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GOP Presidential Candidates Swarming The Trail Tonight As 2024 Nears; Colorado Supreme Court Removes Trump From 2024 Ballot; Civil Rights Orgs Sue Texas Over Controversial Immigration Law; Soon: Trump Campaigns In Iowa After Colorado Supreme Court Bars Him From 2024 Primary Ballot; Jewish Institutions Across U.S. Report Hundreds of Threats. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 19, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump and his top Republican rivals are swarming the campaign trail tonight with 2024 almost here. We're getting a new read on the former president's confidence heading into the Iowa caucuses. His campaign already predicting when he'll clinch the GOP nomination.
Also tonight, a major legal challenge to a strict and sweeping new immigration law in Texas. Will civil rights groups be able to block the measure that authorizes police in Texas to arrest migrants?
And a stunning explosion of red hot lava as a volcano erupts in Iceland. CNN is right near the danger zone getting updates on the threat from the oozing inferno and the toxic gases spewing into the air.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
We begin with presidential politics and an all-out push for votes in Iowa tonight. The top three Republican candidates are getting ready to hold events in the leadoff caucus state. And frontrunner Donald Trump is road testing a new strategy.
CNN's Alayna Treene is covering it all for us. Alayna, tell us more about the Trump campaign's new strategy.
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Yes. Well, Wolf, Donald Trump's campaign actually is rolling out this new strategy that they're hoping will be a test case in a potential general election, if this goes as successful in Iowa as they think it will. And, essentially, the strategy is this. They're really trying to find and create first-time caucus-goers in Iowa and essentially expand the electorate in Donald Trump's favor.
And their argument is essentially that a lot of the other campaigns and the candidates, as well as those conducting many of the polls that we're looking at, are looking at likely caucus-goers. But what Donald Trump and his team is trying to do is find new voters and turn them out on January 15th for Donald Trump.
And I've spoke with many of Donald Trump's advisors about this, and they noted that Donald Trump himself is personally getting involved in this strategy. He's picking up the phone, calling a lot of these voters, trying to encourage them to come out and vote for him on caucus day in January.
And I think one of the things that's really been interesting here is I've attended many of Donald Trump's rallies, especially those in Iowa, over the past several months. And one key strategy that they've also been implementing is trying to teach caucus-goers effectively how to caucus, where to go on Election Day in January, and also trying to help them provide transportation for getting to the polls on January 15th.
And one other thing, Wolf, that I think is also very interesting, I was in a briefing yesterday in Florida with some other reporters and some of Donald Trump's team, and they noted that they actually expect Donald Trump to potentially secure enough delegates by mid-March in order to clinch the Republican nomination. And, I mean, it's pretty remarkable. That would be months before the GOP convention. But that's according to a lot of the data analysis and the polling that they're looking at.
And, of course, things can change. We have to get through the primaries. We still haven't even hit January yet, so the dynamics could be different, but that is really what they're looking at as we head into primary season, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting. And, Alayna, do we expect the other Republican presidential candidates to actually focus their attacks tonight on Trump?
TREENE: It's an interesting question. I think they will. I think they will go after Donald Trump, but not as in earnest as I think many other people who are wanting to rally behind an alternative candidate to Donald Trump are hoping for. We did hear Florida Governor Ron DeSantis go after Trump, attack him on some of the comments he made over the weekend, his anti-immigration rhetoric on where he said poisoning the blood of the country, talking about immigrants. DeSantis said that that wasn't a helpful tactic, that he thinks immigration is a weakness for Joe Biden. But Donald Trump's rhetoric on this, rhetoric that many people have compared to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany as not being helpful. So, I think you'll hear that type of stuff tonight from these candidates, but I don't think they're going to be as tough going after Donald Trump as many people are hoping and wanting them to do.
BLITZER: Alayna Treene reporting for us, thank you, Alayna, very much.
Let's discuss the state of the race right now with our political team. And, David Chalian, what do you make of the Trump team's new focus on a robust on the ground presence in Iowa right now, even when he has a commanding lead in the polls there?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, this has been a clear difference all year long, Wolf, from what the Trump campaign was doing back in 2015-'16, when he was making his first run for the Oval Office.
I remember going to the Iowa State Fair in August of this year, and as I approached the gate to the state fair, there was a huge Trump table taking everyone's name and email addresses, organizing. I did not see that eight years prior.
