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Trump Expected To Appeal Colorado And Maine Ballot Bans Tomorrow; Multiple Deaths In Powerful Japan Earthquake; Israeli High Court Decision Threatens To Splinter Wartime Cabinet; Trump Makes History As Only Top Presidential Candidate Challenged Under 14th Amendment's "Insurrectionist Ban". Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 01, 2024 - 18:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, Colorado's top election official joins us live just hours before Donald Trump is expected to appeal decisions banning him from the ballot in that state, and also in Maine.

Also this hour, breaking news out of Japan, multiple deaths now confirmed after a powerful 7.5 earthquake. Dramatic pictures from the disaster zone are coming into CNN.

And in the midst of war, a potentially divisive ruling by Israel's high court striking down a key part of the Netanyahu government's controversial judicial overhaul plan. What will it mean for Israel as it's already embroiled in conflict and crisis?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keeler, and this is a Situation Room special report.

We begin this hour with former President Trump's unprecedented legal fight against his removal from primary ballots in Colorado and Maine. The formal appeals expected tomorrow.

Let's go right to CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, lay out the stakes for us in Trump's appeals tomorrow.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the stakes are high. You're talking about the possibility of the former president being banned from ballots in Colorado, in Maine and possibly other states where some of these challenges are now coming in light of the ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court.

So, what we expect that the former president is going to do tomorrow is he's going to file with the Supreme Court, asking the Supreme Court to overturn the decisions that were made by the high court, the state high court in Colorado, and as well as the decision by the secretary of state in Maine. You've seen other states where you've had similar challenges claiming that the former president should not be allowed to run for office simply because he engaged in insurrection in violation of the 14th Amendment.

What you've seen in other states, though, is the opposite, the opposite findings by courts in Minnesota. You could see there in Michigan and New Hampshire. And then, of course, now we're seeing a bunch of these others, including, of course, in Oregon.

This is on a collision course, Brianna, not only with the political calendar because, of course, Iowa's, the caucuses are coming up just in the next couple of weeks. But also the Supreme Court is also going to hear likely again from the Jack Smith and his effort to hold the former president on trial again in March.

What the former president is trying to do is overturn this issue of his claiming that he has immunity from prosecution. And so we expect that that issue is going to come back to the Supreme Court in the next few weeks.

So, a lot of activity for the former president as he tries to make sure he stays on the ballot and, of course, try and prevent this trial from happening in March. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Evan, thank you for that report.

Joining us now, Colorado's top election official, Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Secretary, thank you for being with us today.

Are you confident the Supreme Court will weigh in this week?

SEC. OF STATE JENA GRISWOLD (D-CO): Well, thanks for having me on, Brianna. I'm confident that Colorado will have great elections no matter what happens. Obviously, this is a case that has taken lots of twists and turns. We have expected an appeal from the former president and hope that the court acts with urgency.

I certify the names onto the ballot for the presidential primary this Friday. And so we do hope that the court understands that presidential primaries are rapidly approaching and gives us a definitive answer whether or not the former president is disqualified from the ballot.

KEILAR: So, if the Colorado Supreme Court gets its way, right, with this ruling, if it were to be held up, it's possible that the mail in ballots, which would be going out soon, you have military ballots, I think, going out end of this month, just regular mail ballots going out beginning of February, mid-February. It's possible that those and in person ballots could be different in your state. Are you prepared for the chaos that could create?


GRISWOLD: Colorado's elections are the best in the nation. And we think we'll have a great election regardless of what happens. We have provisions already under Colorado law to deal with a situation when a candidate is disqualified, when their name already appears on the ballot. And the vast majority of Coloradans actually vote their mail ballots even with unprecedented in-person voting opportunities. I think it's important to note that we are only here because Donald Trump incited the insurrection. He has created the situation for himself. There is clear language in the Constitution, in Section 3 of the 14th amendment for this exact situation. I believe he is a threat to democracy, the right to vote in the future stability of this nation. But, of course, we'll await to see what the U.S. Supreme Court says, and, of course, I will follow whatever order is in place throughout the election.

KEILAR: You have said, obviously, and it's very clear from what you say there, that the court made the right decision. But even many Trump critics warn the move is undemocratic. They say it risks turning Trump into a martyr and tearing the country apart. What do you say to people like that, who certainly do not like Donald Trump and may agree with you on some issues of whether or not he's an insurrectionist?

