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CNN Covers New Hampshire Town Hall; Biden Invites Leaders To White House Over Border Talks; Lawyers: E. Jean Carroll Wants Trump To "Pay Dearly"; Trump Camp Seeks To Blunt Haley's Rise In New Hampshire; Roger Stone Is Under Probe For Threatening Remarks. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 16, 2024 - 23:00   ET



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to lose if that's the decision that voters are making based on that. We don't want it to be a referendum on those issues.


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, tonight, he is making his plea to campaign yet another day. And earlier, Vivek Ramaswamy completed his campaign's circle of life by abandoning his own presidential aspirations to assume the role that he looked like he was maybe born to play there, campaign trail surrogate for Donald Trump.

While on a different network, tonight, Senator Ted Cruz endorsed the man, Abby, who once called his wife ugly, talked about his father aiding and abetting the assassination of an American president, John F. Kennedy. I mean, I'm not kidding, listen to this.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I don't get angry often, but you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that'll do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.

I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.

Donald does seem to have an issue with women. Donald. Donald doesn't like strong women. Strong women scare Donald.


COATES: What a difference a couple year makes, huh? Maybe a beard, too. Back with my panel, Shermichael Singleton, Laura Barron-Lopez, and Gloria Borger. Let's just start here for a second, and when you think back to 2016, it might seem very odd because today's candidates have not gone against or attacked Trump in this way. This is maybe a relic of the past these days. Why?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because they need him. I mean, look, Marco Rubio just endorsed him also. Right? And Marco Rubio was his enemy in 2016. And so was Ted Cruz who won the Iowa caucus, although Donald Trump claimed it was rigged and that Cruz didn't actually win it.

But, you know, these are members of Congress now coming out for -- because they believe they might as well get on the Trump train because that's the only train to be on. And so, Cruz, who's up for reelection, thinks this is going to help him in Texas, which it probably will.

But when you look back at history, recent history, it wasn't that long ago that he was -- that he was describing Trump this way. It's head- scratching. Lindsey Graham is another one, right, who is now an appendage of Donald Trump's.

And so, you see all these people coming out and saying, you know, okay, he's mine, and the reason they will give is that he is better than Joe Biden, who would be the worst person in the world to get re- elected, and that's how they are rationalizing it.

COATES: I mean, I don't know. I mean, you've been a strategist or Republican. You are still a strategist. If someone had told you a couple years ago, you've got a candidate you're going to go against, they're going to be your rival, they're going to have 91 counts against them, couple trials but you can't use any of it, you would have been, like, this is -- this is fake, right?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, my God. Are you kidding me? I would be in a room and say, oh, my God, we're going to have a field day with this. Imagine all the Apple research we're going to pull out.


I mean, look, Donald Trump --

COATES: Did I use any of it, Shermichael?

SINGLETON: He is the leader of the party. He has brought in a lot of new voters to the Republican Party, received more votes than any other Republican president in the past.

And that counts for something to many of these candidates who want those individuals, to Gloria's point, who are up for reelection. If you look at Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, while some of their criticisms of Donald Trump have come sort of late to the party, if you will, they've been very mild and timid for the most part because they recognize, as DeSantis said about Haley, we need these individuals to win a republican primary.

And so, the last thing you want to do is insult the guy that most of them are currently supporting. I mean, in many ways, Trump really has ideologically transformed the Republican Party. It's not the contextual conservatism that I sort of fell in love with, philosophically speaking. It is more of a populist, nationalist movement party. And most of these politicians who care about being reelected, they care about power and influence, they recognize that, so they're going to fall in line. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, he has transformed the base and the voters of the party and the coalition that Republicans like Ted Cruz believe that they need to win elections.

Now, what's stunning is that on the same hand, even though a lot of Republicans like Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham and others in the Senate and the House, they had a moment right after January 6th where Trump was his weakest. And at that moment, these establishment Republicans could have said, we're breaking, we're going to break now because if we don't, we're going to potentially lose future elections.

COATES: Some tried and then walked back. Right?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. Exactly.

