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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Hosts Republican Presidential Debate At Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 13, 2024 - 22:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, this is the CNN Republican presidential debate.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world watching us on CNN, CNN Max, CNN International, CNN en Espanol, and

Good evening. I'm Jake Tapper, moderating tonight's debate alongside my friend and colleague Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And just five days from now, voters here in Iowa will cast the first votes of the 2024 presidential race.

Tonight, the very first one-on-one matchup between top contenders Governor Ron DeSantis and former Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Former President Trump met the requirements for tonight's debate, but declined to participate.

TAPPER: Our commitment in this debate is to provide as much information as possible to voters, especially here in Iowa, before the first contests begin next week.

So, in choosing topics, we focused on the issues important to Republicans.

Let's bring out the candidates now.

Please welcome Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.


TAPPER: Please welcome former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.


BASH: Candidates, please take your positions behind the podiums while we remind you and our audience of the ground rules.

Each of you will have 90 seconds to answer questions, 60 seconds for responses and rebuttals, and 15 seconds for clarifications. Timing lights will remind you when time is expiring.

TAPPER: We also remind our audience here in the Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University to be respectful, so the candidates can hear the questions and can hear each other.

BASH: Just hours ago, the Republican field narrowed once again. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ended his bid for the presidency.

So, with one fewer candidate in the running, let's start with the decision voters here in Iowa are about to face.

Governor DeSantis, why should voters who are looking for an alternative to the current front-runner, former President Trump, vote for you, rather than former Governor Haley?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, to people of Iowa, good evening. It's great to be in Iowa to have a debate here.

Donald Trump's running to pursue his issues. Nikki Haley's running to pursue her donors' issues. I'm running to pursue your issues and your family's issues and to turn this country around. I'm the only one running that's delivered on 100 percent of the promises that I have made.

We have delivered huge victories in the state of Florida, things that Republicans have been asking for, for a generation. I'm also the only one running that has beaten the left time and time again.


We beat the teachers union on universal school choice. We beat Soros on crime. We beat Fauci on COVID. We beat the Dems on election integrity. And I beat the left by banning China from buying land in the state of Florida.

Now, Nikki Haley is running. We don't need another mealymouthed politician who just tells you what she thinks you want to hear just to try to get your vote, then to get in office and to do her donors' bidding.

She was in another state, and she said the people of Iowa's votes need to be corrected. This is somebody that wrote in her book that Hillary Clinton inspired her to first run for office.

I remember Hillary denigrating people on the Republican side as deplorables. We don't need a candidate who's going to look down on Middle America. We have had enough of that. I'm the only one that's going to be able to lead this country's revival.

I'm asking for your support, and I won't let you down.

BASH: Governor Haley, a response?

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think this is a time that we know that we need a new generational leader. We have watched our country be in disarray. We see the world on fire,

and we need someone who's had executive experience. I have been a two- term governor that took a double-digit unemployment state and turned it into an economic powerhouse. I was at the U.N. I dealt with Russia, China, Iran every day.

But, you're going to find out tonight that there is going to be a lot of Ron's lies that has happened. There are at least a couple of dozen so far that he has done. So, what we're going to do is rather than have him go and tell you all these lies, you can go to and look at all of those. There is at least two dozen lies that he has told about me, and you can see where a fact checker say exactly what's going to happen and exactly why it's wrong.

So, it will cover the fact that he is only mad about the donors because the donors used to be with him, but they're no longer with him now. And that's because he is upset about the fact that his campaign is exploding. You're going to see the fact that he has switched his policies multiple times, and we'll call that out tonight. But, every time he lies, Drake University, don't turn this into a drinking game, because you will be overserved by the end of the night.

DESANTIS: Well, I think this is interesting, because you can actually go to, because Nikki Haley has this tactic. If you hold her accountable to her record, first she'll say, I never said that. Well, one good rule of thumb, if she says she has never said something, that definitely means she said it, and then she'll say you're lying, you're lying. That means not only did she say it but she is on videotape saying it. And so, we have all the greatest hits. The reality is Nikki Haley is not somebody that has been willing to stand in and fight on behalf of conservatives.

You know, she ran for governor saying she was going to do universal school choice, and she caved to the teachers union. She didn't deliver that. In Florida, I delivered the largest expansion of school choice in the history of the United States. I beat the teachers union, and you know what the results are? When she was governor of South Carolina, she was rated 50th in education, dead last. You know, where Florida is under my watch, number one in the nation.

BASH: Your response, Governor Haley?

HALEY: Go to and you can find out for yourself. But, why don't we talk about the fact that if we're going to say this, when Ron was representing Florida, he said that he promised not to raise the debt limit when he got to D.C. Yet, he raised the debt limit by hundreds of billions of dollars. He used to support Ukraine. He supported Ukraine when President Obama was in office. Now, he is trying to copy Trump and saying that he no longer supports Ukraine, and doesn't want to give them foreign aid anymore. He also goes and says that he wants to talk about me insulting Iowans. Iowans know when you're telling a joke.

The fact that he is only running in one state is not the way you win President. I'm running it all states. But, he should tell Iowans why he authored legislation to ban the renewable fuel standard that's so important to Iowans' economy, and the fact that he co-sponsored five different pieces of legislation to get rid of it. And also, then he also said he would never do anything with Social Security. Yet, he voted three times to raise the retirement age of Social Security.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HALEY: So, if you're going to talk about what you said --

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HALEY: -- and you did, I think you've got your own explaining to do --

TAPPER: Well, we're going to --

HALEY: -- rather than telling lies about --

TAPPER: -- well, thank you, Governor. We're going to get to a lot of these issues in the debate. Governor Haley, when Governor Christie dropped out of the race just a few hours ago, he said the most important issue is "the character of the candidate". Governor Christie also said he ran because he knew he would be the only Republican candidate to speak the truth about former President Donald Trump. Do you believe Donald Trump has the character to be President again?

HALEY: Well, I think the next President needs to have moral clarity. I think you need to have moral clarity to understand that it's taxpayer money, not your own money. I think you need to have moral clarity to understand that when you're dealing with dictators in the world, that we always have to fight for democracies and human rights and protecting Americans and preventing war.