GRISWOLD: I do believe that the Colorado Supreme Court got it right. There have only been two courts in this nation that have grappled with the decision, did Donald Trump engage in insurrection? Both of those courts were right here in Colorado, and both of them said, yes, he did.

And I also do not believe that there should be some loophole in the Constitution for a president who decides to engage in rebellion. When we say no person is above the law, we should mean it. It shouldn't be an interpretation that no person is above the law except Donald Trump when he tries to steal the presidency.

As for some folks who are concerned about the political ramifications, my job is to follow the law and uphold the Constitution, politics aside. Along those lines, I can clearly say that I agree with the Colorado Supreme Court's decision-making, but also that I'll follow whatever decision is in place throughout the election because I'll always follow the law and uphold the Constitution. And that's what every elected official in this nation should be doing.

KEILAR: Maine's secretary of state says she's received threats since removing Trump from the ballot. I want to play a bit of what she said here in The Situation Room. Let's watch.


SEC. OF SECRETARY SHENNA BELLOWS (D-ME): I certainly worry about the safety of people that I love, people around me, and people who are charged with protecting me and working alongside me.

We have received threatening communications. Those are unacceptable. But regardless, my considerations in this proceeding is to adhere to the process.


KEILAR: You announced over the weekend that you have also received dozens of death threats. How concerned are you about it?

GRISWOLD: It's incredibly concerning. But I do want to note this did not happen or start just with this lawsuit. Democratic secretaries of state and election workers across this nation have been receiving abuse and death threats since 2020. And the intent of the vitriol is to try to push us out of office so extremists can take our places. But we won't be intimidated.

It's extremely concerning when people tell you in explicit terms how they're going to come and kill you. You worry about your family. You worry about your office, your friends. But, again, we have to recognize what the threats are for what they are. And it's an attempt to tilt elections or steal elections from the American people. I won't stop protecting our elections to make sure that every eligible Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated has access to making their voice heard in free and fair elections in the state of Colorado.

KEILAR: Secretary of State Jenna Griswold of Colorado, thank you for being with us, and a Happy New Year to you.

GRISWOLD: Thank you.

KEILAR: Let's get reaction now from our legal experts.

Elie, first, if you can react to something that we heard the secretary of state there, which was, even if politically there are ramifications to the decision coming out of Colorado, and we see it, right? We see that this is working in Donald Trump's favor. She says, you know, that's not the point. It's about following the law. What do you think about that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I agree with that, absolutely. And I think this is why the US Supreme Court has to take the case. And Secretary Griswold said that as well, and I agree. This is why we have a Supreme Court, Brianna. We have a constitutional issue. What exactly does the 14th Amendment mean? How exactly does it work? We don't know the answer.


We've never gotten clear guidance on those questions from the Constitution itself, from Congress or from the Supreme Court. The stakes are enormous. This will go directly to the heart of our voting process. And we are seeing disparity all over the map, literally, in the way the 14th Amendment is being interpreted and applied. The majority of states who've considered these challenges have rejected them. But now we have two, Colorado and Maine, who have upheld these challenges and thrown Donald Trump off the ballot.

So, we need a legal answer. We need some certainty before the 2024 election.

KEILAR: And, Marcus, Maine's Secretary of State is citing actually your January 6th committee's final report as support for her contention that he is an insurrectionist. Is that problematic at all considering that Trump hasn't been convicted yet or charged with insurrection specifically, but also was acquitted in the impeachment?

MARCUS CHILDRESS, FORMER JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: What we haven't seen here is a rebuttal of the facts that underlie our January 6 report, which was used in Colorado and Maine, which is that former President Trump spread the big lie, he was a conspirator and having people come to Washington, D.C., for the rally on January 6th, he directed them to the Capitol and then did not tell them to go home or to stop when they were engaging in violence. Those are the facts that underlie the insurrection claim.

And what stood out to me from Secretary Griswold is that she said we're only here because the former president incited an insurrection. And that's the part that's really stood out to me about these appeals as we see them moving forward. We're not seeing arguments of facts here.

And Elie knows this as trial attorneys. When the facts are on your side, you hammer the facts. When the facts aren't on your side, then you argue the law, what the law should be. And what we're seeing here from the former president, Trump, is that he's arguing about the 14th Amendment and Section 3 and who it applies to and whether state courts are the right parties to actually enforce this clause, but not arguing that he wasn't involved with the actual attack on the Capitol on January 6th.

