Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Covers Third GOP Debate; Ivanka Trump Testifies. Aired 11p- 12a ET

Aired November 08, 2023 - 23:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It is just 11:00 p.m. here in New York and Miami where the third republican presidential debate is now in the books (ph).

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Five candidates this time. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, the two leading contenders to Donald Trump, getting the most attention. Vivek Ramaswamy again, tonight, made his presence known.


COOPER: That's one way of saying it. Who watch the first two debates? Voters in Iowa were watching the debates this time. First, one of the actions from the debate stage tonight, Governor Ron DeSantis having this to say about the former president for not taking part.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Now, if you look where we are now, it's a lot different than we were in 2016, and Donald Trump is a lot different guy than he was in 2016. He owes it to you to be on this stage and explain why he should get another chance. He should explain why he didn't have Mexico pay for the border wall. He should explain why he wrecked up so much debt. He should explain what he didn't drain the swamp. And he said Republicans were going to get tired of winning. What we saw last night, I'm sick of Republicans losing.


COOPER: Let's go now to CNN's Gary Tuchman who watched this debate as he has for all three with voters in Nevada, Iowa. Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're just 68 days away from the first of the nation Iowa caucuses. And because of that, we've come to Iowa for all three debates to talk to loyal Republicans about the debates, and these are some of those loyal Republicans.

This is Nevada, Iowa. This is the county seat of Story, right in the middle of the state of Iowa, and we have come here, each of the debate, to see what has changed or what hasn't changed after each of these debates. So, I'm going to ask you who you think did best from this debate. But first, I want to ask you just a one-sentence headline. If you are going home and telling someone about this debate, what would you say in one sentence? What would your headline be in a newspaper?

UNKNOWN: I like this debate much more than the first two. I'd love to see the differences uninitiated between the candidates this time.

UNKNOWN: Calm, controlled, and informative.

UNKNOWN: Character counts over name-calling and four out of five of people on the stage I could see being in the White House.

UNKNOWN: Foreign policy takes center stage.

UNKNOWN: Unlike the Democrats, the topics were sane, reasonable, and had reasonable consideration.

TUCHMAN: Second row.

UNKNOWN: Not really a debate, more of a structured discussion.

UNKNOWN: GOP stands in solidarity support of Israel.

UNKNOWN: A much more civil debate tonight.

UNKNOWN: Trump won another one.

TUCHMAN: Because he wasn't there?

UNKNOWN: That's right.

TUCHMAN: Up there.

UNKNOWN: I appreciate Ramaswamy bringing up nuclear as a medium for America's energy dominance.


UNKNOWN: They all mentioned the need for a larger U.S. Navy fleet. None of them mentioned the need for a larger U.S. Marine fleet to provide the needed logistics support if they have a war event.

TUCHMAN: That's a long headline, okay.


UNKNOWN: More substance, less spectacle.

UNKNOWN: Third time is a charm.

TUCHMAN: Third time is a charm. So, we are going to talk of the three times. The first time we were here, most of you said that Ramaswamy won -- quote, unquote -- "won the debate." The second time, most of you said DeSantis did. Haley came in second both times. So, my question is, who do you think -- quote, unquote again -- "won the debate?" It's not scientific, but we have been with it three times now. Alphabetical order, who thinks Christie won the debate? Zero. Who thinks DeSantis won the debate? One, two, three, four. Who thinks Haley won the debates? One, two, three, four, five, six. Who thinks Ramaswamy won the debate? One, two, three. Who thinks Scott won the debate?

So, Nikki Haley, who has come on second for the first two debates on this crowd in Story County, has come in first this time. Who picked Haley again, raise your hand? Let me ask you, why do you think she won?

UNKNOWN: I think she was attacked by people and that means that they fear her. And I think she's strong and she reacted appropriately, and she's not a pushover.

TUCHMAN: Parker, he is the mayor here in Nevada, why do you think she won?

UNKNOWN: I think with foreign policy being center stage, it really plays into her strength. They spent a lot of time on that topic. And we saw her go toe-to-toe at tyrants of the U.N. and you can see her doing that as president.


TUCHMAN: Jeff (ph), who did you pick?

UNKNOWN: Nikki Haley.

TUCHMAN: Why do you think she won?

UNKNOWN: Same reason. With all that's going on in the world, foreign policy is forefront in everybody's mind. Been U.N. ambassador. She's got the most experience of all. I think it played into her strength.

TUCHMAN: Who picked DeSantis? Why do you think DeSantis won?

UNKNOWN: Well, unlike the other candidates, he is -- aside from Scott, he actually holds office right now, and that office is in the executive branch. So, everybody else says what they would do or what they did 10 years ago. DeSantis says what he's doing now and what he's going to be doing once he changes that position.

TUCHMAN: Who picked Ramaswamy? Okay. Why do you Ramaswamy won? By the way, I think you were referring to Ramaswamy when you said four out of five people are qualified to be president.

UNKNOWN: That's correct.

TUCHMAN: Okay. Why do you differ from him?

