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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Town Hall With Vivek Ramaswamy; Analysis Of CNN Town Hall With Vivek Ramaswamy. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 13, 2023 - 21:00   ET




And welcome to Iowa, home of the first contest of the 2024 presidential race, now just 33 days away.

We are live here at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, for CNN's town hall with Ohio businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

I'm Abby Phillip.

Mr. Ramaswamy has made a name for himself in this field with his bold and sometimes controversial positions. Now he is prepared to face his first test before voters right here in Iowa, where he is competing with his rivals, including the current front-runner, former President Donald Trump.


Now, tonight's event is about the voters. Mr. Ramaswamy will have the opportunity to answer questions directly from Iowans on the issues that will help determine who wins the Republican nomination. And I will, of course, have some questions of my own.

In the audience here are voters who say that they plan to participate in the Iowa Republican caucuses, both registered Republicans and also voters who plan to register as Republicans.

To find tonight's questioners, we reached out to Republican-affiliated groups, as well as business groups, farm associations, parent groups, young professional organizations, religious groups, and conservative advocacy organizations.

Guests of the Ramaswamy campaign and of Grand View University are here in the audience tonight, but they won't be asking questions.

We have asked everyone here to be respectful to each other and to Mr. Ramaswamy, so that the voters in this room and at home have a chance to hear from the candidate.

Now please welcome Vivek Ramaswamy.



PHILLIP: Good to see you too.


RAMASWAMY: Thank you, guys. Hey, guys. Good to see you guys.


PHILLIP: I want to get right to the audience and bring in Samona Yentes from Clive, Iowa. She is self-employed and serves on the board of a Christian school in Des Moines. She's a Republican, but she says that she is still undecided.



First of all, welcome to Iowa and merry Christmas from Iowa.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you.

YENTES: And thank you for really adding some important conversations to the -- to the campaign.

So, some local commentators refer to you as maybe the younger Trump, not a politician, which would place you running in the same lane as President Trump for getting votes. So, other than being younger, how would you differentiate yourself from President Trump?

RAMASWAMY: So, look, I appreciate that question, and I get it frequently these days on the campaign trail.

It's not just being younger. I think we are reaching a new generation of voters in this country. We have been to most of the college campuses across this state. And I don't think that's something the Republican Party has done a great job of.

There's a reason why these revolutions, these revivals are often led by the next generation. Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. I'm an old man by comparison, actually, to Thomas Jefferson.

And I will say this. It's going to take a president who, yes, comes from the outside, is a businessman. I believe it's going to take an outsider, with sharp elbows at times, to come take on the federal bureaucracy, to shut down agencies that need to be shut down, to implement that 75 percent head count reduction I want to see in the federal bureaucracy.

But it's also going to take a president who has a deep first personal understanding of the law and the Constitution. And those two things don't usually go together. I have actually hired many people in my career over the many companies that I have started.

And those two skills, you might have the academic law professor types over here, you might have the business types that are going to get something done. That's what gives me my sense of purpose in this race. And I think I'm the only person in this race who brings both of those attributes, an understanding and a commitment to the Constitution.

But combine that with being an outsider who can actually get things done, and I think that's going to take the combination that actually takes to revive this economy and revive our constitutional republic.

PHILLIP: And if I may, Mr. Ramaswamy, Samona's question was about how you would be different from Donald Trump.


PHILLIP: So, how specifically would you differentiate yourself from Trump?

RAMASWAMY: Well, look, I think some are some policy areas.

I mean, take the Iowa carbon capture pipeline, the use of eminent domain right here. It doesn't affect many in the national audience, but it affects people in this room. I'm seeing many heads nodding. You're familiar with this issue.

They're using eminent domain to seize farmland to build a carbon capture pipeline using federal subsidies. I'm the only candidate in this field who has taken a clear stand in being against those kinds of policies, the unconstitutional use of eminent domain.

So, we can go into other specific examples, but it comes down to a commitment to the Constitution, a deep understanding of the Constitution, swearing an oath to the Constitution and keeping it, and combining that with being an outsider, and, yes, reaching and inspiring the next generation of Americans.

I think I'm the best person in this race to do those things, and that's why I'm in it.

PHILLIP: Let's bring in now Jacqueline Riekena. She's a health care I.T. manager from West Des Moines. She's a Republican who says that she's undecided.




RAMASWAMY: Thank you.

RIEKENA: I'm going to switch it up.


RIEKENA: With the number of illegals -- illegal aliens crossing the border daily, and being bused to cities across the United States, how do you plan to secure our border and remove -- remove illegals from the U.S.?

RAMASWAMY: And that second part is the harder part. I'm glad you asked it.

Let me start with the first part of how we'll just secure the border. These are basic things we can do. The country that put a man on the moon can get this done. It's just a question of political will.

So, one thing I've said is we will use our own military to secure our own border. Right now, we can use it to secure somebody else's border. Let's use it to secure our own southern border, and our northern border too. Don't forget about that. Our northern border has seen more illegal crossings this past year than the last 12 years combined. That's where this front is going.

And I've visited both in the last several months. If we're able to do that, use our military, complete the border wall, stop federal aid to any Central American country until they have secured their own borders for every country between Venezuela and Mexico.

Then I want to implement, I would say, the best border policies of all, which is ending the illegal incentives to be here. End birthright citizenship for the kids of illegal migrants to whom the 14th Amendment does not apply. End federal funding to sanctuary cities using our own taxpayer money to pay effectively for breaking the rule of law.

And then there's the hard question. I don't want to leave you hanging on that one, because many people skip this one, but this one's the hard one. I do believe that anybody who's in this country illegally needs to be returned to their country of origin. Not because they're all bad people. In fact, many of them are good people, many of them. If we're being honest, if we were in their shoes and there's a president of the United States, who's been giving them a wink and a nod to come on over, if we were in a tough spot, maybe we would have done the same thing.

So, this is not a value judgment about those people. It's a value judgment about this country. We're founded on the rule of law. And as a father of two sons in the White House, I can't look them in the eye and tell them they have to follow the rules when our own government isn't following its own rules.

So, then there's the question of how, and this is the part many Republicans skip. There's only 6,000 or so ICE agents on the front line. How could they possibly tackle millions of illegal migrants who are in this country illegally? Here's the answer. There's a provision in the law. We don't need new laws. The existing law, it's called 287(g). It allows you to actually serve an ICE agent to allow local law enforcement across this country to serve their warrants. That's a million law enforcement officers. We can then get that done, but again, all it takes is a president with a spine.

And if I swear an oath to the constitution, I intend to keep it. That's how I'm going to lead this country, and I think that's how we're going to solve not only the border crisis, but the crisis of the abandonment of the rule of law in this country. That's how I expect to lead.