SINGLETON: And some of them even lost elections.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And some of them did lose elections, right? They lost their primaries. Now, then, though, you hear Ron DeSantis tonight in that clip that you just played, Laura, where he says, if Trump is the nominee, we are going to lose because of the fact that Trump is running a revenge retribution campaign, all about, you know, revising the history of January 6, the election was rigged and a lie, and I'm going to overhaul the entire system that I'm -- dismantle the entire system that he's running to control.


And so, in 2022, Republicans did lose a lot of races. They didn't win back the Senate the way they thought they would, they didn't have a red wave in the House, and a lot of people said it was because of the fact that there were a lot of Trump-like candidates up and down --

SINGLETON: Election deniers just were --

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- up and down the tick.

SINGLETON: -- not palatable to independent and swing voters.

BORGER: So, his endorsement was not a winning thing. It was a losing thing.

SINGLETON: Absolutely.

BORGER: And yet -- and yet, they're still endorsing him, even after January 6th. And, you know, privately, they may -- they may say things about him. Oh, you know, oh, we don't like the way he tweets or whatever. But publicly, they're afraid of doing anything. He has really got them in his back.

COATES: I mean, it bothers me for --

SINGLETON: There's still a path, though, Laura. I would say there's still a potential path if the election were held today for Trump to return to the White House, if there's decrease in very pivotal voting block with President Biden, and we can't forget that. COATES: Well, you know, what strikes me -- I mean, it comes down to psychology. You made a point. We've talked about this for a long time. It strikes me that the candidates don't want to go against Trump even though it would be what is done in politics because it is perceived as attacking the intellect and minds of his supporters. That to attack him and describe his fraudulent, you know, the electoral votes and the frauds and the lies would be to say that somebody is susceptible to that level of lie. So, maybe there -- it's a psychology thing they're trying to do as well, which, you know, whether that works, who knows?

BORGER: It's also being perceived as being disloyal to the Republican Party as it now is. I mean, this -- it's a different party.

SINGLETON: Because the movement and Trump are intrinsically tied.

BORGER: Right, it's a different party, and it's a Trump party. And if you're disloyal to Trump, then you're disloyal to the party. Look at Liz Cheney. She got thrown out --

SINGLETON: Adam Kinzinger.

BORGER: -- of leadership and her seat.


COATES: She's called a rhino these days. I mean, Liz Cheney, of all people.

BORGER: Right.

SINGLETON: She has a very conservative record.

COATES: It's true. Everyone, stick around. Abby, back to you.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And so, guys, here back in New York, something interesting happened just a few minutes ago. Donald Trump, once again on his social media platform, this is what he wrote about Nikki Haley.

Anyone listening to Nikki "Nimrada" Haley, her whacked out speech last night, would think that she won Iowa -- the Iowa primary. She didn't, and she couldn't even beat the very flawed Ron DeSanctimonious, who is out of money and out of hope.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You see that? She's saying that there's no racism. And he is trying to use her given name, right, her birth name, Nimarata Randhawa, to remind people of her otherness. That is racism. And that is why she needs to stop tiptoeing around this issue, and she needs to call it out.

PHILLIP: This is literally -- I mean, when Trump was running around talking about Barack Hussein --

NAVARRO: Right. Exactly.

PHILLIP: -- Obama, this is literally -- DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, but wait, did you just see -- did you just see, you just rolled the tape on the Ted Cruz, like, litany of insults? I mean, the guy is not just -- he's -- I don't think he discriminates in his discrimination and insulting, right?


URBAN: I mean, he's full-fledged.

AXELROD: I don't know this for a fact, but I have a feeling that the person who wrote his remarks last night was not the same person --


who wrote that tweet or that post. But, you know, we've talked about this before, Abby. Nikki Haley has faced some of this stuff in --

URBAN: South Carolina.

AXELROD: -- in South Carolina herself when she was in close races. You know, photos started circulating of her father and his turban and her Indian dress and the name stuff and so on. I have no doubt if this race, it may be in this week, if this race were to get really serious and close that you'll see some of those same tactics here. It is the invocation of race that she does not want to address.

PHILLIP: Urban, I got to say -- I got to say, Urban, you just mentioned Ted Cruz. We can't forget, Trump claimed that Ted Cruz was not a natural born citizen --

URBAN: He's Cuban-American.

PHILLIP: -- because he's Cuban American.

URBAN: Absolutely.

