Return to Transcripts main page
The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Trump Makes Key Admissions In NY Fraud Testimony; David Axelrod On Whether Biden Should Drop Out: "He Is Entitled To Make That Decision On His Own"; Netanyahu: Israel Will Have Overall Security Responsibility In Gaza For "Indefinite Period". Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 06, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: As we mentioned earlier, tomorrow marks one month, since Hamas attacked Israel. The attack and events that followed have created a lot of need. If you want to help, you can go to CNN.com/Impact or text, RELIEF, to 707070 for more information.
The news continues. "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS" starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
Donald Trump, on the stand, railing against the, Attorney General, who brought the case and, the judge, who will decide his fate, the highlights, from a, chaotic day, in court.
Plus, large explosions are rocking Gaza, tonight, as Israel claims it has isolated Gaza City, while striking 450 targets, in just the last 24 hours.
And alarm bells are sounding, tonight, for Democrats, because Donald Trump is ahead of President Biden, in these States, that could decide the 2024 race, one year out from the election.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Under oath, and off the rails, that is really the only way, to describe the four hours, of extraordinary testimony, that was wild, even by the standards of Donald Trump.
The former President repeatedly got into it with the judge, who will decide his fate, at this civil fraud trial, beginning really just minutes after he took the stand. At one point, Judge Arthur Engoron, threatened to dismiss Trump, from the witness stand, warning him not to give speeches, when he was being asked direct questions, yes-or-no questions.
At one point, the judge noted, quote, "This is not a political rally." He even urged Trump's lawyers, who were sitting there, in the courtroom, to intervene, saying, quote, "I beseech you to control him, if you can. If you can't, I will." It was only when Trump walked out of the courtroom, after a break that was ordered by the judge, to have a conversation with Trump, and his attorneys, that he zipped his lips. And I'm being literal here. He made the gesture, to reporters. He went back in the courtroom, after that.
And later, when his testimony did finally wrap, he had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it went very well. I think you were there and you listened, and you see what a scam this is. This is a case that should have never been brought.
The fraud was on behalf of the court.
I think you saw what I had to say today, and it was very conclusive. Everything we did was absolutely right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The courts did not agree. They actually ruled otherwise. Because the judge, who is the decision-maker here? There is no jury that was in the courtroom today. There's no jury in this entire case. They have already found Trump, his adult sons, and the company here, the Trump Organization, liable for persistent fraud, inflating the value of assets, in order to get more favorable loans.
There were key moments that stood out, in the chaos, today, though, that were important, for the Attorney General's case, including when Trump acknowledged, helping put together the financial documents that are at the heart of the matter.
When he was asked whether he had maintained accurate books and records from 2014, he told the court, quote, "I hope so."
I'm joined now by former Superior Court Judge, LaDoris Hazzard Cordell; and former federal prosecutor, and CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig.
And Judge, I am so glad you are here with me. It's kind of perfect timing, for what happened today.
LADORIS HAZZARD CORDELL, FORMER CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: Sure.
COLLINS: I mean, when the judge has to tell the defense counsel, to control their client, how far out of the scope of what usually happens is that?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Well, first of all, the Trump show, notwithstanding, the only important person, in that entire courtroom, it was not Trump. It was the judge.
There's no jury here. The judge is the finder of the facts. And the facts are determined by documentary evidence that the judge finds relevant, and also, testimony from witnesses, whom the judge finds are credible.
And Donald Trump did very little, if anything, to bolster his credibility, with this judge. So today, Trump's responses were inconsistent, incoherent. They were incriminating. They were irritating. And they were insulting.
So, when you take all of that together, this judge really had a lot on his hands. And there are some people, by the way, who say, "Why didn't the judge rein him in?" Trump was insulting the judge. He was ranting, doing all kinds of things.
And I think the judge played it right. Because this was a court trial. If this had been a jury, the judge would have had his hands full. He would have had to do everything he could, to keep the jurors, from being distracted, from the facts. But this is just the judge.
This judge has been on the bench, a long time. He's in his 70s, just as Trump is in his 70s. And he's a New Yorker. So, he gets people, and he understands that he's got to look at the facts only.
So what this judge did what, he let a lot of this stuff slide. And, in my view, it was the right thing to do, to get through the day, and to get the facts, because, in the end, that he makes the decision, about the future of the Trump brand.