And so, when you look at Donald Trump, I have said, I think he was the right President at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies, but his way is not my way. I don't have vengeance. I don't have vendettas. I don't take things personally.


For me, it's very much about no drama, no whining and getting results and getting them done. So, I don't think that President Trump is the right President to go forward. I think it's time for a new generational leader that's going to go and make America proud again. That's what I'm going to try and do.

TAPPER: Governor DeSantis, what is your response to Chris Christie? Do you believe Donald Trump has the character to be President again?

DESANTIS: Well, I'm running because I'm the guy that's going to be able to engineer a comeback for this country. I appreciated what President Trump did. But, let's just be honest. He said he was going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. He did not deliver that. He said he was going to drain the swamp. He did not deliver that. He said he was going to hold Hillary accountable and he let her off the hook. He said he was going to eliminate the debt and he added $7.8 trillion to the debt. So, we need to deliver and get this stuff done. And I think the difference between Nikki Haley and me, and I listened

to all that litany of stuff, I debated the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley made -- gives him a run for his money and she may even be more liberal than Gavin Newsom is. We are in a situation here in Florida.

And as Republicans, you need somebody that is going to be in there and fight for you. And Nikki Haley, any time the going gets tough, any time people come down, she caves. When you need someone standing and fight for you, don't look for Nikki Haley. You won't be able to find her if you had a search warrant.


TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

Governor Haley?

HALEY: Look, I think I dealt with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea every day. No one ever said I caved. I defended America and I fought for America.


HALEY: But I'll also say this. This is not a time where you have to have pettiness. I wish Donald Trump was up here on this stage. He's the one that I'm running against. He's the one that I wish would be here. He needs to be defending his record. Right now he's not defending the fact that he allowed us to have $8 trillion in debt over four years that our kids are never going to forgive us for. The fact that he didn't deal with China when it came to stealing intellectual property. The fact that they gave us COVID. The fact that they have gone and continued to put up Chinese police stations and continue to threaten our military.

He didn't do enough to make sure that we were really standing with our friends and doing some other things. What we need is a leader that's not looking at four years and eight years. We need a president that's looking at 20 and 30 years. Because I want my kids to have a good future. I want them to have one without debt, one where they can read, one with secure borders, one where we have law and order, and one where America is strong.

BASH: Thank you.


DESANTIS: Well, with all due respect, you know, for her to single out Donald Trump on China, and, look, I think he could have been tougher on them, 100 percent. When Nikki Haley was governor of South Carolina, she was the number one governor in America for Republicans of bringing China into her state. She wrote a love letter to the ambassador saying that they were a great friend. She is on video saying China is a friend. She had a business, five -- Chinese business five miles from a military base. There is video of her on the website right in front of a Chinese flag saying that she works for them now.

So that was her number one achievement as governor was bringing China into the state of South Carolina. So you say you're going to look 10, 20, 30 years down the road? Why wasn't she doing that then when people were raising the red flags about it?

In Florida, I banned China from buying land in our state.

BASH: Yes, but, Governor DeSantis...

DESANTIS: And we kicked them out of our universities. That's what you need to be doing.


BASH: We're going to talk about China in a little bit. I want to talk about the economy, which according to a recent Des Moines Register poll shows that the economy is the top issue for caucus-goers here.

So, Governor Haley, the rate of inflation is down. Prices, though, are still high, and Americans are struggling to afford food, cars, and housing. What is the single most important policy that you would implement as president to make the essentials in Americans' lives more important?

HALEY: I think we have to acknowledge that Republicans and Democrats have both done this. I mean, the fact that they've done all of this wasteful spending, they did a $2.2 trillion COVID stimulus bill that expanded welfare that's now left us with 80 million Americans on Medicaid, 42 million Americans on food stamps. That's a third of our country.

What I will do is I think it's time we have an accountant in the White House. We have to have someone that respects taxpayer dollars. And we'll start by clawing back $100 billion of unspent COVID dollars that are still out there.

We'll go and instead of 87,000 IRS agents going after middle America, we'll go after the hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID fraud, 1 out of every $7. If 8 percent of our budget is interest, quit borrowing. Cut up the credit cards.

I had to balance a budget as governor. You have to balance a budget every day. Why is Congress the only group that refuses to balance a budget? We'll stop the spending. We'll stop the borrowing. We'll eliminate the pet projects and the earmarks. And I'll veto any spending bill that doesn't take us back to pre-COVID levels.


And then we want to make sure that we allow the middle class to breathe. We're going to eliminate the federal gas and diesel tax in this country and cut taxes on the middle class and simplify those brackets. And then we want to make the small business tax cuts permanent. They made corporate tax cuts permanent, but they made small business tax cuts temporary. Small businesses are the heartbeat of America. We need to prove it by making those tax cuts permanent.


BASH: Governor DeSantis, what's your response? How would you make those essentials more affordable for Americans?

DESANTIS: Well, I disagree with Ambassador Haley. We don't need an accountant in the White House, we need a leader in the White House. And that's what I would bring.


DESANTIS: I've spoken with Iowans, visiting all 99 counties, and also folks all across this country. The American dream is slipping away. People are working hard. They're getting the most out of their God- given ability. They're doing everything right. And they're falling further and further behind.

Trying to afford a new home today, your monthly mortgage payment would probably be twice as much as what it would have been if you were starting out five years ago. We have to make the economy work their those folks.

Yes, I'm going to battle the spending. In Florida, you look and we have the national debt clock going up to $34 trillion. I see it. If you did a debt clock for the state of Florida, it would be counting down.

Because we've paid down 25 percent of our state debt just since I've been governor. We're going to open up all energy for production because that will be deflationary.

You know, Nikki Haley when she was governor, she promised she would never do the gas tax. Then she tried to raise the gas tax on hardworking South Carolinians. Here's the thing. We need to fly a flag of bold colors carrying the banner of putting the American people first, not the pale pastel of the warmed over corporatism of people like Nikki Haley.

