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The Situation Room

Michigan Supreme Court Rejects Bid To Remove Trump From Ballot; U.S.-Mexico Crisis Talks On Migrant Surges Just Ended; New Video Of Men, Boys Apparently Stripped To Underwear By IDF; State Media: North Korea's Kim Jong Un Instructs Army And Defense Sector To Accelerate War Preparations; Taylor Swift Named Time Person Of The Year, Sold Out Stadiums, Became A Billionaire In 2023. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 27, 2023 - 18:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump remains on the GOP primary ballot in Michigan after the state Supreme Court rejected a bid to disqualify him under the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban. Will this ruling have any impact on Trump's legal fight against his ballot ban in Colorado?

Also this hour, we're standing by for a readout on critical talks that just ended between Biden cabinet officials and the president of Mexico. Did they reach any new agreement on ways to ease the surge of migrants into the U.S. as the problem weighs not only on border cities but also the White House?

Also, we're following these disturbing new images out of Gaza, Palestinian men and at least two boys apparently stripped down to their underwear while being detained by the Israeli military.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Kaitlan Collins, and you're in The Situation Room.

Our top story this hour, a new ruling in the multistate effort that is underway to disqualify Donald Trump from running for president again, Michigan Supreme Court now weighing in, rejecting an attempt in that state to bar Trump from the primary ballot.

CNN's Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has been going over this decision. Jessica, what reason did the Michigan high court give for outright rejecting this 14th Amendment related case?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, the state Supreme Court really tossed this aside on procedural grounds rather than getting to the merits. They said they just didn't have the power to decide that question of whether Trump should be on the ballot because the case raised political questions.

And in this very short opinion, they also agreed with the lower court that the secretary of state in Michigan just didn't have the authority to determine who was eligible to be on or off the primary ballot.

So, this was, in a sense, a win for Trump, a minor win, though, since Michigan's highest court really didn't go to the merits. So, we're expecting, though, that Trump's team will appeal -- remember that Colorado decision last week that took him off the ballot there? His team, Trump's team needs to appeal by January 4th to keep him on the primary ballot that's determined on January 5th. And eventually, Kaitlan, the U.S. Supreme Court really could take up this dicey issue of whether the 14th Amendment's insurrection ban would exclude Donald Trump from the general election ballot. But we're a little ways off from that.

COLLINS: Yes, that's still a big question. But when it comes to this state by state effort, I mean, there is another one that we are waiting on, a ruling that could come at any moment from Maine and the secretary of state there. But today, we saw Trump's attorneys asking the secretary of state to recuse herself because of some social media posts that she had made. What's the likelihood of that? Is there any reality to the fact that that could happen or is it just kind of bluster from the Trump team?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it probably won't happen. She probably won't recuse herself. They're claiming -- look, they're saying this isn't a stunt. We just discovered some of the secretary of state's comments on social media that she had made after January 6th, saying that she was negative about Trump or his actions.

So, the way this is all played out is that earlier this month, the secretary of state had a hearing on whether Trump should be removed from the ballot. She has said she'll be issuing her decision at some point this week. But just today, Trump's legal team asked her to recuse herself because of those comments, they say, that they found where she's in one of them at least condemning the January 6 Capitol attack, in another one speaking out against Trump's acquittal after his impeachment proceedings.

So, the secretary of state, Kaitlan, in Maine, has made no comment about this. It's likely she won't recuse, that her ruling probably will come soon. But, again, she was the one who administered this hearing. So, it's likely that whatever she does decide would probably get appealed to the courts in that state.

COLLINS: Yes, and she makes the decision about whether or not she recuses herself. So, it doesn't seem likely.

And, Jessica, the other developments that we are tracking when it comes to Trump's legal issues, there's also a new filing from Jack Smith in the 2020 election subversion case. That's the federal case happening in Washington, D.C. What is the special counsel's team saying in this new filing today?

SCHNEIDER: So they're really trying to get ahead, Kaitlan, of Trump's, as we know, penchant for making comments about his court cases.

