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Inside Politics

Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Launches Senate Bid; ICE Weighs Releasing Migrants After Senate Kills Border Deal; House Intel Chairman Announces Serious National Security Threat That Sources Say is Related to Russia; Crucial Days Ahead for Trump's Legal Battles; NY is Seeking $370 Million Fine and to Ban Trump From Doing Business in the State; Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Unleashes on GOP Foes. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 14, 2024 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': Larry Hogan served for eight years as a popular Republican governor in a very blue state. He's been one of Donald Trump's most outspoken critics in the Republican Party.

And, last week, he announced he is running for the U.S. Senate. It's another hurdle in the path for Democrats trying to hold on to the Senate this November.

Governor Hogan joins me now for his first interview since announcing his Senate campaign.

Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.

So, you are a Republican running for Senate, as I mentioned, in a very blue state. You have a pretty significant population of suburban voters. What lessons do you take, maybe warning signs, from last night's big Democratic win in suburban New York?

FMR. GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not sure I'm a qualified pundit to talk about exactly what happened in New York.

BASH: Well, as a candidate.

HOGAN: But I can tell you that I -- yes, that I have overcome those odds over and over again in Maryland, where I won huge numbers of suburban women and black voters.

And I have been able to reach out to people across the spectrum. And so I don't know what that means for New York, but, obviously, the George Santos thing was a disaster. And I worked with the new congressman. From being a former congressman, I actually worked with him together when we were working on putting infrastructure together.

So, I don't want to opine about what it means for the GOP, but I'm just going to focus here on Maryland and try and represent the people in my state. BASH: Right. And I totally understand that.

I guess what I'm trying to ask and get at is whether or not there are any warning signs for you, being a Republican in a blue state. One of the challenges you might have...


BASH: ... and I know you know this, is, as a very outspoken anti- Trump Republican, as you are, you are going to be for the first time on the ballot with Donald Trump, assuming that he is the Republican nominee.

You have won very big twice, but you have never been on the ballot with him. How are you going to navigate that?


Well, it's a big challenge, obviously. And Maryland is the bluest state in the country. It's more than 2-1 Democrat to Republican. And Joe Biden won the last election in Maryland by a million votes, by 33 percentage points.

But I'm not running as Donald Trump. I think you probably know I was probably the most outspoken critic in our party standing up to him. And I'm really -- I'm not running for the Republican Party or for any candidate for president. I'm -- I decided to run to kind of stand up and fight for the people of Maryland and fight against the broken politics in Washington.

And I'm going to stand up to people of both parties and just go out there and talk to the voters about why they elected me twice as governor and why I think I can do the same thing representing them in Washington.

BASH: I want to play what you told my colleague Jake Tapper back in 2022, when you decided then not to run for Senate.


HOGAN: I just have never had a desire to be a U.S. senator, and my heart wasn't in it. And I like to get things done. And, in Washington, it seems as if there's just a lot of divisiveness and dysfunction, and not a lot gets done. So it wasn't the right job, right fit for me.


BASH: So, what changed?

HOGAN: Well, not much. I mean, I still feel exactly the same way. Not a lot gets done in Washington.

And it's not -- look, this is not -- who in their right mind would want to go in and be a part of that divisiveness and dysfunction? I just got to the point. I said I wasn't going to walk away from politics. I was going to try to be a voice of standing up to try to fix things.

And you can't just sit back and complain about things if you're not willing to try to make a difference. And so I still -- listen, personally, there's not a burning desire to go be a senator or to go down there and argue with people all day. I'm only doing it because I think I have a unique voice and perspective.

And I'm very concerned that the country is off in the wrong track and that somebody has to step up and try to do something about it. It's what I have been talking about and focused on for years. And this gives me a platform to go down there and maybe actually try to bring people together and fix things, just like we did in Maryland, where I had a 70 percent Democratic legislature.