UNKNOWN: I think he wasn't afraid to speak his mind. And I felt like everybody else was kind of in sync with each other and didn't really vary (ph) as much as he did. He just wasn't afraid to go against the grain (ph).

TUCHMAN: Okay, now, 13 people. Twelve of you voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. This gentleman in the upper left used to be a Democrat. He just changed his registration to Republican. So, he didn't vote for Trump. Didn't vote for Biden, though, either, right?

UNKNOWN: That is correct.

TUCHMAN: Who did you vote four years ago?

UNKNOWN: I voted for Andrew Yang.

TUCHMAN: Okay, you voted for Yang. So, all of you, 12 of you, 12 of 13 voted for Trump. How many of you are ready to vote for Donald Trump right now in the caucuses? How many of you will caucus for Trump? Just two. So, 12 of you voted for Donald Trump for president, but only two of you are ready to caucus for him. Why is that? Who wants to speak about that? Why aren't you ready to support Trump?

UNKNOWN: I like Donald. He's not perfect. But I think it's possible, if he gets felonies that the Democrats are going to take him off the ballot. So, we need DeSantis as our backup plan.

TUCHMAN: What about you? How come you are not ready to vote for Trump?

UNKNOWN: Not the same reason. I'm afraid of his legal status and I don't think that he would -- I think he could win but I don't think he would win.

TUCHMAN: So, you're afraid he might end up in prison?

UNKNOWN: At least off the ballot because of legal issues.

TUCHMAN: Okay. I want to tell all of you, thank you for talking to me. Any of you closer to voting for somebody who you didn't come in for, knowing who you vote for because of this debate? Yours is closer -- closer to who?

UNKNOWN: Well, I was a big fan of Mike Pence. Obviously, that changed. But --

TUCHMAN: You're closer voting for Haley now?

UNKNOWN: I am, yeah.

TUCHMAN: And you?

UNKNOWN: I think I'm closer to DeSantis.

TUCHMAN: To DeSantis. I want to thank all of you for talking with us. It has been a pleasure being with you. Again, Anderson, the winner today in this group, at least, Nikki Haley. That is the story in Story County, Iowa. Back to you.

COOPER: It is great to hear from the same folks tonight. Thank them. Than you very much, Gary. Back with the panel. Joining us, CNN political commentator and former Obama senior special adviser, Van Jones. Van, we haven't heard from you tonight. Would you make up?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought Nikki Haley gave a master class on foreign policy. I thought she gave a master class on abortion. If you just took those two clips, you could teach a course on political communication, conversation. She's a force. She's a force.

I also thought -- Israel was mentioned. I thought the Republican Party took advantage of some of the disarray in the Democratic Party and stuck up for Jewish kids who are scared to leave their dorm rooms and all of that kind of stuff, and came very, very forcefully, saying that Jewish kids shouldn't be scared to leave their dorm rooms in this country. I thought that was an important development in the conversation overall.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that and listening to the focus group, they saw Nikki Haley as a fighter.

JONES: Uh-hmm.

BORGER: And Republicans like fighters, as we know, they think Donald Trump is a fighter.

JONES: For instance (ph).

BORGER: Right. And so, she had to fight tonight because everybody was attacking her. But I also want to add something else. This was also mentioned in the focus group. This was a substantive debate also. And, you know, Haley and Christie were talking about raising the retirement age, which Donald Trump has said, you know, he'd never do that. They were talking about foreign policy, Ukraine, Israel. And so, I think --

JONES: Real stuff.

BORGER: -- I think the focus group kind of appreciated that.


BORGER: Wanted to hear them on the issues.

JENNINGS: I think you're calling out the debate and conversation on Israel and antisemitism. It's right on. Haley actually mentioned the things that are going on in college campuses in her opening statement --


JENNINGS: -- which I thought was smart. She didn't quite make the connection, but Republicans have made the connection. You know, Joe Biden's whole presidential campaign was based on Charlottesville. And what happened there? And now, we're having 100 Charlottesville a day on campuses all over this country. The left is -- your word, "disarray," I totally agree with you. And, you know, Jewish voters normally pray for Democrats in these presidential campaigns. I think these Republicans got it right tonight.


And I think the Republican Party has a chance here to be on the correct side of this morally and politically. And you heard that from all the candidates. Haley kind of got the ball rolling. But I was pleased to see the solidarity on that stage in support of Israel.

COOPER: Let's play that sound from Nikki Haley.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: What makes me so angry is not only do you have the kids barricaded in the library, they have said they were going to shoot up the kosher dining hall. You've got kids' dorm rooms, who are being set on fire because they have something related to Israel on their doors. No person should ever feel in danger like this.

And this is what I would say about our college presidents. If the KKK were doing this, every college president would be up in arms. This is no different. You should treat it exactly the same. Antisemitism is just as awful as racism. And we've got to make sure they're protected.

And for everybody that is protesting on these college campuses in favor of Hamas, let me remind you something. Hamas said death to Israel and death to America. They hate and would kill you, too.


