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Inside Politics

Trump, Haley Donors Will Be "Barred" From "MAGA Camp"; Haley Challenges Trump To Debate, Take Mental Competency Test; Source: Trump Saw Haley As "A Gnat, Now She Is An Enemy"; Subpoenas Expected For Hearing Affair Allegations Against Georgia Prosecutors Leading Trump Election Subversion Case; New Reality On Capitol Hill: Trump Is Calling The Shots. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 25, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, bring it Donald. That's Nikki Haley's message to the former president as she taught the obits certain Republican nominee and ignores calls to drop out. His behavior leaves little mystery in how much she is getting under his skin.

Plus, Trump is back at a regular campaign stop. The courtroom as a jury weighs how much he needs to pay in damages after being found liable for defamation and sexual abuse. The question everyone is asking right now was will we take the stand? And still pushing Bidenomics. President Biden is hitting a key swing state today, trying to convince voters that the economy is strong and that his policies are the reason why.

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

First up, Donald Trump wants Nikki Haley out of the Republican race for president. She says, she's not going anywhere. So, Trump is using a familiar tactic, bullying. The former president is insulting his last rival standing, threatening to blacklist her donors that came right after Haley announced to her campaign raised more than a million dollars in less than 24 hours after her New Hampshire loss.

And Trump's election night speech that was more grievance march then victory lap. Last night, Haley was back in her home state of South Carolina, which votes four weeks from now and she was defiant.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump got out there and just threw a temper tantrum. He pitched to fit. He was insulting. He was doing what he does. But I know that's what he does when he's insecure. I know that's what he does when he is threatened, and he should feel threatened.


BASH: CNN's Kristen Holmes joins me live now. Kristen, what are you hearing from your sources in Trump world about how he is reacting behind the scenes -- nevermind in public and how they feel it's really going to go down with regard to Nikki Haley?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you know, Nikki Haley, they're saying that Donald Trump feels threatened. When I'm talking to a senior advisor, they don't know that threatened is the right word, annoyed, angry, as you said she's clearly underneath his skin. He is angry that she didn't drop out. And I'm told that he was angry that she had a victorious tone in her speech in New Hampshire after she lost Donald Trump by double digits.

The facts are that in South Carolina, which is the next competition that they're going to face often, they do believe that Donald Trump has a significant lead. And just to kind of break down what we saw. When they were threatened by Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, they poured millions of dollars into television ads. They enact event after event after event.

So far, we have seen no announcements for events for Donald Trump in South Carolina and $0 in spending. So, if it's a threat, it's definitely not the same reaction that they had when she was closing in on the polls in New Hampshire. However, he is angering -- he is angry, and he is lashing out.

And what's almost kind of comical in some ways about this social media posts that says that anyone who donates to Nikki Haley will be blackballed from MAGA world. There's a very big difference between what they did with Ron DeSantis, saying if you work for Ron DeSantis, you can't come work for us.

And when you're talking about donations and money, because the people who run Donald Trump's campaign and pay the bills on Donald Trump's campaign would like to see that money come in. So, the idea that some big dollar donors are, you know, blacklisted seems a little bit questionable.

Particularly, we just heard Tim Scott yesterday saying, the quiet part out loud, that they hoped the donor money came in after South Carolina. They'd hoped it came in after Iowa, hoped it came in after New Hampshire, hopes to come in now. So clearly, that seems a little bit off in terms of you're going to really turn down that money if it comes.

BASH: That is very, very -- comical is the right word, but it's so true and it's such a good point. It's not like they're going to say no, Mr. Billionaire, please don't give us that check. We'll be fine without it. Thanks so much, Kristen. Really appreciate that reporting.

Joining me here in Washington is The Washington Post's, Josh Dawsey. CNN's Melanie Zanona, and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review. Let me just add to what Kristen was just reporting -- her great reporting from another one of our colleagues, Alayna Treene, who is saying that this is the feeling that Donald Trump and his advisors have about Nikki Haley. Before she was a gnat, now she is an enemy and Trump plans to bludgeon her in the lead up to South Carolina. What are you hearing?

JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL INVESTIGATOR REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. That's definitely true and he's already doing that. One of the fascinating parts about why he was so angry the other night. If she sort of pull his own move against him, the Trump thing of going out and saying, I won, even though the results are not. And then she didn't quite say, she won.