KEILAR: Elie, as we await Trump's appeal on this, both for Maine and Colorado, how quickly do you think the Supreme Court will react?

HONIG: So, the Supreme Court is capable of acting and reacting as quickly as they need to. Back in the Watergate era, when there was the Nixon dispute over the tapes in the White House, they took that case and decided it within two months.

And I think they need to be on a similar timetable here because the elections are right around the corner. We just heard from Secretary Griswold that she's having to grapple with primary dates and ballot printing dates and remote access dates within the next couple of weeks.

So, I think if we see the Trump team ask the Supreme Court to take the case tomorrow or within this week, as we expect, then I would hope that the Supreme Court gives us a ruling as to, A, whether they'll take the case very quickly.

And then I think they ought to get briefing and argument on this thing as soon as humanly possible and it's up to them.

KEILAR: And, Marcus, there's also this issue of presidential immunity, right? The special counsel had asked the Supreme Court to act quickly on this. It's now at the appeals court, but it's going to go back to the Supreme Court.

We expect Trump's attorney argues that the separation of powers in the Constitution prevents judges from holding the president accountable for acts undertaken while in office. What do you think about that?

CHILDRESS: And these are -- going to the point you just made, I found it interesting that the former president's team is arguing, right, that it would be an erosion of norms, of separation of powers for the president to be able to be held accountable criminally or with an investigation. And the special counsel rebutted that by saying it would actually be undermine the bedrock of our constitution that the former president couldn't be held accountable. And I think that argument will actually hold the day. I think that's what the ruling will be.

And if you look at the Mark Meadows appeal, I think that is a great, a great timeline to look at. So, it's a removal hearing. It was on appeal as well. And the appeals court gave a ruling in three to five days after hearing argument.

And I think we're going to see a very similar timeline here from the D.C. Circuit. And it will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court actually takes the case after the D.C. Circuit makes their decision or whether it just kicks it back to the district court to continue.

KEILAR: Yes, that is a very good point. We will wait and see. Marcus, Elie, thank you to both of you.

CHILDRESS: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, the aftershocks keep coming in Japan as multiple deaths are now confirmed after that huge 7.5 magnitude earthquake. This is a Situation Room special report.



KEILAR: We're following breaking news on the earthquake disaster in Japan. At least four deaths now confirmed, and the danger continues amid strong aftershocks, more than 30 so far.

CNN's Hanako Montgomery has our report from Tokyo.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Frightening scenes as Japan woke up to the New Year. Homes and businesses destroyed by the powerful impact, this woman pleading for aid as she showed the damage to the town of Matsunami.

Please come help us, she says. My city is in a terrible situation.

The epicenter near Anamizu on Japan's western coast causing water levels to surge and raising fears of a devastating tsunami potentially to come. Authorities issuing immediate warnings and evacuation orders for the areas closest to the shore.

In nearby mountains, tourists rushed outside as the quake struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly it gets pretty strong earthquake. You can see all the snow from the electric wire goes down. So, everybody was panicked that time.

MONTGOMERY: Monday's impact rekindling memories of the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan, the 2011 shock, which unleashed deadly waves and caused a nuclear catastrophe as it impacted the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.


More than 22,000 were killed. Authorities saying this quake, nothing like that one.

YOSHIMASA HAYASHI, JAPANESE CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: Beginning with the Shika Nuclear Power Plant, closest to the epicenter, there are currently no reported irregularities with nuclear power plants.

MONTGOMERY: The full scale of Monday's powerful quake still difficult to assess. As thousands were left without water or power, and many remained trapped underneath the rubble.


MONTGOMERY (on camera): Now, this powerful earthquake shocked many in the country, which was celebrating the New Year. This holiday is usually associated with the time of peace, celebrating with their loved ones and family. But, of course, the festivities were interrupted because of this powerful 7.5 earthquake, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Hanako Montgomery, thank you for that.

Coming up, a major decision from Israel's Supreme Court threatens to divide Benjamin Netanyahu's fragile wartime cabinet. Details on the ruling and what it could mean for the fight against Hamas, next.