[18:05:02] What they're asking is the trial court here in D.C. to prohibit him from saying any number of things, like suggesting the Biden administration directed the case against him for political reasons.

This filing, Kaitlan, is actually notable because all of the proceedings here have been paused in this case. And Jack Smith, he continues to file on this, despite the fact that that March 4th start date to this trial probably actually won't go forward because of the appeals process playing out. But Jack Smith continues to file in court, hoping perhaps that March 4th will be the trial date, although it's probably not likely. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, we'll wait to see what happens there. Jessica Schneider, thank you for that.

I want to break down all of these developments that are happening today with our legal and our political experts who are here. Michael Moore, let me start with you with what Jessica started with there in her report, which is this decision by the Supreme Court declining to hear this challenge to Trump being on the primary ballot there, following that blockbuster decision that we saw happen in Colorado last week. What is your read on what Michigan decided here, the Supreme Court, in effect, by saying we're going to stick with what the appeals court has ruled here?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I'm glad to be with all of you. And I wasn't surprised by the Michigan case. I mean, really, what the court said is it was a procedural issue, that they were not in a place and they were not the arbiters to decide who could and could not be placed on a primary ballot. That was something up to the political parties and the political process as they went through, and that this case was a little different because no one had to declare their eligibility to be a candidate on that primary ballot. And so they passed on that.

But the importance, I think, goes deeper into the likelihood that the Supreme Court takes this up and takes a good look at it. And the reason that we have a case like this before the Supreme Court, and that is so there can be some uniformity across the different jurisdictions. You can't have somebody not eligible in Texas under this amendment, but yet they are eligible in some other state. And the Supreme Court will get to that in short order, I think.

COLLINS: And, Tom Dupree, on what the Supreme Court is going to be getting are basically the Trump legal team has three days left, I think, to file this appeal on the Colorado decision. They could do it tomorrow, Friday or Tuesday, I believe, and they are expected to do that. But when they do that, how does this Michigan decision factor into how the Supreme Court looks at this?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. I'm not sure the Michigan decision is going to have a huge impact one way or the other, Kaitlan. I think the Supreme Court was very likely to take the Colorado case even before the Michigan Supreme Court did what it did today. I will say, though, that the Michigan Supreme Court decision, I think, underscores that this Colorado decision really is an outlier. You'll recall that many state Supreme Courts across the country had previously rejected this theory up until the Colorado Supreme Court ruled. The Michigan court now has just followed in the footsteps of all those pre-Colorado courts.

So, at the end of the day, I don't think it has a huge impact on the Supreme Court's willingness and likelihood to take the case. I think the Supreme Court is very likely to grant Trump's appeal. I think they're very likely to decide this case, and I think they're very likely to overrule the Colorado Supreme Court.

COLLINS: Well, we'll wait to see what they decide.

I mean, Kristen Holmes, we're watching all of this. Trump's team is obviously touting what happened to Michigan as a victory. Do they view these efforts to boot Trump from the ballots, not just in Michigan and Colorado and Maine, as helpful to them, or what are they saying privately about this?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, privately, this is one of the legal issues that they're the least worried about. And as Tom mentioned, we had seen the courts reject these cases in a number of states before we even got to Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, New Hampshire.

So, the Colorado was actually surprising to many of them. They thought, if anything, that it would be ruled against Trump in a lower court and then they'd appeal to the higher court. They were surprised, at least some of them, that it ended up being, that the Supreme Court of Colorado ruled against Donald Trump.

But while Tom says these cases might not have any impact on one another, to the layman who's not well versed in the law, they are potentially linked. And that's what Donald Trump's team is going to try to do, to show any way that they can that the Colorado ruling is an outlier.

And this is a statement that we heard from Donald Trump and his team. They wrote, the Michigan Supreme Court has strongly and rightfully denied the desperate Democratic attempt to take the leading candidate in the 2024 presidential election, me, off the ballot in the great state of Michigan.

But, again, they were not super concerned about this, as far as legal battles that Donald Trump is facing. This is one they think in the end that he will end up being the ballot on the ballot in all of these states.