BASH: Governor Haley, I want to bring you in, but because Governor DeSantis mentioned the gas tax, you do want to eliminate the federal gas tax. And that tax generated approximately $40 billion in 2022 and helps pay for road construction and repair.

So how would you fix America's roads and bridges if you take that money away?

HALEY: Well, first of all, bless his heart. We have never raised a tax.

DESANTIS: You try to.

HALEY: We've never raised a tax at all.

DESANTIS: You tried. You're on video.

HALEY: I can tell you right --

BASH: Governor DeSantis, she has the floor.

HALEY: So I can tell you that we killed the gas tax multiple times. But what we said is if you want to raise the gas tax, you have to reduce the income tax by five times that amount. They didn't want to do it. We've killed taxes every step of the way.

But if he's going to talk about his economy, I think what we should say is why does Florida have the highest property insurance in the country? Why is it that it is named the American hotspot for inflation? Why is it that his state is now known to have the highest cost of living increases? And why is it that they're saying senior citizens can no longer afford to live in Florida? So that's the first thing I'll say. We don't need him doing that to our country.

When it comes to the gas tax, when we eliminate that federal tax, the money is collected in the states and they send it to the feds. The feds attach a lot of strings to it and send it back. 75 percent comes from the state, 25 percent comes from the federal government.

What they do when they add those strings is they pay for a lot of things that aren't roads, green spaces, sidewalks, all of those things, but they attach strings. I want that money to stay in the states. I want the states to be able to decide how to spend it. I don't want Washington bureaucrats deciding what we need for scenery and green space and all those other things. I want every state, including the state of Iowa, to make the decisions on how they spend their road spending instead of the federal government.

BASH: Governor DeSantis, your response?

DESANTIS: She kind of admitted that she did try to raise the gas tax, and she's on video saying this. I know she'll say she never said. But she did.

HALEY: You snippet that.

DESANTIS: She did -- she did do it.

HALEY: You took a little piece of that. That is not true.

DESANTIS: She also -- she also raise tax --

HALEY: You are lying again.

BASH: Governor Haley, Governor DeSantis.

DESANTIS: She was in South Carolina, that's on the record. And she even proposed a tax on groceries at one point. But I'm just thinking, have you seen your grocery bill lately? That's one of the things that's hitting working people the most, that groceries are going up probably twice as much what you do.

But I also think it's important that we lift people up. So in Florida, we eliminated all sales tax on every baby item, diapers, wipes, strollers, cribs. We want families to be able to prosper in this country.

One of the things that's causing so much problem is the breakdown in the American family. We've done a lot in Florida to be able to rejuvenate that. But we need to make it easier for people to raise children in this country so that we can have strong families in a strong country.

BASH: Governor DeSantis, at a CNN town hall last week, you said you support a flat tax, which is a single income tax rate for every American. Under your plan, would working families pay the same tax rate as billionaires?

DESANTIS: I would only do it if people are better off than they are now. I mean, I want people paying less taxes. Actually, if you think the last year we have numbers for the federal government took in the highest percentage of taxes from the economy since World War II, and yet they're going deep into debt.


We have a spending problem in this country. It's not a tax problem in this country. And if you had something that was simple and transparent, not only would that better for economic growth, it's also better to end the weaponization of government.

The IRS has been weaponized against conservatives going back to the Obama administration. I was there for that. No one's been held accountable for doing that.

You look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, the weaponization of federal power ends the day I become the president of the United States. There's going to be a new sheriff in town. We're going to restore the constitutional accountability that our founding fathers envision when they formatted the Constitution.

And you know, I've talked to folks who have overbearing federal agencies. I mean, you have farmers who have the EPA coming on their farmland because there's maybe a puddle there, waters of the United States. Give me a break.

So we're going to reduce the size of government, but we're also going to reduce the scope of government.

And in Florida, I've actually delivered on this, Florida has the lowest percentage of state government workers per capita in the country, and the cost of our state government employees is the lowest in the country.

No wonder why we're paying down debt while we're cutting taxes for people. That's the way to do it.


BASH: Governor DeSantis, 15-second point of clarification. The question was whether or not working families would pay the same amount... DESANTIS: They would pay...

BASH: ... as billionaires?

DESANTIS: They would pay less than what they're paying now. The way I view it is, OK -- and you'd exempt people -- so you would pay no tax for -- for working-class people. It would only be as you get above. Because I think the first $40,000, $50,000 grand, that's just to subsist. And even some places, you can't even do that.

So you would have no tax up to a certain point, and then it would just be a single rate. So if somebody...

BASH: Thank you.

DESANTIS: ... makes $100,000, they pay a certain amount. If someone makes $200,000, they pay...

BASH: Thank you, Governor DeSantis.

DESANTIS: They make twice as much, and they pay twice as much.

BASH: Governor Haley, your response?

HALEY: I mean, first of all, you just can't trust what he says. I mean, that's the biggest thing. We don't have a grocery tax in South Carolina. And I never once raised taxes, period.

But what I will tell you is, it is to call into question, why did he promise he'd never raise the debt limit and he turned around and he raised it?

And then you want to go, and you see one side of what he says early on, and then he changes it. So here he goes and he says that he is all for energy independence. He wants to get the EPA out of the way. Well, why did he run on the fact that he wanted to ban fracking and ban offshore drilling?

Why did he go and author that legislation to eliminate the renewable fuel standard that so -- that matters so much?

And why now is he suddenly coming to Iowa and saying, "Oh, never mind, I don't mean all of that?"

Why did he call Trump and say that he wanted him to stop drilling nine miles into federal waters? Why is he now saying this?

Why do you come to the people of Iowa and say one thing when you campaigned and, on day two of your office, you banned fracking; you banned offshore drilling,; you turned around and authored and led the charge on banning the renewable fuel standards...

BASH: Thank you, Governor.


HALEY: You've got to stand up for those things that you did.

DESANTIS: You've been -- you've been beating that dead horse -- that's been the...

HALEY: Because it's true, Ron. It's true.