KEILAR: There's deep uncertainty in Israel tonight after the country's Supreme Court struck down a key piece of an extremely controversial judicial overhaul plan, a signature bill for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Elliott Gotkine is standing by in Tel Aviv with the very latest here. Elliott, how significant is this ruling?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN JOURNALIST: Brianna, it's significant for a number of reasons, first, because it's the first time that the Supreme Court has ever struck down a basic law or an amendment to one, because these basic laws are the closest thing that Israel has to a Constitution. It's also a blow for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As you said, this was a part of his flagship judicial overhaul. This was the only piece of his judicial overhaul that he managed to pass, and this is now dead in the water after being struck down by the Supreme Court.

The actual law in question was about so-called reasonableness. So, the government wanted to remove the Supreme Court's power to strike down government decisions or laws on the grounds of reasonableness. One example, the government tried to appoint a minister who'd been convicted three times, most recently for tax fraud. The Supreme Court said, no, that's unreasonable, and therefore this person couldn't become a minister.

And I suppose the third reason why this is significant is because of the huge and deep divisions that this judicial overhaul sowed throughout Israeli society for the best part of 2023. In fact, it was only the Hamas terrorist attacks of October the 7th that ended these divisions effectively and united Israel after all of those months of protests and concerns that this judicial overhaul would do irreparable damage to Israel's democracy.

Indeed, that was cited as the reason why this rule, this law could not stand because the justice has said, because of the severe and unprecedented blow to the core characteristics of Israel as a democratic state.

Now, the big open question here, of course, is will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abide by this ruling. Well, that just happens to be something that Wolf Blitzer asked him back in July.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If the court does strike this down, will you abide by that ruling?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we'll go into unchartered territory, and I really would like to believe that they won't do that. And the reason is that, first of all, we're all subject to the rule of law. The prime minister is subject to the rule of law. The Knesset, our parliament, is subject to the rule of law. The judges are subject to the law. Everybody is subject to the law.

Now, the closest thing we have to a Constitution are basic laws. That's what we're dealing with and what you're talking about is a situation, a potential situation, wherein American terms, the United States Supreme Court would take a constitutional amendment and say that it's unconstitutional. That's the kind of spiral that you're talking about, and I hope we don't get to that.


GOTKINE: Now, in Netanyahu's answer was kind of comparing apples with oranges because Israel only has one house of parliament. The president is a ceremonial role. So, there's a different setup here in Israel. But we have heard from his justice minister criticizing the Supreme Court for the timing of its ruling. We've heard from the national security minister saying that it's an illegal ruling. We've heard from Benny Gantz, who is in the war cabinet, saying that this verdict must stand. But, interestingly, the one person we haven't heard from yet is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, very interesting to hear what he has to say here. And, Elliott, can you give us an update on Israel's fight inside Gaza?

GOTKINE: Indeed. The news out today is that about 20,000 troops are being allowed to go home, back to their families, to their communities, to their jobs. This, the IDF says, is to enable them to rest, to recharge and in some cases retrain as part of Israel's ongoing war with Hamas.

Now, there have been some suggestions that maybe this is the signal that Israel is moving to a kind of lower intensity phase of the war that the United States has been pressuring Israel to do. Now, that may happen in some parts of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the north, where it's almost job done from Israel's perspective in terms of destroying Hamas' infrastructure and its command structure there in the north. But the war very, very much continues. And as we heard from Netanyahu just the other day, it could go on for months. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Elliott Gotkine, thank you so much.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the New Year is off to a deadly start amid a punishing new wave of Russian attacks. Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelenskyy each addressing their nations as 2024 begins and the war closes in on its second anniversary.

CNN's Clare Sebastian has our report.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One gave a detailed account of the war, the other never directly mentioned it.


In very different ways, this was two leaders calling on their conflict-weary populations to stay the course.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: And just like that, December 31st, today, we say we do not know for certain what the New Year will bring us, but this year we can add whatever it brings, we will be stronger.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: We have proven more than once that we can solve the most difficult problems and will never back down.

SEBASTIAN: Vladimir Putin's speech was pared back, less than half the length of the previous year, and this time, no assembled company of military servicemen. Still, it was an opportunity to project strength and confidence as he positions himself for a fifth term as Russian president.

PUTIN: We were proud of our common achievements, rejoiced as our successors, and we're firm in defending national interests, our freedom and security, our values, which have been and remain an unshakable support for us.