So, this is an operation that is very focused on organizing around an event, the Iowa caucuses, that requires that level of organization. And they're doing so with sort of this pseudo incumbency that is attached to Trump, which is no small advantage. So, this has been their focus.
And to what Alayna was saying about first time caucus-goers, Wolf, that recent Des Moines Register poll showed that among those saying they will be first-time caucus-goers, Donald Trump was winning 63 percent of them. So, he does still seem to have the ability to bring new people into the process.
BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, the Trump's team is clearly projecting they'll clinch the nomination by mid-March. How likely do you think that is?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, on current trajectory, they are in a very strong position to do something like that. This focus on new voters in Iowa, really, to me, underscores, underlines the schizophrenic quality of this 2024 Trump presidential campaign because it is often touted as being more professional. And when you see tactics like this, it is indeed more professional on kind of the operational level.
But you have to wonder, when you look at the message and the agenda that he is offering, it's very different. At a point when so many Americans are dissatisfied with the economy and dissatisfied with Biden's performance, there's a case for Republican nominee to just kind of put their head down and promise to make things better, Donald Trump is directly quoting Adolf Hitler, talking about poisoning the blood of our country, talking about vermin, having a very militant agenda on mass deportation, camps, military action against Mexico, sending the National Guard into blue cities. So, to me, it's kind of striking to watch the two dimensions of this on a kind of tactical, procedural level, clearly a more professional campaign. But in terms of the message that he is offering to voters, he is making this a lot more complicated for himself if he becomes the Republican nominee than it could be with a more meat and potatoes kind of Republican alternative to Biden.
BLITZER: And I want to bring in Alyssa Farah Griffin right now as well. Alyssa, I thought it was interesting that in New Hampshire, Trump's super PAC, for the very first time, has launched an attack ad against Nikki Haley. Let's watch and listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, High Tax Haley broke her promise.
NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's increase the gas tax.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repeatedly backing higher taxes hurts families. New Hampshire can't afford Nikki High Tax Haley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, coming after her with a new nickname, too. Does all this suggest Trump views her as a very serious threat?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The Trump campaign no doubt sees Nikki Haley as a threat, especially after these latest CBS numbers that have her inching toward Donald Trump's lead in New Hampshire.
And, by the way, that ad itself has already been roundly fact-checked, is inaccurate, but I take a little bit of a different take on this sort of new strategy in Iowa, and great reporting by Elena. This actually signals to me that the Trump team is realizing they can't take this election for granted.
He actually hasn't had as sophisticated of a caucus operation as someone like a Ron DeSantis or a Nikki Haley. Nikki Haley has been running this playbook in New Hampshire since the day she launched her campaign, which is turnout, independence turnout, first-time non- primary voters and has done similar in Iowa.
So, I think it signals that they realize not showing up to debates, just kind of jetting in and giving big speeches and walking away, that doesn't work in a caucus state like Iowa, where you've got to ask people for their votes, you've got to show up, you've got to turn them out. So, I think it signals he thinks there might be a real race here.
BLITZER: Alyssa, let me follow up. The DeSantis campaign is trolling Nikki Haley for refusing to state plainly that she would not be Trump's vice president with a website called Trump-Nikki 2024. What's your reaction to that?
GRIFFIN: I mean, it's actually a really good idea by DeSantis because I think Nikki Haley fills a lot of, call it the never Trump part of the Republican Party. And I think for voters like myself, they do want an answer on that. But at the end of the day, it's also a very easy answer for her to give.
So, I think she's going to be kind of forced to come out more forcefully at some point and say something beyond just, I'm running to win and no, I'm not going to be his number two. I am running to be the president.
BLITZER: Ashley Allison, The Wall Street Journal is now reporting thing that former President Obama, quote, and I'm quoting now, feels that Democrats very well could lose the 2024 election after Biden reportedly told staffers his polling numbers were unacceptably low.
How concerning is Biden's lagging campaign for Democrats right now?
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the poll numbers definitely are concerning. Obviously, polls don't vote and we are month out, but the coalition that we worked so hard to build in 2020 is fractured right now, and it's fractured for many different reasons, mainly most recently because of the war in Israel and Gaza.