NAVARRO: Don't remind me.

URBAN: The thing on the Indian-American, Southeast Asians, big part of the Republican Party. So, Trump does that at his own peril. Right? He goes after those folks.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He just beat them by 30 points the night before, right?

URBAN: Yeah.

ALLISON: And he is insulting them. And they won't punch back at him like -- he's a bully, but at some point, stand up for yourself. If you actually want to be a leader, you have to be willing to stand up. You always talk about how -- DeSantis and Nikki Haley. I'm strong. I'll be strong in national security. Well, if you won't even like go against your opponent, how do we know that you would be strong to protect our country?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To that point, I would think there's a bigger audience for that in New Hampshire than there maybe there was in Iowa. I mean, there's obviously anti-Trump Republicans and anti-Trump independents in New Hampshire who would love to see somebody.

This was the point Chris Christie was making the other day, though.


I mean, let's be honest. He didn't think in the offstage, backstage, hot mic, whatever, that she had it in her to do what you just said, which is to fight back in front of an audience in New Hampshire that might actually like it. Now, we'll see how she takes this nasty post.

I'd also just point out, he was -- I gave him some credit last night for being gracious on the stage and saying -- trying to be nice to his opponent. That lasted all of 24 hours because they didn't drop out.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's given his opponents a ton of content to go after. And tonight, while appearing in New Hampshire, he said that it was ridiculous that he had to leave the White House after he lost and after the insurrection and after Joe Biden left.

And then he went on to go on a litany of lies about the election and how the fraud wasn't looked at and re-litigating all the conspiracy theories around it.

This is what he's going to do. There's sort of this myth -- Axe and I agree he does have better advisors this time, the top of his campaign's, the most professional he's ever had. I'm sorry, Urban and I agree. But he is an undisciplined person who cannot get out of his own way. So, this notion that there's going to be this more disciplined, you know, gregarious Donald Trump that's gracious --

PHILLIP: But Alyssa --

GRIFFIN: -- it's not real.

PHILLIP: -- Ben Carson just told me that Trump is going to lodge --

GRIFFIN: Not vindictive at all.

PHILLIP: -- a more salutatory --

URBAN: Just forget about that part.

PHILLIP: -- part of his campaign.

GRIFFIN: I've never met a more vindictive human being than Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: So, Ben Carson is wrong.

GRIFFIN: I'm not -- I disagree.

URBAN: Listen, Scott brought up a good point, by the way. Chris, the name who has now kind of vanished, Chris Christie, you know, the thought was that Chris Christie gets out of the race, and now Nikki Haley has got this magic carpet ride to victory --


URBAN: -- in New Hampshire. I'm wondering if Chris Christie right now is thinking, like, shit, I wish I'd stayed in, right? Because she's not going to -- you know --


AXELROD: NAVARRO: Christine knew she wasn't going to do it.

AXELROD: All this discussion -- all this discussion, though, about the other panel and so on, and all this discussion about why don't people stand up to Trump and so on, I think people should stand up to Trump, and I think he deserves to be challenged on some of the very serious things that he has done. But Chris Christie is a symbol in some ways, an emblem to those people.

Asa Hutchinson, who fell in the woods like a tree falling in the night last night in Iowa and has withdrawn from the race, I mean, all of the people who frontally challenged Trump have now disappeared, and so that is his power within the Republican Party.

Now, you know, there's a pretty good argument that, well, you know, leaders have to lead and leaders need to stand up, and that was the argument that Christie made, but it's not a winning formula for ambitious politics.

URBAN: No, no, but I think Christie -- the part that Christie wanted -- his fight was in New Hampshire, right? Chris Christie's fight was in New Hampshire. I think now he might be thinking, well, I'm gone, nobody is doing it, why did I leave?

JENNINGS: If there's not an audience to fight back in front of in New Hampshire, there won't be one --

NAVARRO: He left because he had no money.

JENNINGS: -- anywhere else on the map.

ALLISON: I also just don't think it has -- I think that the candidates have to stand up, but I think that people who are actually in elected office have to stand up. And if people would have stood up to him and not went down to Mar-a-Lago and kissed the ring starting on January 7th, it would have been a lot easier for Nikki Haley, for Ron DeSantis to stand up, but it's not a pass for them not having it now.