DESANTIS: We're looking forward to be able to open up energy production, and definitely here in the Midwest, with biofuels. I'm the only one that checked all the boxes from the Iowa renewable fuel standard, because I've actually visited all 99 counties. I've actually shown up to people's farms. I've sat and I've listened to people about what they're going through, how their economy is structured and how it's important that we're producing energy here in the United States.

I never want to go hat in hand, like Biden has done, to Venezuela or Saudi and begging for energy. We're going to be able to open up production. We're going to choose Midland over Moscow. We're going to choose the Marcellus Shale over the mullahs. And we're going to choose the Bakken over Beijing.

Energy independence isn't even -- it's not -- it's good for consumers. It's good to reduce inflation. And it's one of the best things we can do for our national security. So we'll do that on day one, and we are going to reverse Biden's green new deal and the electric vehicle mandates. We'll save the American automobile.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.


TAPPER: This has been one of the biggest years for illegal border crossings into the United States. Last month alone, 225,000 migrants illegally crossed the southern border. It's a record high, overwhelming the Border Patrol resources that are already stretched thin. Mayors across the country say their cities are being pushed to a breaking point.

Governor DeSantis, former President Trump famously promised to build a wall on the southern border. He obviously did not get that done. You have promised to finish the job. How will you succeed where he failed?

DESANTIS: We will build a wall. We will actually have Mexico pay for it, in the way that I thought Donald Trump was. We're going to charge fees on remittances that workers send to foreign countries, billions of dollars. We'll build the wall.

He also promised record deportations. Donald Trump deported fewer people than Barack Obama did when he was president. Biden's let in 8 million people just in four years. They all have to go back. We have to enforce the rule of law in this country.


Think about what's happening to our country. Just this week, we saw the news that a high -- that a school in Brooklyn, New York, had the kids stay home. They were not able to go to school, told you can't go get an in-person education. Why? Because their -- the city's commandeering the school to house illegal aliens in it.

Talk about putting Americans last. You're putting these kids out of an education because you can't control the border?

Biden has failed in this endeavor. He has not taken care that the laws of this country be faithfully executed.

Do not trust Nikki Haley with illegal immigration. That's like having the fox guard the hen house. She's on tape at the Aspen Institute -- she'll say she didn't say it -- she was chastising conservatives, saying it's disrespectful to illegal aliens to say that they're criminals.

They're violating the law. It's disrespectful when people come to this country illegally and impose burdens on our communities and run drugs into this country. That's what's disrespectful.

She's weak on immigration. She's bankrolled by people who want open borders. And she said there shouldn't be a limit on immigration; you should work with corporate CEOS...

TAPPER: Thanks, Governor.

DESANTIS: That is pale pastels. That is warmed-over...


TAPPER: Thank you so much.

So, Governor Haley...


TAPPER: ... Governor DeSantis and also Donald Trump are attacking you for that comment in 2015 in which you said undocumented immigrants should not be called -- quote -- "criminals."

At the time, the full context is you said -- quote -- "We don't need to talk about them as criminals. They're not. They're families that want a better life, and they're desperate to get here" -- unquote.

Do you still feel that way?

HALEY: I saw them. When I was at the United Nations, I saw them. That doesn't mean we should let them into our country.

I mean, first of all, I will tell you that, when I was governor of South Carolina, we passed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. Obama sued us over it, and we won. We fought Obama on illegal immigration. We fought Obama on migrant kids. We fought Obama on Syrian refugees. We fought Obama on Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

I have always said we are a country of laws. The second we stop being a country of laws, we give up everything this country was founded on.

But I will tell you, in passing that toughest illegal immigration law in the country, we passed E-Verify, which I want to take national, which is where businesses have to prove that the people they hire are in this country legally. I passed it within six months of being governor. Ron didn't pass it for five years.

He only waited to pass it when he decided to run for president. What we need to do is not just ban a wall. We need to put 25,000 Border Patrol and ICE agents on the ground and let them do their job. We need to defund sanctuary cities once and for all, no more safe havens for illegal immigrants.

We need to make sure we go back to the remain-in-Mexico policy, so that no one even steps foot on U.S. soil. And instead of catch-and- release, we need to go to catch-and-deport. That's the only way we will stop the incentives of these illegal immigrants coming across.

Biden turned around and gave half-a-million Venezuelans temporary protective status. That's half-a-million driver's licenses, half-a- million Social Security numbers. All that does is incentivize them to pick up the phone...

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HALEY: ... call their family members, and tell them to come on ahead.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

Governor DeSantis?

DESANTIS: She did bring...


DESANTIS: When she was governor, she did bring Syrian refugees, and she got criticized for that.

HALEY: That is not true.

DESANTIS: She also, in her comment, when she says...

TAPPER: Hold on one second. Hold on one second, Governor.

HALEY: That is not true.

TAPPER: We will give you your turn in a second.

Governor DeSantis?


DESANTIS: ... get it. It's noted.

HALEY: Unbelievable.

DESANTIS: So, the disrespect comment, she's talking about that they're all families. If you look right now at the border, these are military-age males,

many of them, and they're coming from all across this world, not just from Central American. In fact, you have got them from China, Iran, Russia, the Middle East. When I was down there a couple years ago, because I have sent people down there, you had people from Libya and Haiti.

This is a ticking time bomb for this country. There are, of course, going to be terrorist cells that have come in. It's like the lowest- cost way to be able to harm this country. Just send people across the southern border.

Nikki Haley also opposed the border wall in 2016. She said that -- she ridiculed it when Donald Trump was for that. I'm telling you, you need a wall. You can't trust politicians to do this. If the wall's there, it's a physical fact of life. And it's a huge step to restoring this country's sovereignty.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor DeSantis. Thank you, Governor DeSantis.

Governor Haley?

HALEY: Go to I said, you can't just build a wall. You have to do more than build a wall. It was having the wall and everything else. You can't trust what Ron is saying.

But this is a bigger issue. This is more than him just constantly being desperate and throwing things on me. This is the fact that we have to realize my parents came here legally. They came the right way 50 years ago. They put in the time. They put in the price. They are offended by what's happening on the border.

