.

And I'm curious to hear David's thoughts on this. The Democratic Party's position on immigration, this is not the same party that it was in 2021. When it comes to the issue, they have started to move in a more moderate direction.

BASH: I want you to jump in on that. But I want our viewers to get a sense of what you already know, which is how hurtful this is politically to the Biden administration. If you just look at his approval on several issues. Immigration, I mean, barely a quarter of people responding said that they approve of him on immigration.

CHALIAN: It's consistently at the bottom of his issue set. And it has been since nearly the beginning of the administration as Priscilla was saying. I mean, I totally agree with you about Abbott. I think it's one of pure politics here. We're going to move the humanity of this issue to the side for just one moment.

But like, one of the most politically savvy things in quite some time to apply new kinds of political pressure to a Democratic president, having these Democratic mayors and these Democratic cities be part of that pressure effort. That's a new dynamic in the equation.

And you see, the Biden administration hasn't been able to dig out of this. Part of that is because the Democratic Party is really split on these issues in many ways. So, you have sort of a activist base inside the party that is adamant, not wanting to see what they would consider harmful changes to this process.

And you have many in the party, perhaps more aligned with Biden of what some kind of compromise action that he would like to get done on this to try and improve some of those border security numbers. And that conflict within the Democratic Party for an issue that unifies Republicans as a political equation, you could see why Republicans are doing what they're doing today.

ALVAREZ: But that's also in the aftermath of the former president because Donald Trump's policies were viewed as so extreme and so controversial that Democrats started moving in the same direction. We absolutely can't do that. It was no longer Obama's Democratic Party on immigration. And then the president finally comes in. And this is like the issue that he is grappling in that. BASH: And Republicans are trying to hold the homeland security secretary accountable to the point where they are going to -- looks like they're going to move to impeach him. Let's listen to what the Homeland Secretary Mayorkas said on CNN about that this morning.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have taken actions already to build lawful pathways, to deliver consequences and do what we can. We've promulgated regulations to do what we can within the confines of the law. But fundamentally, the law is -- the laws themselves must change. And this is something about which everyone agrees.


BASH: Stop me, it's the law.


BASH: But he's not wrong. Congress has been stuck on this issue of fundamental reform for almost two decades.

KUCINICH: And even the efforts that are currently underway now, I mean none of this is happening in a vacuum. You have, you know, the Senate -- senators from Democrats and Republicans that are trying to get to a place where they can agree on the border.

But then you have the House who say that their hardline immigration policies are their Hill to die on. So, it doesn't really look like this is going that far -- that far now, even when it seems like they're kind of moving stuff around, it looks like progress is being made.

I wanted to make one other point about the Biden coalition. The members that are -- the people that are most worried about Biden going too far to make compromises on the border are the same -- some of the same people who are not happy with his climate policies, who are not happy with student loans. So, these are -- this is a coalition that is, it's very in an election year, very tenuous.

BASH: You mentioned the -- you were sort of alluding to the fact that there are very active negotiations going on right now on Capitol Hill, not just about border security but about trying to change some of the policies and Democrats are definitely playing ball with that. It divides Democrats. But as you alluded to, Jackie, some Republicans are not thrilled about GOP leaders, negotiating with Democrats. Listen to Jim Jordan.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Well, we need the legislation we passed several months ago that would fix the problem, but if they're not going to do that, then just do one sentence. One sentence change. That sentence is real simple. No money can be used to process or release into the country any new migrants. The question is, do Republicans have the will to fight for that one simple sentence, which says we're going to fix this problem.