PHILLIP: Perhaps, for that reason, that ship may have sailed a couple years ago now. Everyone --

NAVARRO: You think?

PHILLIP: Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more ahead. We'll get to the Democratic Party's take on this race as well as the current situation at the U.S. border which is one of the biggest issues in this election. Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke is going to join us live.

Plus, Donald Trump is in a courtroom or he was in a courtroom today, and we'll tell you what happened there.



PHILLIP: A major meeting is set at the White House tomorrow about congressional funding for Ukraine's battle against Russia as well as border and migrant policy. Top lawmakers, including Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson, will all meet with the president and his top aides.

Now, congressional leaders were all summoned in an effort to make some headway on some contentious issues.

Former Texas Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke is joining me now. Congressman, thanks for being here. Now, President Biden has signaled that he's open to negotiating with Republicans on immigration, on new asylum restrictions, and on potentially limiting the president's ability to offer limited entry to migrants from certain countries. Would you still support President Biden if he agrees to those proposals?

BETO O'ROURKE, FORMER TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: What I hope President Biden will do at tomorrow's meeting is lay out a bold vision and plan to secure our border and make sure that this country is living up to our values.

The very extremist proposal that's on the table that you alluded to from Senate Republicans and even more extreme version from House Republicans would make a terrible situation at our border right now much worse.

The problem, Abby, is that there aren't enough legal means for people to orderly and lawfully and safely come to this country when they're unable to stay in their own. That's why we're seeing the record numbers of apprehensions.

The deal on the table right now would constrict this even further, which, by the way, would not stop the flow of people coming into this country. It would push them into the hands of smugglers and further worsen security and chaos at our border right now. So, I hope the president will stand strong for a much better deal.

And yes, he should work with Republicans and Democrats alike to solve the problems that we have here. But the deal, as we see it right now, is a very bad one. The president is walking into a trap. If he agrees to this deal, not only will it be bad for the border and bad for immigration policy, it will be bad for his reelection in November of this year.

PHILLIP: So, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just now in a CNN town hall said this about the border.



DESANTIS: I am going to empower the states to be able to enforce immigration law. I don't think that Texas should have to sit there and deal with all the consequences of the federal government neglecting their duties.

And I think that has been a problem with the Biden administration saying we're not -- federal immigration law is just for the feds. You can't do it. But they're not doing it. So, what? We're just supposed to let this happen?

So, we're going to work together with the states and the local sheriffs, so you're not going to have these conflicts like that exist right now between Biden and Texas or between Biden and local sheriffs and places down in Texas.


PHILLIP: What's your answer to him? Should states do nothing if the federal government isn't doing enough to deal with just the sheer numbers, which I think you would agree are at a crisis point at the border?

O'ROURKE: You know, what the governor is proposing would be akin to someone 60 years ago saying, you know what, we're just not going to follow federal law in the states that choose not to. For example, implementing Brown versus Board of Education.

And in fact, when that situation occurred with Governor Faubus in Arkansas in 1957, you had President Eisenhower nationalize the guard there in that state to make sure that the Little Rock Nine could successfully integrate their local high school.

I don't know if it has to come to that. Congressman Joaquin Castro today proposed that President Biden federalize the guard here in Texas because, as you know, the Texas National Guard, under the governor's order, is blocking federal border patrol agents from being able to do the job that they were trained to do, to literally secure our border and to protect against unlawful entries, and to save those who are in very desperate, very vulnerable situations.

Because of the governor's refusal to follow the Constitution and U.S. law, we are seeing people die at record levels. In fact, in the El Paso sector where I am right now, last year, we had a record level of migrant deaths double the number that we saw the year before.

What we need the president to do right now is to step up and successfully, peacefully confront Governor Abbott, make sure that he reimposes federal authority on the border.

And then there's some other steps that he can take right now while he waits for Congress to do their job. He can speed up the asylum process. So, those who belong in this country can stay. Those who do not are returned to the country from which they came.

He can authorize more people to work in this country. We have 10 million job openings right now that we can't fill. We have asylum seekers who are here, who are unable to work.

