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Haley And Trump Trade Barbs In Weekend Rallies; Jury Orders Trump To Pay E. Jean Carroll $83M In Damages; Haley: I "Trust The Jury", But It's Not Disqualifying; Biden Vows Retaliation For Drone Strike On U.S. Base In Jordan; Nancy Pelosi Faces Criticism For Suggesting Some Pro-Palestinian Protesters Are Connected To Russia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: South Carolina Republicans will go to the polls in 26 days and with former President Donald Trump trying to wrap up the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley isn't going down without a fight.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump Republican voters are going to defeat Nikki Haley's liberal Democrat donors every single time.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't you think it's time he man up and explain why he spent -- rose our debt more than any other president?

TRUMP: Nikki Haley supports a 23 percent national sales tax and she wants to get Medicare and Social Security.

HALEY: Donald Trump was totally unhinged.


BASH: My panel is back with me. Ayesha, I just want to show a headline in The New York Times that caught our attention which really sums up where we are with the Republican battle. "Haley's Dilemma: how to diminish trump without alienating Republican voters." I mean you could say that this was her problem and every single person, not named Trump, since the beginning of the contest.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": Yes, I mean, that's the whole thing. Like when you -- you cannot win a race when you have to like run against them, but not be too mean because people really love him. Well, if they really love them, why they going to vote for you? And that's the problem that, like, that's the fundamental problem. But obviously she's able to raise money. People are still, I think that's really less about right now because I think people know the writing's on the wall.

BASH: Yes.

RASCOE: But I think it's about the future and people who want an alternative, maybe eventually, but not right now.

BASH: You mentioned raising money. She is --


BASH: -- going to be out on the circuit in a very big way starting tomorrow in New York, then she's going to Miami elsewhere in Florida, California, South Carolina, Texas, and the list goes on.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and she's going to outraise Donald Trump, particularly when it comes to big donors the same way and that was --

BASH: That's crazy --

HOLMES: But that's really what we saw with Ron DeSantis, too. I mean, they've had an issue with getting the high dollar donors. And now, if you ask anyone on the campaign, they'll tell you, we don't need that money. We have money. Look at all the small dollar donors --

BASH: And they do have a lot.

HOLMES: And they do have a lot of money.

BASH: Yes.

HOLMES: So that is true. And the Super PAC just came in three times what they got. The second half of the year was three times more than what they saw in the first half. So, money's coming in for sure.

However, these high dollar donors clearly don't want to go over. And I think what's really interesting is that Donald Trump's team thought that that big money would come to them after Iowa. Then they thought it would come after New Hampshire. Now they're hoping it's going to come after South Carolina.

There is still an appetite --

BASH: Yes.

HOLMES: -- at least among those high dollar donors, for an alternative.

BASH: I want to go back to that excellent point that you made about, you know, if somebody is a Republican primary voter and they like Donald Trump, they're probably going to vote for Donald Trump. And if they don't like him, they're probably going to vote for the other person, but it is still very tricky, even in the face of what happened late last week, which is Trump being awarded by a jury $83 million, or excuse me, E. Jean Carroll being awarded that and that Trump has to pay it.

Nikki Haley was asked by Kristen Welker on NBC about that. Listen to how she responded.


HALEY: I don't know what all the court cases are. I haven't paid attention to what he's won, what he's lost.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS HOST: On the substance of the jury's ruling, should that be disqualifying to be president?

HALEY: I think the American people decide who should be disqualifying.

WELKER: Do you not trust the jury and their findings, Ambassador?

HALEY: I absolutely trust the jury. And I think that they made their decision based on the evidence. I just don't think that should take him off the ballot.


BASH: I mean, that's as far as she has gone with Kristen's great pressing. I interviewed her, I guess it was last week in New Hampshire, asked about this issue and she did the same thing. I don't know the details of the case.

If she's not going to go there on this until the very end, when she said she trusted the jury, that's the question that maybe some people are asking. Maybe she'll get that question from her donors at all of these events.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's really the tightrope that she's been walking. I mean, she recognizes there's cases, but she won't go so far as to say he's not eligible to run for president because of those cases. This is sort of the dance that all of them were doing before it came down to Nikki Haley and to Donald Trump.

But the other thing that she said in that interview was that she was going to stick around through Super Tuesday. And a lot of these raising money, right, may get her there, but South Carolina is still going to tip the scales in terms of what that really looks like. But she's saying, we're going to stick around but we're not going to weigh in on all of these cases.