I think what President Obama is saying is smart. We cannot fall asleep at the wheel right now as Democrats. We cannot take 2024 for granted. 2024 is going to be a very different campaign than 2020 is. And nobody wants to see what happened, a repeat of 2016, when many folks -- not everyone, but many folks, didn't think Hillary Clinton could lose. And then she did to Donald Trump. And we saw what four years of Donald Trump did to our country and many folks that were a part of that Biden 2020 coalition.
So, it's an important warning. The campaign is hiring new staff in various communities and in battleground states, which is really important at this point. That was the case in 2012 when President Obama was running for re-election. The map looks different from then, but it is still important to gear up, be prepared, and be ready in 24 to fight for the soul of our country, to fight for our democracy, to go to voters, to meet them where they are, to understand you might not agree on everything, but that you are fighting for them and that you are listening to them.
BLITZER: And, Ron, I want to take a closer look at the new New York Times poll that came out today showing no clear leader between Biden and Trump in a hypothetical matchup among both registered voters and likely voters. So, what do you think is behind these numbers?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, look, I mean, they tell us, what I think we know is that Biden is in a weak position at this point for an incumbent, and there is still enormous resistance in the country to giving Donald Trump control over the federal government again.
I mean, you see, in this poll, Biden was actually ahead among likely voters, which goes to what we're talking about before, that Trump's strength, superpower has always been expanding the electorate. But one thing that jumped out at me in this poll and many other recent poll, which I wrote about today on cnn.com, Biden's troubles with young voters are real and persistent, but he is overperforming among his contemporaries, among seniors. In this poll, his net approval among seniors was 40 points higher than among people in their 20s, and his vote share among seniors was higher than it was in 2020, whereas among young people, it's much lower.
And partly that's because seniors are less likely to say that he's too old to do the job again, but probably more because he has something for seniors that he doesn't necessarily have for other age groups, a very concrete economic agenda that delivers for their bottom line, particularly on controlling prescription drug costs.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very much. Thanks to all of you.
David Chalian, I want you to stand by. We've got some breaking news right now. The Colorado Supreme Court, get this, has just ruled on a challenge to Donald Trump's appearance on the state's 2024 ballot.
I want to go straight to CNN's Paula Reid. Paula, what does this ruling say?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a stunning ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court saying that Trump should not appear on the ballot in 2024.
Now, this is surprising in part because they are reversing a lower court that found while Trump did engage in an insurrection on January 6, that Section 3 of the 14th amendment did not apply to presidents and, therefore, he should not be kept off the ballot.
Now, when we're talking about this particular section, this is a civil war era clause of the Constitution. And in here, the courts are trying to assess exactly what that means. Well, it does specifically mention House representatives, the Senate, even electors. It doesn't say anything about president. So, here the court was weighing whether they could keep former President Trump off the ballot because of what happened on January 6. And here, the Supreme Court, the highest court in the state of Colorado, ruling that he should be disqualified, he should be kept off the ballot.
But, Wolf, they're going to stay or pause this decision until January 4th to allow the former president or anyone else to appeal to the Supreme Court on this question.
BLITZER: Very significant indeed. I want to bring in the rest of our team right now.
Elie Honig, how stunning is this decision?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this is a historic decision. It's a momentous decision, as the Supreme Court itself says. They are in uncharted territory here. But it's really important to keep in mind this is not the last word here. This is almost certainly going up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which can review the decisions of a state Supreme Court.
In fact, the Colorado Supreme Court anticipates that possibility. And for that reason, they put their own ruling on hold until January 4th, anticipating that it will go up to the Supreme Court.
The practical consequence as it stands at this moment, though, is that Donald Trump will not be on the Colorado ballot in the race for president in 2024. The Supreme Court almost certainly will take this up.
It's also important to keep in mind for the broader context. There have been dozens of these challenges filed across the country and 18 or so of them have either failed, been rejected, or been withdrawn by the plaintiffs.
So, this is really an outlier. The Supreme Court is going to have the final say. The consequences here are, of course, enormous.
BLITZER: Norm Eisen, are you surprised by this decision?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the law and the politics have delighted. And in this instance, law has won. There's a logic to the decision. The 14th Amendment provides that insurrectionists may not hold office. The lower court found that Donald Trump had engaged in insurrectionist activity. That's consonant with what the January 6th Committee found. And so the only question was, legally, did this apply to a president? The Supreme Court said it did.