COLLINS: I mean, Michael, to that point, there are a lot of other legal issues that Trump's team has to be worried about. I think when you're ranking them, this likely does not go at the top, as Kristen noted there.

And on that, we saw Jack Smith's team today. Even though this federal case is basically completely on pause right now, they're still issuing new filings, trying to release the parameters for his trial in Washington.


This is on the efforts to overturn the election. They seem to have a concern that Trump will be able to convince jurors, he and his legal team, to ignore the facts, to acquit him here, because they disagree with the prosecution, not because of any legal standard. What did you make of that filing that came out today?

MOORE: Yes, these are typically called motions in lemony, which simply means that they're asking the court for an advanced ruling so that extraneous and the irrelevant evidence isn't presented to the jury to muddy the water, so to speak, during the trial.

And so this pre-hearing or pre-trial filing eliminates problems that are made during an opening statement by Trump's lawyers or arguments that may be made or presented in statements to the jury pool during the voir dire process, and so all those things are covered in this motion.

And so it basically says, look, judge, let's make him talk about the relevant evidence. Let's not talk about the little green men on the moon, so to speak. And that's the reason that you have it, is to keep the trial focused, but to get some advanced ruling so that during the course of the trial, you cannot just object, but you can remind the judge, judge, you recall you've already addressed this, would you please admonish them to not continue to talk about it? This has been the subject of a pre-trial ruling.

So, these are standard type motions. You expect a prosecutor to file them. It is a little unusual that during this stay period, during the time that things have kind of stopped, pending some appeal, that we're continuing to see the Jack Smith motions, I think that's probably because they want to keep this at the forefront and also show the voter, and I think generally the American people, that they're continuing to work even as they're asking the court to move ahead expeditiously.

COLLINS: Yes. And, unsurprisingly, Trump responded by attacking Jack Smith for that new filing.

Michael Moore, Tom Dupree, Kristen Holmes, thank you for that reporting.

That analysis just ahead here on The Situation Room, we're going to go live to the southern border for the latest on the migrant surge, the crisis, and the talks that are happening between the U.S. and Mexico, they just wrapped up moments ago.


[18:16:01] COLLINS: Urgent talks on the migrant crisis at the southern border have just wrapped up in Mexico City tonight. The U.S. secretary of state and the Homeland Security secretary both there, pressing the president of Mexico to help the problem that is weighing not only on border towns but also on the White House ahead of a presidential election year.

I want to check in with CNN's Rosa Flores, who is at the southern border. Rosa, obviously, we're waiting to get an official readout of whether officials feel that real progress was made here. But what have you heard about the goals going into these talks, what they were hoping to achieve with these in person, face-to-face meetings?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, the short answer is the United States is hoping that Mexico stems the flow of migration. We were expecting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ask Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to stop migrants, in essence, from coming north. All of that is code for upping enforcement on the Mexican side of the border.

And, look, we've seen this before whenever there's been prior surges and representatives of the United States go to Mexico and have these talks with the Mexican president, whoever is in office soon after that. A lot of the times, we see upped enforcement. Mexico's National Guard all of a sudden showing up on the northern border of their country.

And also sometimes Mexico ups their deportation flights. We've seen that during prior surges as well. Mexico will send deportation flights and/or flights or buses from their northern border to either central Mexico or their southern border.

We're also expecting the United States to ask Mexico to control the railways. And what that means is for Mexico to establish checkpoints in their freight rail system. And, Kaitlan, we've seen this, migrants use what's called Avestia (ph), or the freight rail system in Mexico, to travel very quickly from Southern Mexico to Northern (INAUDIBLE). A lot of the times, we see very large groups of thousands of migrants arriving at one point in time in areas like Eagle Pass, for example. It's because of those railways.