And Trump identifies only through his extraordinary wealth. And if that falls apart, then Trump is a, nobody. No one has any reason to even listen to him. The only reason he's even out there is because of this so-called extraordinary wealth.
COLLINS: Well, and of course, he's running for president. And this is what helped propel him, to the White House, in 2016. I think that's why he's so angry, personally, about it. That's what we hear from sources.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
COLLINS: And Elie, there was so much chaos, in that courtroom, today. It was kind of unbelievable. But there were key moments, where Trump seemed to have acknowledgments, or admissions, that could be helpful to the Attorney General's case.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, through all the drama and the spectacle, this really was a debacle, in substance, I agree with the judge, for Donald Trump.
And there were a couple of key moments that stood out to me, where Donald Trump really made important concessions.
First of all, one of the things I was wondering going in is, is he going to defend these valuations? Is he going to say, "No, we actually got it right, when we said Mar-a-Lago was worth $500 million?" Turns out, he literally doubled down. He said, "No, that's actually worth a billion dollars," which is a surprising legal tack. The other thing he did was he simultaneously tried to distance himself, from the valuations. He said, "We're going to bring in the very big bankers." OK, I guess, he's saying these people from Mazars, these accounts, they're going to come in and explain it.
But in another really key point, to me the most important sentence of the day, Trump said something like, "I saw those statements. I reviewed them. And at times, I gave input." And it was a quick little moment. But that's something that I think the A.G.'s office is going to latch on to, because he acknowledges, he knew them, and he knew enough to even give input, into those statements.
So, I agree with you. I think his testimony was inherently contradictory, and a mess. But there are some real useful pieces, in there, for the A.G.'s office.
HAZZARD CORDELL: That's right.
COLLINS: Were there any parts of his testimony? Based on what you've said, you think the judge made the right call, and how he was acting.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
COLLINS: But are there any parts, where some were questioning, is this a strategy by Trump? Can they say, "Well, look, the judge is biased against me. Look at this."
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
COLLINS: Do you see any grounds for that?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes, well, first of all, I don't think what Trump did was a strategy. This is who this man is. He cannot control himself. He cannot control what comes out of his mouth.
And of so much of it was incoherent. At one point, he was asked about a deficit, on a piece of property, in 2013. And his response was to attack Letitia James, and say she's taking property, like the China does, and like they do in China in the communist country.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Makes no sense at all. This is who he is. So, I don't think it's a strategy.
The strategy that's needed is for his lawyers to figure out how in the world, to deal with a client, that they cannot control and cannot rein in.
COLLINS: I mean, his lawyers, though, weren't even really trying. I mean, they were -- Chris Kise was praising his answers, as brilliant.
When he came out, at the end, I was standing on the steps, and he said that Trump was one of the best witnesses, that he has represented, in his 30 years.
Do you think he really feels that way?
HONIG: No, I don't.
I mean, there's been a notable shift, by the way, in Chris Kise's tone. Have you noticed this? I mean, his prior filings were pretty down the middle, pretty straightforward.
But one thing you are taught, as a prosecutor, as a litigator, Judge knows this, is you always keep a poker face. You always act like you're winning, in front of the judge, in front of the jury.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
HONIG: There's no jury here. In front of the media. Because, what are you going to do? Hang your head, sulk? What is Chris Kise going to do? Come out and say, "Oh, my God, that was a disaster," right? He has to act like it went well, for the cameras, for his client.
But no, he can't possibly. He's a good lawyer. He can't possibly believe that went well, today.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
COLLINS: I mean, how do you think the judge responds to that? Because there was also a lot of back-and-forth just between the judge, mainly Chris Kise, other attorneys, where he did tell them to sit down.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
COLLINS: He asked them to explain the rules, to Trump, when they took that 10-minute break.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes. So, I mean, I was a trial court judge, for almost 20 years. And I had belligerent lawyers, and I had angry defendants. Nothing however like this.
And there was some reporting, about the judge's, even the nonverbal behavior. At some point, he was looking at the ceiling. He shook his head, when Trump was talking about evaluation of Mar-a-Lago. And so, what that says is that judges are human beings. We're human beings. And we have feelings.
And hearing all of this, this judge, I think, remarkably, contained himself, sufficiently enough to, to be able to get through the day, but also, to end up at a point, where there's not going to be a mistrial, or reversal, because of bias. This judge got through it, and he's going to have to get through it again, in more.
But I do not envy the judges that are coming up that have to preside over jury trials with Donald Trump. They're going to have their hands full.