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just a master class of an answer there. And she brings knowledge, and she brings sobriety to the way that she is able to hand world events.

I think what we've seen in recent weeks, even since frankly the last debate, has a sobering effect on the conversation tonight, at least for the serious characters on the stage, whether it's the war in Israel, developments in Ukraine, and then, of course, just what we're seeing domestically with the massive rise of antisemitism as well as islamophobia.

And I think that she emerges as somebody who -- she is not going to need to get up to speed. As U.N. ambassador, as a governor, as somebody who served, she knows how to address these issues on day one.

The other thing, to Gloria's point, that I think made her the winner of the night is in this hypothetical situation that we may ever see, Donald Trump and another Republican on a debate stage, Nikki Haley would be the best prepared to actually take him on. She can be bullied, but she can clap back at somebody. She has got a strength to her that I don't think we've really seen in any of the other candidates.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, what did the polling say last night, the CNN polling? Had Trump projected -- will -- is Trump capable of standing up and being a good world leader? Surprising, and I think you commented on this, right?

The polling was very strong. Americans think Trump is a very strong leader internationally and perceived as such. So, while she comes out swinging there, it may not make much of a difference against Donald Trump on a one-on-one.

JONES: I think that -- what I thought was interesting, the focus on fentanyl. I spent a lot of time in the middle of the country, purple state, red counties. It's a pain point out there. And I think the Republican Party now -- their approach is sort of like have a trade war with China over it and a shooting war with Mexico over it. I think some of the policy prescriptions are a little bit bizarre.

But there is real pain out there on that point. There are too many funerals. I lost one of my closest friends to fentanyl overdose. It's devastating. You never get over it because it just doesn't make sense. Somebody is here today and they are gone tomorrow.

I've got a kid in college. Luckily, as best I can tell you, he's a pretty good kit, but he says, you know, kids are out there doing all kinds of stuff. And you can smoke a joint that is laced with fentanyl these days and not know it until you hit the ground.

URBAN: He did make that point. He did make that point correctly. He said, it's not even, you know, illegal narcotics. They're getting into counterfeit drugs that are made and smuggled into the United States. And so, it is a form of bioterrorism, that people are being killed by fentanyl. It is not just kids smoking drugs.

BORGER: I think a lot of them are strong on that issue.

JONES: From a party perspective, as a Democrat who is trying to figure out, what are we looking at going forward? You know, it seems to me that some of these issues that they touched on, they were in an agreement on, so therefore, we don't have to debate them. I think Democrats should be playing close attention. I do think it's very important. We can disagree about what's going on in terms of foreign policy and what Israeli government is doing. We can disagree about stuff over there. We can't disagree about stuff here. We can't have hate here. We can't have people afraid here. We can't have Jewish parents afraid to drop their kids off at the JCC here. And so, if you let that become a partisan divide, I think it's very, very dumb on the part of Democrats. It shouldn't be hard for Democrats to stand up the hate here.


JONES: And that's I think --

AXELROD: I feel very personally about this issue for a lot of reasons. So, I think that, -- you know, I'm horrified by what we've seen.

JONES: Yeah.

AXELROD: But it's important, I mean, that we do attack hate in every form. We had, not to touch on Iran, but the TikTok discussion before. What's going on in social media right now is really alarming. And it is not designed to -- it's not a righteous attempt to contain people's anger.


It's meant to inflame it.

JONES: Yeah.

AXELROD: And so, you know, when you say -- and I know what you mean. I know you're genuine when you say, I'm glad to see Republicans on that side, but I hope we don't just view this as a tactical advantage and that we recognize hate is on the march in a lot of different forms.

JONES: Against Muslims, against Jews, against everybody.

JENNINGS: Well, I don't view it just a tactical advantage. I believe in the old Abraham Lincoln phrase. Right makes might in this case. And I think if the Republicans are right on this and condemning the antisemitism and the absolute explosion of hate against Jewish people in Israel that we're seeing in cities and on college campuses all over this country, I think that's where most Americans are.

And I think the -- and I think the lift is tied up in knots over this because of what they see out of the young progressive base in the Democratic Party. They don't know want to do with it.

BORGER: They're attacking Joe Biden.


URBAN: Yeah.

GRIFFIN: If I can add to that, because I think I know we were all quick to call when we did see a rise in far-right extremism, even neo- Nazism. Donald Trump, you know, sitting down with individual whose name I don't even want to echo. That element does exist on the far- right. I am stunned by how prevalent and antisemitic element exist on the far-left. I think we are seeing it rapidly in real time following the tragedy and the terrorism of October 7th. And Democrats -- country needs to get their hands ready but Democrats have to.

I spoke today on my other show to former Secretary Hillary Clinton who gave a nuance, thoughtful defense of Israel's right to defend itself, and she was booed by a number of young people in the audience who seemed to fundamentally not even understand Israel's right to exist. We are failing a generation of young people in this country.

COOPER: Let's go back to Dana in Miami. Dana?

