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Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Trump Colorado Ballot Ban Appeal; Biden Comes Out Swinging At Trump In First Campaign Speech Of 2024; Trump Stumping In Iowa Tonight Shortly After Biden's Rebuke; Supreme Court To Hear Trump Colorado Ballot Ban Appeal. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 05, 2024 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, former Vice President Mike Pence will be live from Israel with us. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 and noon only here on CNN.
Then next Wednesday, of course, the very last presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses and the first actual votes, Ambassador Nikki Haley, Governor Ron DeSantis are going to share the stage. I'll moderate alongside my colleague Dana Bash. Look for the CNN Republican presidential debate live from Des Moines, Iowa, at 9:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will see you Sunday morning.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, two major breaking stories. The U.S. Supreme Court just agreed to hear Donald Trump's appeal of his removal from the Colorado primary ballot. The justices now poised to decide whether or not Trump is eligible for office under the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban.
Also breaking, President Biden comes out swinging at Trump in his first campaign speech of 2024, warning the former president is a real and present danger to American democracy three years after January 6th. We're breaking down the president's remarks and Trump's message at a campaign event in Iowa tonight.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Will Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin tonight with breaking news, the United States Supreme Court teeing up one of the most consequential cases in decades, Donald Trump's removal from the Colorado ballot as his eligibility is being challenged in states all across the country.
Our legal and political team is here with more analysis, but I want to start with CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, how significant is this and how will this unfold?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the most significant election related case before the court since Bush v. Gore. They have accepted a request from Trump's legal team to determine if the Colorado Supreme Court improperly removed Trump from the ballot.
Now, the biggest question here is whether Section 3 of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the so called insurrectionist ban, that bars those who engage in insurrection from holding public office, if that applies to presidents, that is a question that has divided judges even within the same state of Colorado.
Another issue they may have to weigh in on is, well, how is that executed? Is that something the states should handle or is there a rule for Congress?
Now, the way the Trump team has framed this case, they are arguing that this is a request to return the choice of candidate to voters. But the challengers are arguing that the so-called insurrectionist ban applies to Trump and that he should be barred from holding future office because of what occurred on January 6.
How will this all play out? Well, one source close to this case tells me they're giving it the, quote, Full Monty. They have a briefing schedule. They're going to have oral arguments on February 6th, and then, of course, they will issue a decision. But what's not clear is whether that decision will come in time to offer clarity for Super Tuesday, because while that is on March 5th, the ballots are mailed out weeks in advance.
And a lot of the folks here involved in this case have been pushing for clarity ahead of these primaries. But, Wolf, the one thing that all the parties, Trump, the Republican Party, the challengers, all agree on is that time is of the essence here.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Paula Reid, stay with us. I want to bring in some of our legal and political experts as well.
And, Joan Biskupic you know the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court just officially put itself in this unprecedented and unchartered territory. Just how significant is this moment from your perspective?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Good evening. Well, first of all, I think for the voters, this is really important. Voters need to know whether right now the leading Republican candidate is going to be on the ballot. So that, I think is so important for the nation.
It's a constitutional question that has never been tested at the scope of the 14th Amendment, Section 3, barring insurrectionists from holding future office. And, finally, the most important thing for the court itself, Wolf, is just how they might be able to step up and seize this moment and inspire some confidence in Democratic norms on the eve of the 2024 election.
Just think of where the court has been in the American mind over the last couple of years. They've reversed precedent. They've had their ethics scandals. The court's public approval is at an all time low. But I think even today's action, frankly, inspired some confidence because they had just gotten all the filings in last night, they acted swiftly to issue this order.
One thing I should make sure that our viewers know is that justices have not told us precisely what questions so they could go narrowly and go off on a detour with some threshold matters without even deciding whether Donald Trump was an insurrectionist when it comes to January 6th, 2021.
But I think for the Supreme Court, it's time to establish itself in terms of a leader on these legal questions with some transparency and clarity and by holding oral arguments that everyone will be able to hear, Wolf. They live stream their oral arguments, so all of our viewers will be able to hear what they say on February 8th as they question an array of lawyers.
BLITZER: It will be so, so important.
Elie Honig, as Joan just said, it was expected that the U.S. Supreme Court would take this case on, but we still don't know how they'll approach it. What do you expect?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as Joan said, the order issue today is just a few sentences does not specify what particular issues. However, I do think there're some things we can reasonably expect. First of all, I do not expect the Supreme Court to address the issue of insurrection, whether Donald Trump did or did not engage in insurrection. That's not the kind of thing the U.S. Supreme Court normally does. They're not a fact-finding body.