SEBASTIAN: And yet, Russia's security has been shaken. Increasingly brazen attacks on Russian territory have brought the war closer to home, the year closing with one of the deadliest attacks for Russian civilians yet in the border region of Belgorod.

And Putin faced one of the most direct threats to his rule yet, Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's aborted march on Moscow in June, a plane crashed two months later, closing that chapter for good.

ZELENSKYY: We defeated the darkness.

SEBASTIAN: Amidst a stepped-up Russian aerial campaign and waning western weapons supplies, President Zelenskyy stuck to his well-worn tactic of accentuating the positive, including Ukraine taking one small step closer to E.U. membership.

ZELENSKYY: This process will definitely have a logical conclusion, full-fledged membership in strong Europe, a powerful one, from Lisbon to Luhansk.

SEBASTIAN: And yet this past week has shown Ukraine enters 2024 increasingly vulnerable. That message even spelled out by Putin in his first appearance of the New Year, promising a group of wounded Russian soldiers the strikes would intensify.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


KEILAR: Just into CNN, police in Utah say a Chinese foreign exchange student who was reported missing last week has been found alive. They say he was a victim of cyber kidnapping.

CNN's Nick Watt is following this story for us. Nick, how did this bizarre plot unfold?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this is an extraordinary story. So, this 17-year-old Chinese high school student studying here in Utah was kidnapped, but not physically. He never met his kidnappers. This was cyber kidnapping. So, he was coerced over his phone and online.

And this is apparently an increasingly common issue targeting foreign exchange students, Chinese foreign exchange students in this country.

So, he was found -- 17-year-old Kai Zhuang was found halfway up a remote mountainside in a tent on his own, no heat source, limited food, limited water, and in real danger of hypothermia. He was described by police as very cold and scared. They also found phones with him and that's what the kidnappers were using to coerce him.

So, what apparently happened is he was contacted by these kidnappers who said if you don't do what we say, your family back home in China is going to be in danger. They asked him to send a photograph of himself. The kidnappers then contacted his family back in China and said, if you don't pay a ransom, your son is in real danger.

So, the family paid about $80,000 into Chinese bank accounts and they contacted the high school in Utah to say, our son is missing, we're being threatened. The high school spoke to the police and the police figured out by checking on his spending pattern, stuff that he'd bought that he was probably camping. So, drones were put up, search teams sent out and they eventually found him alive and, well, I mean, alive. So, his first requests were to speak to his family and for a warm cheeseburger. So, his story ends well. But as I say, this is apparently an increasingly common trend, cyber kidnapping. Brianna?

KEILAR: What a poor situation for that family. And thank goodness he is safe. Nick Watt, thank you for that report.

Just ahead, a look at the key issues that President Biden faces as he seeks re-election and what the upcoming Iowa caucuses could signal for the rest of the 2024 presidential election. That's next.



KEILAR: Only two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the first event of the presidential primary season, and both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump already appear to be on a collision course for a 2024 election rematch.

We are joined now by Tia Mitchell, Adam Kinzinger and Kate Bedingfield, all with us.

Tia, to you first. You have the president beginning this year with extremely weak approval numbers. What's his move? What is the White House planning here to combat this?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Well, I think the White House would say they're going to stay the course, continue to tell the story of what they believe President Biden has accomplished in his first three years in office, but I do know in tangent, but, separately, he does have a campaign that I think we're going to see continue to ramp up, particularly in the swing states, particularly as the Republican field starts taking shape, probably March and April. So, we'll be hearing more, I think, from Biden than we had maybe politically, campaign-wise, as 2024 continues.


KEILAR: I wonder, Congressman, what you think Biden needs to do to attract some disaffected Republican voters or maybe former Republican voters who don't really feel like they have a home between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, you're like speaking to my heart now. So, look, I think there's a couple of things.

So, first off, the economy has to stay good. I don't know if that's going to necessarily help Joe Biden because his message just isn't cutting through. But if it gets bad, that's going to kill him. I think the immigration issue is big.

And I don't know why there's this kind of inability to deal with this issue or at least message, if you think you're doing something about it, that's going to be a big domestic issue.

