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Inside Politics

Families of Hostages Held by Hamas Plead for Help on Capitol Hill; E. Jean Carroll Testifies in Court for Defamation Case; Roger Stone Allegedly Discusses Assassinating Democrats; Biden Prepares to Take on Trump After Iowa Victory. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 17, 2024 - 12:30   ET



YARDEN GONEN, SISTER HELD BY HAMAS: ...from all different walks of life. You're also fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters to someone. I think everyone can agree, both on this committee and across this great nation, that if it was their sister in the dark tunnel, subjected to abuse and brutality at the hands of pure evil, they would do anything in their power to bring their sisters back. 103 days, they're running out of time. We are running out of time. But we are not running out of hope. Please bring Romy and another 135 human beings home. Thank you.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': Absolutely incredibly powerful speech just now from Yarden Gonen, talking about her sister, Romy, and the plea and very graphic -- intentionally graphic heartfelt detail of the last moments that she spoke to her sister, what happened around her sister, the brutality around her sister, and what she believes based on testimony from hostages released is happening to her sister and others, particularly the women who are being raped and sexually abused in captivity, and including today for 103 days.

Thank you so much for bringing that to us, and we are going to take a quick break. We'll be back on the other side.



BASH: Right now, E. Jean Carroll is facing the man she says unleashed his followers on her, after she said that he sexually assaulted her. Carroll is testifying in front of Donald Trump and a jury that will determine how much the former president must pay in damages for defamation. CNN's Paula Reid is following all of this for us. Paula, we should remind our viewers that this is a civil trial and he was already found liable for assault.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Dana. Last spring, a trial was held and that jury found that Trump sexually abused Carroll and defamed her, and awarded her $5 million. Now, Carroll testified at that trial as well but Trump did not attend a single minute of that trial. So, this is the first time that she is testifying with him just a few feet away, and testifying in front of someone in this manner in a case like this is a daunting task for any survivor of sexual abuse.

But in her testimony today, Dana, she came out swinging. She started by saying, so previously, I was known simply as a journalist and now I'm known as a liar. So, she's talking about the impact that her statements have had on her career. He has continued to lie. He lied last month, he lied on Sunday, he lied yesterday. And I'm here to get my reputation back and to stop him from telling lies about me.

Now, our colleagues in the courtroom -- there are no cameras in this courthouse, but our colleagues reported that Trump is both physically and verbally responding to much of her testimony. The judge even asked him to take care, that anything that he's saying to his lawyers in response to the testimony, that it can be heard by the jury. And even just a few minutes ago, our colleagues reported that he continues to respond in one way or another to almost everything that she is saying.

Now, she went on and talked about the impact that Trump's denials had on her life and the deluge of threats that she faced. She said, "I was attacked on Twitter; I was attacked on Facebook; I was attacked in news blogs; I was attacked in messages. As I said, it was a new world. I had left the world of facts, a lovely world, and was living in a new universe." And just about a moment ago, she talked about the precautions she then started taking, including sleeping with a gun near her.

Now, this case like you said is about damages. She's asking for up to $10 million for the impact that his statements had on her and her career. Now, Trump's lawyer Alina Habba will have the opportunity to cross-examine her. Alina Habba argued yesterday that in fact Carroll's career prospered and benefited from her allegations against Trump.

Dana, it is a delicate task to cross-examine someone in a case like this that deals with sexual abuse. Habba has been reprimanded a few times by the judge in this case for her decorum in the courtroom. So, we'll be watching to see how she handles this and whether scoring a few political points by attacking Carroll is worth what that might do in terms of the jury and the ultimate damages.

BASH: Such an astute way to put it, because you cannot disconnect what he's trying to do on the campaign trail from what is actually happening in this and other courtrooms. Thank you so much, Paula. As always, Paula was talking about E. Jean Carroll, describing what it is like to have the sort of onslaught of Trump's -- Trump and his allies coming at you.

A notorious Trump ally, Roger Stone, is under investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI for serious allegations of threatening to assassinate House Democrats. Let's listen.


ROGER STONE, ADVISOR TO FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's time to do it. Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election. They need to get the message. I'm just not putting up with this shit anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [12:40:00]

BASH: He's referring to Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell and to Congressman Jerry Nadler, who serves -- or served as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during part of Trump's Administration. The website Mediaite first obtained that tape we just heard. CNN has not independently verified its authenticity. Stone has denied making the comments. CNN's Zachary Cohen joins us, who is doing reporting on this. Zach, what are you hearing?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Dana, sources are telling me and our colleague Kristin Wilson that law enforcement is looking at these comments that were allegedly made by Roger Stone in the weeks before the 2020 election, but they're only surfacing now after Mediaite published this recording that you just played. And look, these are serious allegations.