RASCOE: You know, I think that the thing of this is, is that once again, this is a very bad verdict for Trump, but for the base, they will look at it as overkill, a New York jury who doesn't like, you know, Donald Trump, those liberals. But the problem for the Republican Party will be in the general with women.

This is a very serious. These are very serious findings against Trump and I think that's where the problem's going to be.

BASH: Such an interesting point. OK, before we go, you brought a copy of this book --


BASH: -- "HBCU Made", it's out tomorrow. I'll give this back to you --


BASH: We -- thanks, guys.

We heard from Carroll herself this morning for the first time since the jury ordered Donald Trump to pay her more than $83 million in damages. She did a joint interview with her lawyer on CNN this morning. Carroll described there the moment that she came face to face with Donald Trump in court.


E. JEAN CARROLL, WON SEXUAL ABUSE, DEFAMATION CASES AGAINST DONALD TRUMP: Preparing to see him was terrifying. The days leading up as Robbie brought me around stronger and stronger, it was so -- I hadn't slept, I hadn't eaten, I couldn't think, I lost my language, when she was trying to prepare me to go to do testimony in front of Donald Trump.

And then, when we were in the courtroom, and Robbie went to the lectern, she said, good morning, E. Jean, please state your name and spell it for the jury, for the court. And there he was, and he was nothing. He -- just no power. He had -- he was zero.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Did you make eye contact with him?

CARROLL: Many times.

HARLOW: And what was that like?

CARROLL: He's an emperor without clothes. It's like looking at nothing. It was like nothing.


BASH: In a moment of messaging jujitsu, Carroll went on to say that Donald Trump's appearance in court was politically motivated and that Trump is, quote, "using her to win voters." Now, Trump has not mentioned E. Jean Carroll publicly since Friday's ruling.

Up next, I'll go to our top story of the day, and that is about what's going on in the Middle East. I'll speak to a spokesperson at the Pentagon about the scary powder keg overseas.


[12:42:15] BASH: President Biden is vowing to retaliate against those responsible for the deaths of three American soldiers at a U.S. outpost in Jordan. Officials say a militant group backed by Iran launched the drone that fired on the base. Iran denies any involvement.

Joining me now is a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Sabrina Singh. Thank you so much for being with me, Sabrina. So the president, as I mentioned, said the U.S. will retaliate this morning. Your colleague over at the NSC, John Kirby, said the president is working his way through response options. What options are on the table?

SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Well, thanks, Dana, for having me. As you can understand, we're not going to telegraph our punches, but that's something that certainly the president, his national security team, including the secretary, are working through to figure out what makes the most sense in terms of response options.

I just can't preview those today, but it's certainly something that, as you heard, the president is thinking through and, of course, something that his entire team is considering as we've seen, you know, multiple attacks on our forces and unfortunately the most deadly one yesterday.

BASH: Can you rule out strikes inside of Iran?

SINGH: Look, I'm not, again, going to get ahead of the president. This is something that he is going to decide with his national security team. He is taking into consideration many, many factors and so I'll just leave it at that.

BASH: Sabrina, Iran denies any role in this attack. The president said the attack was perpetrated by Iranian-backed groups operating in Syria and Iraq. Does the U.S. believe these groups took direction from Iran in addition to funding, or is it possible they acted independent of Iran when it comes to the execution of the attack?

SINGH: Look, we know the pattern of these groups. We know what these groups are capable of, and we know that these groups are armed, equipped, trained, and supported, financially supported by Iran. And so these IRGC-backed militias are responsible for multiple attacks on our forces, our U.S. military forces, both in Iraq and Syria.

And we know that Iran bears responsibility for this, and that's why you've seen the president, you've seen this administration hold these IRGC-backed groups accountable. As recently as December 25th, we took another strike against a -- what we believe is a militia leader that had been launching attacks at U.S. forces, and we won't hesitate to do it again. We just aren't going to forecast when that will be.

BASH: Iran -- you hold Iran responsible for these groups, again, for funding the groups, or do you believe Iran actually directed this drone strike?

SINGH: Well, again, I'm not going to get into intelligence assessments, but we know that Iran bears responsibility. We know that Iran supports these troops financially, equipping them with capabilities, supporting them in their military training. And so we know Iran bears a responsibility.


But again, I'm not going to get ahead of the president and what he decides to do and what action the U.S. military will decide to do, but just know that the people that are responsible for the attacks on U.S. forces yesterday and the death of three of our service members will be held accountable.