BASH: Anderson, as you and the panel there were discussing before the break, Vivek Ramaswamy tonight called out Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel on the party's bad electoral performance over the years. Quoting him now, he said, "we become a party of losers."

At the end of the day, I mean, since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022, no red wave, that never came. He said, we got trounced last night in 2023, and I think we have to have accountability in our party. Again, that was Vivek Ramaswamy earlier tonight.

I spoke with Ronna McDaniel about it just a few moments ago.


BASH: I have to ask you, first, about what Vivek Ramaswamy said. He went after you personally.

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, RNC: He did. I'm not going to do that. I'm always going to focus on the Democrats. I will say this, Dana. This republican on republican infighting -- I'm not running for president, so I'm not in this primary -- isn't helping our party. We lost races in 2022 because of betrayal within our party.

We need every Republican and then some to win elections. And the Republican voters want to hear us talk about the border, fentanyl, Israel, our kids, crime, inflation, and they want to see us take on Joe Biden.

BASH: I understand that. But he was criticizing you personally. But he was also criticizing the notion of having a debate with somebody other than a conservative media outlet.

MCDANIEL: I stand by our choice to go out with a non-conservative media outlet. I think NBC did a great job. Hugh Hewitt and Salem Radio, a conservative outlet, was part of that.

But I will also say this. Forty-two percent of our country is independent. We are not going to win elections if we sit in an echo chamber of republican -- of republican media and don't talk to other voters about these issues.

Tonight, people, maybe for the first time, watching NBC heard that 75,000 people died of fentanyl last year. Maybe they learned things about our party that they hadn't heard and took a look at one of our candidates and said, maybe I'm going to vote for them.

That's what we have to do as a party. And if you can't take a tough question, then you probably shouldn't be running for president.

BASH: I have to ask you about what happened yesterday.


BASH: Uh, you won in Mississippi, but had a tough loss in Kentucky. Virginia lost both houses, the state legislature in a night where Republicans thought maybe you would sweep. And, of course, in Ohio, lost the measure that allowed for abortion to happen as part of the Constitution.

MCDANIEL: Yeah. I mean, the RNC is a federal committee, so we're House, Senate, presidential. So, we are not as involved in the state races.

BASH: But this is -- I totally get that.

MCDANIEL: But I'll give you a feel what I think. Dana, you've heard me say this on your show. Many of the candidates in those races were being pummeled with advertising, lying about their stance on abortion, and they did not respond. And if you do not respond, a lie becomes the truth.


Our candidates need to be conversant and able to get on TV and articulate where they stand on abortion and talk about other things. But if a lie is coming against you to the tune of $30 million and use it silent, that lie becomes the truth. I've been saying this since before 2022. Many of the consultants in our party are saying, don't talk about it, ignore it.

If you watch the Virginia ads, it was abortion, abortion by the Democrats, crime, crime from the Republicans. We are going to need to talk about this issue because women across this country care about this issue. I know this because I'm a suburban woman.

BASH: What was interesting about Virginia was that the governor, Glenn Youngkin, tried to do what you are describing right now. Talk about it in a way that he thought would be more reasonable for suburban women having limits on abortion but not an outright ban, and it didn't work.

MCDANIEL: But there wasn't a lot TV on that. If you look at the numbers, you've got to put a lot of money behind your message to let the voters know where you stand. If I were running, I would say, listen, the Democrats are going to try and define me. Let me tell you where I stand. I'm pro-life, but I do think we should have common sense limitations when a baby feels pain. And we should talk about that as a country.

Where do the Democrats stand? What is their exception? When is their point that they won't have an abortion, gender selection, nine-month? We need to have this conversation. But let me tell you, from me instead of from the Democrats, that did not happen in many of these races. Define yourself before the Democrats define you.

BASH: You need money to do that.

MCDANIEL: You need money to that. They -- money was not an issue in Virginia.

BASH: So then, what happened?

MCDANIEL: It is the choices to how you advertise. And I am saying this as a suburban woman, one of the few in leadership in our party that has been saying this for two years. We have to address this issue and you can't just ignore it and think you can run crime ads and ignore this issue.

BASH: One last question. The person not here --


BASH: -- is the one polling far and ahead away from anybody else who was on the debate stage. Do you have any indication that he will show up at any of the debates that you put on?

MCDANIEL: I don't. You know, President Trump, as the former president, is leading very, very well in the polls, and he feels like he shouldn't have to come to debate. That's part of his strategy. But I know he will debate the Democrat, Joe Biden, if he's the nominee. He is open to debates. He has never been afraid of debates. But that's part of what his strategy has been through this primary process.

BASH: Thank you, Ronna. I appreciate it.

MCDANIEL: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.


BASH: Up next, Daniel Dale is back with another fact check on the candidates, namely, and to the point of Anderson's conversation with the panel a moment ago, Governor DeSantis accusing President Biden of being soft on antisemitism.