PHILLIP: You just said that you would end birthright citizenship.

RAMASWAMY: For the kids of illegal migrants.

PHILLIP: For the kids of illegal --


PHILLIP: -- immigrants. There are currently millions of such people, children, some of them adults. Would you retroactively strip them of --

PHILLIP: Great question, Abby. So, I'm glad you asked that prospectively. So, January 20, 2025 forward, there is a concept in the law known as a reliance interest. If you've relied on the government, we're not going to be able to retroactively date that.

But from January 20, 2025 going forward, if I'm the president, if you're born in this country as the kid of an illegal immigrant, you will not enjoy birthright citizenship. And that's what the 14th Amendment says. It says it only applies subject to the jurisdiction thereof. That's in the opening section of the 14th Amendment, when it talks about birthright citizenship.

So, in the same way -- and I want people to understand this because some people call this a controversial view. I don't think it needs to be. The kid of a Mexican diplomat who's here legally and he's born in the United States, that person doesn't enjoy birthright citizenship. Nobody can test that.

Well, if the kid of a Mexican diplomat who's here legally does not enjoy birthright citizenship, neither does or should the kid of a Mexican or Venezuelan migrant who's here illegally. And there's been case law on this at the appellate court level. The one case that's been ruled agrees with me on this. I believe the current Supreme Court agrees with me six to three on this. All we need is a president with a spine who, I go back to that first question, Abby, understands the constitution.

If I'm going to swear an oath to the constitution, I better darn well have read it.

PHILLIP: You suggested --

RAMASWAMY: That's what I'm going to do.

PHILLIP: You suggested, though, the courts would have to weigh in on this. Would you agree with that?

RAMASWAMY: I expect that this will go to the Supreme Court, and I expect the current Supreme Court will agree six to three with me on this based on my study of the court.

PHILLIP: All right. Let's turn now to Mike McCoy. He's an insurance company CEO from West Des Moines and a trustee here at Grand View. He's a Republican who says that he's deciding between you and Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. Mike.

MIKE MCCOY, INSURANCE COMPANY CEO: Thank you. So, what makes you think that Putin would be responsive to your Ukraine solution?

PHILLIP: And before you jump in, Mr. Ramaswamy, I just want to ask you to remind the audience here what the solution is that he's referring to.

RAMASWAMY: That's fair enough. So, I've proposed -- and thank you for coming prepared, I appreciate that. I've proposed a reasonable end to the Ukraine war. I don't think this war is advancing our interests. I think we're spending $200 billion of our taxpayer money that would be better used to defend our own border.


But even worse, I believe it's increasing the risk of World War III, because it's driving Russia further into China's hands.

So what I proposed is a reasonable deal that would allow Ukraine to come out with its sovereignty intact -- yes, with some territorial concessions of the Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine, and a hard commitment that NATO will not admit Ukraine to NATO, but only if Putin exits his military alliance with China. That Russia-China alliance is the top threat that we face today.

So do I trust Vladimir Putin? Of course not.

Is Putin a grave (ph), craven dictator? Absolutely, he is. But we will trust him to follow his self-interest, just as he will trust us to follow ours.

Because you asked a good question, I'm going to go into this detail.

Nixon did this in 1972 when he pulled Mao Zedong out of the USSR. That was the China-Russia alliance back then.

Did we trust Mao? Of course, we didn't. But there were kinks in that armor back then, there are kinks in that armor today, in the Russia- China relationship.

Look, when Putin and Xi Jinping met, Putin sends then weapons to India and Vietnam. That's sending a signal to China. China doesn't appreciate that.

China wants to complete a railroad in northeast China to the ocean. Russia's not letting them. So, if we look closely, there are kinks in that armor.

But it's going to take a visionary leader who's going to say, we're going to use the Ukraine war as an opportunity, to say to Russia, you know what? We'll reopen some economic relations with Russia as Nixon did with Mao. But we're going to require no more joint military exercises. No more military sales between Russia and China -- weaken that alliance.

That's the single most important thing the next president can do to reduce the risk of World War III.

And I want you to understand, I'm the only presidential candidate really talking about that Russia-China alliance. Yet that is the single greatest threat we face to the United States of America today.

And I do think it's going to take a leader coming from the outside of the existing foreign policy establishment -- I'll remind you -- the one that got us into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where thousands of our sons and daughters went to go die, adding $7 trillion to our national debt 20 years later, with the Taliban still in charge in Afghanistan, and Iraq still a broken country. If that isn't a sign that we need fresh blood in our foreign policy establishment, I don't know what is.

And so, I think it's going to take new leadership, and that's the deal that will do.

Thank you for your question.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Staying on this Ukraine topic, I want to follow up.


PHILLIP: You want to suspend support for Ukraine in this war and get the United States out of that conflict.

RAMASWAMY: As part of this deal that I've laid out.

PHILLIP: If Putin doesn't take you up on that deal, would you allow Putin to use force to take all of Ukraine if he wanted to?

RAMASWAMY: So, we're going to do -- I think the deal we're going to do now is actually going to allow Ukraine to come out with its sovereignty intact --

PHILLIP: But if --

RAMASWAMY: -- which is not even the path that Ukraine was on.

PHILLIP: But if Putin does not take you up on your deal, which he may not.


RAMASWAMY: So, look, I'm -- look, I'm convinced on my ability to negotiate this deal.

PHILLIP: If he decided to use force to march into Kyiv, take all of Ukraine, would you, as president of the United States, allow that to happen?

RAMASWAMY: Abby, that, I think, is a fictitious scenario, for a lot of the reasons. Part of the reason Putin's been able to seize eastern Ukraine is they have not had the same level of resistance as the rest of Ukraine. PHILLIP: How is it a fictitious scenario when Putin amassed --

RAMASWAMY: Because he immediately has tried to do it and has failed to do it, and so what I would say to this --


PHILLIP: Well, he had tried to do it I think is the point I'm trying to make here.

RAMASWAMY: And he failed to do it because I think that this -- it's a fair question.


PHILLIP: He failed to do it because the United States backed Ukraine.

RAMASWAMY: Well, he -- no, he failed to do it for a deeper reason. And now this gets into some details in the Ukraine war, but if you want to go there, I think we should go there, which is that the eastern regions of Ukraine, these are Russian-speaking regions, where most of the people who live there don't even view themselves, really, as part of Ukraine. They have not been represented in the Ukrainian parliament for the better part of the last decade, almost the entire last decade.

So there was no counterinsurgency or resistance. That's why Putin was successful in eastern Ukraine but not the rest.

So, again, I come back to principles --

PHILLIP: But would you --

RAMASWAMY: Where there are a lot of scenarios we can't map out in advance, but the basic principles are this -- Russia is in a military alliance with China. I'm going to play hardball and require that Russia weaken or exit its military alliance with China.