I think because of the earth-shaking nature of the holding, we thought that politics might militate against it. But the courts, as they should do, have put on blankers and applied the Constitution. Now, it will be up to the Supreme Court to have the final word.
BLITZER: Yes, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says, and I'm quoting now, no person shall hold any office who having previously taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof, pretty significant 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
David, this has never happened before. Earlier challenges to get Trump removed from state ballots for the presidency have failed. What does it mean politically for Trump to be removed potentially from the Republican primary ballot in Colorado?
CHALIAN: Yes. Wolf, if I think we're going to go through a year of this has never happened before in this presidential election, so be prepared to keep stating that.
As Elie was noting, and I do think it is important context you're bringing up here, the vast majority of these cases to-date have actually gone the other way. And I would imagine that that is not going to be lost on the Supreme Court when it looks at the specifics of this case, but looks at this issue broadly. Politically, of course, Colorado has ten electoral votes. They were in Joe Biden's column, not Donald Trump's column back in 2020. But if you start taking potentially available electoral votes off the board, the map to 270, even though this was not part of his 2020 path, becomes more complicated in that way.
We have no indication yet that the Trump team was planning to engage fully in Colorado and run a concerted effort in that state to play for those electoral votes. But, again, it's the broader concept here that would be earth-shaking to the election itself. And as we learned back in 2000 in Bush v. Gore, when the Supreme Court
gets involved looking at a state Supreme Court, things unexpected could potentially happen, and we'll see what the Supreme Court does here. This has always been an issue that's going to be headed for the highest court in the land.
BLITZER: Because earlier efforts to get Trump removed from the state, presidential ballot failed in Minnesota, in New Hampshire, in Michigan, and right now in Colorado, it's going forward to remove him.
Alyssa, how do you expect Trump and his team to react to this stunning news?
GRIFFIN: It truly is stunning news. And I expect this is a five-alarm fire, even to the fact of Dave Chalian's point, that this doesn't actually really change the map for Donald Trump. He's not necessarily playing for the ten electoral votes in Colorado, but it's the precedent it sets, and it's also just the mindset that it signals to voters, which is, for the first time in history, he is unfit to appear on a ballot for the presidency. And, of course, there would be implications if the Supreme Court upheld this.
I think that you're going to hear a massive outcry from him and his team. They're needlessly to say -- needless to say, are going to be challenging this. And I do offer a word of caution, because these have obviously appeared in other states and mostly been struck down.
There is an argument to be made for the fact that this should ultimately be left up to the voters. I've heard this from quite a few Republicans who want to see us move on from Donald Trump, but they worry about playing into the hands of him being able to say the system is rigged.
Now, it's not. This is the courts working the way they're supposed to, but he will quickly frame this as they're rigging the system against me in favor of Joe Biden.
Watch for him to say that.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Paula. So, what comes next? Walk us through the process. I assume Trump and his lawyers will start to appeal this, right?
REID: Yes. Unfortunately, for Trump's legal team, they are likely going to have to work through the holiday, something that they had complained about related to the special counsel investigation and some filing deadlines there and some of the work that the special counsel, they said, was making them do through the holiday. But here, this is going to be something that they're going to have to pay attention to.
They're literally being given a window in which to appeal this to the Supreme Court. We would fully expect that they will avail themselves of that.
And then this case, it is likely that the Supreme Court would want to take up this question of exactly who the 14th amendment applies to and if Trump or any other current former president can be removed from the ballot here.
And while this only applies to Colorado, this is something that will likely have reverberations in other states that are considering the same issue.
I also want to note that some people may wonder, well, if he's not on the ballot, can people just write him in? Well, in this opinion, they specifically say that the secretary of state is also barred from counting any write-in votes cast for Trump.
BLITZER: Interesting. Elie, why is the Colorado Supreme Court right now an outlier here? Minnesota, as I pointed out, dismissed a similar lawsuit to this one back in November.
HONIG: Well, Wolf, this is precisely why we have such dissonance in the various decisions that we're getting from different states, because nobody quite knows exactly how the 14th Amendment works. Yes, we have this amendment. It's very important. It says that anyone who gave aid to insurrection or rebellion is ineligible. But the problem is neither the Constitution nor Congress have given us any further guidance as to how it works.