I expect them to deal with the procedural and constitutional questions, too, in particular. First of all, is it up to Congress to pass laws telling us how the 14th Amendment works, or is it up to the states to figure it out on their own? If the Supreme Court decides this is only up to Congress, that will end the Colorado challenge, put Trump back on the ballot in Colorado, and effectively end all the challenges we've seen all across the country.
And I think the second issue is, does the 14th Amendment apply to the president as a, quote, officer of the United States? Again, if they answer that, no, it does not apply to the president. That ends the Colorado case. That ends all the other cases around the country.
Wolf, this will be historic, no matter which way they come out. They will answer questions that have been around the 14th Amendment for over a century, and it will determine how we vote in 2024 and moving forward.
BLITZER: The stakes clearly are indeed enormous.
Kristen Holmes, you're out there on the campaign trail in Iowa right now. You're covering the former president. The Trump team seems to be very confident they'll actually win this case before the Supreme Court. What are you hearing from them? KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this has been one of the cases that they're actually the least worried about, at least when it comes to the legal team. And I was told this was because of what they had seen in courts across the country. They're wanting to not take this issue up. They believe that this is one of the most solid legal cases that they have.
However, we did hear from one of Trump's lawyers who indicated there might be another reason they were so confident. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I think it should be a slam dunk in the Supreme Court.
People like Kavanaugh, who the president fought for, who the president went through, held to get into place, he'll step up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So, she has been getting a lot of backlash for that, and obviously it indicated that there was some sort of quid pro quo because Trump had appointed Kavanaugh and gone through that process, that Kavanaugh would step up for him. She has since defended those comments.
But I will also tell you, when it comes to the former president himself, he has expressed concern to his lawyers, to his allies about this going to the Supreme Court. He believes that it's possible that some of these Supreme Court justices will rule against him so as not to seem, quote/unquote, pro-Trump that he believes that that could even be people who had -- who were appointed by him in the first place. So, that's something he has expressed.
However, again, when I talk to his legal team, when I talk to his advisers, they do express confidence when it comes to whether or not Donald Trump will be on the ballot in all 50 states.
BLITZER: We shall see. Paula, the Trump team also says this is a voter's rights issue. What can you tell us about that argument and whether the Supreme Court would be sympathetic to it?
REID: Yes. They argue that this would be the first time that the judiciary would take away from voters their ability to vote for a party's leading candidate. It is an argument that is sympathetic not only in the court of public opinion but possibly at the high court. And it seems unlikely that they would want to wrestle from voters their choice, especially on something as significant as this.
But, again, it's unclear which questions they're going to weigh in on and how they're going to rule. We do expect, though, that they will try to decide this narrowly and in a way where there is consensus to avoid the appearance of partisanship.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Joan, that the justices laid out a very fast timeline with oral arguments beginning one month from Monday. How unprecedented is this for the court to move at that speed?
BISKUPIC: Well, normally, Wolf, briefing takes months. So, this is fast. But as you and I recall, they decided Bush v. Gore back in the year 2000 in a matter of days with a very, even a quicker briefing schedule. But this is fast, but it's giving the parties enough time to get the materials in so that things are well considered.
And what I expect, Wolf, is that we're going to see lots of historians, many more legal scholars, probably plenty of political analysts all weighing in so that the -- and I know that things were already being drafted before we even got to this moment in anticipation of the high court taking this up.
So, I think the justices will have plenty of voices to hear from and I think it's important because just think back a few weeks. This idea was, in some ways, hatched up in law schools. You know, some prominent law professors had put it forward. It kept getting more and more attention. And I have to say the arguments at every stage seem stronger and stronger and both sides are now joined and they're both very forceful arguments. So, it's -- and they will be backed, as I say, by an array of amicus filings.
BLITZER: And now it will be up to the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Elie, so what does this timeline tell you?
HONIG: Well, Wolf, it tells me that the Supreme Court has taken in a dose of reality here. They have to move quickly here. And I think it's important to note both sides agree on that. We have dates for printing of ballots, for mailing of ballots that are coming up every few days.
This is a lightning pace. This is an almost unimaginable pace for lawyers. As Joan said, normally, it takes six months or more to get Supreme Court briefing in, but I think the Supreme Court has done its job quickly here. And in this case, well, I think they understand the imperative, they understand the need to move quickly. We're going to have oral arguments a month or so from now, and I expect to see a ruling within a week or two of that.
BLITZER: And, Paula, I want you to go through some of the major questions the Supreme Court could actually weigh in on.
REID: Yes, that's one of the big mysteries tonight, right? They didn't really clarify for us what questions they're going to entertain, but we know from the breeze, both from former President Trump and the Republican Party of Colorado that also submitted their own request approximately what they could consider.