COOPER: Welcome back. With the third republican debate now done and dusted, CNN fact checker Daniel Dale has been looking carefully at what the candidates said. In this case, what Ron DeSantis said on stage about President Biden's response to antisemitism in the country. Daniel, here is what Governor DeSantis said.


DESANTIS: And what is Biden doing? Not only is he not helping the Jewish students who are being persecuted, he is launching initiative to combat so-called islamophobia. No, it's the antisemitism that spiraling out of control.


COOPER: So, what are the facts on that remark?

DANIEL DALE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Anderson, this claim is highly misleading in a couple of ways. Number one, let us note the governor's use of the phrase "so-called islamophobia." Islamophobia, hatred or fear of suspicion of Muslims, is not a so-called. It is a very real thing that people in this country have been killed over, including recently, unfortunately. It very much exists. Number two, the governor's clear suggestion here is that the president, the Biden administration, is only addressing islamophobia and not antisemitism at all. That is just not true. The Biden administration did announce last week that it is developing a national strategy to counter islamophobia. Biden's White House had already released its national strategy to combat antisemitism months ago, Anderson, in May.

And this week, Biden's Education Department issued guidance reminding schools that they have a legal obligation to address incidence of both islamophobia and antisemitism.

In addition, we know that President Biden himself has repeatedly denounced antisemitism, both in the wake of this Hamas attack in October and for years before. A quick Google search I did this evening brought up numerous members examples dating back years.

So, the pretty inflammatory suggestion here that Biden is ignoring Jews in this fraught moment in favor of Muslims after the attack, it is just not correct.

COOPER: All right. Daniel Dale, thanks very much. Let's go back to Dana.

BASH: Thanks, Anderson. Joining me now here in the spin room is CNN chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who has spent a lot of time on the campaign trail with these candidates. What was your take away?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think the takeaway is that you could really feel the urgency in the arguments of the candidates. I don't know that anything particularly happened tonight that is going to suddenly cause an awakening with an Iowa or New Hampshire voters that, boy, I'm going to go with this person. But you can sort of see the race contracting. Five candidates onstage, by the time the next debate happens, probably even fewer.

So, this really is narrowing. This is considerably different than the race in 2015, '16.

BASH: Uh-hmm.

ZELENY: It is narrowing. But the biggest takeaways are that Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are still in each other's way to be the leading alternative to Donald Trump. And I think that each had some moments tonight. I'm not sure the voters are following specifically the ins and outs of the China debate. It seemed a little bit in the weeds here. But I do think some of the things that may linger are the abortion discussion.

BASH: You know, I -- we were talking about it before I interviewed Tim Scott, about what happened with Ron DeSantis towards the end of the debate where he was talking about the fact that Republicans -- people who are for -- against abortion rights have lost and referenda (ph) all over the country, seven of them now, in very big way, and he blamed the -- what he called the pro-life movement. [23:30:00]

Tim Scott, in Tim Scott's way, pushed back on that a bit. Do you think that's going to maybe hurt DeSantis in Iowa?

ZELENY: It will be interesting to see how this has sort of distilled because, obviously, Tim Scott is going after the evangelical vote, as is Ron DeSantis. There is a pretty big forum. It's next week, actually, the week before Thanksgiving in Iowa, the Iowa family leader, which is a very influential evangelical group but is having all the candidates in. So, we'll see if that echoes and resonates. It might.

But the bottom line, I think also, the position that Nikki Haley has, looking for a consensus. You heard the applause and the audience for that. So, she has been able to walk this line on abortion. She said she's pro-life, in her words, but she calls for consensus. There is an appetite for that. So, she's going to suburban voters. I think that's pretty important. But, again, this is a bit of a cop out. I think we have to say, though, the winner of this debate and certainly the person commanding lead of this race was not here tonight.


ZELENY: He was down the road (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Yeah. And Ronna McDaniel just told me, well, she doesn't expect him to come to any of the primary debates at all. But she does expect him, if he is the nominee, to go to the general election debate. We'll see if that happens.

ZELENY: It's hard to make that argument, right? If your Donald Trump, why should his opponent, if it is Joe Biden, which we think it will, obviously, why should he debate him if Donald Trump didn't do these debates?

But I'm wondering how Iowa and New Hampshire voters will react to that. They are used to seeing these candidates debate. So, we will see if he ends up getting in perhaps for that final debate. He has not been scrutinized or seen as much as some of these candidates.

BASH: Yeah. And meanwhile, he's having this rally, not too far from here, in a really, really heavily Latino area, which is very noteworthy. I mean, it's South Florida. So, it's very specific when you're looking at that sector.

But that is -- at this point, Donald Trump is already thinking about the kinds of groups that he needs for a new coalition in 2024, in the general election, in places like Arizona, in places -- even in Georgia and in Wisconsin. That's definitely where the mindset is for Donald Trump even as you are seeing his competitors continue to debate on stages, like tonight, without him.

ZELENY: Without a doubt, he's looking ahead to the general election. But he is also, I'm told, still keeping a focus on Iowa. He's going to be going back there in November and December a lot. He's keeping his foot on the gas and likely on the throat of some of his rivals so they don't sort of emerge around him here.