COLLINS: Do you think this could signal what those are going to look like?
HONIG: Oh my gosh. HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
HONIG: It's a totally different ballgame, with the jury in there. You have to protect your jury, as the judge knows.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
HONIG: I mean, 90 percent of this nonsense, today, would have been shut down, immediately.
I want to see how you would have handled Donald Trump. That would have been worth seeing.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Oh, I can handle him.
HONIG: I'm sure you could.
But what the judge did today? And I agree with you, judge. It was smart. He didn't take the bait. He said -- he almost said, "Let him get it out of his system. He can vent. He can rant and rave. It's not going to influence my decision-making as a judge."
But when you got a jury there of 12, normal civilians, you have to protect them. You can't let them be exposed --
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
HONIG: -- to political rants, to extraneous comments. And when we get to that scenario, in a few months, with the criminal trials, the judges are going to have to exert a lot more control.
HAZZARD CORDELL: That's right.
COLLINS: You raise a very good question. And I'm curious. Put yourself, in Judge Engoron's robe.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Sure.
COLLINS: How would you have handled that today?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Well sure, so?
COLLINS: Would you have dismissed him from the stand?
HAZZARD CORDELL: Dismissed him from the? No, no, no, no, no. I mean, the object is to have a fair trial.
But whether or not I would permit? For example, Trump at one point -- the judge made a ruling. Trump pulled a piece of paper, out of his pocket, and wanted to read it. And the judge said, "That's not happening. No." And Trump's immediate response was shock. Meaning "Oh, yes, I'm really shocked at that."
Really condescending, deriding the judge. And I would not have tolerated that. It was like, you know, and I've had people make comments like that in court. And I'd say, "Excuse me. Did you say something? I want to make sure the record is clear." So, there are ways to deal with it.
Because, Donald Trump, quite frankly, he is a bully. And bullies are cowards. So, he's not going to -- he's not going to -- he'll go up to that line. But he's not going to go over that line. That's not going to happen. And it takes a judge, to be able to be up front and say, "You go ahead and go over that line and see what happens."
COLLINS: Well, I am also curious, because the other person, who had a large presence, today, was the Attorney General, Letitia James.
COLLINS: We saw her come out, and speak before. We also saw her come out and speak afterward.
COLLINS: Is that typical behavior for an Attorney General?
HONIG: No. And, I think, Letitia James is deserving of some criticism here.
First of all, let's be clear. Two things can be true. Donald Trump was involved in a massive fraud. And Letitia James politicized this case. She ran on it. That's not an opinion. That's a fact. She ran in 2018, "Vote for me. I'll nail Trump." She fundraised on it.
Today, she made brief speeches, before and after the testimony. She was tweeting throughout the testimony, saying, in her tweets, "He's lying." You cannot do that, as an Attorney General. She's not acting as a prosecutor, here. But she's enforcing the law. You can't tweet to the public, while someone's testifying, "That's a lie." I don't think that would be tolerated, under ordinary circumstances.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes. Social media is a problem.
HAZZARD CORDELL: It really is a problem. And I did not know that she was tweeting throughout.
I thought the statement she made, at the end of the case, when she came outside? I thought that was entirely appropriate. She didn't get into any details, and basically said, "We have a strong case." "The numbers are" --
HAZZARD CORDELL: -- "the numbers are what they are." I did not know that.
And no, social media, just so, I think, it's such a problem, when it comes to handling these trials. COLLINS: Yes. We tried to ask her questions. She did not take the bait on those. We'll see.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Yes.
COLLINS: Elie Honig.
Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, so great to have you here, in-person.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Thank you.
COLLINS: Thank you for joining us.
HAZZARD CORDELL: Sure.
COLLINS: Though today was unprecedented, in many ways, I should note Trump was actually not the first former U.S. President, to testify, on a witness stand, in his own defense.
Teddy Roosevelt actually did so twice, more than 100 years ago. First, in 1913, when he sued the editor of a newspaper, in Michigan, for libel. And again, two years later, when he was sued for libel, in New York. He ended up winning both cases, I'll note.
Meantime, coming up, a former Trump world insider takes us inside what is going on, in the 45th President's mind, right now. It's a big ask. But why she thinks he was so fired up, in the courtroom, today. That's next.
COLLINS: Defendant, candidate, and former President, the line between all of those different realities, for Donald Trump, was already pretty blurry. But in times it appeared to completely evaporate, inside that New York courtroom, today.