But we also have to stand by a few things that -- commitments we've made, that NATO should not actually admit Ukraine to NATO. We made that commitment. Gorbachev made it -- it was made to Gorbachev by James Baker in 1990. We haven't kept that commitment. We should keep that commitment, too.

And I think that that level of diplomacy avoids us using -- I mean, let's look at the alternative now, Abby. We're looking -- talking about sending another $61 billion to Ukraine. It is unclear to me or anybody else what the next hundred billion is going to do that the first hundred billion didn't accomplish.

And so, I don't think throwing bad money after bad is going to be the solution here. I do think diplomacy is the solution. But it's going to take somebody who is committed to advancing U.S. interests to get this done.

PHILLIP: I want to -- RAMASWAMY: So my foreign policy is avoid World War III, declare

independence from China, and then focus on securing our own homeland, which we're not talking about enough, Abby.

PHILLIP: I want to -- I want to get back now to our audience member.


We have a question now from Nicole Rybak. She's from Des Moines and is a college admissions counselor. She says that she's currently registered as a Democrat, but now intends to switch parties and is planning to participate in the Republican caucuses and register as a Republican.

She's undecided on which candidate to support. Nicole.

NICOLE RYBAK, COLLEGE ADMISSIONS COUNSELOR: Thank you and welcome. I'm going to throw it back to the United States and talk a little bit about how you feel about the growing differential between the top one percent and the middle class in the U.S. And how you plan on addressing it in your presidency.

RAMASWAMY: Yes. Great question. And to tell you the truth, I don't feel great about it. A lot of this is the product of the Federal Reserve, actually. Seems like a technical subject, a lot of people don't like to talk about. I think this is fundamental.

So the Federal Reserve has, since the late '90s, taken on the role of playing effectively God for the financial system, for a lot of that period, raining money from on high like manna from heaven.

We've been skiing on artificial snow and it's really flowed down through the top one percent. A friend of mine actually has a funny expression but I'll share it with you. He says, you know, if you're a nurse, you'll go home with some extra latex gloves. If you're a teacher, you might go home with some extra pencils.

If you're a banker, you go home with a few extra dollars. And that's the way it's worked through the Federal Reserve System.

Trickledown economics, I believe does work when it's driven by gains in the real economy, but it doesn't work when it's created by artificial paper wealth generated by Fed Reserve policies. So I put the Fed back in its place.

The reason real wage growth has not gone up for the bottom 99 percent adjusted for inflation. It's been flat. The reason why is the Federal Reserve has treated wage growth as though it's a leading indicator of inflation and try to tamp it down like a game of Whac-A-Mole for the last 25 years. So you get what you pay for.

My view is I'll put the Fed back in its place. A single mandate for the U.S. Fed. What is that? Dollar stability. Peg the dollar to commodities. That ties the hands of our government. That's a good thing. We had our greatest GDP growth in this country before we left the gold standard. I think that's telling. So when the dollar is stable, that's how you actually helped the bottom 99 percent in this country. That's how you see a real wage growth. And I want people to understand, you hear a lot of tales of mythology. I would say about the current economy. Let's make it simple. What's going on?

Prices are going up. Interest rates, including mortgage rates to buy your home or going up. But wages have remained flat. And so I'm not going to be the person who comes in here and tells you.

Some people say, am I too pessimistic at times? I'm a realist. I'm not going to tell you the American dream is alive and well right now. It is not. It's alive and hanging on for life support.

But I believe it can be. And I do think it's going to take now more than ever the CEO in the White House. Somebody with fresh legs. Somebody I believe from the next generation to look at this differently, apply some basic economic common sense. And that starts with reform of the Federal Reserve.

So thank you for that question. Welcome to the Republican side.

PHILLIP: Let me ask you, Mr. Ramaswamy, two years ago, you floated the idea to dramatically increase the inheritance tax up to 59 percent. You said then, we shouldn't allow people to become billionaires just by having rich parents.

Would you push for that as president?

RAMASWAMY: That's not part of my policy platform as president.

And one of the things people should know about me is that I'm not a standard candidate. I've written three books in the last two years. They're not candidate books.

I said that I brought up Thomas Jefferson earlier. I admire him because he was one of the few truly intellectual presidents we've had. And so I like to explore ideas.

One of the things an 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Smith taught me is that you don't really understand what you think unless you can offer the best statement of an alternative view. And so that's where I did my books.

I wrote my book -- first book was "Woke, Inc." And I often joke, I agree with about 95 percent of what's in there.

And so my view is this, what we really need is a 12 percent flat tax across the board. Ordinary income, capital gain, corporate, flatten it all out.

And then here's how we get the money back for the system. End the croniest deductions. The deductions and the loopholes and the -- and the rebates that a lot of corporations, a lot of special interests have lobbied in. It's about $700 billion a year, just the tax compliance costs, just the out of pocket costs, not even counting the time you spend preparing your taxes. Give that back to the people. That's how we actually restore -- again, a big part of our economy, grow our economy. That's the way I would do it.

PHILLIP: You are -- it was probably no surprise to folks here. You're very wealthy. You've made a lot of money in your life.

RAMASWAMY: Self-made.

PHILLIP: Do you -- do you want your wealth -- do you believe it should pass down to your children?

RAMASWAMY: So that's an important question, actually. And I want to speak on behalf of both my wife and I. My wife, Apoorva, she wanted to be here today. She's not here because she was treating cancer survivors at Ohio States Hospital. That's where -- she's kept her full-time job while we're going through this.

And, you know, in many cases, our healthcare system, or I should call it our sick care system, is so broken that she doesn't even get paid for many of the procedures she does to improve patients' lives.


That works for us because we are in the position that we're in.

But I'll tell you this, we're spending immense amounts of our family's fortune on this campaign. We didn't inherit our wealth. But that's the inheritance we actually care about giving our kids. It's not a bunch of green pieces of paper. It is the country that allowed us to live the American dream that each of us did.

My parents came to this country 40 years ago with no money. And, yes, in a single generation, I have gone on to found multiple multi- billion-dollar companies, did it while marrying Apoorva, who lived her American dream, raising our two sons, following our faith in God. That is the American dream. That's the inheritance we care to give our kids.

And even if we're just speaking really honestly, and some people hit me for this, but I stand by it, actually. I've gone to college with -- I -- I went to Harvard. I mean, my dad was working at G.E. He faced down layoffs under Jack Welch's tenure. We had a solidly middle class upbringing with some ups and downs along the way.

I went to school with kids who were the kids of billionaires. That was new to me. I had never encountered that in my life until I got to Harvard College. And I'll tell you something, Abby, it's -- it's interesting. They weren't -- many of them weren't happier for it. To the contrary, I was actually able to follow my hunger and my passion and my ambition maybe even more freely than many of my other fellow peers.