And so the theories that have been advanced by 14th Amendment proponents have been all over the map, literally. They argued at one point that, well, it's up to individual secretaries of state. They can decide on their own. Well, every secretary of state, Democrat and Republican to consider that, rejected it. Then they went into various courts, sometimes state level, sometimes federal level.
And the failures have, across the board, been not so much failures of proving that Donald Trump was, in fact, aiding or engaging in insurrection, but procedural questions of how do we make this decision, who decides. Is it a judge? Is it a jury? What burden of proof? And the Colorado Supreme Court satisfies itself that what was done here in the trial court, the trial court judge held a several week-long hearing, was enough, and that the law is clear enough that they made this decision.
But that's going to be the question for the Supreme Court. I don't think it will so much be, did Donald Trump engage in insurrection? I think it will be, is there an established procedure and does it violate Donald Trump's due process rights to essentially make one up on the fly and then apply it backwards in time? BLITZER: Norm, do you think this ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court will ultimately stand?
EISEN: Well, Wolf, that will be up to the United States Supreme Court, of course.
But I think that this is one of the more substantial of the cases. Elie is talking about a very (INAUDIBLE), but there's a small number that have been queued up at trial, gone up on appeal, been fully briefed with an evidentiary basis.
And when you just look at the plain language of the 14th amendment, you put that together with what the January 6th committee found, the testimony and the evidence that were taken by the trial court here. The trial court found with merit that Donald Trump, in his direction, and the 14th Amendment is not going to be so easily dismissed.
So, I think the Supreme Court will wrestle with it. They'll take it seriously, and it's very tough to predict what they'll do. But it is a serious case and a well-founded legal and evidentiary decision.
BLITZER: Very serious, indeed.
Alyssa, do you expect the Republican Party to actually stand by Trump here, as they have throughout all of his legal perils?
GRIFFIN: Unfortunately, I imagine the Republican Party will stand with Donald Trump. I'll be very curious to see how other GOP candidates for president react to this decision. I would suspect that it would be much more likely. They say, let's have the battle with the voters. Let's not keep anyone off of ballots.
But, I mean, this is a Super Tuesday state. This is a state that matters, even though it tends to be in the blue column.
And I just want to underscore again, Donald Trump keeps a running list of the firsts that he's accomplished. There's the good first, and then there's the bad first. This is going to hit him hard in the same way that being impeached twice, was the first being indicted. This is something being removed from the ballot just will be something that he will not be able to handle. And you're going to hear from him very quickly, I imagine.
BLITZER: Yes, we're going to be learning a lot about this case. Guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we have much more on the breaking news this historic and unprecedented Colorado state Supreme Court decision removing, removing Donald Trump from the ballot.
Also ahead, civil rights organizations are suing the state of Texas right now over its very controversial new immigration law.
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:29:03]
BLITZER: We're back with major breaking news, the Colorado Supreme Court removing Donald Trump from the 2024 Republican primary ballot in the state. The court ruling Trump isn't an eligible presidential candidate because of the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban.
Let's go back to CNN's Alayna Treene. Alayna, I understand as Trump prepares to take the stage in Iowa in a few moments, you just got some reaction from his campaign.
TREENE: That's right, Wolf. We just received a statement from Donald Trump's campaign adviser, Stephen Cheung. And, unsurprisingly, Wolf, they're attacking this decision tonight and going after the judge in this case and others working on it as being political.
Now here's -- I'll just read for you some of this statement tonight. They wrote, quote, unsurprisingly, the all-Democrat appointed Colorado Supreme Court has ruled against President Trump supporting a source funded left wing group scheme to interfere in an election on behalf of crooked Joe Biden.
It goes on to say some other claims.
They write further down that the Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
So, they're laying out their next steps here, Wolf. They're planning to appeal this to the United States Supreme Court, hoping that they will have a different decision there and hope that Donald Trump can remain on the ballot.
And I also just think, as you mentioned, Wolf, Donald Trump is about to take the stage in Iowa. It's his last campaign event of the year. He's learning of this news as he's in Iowa trying to campaign and get more voters on his side.