While the judge declared that this is not a political rally, Trump did cite the latest poll numbers, to the cameras that were stationed outside, as he walked in and out of the court, and as his campaign was firing off fundraising email after fundraising email.
Here with me tonight is Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was Donald Trump's White House Communications Director.
I mean, we've seen Trump, under oath, before, in some of his taped depositions. He's typically more muted, and has a bit more restraint.
But it seemed very clear, at the minute that he walked into that courtroom, today, he wasn't trying to appeal to the judge, or he was really trying to appeal to a larger political audience.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, very much so. I mean, the word I would use is "Defiant". And I think that was by design, to the degree, that there's ever a strategy, in anything Trump does.
I think, he's kind of realized, in this civil case, it's more or less a foregone conclusion. There's already been this summary judgment. There's not really a case for him to win. It's, how do I win in the court of public opinion.
And you know this. I know this well. When he has wrapped media attention on him, he just wants to dominate that attention that he has. He wants to look strong above anything else. The facts, at times, be damned.
So, I think that to the degree that if there was a strategy, it was, look tough, look defiant. Use the old playbook of "This is rigged. This is a witch-hunt," and try to command as much media attention as he can.
Because again, this is a day, he's not on the campaign trail. One of his chief opponents, Governor DeSantis, is being endorsed, by Kim Reynolds, in Iowa. But he did have the media's attention and American eyeballs on him.
COLLINS: And his campaign, obviously, they fundraise off of this. They were sending out emails, against the Attorney General, the moment he walked into court.
But then, I noticed that points later, they were taking quotes, where we were watching these exchanges, in real-time, and kind of quoting the judge, out of context, like the one, where he said, "I don't want to hear what Donald Trump has to say," he was saying about the tangents that Trump was going on. But they were quoting that and blasting it out to millions of people.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and that's exactly why it's important, to have reporters there, in the courtroom, to actually relay those facts, because if it was purely communicated, through Donald Trump and his attorneys, we wouldn't have the facts.
And we also saw Alina Habba, his attorney, give a kind of bizarre speech, outside of the courtroom, where she was talking about basic procedures and that you would have in a courtroom, and seemed like this was an offense against her, and the Donald Trump team.
They're going to do this. This is classic Donald Trump playbook. It's "Us versus them. I'm being indicted for you," is what he tries to convey to the American public.
And the reality is, is it might be working. We saw these latest New York Times/CNN numbers. He's beating Joe Biden in four of the five battleground States, and outperforming significantly, where he was at this time in 2020.
So, I think, he's relying on, there's going to be courtroom, and legal battle fatigue, of the American public. And so long as he looks on top of it, looks angry, and like looks like he's fighting, for something? That might work.
COLLINS: I mean, what of the other 2024 candidates, who are preparing to be, on the debate stage, this week, where he is not going to be, how do you think they view something like what happened today?
FARAH GRIFFIN: It's, I mean, it's the myth that these candidates, many of whom are my friends, are still kind of buying into, which is like he's suddenly going to be out of the running, and their moment's going to happen.
Like, he is careening to the nomination, we are what, two months out from Iowa, and I don't see something fundamentally changing. Right? Unless something were to take him out of the race, which nothing's going to. No court date is going to. Nothing is going to make him drop 40 points in the polls.
And can I say one thing, Kaitlan? What I couldn't help but think, obviously, today, he had to be there. This is a civil trial. And he was on the stand. He hasn't had to be in the courtroom, on these other dates he's chosen to show up.
FARAH GRIFFIN: He cared more about showing up because his business interests were being challenged than when he was actually being accused of sexual assault.
Name a person that you know who wouldn't be there, to defend themselves, hook, line, and sinker, against an allegation of sexual assault. He didn't even show up in the E. Jean Carroll case. That tells you all you need to know, about Donald Trump.
COLLINS: And given you worked for, with him, worked for him, I mean, what did you make of him, talking about his brand value, saying that that's something that should be part of the financial statements, which I think most bankers would say, is not what you can put, on a loan application.
FARAH GRIFFIN: He puts a lot of stock in the brand value. And I would argue that in many ways, I think the brand value has diminished, in recent years, and since his presidency, or at least in the mainstream, probably. But that is what it is.
The business is a brand. The presidency, for him, is a brand. It's not about the American public. It is about Donald Trump.
COLLINS: Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you very much.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Thank you.
COLLINS: Of course, all of this is going on, as we are also looking at those poll numbers that were just mentioned there.