The content of this recording amounts to a very serious threat against two very high-profile Democrats. Look, Roger Stone is saying that's not him, his voice is not on that recording and he says that it is actually an AI manipulated piece of audio. So, he has really making clear (ph) that no, he doesn't believe that that is him on the audio recording. But, we've heard similar things from Stone before.

He has accused documentary filmmakers of fabricating footage in the past, footage that has come under scrutiny from House investigators and federal authorities in that sense. It's important to remember too how far back Donald Trump and Roger Stone go. He was obviously indicted as a result of the Mueller investigation, ultimately pardoned by Donald Trump in late 2020 before he left office. He was instrumental in promoting the Stop The Steal" movement that was really the underlying source of frustration and something that stoked the fire in the lead-up to January 6th and got the attention of the House January 6th Committee.

This clip, I want to play for you right now, is similar in tone of Roger Stone talking about using violence against his political opponents.


STONE: Let's just hope we're celebrating. I suspect it will be -- I really do suspect it will still be up in the air. When that happens, the key thing to do is to claim victory. Possession is nine-tenths the law. (inaudible), sorry, you're wrong, (inaudible) right to the violence. Start smashing pumpkins, if you know what I mean.


COHEN: So Stone claimed that that footage was manipulated as well. We'll have to see what the end result of the investigation is, but it's clear that law enforcement is looking at these comments in this audio recording that relate to Swalwell and Congressman Nadler.

BASH: Thank you for that reporting, Zach. And up next, we look on the Democratic side of the political ledger and Joe Biden, can he pull off a win ultimately with voters after Donald Trump's clean sweep in Iowa? And what do the results potentially tell us about a general election and a rematch? We'll talk about that after a break.



BASH: President Biden and his re-election campaign are watching the general election inch closer after Donald Trump won a big victory in Iowa. President Biden is already setting his sights on that matchup with Trump.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, it's kind of funny, all these Republican candidates in the primary are trying to beat Donald Trump. I'm still the only person that ever beat Donald Trump. I'm looking forward to do it again for the good of this country.


BASH: Let's talk about that with our panel who are -- they're all back now. What do you think of that?

ISAAC ARNSDORF, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Leaning into the Marlon Brando thing there.


ARNSDORF: Well, but this is -- I mean, Biden -- it's why he ran in 2020, it's why he's running now. He really in his gut...

BASH: Yeah.

ARNSDORF: his gut, believes that. He is the only person who can do it, and it is his, like, job in the world to do that.

BASH: Yeah.

ARNSDORF: And he really -- this democracy message that he has been emphasizing is both driven by data and what the campaign has seen in polling and message testing. But it also is what Biden believes the reason he is running and the stakes of this election.

BASH: Yeah, definitely. This is what he believes in. I was just thinking about M.J. Lee and her reporting, I think it was last week, about -- which is a little bit maybe counterintuitive that the Biden campaign is like, OK, if this is going to be Trump, which I think it is, like, let's hurry up and get there because they believe that that's going to help boost the enthusiasm of Democrats when they see, no, this is not some fantasy, it's real. Like Donald Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee.

But still, the democracy argument, they're definitely road testing it. And we were talking, Laura, about when Nancy Pelosi was on the show a couple of weeks ago, how she tied the notion of democracy into the kitchen table issues that people care about, and Kamala Harris did something very similar on "The View" this morning. Let's listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These issues in terms of how we are doing on a daily basis, and how our democracy and our country is doing are inextricably linked. So, yes, the economy is very important. We must do both, address the economy and absolutely understand what is at stake in terms of fighting for our freedom.


LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Yeah. They're going to be making this overarching argument about what the president believes and what the vice president believes, which is that Trump is this very dire threat to the country and to the democracy and to the constitution, given what he said that he would do if he wins re-election.


BARRON-LOPEZ: But that also they're trying to link it to, OK, these other freedoms, abortion access, all these other things, healthcare access, more healthcare access for everyone -- they are going to try to be pushing those more aggressively. You have seen a little bit of it when President Biden was at Mother Emanuel a week or so ago. Congressman Clyburn came out ahead of him and said, if you re-elect us, we will make sure that the insulin caps that we put in place for people on Medicare will apply to everyone...

BASH: That's right.