And I think what you'll see is he's going to probably attack this, as he has done with any other ruling that has been against him. All his other legal battles, he has criticized them as being election interference, as being political. He said that or his campaign said that, I should say, in this statement tonight, arguing that this is because he is the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
BLITZER: Are you getting a sense, Alayna, and you spent a lot of time covering the Trump campaign, are you getting a sense that the Trump campaign was surprised by this Colorado Supreme Court decision?
TREENE: You know, it's interesting, I know that when the first time they ruled on this Colorado decision and the judge initially ruled that Donald Trump was immune because he was a former president from being removed from the ballot, they had almost thought that they might have lost that battle, but they didn't. I think tonight, they weren't sure going into this what would happen, but I definitely think they were surprised. I think especially given that a previous ruling had ruled in their favor, they weren't exactly expecting this.
But, of course, Wolf, I'm still gathering some reporting on this and speaking to advisers to see what exactly the mood is right now following this ruling.
BLITZER: We'll get back to you as soon as you get some more information. Alayna, thank you very much.
I want to discuss this and more with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna. Congressman, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
First of all, what's your reaction to this very stunning news? Do you agree, first of all, with the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, it's a bombshell decision. I do agree that there's evidence that Donald Trump committed the insurrection. Even the district court found that. And it seems to me it should apply to the president. And so it seems that the Supreme Court decision was well-reasoned.
But, ultimately, this goes up to the United States Supreme Court. And, Wolf, what the United States Supreme Court decides could apply not just to Colorado, but set a precedent for the entire country. So, that's going to be a very critical case.
BLITZER: It's going to be critical indeed.
The Trump team signaled they will appeal this decision, and they signaled it very, very quickly. How do you think that will go? Do you think this should be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, the United States Supreme Court?
KHANNA: I do, Wolf, because you can't have a situation where one state is deciding one thing, another state is deciding another thing. Ultimately, this is a question of the 14th Amendment, the reading of the 14th Amendment, and whether someone who has aided insurrection can be kicked off the ballot. That's how I read the 14th Amendment. But it is a question for the Supreme Court, and it's better that they rule on this sooner rather than later.
BLITZER: What precedent, Congressman, do you think this sets for the former president potentially to be removed from a ballot? Does his conduct on January 6th outweigh the right for voters to make up their own minds about who should be on the ballot and who should be elected?
KHANNA: Ultimately, I have an enormous belief in voters having the right to decide, but it has to be within a constitutional democracy. Voters can't pick someone born outside the United States. They can't pick someone under 35 years old. And if we have a 14th Amendment that says you can't pick someone who's aided in insurrection, that's part of the Constitution. And that's going to be for the United States Supreme Court to decide what the Constitution requires. BLITZER: Yes, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, once again, let me just read a few words from it. No person shall hold any office who, having previously taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof, very strong words of the 14th amendment to the Constitution.
Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much for joining us.
KHANNA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, we'll stay on top of the breaking news, Donald Trump's stunning removal from Colorado's 2024 primary ballot.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're going to have more on the breaking news in just a moment, the Colorado Supreme Court removing Donald Trump from the 2024 Republican primary ballot, much more on that coming up.
But right now, I want to report on what's going on in Texas. Several civil rights organizations are suing the state of Texas over its very controversial new immigration law, which gives state and local authorities the power to arrest and deport migrants who enter Texas illegally.
CNN Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera is joining us live from Dallas right now. Ed, what can you tell us about this lawsuit, first of all?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these two civil rights groups, the ACLU and the Texas civil rights project in this lawsuit are asking a judge to keep this law from going into effect in March of next year. And as you mentioned, what this law does, and it was signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott yesterday, it allows local law enforcement to arrest people for illegally entering Texas, as well as make it a state crime for illegal entry into the state.
And it also, Wolf, gives judges the ability to deport people back to the country, which they entered from, which is going to be presumably Mexico.
But it's not clear Mexico would take these migrants back anyway.