Despite Trump's legal problems, despite the felony counts, he is leading the President, in some of the most crucial battleground States, according to this new polling out. It is causing Democrats, prominent ones, to sound the alarm.
We'll break down the numbers for you, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER: So, do you think he should drop out?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I -- Wolf, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Tonight, Democrats are responding to new warning signs, that President Biden's prospects, for a second term, are not looking great, as of this current snapshot that we have.
That includes a former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod. Listen to what he told CNN, tonight, when he was asked if he does believe that President Biden, given these latest numbers, should drop out of the 2024 race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AXELROD: I think he is entitled to make that decision on his own. And I've said many times, I don't think a primary challenge would be successful. It would only weaken him. So, I've not encouraged that.
But I think he has a record to be proud of. And I think history will be kind to Joe Biden, based on what he's done, in his first, in his term, as president. And, the question is, how will it end? Will it end with the defeat of Donald Trump or not? That's what he has to consider, because how it ends is important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Safe to say, the White House was not happy with those comments.
And I should note, there is no indication that President Biden plans to drop out of this race. His own former aides say as much.
But these new numbers, from the New York Times and the Siena College poll show that the incumbent President does have a lot of ground to make up, before the election, just 364 days away.
Here's why. Look at these polls. Right now, based on these numbers, Donald Trump is holding a solid lead, in four critical battleground States, that really could decide the fate, of the 2024 race. He is up in Nevada, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan. In both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the President and Trump, right now, are within the margin of error.
If you compare it to Biden's numbers, in 2020, he's down in some of those key States that put him in the White House, like Arizona, and Georgia.
To break down these numbers, here with me now, CNN Political Commentator, Karen Finney, who was the Communications Director, for the Democratic National Committee; and Kristen Soltis Anderson, a CNN Political Commentator, and Republican strategist, and pollster.
I'm so glad you're both here with me, on these numbers, tonight.
And Karen, I mean, when you look at them, it's serious erosion, in States, that Biden needs. What do you believe he needs to do to improve his standing, not just in these States, but also with key demographics, that put him in the White House?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Well, a couple of things.
Number one, let's remember, these public polls, they tell you what people said, when they were given a certain set of choices. But they don't tell you why people feel that way.
And I think that's one of the things they have to do is understand why do people feel that way? Because that's really where a campaign is, right? That is where you figure out what are the messages, what information is going to move voters, either towards President Biden, away from President -- if you're the other side, towards your candidate.
So, I think they need to better-understand what's going on with voters. What information, what we would call the informed vote, do people not have, about President Biden, that they need to know, to move those numbers?
But I think the other thing they have to do? And David actually touched on this a little bit earlier. They're got to take a really critical look at the fact that clearly, the way they're communicating, it's not getting through to voters. It's just not working. And so, they've got to figure out, what can we do differently, in terms of both, the campaign side, the White House side, to break through, with voters?
But the last thing I'll say is, the fact that it's a year out is a lifetime in politics. And I do think that when it is a binary choice, and we're really comparing Trump versus Biden, issue by issue, I think you're going to see those numbers shift.
COLLINS: Well, and Kristen, it's not so much that Trump has just grown leaps and bounds, with moderate voters, or suburban women. I mean, he kind of has this firm basement, this firm ceiling. He's not moving much. It's that Biden himself has gone down, in the key groups that helped put him in the White House. KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. If you look deep within the numbers, in these polls, it is voters of color, it is young voters, who, are overwhelmingly saying that they are unenthused, with Joe Biden's presidency.
And I will agree completely with Karen, that a year out from the election, nobody needs to panic over any poll numbers. But I do think that this poll does give us some clues as to why this is the case.
When voters in this poll were asked, "Do you think that Joe Biden's policies have helped or hurt you, personally, when it comes to your economic situation?" They say, "Hurt."
And then, when they ask people, to think back, on Trump's presidency, by almost a 20-point margin, they say that Trump's economic policies helped them.
Now again, there's plenty of time, for lots of ads on the airwaves, to persuade voters otherwise. But, right now, whether it's issues like the economy, or like national security, voters are looking back at Trump, and they're saying, "Hey, maybe it wasn't so bad."
COLLINS: And Karen, sometimes, when people see poll numbers that they don't like, campaigns, certainly, they either criticize them or say, "That's one poll. We've got a year to go."