And Abby, the last thing that he can do right now without waiting for Congress is to help regional partners throughout the western hemisphere who are actually shouldering a far greater burden of asylum seekers and migrants than the U.S. is, partners like Columbia who can no longer sustain the millions of Venezuelans who have come to that country.

Why don't we help those countries, those migrants in those places so they don't feel the need to come to the United States right now? Those are the kind of bold steps the president could take right now and make sure that we do not have a further constitutional crisis here in Texas provoked by Governor Abbott.

PHILLIP: And Congressman, there's obviously a big presidential race happening on the republican side, but it looks likely that if the election were held today, it would be between Trump and Biden. If it were, who would win?

O'ROURKE: It's going to be President Biden. And just to quickly come back to the issue with which we started, if he's able to strike a far better deal on immigration, if he's able to lay out a vision and a plan that stir the energy and excitement and the interest of the people of this country, especially young people, for example, a deal that fully legalizes dreamers in this country, that creates a pathway to citizenship.

More legal ways for people who want to come to this country, do better for themselves and do better for all of us, that's the kind of thing, that's the right thing to do for the right reasons for our country. That's also going to accrue to his benefit politically in November of '24. I want to make sure that the president stands strong at this moment, and we will all stand with him.

PHILLIP: But if he were to do a deal like that, you acknowledged that he would have to give something up, would he not?

O'ROURKE: I think in any deal, you're going to have to negotiate, and no one is going to get everything that they want. But the deal, as I've seen the contours of it laid out in reporting on CNN and other news sources, is really a one-sided deal that again, just to be clear, is not going to do anything to stem the flow of migration and asylum seekers and refugees in this country. In fact, it's more likely to make it worse and push them into the hands of smugglers.


So, for any Democratic operatives or any political folks who are close to the president right now who think that in the short term they can sacrifice our values, our interests and good policy for a political win, I promise you that if this deal, as we understand it today, is struck and implemented, you're going to see much worse chaos, much higher numbers on the border come election time.

This is a political trap for the president and it is absolutely the wrong thing to do. He has an extraordinary opportunity to distinguish himself from Donald Trump who has talked about immigrants poisoning the blood of America, referred to them as animals, as invaders.

He in part helped provoke the massacre here in El Paso in 2019, a gunman who said he was repelling the Hispanic invasion of America, a phrase very close to the one that President Trump had used not too much earlier from that killing.

President Biden right now can really stand up and reclaim the proudest part of our heritage and our history, do the right thing for the right reasons. And again, it will be to his political benefit and make it more likely that he wins in November.

PHILLIP: Congressman Beto O'Rourke, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

O'ROURKE: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And Donald Trump is taking his campaign to the courtroom today. What happened in that E. Jean Carroll defamation trial, that's next.



COATES: All right, looming over the entire presidential race, you guessed it, Donald Trump's legal problems. Trump was actually back in a New York courtroom today for his second defamation trial brought by the former columnist E. Jean Carroll.

Now, remember, Carroll won the first defamation trial last year. A jury found Trump sexually assaulted her in the 90s and defamed her while in office. She is seeking more than $10 million in damages from Trump's defamatory statements about her sexual assault allegations. Trump denies any wrongdoing whatsoever.

And today was the first time in decades that both Trump and Carroll were in the same room. A jury of nine people now has to decide how much in damages Trump should pay.

With me now is CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen, a former House Judiciary special counsel on Trump's first impeachment trial, and legal analyst Elliot Williams is here as well, a former federal prosecutor.

Gentlemen, glad to have you. First, many people might think, I hope this is all over. There's already a jury finding it. Why are we back here again? Just tell us why we're here again.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Damages. A jury has already found him liable for the act of sexual assault and acts of defamation. Defamation, for folks who don't know, is making falsehoods about an individual that hurt their reputation or hurt them financially in some way. So that has been found.

It's now just a question of the damages, exactly how much -- how much was this individual harmed by the statements, how much was her reputation harmed, her ability to work, whatever else it might be, and that's what they're going to be sorting out.

COATES: Second time in New York, of course, is not about the underlying facts. It's about now how much you got to pay for it like the civil fraud trial he's facing. He is saying, though, in opening statements today, Norm, his counsel is saying that Carroll's career actually prospered, and she was looking to collect over mean tweets. So, how does the jury process all the information?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the three of us, having spent a lot of time in front of juries, know how they'll do that, the witnesses, and we're going to get the most important witness in this trial tomorrow, E. Jean Carroll herself.