I'm grateful to other peers who may not have access to basic education. But there are also those who don't have basic access to having their own ability to live the American dream because they are encumbered by that inheritance as well. So I'm not one of these guys who fetishizes lavishing children with a bunch of wealth. I want to give them the country that allows them to live the American dream through meritocracy that allowed Apoorva and I to succeed as well.

PHILLIP: I want to go back to the audience. We have here Riley Miller. He's a law student at Drake University and a clerk in the Marion County Attorney's Office. He's a Republican who is currently undecided. Riley?

RYLEE MILLER, LAW STUDENT & CLERK AT MARION COUNTY ATTY'S OFFICE: Thank you. On the debate stage you have somewhat abandoned the tact and diplomacy that I would look for in a president. I'm all for keeping it real and dogging the establishment. But there's a gravitas that -- that I look for in those who represent our country. How do you see the balance between keeping it -- being authentic...


MILLER: ... and maintaining that presidential demeanor?

RAMASWAMY: I appreciate the question. I think it's very candid. This is what I love about Iowa. I get tougher questions from you guys than I do from the media. That's -- and that's good, it's why we're here. So I -- I appreciate that.

Look, here's the standard I use for holding myself to or holding any president to. I want us to be able to look our kids in the eye and tell them that I want you to grow up and be like him. It has been a long time since we've held our presidents to that standard. That's standard I want you to hold me to, that's a high standard. Now I think about that in judging the way I comport myself in different areas.

Am I going to tell me kids to go to school and be a bully? No, I'm not. But I'm going to tell them if somebody bullies you or hits you, you're going to hit him back 10 times harder. And that's the way I'm going to lead this country. You can't -- you have to be -- as we say in our family, you have to be strong enough to protect your kindness.

So if you watch the debates carefully, I don't engage in four-letter words. I mean, there are other candidates who have called me dumb, scum, and worse that I'm not going to repeat here. I didn't go after them, but if they're going to come after me, I'm not going to be a president, whether it's Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin or anybody else, who's going to roll over. When I'm leaving the United States, the same rule applies.

If you hit us, we hit you back 10 times harder.


RAMASWAMY: But it's not for the sake of being a bully. It's for protecting our inner kindness too. And I think it's important that we have a president that has both of those attributes. I've done more podcasts probably than -- probably than most presidential candidates in history combined. Mostly because podcasts are new. I'll admit that.


RAMASWAMY: But I will tell you, that's a different setting. And so I believe, I think it's the Book of Ecclesiastes that teachers, and my faith teaches me the same thing, there's a time and place for everything. There's a time and place for fortitude. There's a time and place for justice. There's a time and place for mercy. And I think it's going to take all of those attributes, every last ounce of each of those attributes to stand for this country, to reunite this country, and revive who we are.

You don't want a wilting flower in the White House. But you also want somebody who understands what we are fighting for. That's the standard I want you to hold us to. We will aspire to hold ourselves to. And I think that sometimes being a parent is what gives me my moral clarity.

And I hope through the rest of this campaign -- we're just getting warmed up. I hope to be able to earn your trust that, yes, I do have what it takes to tell you the truth. I'm not going to hide the truth from you. If you want someone who is going to speak truth to power, vote for somebody who is going to speak the truth to you, to the Republican Party, do it unvarnished, without sugarcoating, and I don't do much sugarcoating, but also somebody who, as you, I believe, want, can stand for the ideals that would make our founding fathers proud and would make our children proud as well.


PHILLIP: Speaking -- speaking of those debates, let me ask you about something that you said at the debate last week.

You used the phrase inside job to describe what happened on January 6.

The next day, Capitol rioter Alan Hostetter highlighted your comments at his sentencing. He is going to prison for 11 years. Hostetter threatened members of Congress. He brought a hatchet, knives, pepper spray, stun batons, tactical gear to the U.S. Capitol.

Are you concerned that a convicted felon like that is now promoting your comments in court?

RAMASWAMY: So here's my concern, Abby.

And I want to tell you guys where I'm at. If you had told me -- it's close to three years ago that January 6, 2021, happened. If you had told me three years ago, back when I was a biotech CEO, not steeped in this world -- I was just consuming passive media, but was focused on my world of developing medicines.

If you had told me that January 6 was in any way an inside job, the subject of government entrapment, I would have told you that was crazy talk, fringe conspiracy theory nonsense.

I can tell you now, having gone somewhat deep in this, it's not. I mean, the reality is this. We do have a government, first of all, we have technology, that has lied to us systematically over the last several years about the origin of COVID-19, about the Hunter Biden laptop that we were told was false by 51 CIA experts and otherwise, before we now know that it was true.

You can go straight down the list, the Trump-Russia disinformation collusion hoax, all of it. Now we come to January 6. The reality is, we know that there were federal law enforcement agents in that field. We don't know how many.

I think it's shameful...

PHILLIP: Mr. Ramaswamy...

RAMASWAMY: If I may finish just answering here, because this is really important, Abby.

PHILLIP: Well, let me just -- I'm going to -- I'm going to go ahead and interrupt you here, because you're saying that there were...

RAMASWAMY: Because I know the establishment doesn't approve of this message. I know this.

PHILLIP: You're saying that there were federal agents.

RAMASWAMY: But we should be able to talk about this.

PHILLIP: You're saying that there were federal agents in the crowd.

RAMASWAMY: This is important to talk about. This is important.


PHILLIP: You are saying there were federal agents in the crowd on January 6.


PHILLIP: There is no evidence that there were federal agents in the crowd on January 6.

RAMASWAMY: So -- so, why, before Congress, when pressed on what the number was, they didn't say there were none? They just couldn't say how many there were.

PHILLIP: So you're saying that there's no -- that you have not seen evidence -- any evidence that there were, and so you have assume that there were.

RAMASWAMY: So, we have seen multiple -- we have seen multiple informants suggesting that there were. We know people were -- we know people were FBI informants who were asked....


PHILLIP: Is there any evidence...

RAMASWAMY: May I just -- let me just finish.


RAMASWAMY: And you can come back and question me on it.

PHILLIP: Well, let me clarify.

RAMASWAMY: Because I know this is very uncomfortable for you.

PHILLIP: I'm going to clarify my question, because you...

RAMASWAMY: I know this is an uncomfortable issue for many people, but we have to do the truth here.

PHILLIP: I'm going to clarify my question, because I want to make sure that you understand what I'm asking you.


RAMASWAMY: Oh, I understand this deeply. And I told you I was with you three years ago. I'm not there now.


PHILLIP: Where is the evidence...