And I think the thing that can attract people like me, but, frankly, is going to be imperative for Joe Biden to win is at least a victory in Ukraine or at least Ukraine continuing to be able to defend itself with the help of the United States. I mean, Israel's not going to be an issue in a year, I don't think. I mean, save that this may blow up into a wider war, but it doesn't look like it. But if we abandon Ukraine -- and this is frankly in the Republican hands, too, which is kind of unfair to Joe Biden, but if we abandon Ukraine, people are going to look at his foreign policy record and say, where was there a win? We had Afghanistan. We had some of these other things. And he has got to at least keep Ukraine on the strong defense, I think, to win and frankly attract people that feel disaffected by the Republican Party.

KEILAR: Kate, you were Biden's longtime comms director when he was outside the White House and in. Can he do that, those sort of prescriptions you hear from the congressman?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. I mean, first of all, actually, I would dispute a little bit the idea that Afghanistan was a failure with voters. Actually, voters were happy to see that the United States doesn't have boots on the ground in Afghanistan for the first time in two decades.

So, you know, I think on this point about Ukraine, I mean, this is -- it is very clear who's standing in the way of providing additional aid to Ukraine. It's very clear that the Republicans are doing that.

I think what Biden needs to do is to bring the race to the issues that we know we've seen have turned voters out, including moderate swing voters in the last couple of elections. And, obviously, right at the top of the heap there is abortion.

And so we've seen in the last two election cycles that voters have turned out, they've been incredibly motivated, even in more traditionally Republican states and Republican districts, they've been really motivated by what they've heard from Republicans about taking rights away from women and what they've heard from Biden and Democrats about protecting those rights. So, he needs to do that. I certainly agree. The economy needs to stay strong.

And I think that Biden will continue to talk about the ways in which the economy has gotten better, including wages going up, inflation coming down, and then, ultimately, presuming Trump is the nominee, this will also be a significant contrast on the issue of democracy, who protects your right to vote, who makes sure your vote counts. That's obviously an issue where Biden and the Democrats have a huge advantage. And we've also seen that that's an issue that turns people out to vote.

So, that's a long way of saying, yes. That's a long way of giving a short answer, which is to say, yes, I do think that Biden can do those things, and I think that he's got time to do that.

KEILAR: Tia, as we look to the Republican side of this, presuming Donald Trump is the nominee, you heard Kate say that because people look at the polls and they say, wow, how is someone going to make up the distance here between him and them, whether it's Nikki Haley who might have the best shot, but even so, it's a tough go for her. What are you looking for as we go into this very bizarre primary season for Republicans?

MITCHELL: Yes. I mean, if the polling is correct, and we'll start in two weeks, we won't have to rely on polling, at least for Iowa, but it looks like -- and then not just the polling. The sentiment that we hear from a lot of Republicans in Congress and other elected offices and Republicans just regular people on the street, you do continue to hear that Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.

So, I don't expect that to change in these early primary states, but the other thing that could shift, we don't know, but as these court hearings, as these cases go to trial, will that affect the outcome or will that start to alter Trump's place in the Republican Party? That, to me, is the one wild card.

Now, everything we've seen thus far, these charges he faces, only have solidified his support among Republicans. But, if for some reason, something comes out where Republicans start saying he's not the person we want, we can't stick with Trump, then we might see an interesting Republican National Convention.


KEILAR: Congressman, what are you looking for here?

KINZINGER: Yeah, I mean, I think -- I think it's all Trump right now. I think the only thing that was said just now that can change that is these court cases. There -- look, Jack Smith has so much, it seems, on Donald Trump. I mean, what we got on the January 6th Committee, I think was enough to, frankly, indict him in court and put him away. But Jack Smith has been able to take what we did and run even further. Yes, he has ways to coerce people to testify.

So, if Donald Trump is successful in pushing these cases off till after the election, I mean, goodness, right? But if this actually goes to trial, and they're still particularly if there is still a primary going on, that is the dark horse chance that somebody like, I think it'll be down to Chris Christie or Nikki Haley, can come from behind, if people are truly disgusted.

I'm not overestimating, or underestimating, whatever, people's ability to be disgusted. There's so much that should've disgusted them by now, and it seems to -- they're still clinging to Donald Trump because he convinces of their own victims, he is the biggest victim in the world. So, I think that's what we have to do, by the way, too, is call out the victim-ness of Donald Trump and how that is so contrary to the American spirit. That could change things. But right now, it looks like it's him.