But what this lawsuit says is that immigration law and immigration enforcement is the exclusive authority of the federal government. And the critics of this law say it is one of the most extreme anti- immigrant bills this state has ever passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADRIANA PINON, ACLU TEXAS LEGAL DIRECTOR: We're suing to block one of the most extreme anti-immigrant bills in the country, SB-4. The bill overrides bedrock constitutional principles and flouts federal immigration law, while harming Texans, in particular, brown and black communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And Governor Abbott responded to this lawsuit today by saying, President Biden has repeatedly refused to enforce federal immigration laws already on the books and do his job to secure the border. Texas will take this fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
And that appears where this could very well be headed. A similar law was passed in Arizona several years ago. The U.S. Supreme Court will strike down that law, but, of course, the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court has changed dramatically since then. And that is why you're hearing Governor Abbott talk about wanting to take this fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But it's not exactly clear how this is going to be enforced. We're already hearing from the district attorney this afternoon in El Paso, Texas, saying that if this law were to go into effect, that there are other cases and other crimes that would be a top priority for his office to prosecute. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us in Texas, as he always is, thank you very, very much.
And we're going to have much more coming up on the breaking news out of Colorado, Donald Trump removed from the presidential ballot in the upcoming primary in Colorado.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're standing by for Donald Trump to speak in Iowa and possibly react. He's going to react very vocally -- vocally -- vocally, I'm sure, to the breaking news. The Colorado Supreme Court just moments ago removing Trump from the state's Republican presidential primary ballot.
I want to bring in CNN's Marshall Cohen.
Marshall, you've been following these court proceedings very closely. You listened to all the arguments, just a 200-page decision that was released by the Colorado Supreme Court, saying that the majority of the court holes that Donald Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under section three of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Walk us through what just happened. MARSHALL COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a historic day for
our nation. This won't be the final word. Everyone knows this case is going to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But today's ruling is huge. The Colorado Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision ruled that Donald Trump is ineligible for office because he engaged in the January 6th insurrection.
As you mentioned, the 14th Amendment bans anybody that swore an oath to the constitution, and violated that oath by supporting or engaging in the insurrection. That is exactly what they said that he did. They affirmed it, the trial court ruling that said that his words and actions on January 6th contributed to and were engagement in the insurrection.
And importantly, they reversed the part of that decision that said this band doesn't apply to the presidency. They said that it does. He is an officer under the United States, as contemplated by the 14th Amendment, and he is ineligible to serve.
So, they ordered the Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, to remove Trump's name from the ballad. They put that decision on hold. They paused until January 4th. That is one day before Colorado state law requires her to certify the list. And they said they were putting that pause in place so that folks can appeal, Trump can appeal, all the way to the Supreme Court.
So, a historic moment here, but not the final word in this case.
BLITZER: Yeah, good point. Marshall, thank you very, very much.
In this 200-page decision that the Colorado Supreme Court released, it says: Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the election code for the Colorado secretary of state to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot. Very significant indeed.
I want to discuss, this is -- this is an important moment right now. The presidential historian Doug Brinkley is joining us.
So, Doug, what's your reaction, first of all, to this moment? Trump, a former United States president, a current candidate, being removed from a state's ballot?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it tells you we're still living in the age of January 6th. And there are a lot of people that feel Donald Trump was part of that insurrection. And if he was, or if he let it in any way, and then he was going to find himself not on some ballots.
But the catch here, Wolf, is that this will probably go to a Supreme Court. And that's a court that you had, you know, Trump had three conservatives on who he thinks will back their action. But Colorado is leading the way on a lot of states that are going to say Trump can't be on a ballot because of the 14th Amendment of 1868.
BLITZER: This 14th Amendment, as you quickly point out, it was passed and became a law of the land after the civil war to make sure that the Confederates, those who opposed the United States would not be allowed to take office. Is that going to be a factor, you think, in this decision -- this upcoming now by the United States Supreme Court?
BRINKLEY: I think it is the factor. You know, many people have been writing about whether this was applicable in our modern era. But those reconstruction amendments of 1868 came about because the country was torn apart in the civil war. Some people don't realize that Lincoln won and he wasn't even on the ballot in seven Southern states in 1860.
Our country was sort of unraveling. So, in 1868, the Constitution said no insurrectionists, no person who leads the Confederate in any type of movement against the United States government is qualified to be president.
Colorado now is acting on that, and they've made the history books with these really (AUDIO GAP) and we'll see how quickly the Supreme Court moves on this, it better be lightning fast.
BLITZER: Yeah, we'll see if other states follow suit right now as well. It's untested. It will go to the Supreme Court.
How does this reflect, do you think, on the countries checks and balances?