Do you think though -- I mean, what do you think that the Biden campaign should be doing, right now? Because this is one poll. They're snapshots. They're not predictions.
COLLINS: But it's not the only poll that shows numbers like this.
FINNEY: No, that's exactly -- it's very true. I mean, we've seen this trend, for several months now. And again, that's why I think the key thing to do is take it seriously.
You don't have to freak out. Because you've got a year. But take it seriously, and try to understand what is it? Why would voters say they think these policies may have harmed them, instead of helped them? Again, that's where I go back to. Clearly, something, there's a disconnect.
And the other thing in the poll that I thought was interesting, that I think we'll be talking about, in the days and weeks to come, was the fact that when they then also asked people, whether if President -- former President Trump was convicted of a crime, would you vote for him? And that's where you saw a six-point shift back towards Biden.
So, that also tells us that the way these cases shake out, will certainly have an impact, particularly on Independent voters.
COLLINS: I'm so glad you brought that up, because that number stood out to me too. And when you look at it, so basically, it says, among the people, who are not voting for Joe Biden, 39 percent say they'll still vote for him, if he's -- or not voting for Joe Biden, say they'll still vote for Trump, if he's convicted and sentenced to prison, in the D.C. election interference case.
I mean, what did you make of those numbers, Kristen?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: This poll tells me that the two most popular politicians, in America, are generic Republican, and generic Democrat, because it really just shows that voters do not like the two choices, that they're being given.
Trump, when he is up against a quote-unquote, "Generic Democrat," anybody who's not Biden, he winds up losing by, I believe, eight points, in this poll. But similarly, if you flip out Donald Trump, and you put in a generic Republican, that generic Republican does great against Joe Biden.
So, voters are looking at this Trump-Biden rematch, and they're going, "Oh, please, no. This is the rematch from hell." And they are begging the parties to give them someone different. And it does not look like they're going to get their wish.
COLLINS: Yes. And I do think a generic Republican, sometimes, I think Kate Bedingfield called it a fever dream, for voters, where they think of this perfect candidate.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes.
COLLINS: That obviously doesn't exist, if you look at the field.
But Karen, one of the other things that stood out so much to me, as someone who covered President Biden, something that he has made a core theme, of his, is talking about democracy, the soul of the nation.
COLLINS: Restoring that, and protecting it going forward.
But when you look at these numbers, on this, there essentially wasn't -- when voters were asked, who would do a better job on it?
COLLINS: Biden was only three points ahead of Donald Trump, the person who incited an insurrection.
COLLINS: What does that say to you?
FINNEY: It's hard to know what that says. I mean, I think it may say to us, what Kristen was just saying that this is partially a way that voters are trying to tell us, they're just not happy with their choices. I think it also tells us though, that in addition to democracy, there will be other issues that clearly are going to be important to voters. And so, in terms of how you're communicating with voters.
Democracy is critical. No question. And, for some people, that is going to be the key issue they vote on. But for others, there are other slates of issues that intersect with democracy, that you've got to make sure you are, make -- that they have the information, to know where Joe Biden stands, versus Donald Trump, and why he is the better leader, for our country.
COLLINS: Kristen, what did you? I mean, here's the numbers here. It's Joe Biden, 48 percent, Donald Trump, 45 percent, on who would do a better job on democracy?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, bear in mind, if you're somebody, who's a Trump supporter, you look at that question, and you think, "Who's going to protect me against voter fraud?" Or "Who's going to protect me from Big Tech censoring my views?" I mean, that question means very different things to very different people.
And so, it can be hard to just say, well, one candidate has a leg up, on the issue of democracy, because one side of the aisle says that democracy, we've got to make sure that we're expanding voting access. Those are the sorts of things that Democrats in particular have focused on. While, Republicans have said no, we want to stop, what they claim is voter fraud. And so, these questions mean very different things to different people.
I think the issues that are a little clearer are an issue like abortion, where Republicans and Trump are at a big deficit to Joe Biden, or an issue like the economy, where they have a big advantage. Those are ones, where it's a little bit clearer, what voters are trying to tell us. And, right now, Republicans are hoping that the economy winds up kind of winning out as the issue that's driving the day.
COLLINS: Yes. And, Kristen, just before I let you go, I do want to ask you quickly. I mean, we just found out who is going to be on the debate stage, the next debate stage.
It is going to be Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott. Donald Trump obviously is qualified. But he has not been showing up to any of the debates.
