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Inside Politics

Trump Campaign, Super PAC Spending $4.5M On New Anti-Haley Ads; Haley Ad Shows Support From MAGA Wing Of GOP; Trump Attorney: Trump Supreme Court Nominees Will Come Through In Ballot Access Question; Soon: Biden To Deliver Major Speech On "Democracy & Freedom"; Biden Puts Defense Of Democracy At Center Of Reelection Bid; Wash Post Poll: 34 Percent Of Republicans Falsely Believe FBI Organized And Encouraged Jan. 6 Insurrection; Former Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn Running For Congress. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 05, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump will spend the next two days campaigning in Iowa as he promises a big win in the state that kicks off the Republican nominating contests. He's holding four rallies there today and tomorrow after phoning it in last night, literally.

His son Eric put him on speakerphone as an Iowa event. It went on to deliver a message to his supporters.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We love you. I'm going to be coming out there on Friday. I'm going to be there Friday and Saturday. Then I'm coming back the following week. And I'm going to caucus probably in Des Moines. I'll be doing caucus with you.

We're going to work it and we can't take any chances. And everybody has to get out because we don't want to sit back and rely on the polls.


BASH: The panel is back with me. I mean, that last part really says it all.


BASH: We got to get out. We got to go and caucus.

MITCHELL: Absolutely. And I think Donald Trump is right in the way he's playing this and that's the problem with Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Yes, they're making really interesting new closing arguments, trying to do the best thing they can to get in the game with Trump. But Trump's got a closing argument of his own, and he's coming from the position as the frontrunner. So he's able. He already has an enthusiastic base. He already has folks who, of course, in Iowa, especially the evangelical voters, they're ready to support him. And now he's coming in with his own closing argument to say, hey, stick with me, stick with me through caucuses.

He's -- I mean, the fact that he's saying I'm going to be there caucusing with you, he's like, come on, let's get this thing done.

BASH: Yes, no question. OK. So that is in Iowa, which obviously is the first ballgame that we're going to see in 10 days. He has an ad running there. His team does, and it's actually already kind of looking ahead to the general pitting Joe Biden on the economy in New Hampshire.

Interesting that there is an ad, his campaign is running an ad that goes against not just Joe Biden, but Nikki Haley.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haley and Biden oppose Trump's border wall. Confirm warnings of terrorists sneaking in through our southern border. Yet Haley joined Biden in opposing Trump's visitor ban from terrorist nations. Haley's weakness puts us in grave danger.


BASH: So that's one ad. And just to give a little bit of context, the Trump campaign and his Super PAC have spent $4.5 million in New Hampshire just going after Nikki Haley. That says a lot about the concern they have about Nikki Haley's rise.


MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Like, period. Full stop. There's really no other way to read that. And not only -- if he blunts her in New Hampshire, he's blocked that momentum and it's hard to see where she picks it back up. If he fails to, he may create an opening for himself. That creates a problem where there wasn't one.

So if you're going to spend the money in a primary, that's where you would spend it and that's how you would spend it on. It doesn't seem surprising to me at all. Interesting to see how she will play it. She's had a couple of totally unforced errors, you know, of her own doing. And I just -- I think that'll be a really important test for her.

BASH: Well, it is that kind of the line that she's trying to walk that we were talking about earlier, which is trying to appeal to people even -- and it's certainly true in New Hampshire, not Democrats, but independents and trying to get in Iowa, people who are not traditional Republican caucus voters to go out and get her.

But she also is very much trying to say to the Trump wing of the party, I'm still one of you. And this new ad that she's got running in New Hampshire with General Don Bolduc, who was the Republican Senate candidate, very much in the mold of Donald Trump, even though he didn't fully get endorsed by Donald Trump. Listen to what he says in this new ad.


DON BOLDUC, BRIGADIER GENERAL (RET.): I'm General Don Bolduc. Look, I'm MAGA all the way. I've always been America first, but this time I'm for Nikki Haley for president. With Trump, there's too many distractions. It's too much risk of losing. Nikki's a strong conservative. She'll take Joe Biden to the clink.


BASH: Take Joe Biden to the clink. This is kind of on the back story here, what's going on along with this kind of new ad is Don Junior, Steve Bannon, others in Donald Trump's actual orbit are very, very vocally warning against Nikki Haley in any respect, not just for president, obviously, but the notion of her being on the ticket with Donald Trump.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. And I was just watching that ad and I was contrasting end of my head. If you're talking about the different sort of voters that she's trying to appeal to. So she has that endorsement who is a Trumpy guy in Don Bolduc.