And she's going talk about the effect this had on her, and she's going to explain that she did not prosper, that this was devastating to her, that it affected her reputation, her business as an advice columnist, the number of letters she got to answer went down. She has been the subject of threats, harassment. It has been very painful for her.

And then the jury will make a credibility judgment. Do they agree with Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, that she prospered or was this devastating? We saw big damages in the first trial. I think we're going to get even greater damages in this one.

WILLIAMS: And along those lines, you can often substantiate harm, right? And what someone will do is come into court and say, on this date, the statement was made. Prior to this date, this is how much money I had, this was how many clicks I had on my website, this was how many bookings I had as a speaker. The day after the statement was made, it all dried up.

And it's not just, well, it hurt my feelings, and I just sort of think my brand is worth less. No, you can actually point to the money you want.

COATES: Well, Trump is -- Trump appeared. You know, obviously, some are calling it another campaign stop. It might very well be. But he doesn't have to actually be in attendance here. He is in attendance there. He likely wants to testify. Will he?

EISEN: I think he will testify.

COATES: But there are going to be some guardrails in place.

EISEN: Judge Kaplan -- Judge Kaplan is no Judge Engoron. He has already put down strong guardrails. He wouldn't even let the lawyers re-argue. He cut him off. Overruled, overruled today.

COATES: Meaning anything they already decided in the courtroom, they won't do it again. EISEN: He doesn't want to -- he doesn't want to hear it. He's a very experienced judge, one of the most experienced on our New York federal bench. Of course, he has been there a very long time, and he's tough.

So, Trump is going to be very narrowly circumscribed in front of that jury. But I do think he'll testify. And that's the other bookend of this damages' calculation.


It's not just the compensatory damages, hey, I was hurt, but it's also punitive damages. And if Trump does testify, he's going to speak to that because that goes to malice and intent. Did he intend her harm?

WILLIAMS: Also, important to note, again, it's a dizzying set of cases and courts and trial. This is a federal court in New York, and the rules of federal court just tend to be a little bit stricter in terms of, for instance, case in point, there will not be any photographs in there.

If you remember in the New York civil trial that we just saw, even in the morning, they would bring a camera, photographers in to take pictures of the parties. You're not going to see any of that.

COATES: Just courtroom drawings again, the caricatures.

WILLIAMS: Just courtroom drawings, just courtroom drawings. And there's a level of seriousness that I think any federal judge, regardless of who they are, is going to impose.

COATES: Depositions come in. I mean, if Trump does not testify, his words can still come in.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Yeah. His words can still come in. Again, in a civil trial, he as a defendant has fewer rights and his statements can be brought in against him in a way that they could not if he were sort of on trial for an actual crime.

COATES: But tell me, Norm, what's ahead? This is just -- by the way, this is just but one -- but one of the many things. This week alone could be very consequential in terms of decisions coming from the benches. What's happening?

EISEN: We're expecting to hear on the 14th Amendment decision. Will Trump be barred from the ballot in Maine? The secretary of state's opinion is now up for consideration in the Maine trial court. So, we'll get a decision there. I think that'll probably come tomorrow. Thursday, Trump's brief is due on the 14th Amendment in the Supreme Court.

As soon as Friday, we could get the most important decision of them all on Trump's immunity argument. Is he absolutely immune? Can he send SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political opponent? No way. Saturday, if he loses in Maine, he has to appeal. Monday, he may testify in this New York courtroom. That'll make news across the states and around the world. And then Tuesday, New Hampshire primary. What a week. COATES: That's probably why they'll want to get some opinions out before that. So as not to be accused of interfering in some way. Whew, I got a little whiplash. Norm Eisen, Elliot Williams, thank you both so much for being here.

Up next, as the candidates begin to swarm New Hampshire, why Nikki Haley could be poised to pull off quite the surprise upset against Trump? This is CNN special live coverage.



COATES: Well, as candidates hit the trail in New Hampshire, CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten has more on what's waiting for those candidates in the Granite State. Harry?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Hey, Laura. So, the contest was in Iowa last night, but now it focuses on New Hampshire. We are looking at a very different ball game in the Granite State, a state I hold near and dear to my heart.

