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Trump Expected To Spend Two Days This Week In Court; Haley Cancels Morning Event As Snowstorm Heads To Iowa; Crunch Time For GOP Contenders Trying To Catch Trump; Trump Ramps Up Attacks On Haley Ahead Of First Contests; DeSantis: Trump Is "Promising" Same Things He "Promised In '16"; Trump On Civil War: It "Could Have Been Negotiated"; Trump On Biden: "Did You See Him Stuttering"; Trump: Treatment Of Jan 6 Rioters "Very Unfair". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 08, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the final week. Republican presidential candidates begin the seven-day sprint to the Iowa caucuses. Trump, DeSantis, Haley, they all spent the weekend in the Hawkeye State. Hammering each other and making their closing arguments in a state that could make or break all of their campaigns.

Plus, fighting hate and extremism. That's President Biden's focus today when he speaks moments from now at the same South Carolina church where a white supremacist shot and killed nine black parishioners nearly a decade ago. We're going to bring that to you live.

And under scrutiny. The secretary of Defense is still in the hospital as Washington demands answers. Why did he and his staff wait days to tell the White House that a critical member of the chain of command was in the ICU?

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

First, breaking news Donald Trump is asking a judge to throw out the election subversion case against him in Georgia. The former president's legal team just filed a motion claiming presidential immunity just like they have in other cases.

CNN's Paula Reid has been going through the court filings. Paula, what's his reasoning for wanting immunity in this particular case?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Dana, this is all very familiar. The former president's lawyers arguing that presidential immunity should protect him from the sprawling Rico case down in Georgia. And that argument might sound familiar because it is the exact same argument, they made in his federal election subversion case.

And this question of presidential immunity. This is going to be the focus of a much-anticipated oral argument tomorrow before the D.C. Court of Appeals. Trump's even expected to attend. Now, in today's state filing, they're making many of the same arguments they've made in the past.

They argue that in and around January 6, Trump was acting in his official capacity as president. They argue that conversations he had with state officials about election proceedings that that's all part of his official duties as president and of course, they argue that because it was part of his official duties as president that he should be protected under presidential immunity.

These are the same arguments they've made before in the federal case, but so far, the courts have not seen it this way. This argument was dismissed at the district trial level here in Washington D.C. His former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has also argued similar issues. And a Court of Appeals dismissed the idea that election related activities that those are really part of his official federal duties.

Now this question about immunity the extent to which the former president has any protections for his actions around January 6. Dana, this is a question that could ultimately end up with the Supreme Court. Special Counsel Jack Smith has already asked the High Court ones to just weigh in and settle this once and for all.

They declined to do that, instead of letting oral arguments go ahead in the Court of Appeals, whatever happens after these oral arguments or the Georgia case. It is highly likely that the justices will again be asked to weigh in on this. It's unclear if they're going to want to weigh in here.

But one thing that is for sure is that by litigating this at the federal and state level, the former president has been at least successful in delaying his federal case and could be successful in delaying the state case as well.

BASH: Yeah. I mean, obviously, he would like immunity. But the short- term goal is to delay, delay, delay, as you've been saying for quite some time. You mentioned that he is going to be in court tomorrow for an appeals court hearing. He has a pretty significant courtroom scheduled this week, the final week before the Iowa caucuses.

REID: Yeah, he sure does. I mean, we're seeing the intersection between the campaign events and all these legal proceedings. This is something we've been talking about for quite some time. And tomorrow arguably, constitutionally, the most consequential day, his lawyers and lawyers for the special counsel will argue before an appellate panel about this issue of immunity.

But Dana, even one of his former lawyers' Tim Parlatore has told me on air. He just doesn't expect them to win on the merits. But again, at the larger strategy, the broader strategy is at least to try to get that federal case delayed until after the November 2024 election. In some ways, they've already won. And then later this week, there will be closing arguments in another civil case that he faces up in New York.

Now there's no jail time on the line here. This is not a criminal case. But it's really personal for the former president. It's about his business. Their ability to do business in the state of New York, potentially facing hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties. We've seen him show up to numerous proceedings in the course of that case. He's watched his children testify. It has been incredibly personal. A lot in the line for him and that's just one week.