BRINKLEY: Well, I think it reflects well. I mean, to be fair, the Republican Party often talks about states rights and states should speak.
And Colorado has a large voice. It's a big population. It does tilt Democratic. You are going to see this decision being part of the partisan fight.
But, you know, we're going to have a January 6th anniversary coming up in a few weeks. The country is going to be relooking and rethinking what occurred that day. And Donald Trump is indicted far and wide.
You know, today, we did the memorial service in Washington, D.C. for Sandra Day O'Connor, and then the famous Bush v. Gore, which really seemed to divide the country. She cast the fifth vote, which allowed Bush 43 to be president.
This Supreme Court now has just been handed a grenade. Anything they do won't satisfy either side. So, we have to hope that our legal minds, the big nine will be able to weather this and do it in a judicial way, and determine whether Trump is an insurrectionist or not.
BLITZER: Doug Brinkley, as usual, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, other news we're following. Jewish institutions across the United States right now are reporting hundreds of threats over the weekend, raising serious concerns about safety and security in an already very tense environment.
BLITZER: Jewish institutions across the United States are reporting hundreds of threats from over the weekend. As one nonprofit group reports, a dramatic uptick in their number since last year.
Brian Todd is joining us live right now. He is in Georgetown here in Washington, D.C., just outside the Kesher Israel synagogue.
How seriously, Brian, are these threats being taken?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are being taken very seriously, Wolf, by the FBI and others, especially because of some of the threats have gone beyond online and social media, like what occurred right at the doorstep of this synagogue.
TODD (voice-over): Rabbi Hyim Shafner was finishing up a class on Sunday morning at Kesher Israel synagogue in the Georgetown area of D.C. He says when one of his congregants open the door to leave, there was a U-Haul vehicle parked on the sidewalk, inches from the front door. And a man there with foul smelling spray started menacing the congregant.
RABBI HYIM SHAFNER, KESHER ISRAEL SYNAGOGUE, WASHINGTON, D.C.: He saw a truck, he went around it. He wasn't really thinking, you know, about what was going on. But then the man who is here spraying sort of bad smelling spray started chasing him down the block.
TODD: Shafner says the man then circled back to the front of the synagogue.
SHAFNER: He was yelling "gas the Jews" and spraying this bad smelling gas, you know, spray.
TODD: D.C. Police say two victims were sprayed. There were no injuries but police say they're investigating this as a possible hate crime. They have arrested a 33-year-old man from Ohio and charge him with simple assault and resisting arrest.
Threats against the Jewish community are also spiking over the weekend. According to the Anti-Defamation League, more than 400 Jewish institutions across multiple states received bomb threats via email since Saturday. The ADL says it believes one person, or a small number of individuals were behind the threats.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: They are basing that on the idea that there is only one or two emails that this is originating from, and that that could be connected to a single individual. But they also have an open mind, which is, it could be a group.
TODD: In a message from the FBI to national Jewish Organizations, which was obtained by CNN, the bureau said, not only that it appears the threats are connected but, quote, these threats appear to be originating from outside of the United States.
While the threats were deemed to be hoaxes --
MILLER: They can't afford to just discount the threat, because one of them is going to turn out to be real. We saw what happened in Colleyville, Texas, where an individual actually moved into a livestream service, took hostages, and ended up being shot and killed by an FBI hostage rescue team.
TODD: This year, Jewish institutions have seen a dramatic 541 percent increase in bomb threats and swatting incidents over the last year. Muslim institutions and individuals have also seen a dramatic uptick and threats and incidents of bias since the Israel-Hamas war started.
Back in Georgetown --
SHAFNER: There are, I think, Jewish in the district who say to us, is it okay to walk around with a head covering? Is everything okay? You know, can we come to the synagogue? And that -- that worries me the most.
TODD (voice-over): The FBI says more than 30 of its field offices across the country are investigating the recent online threats. Now, as for this synagogue, the Rabbi Shafner says they have enhanced security here in the wake of Sunday's incident. But he was very careful not to give too many specifics, Wolf, about exactly what they are doing.
The nerves are still pretty frayed round here.
BLITZER: Yeah. Very, very disturbing developments, indeed.
Brian Todd, outside the Kesher Israel synagogue here in Washington, D.C.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I am Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter, and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. THE SITUATION ROOM is also valuable as a podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.
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