So, again, a little over two months before the voting begins. Time is running short for some of them to really emerge. But there are still over minds out there. I know it's hard to believe sometimes, but there are still people who are eager to move on from Trump. They're just not sure who to. But we've learned a lot this week about what the next year will bring in terms of abortion, politics, and other matters. So, let's not get ahead of things.

BASH: Nope. That's always your mantra, and I'm with you on that.


Thanks, Jeff. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Dana, thanks so much. Prior to tonight's debate, Ivanka Trump was the final witness in the New York civil fraud case against her father and her brothers, Don Jr. and Eric. Next, what she said in court today.



COOPER: Just before the debate and the former president's rally this evening, the final member of his family testified in a New York courtroom. We will talk more about the effects his larger legal troubles may have on the race in a moment.

In her testimony today, Ivanka Trump distant herself from the financial documents at the center of the civil fraud case that once counted her as a defendant. The state attorney general has now rested a case that could potentially upend the business empire that forms the cornerstone of the former president's identity. Kara Scannell was at court today and has more on Ivanka Trump's testimony.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, one thing that was noticeable was Ivanka Trump's demeanor. She was composed. She was polite. That was in stark contrast to her father's testimony on Monday where he was combative.

Now, the focus of the attorney general's questioning to her has to do with her involvement in a couple of loans. She was involved in the loan for Doral, the golf course in Miami, as well as the old post office building in Washington, D.C.

The question that she was faced with involved references to emails where she has seen -- that they had passed the financial statements on to the bank in order to get these loans. She was asked questions about that because the allegation in this case is that these statements were fraudulent and that they received, the Trump Organization received better interest rates on those loans.

So, Ivanka Trump acknowledged that she was involved in these discussions at a high level, but she said she didn't really get herself involved in the nitty-gritty details of the loan specifics, including a personal guarantee that her father had given on the loans.

Also, she was questioned about specifically the old post office building. That was a deal that she was heavily involved in negotiating. And there is evidence shown today, a document, indicating that the federal government had called out that the Trump Organization had deviated from accounting roles on the financial statements.

She was asked about that and whether it came up during a meeting that she attended in Washington, D.C. with her father over this deal, and asked if those financial statement irregularities came up. She testified that she didn't recall them coming up, and she said that the focus of that meeting was about her vision.

She was also honest about her apartment that she has in Manhattan, on Park Avenue, and she had a purchase option to buy that apartment for $8.5 million. Now, she was shown evidence that former president had put on his financial statements that that same apartment could be sold. It was worth $20 million. It is about twice as much. She was asked about that.

She testified that she had no knowledge of her father's financial statements, had no idea what went into and out of them, another consistent line similar to what her brothers, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, had previously testified to, that they were not involved in the financial statements at the center of this case.


After her testimony concluded, the New York Attorney General's Office rested their case. Here is what the New York attorney general said outside of court.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: At the end of the day, this case is about fraudulent statements of financial condition that she benefited from. She was enriched. And clearly, you cannot distance yourself from that fact. The documents do not lie. The numbers do not lie.


SCANNELL: Trump's team is expected to present their defense beginning on Monday. They've signaled they're going to call back possibly Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, as well as some bankers who would testify that they were not misled by these financial statements. They say their defense could go until the middle of next month. Anderson?

COOPER: Kara Scannell, thanks so much. Back to the panel. We heard two of the people in Gary Tuchman's Iowa voter group, say they were worried about Trump's legal entanglements.

URBAN: Yeah.

COOPER: Do you think that will be a factor? URBAN: That's the ultimate question, right? When I listened to them,

the panel is verbatim. I was hoping that Jason Miller and Susie Wiles are paying attention as well and getting down in Iowa and kind of (INAUDIBLE) the folks that he cannot run. There is some sort of 14th Amendment issue because he can't run, right? But these people clearly are concerned that he can't.

And you heard somebody say, one of the gentlemen said, I like DeSantis as a backup. Right? So, that's the kind of the theory of the case. You're going to be there as a backup. You know, Hemingway once said, you know, how do you go bankrupt slowly than all at once? That's their theory. I think this kind of momentum will build against Trump, then it will collapse, and they'll be there to kind of take over. Maybe it's real, maybe it's not, but I know that's what Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are counting on.

GRIFFIN: Go ahead.

BORGER: Six percent of primary voters in "The New York Times" poll who were pro-Trump said they could conceivably change their minds if he were convicted in any of these cases. And I think that's kind of a large number to think about. And I think it is of some concern, as you hear these people and this focus group tonight. And I think it's going to be a question of whether he really is convicted by a jury.

URBAN: If he gets convicted. You heard that guy said, if he gets convicted.


BORGER: Maybe not so much by a judge here but by a jury.

AXELROD: You know what, I saw that number --


AXELROD: -- and I think it's a really valid point. But I just -- how many times have we said he'll never get away with that?