DAWSEY: As my colleague Ashley Parker wrote in the post today, it was almost like game recognizes game. If she went out and did the thing that he likes to do on him. And it really infuriated him. I mean, his team was planning ---

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: And also went after his age and his mental acuity, which is obviously a sore spot for him -- against Biden,

DAWSEY: His team is planning to sort of bombard her in South Carolina with attacks on things she said in the past, praising China for bringing jobs to the state for what a great social security age or retirement age on some people. Some of the attacks, I'm sure will be false as they have been in the past in his campaign.

But what they also would like to do is use a number of South Carolina elected leaders against her, the governor or both state senators, Nancy Mace in Charleston. They've sort of gotten all these endorsements from South Carolina politico. So, they're going to find that out across the state and have them all sort of on the attack against her or what they're planning to do. We'll see if it works or not. But that's sort of part of the strategy for where this campaign is going.

BASH: But we have all seen -- well maybe you guys haven't. But I have seen what happens when somebody doesn't get out of a race and on the Republican side, I'm thinking, George W. Bush, John McCain in 2000. And things can get very, very ugly in the state of South Carolina.

And, you know, we all know that the Trump campaign they have been just like most campaigns do, they have been collecting what they believe is a pretty strong dossier of hit jobs on Nikki Haley. We've seen some of it. They believe just on the issues, immigration and social security and you're saying that there's more to come.

I just want to read something that caught my eye from Joni Ernst, Republican senator from Iowa. She didn't endorse but she was very vocal in her praise for Nikki Haley when she was out with her on the campaign trail. She was asked this is according to Igor Bobic who brough the HuffPost, about Trump making fun of the dress that Nikki Haley was wearing on that night, asked about Trump making comments about Haley's fancy dress last night in Iowa.

This yesterday, Ernst said, I thought she looked great, which is a bit of a mic drop. And I think she said -- Joni Ernst said so much in that one sentence, telegraphing a lot of different things about the way that a lot of people on Capitol Hill are proposed, which we'll talk a little bit more about later by preparing for the whole Trump of it all once again.

ZANONA: And you know, it wasn't just Joni Ernst. Ralph Norman, he is a conservative. He's a member of the Freedom Caucus. He was on with Kaitlan Collins last night and he said, you know, Trump can get away with these nicknames for people. But even I was surprised by the dress comments last night. I don't know, why are you surprised because this is very much in line with the Donald Trump playbook.

But there is this reality setting in on Capitol Hill that Trump is the nominee means, it's going to come with some criticism, some rhetoric that they are not comfortable with. Even if they are defending him and endorsing him and they're going to have to respond to that.

BASH: And to your point, Josh, about game understanding game, she really is continuing to go after him. She did have an event last night in South Carolina, and she continued to go after him on his mental acuity.


HALEY: He was confused. But it also goes back to why I've continued to push for a mental competency test for anyone over the age of 75. He said that he would take one and he challenged me to one and that he would beat me. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't. But what I said is OK, well, if that's the case, then get on a debate stage and let's go.


RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: It would have been maybe a little more interesting to see some of this feistiness from any of Trump's rivals before he had effectively thrown up the nomination as he appears to have done. But there's no question that it's getting under Trump's skin. Haley said that he was lashing out because he feels threatened.

I think that is one of the two times Trump tends to lash out. So, when he feels threatened, the other time is when he feels he's doing well. So, the lashing out is the normal MO for Donald Trump. We're going to see him pull out all the stops to use every possible tactic against Haley in the next couple of weeks except for debating her.

BASH: And she is apparently trying to make money off of some of his attacks on her. She's selling t-shirts that say barred permanently on her website. And that's probably not a surprise because this is where we are in the campaign.

I want to put something out there and you don't have to weigh on -- in on this. I want to have these fine gentlemen weigh in on it. And this is a great piece by Guy Trebay in The New York Times today. And it's called male vanity as political weakness.

Few barbs have consistent power to sting the vanity of man at any age than the ones that cast out on their potency. Haley's age-baiting strategy has at least one instructive effect, which can be clocked every time Mr. Trump reverts to mispronouncing her name. does anyone believe Mr. Trump thinks Nikki Haley is called Nimra, his garbled version of Nimrata, her birth name? Or is it just as likely that his supposed error is a tell for his wounded vanity?



DAWSEY: Well former President Trump has certainly gotten frustrated over the years when strong women have attacked him politically. I mean, we've seen that over and over and over again, I don't think that saying anything.