So, the United States was expecting to be asking Mexico to install checkpoints to control their freight rail system so that that could stem the flow of migrants. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes. Rosa Flores, serious issues underway, a big question about what this looks like. What you can see here is Secretary Blinken. He was in the room for these talks. He is now departing Mexico with this one day trip to go and have those critical conversations. We'll wait to hear from officials inside the White House whether or not they feel any progress was made there. Rosa Flores, thank you for that report.

And joining me now is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Congresswoman, given this is such a critical issue, not just from the humanitarian perspective, but also when you look at it from a political lens ahead of a presidential election year, it's going to be a tough issue for the White House. They know that. That's why they're dispatching top aides to Mexico. I think the question is, does a meeting like today do enough to help alleviate this? And how do you want to see President Biden handle this issue?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Well, Kaitlan, we're going to have to wait and see what the secretary of state reports to us happened in these conversations. And progress has been made. And as reported, we've had surges during Republican presidents, during Democratic presidents, we have seen some action happen. When we've seen pictures at the border the last few days, it clearly reinforces that we have a crisis. This is a tough issue. It has not been dealt with for decades.

We need a comprehensive immigration reform for decades because it's tough. It never gets resolved. And I think President Biden is trying to show some leadership, and we are going to have to deal with this. And we cannot deal with it as Republicans or Democrats.


We're going to have to deal with it as a Congress come together and find solutions and get something done.

COLLINS: Yes. I know there're major concerns in Michigan about whether or not it could affect races that are there down the ballot in 2024.

I do want to ask you, given it's your state Supreme Court that upheld this appeals court decision that Donald Trump can stay on the primary ballot in Michigan, this development that we found out today. Do you believe that was the right call?

DINGELL: Look, it was the court's decision. It's a complicated decision, unless you're somebody that really studies the nitty-gritty, which I have because I've been trying to change presidential primary laws for almost 40 years with Carl Levin.

But each state has its own laws about who it's on their primary ballot. It's what doesn't, Michigan doesn't require that they be qualified to be a candidate or elected in the general election. I have a lot of mixed feelings about all of this and about what the role that Donald Trump played in January 6th.

But I also hope and want to see the voters make the decision. I think there's enough division in this country, enough lack of trust in institutions ,that I hope the American people are really going to pay attention to what's at stake during this next year's election and that the true election happened on Election Day.

And I think that while I think there are constitutional issues that are valid, I think we need to worry about the distrust, the division we're seeing in this country right now, as I keep saying.

COLLINS: So, it sounds like you do think it was the right call. And just speaking of the former president I was looking at his Truth Social account just a few hours ago, and he lashed out at you after you had told CNN that you thought the message that he had posted on Christmas Day, a lengthy one or multiple, but in short he told his political rivals to rot in hell, and you called that a pathetic message from a former president. And in this latest post, you know, he's going back to what you know is a very familiar line of attack, going after the death of your husband, his funeral honors, he's calling you a loser in all caps in this post. I just want to give you a chance to respond to that, if you wish.

DINGELL: I'm going to say what -- we got to treat each other with dignity and respect, civility matters, words have consequences. We're in a holiday right now that so many people have had a tough, hard year. We need some calm, some love, some hope, not more negative words with division.

And I think each and every one of us has a responsibility to stand up and ask everybody to treat each other with that respect and dignity. And I'm going to -- as you say, he goes back to my late husband, who was a giant, a great man who touched many things. And he earned everything he got at his funeral when he was buried. It was Nancy Pelosi and actually Mitch McConnell and others that helped arrange some of the things.

But I'm going to tell you two things. I remember, I did not call Donald Trump, he called me, and I remember his kind words that day. I was grateful that he lowered the flags. And I remember that act of kindness. And I choose to remember it as an act of kindness and a touching thing at a very hard time. And maybe all of us could remember that just having empathy and compassion and a little kindness will make everybody's day a little better.

COLLINS: And even, you know, despite his attack, do you still stand by, I assume, your initial assessment that that message about his political rivals, rot in hell, was pathetic?

DINGELL: Why would you use that kind of language on Christmas Day? This is a man that was a leader of this country and wants to be a leader again. Let's instill hope, civility, love, support, kindness, compassion, a few other words than rot in hell on Christmas Day.