And then you have another key New Hampshire Republican endorsement, John Sununu, who is certainly not a Trump guy --

BASH: Chris.

MIN KIM: Sorry, Chris Sununu. Yikes.

BASH: It's OK. There's a lot of them up there.

MIN KIM: So you just -- in those two endorsements alone from New Hampshire Republicans, you do see that line that she's trying to straddle and the broad appeal that she's trying to give to New Hampshire Republican voters.

MITCHELL: And I think, again, that's a great strategy. I don't know if that's a Republican primary strategy that will work. Because, again -- and New Hampshire is a different type of primary. So maybe that's good for New Hampshire. But generally speaking, Republican voters have told us time and time again that their party is leaning further to the right.

They're not -- they haven't, in a lot of states, been open to the more centrist candidates that electability in a general election doesn't --

BASH: Yes.

MITCHELL: -- always translate in a Republican primary. But again, New Hampshire is a different kind of state with a different kind of primary. So maybe that will help her build a coalition. BASH: But it's also very Trumpy when it comes to the Republican base. We would be remiss in talking about Donald Trump if we didn't talk about Donald Trump, the client, Donald Trump, the person who is -- has been indicted more than 90 times on various counts.

And I said that, of course, because as we get closer to the caucuses, to the primaries, he's going to peel off the trail, probably a fair amount to be in courtrooms, including next week he'll be here in D.C. at the appellate court at a hearing there. I want to play something that one of his lawyers, Alina Habba, said on Fox yesterday. And it's about what they hope that the Supreme Court does on the idea of whether or not he should be subject to the kinds of laws that other people who weren't president are.


ALINA HABBA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think it should be a slam dunk in the Supreme Court. I have faith in them. You know, people like Kavanaugh who the president fought for, who the president went through how to get into place, he'll step up, those people will step up not because they're pro-Trump, but because they're pro-law.


BASH: If I'm Brett Kavanaugh, I'm like, OK. Well, you just put me in a box and not that it matters, they are lifetime appointments, but -- so it's that. It's the notion of immunity.



BASH: And then of course, the question of whether or not he can be kicked off the ballot in Colorado and Maine and anywhere else.

TALEV: Well, first of all, I think it's a pretty dangerous game to be predicting what nominees who were appointed by someone are going to do. That just seems like it's courting trouble. But having said that, I think these are two fundamentally different questions.

Number one, does the sort of Maine approach or Colorado approach, does that make it through the court? But the other is the question, the broader question of presidential immunity. Can someone who ever served as president ever be held accountable for something they did in the waning days of their presidency or afterwards?

And I think, to me, the way the court thinks about one question is going to be completely different than the way it thinks about the other. And legal scholar after legal scholar has said, if every president is immunized forever against anything they ever do because they were president, it would invite like the worst presidents, you know.

Basically in the future of the United States because people would run to basically try to immunize themselves for everything. So I think the court is -- it has a ton of really complicated stuff to figure out but predicting what people who Trump nominated are going to do and conflating what happens in some of these individual states with the broader --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- executive power question, I think, is really problematic.

BASH: I took that as even more than a prediction, didn't you? I mean, this is Trump's lawyer.


BASH: I mean, like, remember who brung you to the dance, Brett Kavanaugh? That's the way I took it.

TALEV: Well, one time appointment. I don't think he needs to remember anything.

BASH: Yes. Well, that's very, very true.

Everybody stand by. We want to remind you that there is a CNN Republican presidential debate. It's set for next Wednesday night. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are going to face off at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be moderating along with my colleague Jake Tapper.

Tomorrow does mark three years since the attack on the United States Capitol. Stunningly, a quarter of Americans think January 6th might have been an inside job. Next, we're going to speak to a historian about that fateful day, and the right way for President Biden to talk about it.



BASH: A sacred cause. That's how President Biden is going to describe the fight to preserve democracy in his first campaign event of the year later this afternoon. He prepared for the big speech by sitting down for lunch earlier this week with a small group of historians. And my next guest was one of them.

Princeton Professor Sean Wilentz joins me now. Thank you so much for being here. I know that you can't disclose specifics of what the president said, which I completely understand and respect. But can you just describe the overall tone of the conversation and kind of why you were there and what he was hoping to achieve?

SEAN WILENTZ, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Right. Well, great to be with you, Dana. We were talking about American history. We were talking about the situation we're in now and what the past has to, which light it has to shed on the present. You know, it's an extraordinary time. It's been that way for a while, a long time.