PONNURU: Yeah. It's not just the attack, it's the source of the attack.

DAWSEY: That's right, saying that's too studying there. The name also is true. I mean, he does that. You've seen him do that repeatedly with names, mispronounce names, repeatedly when he goes up on stage and talks about, you know, Barack Hussein Obama, and he repeatedly does that to get the crowds sort of round up. (Inaudible) sort of this why you're seeing there, too. I mean, the name is -- that's not -- that's not totally surprising.

BASH: Elaborate on that comment about the source of the attack?

PONNURU: Well, because I think that Trump has shown that he has more negative reactions to women who are criticizing him. This has been something that we have seen throughout the last decade. We saw it at the very beginning of his 2016 candidacy when his target was Megyn Kelly, and to a lesser extent Rosie O'Donnell. He does not like women criticizing him. And so, Haley being the last person standing against him, being a woman, I think that that is going to cause him to lash out further in this campaign.

BASH: OK. We're going to take a quick break. Up next. CNN exclusive reporting on the district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump in Georgia. Could she be forced off the case because of allegations of an affair with a fellow prosecutor?




BASH: Now new exclusive reporting. The district attorney leading the 2020 election subversion case in Georgia may be called to testify at a hearing on whether she should be disqualified in the case. Fani Willis is just one of several witnesses who can expect to get subpoenas in the coming days. CNN's Zack Cohen is here with his reporting. Bring us up to speed.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yeah, Dana. Sources telling me and our colleague Nick Valencia that Fani Willis, her top prosecutor Nathan Wade and host of others should expect to get subpoenas in the coming days. And you know, defense attorneys in this case want Willis and Wade and those around them to testify on the stand in this hearing that schedule for next month. And the focus of that hearing is these allegations that Wade and Willis engaged in improper romantic relationship. And that Willis benefited financially from that relationship and Wade's employment on her team. As you know, this investigation into Donald Trump and his co-defendants was unfolding over the course of two years.

And look, this isn't an escalation. This is a setup of potential where -- as you know, these hearings are live streamed on camera. And the potential for Fani Willis is to have to take the stand and essentially defend herself against these allegations, which have not been substantiated with any sort of hard evidence yet but have really been a distraction in this case so far.

Look Fani Willis is expected to fight this. She's already fighting a subpoena in Wade's divorce case that's separate from this. But you know, like I said, this could raise the prospect of live witness testimony and the airing of potentially scandalous, controversial allegations in real time on b-hyve (Ph) tv.

BASH: Fascinating reporting from you and from Nick Valencia. Thank you so much for that. Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, who joins us from the state of Georgia. How significant a move is this?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm happy to be with you this afternoon. It's significant move. I will tell you that's the problem with what's happening in this case. And that is it's not necessarily the deathblow to -- whether or not a case can move forward. But it's becoming a distraction and a circus. And that's what we're going to see -- I think at the hearing that gets into this question.

And so, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the judge sort of take control of this. And that is to say look, we're not going to turn this into an episode of Knots Landing here in the courtroom. I want you as an officer of the court to stand up and tell me, are the allegations in the motion true? Are there -- is their truth and allegation they need my turn to Mr. Wade and say, without getting into the details of your personal divorce proceedings.

Are the allegations in the motion true? And at that point, then we don't get lost in this idea of just the relationship, but then they can begin to talk about things like, you know, was he qualified to come home? Was there a reason that his oath was not properly filed or was delayed for some reason of things. And so that's what I think we'll see at the hearing.

BASH: Knots Landing, I just for our viewers who might not be familiar with that, just turn on any Bravo Real Housewives, and you'll have the same analogy. I appreciated the Knots Landing reference there. The judge is set to hear this matter next month. That's a what Zack and Nick are reporting here.

What is at stake here? I mean, we understand that one of the questions and you just alluded to this is she could be taken off the case. But it's a lot more than that. It's about how the case is. It's how it's going to be tried. But it's also how it's going to be viewed because this is such a high wire act.

MOORE: Yeah. That's a great point. One of the duties of a prosecutor is to really maintain the integrity of the investigation. And the reason you do it is because you want people on both sides of the political spectrum of the ideological line to have confidence in what you're doing.

They might not always agree, but at least they can have confidence that the decisions you're making are based solely on the case and the evidence that's presented before that you've essentially followed the facts and the law as you move forward.