PHILLIP: Where is evidence that the government had a plot, an inside job to inspire, to foment violence on January 6? Where is the evidence of that?

RAMASWAMY: So, let's do this. I'm going to tell you what an inside job is.


RAMASWAMY: With due respect, I'm not going to let you put words in my mouth. I'm going to put my words in my mouth. And I'm going to tell you what I mean by that.


PHILLIP: Where is the evidence that the government was involved in planning or executing January 6?

RAMASWAMY: Entrapment. OK.

PHILLIP: Where is that evidence?

RAMASWAMY: So, I'm going to give you -- I'm going to give you hard facts.

And if I may, Abby, I know this is going to be a little uncomfortable. But we're going to go through this, and you can push back on it after.


PHILLIP: Just waiting for the evidence.

RAMASWAMY: And you can push back on that. And let's do this fairly.

Why did they suppress footage of now what's been released, 200 hours of footage, of shooting rubber bullets into that crowd, shooting tear gas into that crowd? You didn't see that before. You saw what the response was to that.

Now you see footage coming out of actually rolling out the red carpet for Capitol Police allowing people in right through the front door.

PHILLIP: Mr. Ramaswamy, again, the vast majority of the footage shows...


RAMASWAMY: That video evidence should have been released before, Abby. That evidence should have been released before.

And my deeper question is this.


PHILLIP: Mr. Ramaswamy, the vast majority of the footage shows police officers being overrun by violent rioters. That's what the vast majority of it shows.


RAMASWAMY: I'm going to give you some hard facts. So, what -- here's what entrapment is.

PHILLIP: You can't cherry-pick...

RAMASWAMY: I'm not cherry-picking.

If you let me finish, Abby. If you let me finish, Abby. I'm not cherry-picking.


PHILLIP: You cannot cherry-pick examples...


RAMASWAMY: To the contrary. To the contrary. Do you know who cherry- picks?


PHILLIP: ... and say that that is what happened on January 6.



RAMASWAMY: The government cherry-picked 12 hours of footage, when there was 200 hours of footage. The cherry-picking was the government, not me. Release the whole thing.

And let me just finish one thing too, because this is super important as a topic.

PHILLIP: So, when you...


RAMASWAMY: I think this is the civil libertarian issue of our time, Gretchen Whitmer's kidnapping.


RAMASWAMY: I want to keep it -- I want to be really clear on this, because it's the same issue and the same FBI, the same even part of the FBI.

Three people who were in an alleged plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer were acquitted at the end of trial because it was entrapment. That is, government agents put them up to do something they otherwise wouldn't have done.

They gave them credit cards with spending limits of up to $5,000, encouraged them to buy munitions, plan something they weren't otherwise willing to plan, so much so -- and I want people at home to know this, especially CNN viewers to know this -- is that one of the jurors went to those defendants and apologized afterwards, gave him a hug, apologized, seeing what the government had put a poor guy up to who had to go to some Mexican restaurant across the street to get hot water.

These people were exploited with credit cards up to $5,000, FBI agents putting them up to a kidnapping plot that we were told was true, but was entrapment.

PHILLIP: Fourteen...


RAMASWAMY: Same thing with the Capitol Police, people letting them in freely...

PHILLIP: Mr. Ramaswamy..

RAMASWAMY: ... many of those people then being charged.

PHILLIP: Mr. Ramaswamy, look, I don't...


RAMASWAMY: The government cannot put you up to do something and then charge you for it. PHILLIP: Mr. Ramaswamy, look...

RAMASWAMY: That's wrong.


PHILLIP: I don't want to have to...

RAMASWAMY: It's wrong when they do it to the left or the right.

PHILLIP: I don't -- I don't want to have to...

RAMASWAMY: I don't care. It's wrong.


PHILLIP: I don't want to have to interrupt you. I really don't. But I don't want you to mislead the audience here or at home.


PHILLIP: Fourteen --

RAMASWAMY: I think they've been misled by the mainstream media.

PHILLIP: Fourteen people --

RAMASWAMY: The mainstream media has misled them. Release the video footage.

PHILLIP: Fourteen people were charged in that plot. A majority of them were convicted.

RAMASWAMY: I said three of them were acquitted on grounds of entrapment.

PHILLIP: You're right. But --

RAMASWAMY: That's a fact. Dispute me. Was I wrong about that?

PHILLIP: What folks need to understand --

RAMASWAMY: Was I wrong about what I said? I was not.

PHILLIP: What folks need to understand is that --

RAMASWAMY: Three people were acquitted on grounds of entrapment.

PHILLIP: -- nine were --

RAMASWAMY: A juror apologized.

PHILLIP: Nine were convicted.

RAMASWAMY: Yes. But the three who were put up should never have gotten to that stage of a trial. PHILLIP: But going back to the January 6th issue --

RAMASWAMY: OK. That's unacceptable in the United States.

PHILLIP: Look, I just want people to understand, three people were acquitted, nine people were convicted in that plot.

RAMASWAMY: I heard you, Abby.

PHILLIP: But let me get back to our audience here, and let's bring in Joe Frommelt. He's from Des Moines. He's a student at Drake, and he's a Republican who says that he supports whoever wins the nomination. Joe.

JOE FROMMELT: Man, thank you. I love seeing you get fired up. So --

RAMASWAMY: Thank you. Thank you. Good to see you, man. I see you're a basketball player. I've been playing tennis with some Drake tennis players. They've got some good players.

FROMMELT: Oh, yes. Some of my boys play there. So, that's awesome.


FROMMELT: Yes. The biggest question about your legitimacy as a candidate has been your age. You know, as a 22-year-old college kid, I love the idea of having younger candidates in office, but how has this been a challenge for you?

RAMASWAMY: Yes. Look, it's been a big challenge. I mean, frankly, most caucus goers are three, four times your age. Let's be real about that. And I want people like you to come out to the caucus and we're going to college campuses for that reason.

One of the things I want people to understand, what I see when I go to college campuses, I think actually many Republican candidates are scared of facing off with your generation, actually. Some of them hit me for being on TikTok because it reaches you all. I think we should be reaching out to young voters.

What I see isn't a base of young voters who's against our shared values, I see a lot of peers in your generation and our generation that are lost, hungry for direction, right? The left will prey on that vacuum with race, gender, sexuality, climate.

I'm not going to blame them. I'm going to blame the Republican Party. We've gotten lazy just criticizing that vision without offering our own vision. Individual, family, nation, God. Yes, I said the G word. That beats race, gender, sexuality, and climate if we have the courage to actually stand for something.

And so, I believe that your generation -- I believe that we're at a tipping point. And there's a reason. You know, I talked about Thomas Jefferson. He was 33 when he wrote the Declaration. He also invented the swivel chair while he was at it. Think about that founding spirit. We're the pioneers. We're the explorers in this country, the unafraid, the people who nobody and no government dares to stop. That's who we are as Americans. Our pursuit of excellence, that's what makes us American.