BASH: It is just one week and many more to come that look a lot like what you just described. Thank you so much for that reporting, Paula. Now we go to Iowa where the snow and frigid temperatures are complicating the candidates final campaign push. Nikki Haley was just forced to cancel an event in Sioux City because of the storm. CNN's Eva McKend is in Des Moines. Eva?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Good afternoon to you, Dana. You know, that is the big question I had is, how will these candidates -- when will these candidates be able to get back out on the trail. Vivek Ramaswamy, he's forced to shift as well. He typically travels by private plane from event to event. He's doing a long three-hour stretch just so he can make some of his events today, and then holding a tele town hall on the campaign bus.

But yes, this is a real concern for these candidates. As you know, they're trying to meet every voter, shake every hand in just a week that they have left. And the looming storm is challenging that. They were out in full force over the weekend though.

What we're hearing from Governor DeSantis and Nikki Haley is some sharpening their attacks against former President Donald Trump. For his part, though Trump really leaning on Iowans as well. Take a listen.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those that want me to hit Trump more, I just have not going to do it. I told you that I'm not going to do it. If he lies about me, I'll call him out on it. If he's done something wrong, whether it's the economy or how he talks about dictators and in those things, I'll call him out on every one of those issues. But I just think politics is personal enough. And I think let's focus on the issues and getting America back on track.

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Don't go by the polls. The pollster that we're leading by so much. It's incredible. Nobody's ever seen numbers like this. But we have to get out there, every one of us have to get out there because it really sends a message for November. The main thing I got to ask you, look, we got to get out and vote because you know, bad things happen when you sit back. What I'm worried about here is we have to just get out and show the support.


MCKEND: So, you hear even Trump they're telling Iowans to please get out and vote despite the fact that frigid temperatures are expected next week during caucus day. You know, he lost in 2016 during the Iowa caucus to Ted Cruz. So, every vote here -- every caucus goer truly counts, Dana.

BASH: It sure does. Eva, thanks so much. I'll see out there soon. Let's talk about all of this with our reporters here around the table. The Washington Post's Leigh Ann Caldwell, CNN's Daniel Strauss, and POLITICO's Heidi Przybyla. Thank you so much for being here, one at all. One week to go till Iowa.

I just think it's so fascinating what Eva just played from the former president. We're going to play a lot more from him later in the show. But just on this notion of expectations of getting out the vote/caucus goers. You know, he understands that winning could be losing depending on the margin for him.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, absolutely. Especially when polls have shown 30-40, sometimes 50 points ahead. In Iowa, that if he loses by -- if he wins by a very small margin, that shows that he is absolutely vulnerable. And that is what Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis is trying to do. They're not trying to win. They're trying to decrease the margin that they lose to Donald Trump.

BASH: And the -- at the beginning of the campaign, even before Ron DeSantis was an official candidate for President Trump and his allies really just destroyed him in TV ads. Absolutely, really, really tough, and didn't do much with regard to Nikki Haley.

That has changed over the past week or so when it comes to ads. But because we actually saw him on the campaign trail this weekend, it was interesting to hear him. The candidate himself talk about Nikki Haley on the stump. Let's listen to some of that.


TRUMP: And one of the biggest donors to Nikki Haley Super PAC is the same guy, Reid Hoffman and he's a ultra left rich guy, billionaire. He's one of the Democrat Party's top funders. He's also a funder for Nikki Haley. How do you answer that, Nikki?

There'll be indicted because they'll say she was having an affair or something. Nikki would say you are just like she sold me out. I mean, I'll never run against the music. I'm great president, why would I run?

Ladies and gentlemen, I've decided to run. You know, it's like after listening to that for two, she came to Mar-a-Lago to see me -- to inform me that she will never run.


BASH: What does that tell you?

DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, it tells us a few things that Trump is engaging in the same attack line that Ron DeSantis is, which is that Haley is in the pocket of her donors. That is the argument that DeSantis has made, that Vivek Ramaswamy has made, and now Trump has made. And it also -- with the clip you just played really underscores the multiple attack routes.


Trump sees that she can't be trusted that she's in the pocket of both Democratic leaning donors and Republican donors. And that in the end she's not sort of be Trumpian Republican that she may have portrayed herself as a member of Trump's administration. Overall, it tells us that where before this campaign really kicked off, Ron DeSantis was seen as the clear and present danger to the Trump team. Now that's Haley.

BASH: Yeah. And when it comes to Haley, you heard in Eva's report that the former South Carolina governor was very clear to voters. Some people who don't like Trump and are looking at me might want me to hit him more and I'm not going to do it. And that's pretty clear when you look at how she's spending her money in ads -- in the last couple of ads. This is from her campaign, what she's talking about has to do with herself and the issues.


HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yeah. Obviously, Trump now views her and through the same lens that he viewed DeSantis all through the summer. DeSantis has had stumbles. He blew a lot of his money in Iowa when people weren't paying attention. And now Nikki Haley is really in the contention for the strong second because that's what we're talking about here in Iowa.

But you know what this really reminds me of? I think you ain't seen nothing yet. Because if you remember, Dana, we both covered the 2000 election with John McCain. And it wasn't until John McCain who's being accused of some of the same things that Nikki Haley is, you know, not a real Republican.

Wasn't until John McCain won New Hampshire that the real knives came out and it got really ugly. And that's before Trump era politics. We're already hearing some of that rhetoric from Trump now about Nikki Haley like that she on immigration for instance, it's very ever so slightly racially tinged. But she wins New Hampshire, get ready for this to get very ugly.

BASH: Yeah. And she is -- again, right now not going there with how she's spending her money, and she is spending a lot of money. Let's just look at what we are seeing on the airwaves and on their phones and so forth. Ad spending in Iowa ahead of the caucuses. Haley or pro- Haley advertising over 35 million, pro-DeSantis is pretty close 33 million, pro-Trump advertising 16 million, I mean.

STRAUSS: It's incredible. I mean, look, this is a candidate who initially was not the lead in terms of fundraising. This is a candidate who was sort of in the middle of the pack when this primary started. And now she's making a play for it not the state that she apparently -- that she's regarded as needing the most to sort of catapult turn contention. She's playing for -- she's going on offense here. She's playing in Iowa which is supposed to be DeSantis' state. BASH: And speaking of DeSantis, I'm glad you brought him up. We can't forget about him. He is still very much in contention in Iowa. Let's listen to what he said in Dubuque over the weekend.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's now running in 2024, promising to do the exact same thing he promised in '16 and didn't deliver on. And it's like, OK, you know, fool me once. Shame on you. Fool me twice. Shame on me for this. So, with me anytime I tell you, I'm going to do something. I am going to follow through with it.


BASH: He's going there on Trump.

CALDWELL: Yeah. He is. It might be a little too late for that, something that he resisted for quite a long time. We're talking about money. We're talking about ads. We're talking about messaging, but something that's also going to be really critical is also the organization in Iowa. That is what matters. Caucuses are very organizational heavy, it matters.

Donald Trump's campaign has had that infrastructure. They've done it before. Ron DeSantis has been investing there. Nikki Haley is kind of the more unknown quantity. But she now has the money in the late -- you know, surge of her campaign. It's also interesting that Donald Trump has spent just half of what the other candidates have in Iowa on advertising. And he's still winning by so much. He's a known quantity obviously.

BASH: We'll see them in the polls. See what happens. But he does have more of an organization than he did the last time around. A reminder, the CNN Republican presidential debate is set for Wednesday night. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis will face off at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa starting at 9 pm eastern. I will be moderating along with my colleague, Jake Tapper.

Ahead Donald Trump in his own words. The unvarnished Trump at the weekend rallies that he held in Iowa, including this take on the Civil War.



TRUMP: It was just such a sort of a horrible time. But that's I was thinking to myself because I was reading something, and I said, this is something that could have been negotiated.


BASH: Insults invective and outright lies. That's what we heard from Donald Trump in Iowa this weekend. He held four events in the state ahead of the caucuses. He's got four more rallies planned there next weekend. And it's been a while since we heard this much from Trump on the trail. We want to give you a better sense of his rhetoric at these rallies and we're going to start on Saturday in Newton, Iowa where he brought up the Civil War.


TRUMP: I love studying the -- if you take a look, I mean the wars, I don't know what it is. The Civil War was so fascinating, so horrible -- was so horrible, but so fascinating. And I don't know it's just different. I just find it. I'm so attracted to seeing it. So many mistakes were made. See there was something I think could have been negotiated.


To be honest with you, I think you could have negotiated that all the people died -- so many people died. I think it's, you know, Abraham Lincoln. Of course, if you negotiated it, you probably wouldn't even know who Abraham Lincoln was. He would have been president. But he would have been president. He would have been -- he wouldn't have been the Abraham Lincoln, would have been different.

But that would have been OK. It would have been a thing that -- and I know it very well. I know the whole process that they went through, and they just couldn't get along. And that would have been something that could have been negotiated and they wouldn't have had that problem. But it was a -- it was a hell of a time.