And my mom would always say, if they don't follow the laws to come into this country, they won't follow the laws when they are in this country. And we have to start treating this like it is. This is putting harm on our schools, on our hospitals. Taxpayers are paying for it. You see these mayors are now upset about it.


The only reason Eric Adams is now upset, why? He shouldn't be a sanctuary city then. That's why we have to defund sanctuary cities. Now Governor Abbott finally did to them what's been happening to Texas for so long. We have got to put an end to this. It's dangerous, and it doesn't even count the fentanyl that's happening.

TAPPER: Thank you. Thank you, Governor. Thank you.


TAPPER: Governor DeSantis, there are more than 10 million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, according to Pew Research.

Will any of them be allowed to stay in the United States under your administration? DESANTIS: The number of people that will be amnestied when I'm

president is zero.

We cannot do an amnesty in this country.


DESANTIS: First of all, all it's going to do is cause more people to want to come illegally. So you have got to enforce the law. It's got to be consistent. People got to know it's there.

You also have to remove benefits for people who are here illegally. California, you can go, illegal alien, and you get free health insurance coverage. You're here illegally, and they're doing that? We should not let states provide these benefits.

In Florida, obviously, we don't do that. We don't allow the driver's license and all that. But some states do. And it creates a magnet for people coming in. So, federally, no benefits, no enticements to come in, and then the states, we're going to crack down on sanctuary states and sanctuary cities.

And I showed the hypocrisy of all this back in 2022 because we have a program to transport illegal aliens to sanctuary jurisdictions. And one of the places we sent 52, beautiful, liberal Martha's Vineyard.

And you know what? These are folks that were on their high horse, saying how they were sanctuary jurisdiction, saying nobody is illegal. All refugees are welcome. That's what they had in their town. The minute even 50 came up, they called the state of emergency and deported them off the island the next day. How do you think Texas feels? How do you think all these other communities feel that are overwhelming -- being overwhelmed?

So, we cannot have liberal elites in this country imposing policies on the rest of us that they are not willing to deal with the consequences of them.

TAPPER: Governor Haley, by the -- when you're President, will any of the more than 10 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. be allowed to stay in the country under your administration?

HALEY: You have to deport them. And the reason you have to deport them is they're cutting the line. You've got people who have done this and tried to go through the right way. You can't have them go and jump the line, and suddenly do that. And that is actually what will get them to stop coming, is when they do realize they get to the wall and they have to turn around and go back. It's a dangerous process of what happens for them to try and migrate here.

But, when I was at the United Nations, and we had this, which is another reason why we need to have Trump here defending himself and talking about what he would do going in the future, because it's a problem. I was on the ground in Honduras and Guatemala. And what we saw as a lot of the reason why they were coming from there is because of gangs and drugs. And so, what we did was we had our military go and train them on how to deal with gangs. We went and put drug boats on the water to keep the drugs from coming. But, we said you have to have them processed from here. You can't have them come. We were able to stop that flow. We've got to go back to do that. But, we need to end it once and for all. Donald Trump didn't do that. That's why he needs to be here debating on the stage right now.

BASH: Governor, thank you. Let's turn to foreign policy. You have expressed different visions for how the U.S. should approach the international complex. And I want to start with Ukraine. It's been nearly two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, and there is still no end in sight to that war. Governor Haley, you say that this is a "war about freedom that Ukraine must win." Governor DeSantis says, "We need to bring this war to an end." Do you believe he shares your commitment to a Ukrainian victory?

HALEY: Nobody knows what he believes, because when President Obama was in office, he supported foreign aid to Ukraine. Now, he is copying Trump and trying to act like he doesn't want to support Ukraine. But, let me tell you why Ukraine should matter. First of all, I don't think we should give cash to any country, friend or foe, because you can't follow it. You can't hold it accountable. I don't think we need to put troops on the ground. And Ukrainians want to win this themselves.

But, dictators always say, always do what they say they're going to do. China said they were going to take Hong Kong. They did. Russia said they were going to invade Ukraine. They -- we watched it. China says Taiwan is next. We better believe them. Russia said once they take Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. Those are NATO countries, and that puts America at war. This is about preventing war. It's always been about preventing war.

If we support Ukraine, that's only 3.5 percent of our defense budget. Biden and no one else is telling the American people the truth about that. The Europeans have put in more than that, and they should. It's their neighborhood. But, this is a pro-American freedom-loving country. And we better remember that you have to be a friend to get a friend. And we needed a lot of friends, September 12. We've got to make sure that we're having the backs of the right friends, because if Russia wins, China wins. There is a reason the Taiwanese want us to help the Ukrainians. And that's because they know if Ukraine wins, China won't invade Taiwan. This is about preventing war.


BASH: Governor DeSantis.

DESANTIS: I supported Trump's policy vis-a-vis Russia, Ukraine, and it was successful. You know, the Biden policy has not been. But, Nikki Haley is basically a carbon copy of what Biden is. It's an open-ended commitment. They want another $108 billion. They will not tell you when the -- they have achieved their goal. And this is going to go on maybe hundreds of billions more into the future. I think a lot of people have died. We need to find a way to end this, because our priorities for national security, of course, the border, which we talked about, and people like Nikki Haley care more about Ukraine's border than she does about our own southern border, which is wrong. But, we also have to look at what's the top threat to this country.

It's the Chinese Communist Party. We are not doing what we need to do to have adequate hard power in the Indo-Pacific. And here is the thing. We don't have enough resources, being $35 trillion in debt, to continue doing hundreds of billions of dollars. We got to focus on our issues here at home.

And we've got to deal with the top threat that we face, which is China.

HALEY: And then I wonder why you raised the debt when you were in Congress, because we're all paying for that.

What I will tell you is, this is the lie they're telling the American people over and over again. It is so wrong to say this. They're saying you have to choose between Ukraine or Israel, or Israel and -- and securing the border. Supporting Ukraine is 3.5 percent of our budget. I don't want cash going. It's equipment and it's ammunition. If we support Ukraine and Israel, that's only 5 percent of our defense budget. If we support...