BASH: This is by far the most direct, the most deadly when it comes to what has happened in the Middle East to U.S. troops since October 7th. Looking at this, and more broadly, have U.S. deterrence policies failed? I mean, how will the president's response be different this time?

SINGH: Well, look, what we saw last night, what we saw yesterday was lethal action that impacted our service members. And that's something that weighs heavily on this building, that weighs heavily on the secretary. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with those service members and their families.

But when you look at the wider region, when you look at what's happening in the region, we know tensions are high, but the conflict that's happening between Israel and Gaza has been contained to Gaza. And we have seen multiple attacks on our service members in Iraq and Syria that have been largely unsuccessful. Minor injuries, minor damage to infrastructure. Unfortunately, yesterday we saw a lethal action.

BASH: Sabrina, I just want to -- yes, the --


BASH: -- conflict between Israel and Gaza is between Israel and Gaza right now. But that's not including what we're seeing happening across the border in the north with Hezbollah. That's not including what we've seen with the Houthis and of course what we're talking about now. So there is very much concern or we have seen evidence of broader escalation well beyond Israel and Gaza. What do you say to Americans who see that and are just downright scared?

SINGH: No one is disputing the fact that tensions are high in the region. No one is disputing the fact that we are continuing to see the Houthis threaten commercial shipping, our own military ships that are in that region in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. We are seeing skirmishes between Hezbollah and the IDF.

But again, the conflict does remain contained to Gaza, and that's what our priority is, to keep it contained to Gaza. We do not want a regional conflict. We do not seek a wider war. And what we're seeing is proxy groups trying to take advantage of what's happening in Israel and trying to expand it out to our forces.

And we don't want to see this widen out to a broader conflict, which is why you've seen the secretary surge assets to the region. You saw two carrier strike groups that were in the region just recently. We still have one in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. And the secretary again, his main focus, his priority is, of course, the protection of U.S. forces. And when appropriate, we will respond.

BASH: Sabrina, thank you so much for joining me. Sabrina Singh, spokeswoman for the Pentagon.

SINGH: Thank you.

BASH: And up next, it's Mr. Putin's message. That's how Nancy Pelosi is describing some calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. What she's told me on State of the Union yesterday.



BASH: In an interview on CNN's State of the Union, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told me that she wants the FBI to investigate whether some of the anti-war protests that interrupt President Biden's speeches are tied to Vladimir Putin and his campaign to sow chaos in America's political system.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: And what we have to do is try to stop the suffering in Gaza. This is women and children, people who don't have a place to go. So let's address that. But for them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin's message, Mr. Putin's message.

Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It's about Putin's message. I think some of these protestors are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some I think are connected to Russia. And I say that having looked at this for a long time now, as you know --

BASH: Do you think some of these protests are Russian plants?

PELOSI: I think they're plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.


BASH: My great panel of reporters is back here. Priscilla, you go to many of the president's events. I know you've talked some -- to some of these protesters. I do think in some of the reporting people have missed the first thing that she said, which is that many, maybe even most are organic and people have strong passion, but she definitely is standing by her question about whether Russia is helping to stir this.

ALVAREZ: And it's a new reality that the president faces in his events. But just last week, he met with some of those protesters when he got that coveted endorsement from the United Auto Workers Union. There were protesters in the crowd calling for a ceasefire and afterwards backstage, he met with some of those union members and heard their concerns. So he is acutely aware of this. He's talking to some of those who have concerns, but it is still does not make it any easier for him to navigate when he has these campaign speeches. Saturday being another example of that. Two people called out for a ceasefire. He kept his speech going. Sometimes he acknowledges them, but his campaign and his administration knows it's going to happen. They're preparing for it.

RASCOE: You know, I mean, I think that what Nancy Pelosi said is going to get or has already gotten a lot of people riled up. And I think it runs the risk of -- and I don't know the veracity of it, but there is very real concern and there is a very real push for a ceasefire from some of the left.


And so it makes it feel like that once again, the Democratic Party is not acknowledging the concerns of some of the younger people on the left and some of the passionate people on the left and that you have older some would say out of touch members of the party dismissing the passion of some of the younger members of the left. I mean, I think it happens over and over again.

BASH: Final word.

HOLMES: Yes, I think that this -- it seems as though you are downplaying real concerns that people have. And I know has been doing all these voter series and they went to a Biden event, talked to a number of voters, talk to a number of Democratic leaning voters who said that this is their number one issue and that they didn't plan on voting for Joe Biden in the next election because of this.

BASH: Well, I will be very interested to see if the FBI takes up her call and what they come up with if they do. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.