And I think it's going to take somebody in your generation, somebody whose best days in life are still yet ahead to see a country whose best days are still ahead of itself. And I hope that's the case for me. I don't take every day for granted.

Every day we wake up is a new blessing. And I'll leave it at that. I don't take tomorrow for granted, but I hope my best days are still ahead of me. And I think as a leader, I reject this narrative that we have to be that nation in decline, that we have to be Ancient Rome.

What's your name again, sir?


RAMASWAMY: Joe, I think our nation like you is actually a little young going through our own version of adolescence, figuring out who we're going to be when we grow up. And when you view it that way, it all makes sense again. To me, it does. You go through that identity crisis. You lose your way a little bit.

I don't know about you, but I did some stupid things, right? But we're stronger for it when we get to our adulthood on the other side. So, no, I don't think we have to be that nation in decline. And tell the people in your class the same thing. We can still be a nation in our ascent.

If the people of the last 25 years got us to where we are, maybe we try something a little different. Somebody with fresh legs. Somebody maybe the age that our founding fathers were when they signed that declaration. And I think we live in a 1776 moment. Let's give that a try and see what happens. Thank you, man.

PHILLIP: All right. We've got much more ahead. We'll be right back with more from Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.



PHILLIP: Welcome back to Iowa and CNN's town hall with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

Let's turn to Ginny Mitchell. She is an entomologist at Iowa State University, from Boone, Iowa. She is Republican who is currently undecided. Ginny?

GINNY MITCHELL, ENTOMOLOGIST, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you. Thanks for being here and thanks for coming to Iowa so much. We appreciate your visits. So freedom of religion is a part of our Constitution and obviously a huge part of our country. What do you say to those who say that you cannot be our president because your religion is not what our founding fathers based our country on? RAMASWAMY: I would say that I respectfully disagree. And I want people

to understand this about me. I would rather speak the truth and lose an election than to win by playing some political snake and ladders. I mean, if I wanted to map out my political career and really solve for that, you know, I could fake convert. You know, I'm not going to do that.

I'm going to tell you about my faith. I'm Hindu. Now I went to Christian schools. I went to St. Xavier in Cincinnati. And I actually have been on the board of St. X, except for hiatus to run for president. And I can tell you with confidence that we share the same value set in common.

I'll tell you about my faith. My faith teaches me that God puts each of us here for a purpose. That we have a moral duty to realize that purpose. That God works through us in different ways.


But we're still equal, because God resides in each of us.

Now I had what you would call not a traditional upbringing, but probably a very traditional upbringing, right? My parents taught me family is the foundation. Marriage is sacred. Divorce isn't some option you just prefer off a menu when things don't go your way. Abstinence before marriage is the way to go, adultery is wrong, that the good things in life involve a sacrifice.

Now, are those foreign values in this country? I know it could look that way, at times. You turn on the television, go to the movie theater, your local DEI training at a company or what they're teaching your kids in schools, that could seem a little unfamiliar.

I don't think it's unfamiliar to most of us. I think those are the same Judeo-Christian values that I learned at St. X. (PH). When we get to the 10 commandments, what do they say? There's one true God. Don't take His name in vain, observe the Sabbath, respect your parents, don't kill, don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't commit adultery, don't covet.

That's when it hit me. We share the same value set in common. There's another core teaching in my faith, which is that we don't get to choose who God works through. God chooses who God works through.

So we get to the Old Testament a little bit further along, we get to the Book of Isaiah. I don't know if many of you are familiar with that one. God chose Cyrus, a Gentile all the way in Persia to lead the Jewish people back to the Promised Land.

And so, yes, I believe God put us here for a purpose. My faith is what leads me on this journey to run for president. My gratitude to this country is what leads me.

And even when we think about the founding fathers, I'm a fan of history. OK? I talked about Thomas Jefferson earlier. We'll stick to Thomas Jefferson. He was a deist, actually. Let's be honest about it. The left wants to rewrite our history and tell you, he was a slave owner and evil man. No, I reject that. But we're not going to have anybody rewriting our history. Thomas Jefferson was a deist.

He made the Jefferson Bible. You know how he did it? He didn't believe in all the parts of the New Testament, but he took a blade, razor blade by hand, glued it together. And that made the Jefferson Bible, which we have today.

John Adams wrote letters to Thomas Jefferson actually became something of a Hindu scholar after he left. And so I think it's important to see our founding fathers three dimensionally, not the way that they've been rewritten post-1990 either.

And so, yes, do I -- would I be the best president to spread Christianity through this country? I would not. I'd be not the best choice for that. But I also don't think that that's the job of the U.S. president.

But will I stand for the Judeo-Christian values that this nation was founded on that I was raised in, even in the Hindu faith? Yes, I will. You're darn right, I will.

And as a young person picking up on that strand from earlier, I think it's my responsibility to make faith and patriotism and family and hard work cool again in this country. I think they're pretty cool. And I think that's my job as your next president.

And to -- back to the First Amendment, we will stand for religious liberty in a way that neither Republicans nor Democrats actually have. That's what the First Amendment says. You get to practice your faith. Every pastor in this country gets to do his job without the government getting in their way.

That's what I'm going to keep as a president. Thank you. Thank you very much.

PHILLIP: Let me ask you about a little bit of news. The Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case. This term that could potentially restrict access nationwide to a widely used abortion drug called mifepristone.

You oppose abortion, but do you believe that the court should limit the distribution of this drug nationwide?

RAMASWAMY: So I think this is a question. It's a job of the Supreme Court, who would have ever thought, to judge the law.

This is a case about administrative law, actually. This is less about the abortion question. And it's more about, did the FDA exceed the scope of its statutory authority when it approved mifepristone on an emergency basis? And these emergency approvals are generally reserved for lifesaving therapies that need to be brought to market quickly.

So this is a symptom, Abby, of what's going on in the administrative state. The people who we elect to run the government, they're not even the ones who actually run the government right now. It's the bureaucrats in those three letter agencies that are pulling the strings today.

So the most important Supreme Court case of our lifetime. And I want people to understand this, came out last term. It's West Virginia versus EPA. That said if Congress did not expressly give an agency the right to write a regulation, then that's unconstitutional.

And so it is my opinion, it's the Supreme Court's that'll matter, but I'm pretty sure they're going to come down where I -- where I am on this. That the FDA exceeded its statutory authority in using an emergency approval to approve something that doesn't fit Congress' criteria for what actually counts as an emergency approval.

So, yes, I hope they follow the law. I hope that's where they come down.


And if the people of this country disagree with that, we have a mechanism for that. It's called the democratic process, do it through the front door of Congress.