COLLINS: Congressman Debbie Dingell, as always, thank you for your time tonight.

DINGELL: Thank you.

COLLINS: Coming up here on The Situation Room, we are seeing disturbing new video out of Gaza. It apparently seems to show Palestinian men, young boys also, in Gaza who have been stripped of their underwear as they're being detained by the IDF. We've asked for comment. We'll give you a report on that right after this.



COLLINS: Tonight, CNN has new video from Gaza which seems to show Palestinian men and at least two young boys who have been detained by the IDF stripped down to their underwear. I want to warn our viewers, you might find these images disturbing.

But as we're learning more about them, I want to bring in CNN's Senior International Correspondent Will Ripley, who is joining us live from Tel Aviv. Will, what are we hearing, if anything, from Israeli officials about these new images?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not answering our questions about why these two children were detained. But we know in the past they say that they have to strip down people to look for explosives, and they've even found explosive vests, they say, modified for children to wear. But the situation in Gaza for children goes well beyond this video, it is devastating.


RIPLEY (voice over): Smoke rises over Southern Gaza, haunting from a distance, horrifying up close. Video obtained by CNN showing a sidewalk covered in blood and bodies, men, women, children, at least 20 dead from yet another Israeli airstrike, this time near a hospital, the Hamas-controlled health ministry says. CNN is not able to independently verify the staggering death toll, around 21,000, and rising.


The wounded rushed to al-Amal Hospital, one of a handful still operating. In the parking lot, pandemonium, doctors and nurses already overwhelmed, scrambling to save lives. An international team of surgeons gaining access to emergency rooms on life support. Doctors warn supplies are running dangerously low, severely limiting treatment of trauma patients, some dying as they wait for urgent care.

Civilian casualties climbing fast. More than 55,000 injured since October 7th, the Hamas Health Ministry says. Inside a crowded medical tent in Jabalya, Palestinian Red Crescent medics treating a tidal wave of patients, wounded women and children, many injuries, horrific. The pile of body bags growing by the hour. At times, the dead seem to outnumber the living.

Naval ships comb the coast as drones hover overhead documenting the destruction, explosion after explosion, the IDF targeting tunnels used by Hamas fighters, hitting both military and civilian infrastructure.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza showing no signs of easing up, Israel's goal to root out Hamas leaders. An edited video circulating on social media appears to show Palestinian men and at least two children detained, stripped by the Israel Defense Forces in a stadium in Northern Gaza.

The fighting is fierce. The offensive expected to transition into a slower intensity mobile campaign soon, Israel says. The question haunting Israeli leaders, will the change in strategy be effective? Will it neutralize Hamas' military power? Israeli artillery hitting a U.N.-run school in Central Gaza, leaving holes in the walls, blood on the floors, next to the sleeping mats of displaced families. At this school in Rafah, some of those families crowd into classrooms, sharing what little food and water they have. Supplies are running low after ten long weeks of war in.

The Palestinian prime minister says Israel is starving people to death.

This teacher's lesson, a welcome distraction for children surrounded by suffering and death, trying to find some semblance of a normal life.


RIPLEY (on camera): But a normal life seems so far off for those who have lived through every single day of this war, which is now in its 80th day. And, Kaitlan, some experts are saying that communities in Gaza hardest hit by this could take decades to recover.

COLLINS: Yes, especially for the trauma these children, those who survive, have been through. Will Ripley, thank you for that report.

And for more on this, I want to bring in Sari Bashi, who is the program director for Human Rights Watch. Sari, I just first want to see what you think, what your assessment is of this video that we have now. It's Palestinian men and at least two children who have been detained in Gaza. As Will Ripley noted there, we have asked the IDF for comment on the two children who are seen here. And he noted, in the past, they say they've detained them with people who have suspected ties to Hamas. What do you make of this video, though?

SARI BASHI, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: We have deep concerns over the way the Israeli military is treating detainees in Gaza. The laws of war require a warring party to treat all detainees humanely. In the past, we've seen the Israeli military actually post videos of men in their underwear, which constitutes an outrage on their personal dignity. It's actually a war crime.