BARRON-LOPEZ: ...whether you are private or uninsured. And now, the question though is, how -- that message is still something that hasn't quite resonated with voters and voters don't totally know all of the things that President Biden has passed to date. And so, they have to connect those dots because, right now, they are not giving the president credit.

BASH: Yeah, definitely. Nia, before you jump in, I just want you to look at something that caught the eye of the team and it is really, really interesting. This is from that Des Moines Register poll that came out over the weekend before the Iowa caucuses. And it shows that this is of likely caucus goers, 11 percent said that they would still ultimately vote for Joe Biden. Now, this is not the entrance poll, it was a traditional poll but it was pretty dead on at the end of the day.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, POLITICS & POLICY COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG: Yeah. Listen, I mean there wasn't all good news out of Iowa for Donald Trump. You can see there are some softness in terms of his support, you see those folks are saying that they are ultimately going to vote for Biden, maybe they voted for Haley in the contest. But yeah, I mean he is a wounded candidate I think in so many ways. And I think if you are Biden, you can look at what Chris Christie said, those comments, that is an ad in and of itself, the idea that this is a battle for the soul of America, something that Joe Biden said back in 2029. So listen, I think this argument around democracy is an argument they made recently, it is an argument they made going into 2022. They do have to figure out a way to make it fresher, right? Because it can't just be a noun and a verb and January 6th, right? It's got to be...


HENDERSON: ...much broader than that. And they are trying to connect it to day-to-day issues.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Those 11 -- that 11 percent though, I have talked to Republicans that fall into that 11 percent that say that because of January 6th, they became independents.

BASH: Yeah.

BARRON-LOPEZ: So because of January 6th...

BASH: That's true.

BARRON-LOPEZ: ...they cannot go back to the party. So, that is what the campaign is looking at.

BASH: 10 seconds.

ARNSDORF: Well, and I'm thinking back to -- I think we are in the same caucus location.

BASH: Yeah.

ARNSDORF: And it was in the suburbs in Clive and Trump was a distant third there.

BASH: He was.

ARNSDORF: And we don't want to over-interpret one data point.

BASH: That's a good one.

ARNSDORF: But if Trump isn't going to win Republicans like that in other places besides Iowa, that could be an issue in November.

BASH: And by the way, noun-verb January 6th, if you know, you know. She was referring to Rudy Giuliani back in the day, noun-verb 9/11. OK, Google it.

Up next, new reporting about the Congressional Republicans still on the fence about another Trump nomination.



BASH: New reporting on how some Congressional Republicans feel about Donald Trump's landslide win victory in Iowa and the chances that he could win the Republican presidential nomination. CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, all of these Republicans, back when I was covering the Hill as Donald Trump was emerging, they just wanted to run the other way and you experience that on a daily basis and here they are, back in the same situation.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And I'm here to report they are still...


RAJU: ...running the other direction.

BASH: Yeah.

RAJU: There are a lot of members who are rushing to Donald Trump's support saying they will endorse him, but there are others who are simply running away because they know that -- they believe that Donald Trump would not be a strong candidate at the top of the ticket and they are worried about the down ticket impacts.


RAJU: Congressman, did you vote for Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses?

Will you endorse Donald Trump now that he won Iowa?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Well, I am going to do everything I can to make sure that President Joe Biden does not occupy the White House, so...

RAJU: Are you concerned about the Trump's viability at all?

ERNST: You know, he did pretty darn well in Iowa and I think you might see that continue.

RAJU: What it is about Trump's candidacy that concerns you about him as a general election candidate?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD: Biden, as everybody knows, is polling at a level that I think we got a lot of Republican candidates who could win. I think we have a good chance to win the White House if they (inaudible) chance to get the majority. So...

RAJU: But you said yesterday, you were worried about his...

THUNE: Well, I am just thinking again.


RAJU: Yesterday, Senator Thune told me that general elections are won in the middle of the electorate, all that has repercussions on senate races too. If we want to get a majority, we need a strong showing at the top of the ticket and that translates to down about (ph) success. And he told me Donald Trump, I have always been worried. That's what he told me off-camera yesterday. Today, not going that far but also indicating he is not running to embrace the former president. Dana?

BASH: Yeah. Here we go again. Paul Ryan back in 2017 said, every morning, this is when he was speaker. I wake up and in my office, scroll through Twitter to see which tweets I would have to pretend that I did not see later. That just sums up everything that you are experiencing every single day, Manu. Appreciate it. Thank you so much for that great reporting.

RAJU: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thank you for watching "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts right now.