In fact, the president got into the race in the first place back in 2019, precisely because things -- because of Charlottesville and because of things that were happening there and it. Things haven't really changed very much, and if anything, they've only gotten worse.

So, the president, who's a student of history, really wanted to get our views of how, you know, how we're to look upon the current situation in a historical perspective, and that's what we did.

BASH: Well, on that, you're obviously, a very good person to talk to about that, because you're not just a historian, you have a large body of work focused on American democracy, specifically looking at that. And I want to ask you about that, looking ahead to the speech this afternoon about why it is so important to Joe Biden and also the location, Valley Forge.

I was talking to somebody in the Biden orbit earlier today, who noted that he will lean heavily into the idea that George Washington, not General Washington, but President Washington willingly gave up the presidency with a not so subtle contrast to his predecessor, who did not.

WILENTZ: Yes. In terms of the succession of power, there were those who wanted to make, you know, General Washington, President Washington, what kind of king and he refused to do that. The American Revolution was fought against monarchy or fought against that system of government. I think that he's choosing Valley Forge, though, that's a military site.

BASH: Sure.

WILENTZ: That's a site when the spirits of the American Revolution at a low, it didn't seem as if the army was going to hold together. You know, they were stuck out there in the snows of Pennsylvania in that winter, and things were not looking good. So it was a low point. At which, in fact, the American cause under Washington rallied.

And I think he's chosen that spot, particularly with that in mind, you know, that we're at a crisis now. We've been in a crisis for a while, but now is a very difficult moment. So I think that to the extent that he's going to be, you know, calling upon that symbolism, it's as much to rally people behind the American ideal, behind the, the, you know, the democratic ideal as much as anything else. Yes.

BASH: That's really interesting. That makes sense. I want to get your take on a really staggering statistic. There's a new Washington Post and University of Maryland poll that shows 34 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of Republicans, so a third of Republicans, believe the conspiracy theory that FBI operatives organized and encouraged the January 6th attack.

I should also say that 30 percent of Independents and 13 percent of Democrats also believe that. Can you put this into historical context and, you know, history is may be hard to do because in the current climate, the media is so fractured and there are so many different ways to get information that a lot of the people probably who said that are only consuming information from outlets that are feeding them these conspiracy theories.

[12:50:23] WILENTZ: I think you've had exactly the right point, Dana. I mean, conspiracy theories are as American as apple pie. It's been part of American politics from the very beginning. But, you know, now we have the possibility of being unable to disprove them. You know, it's very difficult because people are fed, constantly fed these ideas that, you know, they make an uncertain world look clear, look, you know, look plausible.

You know, things are not messy thing -- things are messy, things are not to get -- well, conspiracies give you someone to blame. And with the Trump campaign, I mean, Trump has taken it to a whole different level. I mean, we've had conspiracies -- just thinking about the conspiracies of the 1930s, of the 1950s during the McCarthy era, and they were out there and they had their day, but they were eventually undone.

But Joe McCarthy didn't have social media. Joe McCarthy didn't have Truth Social. He didn't have the kinds of things that, you know, former President Trump has at his disposal to continually feed these ideas. So it doesn't surprise me, actually, that that larger percentage of the Republican people themselves described Republicans believe that.

BASH: Yes.

WILENTZ: I mean, in fact, I -- the Republican Party -- I don't think the Republican Party actually exists anymore in the way that I was, as a historian, I've looked at it. I mean, it's now something else. It's turned into something else.

BASH: Yes.

WILENTZ: This happens in American history. Parties come, parties go. In the 1850s, the Whig Party disappeared, a new party came along. Well, I think we've seen some of that now, that the Republican Party, it's not just that it's not your grandfather's Republican Party, it's not the Republican Party --

BASH: Yes.

WILENTZ: -- it's something else.

BASH: No. Yes, yes. I mean, that was the party of Lincoln and the Democrats are the ones who wanted to keep slavery in the South. Very different times for sure.

Thank you so much. I hope you come back soon. Appreciate it.

WILENTZ: My pleasure. See you again.

BASH: Thank you.

Up next, a hero of January 6th wants to return to the Capitol in a very different role, a member of Congress.


BASH: One of the most outspoken figures in the aftermath of January 6th, former Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn hopes to return to work in the building with a new job title, U.S. Congressman. Dunn was on duty during the attack and later testified before the House January 6th Committee. He says former President Trump's role in the Capitol riot inspired him to run.

He told CNN, quote, "I want to do everything in my power that I can to fight back against him."

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