In this case, while there is authority to strip people temporarily to check if they have weapons, once you've checked, you let them get dressed. You don't leave them without clothing, in particular in front of women. So, we would suggest that the Israeli military, no matter what it suspects detainees of having done, abide by the law, which requires humane treatment.

COLLINS: So, when you see these videos, I mean, there are still a lot of questions, I should note, about the longevity of these videos, how long these detainees have been stripped, but the two children specifically, I think, I'm curious your thoughts on that, given we hear from the IDF that they say that they're worried about explosives, that's why they do strip them down to their underwear. But what do you make of the two children who are included here? And also, if there are questions here, what that could say about Hamas and the claims that they use children and civilians as shields?

BASHI: So, I don't have information about those two children or about any of the detainees. I don't know what it is they're suspected of doing. What I can say is that when you detain children, you have to be particularly conscious of respecting their rights and treating them in a way that's appropriate to children. So, again, if you want to temper, check them, you can do that.


But leaving them unclothed, we don't know for how long. And I'm also concerned about the surfacing of this video.

So, in the past, on at least two occasions, the Israeli military has actually posted these videos on social media, which is humiliating. And in this case, again, there seem to be these videos surfacing from accounts that are affiliated with the Israeli authorities.

So, I am concerned that these videos are being used to humiliate detainees. And that is well beyond what the law permits. In particular for children, at all times, children's rights must be protected whatever it is they are being accused of having done.

COLLINS: Yes, a lot of questions about those two children, in particular. If we get comment from the IDF, we will share it with you and with our viewers. Sari Bashi, thank you for your time tonight.

BASHI: Thank you.

COLLINS: Just ahead, CNN is also getting an exclusive look at a new ad from Chris Christie directly pushing back at those calls for him to drop out of the race. You're going to want to see this ad. We'll show it to you right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Tonight, Republican 2024 Candidate Chris Christie responding to those calls from people who believe that he should drop out of the presidential race. CNN getting an exclusive look at that ad here tonight.

Eva MckEnd is in New Hampshire with details. Eva, obviously, these calls have only been ramping up as we are getting close to what is happening in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses, the primary there. What is Chris Christie saying to these people who say that he should get out of the 2024 race?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, it's telling that he feels the need to address these concerns directly. And what it speaks to is the anxiety among some Republicans to really coalesce around a single Trump alternative as we get into these closing weeks here before these pivotal contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But in true Christie form, he's saying he's not going anywhere, that he is the only candidate in this contest, in his estimation, that is willing to go after Trump directly. Let's listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people say I should drop out of this race. Really? I'm the only one saying Donald Trump is a liar. He pits Americans against each other. His Christmas message to anyone who disagrees with him, rot in hell. He caused a riot on Capitol Hill. He'll burn America to the ground to help himself.

Every Republican leader says that in private. I'm the only one saying it in public. What kind of president do we want, a liar or someone who's got the guts to tell the truth?


MCKEND: So, Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, many of the candidates have very aggressive ground games here in New Hampshire. We'll have to see if Haley, on her way here to Northern New Hampshire this evening, a bit of fog here delaying her, Kaitlan, but we'll have to see if she addresses this directly. She tends not to go after the other candidates directly.

Core to her message is really that she is a new generation of leadership. And that is something that seems to be resonating with her supporters here. You speak to them. Some of them say that they voted for Trump in 2016, voted for Biden in 2020, but are ready to vote for a new candidate entirely in 2024. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Eva McKend in New Hampshire, stay warm. Thank you for that.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentators Jamal Simmons and Alice Stewart.

Alice, this is a seven-figure ad buy, we are told by Chris Christie, where he's pushing back on people who say that he should get out of the race if Republicans truly don't want Donald Trump to be the nominee. What do you make of this new ad tonight?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, good for him. Look, no one has cast a vote. We haven't even started the race to 270 yet. And I think we need to hear from the voters before people start saying who should drop out of the race. And I think that will happen as we get to Iowa and New Hampshire, but good for him.