First question is whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, whether that applies to presidents. As I said earlier, that's a question that has divided judges even within the same state. The other question is, well, all right, how does that operate? Is that something that the states should be deciding? What is the rule of the courts, or is there a rule for Congress?
Now, there's also this question of, did former President Trump engage in an insurrection?
As one of the other panelists said earlier, it's highly unlikely they're going to want to wade into that. Instead, they will likely focus on the constitutional question. Look, there's other technical questions they could also want to focus on.
Right now, it's a mystery exactly how they want to craft their approach to this case.
BLITZER: And, Kristen, is there any sort of sense within the Trump campaign that the justices could rule against him?
HOLMES: When it comes to his legal team right now, anything is on the table. Like I said, they do feel increasingly confident that they have the legal backing in this case. They have talked to me about what that backing looks like.
They have analyzed various cases across the country. They have looked at the state courts who rejected this case. They even looked at the secretaries of state who have said that there is no constitutional grounding for them to make that decision, that that decision should be made by Congress. So, they do believe they have the legal standing.
But, again, Donald Trump himself, he has expressed the concern that these justices might rule against him, particularly because it is him, because they don't want to be seen as pro-Trump.
BLITZER: And, Elie, as you know, the Colorado case is just for a primary ballot. When would this become a general election issue?
HONIG: Right. So, as the months move forward, this will become a general election issue. It's important to note, Wolf, that the Colorado ruling and the Maine ruling are both on hold pending the outcome of this case. So, whatever the court decides will impact both primaries, and I think more importantly, the general election.
And, Wolf, it's also important to keep in mind the broader landscape here. While the Colorado and Maine decisions throwing Trump off the ballot have made the most headlines recently, those are two of about two dozen or so challenges that have been made across the country, virtually all of them other than Colorado and Maine have been rejected. Even in Colorado, you had a seven-justice state Supreme Court, they're all appointed by Democrats. Even that was 4-3.
So, the decisions throwing Trump off the ballot are in a distinct minority, and I expect that trend to continue when the U.S. Supreme Court takes this case.
BLITZER: Paula, what should we be looking for right now specifically in the immediate days ahead as both sides are getting ready to make their oral arguments before the nine justices of the Supreme Court?
REID: Well, I know everyone on this panel is going to be eager to read these briefs. Like what are the arguments? We know generally what the two sides will argue because, again, this has been litigated across multiple states through Colorado, through Maine. But it will be really interesting to see how they lay out their theory of the case, the questions that they'll present and the answers, you know, that they hope the court will give them.
I think we have a good sense of what they'll say. But, man, that oral argument date on February 8th, and that is going to be a historic oral argument at the high court.
Each justice will be under enormous scrutiny. And then in the days following the oral argument, it will be up to Chief Justice John Roberts. This is likely going to be the biggest test of his career, to try to build a consensus, to try to come up with an opinion that, again, serves the interests of the country and the constitution without appearing to tip its hand politically.
BLITZER: And to that a point, Joan, what position does this put the three Trump appointed justices in?
BISKUPIC: Well, I would distinguish the three. And I would have to say that Brett Kavanaugh, despite the fact that he was targeted in those comments last night, has been quite a partner to Chief Justice John Roberts in trying to take a more cautious, judicious, non- partisan appearing approach. And I think Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Elena Kagan, could be real partners with the chief justice in trying to figure out the best way forward. So, that's where I would put Brett Kavanaugh is someone who really is not trying to shake up anything here.
Now, Neil Gorsuch has a very distinct approach. He is someone who -- he succeeded Antonin Scalia, and he has had a very distinctive, textualist, originalist approach. I am sure he will be very deep into the history of the 14th Amendment, as all of them will be. But he is someone who has always taken a little more of a conservative, limited approach to the scope of the provisions of the Constitution.
And then, finally, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, our most recent Trump appointee, who came on in 2020, succeeding Ruth Bader Ginsburg and so much changing this court, she also has been a little bit tentative on things, so that I actually think the three of them, in their own distinct ways, will try to continue putting their own signatures on this kind of case. And they will try to separate themselves from the conventional wisdom of who they are because they were Donald Trump appointees.
BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. All right, guys, thanks to all of you for joining us on this important breaking news.
Still ahead, the political implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear Trump's Colorado ballot ban appeal.
And the breaking news on President Biden's scathing new condemnation of Trump as a danger to democracy. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear Donald Trump's appeal of his removal from the ballot in Colorado. The court set to dive into questions about the insurrectionist ban in the U.S. Constitution and whether it applies to Trump, this as President Biden is arguing, that Trump is ready and willing to sacrifice democracy to return to power.