And yet we got them to come together to cut taxes eight years in a row by $4.7 billion and accomplished a heck of a lot of other things by finding that middle ground where we can all actually get things done. That's not what happens in Washington now. But if I get there, I'm going to try my best to make it happen.

BASH: I want to talk about a couple of issues, sir. You are against abortion rights. You're self-described pro-life. You're really out of step with your blue state.

HOGAN: That's not true. That's...


HOGAN: Yes, that's not really true at all, Dana.


HOGAN: My -- I have a long, very, very moderate position on abortion. This is kind of a...

BASH: How would you describe it?

HOGAN: Look, I -- I'm personally not a proponent of abortion, but I said I'm not going to take away that right for others to make that decision for themselves.

I made a commitment. This is a kind of a tired attack from the Democratic Party that they have been doing for 10 years. When I first ran for governor, I gave them my position. I gave them my word, and I kept that word. I had a very balanced position abortion. I'm not on the extreme -- either side of the extreme of that issue.


I think that states can pass reasonable restrictions, but I stood up and protected the right for people to continue to have abortions in the state of Maryland.

BASH: So, then let me get you to respond to what the Democratic Committee to Elect Democrats are saying. They're saying that a vote for you would be a vote for a Senate Republican majority and a national abortion ban.

So, just set the record straight, if you will. Yes.

HOGAN: It's just flat-out...

BASH: You don't support a national abortion ban?

HOGAN: Yes, it's just flat-out wrong. No, I wouldn't. I would -- I would not vote to support a national abortion ban, absolutely not.


Immigration. The Senate, as you know...

HOGAN: And, by the way, this -- so, this -- this is the same exact attacks that they spent when I first ran for governor. It was all false. And we -- people in Maryland know what my position is.

And I actually -- my position is exactly where most Marylanders are.

BASH: Well, actually, because you brought it up again, before I go to immigration, you know that there is going to be a measure on the ballot that presumably you will be on too to make abortion rights a part of the Maryland Constitution.

What do you think about that?

HOGAN: Mm-hmm.

Well, I -- look, I understand why this is such an important and emotional issue for women across Maryland and across the country. This -- I already took a position on this bill. I said it wasn't really necessary. There's no threat to the protection of these rights in Maryland, where it's been -- it's already a law. Voters have already weighed in on it. It's settled law on the decision.

I think the Democrats put this on the ballot to try to try to make it a political issue. And I -- voters can make their decision on whether they think it's important or not, but it doesn't -- it's not going to change anything in our state.

BASH: OK, just quickly, on abortion -- you know that the Senate blocked a bipartisan border deal last week.

In response, ICE is developing a plan to release migrants and reduce their capacity for detainees because they have a budget shortage. What do you make of the way the Senate Republicans, a caucus that you want to join, how they handled this?


Well, look, I'm really frustrated. In fact, I never gave much consideration of running to the Senate. I made this decision a week ago after the debacle that took place on the Senate floor.

The border is a tremendous problem, and I think the Biden administration has failed miserably on this issue. And Republicans were continually talking about how we have to secure the border, which we do. And yet, when there was an opportunity to do that and to do the things that many Republicans are talking about, secure the border, get funding for Israel and Ukraine, when it got into a -- they backed off and went away from their position.

I thought it was typical dysfunction. I'm frustrated with both parties down there, and that's a perfect example. It's an important thing that most people in America want us to solve, and it's not getting solved, because it's just typical Washington politics.

BASH: Former Governor Larry Hogan, thank you so much for coming on for your first interview and talking about politics and important issues.

HOGAN: Yes. Thank you, Dana.

BASH: We'll be right back.



BASH: Just into CNN, we have new reporting on a cryptic message that the House Intelligence Committee released on social media about a "serious national security threat." CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is on Capitol Hill, been talking to sources. Katie Bo, what do we -- what do we know about this?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Cryptic is the right word. We still have more questions than answers at this point. What we do know is that the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has invited all of the members of the House to come down to the House SCIF, to the Secure Compartmented Information Facility where they can talk about classified information to be briefed on what he has referred to as a "de-stabilizing foreign military capability" that should be known by all Congressional policymakers.