I just reached out to the governor and he said, look, the ad really speaks for itself. What he's been saying all along is that Donald Trump is a liar. He said in the past he is unfit and calling out Republicans, specifically Republican challengers in this race, who will say privately that they feel Donald Trump is a threat to democracy but aren't willing to say it publicly.

So, this is true to form for what Governor Christie has been in this race, for really pushing it to Donald Trump for what he sees as a threat to democracy and being able to call it out. How much will that message resonate in terms of primary voters and caucus-goers, we'll certainly see in a couple of weeks. But you got to hand it to Christie. He has been consistent on this issue and certainly is not backing down.

COLLINS: Well, Jamal Simmons, I mean, the argument from anti Trump Republicans who don't want him to be the GOP nominee because they believe he could lose to President Biden, who obviously used to work for inside the White House, is that if Chris Christie stays in the race, he detracts support from people like Nikki Haley. If he got out of the race, that support would likely go to someone like a Nikki Haley, obviously not Donald Trump if they're supporting Chris Christie.

Is it true that the Biden White House, as Nikki Haley has been arguing, would be more worried about a Nikki Haley as a Republican nominee, that she would be more electable?

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, it's absolutely true that Nikki Haley is the best political athlete running on the Republican side. she is just a much better athlete in terms of how she performs, the ability to communicate with people.

Here's the thing. She's running in a MAGA party. She's got to adopt MAGA positions. She still won't even take Donald Trump on, on most of the positions that he has. It's just a new generation of leadership call that it is she's trying to make on people.

So, I think the Biden White House is sure Donald Trump is an easier case because you already know what you're running against. You've already got it all basically in the can. With Nikki Haley, you've got to come up with some new plays. But she's still running the same old MAGA playbook, and it's not going to be one that sells to the American public.


COLLINS: Well, Alice, I mean, it is true that people like Chris Christie and others have said you know, these other Republican candidates aren't doing enough to call out Donald Trump. As "The New York Times" puts it today, they're saying her bold strategy to beat Trump is to play it safe. But in today's Republican Party, can you be an outright Trump critic? Can you be as critical as Christie is and have a successful end game?

STEWART: Well, we all know the reality of the lay of the land is you have to be subtle about it but you also have to be vocal about it as well. You have to make sure and deliver the punch directly to Trump but not do it in way that's going to alienate his base because there are some former Trump supporters that are looking to turn the page and move elsewhere and someone like a Nikki Haley is a good alternative.

As Jamal said and as we've said, she is a younger generation leader looking for a more optimistic vision and look, I think she has done quite well in terms of taking it to Trump. She has gone after him for adding to the debt. She's gone after him for some of his positions on foreign policy and the fact that he's been a loser.

Her big ace in the hole right now is New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who I'm sure we'll hear from tonight. I spoke with him on the radio this morning and he said, look, Nikki Haley is perfect certainly for New Hampshire. Live free or die state. She's about individual responsibility and reducing government, but he says she and he are going to show that Donald Trump is -- has been a liar. He has been a loser. Did not build the wall and certainly added to the debt. So, we're going to see that.

COLLINS: Alice Stewart and Jamal Simmons -- Jamal, go ahead.

SIMMONS: I was going to say they've got this ad that's up that's running and they placed it in Boston which means they're going after kind of independents, more moderate Republicans who commute basically to southern New Hampshire, back and forth to work. I think that tells you they don't have necessarily the voters they need from the Trump base. The question is, are there enough of those independents and moderate Republicans to make up the 15 or 20-point difference she has with the former president.

COLLINS: Yeah, it's a legitimate question. We've seen how well Trump is polling in New Hampshire.

Jamal Simmons, Alice Stewart, thank you both.

We'll be back in just a moment.



COLLINS: This just in to THE SITUATION ROOM, North Korean state media reporting that Kim Jong Un is instructing his country's army and defense sector to accelerate war preparations in response to moves made by the United States.