DESANTIS: So you're going to borrow that?

HALEY: If we support Ukraine, Israel, and secure the border, that's less than 20 percent of Biden's green subsidies. You do not have to choose when it comes to national security. This is about keeping Americans safe. This is about preventing war. This is about keeping our military men and women from having to fight a war. And you only do that when you focus on national security, not telling lies to the American people that they have to choose. That is wrong. That's never been the case.



BASH: Governor DeSantis...

DESANTIS: Here is the problem with what she's saying. She -- she doesn't articulate how this comes to an end, except she was asked after the last debate by, I believe, Megyn Kelly, and she said, you bring to it an end by bringing Ukraine into NATO. But, of course, we're a NATO country. So if you bring Ukraine into NATO, that puts the United States at war. Megyn said that to her, and then she basically gave a word salad as to how you go from there.

So they have sent cash. She supports this $106 billion that they're trying to get through Congress. Where is some of that money going? They've done tens of billions of dollars to pay salaries for Ukrainian government bureaucrats. They've paid pensions for Ukrainian retirees with your tax dollars?

We've got homeless veterans. We have all these problems. This is the U.N. way of thinking that we're somehow globalists and we have unlimited resources to do.


DESANTIS: You know, I think here's the problem. You can take the ambassador out of the United Nations, but you can't take the United Nations out of the ambassador.


HALEY: First of all, I have never said that we should give salaries or benefits or anything else to Ukrainians. I have said it again, Ron, so stop lying.

DESANTIS: But you supported the aid packages.

BASH: Governor DeSantis, she has the floor.

HALEY: So you go -- I did not support the aid package. I support equipment and ammunition going to Ukraine. I think it is incredibly important that we're honest and say we have to focus on national security. Don't go and lie to the American people to make them think we can't do this.

You turned around and raised the debt limit. You're the one that's talked about, look at what you did to Florida. But think about the fact that he is talking about where is this money going to come from. You -- the best way to tell about a candidate is to see how they've run their campaign.

He has blown through $150 million. I don't know how you do that. Through his campaign, he has nothing to show for it. He spent more money on private planes than he has on commercials trying to get Iowans to vote for him. If you can't manage a campaign, how are you going to manage a country? Which is exactly...



DESANTIS: Well, listen, I'm proud of -- I'm proud that in the state of Florida, we're ranked number one for economy of all 50 states by CNBC. Number one...

HALEY: Highest cost of living.

DESANTIS: ... in education. She was ranked number 50 in education...

HALEY: Highest...

DESANTIS: ... when she was governor of California (ph)...

HALEY: Highest insurance in the country.

BASH: Governor Haley, he...


DESANTIS: ... wasn't able to do school choice. She didn't deliver big tax cuts. We're also number one for net end migration, number one for GDP growth amongst large states, number one for talent development, number one for new business formations, and on and on it goes.

So the success we've had in Florida, I can cite the statistics. It's important. But just look at how people are voting with their feet. They're leaving California. They're leaving Illinois, New York, all these states, and they're coming to Florida in record numbers because we're doing it right.


And not only have I cut taxes big time, where she didn't as governor of South Carolina, we've paid down 25 percent of our state's debt. That's how you manage the third-largest state in this country. Just imagine if we could do that for the United States of America.


TAPPER: So thank you. Let's stay on foreign policy. I want to turn to the Israel-Hamas war. You both have said that you unequivocally support Israel. You both have called for the complete elimination of Hamas.

Governor DeSantis, there are real disagreements within Israel about how to handle what happens in Gaza after the war against Hamas is over. Some Israeli cabinet officials are pushing for the mass removal of Palestinians from Gaza. Governor Haley told CNN last week she does not support that. Do you?

DESANTIS: So we've got to support Israel in word and in deed, in public and in private. And they need to be able to finish the job. Joe Biden is kneecapping them. He'll say one thing, then he goes and his base doesn't like Israel, so he has got to do all these other things. This is a time to recognize that they've suffered the most deaths of Jews, murder of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas wants a second Holocaust. They want to annihilate the state of Israel. So I think to be a good ally, you back them in the decisions that they're making with respect to Gaza.

Look, there's a lot of pluses and minuses with how you're doing this. But for us to be sitting in Washington second guessing them, I don't think that's the right way.

We also have a disagreement. Governor Haley and I, when she was at the U.N., she supported the idea of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The problem with that is the Palestinian Arabs don't recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. So doing a two-state solution doesn't create something that's going to lead to a lasting peace. It creates a stepping stone for Israel's destruction.

So under no circumstances as president am I going to pressure Israel to risk their security to do a so called two-state solution. She was wrong when she embraced that. And we're right to say we trust Israel to make these decisions. They're a good ally of ours. We should trust their judgment on these sensitive issues. TAPPER: Governor DeSantis, 15 seconds, 15 seconds clarification. Do

you support the mass removal of Palestinians from Gaza?

DESANTIS: So as president, I am not going to tell them to do that. I think there's a lot of issues with that. But if they make the calculation that to avert a second holocaust, they need to do that. I think some of these Palestinian Arabs, Saudi Arabia should take some.

TAPPER: Thank you.

DESANTIS: Egypt should take some. They've never been willing to accept any of these facts in their own neighborhood.

TAPPER: Thank you, governor. Thank you, governor. Governor Haley.

HALEY: Well, first of all, we need to understand the reason we need to support Israel is Israel's a bright spot in a tough neighborhood. They are the tip of the spear when it comes to defeating terrorism. It has never been that Israel needs America. It has always been that America needs Israel.

When I was at the United Nations, I fought every day for Israel. And if you would have listened to what I said at the United Nations, a two-state solution wasn't something that was possible because Israel would always come to the table and the Palestinians wouldn't.

But right now, we have to make sure that Israel has the support that it needs. There should be three things. Give Israel whatever it wants to get the job done. Two, eliminate Hamas once and for all. And three, do whatever it takes to bring the hostages home.