So, take a look here. This is the choice for GOP nominee in New Hampshire. Keep in mind, this is what Christie and Ramaswamy voters reallocated to their second choice. My goodness gracious, what a tight race we have here between Donald Trump, who is still ahead with 44%, but Nikki Haley right on his heels at 40%.

Ron DeSantis, though, way back at just 7%. He is not going to be able to repeat his second-place performance in New Hampshire if these polls are anywhere close to being correct.

But this is a very tight race, neck and neck between Trump and Haley. This is just one poll. But I should note that there have been a number of polls that have indicated that Nikki Haley is closing in on the former president of the United States.

The question is, why is Nikki Haley closing in on the president of the United States, the former president? And this will give you an understanding why. This is something that Donald Trump has been complaining about.

Okay, this is the choice for GOP nominee again. Look, among those who are registered Republicans, Donald Trump way out in front, 63% to 24% for Haley. But remember, New Hampshire allows those undeclared to vote in the primary, those -- quote unquote -- "independents," right? Look amongst the undeclared, Nikki Haley with 59% to Donald Trump's 22%.

This is something that Donald Trump has been complaining about, the idea that there are going to be these independents who vote in the republican primary. That's not fair.

Well, here's the thing you should keep in mind, and that is this. New Hampshire GOP primary voters who aren't Republicans, in our latest poll, 45%, 45% in our CNN-UNNH poll. But that's very much in line with what we've seen historically. Undeclared independents, those who weren't registered before the primaries, they oftentimes take -- oftentimes vote in republican primaries. In 2016, it was 40%. Remember, Donald Trump won when it was 40% back in 2016.

How about in 2012, which I think is probably the best comparison case, because that, of course, was when there was a Democratic incumbent and there was not a competitive democratic primary? Back then, 47%. Forty- seven percent of New Hampshire republican primary voters were, in fact, not Republicans.

So, this is not anything new. This complaint by Donald Trump really doesn't holds water. It's just something that we have to see in republican primaries. We see different electorates, different states voting in different ways.

But, of course, it's not all bad news for the former president because, look, choice for GOP nominee nationally, this is among likely Republican voters, yes, Donald Trump may be struggling in the state of New Hampshire, but you look nationally, look at this, he's still way out ahead with 69% of the vote.


Ron DeSantis, 55 points back. Nikki Haley, 57 points back. So, the fact is, Laura, Donald Trump may struggle in New Hampshire, but looking forward nationally. After New Hampshire, it still looks pretty good for him. Back to you.

COATES: So important. Thank you so much, Harry. Abby?

PHILLIP: And I want to start where Harry started as well, which is that initial poll showing Ron DeSantis at 7%. He might get a bump out of New Hampshire, but is it going to be enough to put him in the game or the bump out of Iowa? Is it going to be enough to put him in the game in New Hampshire?

JENNINGS: No. I mean, that's -- he has been clear about that. I mean, his thinking, I believe, is that Trump eliminates Haley in New Hampshire, and then he gets a showdown with Trump in South Carolina and beyond. And so, it's quite a -- quite a narrow path that has probably a low probability of success, but I think that's what he's -- that's what he's thinking right now. He's not going to be seriously competitive in the Granite State.

AXELROD: South Carolina primary is a month after the New Hampshire primary. That's a long time to live off the land for --

PHILLIP: Yeah, for a hefty campaign that has been going for a long --

AXELROD: -- for DeSantis or for the kind of campaign that he would -- that he would need. I think that for Trump, the reason that he's raising this idea of Democrats, you know, encroaching on the republican primary is to inspire his base, which is Republicans.

I mean, his fundamental advantage in this race is he does really well with Republicans and he's running for the republican nomination, and he's trying to galvanize these Republicans. So, it's a strategic judgment. I don't think he's crying foul so much as trying to make them think that there's a foul being committed.

PHILLIP: But do you think --

NAVARRO: I think it's a little bit of both, though, because, first of all, crying foul is what he does. Right?

AXELROD: Yes, right. It's a victimization thing.