Let's go to CNN Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee. She's over at the White House. M.J., tell us more about the president's message in this, his first campaign speech of 2024.
M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, President Biden returned once again to the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania to launch the 2024 election year. The campaign chose a venue near the Revolutionary War site of Valley Forge, where the president invoked George Washington and his wards a sacred cause to describe what he is fighting for as he now seeks a second term.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, we're here to answer the most important of questions. Is democracy still America's sacred cause? That's what the 2024 election is all about.
LEE (voice over): In his inaugural campaign speech of the New Year, President Joe Biden warning of the stark and urgent stakes of the upcoming presidential election. The president repeatedly excoriating Donald Trump.
BIDEN: Trump's campaign is about him, not America, not you.
LEE: As the Biden campaign gears up for another potential matchup against the former president come November.
BIDEN: We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is, who are we? That's what's at stake. Who are we?
In the year ahead, as you talk to your family and friends, cast your ballots, the powers in your hands. I refuse to believe that in 2024, we Americans will choose to walk away from what's made us the greatest nation in history of the world. Freedom, liberty, democracy is still a sacred cause.
LEE: The president's speech coming on the eve of the third anniversary of the January 6th storming of the Capitol, a deadly riot that Trump encouraged at the time.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
LEE: And has refused to denounce since.
BIDEN: You can't be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American.
LEE: Biden warning of the chaos that could ensue if Trump were reelected to a second term.
BIDEN: He went on to say he'd be a dictator on day one.
LEE: And if Trump were defeated in November.
BIDEN: Once again, he's saying he won't honor the results of the election if he loses.
LEE: Biden has previously invoked the bloody insurrection of 2021 in multiple speeches.
BIDEN: One year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked.
LEE: Pointing to the shocking events of that day as a reminder of the fragility of American democracy that must be actively protected.
BIDEN: For a long time, we've told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it's not.
LEE: The Biden campaign preparing to ramp up the president's campaign travels in the New Year. On Monday, the president headed to South Carolina to deliver a speech at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, where a white supremacist shot and killed nine black worshippers in 2015.
Next week's trip marking a return to a state that Biden credits for propelling him to his party's nomination in 2020 and delivering him the presidency.
BIDEN: Thank you, South Carolina. We just won and we've won big because of you.
LEE (on camera): And, Wolf, to give you a sense of how much the Biden campaign is leaning into this theme of protecting democracy, the campaign tomorrow on January 6th will be launching a new ad that paints Donald Trump and some Republicans as promoting political violence. We are also set to see Vice President Kamala Harris travel to South Carolina where she will be delivering a speech there and is also expected to address the dark events of January 6th from three years ago. Wolf?
BLITZER: M.J. Lee at the White House, thank you very much.
I want to bring in our political experts for some serious analysis, and, David Chalian, I'll start with you. As you heard, President Biden accused what he called MAGA Republicans of having, quote, abandon our democracy in his -- this is his first speech of the 2024 campaign. What does that tell you about how he sees this upcoming election?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he sees this as a fundamental choice for the American people, not just between two candidates, but between a way of life in America under American democracy versus a country that could lean towards autocratic rule in some of the ways that Donald Trump has quite plainly said he would govern if he's re-elected.
But I think what you saw from the president today, Wolf, was sort of a guy who wanted to sort of grab the country by the lapels and say, wake up, it's time to start focusing on this election year. A lot of their targeted voters have not dialed into this election yet, and he is kicking off the campaign by saying, you got to wake up, you got to focus because this is very serious. He wanted to set the stakes as he sees them heading into the year.
BLITZER: It was very, very powerful what he had to say about the Republicans specifically, going directly after Trump as well, which was very important.
Kate, do you worry that voters have already heard this message, though, in the past, from President Biden, and that they might not necessarily be all that receptive to it this time?
KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: : Well, I don't for two reasons, first of all, because the threat persists. I mean, Donald Trump has continued to double down, triple down, quadruple down on his support for what happened on January 6th. He's doing things like singing songs, lending his voice to songs that January 6th participants are creating online. I mean, he has made no bones about the fact that he celebrates what happened on January 6th and would want to see it carried forward. So, the threat persists.
And then, secondly, we've seen that this democracy argument is impactful in elections as recently as the midterms in 2022. I mean, this wasn't just an argument that is hypothetical. We've seen people turn out and go to the ballot box in part motivated by this belief that they need to vote for Democrats in order to protect their freedoms and protect democracy. So, I think there's evidence that this has been a really powerful and successful message. And as you heard the president say, I expect we'll hear a lot from him about it.