BASH: How he would negotiate the end of slavery? What he considers negotiable there, he did not say. The former president also attacked E. Jean Carroll. The woman who Trump was found liable for defaming and sexually abusing.


TRUMP: If I didn't run or if I was in fifth place or something, I would have had no indictments. This is all political stuff, including the women's stuff the Bergdorf Goodman. I meet a woman outside of Bergdorf Goodman. I took her upstairs to a changing booth. It was all made up. And you know, who's financing it, Reid Hoffman. The number one political donor Reid Hoffman, big fat slob.

And I never used the word fat, not even with Christie. Fat with Christie. But this guy I'll call a fat slob. I met a woman in front of Bergdorf Goodman, took her up to a changing booth right outside where the cash register is. This is New York. So, why didn't you scream? I was in trauma.


BASH: Again, a jury listened to her arguments in a court of law and decided that Donald Trump was libel. Trump also revived his mocking of the late John McCain. For an injury McCain sustained from being beaten while he was a prisoner of war for five and a half years during the Vietnam war.


TRUMP: We're going to fight for much better healthcare than Obamacare. Obamacare is a catastrophe. Nobody talks about it. You know, without John McCain we would have had it done. John McCain, for some reason, couldn't get his arm up that they remember he goes that like that that was the end of that.


BASH: And here he is at two rallies talking about President Biden who had a well-known stuttering problem when he was younger.


TRUMP: Crooked Joe is staging is pathetic, fear mongering campaign event in Pennsylvania today. Did you see him he was stuttering through the whole thing. He's got a Bob, got a -- he's a threat to democracy and they've weaponized government.

He's saying I'm a threat to Democracy. He's a threat to Democracy. I couldn't read the word. He says I'm a dictator. It's so insulting. You know, actually it's insulting. But he's a threat. You know, because he's a threat to the -- he doesn't even know what the word means. He's a threat to democracy. Define democracy, Joe?

That's not a fair question. No, the guy can't find steps to a platform. He makes his speech. He can never find the damn steps, like the steps and step or you jump out the front if you have to. You can't do that. You have to leave. You know when you make a speech, his speeches last about three minutes. You know why? Because he runs out of fuel. He runs out of fuel. The fuel doesn't last very long.


BASH: And this is Trump repeating his praise, but the authoritarian ruler of China, Xi Jinping.


TRUMP: Somebody asked me is President Xi of China now he controls 1.4 billion people ruthlessly, ruthlessly, no games, right. They said is President Xi of China a brilliant man? I said yes, he is. He's a brilliant man. Next day, Trump's said President Xi is brilliant. I said yeah, I did. They want me to say no, he's not a very smart guy. He just runs 1.4 billion people with an iron fist.


BASH: And he spent time at multiple rallies, downplaying the insurrection on January 6, 2021. Defending those who rioted, defiled the Capitol, and tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: They had to release the J six hostages. They've suffered a lot. They had to release it. I call them hostage. Some people call them prisoners. I call them hostages. Released the J sixth hostages Joe, released them, Joe. You can do it real easy, Joe. This guy, what he's done -- what he's done to people. And Antifa knocks the hell out of Portland, takes over parts of Seattle, destroys Minneapolis. So, I didn't send in the soldiers. Minneapolis, you wouldn't even have Minneapolis, right?


The whole thing is just very unfair. But those J six hostages going to jail for 20 years and 18 years, 12 doctors, lawyers, carpenters, electricians, truck drivers. It's one of the saddest things. It'll go down as one of the saddest things in the history of our country. And they went there to protest a rigged election.

And now when the facts are in, now they see it is a rigged election. You saw the numbers come out last week, it was a rigged election. And those people have to be -- many of them. I guess, there's some, by the way, there was Antifa and there was FBI. There were a lot of other people there too, leading the charge, leading the charge.


BASH: They were not the FBI. There is no evidence of that. What the evidence shows what we all saw with our own eyes, which you can see on the screen right now. People egged on by Donald Trump to falsely believe the election was stolen and they are not hostages. We all know too well.

What hostages are? Hostages are hundreds of people brutally taken from Israel into Gaza on October 7, at least eight Americans are still hostages. Those who in American prisons for storming the Capitol are there because they were convicted in courts of law, or we'll get due process, and no amount of rebranding will change the facts.

We're standing by for a speech from President Biden in South Carolina. We're going to go live to Charleston, next.