KEILAR: Kate, how do you see these upcoming primary contests affecting how Biden may approach his campaign? BEDINGFIELD: Well, we'll see. I think, I think Trump kind of walk

through the primaries with a convincing win as it seems right now, based on the polls like he's going to do, you know, that I think Biden will continue to run the campaign that has started to take shape, where you've seen him really go at Trump on democracy, you've seen him go at, a little bit, with the congressman was just saying, about, you know, Donald Trump only caring about himself, only caring about revenge, you know, constantly playing the victim, not caring about your family, or working people.

You know, I think of something happens in the primary and we see, for example, Nikki Haley get traction in a real way in New Hampshire, then I think what very quickly happens is Nikki Haley starts to own some of the things she said about her example, a six-week ban on abortion. Which he said as recently as a couple of months ago she would sign if it came to her desk.

So, you know, for the Biden campaign, I think it would be about defining whoever emerges from the primary, if it's not Donald Trump, as being in lockstep with the most extremist elements of the Republican Party. And there's quite a lot of material for the Biden campaign to use to do that.

KEILAR: Well, we have some no doubt incredible weeks ahead of us that are going to be defining. I think we can say that.

Tia, Kate, Congressman, thank you to all of you for being with me and happy New Year to you.

KINZINGER: You, too.

BEDINGFIELD: Happy New York to you.

KEILAR: Coming up, with former President Trump expected to file major appeals within hours. We'll take a closer look at the so-called insurrectionist ban at the center of his removal from two states' ballots.



KEILAR: Right now, we want to take a closer look at the hugely important question at the center of two appeals Donald Trump is expected to file tomorrow. Should he be disqualified from returning to office based on an amendment to the constitution more than 150 years ago?

Our Brian Todd has this report.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump has again put the United States in uncharted waters. Never before in American history has the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the so-called insurrectionist ban, been applied to a top presidential candidate.

But then again, no American president has ever tried to overturn an election, as Trump did.

What is the 14th amendment?

PROF. STEPHEN VLADECK, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS LAW SCHOOL: This forward- looking people, that you have engaged in insurrection against the United States, you may not hold that office, unless two thirds of both chambers of Congress say you can.

TODD: Specifically, Section Three of the 14th Amendment says, no person who's previously taken an oath to support the Constitution shall hold any office who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.

The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, another period of raw political turmoil.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Those Reconstruction Amendments in 1868 came about because their country was torn apart in the civil war.

VLADECK: When Congress drafted Section Three of the 14th amendment, it was already worried about the problem of southern states part of the Confederacy, sending back to Washington officials who had fought for the Confederacy, officials had been leaders in the Confederate government.

TODD: In 1870, Zebulon Vance, who served in the Confederate Army, was appointed as a senator from North Carolina. But the Senate refused to seat him, citing the 14th Amendment. Vance later got amnesty and did end up serving in the Senate.

In the early 1900s, Victor Berger, a socialist from Wisconsin, was refused a seat in the House of Representatives twice after having been elected. His opposition to World War I had led him to be criminally charged with disloyal acts, and the House used the 14th Amendment to keep him out. But he eventually got his conviction overturned, and did serve in the House.

More recently, a county commissioner in New Mexico was removed from office in 2022 on 14th Amendment grounds because he actually was a convicted January 6th rioter.

Now, we have the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Trump can be on state ballots. It would be the first time since Bush versus Gore in 2000 that the Supreme Court would have weighed in on such an important matter in presidential politics.

BEN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAWYER: The country is much more divided now than it's ever been before.


I mean, in a sense, if you're a Supreme Court justice, it makes Bush versus Gore look like a walk in the park.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


KEILAR: Our thanks to Brian Todd for that.

Coming up, she is a superstar singer with a new record. What Taylor Swift achieved with the help of her latest album.


KEILAR: Taylor Swift doing one of the things she does best, making history. The Grammy winner now has the most weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, as a solo artist, surpassing the king of rock and roll himself, Elvis Pressley.

Congratulations, of course, to Taylor Swift on that.

And speaking of her movie music, there is one song you may know but maybe you don't know the story behind it. CNN explores the case, the music world could not shake off in "Taking On Taylor Swift", airing tonight at nine on CNN.

I'm Brianna Keilar. Happy New Year to you. And thank you so much for watching.

"The '70s: What's Going On?" starts right now.