BLITZER: I assume we will. You know, Kevin Madden, you've been watching all this very closely. Biden repeatedly called out Trump by name today, specifically going after Trump, and even at one point calling him a loser and comparing his rhetoric to Nazi Germany.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, it's tough rhetoric. But I think for the president, his goal here is to really raise the stakes of this election.
And I also think that, David's point, President Biden wants voters out there to really enter into a level of self-reflection about what direction the country is going and the contrast between a choice for President Biden or a choice for former President Trump in November. And he believes that that contrast works in his favor. I think the other thing that part of this, and this goes to some of what Kate said, one of the most important constituencies here is the most active progressive Democrats, who right now aren't really enthusiastic about voting for Joe Biden. And they need to be enthusiastic for voting for Joe Biden by November. So, this is sort of a starter's pistol, if you will, for getting those voters energized about what's at stake for this election.
It also is probably a message that works well with your most persuadable voters, those voters in the suburbs. And there's a reason that he was in Pennsylvania today, because Pennsylvania is going to be one of those states where suburban voters in areas around Harrisburg and Philadelphia are going to make or break whether or not that state goes for Joe Biden.
So, it seems very, very carefully calculated strategy here by the White House.
BLITZER: Yes, I totally agree. You know, David, what do you think, would you expect that Trump will directly respond to Biden and these very strong words coming today from the president?
CHALIAN: Well, he's been speaking in Iowa at his first event there since the Christmas holiday. He certainly went after the former president on things like his stutter and what have you. He also, as you know, has, every time Joe Biden makes the sort of democracy argument, Trump tries to flip it on Joe Biden in this sort of like, I'm rubber, you're glue, what you say bounces off of me and sticks to you, schoolyard kind of situation.
And we've seen that effective for Donald Trump in communicating with his supporters and his voters and galvanizing Republicans around that.
We've seen that work. And so I think you're going to see this constant kind of repeat it, repeat it, repeat it until enough people on his side of the equation believe it is the goal of his response to Biden on the democracy.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, and, Kate, I want to get your thoughts on this, because the Biden speech today came on the same day that we heard from Ron DeSantis suggest, and he actually suggested this, he's looking at various ways of removing Biden from the ballot in Florida. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You could make a case -- and I'm actually looking at this in Florida now, could we make a credible case that Biden, because of the invasion of 8 million? And again, I don't think that's the right way to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you make of that? BEDINGFIELD: So, I think this is a losing argument. I think this is an argument that appeals to the -- it certainly appeals, I would imagine, to the Republican base. I think there's a faction of the Democratic base that is very excited about what's happening to Donald Trump in the courts in Colorado and Maine.
But I think for the most part for general election voters, for swing voters, I think this is probably an argument that it feels petty, it feels small, it feels -- like it doesn't speak to their concerns. So, to me, as somebody who is watching Ron DeSantis kind of desperately try to sort of have a last gasp of relevancy potentially here before the Iowa caucuses, this doesn't feel like a convincing and serious argument.
I think it's a little dangerous. I do think that as we start to -- the idea that we're just going to sort of tit for tat in this way, I do think it's dangerous. But I think it's not an argument that appeals to moderate voters, swing voters. And so I'm just not sure that it's going to get a lot of traction.
BLITZER: Kevin, do you think comments like this from DeSantis and obviously comments from Trump bolster Biden's democracy argument right now, that democracy in America, the U.S. Constitution, are literally at stake?
MADDEN: I don't know if I would interpret it that broadly. I do think this is a reflection of our politics now, where it's like the left hits the right and then the right decides to hit back even harder. I think this is probably an impetus for why the Supreme Court has decided to act very quickly and to listen to this case because they know all of these type of political shenanigans are going to continue to fester unless they more definitively answer the legal questions that are undergirding all of this.
BLITZER: Yes, and the decision from the Supreme Court doesn't only affect Colorado, it doesn't affect Maine, it affects states all over the country. So, the stakes clearly are enormous. Guys, thank you very much.
All of the breaking news unfolding right now. Donald Trump is on the attack against President Biden while campaigning in Iowa tonight, and CNN is there.
BLITZER: We're continuing to follow the breaking news from the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices have just agreed to hear Donald Trump's appeal on Colorado's decision to ban him from the state's primary ballot, this as Trump is campaigning out there in Iowa shortly after President Biden portrayed him as an urgent threat to American democracy. We're getting a powerful preview of their potential rematch in the process.
I want to go back to see that as Kristen Holmes. She's in Sioux Center, Iowa for us. She's listening to the former president. What are you hearing from Trump?