You know, and --

BORGER: Exactly.

AXELROD: And you know exactly what's going to happen because if the conviction comes, it's going to come in this trial in New York.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: And he is going to say, you know --

COOPER: When we were young and naive.

UNKNOWN: Exactly.



AXELROD: You know he is going to depict it (ph). You heard what was said earlier about what he said at this rally in Florida. You know, this is like Cuba. You know, this is a political prosecution like in Cuba.


AXELROD: Whatever you think about Donald Trump, and I've got plenty of thoughts about Donald Trump, what you cannot deny is this federal (ph) genius he has for branding and for, you know, spinning and framing his situation. I mean, the fact that 60 to 70% of Republicans believe the last election was stolen in some way despite all the evidence to the contrary, the fact that so many believed prosecutions are politically- motivated, speaks to his ability to do that. So, I believe that number but I just -- when the reality hits, I want to see how that --

GRIFFIN: The reality is also that the court calendar makes it incredibly unlikely. In the most important cases, those would even be rectified ahead of the election, just with an appeals process. The DOJ documents case, I mean, that can get punted into the year after the election. So, the likelihood that number did stand out to me --

URBAN: That's a Jack Smith case.

GRIFFIN: But I likely don't think that we'll see that before the election. Even so, what stood out to me in that focus group was the general confusion from voters.

UNKNOWN: Of course.

GRIFFIN: Will he not be on the ballot of he's indicted? The Democrats --

URBAN: That's what I said. I hope the campaign is paying attention.

GRIFFIN: That would be a glaring --

AXELROD: What they didn't say is -- what they didn't say is I would be so disappointed in him if he were convicted of trying to overturn a free and fair election, but I couldn't possibly vote for him. That's not what they were saying. They were saying they were worried about technical glitches.

URBAN: If he couldn't be on the ballot, we need somebody else.

JENNINGS: These are valid concerns we've seen borne out in other polls about -- you know, a lot of Republicans say, if he is convicted of felony, I will not vote for him in the general election.

JONES: That's what they say.

JENNINGS: And that's where they -- I think there is a fair number that won't. It doesn't take that many. These races are close. Remember where we start. He got 46% of the vote. In '16, he got fewer than Hillary Clinton. He got 46% of the vote. In 2020, he got fewer votes than Joe Biden.


We have been wiped in '18. We have been wiped in '22. We took a bath yesterday in some places.

JONES: You're making me happy.

JENNINGS: And that's before -- that's before a jury may convict him. I don't think this New York case is actually a big deal at all. But a criminal conviction --

BORGER: A criminal conviction.

URBAN: Other than '20, he was not on the ballot. Donald Trump was not on the ballot.

JENNINGS: You don't -- the independents -- we said at this table, you and me, we want -- we looked at the exit polls, and they said three things --

URBAN: In '20 --

JENNINGS: I don't like Biden, his policies are not helping the country, and I intend to vote Democrat until Donald Trump goes away.

URBAN: That was in '22.

JENNINGS: That was in '22. And so, they're here again. I reckon they will be here again next year.

URBAN: So, what explains every national poll since then, that has Donald Trump on the rise, those same people, and I'll tell you what I think it is. It's the Joe Biden-ism. Don't judge me against the almighty. Judge me against the alternative. People are looking at Donald Trump and saying, he's pretty bad. I think that way. But, boy, Biden-Harris is so much worse.

GRIFFIN: I think that Donald Trump has largely been off the campaign trail in a way that he is nationally in front of us. He is in front of us in the courtroom.

I think it when it starts to look more like a general election and you are reminded what Biden's messages, what he is telling people and what Donald Trump is and what a lot of the second term looks like, when he's talking more about throwing General Milley in jail than he is about dealing with the border, that is when I think those numbers may (INAUDIBLE).

Donald Trump's biggest asset that he could have is if he shuts up. Doesn't truth. doesn't say crazy things. That is when his numbers --

COOPER: That's the point that Abby Phillip made earlier, which is once -- you know, if he gets on the campaign trail and people start to pay attention and the stuff he is saying, people will see what a second term for him might look like.

JENNINGS: He gets the same -- he gets the same amount --he gets the same percentage every time he is on a ballot. Those people are not going anywhere.

GRIFFIN: But it is not --

JENNINGS: The question is, is it enough?

AXELROD: That's where the third-party candidates may factor into this race. I mean, he has a high floor and a low ceiling --


AXELROD: -- but if the ceiling is lowered because there are multiple candidates in the race, I think it becomes a different issue.

BORGER: It's also an issue of how he is covered. He hasn't been on the air, as Abby was saying earlier and you were saying, Alyssa, that we are not taking his speech tonight in Florida. Some networks might, but we are not covering every rally like he used to be covered.

COOPER: Right now, he --

BORGER: And he's not on Twitter or X. He's on Truth.

URBAN: (INAUDIBLE) as we've said.