And if there's one thing I'm going to do as the president, it's to shut down that fourth branch of government, rescind those unconstitutional federal regulations that Congress never actually passed, and, yes, lay off 75 percent of the federal employee count.

PHILLIP: I -- I want to...

RAMASWAMY: That's the answer.

PHILLIP: I want to get to our question.


PHILLIP: But just before we do that, just so that everyone is clear, you do believe that the Supreme Court should ban mifepristone?

RAMASWAMY: I believe that the Supreme Court should put the FDA back in its place. That's...

PHILLIP: But as it relates to this particular...

RAMASWAMY: That's the question that's before the court.


PHILLIP: But as it relates to this particular...

RAMASWAMY: So I believe they should rule on the law.

PHILLIP: As it relates to this particular drug...

RAMASWAMY: And as it relates to this particular drug.

PHILLIP: ... do you believe that that will ultimately result in mifepristone being banned nationwide?

RAMASWAMY: I believe it will...

PHILLIP: That that's the...

RAMASWAMY: ... result in mifepristone...

PHILLIP: ... correct...

RAMASWAMY: ... being taken off...

PHILLIP: ... ruling?

RAMASWAMY: ... the market until they go through the process that's ordained for every other drug that doesn't go through emergency approval.


RAMASWAMY: The FDA should follow the law if the rest of us do, too.

PHILLIP: All right.

RAMASWAMY: It's a simple thing to ask.


PHILLIP: I do want to go to our audience again. We've Claire Muselman here waiting to ask a question. She's a professor at Drake University who teaches in the college of business and education. She's a Republican from West Des Moines who is undecided. Claire?


Thank you also for spending time with our students at Drake. As a professor, I think it's super important that we get that opportunity. So thank you for spending time with them.

As president, what specific strategies would you implement to promote diversity and inclusion in leadership roles within both public and private sectors? How do you plan to support the advancement of under- represented groups, including women, in these areas?

RAMASWAMY: So I'll be very honest with you. I'm going to share with you a Thomas Sowell quote that stuck with me. If you care about somebody, you tell them the truth or at least what you believe. If you care about yourself, you tell them what they want to hear. And I'm -- I've a feeling I'm not going to tell you what you want to hear on this one.

So I think the diversity, equity, inclusion agenda has been abused. In the name of diversity we have, at many of our universities, totally sacrificed diversity of thought. In the name of equity, we've perpetuated a lot of inequity and inequality of opportunity through affirmative action and otherwise. In the name of inclusion, we've created a new culture of exclusion where certain points of view aren't welcome.

So especially in a university setting, what do I care about? Diversity of viewpoint. This is important, actually. I think diversity of viewpoint is part of what this country was built on. Well, the best way to foster diversity of viewpoint is to screen candidates for the diversity of their views, actually.

Many look at the board members of many universities, you're going to go through their partisan affiliation. It's not 80/20. It's going to be like 90/10 in the other direction. That's completely at odds with the representation of this country.

So do I value diversity of viewpoint? Absolutely. Do I think we're doing a good job of that? No, we're not. And it's not an accident. In the name of diversity, we've actually created a new culture of conformity.

And so I think it's entirely possible to have a group of 10 people who look similar to one another who have different views. I think it's entirely possible to have a group of 10 people who look different from one another or who look the same as one another but have different views, or look different from one another and have the same views.

And so I think the best way to screen candidates for the diversity of their experiences is to actually ask them about the diversity of their experiences. And I think the use of these racial and gender quota systems I think have actually created a new form of racism in the United States that otherwise would not have existed.

It's sad to me. I mean, I've hired, not because I was thinking about it consciously, plenty of Black women in different positions of authority, in this campaign or other companies or whatever. And I can tell you it saddens me when people look at somebody who I hired on the basis of merit and say they only got that job because of their race or gender.

That doesn't do anybody a favor. And so I think if we restore true meritocracy in this country, and embrace true diversity of thought, chances are we're actually going to have a bunch of different shades of melanin and a range of genders in different positions.

But let it be not the goal. Let it just be a byproduct of actually selecting for people who are the best person for the job, and especially in a university setting, diverse viewpoints as well. That's what I'll say.


PHILLIP: And that's a good place to pause. We'll be right back with more from presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.



[21:53:06] PHILLIP: Welcome back to CNN's Town Hall Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

Let's go straight to the audience. We've got Rhonda McCoy here. She's a retired French professor from West Des Moines. Rhonda is a Republican who is undecided in this primary. Rhonda.

RHONDA MCCOY, RETIRED FRENCH PROFESSOR: Good evening. Thank you for being here.


MCCOY: You bet. What is the most important or interesting thing you've learned about Iowans during your travel through the state?

RAMASWAMY: I've learned a lot. I think Iowans -- I think one thing I share in common with Iowans is a level of candor, actually. Everybody told me about Iowa nice. That's what I was told before I came here. What I've actually found is Iowa candor. And I appreciate that because that's the true form of nice.

You know, we did -- this is the 10th event we're doing today, actually. So, we've done 10 events like this across the state. And I found that people appreciate that we're visiting, they call the full Grassley, it's -- he goes all 99 counties. We're doing that times two, actually, going in this year, period.

And it doesn't feel like work to me, actually. It feels like we're having open conversations. I find that they don't appreciate pre- canned speeches. So, I've mostly dispensed with that, or if I'm going to do it, I'll keep it to two to five minutes. I find that they actually appreciate and relish open conversation and candor. I think that's one of the things that surprised me most.

The other thing that I think that surprised me was -- somebody told me this. We ran the Des Moines Turkey Trot. We were here on Thanksgiving. And as I was running, somebody wished me good luck. And then, she said, but you know how to spell luck, right? And this is an expression I had learned from my parents a long time ago. She says, you spell it W-O-R-K. And I said, you know what, that sounds like something that my parents taught me when I was little.

But I think that that's also something that I found amongst Iowans, is they value people who work hard because many of you do work hard, the culture of farmers, a culture of people who are business builders across the state.


And I think that's something that we would do well to make a national value in this country again. Embrace hard work. Get us back our sense of purpose.


That's how we revive this. Thank you. PHILLIP: All right. Well, a big thank you to our audience, and thank you to Mr. Ramaswamy.

Thank you to our hosts here at Grand View University.

Kaitlan Collins is up next.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS: Good evening. I'm Kaitlan Collins, here in New York.

You had been watching a live CNN Town Hall, with Vivek Ramaswamy, in Iowa, 33 days before the Iowa caucuses, in what was a closing message for the Republican candidate, to voters.

Part of that closing message was pushing a conspiracy theory, about January 6th. Mr. Ramaswamy says that January 6 was an inside job. That's a claim that he first made, at a debate, recently.