But it's really rich that Ron is going to act like he suddenly cares for Israel when he brought the person to Iowa that's the most anti- Israel Republican in the state, the person that went and voted against Israel's right to exist in Congress, the person that voted with the squad against antisemitism on college campuses.

TAPPER: Thank you, governor.

HALEY: And you brought that person --

TAPPER: Thank you, governor.

HALEY: -- to Iowa to go and campaign with. That's your friend.

TAPPER: Governor DeSantis, she's obviously referring to Congressman Tom Massey from Kentucky.

DESANTIS: Yes. I mean, that's just cheap garbage. But here's the thing. When the attack --

HALEY: It's true.

DESATIS: -- happened against Israel, I knew it was going to be a big deal for Florida. We have one of the largest Israeli American populations in the country, and we've been a haven for orthodox Jews in particular since I've been governor.

And you know what? Biden wasn't helping Americans get out of the war zone. These are people that were stranded. So I did an executive order. We scrambled planes and we rescued over 700 Americans from Israel and brought them back safely to the state of Florida. You got to step up and you got to lead when things like this are happening.

We also have gone after the antisemitism on our campuses. We did that early in my administration. You didn't see our college presidents doing some of the things that you've seen.

I just announced in the state of the state address yesterday or two days ago that we are going to say not just for Jewish students, anyone who's having religious, being persecuted or being marginalized because of their faith in any college around the country, we're going to waive the transfer requirements so that people can come to Florida and be safe.

TAPPER: Thank you, governor.

DESANTIS: What they are doing to Jewish students has been reprehensible.

TAPPER: Thank you, governor.

DESANTIS: We're not going to let it out.

TAPPER: So there are -- I'm coming to you. There are growing fears of this war escalating into a broader regional conflict. And, Governor Haley, just yesterday the U.S. Navy shot down 21 missiles and drones fired by Iranian backed militants in the Red Sea.


Iranian backed militants are now also attacking U.S. and western interests in Syria and Iraq. Your fellow South Carolinian Republican senator Lindsey Graham is calling for the U.S. to conduct retaliatory strikes inside Iran. Would you order strikes inside Iran?

HALEY: Well, first of all, notice Ron didn't say anything about the fact that he did bring that most anti-Israel Republican into this state to campaign. He also hasn't told you that the only Republican Jewish state legislator left his campaign because he wasn't dealing with the neo-Nazi marches and wasn't dealing with antisemitism properly.

When it comes to Iran, what we have to understand, there would be no Hamas without Iran. There would not be Houthis without Iran. There wouldn't be Hezbollah without Iran. And when you look at the strikes that are happening in Iraq and Syria, that is because of Ron. They're pulling the puppet strings.

What we need to do is the idea that we've had over 130 strikes on our men and women in Iraq and Syria is unconscionable. We're supposed to have their backs. And Biden has been slow. He's been hiding in a corner and he hasn't dealt with it. We need to go and take out every bit of the production that they have

that's allowing them to do those strikes. It's hugely important that we do that. And you can't do that if you have a secretary of defense that is in ICU and the president doesn't even know about it.

What bothers me is, how does Biden not talk to his secretary of defense every single day, knowing that we have a war in Europe, a war in the Middle East, that we have our American military with strikes going on them; we've got brain injuries.

My husband is deployed right now. As a military spouse, the idea that the secretary of defense would not even be in contact with the president, much less in contact with his staff, is unforgivable.

TAPPER: Governor DeSantis?


DESANTIS: After the attacks against Israel, anyone with half a brain knows Iran is behind this. They fund Hamas. They fund Hezbollah. We did a special session of the legislature down in Florida. We expanded sanctions against Iran. If we were our own country, we'd be the 14th largest economy in the world.

The root of this is Biden came into office and he relaxed the sanctions on Iran. They've had massive amounts of money flooding into their country, just like under the Obama administration. They take that money and they use it to fund jihad around the world.

I'm the only one running for president that served in the armed forces. I deployed to Iraq back in 2007, 2008. So I understand what our -- what our military goes through. I would never put our troops in harm's way, like Biden is doing in the Middle East, without defending them with everything they got.

If you harm a hair on the head of one of our servicemembers, you are going to be -- have hell to pay. He's leaving them out to dry, and I think it's disgraceful for a commander in chief to do that.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.


TAPPER: The CNN Republican Presidential Debate, live from Des Moines, Iowa, will be right back after this.


TAPPER: Go to for real-time debate analysis. Stay with us.




BASH: Welcome back to the CNN Republican presidential debate live from Drake University in Iowa.

Let's talk about a big question in the Republican Party right now. And that is, what is the role of government, and should it use its power to go after businesses and private entities that take actions that don't align with conservative values?

Governor DeSantis, you used your powers in Florida to take on Disney after the company criticized an education bill that you signed into law. How does that square with the traditional conservative view that small, limited government is best?

DESANTIS: The proper role of government, if it means every -- anything, it's to protect our kids.

And I have stood for the innocence of our kids.


DESANTIS: It is wrong -- it is wrong to sexualize the curriculum. It's wrong -- my wife and I, we have got a first grader, a kindergarten and a preschooler.

This is something that's important to us personally. It's wrong to tell a kindergartner, like Disney wanted to do, that you can change your gender or tell a third grader that you're born in the wrong body. So I stood up against -- yes, the media didn't like it, the left didn't like it, and Disney didn't like it.

And they're the 800-pound gorilla in the state of Florida. Most people, most corporate Republicans would have caved. I stood and I fought for the kids. We took on Disney, and we defeated that and we won that fight and our kids are better off.

Now, Nikki Haley sided with Disney. She invited them to South Carolina, even though they were involved in transing kids. That is not what we need to do. But I think that's similar. She is representative of this corporatist element of the party.

For example, she supported $900 million in subsidies to Boeing when she was in South Carolina. And then, when she got out of office, she took a seat on their board, and she made millions of dollars. Then she gave speeches, paid speeches, to a lot of Wall Street interests, didn't publish what she said. We don't know what she promised them.

And she made millions of dollars doing that. Now they're the ones that are funding her campaign. So we need to stand up for the people, and not bow down to woke corporations. And we know Nikki Haley will cave to the woke mob every single time.