Now, both Turner and other members of the committee, both Republican and Democratic, have declined to elaborate on what that is. My colleague, Natasha Bertrand and I are able to report at this point that it is related to a Russian military capability. But we don't, at this point, have any more details. Congressman Turner is pushing the Biden Administration to declassify all of the information that it can about this alleged threat, so that it can be publicly debated.

We have heard from National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, asked about this at the podium at the White House just moments ago, he too declined to provide further details, but he did say that he had reached out personally to Turner and the rest of senior members of the Congress to discuss this threat for -- in a meeting tomorrow. And he said he was a bit surprised that turner is bringing it up publicly now.

BASH: OK. That's exactly why he's doing it publicly, to put public pressure on the White House to declassify it. It all makes sense now, but we still don't know what the -- what the "it" is. And I know you'll be on it. Katie Bo, thank you so much.

LILLIS: Thanks so much.

BASH: Donald Trump's legal team is going to be very busy over the next few days with multiple hearings, deadlines, and an expected ruling that could have major ramifications for the former president. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is here to break it all down. Katelyn, let's start with the federal election case. What should we expect?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR REPORTER, CRIME AND JUSTICE: Well, that's where the activity is in the Supreme Court, right now. This question of presidential immunity, we are waiting for the Special Counsel to respond. They're very likely going to endorse what the other appeals courts have said. Trumps should go to trial, and then we wait to see if the Supreme Court moves quickly and if they send the case back to the trial court and say, Trump, time to go to trial, or if they keep their hands on it for a little bit longer.


BASH: OK. Let's go down south to Georgia.


BASH: And what do we expect to see what that Georgia election case?

POLANTZ: So that's a hearing Thursday and Friday, and that's about the prosecutor team and if they can stay on the case. There will be cameras in that courtroom. There will be witness testimony, likely from the D.A. Fani Willis, and it is a question of ethics. Are those prosecutors able to stay on the case even though they had a personal relationships and financial ties? That's going to be visiting this march to trial, do these prosecutors continue working on this case. There is a lot love that theme happening here. The march to trial for Donald Trump.

BASH: All right. As he hopes, the slow walk to trial.

POLANTZ: Exactly.

BASH: The cases in New York, let's start with hush money and that hearing.

POLANTZ: Yeah, this is a big focus of the week. Trump clearly is acknowledging this in that he's planning to go to New York and appear before the judge in his criminal hush money case related to the payments to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet for the 2016 election. But, that hearing on Thursday, it's going to be about trial timing, the march to trial, but it's also about false business records or allegedly false business records. That is a big situation for Trump because it is about Trump, the businessman too, in the middle of this campaign where he derives a lot of his credibility and then on Friday, we are expecting also related to false business records, the decision from Judge Arthur Engoron in New York saying exactly how much penalty Trump and his organization should pay for falsifying their information to banks. And so, that is going to be a very big moment. Trump in court Thursday in New York, then Friday, a decision that could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

BASH: That's a civil case?


BASH: OK. Hopefully, people aren't sea sick from all the back-and- forth. But this is the way 2024 is going to be. Thank you so much for breaking it all down. Appreciate it.

Up next, it's been four months since Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the speakership. If you thought he's over it, well, think again. Wait till you hear what he had to say about two of the Republicans who forced him out.



BASH: Former House Speaker and now former Congressman Kevin McCarthy was back on Capitol Hill last night for a rare appearance, and he was in rare form. The ousted speaker held nothing back when he was asked about some of his fellow Republicans, the ones who helped end his congressional career.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to give her any help?

MCCARTHY: No, not help financially. I just hope she gets the help to straighten out her life. I mean she's got a lot of challenges, no one will stay working for her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has there ever been any conversations between you and the former president about Matt Gaetz and his decision to throw you out? Was he supportive of that?