HOLMES: Well, Wolf, we're just coming out an hour of Donald Trump speaking. He has gone all over the map, and he has really laid out what his argument is going to be in a general election going up against Biden, not necessarily taking Biden on directly for his argument that Trump is a threat to democracy, but instead taking Biden on in terms of immigration and inflation, and really avoiding that democracy argument.
Now, we have heard him go after Biden multiple times in this speech. He has said that he is incompetent. He has gone after him on specific issues, and he has mocked him for his stutter. Take a listen.
TRUMP: With your vote in these caucuses, we're going to finish the job and we're going to get it done. And we're going to actually be stronger than ever before. It's hard to believe because you see the damage that's been done.
No President has ever, ever -- and, you know, I often say you can take the ten worst Presidents in the history of our country, you can add them up, put them together, and they haven't done the damage that Joe Biden has done to this country. What he's done to this country is unthinkable.
Biden's record is an unbroken streak of weakness, incompetence, corruption and failure. Other than that, he's doing quite well, isn't he? Don't you? That's a hell of a list. That's a hell of a list, right?
That's why Crooked Joe is staging his pathetic fear-mongering campaign event in Pennsylvania today. Did you see him? He was stuttering through the whole thing. He's going, I'm going to, he's a threat to democracy. They've weaponized government. He's saying, I'm a threat to democracy. He's a threat to democracy. Well, I couldn't read the word.
HOLMES: He also brought up that conversation that he had with Sean Hannity in which he said that he only wanted to be a dictator for one day. He repeated that again, saying he would be a dictator for one day, so when it came to closing the border and then drilling.
But it is interesting that he used the word fear-mongering because in another part of this lengthy speech, he went after migrants and the Democratic Party essentially saying that they wanted migrants in the country so that they could alter the election.
He also talked about his many indictments. Listen to this part.
TRUMP: But a vote for Donald Trump in these caucuses is a vote to secure our border. It's a vote to stop the invasion of millions of people from parts unknown. We don't even know where the hell they come from. They come from parts unknown. It's a vote to rescue our economy, and it's a vote to reclaim our democracy from crooked Joe Biden and the entire criminal class in our nation's capital. They're criminals.
What they're doing with voters and what they're doing with the weaponization of the system and elections, what they're doing is incredible. I mean, I've gotten indicted more than Al Capone. Do you know Al Capone, Scarface, you know? He had a scar from here to here, and he didn't get it. I always say playing tiddly-wings, right? He was a rather rough guy, and if he had dinner with you, he didn't like the way you smiled, they'd shoot you the next day. You'd get killed probably the next night. But you'd be gone.
He got indicted less than me. I got indicted because they said we had a rigged election, and it turned out I was right. It was rigged much worse than anybody thought. But unlike every other candidate in this race with me, you know, in your heart that I will always put America first. We put America first. And with God's help, our job will get done.
Victories cannot come soon enough for our country. As we speak, the last remnants of our open and broken border are crumbling into rubble, as millions and millions of people storm into the United States in the largest illegal mass migration in the history of the world.
Look, there's never been a country in the world, third world country, banana republic, there's never been anything like what you're watching on television, and they pretend like they've got it under control. Last month they set a record, hundreds of thousands of people, bigger than practically any city in your great state. I think bigger just about than any city came in just last month, and numbers like nobody -- and they pretend like it's under control. It's not under control. It's totally out of control.
And part of the reason they want them to come in is, in my opinion, because, look, they're not stupid. Anybody that can cheat on an election like that is not stupid, okay, because their professionals are cheating. But anybody that can cheat like that, they're not stupid people. So there's two things, and then a third. Number one, they're stupid. Number two -- right? Number two, they hate our country. And number three, they want those people to vote, and that's a bad one. That's the one that scares us most.
And I'm telling you, they're signing people. That's what they're doing. And I believe now that that's why they're allowing these people to come in. People that don't speak our language, they're signing them up to vote. And I believe that's why you're having millions of people pour into our country, and it could very well affect the next election.
HOLMES: So, I just want to make very clear that there is no indication that anyone is trying to sign up the migrants to vote on the border. That is not something that we have seen anywhere or that has been proven. These are allegations that he is making about the election after he has obviously said that the 2020 election was rigged.
Now, so much of this speech really is a preview of his race, a potential race against Joe Biden, again, showing that he is not going to go after or respond to Biden's remarks in actual merit about him being a threat to democracy, but instead hit Biden on areas where he believes that Americans want a better situation, and that is particularly immigration and the economy.
Now, we did hear something in this speech that was very interesting, as someone who has been covering him quite a bit. This was the strongest that he has gone after Nikki Haley that we have seen since he has been on the campaign trail.
It obviously comes at a time where her poll numbers are up. Her team has seen a rise both in Iowa and New Hampshire. Listen to what he said.