It was not. That is according to the FBI Director, who I should note, is a lifelong Republican, who was appointed by former President, Donald Trump. He testified as much before Congress. There are also hours of testimony, dozens of criminal indictments that say as much.

For more on what Mr. Ramaswamy said, I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman.

And Tom, obviously, it's not a surprise that he was talking about January 6. But it was part of the most animated part of his Town Hall, and of his message that he was pushing to voters. What did he say? And what are the facts about what he said?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a message -- this is a message Kaitlan that he has pushed before. And he always gets very energetic about it. And the crowd, to some degree, always responds.

Listen to what he said.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you had told me that January 6, was in any way an inside job the subject of government entrapment? I would have told you that was crazy talk, fringe conspiracy theory nonsense.

I can tell you now, having gone somewhat deep in this, it's not.


FOREMAN: So what he went on to, after this, was to say things like they rolled out the red carpet, the Capitol Police, to let the people come inside, that there were federal agents, in the crowd, who were instigating the violence.

He nibbled around this, in many different appearances, did it again, tonight, that they were involved in this, and that there was suppression of evidence, of how this was an inside job.

Make no doubt about it. There is no evidence that what he is saying is true. To the contrary, the FBI Director, Christopher Wray, has said it's completely wrong, that there were any agents in the crowd, trying to instigate this.

When you look through the video, there is no evidence, of police, rolling out the red carpet. There is evidence, at times, of police standing by, while people walk past them, which seems to be a measure of simply the fact that people were either leaving, or that the police were so overwhelmed that it was at the point at which there was nothing else to do.

Most importantly, though, look at what the courts have done, as they've looked at this. As of last July, 30 months into it, about 350, according to Department of Justice, 350 defendants had been charged, with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, or employees, including many attacks, on the officers, in question here.

There have been many convictions. There have been many people sentenced. There has been no evidence in this, of what he claims of an inside job, even though he makes that claim time and again, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, it wasn't long ago that the man, who was convicted, for crushing that Metropolitan Police Department officer, inside the door, was convicted.


COLLINS: And I think it's just an insult to those officers, who were in hours-long battles, with these rioters, that day.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

COLLINS: To say that they're--

FOREMAN: And many, many, many of them have admitted this. They haven't just been convicted.


FOREMAN: They have come forward and said, "Yes, this is what happened."


FOREMAN: "I was misled. I went there. And I did this."

So, he's even saying to the people who were convicted and admitted it, he's saying "No, you're wrong. That can't be true."

COLLINS: What about -- the one thing that he always turns to, when he's talking about January 6, and he's pushed, as Abby was pushing him, for the facts, on what he was saying there, is to Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and the attempted kidnapping of her.

What are the facts of what he said there? And was it true. What are the facts there?

FOREMAN: It's true that three people were acquitted, in that case. He tried to say, "Ah, you see, there it is, same Justice Department, same people out there. Look, they were acquitted, because they were entrapping these people. These three guys walked."

What he doesn't mention was that nine people were convicted in that case as well.

When it comes to these conspiracy theories, he's going through the greatest hits, and they are false. Period.

COLLINS: Yes. And Abby did a good job, pointing that out.

FOREMAN: Yes, she did.

COLLINS: Tom Foreman, thank you for that fact-check.

Joining me now, CNN Senior Political Commentators, Scott Jennings, and Ana Navarro.

Scott, 33 days to go, before the Iowa caucuses--


COLLINS: --which is obviously the critical kick-start to this race. Is elevating a January 6 conspiracy theory, the way to win over those voters?


JENNINGS: No, I don't think so. I don't think his campaign is in very good shape, truthfully.

I think he's mostly playing for the future, whether that's as a Donald Trump surrogate, in the near-term, whether that's as a member of his administration, whether that's as a future presidential candidate, in 2028. I mean, he is a young man. So, no, I -- I don't -- I don't think this is the way to.

I mean, but this was the most decaffeinated we've seen, Vivek. I mean, he has been a very hyper candidate, through all the debates and other. But the most animated he got tonight, was on January the 6th, and pushing this idea that it was an inside job.

I mean, it was an inside job. I mean, the head of the federal government at the time was sort of encouraging it, I mean, if you want to go down that road. But not--


JENNINGS: But that was the most animated. Everything else, he was very decaffeinated. He was very subdued. And when, look, what I'm reminded by, watching him, tonight, there's a

marketplace, for conspiracy theorists, in our politics. He knows it. And that's why he's doing it. That's why Robert F. Kennedy Jr., I think, has a following out there.

COLLINS: Yes, but--

JENNINGS: Because he's been a conspiracy theorist. So, I'm -- why is he doing it? Because there's a market for it. Not enough, but there's a market for it.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But there's a -- there's always a market for a flash in the pan, a shooting star, outsider candidate, right? Whether it's a Herman Cain, or Andrew Yang. In this term, it's Vivek Ramaswamy.

When you dig a little deeper, when you listen a little closer, you realize that Vivek Thomas Jefferson Ramaswamy, who spent 55 minutes quoting Thomas Jefferson, says, talks and talks and talks and talks, but says precious little. It's all platitudes, and cliches, and spreading of conspiracy theories, and hawking books, and hawking podcasts, and saying very little, really not answering anything.

COLLINS: And what did you make of his demeanor? Because as Scott noted, he came out not as--


COLLINS: --rambunctious as he did, at the even the last debate. I mean, at that debate, he told Chris Christie, to go eat a meal, in a disagreement. He called Nikki Haley a fascist. He compared her to a Dylan Mulvaney ad.

I mean, he was asked a question, by Rylee Miller, a voter there, about, they want a vivacious president. But he said--


COLLINS: --I want a president who has tack.

NAVARRO: I'm fascinated by how different people, different demographics, react to Vivek Ramaswamy. In my family, I have everything from 30-year-old and 40-year-old crypto bros, who call each other "Dawgs." I have young women. I have people my age and older.

The crypto bros think he's eloquent, think he's well-rounded, think he's the best thing that they've ever heard.

The people my age and older think he is a snake oil salesman.

And the women, by and large, think he's weaselly, and don't like him at all, find him impolite and insufferable.

JENNINGS: Yes. He has a real ability to just slough off and forget about things that he said five minutes ago, five days ago, five weeks ago. NAVARRO: Or wrote about, in his books.

JENNINGS: Yes, attitudes that he's exhibited and pretends like it never happened. And he did that tonight. It was interesting.

COLLINS: Scott Jennings, Ana Navarro, as always, thank you for watching the Town Hall with me, and here to break it all down.

Thank you so much for watching our special coverage, tonight, of the Republican Presidential Town Hall with Vivek Ramaswamy.

Stick around, because "KING CHARLES" starts right now.