MCCARTHY: I don't know how close you probably think the president is to Gaetz but you should figure that out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) He makes -- Gaetz makes it out to be like they are --

MCCARTHY: I'm sure, Gaetz probably makes a lot out, yeah. but he probably lies about who he sleeps with too.


BASH: Melanie Zanona is back with me now. I should say that Matt Gaetz put a tweet out or in X or whatever it's called now, saying what stage of grief is this --

(LAUGH) BASH: And I know you've been talking to some of the others. And I should say that you've been doing some great reporting with Manu about the fact that this isn't just him talking.


BASH: He's actually -- he, McCarthy is acting. He's really trying to --


BASH: -- take these members down.

ZANONA: Yeah. He has a huge war chest. He is now untethered because he is not a member of Congress and he can go after these members in primaries. And that is exactly what he's planning to do. Nancy Mace is one of those members. She has a primary challenger. I asked her, her response to what Kevin McCarthy said yesterday, and she said to me, the D.C. swamp doesn't want me back, too bad. I don't work for them. I worked for the people of the First Congressional District and no one else.

So, you know, in talking to these members, they're brushing aside the criticisms from McCarthy and they say they're not worried about his revenge tour, which is clearly taking shape right now. But, this is something that is definitely happening and you can tell the emotions are still very raw inside the Republican conference, even formats (ph) after Kevin McCarthy was asked.

BASH: And emotions are still raw inside Kevin McCarthy.


ZANONA: Absolutely.

BASH: Because -- I know our colleague, Annie Grayer was there. He went on for like 30 minutes, right?


BASH: And he was there for a ceremony, but the fact that he wanted to take the time to talk to reporters about the -- as he calls them, the crazy eight, who ousted him, on his efforts to fund primary challengers and to get rid of them. Matt Gaetz is tougher --


BASH: But I think Nancy Mace, because of the nature of her district and other issues, he might have a better chance at?

ZANONA: Yeah. So McCarthy's associates have been doing some of the legwork behind the scenes to recruit and identify potential primary challengers. Matt Gaetz, they tried to find someone to challenge him. No one was interested. He's very actually popular in his district. It's a very conservative district, but they believe that Bob Good of Virginia and Nancy Mace in South Carolina are vulnerable to a primary, so they're going to go into those districts and try to play.

But, back to what you were saying about Kevin McCarthy and how he is still very much feeling all of this, I mean, you've got the sense that he missed the job, at least parts of the job. He was holding court with the reporters. I mean, this is the same man who used to have photo lines with tourists in the Capitol back when he was speaker, he loved the trappings of the speakership. He worked his entire life to get that job and it was taken away from him after nine months. So yeah, there's still some sour feelings --

BASH: Yeah, who can (ph) blame him?

ZANONA: Of course, he's going to want some payback here.


BASH: Yeah. Who can blame him? I want to connect this conversation back to what we were talking about earlier in the show, which is Mike Johnson and the fact that he is a newbie.


BASH: He makes newbies look like they have a lot of experience. He just hasn't done this. Given the sort of dysfunction that's going on right now, any buyer's remorse or seller's remorse?

ZANONA: Listen, do I think that there's going to be a motion to vacate? Probably not given that were so close to November election, people will use it as a threat because they want leverage. I don't think there is an appetite even on the far right to go through (inaudible).

BASH: But, no regrets about pushing McCarthy out?

ZANONA: But there are regrets about pushing McCarthy out.

BASH: From the eight?

ZANONA: From his allies, not from -- not from the Gaetz eight. I mean, they have really struggled in the wake of Kevin McCarthy being ousted. They are still reeling from that. I mean, I don't think that Kevin McCarthy realizes just how much the conference was on his side. He had those eight people who ousted him, but there was many who were his allies, in his corner.

BASH: I think he realizes it.


BASH: That's why he is so upset.


BASH: Melanie, thanks. Such great reporting. Thank you for joining "Inside Politics." I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day. "CNN News Central" starts after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)