TRUMP: Ron DeSanctimonious and Nikki Haley and all the rest of the pack will never do what it takes to secure the border. They'll never do what it takes to make our country great again. They're never going to do it. I know them. I know them all very well. They don't have what it takes.
Nikki Haley has been in the pocket of the open borders establishment donors her entire career and she's a globalist, you know. She likes to globe. I like America first. The people in this room like America first. And Nikki Haley's campaign is being funded by Biden donors, did you know that, Biden donors because they're trying to get her like, in particular, here, we're doing so well. I think they've sort of given up. You notice they're sort of like out of here. But in New Hampshire, they have a lot of Biden donors and contributors putting money into our campaign.
That tells you -- that should be enough to stop her right there, or she stopped.
Hey, listen, they had a poll last week, it was a classic, just to show you how fake the media is. So the headline was "Haley surges". I said, uh-oh, this is bad. I better read this little thing.
So I went up seven points to 74. Okay. I went up seven. She went up two points and Ron Desanctimonious went down one.
So instead of being down two points, she was even with Ron Desanctimonious now. And the headline, she was at 10 and he was at 10, either 10 or 11. I was at 72 or 74. The headline was "Haley surges". That's because it is fake, the media is fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Now, despite what the former president says about the news being fake on those poll numbers, we know his team is watching this very carefully. They believe that she has seen a rise in the polls, so much so that both the campaign and the super PAC MAGA Inc. that supports Donald Trumps have poured millions of dollars into new advertising in New Hampshire to hit Nikki Haley, particularly going after her on her immigration stance, trying to link her to President Biden -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kristen Holmes in Sioux Center, Iowa, for us -- Kristen, thank you very much.
I want to bring back our political team.
David Chalian, among other things, Trump is also accusing President Biden of being the true threat to democracy. Give me your reaction to what we just heard.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it's no wonder Americans are not eager to see this rematch of this because we're going to have to live through these lies that Donald Trump tells on a regular basis. I mean, when he said, you know, I was right about that, the election was rigged. No, the election was not rigged and there were all of these court cases, and that's been proven, he's just -- he's going to live in this world where he continues to sell the falsehoods of the 2020 election and continues to promise to govern in an undemocratic way should he win the presidency again.
Again, that -- trying to flip the script on Biden on the threat of democracy, again, it has appeal because when you look at the polling, this notion of democracy is actually very -- and elections, it is very important to both Republicans and Democrats for totally different reasons. And he sees an opening there to galvanize support on his side. The whole weaponization of government, there's no proof anywhere, anywhere that the Biden administration is weaponizing the government, but he's using his own legal peril as a way to make this argument to galvanize his supporters.
By the way, Ron DeSantis himself, his opponent, has said the indictments have basically altered the entire trajectory of the Republican nomination race because it has done exactly that. It's brought Republicans to Trump's defense in belief that the Biden administration -- by the way, the same Biden Justice Department that's investigating and prosecuting the president's son is the one that he claims is doing this all to get Trump out of the way, and that it is purely an election interference kind of effort.
No evidence to support that. That's not going to stop Donald Trump from selling it and, quite frankly, what we see it is not going to stop Republican voters right now in this Trump-dominated party from buying into it.
BLITZER: What else stood out to you, David? I'm curious. You heard Trump making fun of President Biden and his stuttering and stuff like that. CHALIAN: Again, a tactic we have seen him employ time and again, in
his 2015, '16 race initially for the presidency, in the 2020 election race against Joe Biden. What I found was intriguing was what Kristen Holmes was saying at the end. They see a real potential threat from Nikki Haley right now in New Hampshire.
Now, I'm not saying they think that is going to completely upend the trajectory of this race, but they do see a mission that they have to accomplish right now, which is to halt momentum that she's having. I think this is just the beginning of what you are going to see from Donald Trump and his operation and his allies in trying to halt that Haley momentum.
BLITZER: And, Kevin Madden, what do you make of Trump continuing to spread the false -- the lies about the 2020 election?
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, this is -- this speech here is like a perfect -- it is almost quintessential Trump in that there's the campaign message that they're trying to drive and then there's Trump wanting to sort of free wheel, right? And the script is all focused on substantive issues, and then when Trump decides to free wheel, it's an absolute relitigation of 2020 and almost like a grievance tour with like what Trump -- all of Trump's grievances about Biden, about his critics and the 2020 election.
So the through line here though that I think is most interesting is that when Trump does the best is when he's focused on issues like the economy, immigration, even some of the cultural issues that we know sort of serve as an energizing force for a lot of like really conservative Republicans. But going on the attack constantly with -- against Biden, that's one of the key things that I think emerged from the tone today.
BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts. What do you think? What was your reaction in hearing Trump repeat these false claims?
KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Well, look, I imagine the Biden campaign is probably happy about this because it is continuing to reinforce a point that President Biden was making today about the very real, urgent, current, tangible threat that Donald Trump poses. I mean one of the challenges around January 6th is that as it slowly recedes in history people don't feel as intensely about it. Part of what you saw Joe Biden try to do today was to not only remind everybody about how violent it was, that was one component of his remarks where he, you know, really tried to amp up the threat that political violence is posing.
He also tried to take it and draw it forward. And so, the longer Trump -- the more time Trump dedicates to, you know, talking only about 2020, as Kevin was saying, sort of, you know, relitigating the same grievances, not looking to the future, the more opening that gives Joe Biden to say, here's my vision for the future, here's the way I'm going to protect democracy, I'm going to protect your right to make reproductive health decision with your doctor and not have the government be involved, here's what I'm going to do to keep making the economy better. It gives Joe Biden a lane. So, the more Donald Trump is stuck reinforcing the things he has done in the past that we know are unpopular and that people feel threatened by, the more opening it gives the Biden campaign.
BLITZER: We'll see how that unfolds.
Guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, we'll have more on the breaking news, the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to take the historic case head-on, Donald Trump's ballot ban in Colorado under the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban. I will get reaction from a Democratic lawmaker who was inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision to hear Donald Trump's appeal of his Colorado ballot ban. The former president's campaign just put out a statement saying it welcomes what it calls a fair hearing.
Let's discuss with Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
First of all, what's your reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to take on Trump's appeal?
REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): Well, Wolf, I was in the house chamber on January 6th. I was there as we evacuated those who were on the floor and those of us in the gallery were trapped in the capitol building. I was there as Capitol police officers valiantly fought not only to protect us but our democracy, and I had a firsthand view of the very true reality, which is the president of the United States led an effort to try and stop Congress from certifying an election.
Thankfully, because of the bravery of so many that day, he was unsuccessful. The insurrectionists were unsuccessful, and that is why I'm committed to ensuring we beat Donald Trump at the ballot box because he cannot in any case return to the White House.
The Supreme Court is going to render whatever decision it makes. I do look forward to watching that process, but no matter their decision, it is imperative that Donald Trump not return to the White House and that we be continuing to lay the ground work here in Virginia and across the country to ensure his defeat.
BLITZER: Do you think, Congresswoman, Trump should be removed from the ballot in Colorado and, indeed, across the country?
SPANBERGER: I'll leave that to the attorneys who are arguing the case. Certainly, there was a case made in Colorado, the secretary of state made a decision in Maine, those are their decisions to make. The attorneys and the courts' decisions to make, the secretary of state's decision to make in Virginia.
We anticipate he will be on the ballot pending any potential legal action that might occur at the Supreme Court. But the reality is we on the ground here in Virginia are working to ensure that he is defeated at the ballot box.
BLITZER: I want to read a little bit more of the Trump campaign's reaction to what is going on. Let me put it up on the screen. There you see it.
We are confident that the fair-minded Supreme Court will unanimously affirm the civil rights of President Trump and the voting rights of all Americans in a ruling that will squash all of the remaining ballot challenge hoaxes once and for all.
Congresswoman, do you think they have a reason to be confident and do these cases turn Trump into a so-called martyr as his GOP rivals have actually warned?
SPANBERGER: This sort of statement is wholly consistent with the types of rhetoric we have heard from Donald Trump. The fact that he would refer to the Constitution and one of its amendments as a hoax is absolutely ridiculous. The man was impeached by Democrats and Republicans alike for mounting an insurrection, for attempting to undermine our democracy, for refusing to do what is the most basic job of any person who is running a campaign or who loses a campaign, and that is demonstrating the peaceful transition of power.
The former president did not do that. The former president egged on a violent crowd that attacked the United States Capitol. And so, he can say whatever he wants. His campaign can put out whatever statement they want. That doesn't change the reality, and the reality is that this former president was a danger to our democracy and he continues to be that.
BLITZER: President Biden today, as you know, marked the anniversary of the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th by calling Trump a grave threat to democracy. President Biden also said it is the top issue for 2024. Do you agree?
SPANBERGER: I think there's a variety of top issues, the economy, the fundamental rights of Virginians, of women, of Americans. But all of that, all of it relies on us having a functioning democracy. And when the election is between someone who upholds the Constitution and someone who would defile it and seek to undo it, that is a foundational element of what the 2024 election is about.
BLITZER: Representative Spanberger, thanks so much for joining us.
And to our viewers, thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.