NAVARRO: He is a professional cry foul person. He's, you know, everything is rigged. And he lays the groundwork in the event that he loses, he can then say, this was rigged.

AXELROD: Kind of working for him right now.


AXELROD: Kind of working for him right now.

NAVARRO: Yeah, yeah. He's the big --

AXELROD: This is how you galvanize -- I mean, this is sort of how you galvanize the base.

JENNINGS: Well, in this particular case, I do think it seems fundamentally weird to the average Republican that a guy sitting at 69% in the party nationally could be upended by a bunch of, you know, non-Republican, non-conservative voters in New Hampshire, a state he's not going to win in the fall anyway.

And so, I actually think his point will resonate. I mean, it's not rigged because that's the rules of that particular state. But as you said, if the republican nomination were purely decided by Republicans, you know, obviously --

NAVARRO: I have a very hard time thinking that DeSantis could live off the land. You know, John McCain did, right? But when John McCain's campaign completely imploded, this is a guy who was on American Eagle flights, carrying his own bags and flying alone and showing up at places alone, and he turned it around. I have a hard time thinking that Ron DeSantis can and will do that.

PHILLIP: Ron DeSantis launched his campaign as a front-runner when he was never the front-runner. And now, that's one of the reasons it would be hard. But, Ashley, for Nikki Haley, putting aside whether she gets independence or Democrats or whatever, if she beats Trump in New Hampshire, let's call it possible, does the expectations game matter for her?

ALLISON: Yeah. I mean, I think if she beats Donald Trump in New Hampshire, she's in this race and she should try and go full steam ahead. It's still a really long shot to see her getting to the nomination because if she doesn't, like if you look at 2020, our sitting president, Joe Biden, the first primary he won was South Carolina. He lost Iowa, he lost New Hampshire, and he lost Nevada, and then he won South Carolina. And he got to the nomination, he got to the White House. But no one person won two of those before he got to South Carolina.

Buttigieg won in Iowa. Bernie won in New Hampshire. And I forget who actually won in Nevada. It was super close. I think Biden actually did better in Nevada, and then South Carolina. But if Trump wins two in a row, it's over.

PHILLIP: And at the difference --

AXELROD: But you'd say she should go on from there. She'd have to go to her home state and win.

ALLISON: She has to win.

AXELROD: And that's no easy task.

PHILLIP: And also, I mean, to your point, Joe Biden knew the electorate was getting more favorable to him as he went on. I'm not sure that would be true for Nikki Haley.

Everyone, thank you all very much for a great discussion these last couple of hours. But up next for us, Roger Stone is under investigation tonight for allegedly making comments about Democrats being assassinated. The details, next.



COATES: Trump ally Roger Stone is under investigation tonight. Why? For allegedly calling for the assassination of two prominent House Democrats. Those comments were caught on tape and published by Mediaite. CNN has not independently obtained this recording.

CNN's Zachary Cohen, though, has more details.


ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Roger Stone is a long-time political operative for the Republican Party and a supporter of former President Donald Trump. But sources are now telling CNN that he's being investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police and FBI for comments he made in the weeks before the 2020 election when he discussed having two high profile House Democrats assassinated.

Now, the probe comes after Mediaite released an audio recording of Stone allegedly saying that one of two Democrats, either Representative Eric Swalwell or Representative Jerry Nadler -- quote -- "has to die before the election."


Take a listen to this recording for yourself in Stone's own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROGER STONE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT AND LOBBYIST (voice-over): It's time to do it. Either Swalwell or Nadler has to die before the election. They need to get the message. I'm just not putting up with this (bleep) anymore.


COHEN: Now, Stone has denied ever saying this and claims the recording has been manipulated by artificial intelligence. CNN has not independently obtained the recording. But law enforcement is now looking into the matter, sources tell us, putting Stone at the center of yet another controversy related to his alleged comments, urging violence against Trump's political opponents in the lead-up to January 6, 2021. Laura?

COATES: Zachary Cohen, thank you so much. Look, everyone, thank you for watching our special analysis of CNN's town hall with Governor Ron DeSantis.

PHILLIP: Two nights in a row with you, Laura. It has been a good one.

COATES: What could be better? I love it.

PHILLIP: Thank you all. And CNN's coverage continues next.