BASH: Governor Haley, a response?

HALEY: Government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people. And what we don't need is government politicizing anything. The first

thing I will say is, again,, because I have never said anything related to the transgender stuff he says. I have always fought to protect kids. I have always said that boys need to go into boys' bathrooms, girls need to go into girls' bathrooms, that we shouldn't have any gender transitions before the age of 18.

Just like we don't have tattoos before the age of 18, we shouldn't have gender transformation or puberty blockers. But I will tell you that it's really interesting that Ron talks about this -- Disney, because Disney has been woke for a long time.


They were against the immigration situation that Trump was doing. They were against the Paris climate agreement when I did it. They were against the pro-life bill in Georgia. Ron didn't have any problem with that. As a matter of fact, he gave them the largest corporate subsidies in Florida history.

DESANTIS: That's false.

HALEY: He had tech exemptions that he gave -- didn't give any tech exemptions to anybody but Disney.

Yet, when they went and criticized him, he got thin-skinned and suddenly started to fight back. We don't need government fighting against our private industries. We are not woke in South Carolina. I will always invite businesses to come to South Carolina.

But the one thing you don't do is, government doesn't bully our businesses. And that can't happen. And Ron has determined anybody that offends him...

BASH: Thank you, Governor.


HALEY: ... he goes after them, and he will use government...


BASH: Thank you, Governor.

Governor DeSantis.


DESANTIS: She just said she's always fought to protect kids. But when she was governor of South Carolina, they had a bill to protect girls from men going into the bathroom. She killed it. And she has bragged about it for years that that happened. She didn't stand up and fight the kids. She caved to the Chamber of Commerce and the corporations.

She said she is against the surgeries for minors. That wasn't what she said this summer. She was... HALEY

DESANTIS: She was asked about it, it's on video. And she said the law should stay out of it. I -- I criticized her in the last debate. She took a lot of heat. So then she has flipped and said that there now should be the law involved. She said she supports a federal law. I'm glad she's come to the right thing.

But here's the deal, it goes back to that young kid in the town hall that she had where he said, Nikki Haley, you are the new John Kerry, you are for it before you were against it.


HALEY: It's a shame that we had to put up Honestly, if he would spend as much time trying to prove why he thinks he would be a good president, he would be doing a lot better in the polls. The reason that he spent and blown through $150 million and gone down in the polls is because he spent more time trying to lie about me than he is about telling the truth about himself.

I have never been...

DESANTIS: But you didn't kill the bathroom bill.

HALEY: I have never said that we should have any gender operations or surgeries. You're lying about that.

DESANTIS: So the law should...


TAPPER: Governor Haley has the floor.

HALEY: When it comes to the bathroom bill, I will say, first of all, that was 10 years ago. We had a handful of kids that may have had that issue. And what I made very clear at that time in the state is girls go into girls bathrooms, boys go into boys bathrooms. And if there are any other exceptions, they use a private bathroom.

I have fought for women's sports and making sure that biological boys are not in women's sports. And I'll continue to do that. I have always said we have to raise strong girls. Strong girls become strong women. Strong women become strong leaders.

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HALEY: None of that happens if we have biological boys...

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.



TAPPER: Governor Haley -- Governor Haley, according to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017, the year you left office, South Carolina schools ranked in the bottom 10 nationwide in both reading and math scores. Given that, why should voters concerned about K through 12 education support you rather than other Republicans?

HALEY: Because I think what we did was we knew that there was an issue. We knew in South Carolina if a child couldn't read by third grade they were four times less likely to graduate high school. So what we did is, we started holding kids back instead of pushing them forward. We brought in their parents. We did reading remediation. And we set them up for success.

We've got to do that all over the country. We only had 31 percent of eighth graders in the country are proficient in reading, 27 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math. If we don't do something, we're going to be in a world of hurt 10 years from now.

That's why I want to take as many federal programs from D.C. as we can and send them down to the state level. Think education. We can move a lot of K through 12 programs down to the state level, reduce the strings that are attached, and that way states can handle it themselves. People in Iowa know best what types of education they need.

Secondly, parents should decide what types of education their children get, what mode of education. And we should have complete transparency in the classroom. No parent should ever wonder what's being said or taught to their child in the classroom. That's why we'll have all of the curriculums online for every parent to see.

And we need to start putting vocational classes back in our high schools. Let's teach our kids how to do things. We did that in South Carolina. We had apprenticeships. We taught our kids how to build the things we are making.

When we start putting education back in the states and away from D.C., that's when we'll start to see that we are going back to the basics. We're doing what parents want. And we're doing what the industries...

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

HALEY: ... in that state need.


TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.


TAPPER: Governor DeSantis, I'm coming to you right now. Governor DeSantis, you have supported limits on what subjects can be taught and how, including American history in Florida schools. You have also made it easier to remove books from public school libraries. You say you want to, quote, "make America Florida." Do you want to implement those Florida school policies nationwide?

DESANTIS: I'll get to that in a sec. So Nikki Haley said she wants parents to decide on the education. She campaigned for governor saying she was going to do school choice, to be able to give private scholarships, particularly to low-income families. And she was governor and never did it. She caved to the teachers union.

I delivered the biggest school choice expansion in the history of the United States. We beat the teachers union. We've even done paycheck protection so that school unions -- so that teachers aren't force to do dues, and now they're choosing other things. So we've done it right in Florida. And the results speak for themselves.

We have one of the top performing fourth grade reading and math in the country. And if you just took our charter school population, 365,000 kids, disproportionately low income, racial, ethnic minorities, if they were their own state, they'd be in the top five in performance. Everyone can succeed, but you've got to have a leader who's going to fight the teachers unions and is going to deliver school choice.

Governor Kim Reynolds did that here in Iowa, who has endorsed me. Nikki Haley did not.


DESANTIS: She failed. And if she can't do it in the reddest state in the country of South Carolina, how are you going to be able to succeed in Washington, D.C.?

Now, in terms of what we've done. We believe in empowering parents.