This distraction has given the detractors of the case a real foothold and has given them the ammunition -- basically you've put the stones in their hands for them to throw at the case. And it's also going to happen. We see with the Georgia legislature. This will be the poster child as they talk about the rogue prosecutor bill that they will be able to come in and have prosecutor removed from their posts.

And so, it's not -- it is not on its face enough to terminate the case. I'm confident of that. And I don't think there's a chance in the world the judge would do that. But I think what he could practice -- what I would advise the district attorney to do would be simply to say, you know, something I've become a distraction.

This case is bigger than me. I'm going to step back from this case. I'm going to ask Mr. Wade to step back from this case. Let a special prosecutor come in and handle it and you all move forward. Because this is about what happened in the election. This is not about what happened in my situation. And I think that will be a way to clean it up. And it helps kind of put the case back on the tracks because I've just come off the rails lately.

BASH: Well, we'll see if that's exactly what does take place. Thank you so much, Mike Moore. Appreciate your time.

MOORE: Great to be with you.

BASH: You, too. And coming up. We go to Capitol Hill where the likely reality of Donald Trump as GOP nominee is firmly setting in and setting up Senate Republicans for potential failure in their scramble for a border security and Ukraine bell.




BASH: We have more new reporting just into CNN. This time from our Capitol Hill team. Senate Republicans at least some of them are furious that Donald Trump may have killed a potential bipartisan immigration deal. It's part of their new reality as Trump is all, but certain to be the presidential nominee. They believe they can't do anything that undermines him. Even if it means depriving them of a key legislative achievement on a critical issue that they've been negotiating for months.

CNN's Manu Raju is part of that team, responsible for the great reporting. He joins me live from Capitol Hill. Manu, what's the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. There are real concerns here in the Capitol that no immigration deal will get accomplished this year, even as Republicans have been clamoring for action as clamped down on the surge of migrants at the southern border.

And with it if there is no immigration deal, no aid to Ukraine, no aid to Israel, no aid to Taiwan because Republicans had said that those emergency aid package must wait until they deal with the border first. But Donald Trump has weighed in privately and publicly made clear that Republicans should kill this issue, could kill this deal. If it does not go as far as he likes.

And in fact, he says it needs to be a perfect deal. It needs to be caught everything that they want. But Democrats controlled the Senate. Democrats closely controlled the White House. And a bipartisan deal will almost certainly not pass muster with the former president and a bipartisan Joe could give Joe Biden a campaign issue in heading into November. Something Trump does not want at this moment in the campaign season.

And in talking to Republican senator today. It is very clear. They are furious at the prospect that this could collapse and are saying this is all about campaign politics.


SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): I think James Lankford has been working very hard to secure the southern border to give the next president whomever it is more authority. So that we can secure the southern border. So, anything that interrupts that negotiation, I think would be tragic. I hope no one is trying to take this away for campaign purposes.

RAJU: Do you think this is what he wants the issue Donald Trump, this is why he's doing?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn't want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling.


RAJU: Now I just spoke to Senator James Lankford and Senator Chris Murphy. Two members who have been trying to negotiate that bipartisan immigration deal, they say they're still going to try to cut a deal. They said that -- Murphy told me next 24 to 48 hours will be critical to see if there's any viable path forward. But Dana, as you know, even if they cut a deal, they got to put it together and put it on the floor, get the votes, that means Republican votes that would require 60 in the United States. And then the Republican led house, which is very much aligned with Donald Trump position on the issue, which is why so many people are bracing for the reality that Donald Trump may have killed this bipartisan emerging proposal to deal with these key issues. And they may have to deal with it next year because of campaign politics in the middle of all of it. Dana?

BASH: Manu, such great reporting. Thank you so much. Let's talk about this with the panel. Melanie, you too are a member of this reporting team with all of this great stuff. And I just want to underscore that sort of headline here, which is Donald Trump has such a grip on the party, which -- that's not new. But he has even more power now that he is inching even closer to being the presumptive Republican nominee.

And he would rather have -- and this is something he is communicating to his fellow Republicans in Congress, don't make the border better because it will give Joe Biden a win. And it will hurt me. I'd rather have the issue.

ZANONA: Yeah. I mean, its pure raw politics is what it is. And a lot of Republicans probably are saying this privately don't want to say it out loud. Now it's coming out in public that this is how Trump feels about it and they are following his orders because he is likely going to be the nominee.