I'm joined now by CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Lieberman.

Oren, what exactly is the North Korean dictator saying? I mean, what does this mean for what is about to change potentially, if anything.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, it's not just the rhetoric we're seeing from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It's also the recent tests we've seen from his intercontinental missile program.

First, according to North Korean state media, Kim Jong Un ordered, and I'll quote here, the munitions industry, nuclear weapons and civil defense sectors to further accelerate the war preparations due to the anti-North Korean confrontation moves of the U.S. and its vassal forces, unprecedented in history. In that case, vassal forces means South Korea coming from Kim Jong Un there.

So, he is pushing his weapons programs and his nuclear programs even further as he orders this -- to accelerate here in the face of what he accuses of U.S. of doing, of expanding its own efforts in the region. It's worth noting that just ten days ago, North Korea tested the Hwasang-18 intercontinental ballistic missile. It is the third solid fuel ICBM test we've seen coming from North Korea this year. It also came with a short-range ballistic missile test.

So, Kaitlan, you can see here, Kim Jong Un seeing the U.S. working with South Korea and Japan, he's pushing his country even harder as well.

COLLINS: Oren Liebermann, I know you'll stay on top of it from the Pentagon. Thank you very much for that report.

Coming up here, Taylor Swift's epic year and what it means financially. We'll break it all down right after this.



COLLINS: Whether you love her, hate her, which I'm not sure how you could, or if you are just indifferent, you know all too well, Taylor Swift had a hugely successful 2023.

CNN's Anna Stewart reports on just how successful the year was for her.



ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): She's certainly not the anti- hero of 2023.


STEWART: In fact, she is Time "Person of the Year."

Even in Taylor Swift's wildest dreams, it would be hard to imagine greater success, or bigger revenues. Not one but three bestselling albums. They're not all exactly new, "1989" and "Speak Now" were re- recorded as Swift continues to reclaim ownership of her music.

SWIFT: We are about to go on a little adventure together, and that adventure is going to span 17 years of music.

STEWART: In March, Swift embarked on a record-breaking worldwide tour. It is expected to rake in more than $2 billion in North American ticket sales alone. Swift even helped bail out the Box Office in a difficult year with a movie version of the Eras Tour concerts. It made $96 million on its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada.

Spotify and Apple Music have both named her "Artist of the Year."

ZANE LOWE, HOST OF "THE ZANE LOWE SHOW," APPLE MUSIC: There isn't an artist on the planet who has achieved so much in the calendar year, and we at Apple Music, we felt the same way. And it was just no denying that, you know, what she has achieved over the last 12 months, in my lifetime at least, from a productivity and a quality point of view, is sort of unprecedented.

STEWART: Bloomberg says Swift came a billionaire in October, and Swift-fluence spread beyond music this year. The artist was spotted not on the bleachers, but in a box, as she debuted a new relationship with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce. (SINGING)

STEWART: The "Love Story" boosted ticket sales and NFL TV ratings. It all comes down to a powerful bond Swift has forged with her fans, using hidden messages and clues known as Easter Eggs in songs, performances and social media.

LOWE: Every time she puts anything out, there's a sense of anticipation that surrounds that experience and also the idea that we, as fans, can be invested in that by uncovering details, moving in different ways.

I mean, the depth of Easter Egg placement is sort of unbelievable. It just strengthens that connective tissue between the artist and the fan, which is what this is all about and something that Taylor Swift has been completely dedicated to her whole career.

STEWART: Do you think we have now hit peak Taylor Swift?

LOWE: If Taylor Swift has proven anything, even the people who don't listen to her music, is that she will not stop creating at the highest level. So, not only Taylor will decide, you know, how and where she moves. And when she comes back, like every other time, she will be dedicated and committed to it. That's one thing I really appreciate about Taylor Swift, is when she comes out with a record or a tour, she is all in.

STEWART: The Eras Tour continues through 2024.


STEWART: So we know all too well that it will probably be another year of Swift's success.

Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


COLLINS: And "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.