BORGER: Yes. So, they are not being exposed to him in the way they were --

URBAN: No, no, but new people are being exposed to him, who like that, who like the message. We just saw this poll African-American men, Hispanics. They're growing in different parts of the pie.

JONES: Yeah. I mean, I think that something is happening out there right now because, exactly as you are saying, he's not being seen giving speeches, he's being seen as a murderer in court. I think that -- you can create sympathy in strange places. You saw the polling data that shows Black men split 50/50 --


JONES: -- Trump-Biden. So, right now, his strategy is paying off. I think when he does start talking about the stuff that you're talking about and speaking about what he's going to do as president, some stuff may change. But right now, his legal strategy is working for him politically.

AXELROD: Good news because he's going to be in court a lot.

COOPER: Everybody, thanks for joining us this evening. Just ahead, what the candidates had to say about Israel's war against Hamas.



COOPER: With Israel's military now standing what it calls the heart of Gaza City more than a month after the October 7th attacks, tonight's debate moderator got to the question of Israel and Hamas early in the evening. Here is Ron DeSantis and what he would say to Israel.


DESANTIS: I would be telling Bibi, finish the job once and for all with these butchers Hamas. They're are terrorists. They're massacring innocent people. They would wipe every Jew off the globe if they could. He cannot live with that threat right by his country. That Hamas should release every hostage and they should unconditionally surrender. I'm sick of hearing the media. I'm sick of hearing other people blame Israel just for defending itself.


COOPER: Joining us now with perspective, Barak Ravid, political and foreign policy reporter at "Axios." It sounds like Netanyahu gets more support on that stage than some people in Israel have for him?

BARAK RAVID, POLITICAL AND FOREIGN POLICY REPORTER, AXIOS: Yeah. I think that's completely true. I understand. But, you know, when you are a candidate in a primary, you can really say whatever you want. You have no responsibility and especially when you are a candidate that, you know, we have to be honest. All of the five people we saw on stage today are not really going to be the Republican nominee for the presidential race. So, you know, they can say whatever they want.

COOPER: How important is the outcome of the U.S. presidential race to Israel's war against Hamas?

RAVID: Well, this is going to be a long war, even if it doesn't -- if it is not going to look the way it looks right now. So, I think that whoever is going to be in the White House in January 2025 is going to be very important to what's going on in the ground in Israel, especially because there will be a day after. At least, the Israeli government doesn't have a plan at the moment.

And whoever is going to be the president would want to know what is going to happen after the war. So, now it's going to be Joe Biden. But maybe in January 2025, it is somebody else. Even if it's somebody else, he would want to know what's going on in Gaza, too.

COOPER: What are you hearing from sources about any plan? I mean, Prime Minister Netanyahu says Israel is going to have -- quote -- "overall security responsibility" -- end quote -- in Gaza for -- quote -- "indefinite period."

What does that mean? Are they talking about the Palestinian authority, trying to get the Palestinian authority because they've already said that they won't come in riding on Israeli tanks to take over Gaza?

RAVID: You know, Anderson, we started with the republican primary and we are now going to what's going to happen in Israeli politics after this war. Because I don't think that whoever is in power in Israel right now, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, will be the one that will call the shots about what's going to happen the day after the war. It is very clear --

COOPER: You don't think he can survive politically given the failures that led up to October 7th?

RAVID: I think if you look at Israeli history, you can see what happened after the 1973 war.


Even if it took some time, you can see what happened after the first Intifada where the Likud lost two (INAUDIBLE) in the Labour Party. You can see what happened after the second Intifada where the Labour Party lost to Likud. Usually, after those things, especially when it comes to, you know, really one of the biggest, if not the biggest trauma, in the history of Israel, I just cannot see how this thing does not lead to an early election and a new government within the next, I don't know, six months.

COOPER: Does Israel have any kind of exit plan for the war besides -- I don't know what overall security means other than is it is Israeli troops on the ground?

RAVID: I think what it means right now is that Netanyahu would want to see in Gaza a similar situation as you see in the West Bank, meaning that even if you're not going to keep tens of thousands of soldiers inside the Gaza Strip, Israel will not be -- the suggestion will not be like you had on October 6th, that there is a like a ceasefire and nobody is doing anything.

There will be -- if Israel will see a security threat, it will strike it from the air or it will go on a ground raid during the nights. Again, the same way as you see in the West Bank in recent years.

COOPER: The total defeat of Hamas cannot be measured? I mean, there are a lot of people that can just fade into the civilian population.

RAVID: I think when Netanyahu says, the destruction of Hamas, I think it means first Hamas's military capability to threat Israeli towns and villages on the border and with rocket fire to other parts of Israel. I think that is the number one thing.

Second thing is Hamas's leadership, that they think the Israeli military and Israeli leadership want to see those people dead after this war. I think that those two things are pretty measurable. Obviously, Hamas is not going to disappear. It's a political movement. It's an ideology. But the question is whether its military capability will disappear the day after the war.

COOPER: Barak Ravid, thank you. Always good to talk to you. Appreciate it. The news continues here on CNN, next.