How different is that debate going to look compared to the last two that we saw?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, what my hope is, is that these candidates realize that running for second place is not really running for anything useful, that they need to be running for first place. And that means they can't keep treating Donald Trump with kid gloves.
Now, maybe you don't want to go full Chris Christie, who has kind of taken as his campaign strategy to be, like almost openly hostile to Republican voters. It does not seem to be working out great for him at the polls.
But I'd like to see more of these candidates clearly answer the question, "Why you? And why not Donald Trump?" They've answered that first question a little bit. But they've been a little bit afraid to get too much into the second one. I hope that changes, tomorrow night.
COLLINS: Karen Finney, Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you both, for joining, tonight.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Thank you.
COLLINS: Ahead, we'll go to the ground, in Israel. Explosions and flares had been lighting up the sky, again tonight, over Gaza. As Israel's Prime Minister is giving a new interview, his first round with a U.S. outlet, I believe, since the war started, he's rejecting calls for a ceasefire. But being pressed on what a post-war Gaza could look like.
COLLINS: Tonight, we are seeing new explosions, and flares, over Gaza, as the Israel Defense Forces say it is closing in on Hamas' stronghold. And the entire Gaza strip has been cut in two.
The Hamas-controlled health ministry says that more than 10,000 people have died, in Gaza. Of course, CNN cannot confirm that number. But I should note that the White House has acknowledged, quote, "Many, many thousands of innocent people" have been killed.
All of this is coming, as we are now hearing, from the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, adamant, tonight, that there will not be a ceasefire, adding that it would only help Hamas militants, who brutally killed 1,400 people, in Israel, on October 7th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: There'll be no ceasefire, general ceasefire, in Gaza, without the release of our hostages.
As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there, we've had them before. I suppose, we'll check the circumstances, in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods, to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages to leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: If that phrase, "Tactical pauses," caught your ear, it did ours as well, because it is exactly what the White House put, in its read-out of the call, that President Biden had, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, today, saying that was something that they discussed.
Of course, all of this comes after the U.S. Military has done something it doesn't often do. Publicly announce that an American submarine, equipped with guided missiles, is now in the region. Clearly, they are trying to send a message of deterrence, directed at Iran, and its proxies, in the area.
All of this comes, as they have been seeking to prevent a wider conflict. That has been the key part of the U.S. message that you've heard in recent days, highlighted again, by the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who has been on another whirlwind trip, to the Middle East. Also, in addition to CIA Director, Bill Burns, who is now in the region, as well.
For a deeper perspective, on what's happening, tonight, I'm joined by Max Boot, a Senior Fellow, at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a National Security Columnist for The Post.
I'm curious what you think of what Prime Minister Netanyahu said there. He talked about maybe a one-hour pause. With what the IDF is doing, encircling Gaza City, which they say they've done successfully, now, is that something that's possible?
MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's certainly possible. I mean, they can certainly stand down their Military operation, anytime, to allow humanitarian supplies to go in. And that's probably a good idea, because that is something that the U.S. administration is pressing for.
But I do think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has a good point. And I say this as somebody, who is not a big fan of Netanyahu, and I think his leadership has generally been disastrous. But I think he does have a decent point, when he says they can't just have a ceasefire, and just stop fighting altogether, because that would essentially be rewarding Hamas, and giving Hamas a victory.
And a lot of fomenting (ph) folks are saying, Israel needs to stop the bombing. But if they -- if Israel stops the bombing, how do they fight Hamas? That's the dilemma they face. And there's no good answer to it.
COLLINS: So, he's saying, tactical pause. I mean, Secretary Blinken has been pushing for what they were calling a humanitarian pause --
COLLINS: -- a few days ago. I mean, they haven't gotten it yet.
BOOT: They have not gotten it yet.
COLLINS: Do you think they're any closer?
BOOT: Well, it sounds like, I mean, from what Netanyahu's saying, they probably are a little bit closer. But he's talking about pauses, measured in hours. I think the Administration has may be talking in days. But we'll see what happens. But clearly, Israel feels an imperative because they're reaching a critical point on the offensive, right now, because they've, encircled Gaza City. And now, they're trying to move in, and to go after the Hamas leadership, in what's going to be some very brutal and ugly urban warfare.
COLLINS: And you have spoken about something that has been a big question, I think that Israeli officials have acknowledged they don't have a plan for it, which is having a plan, before the ground operation started. Obviously, the ground operation has already started.
And Netanyahu was asked by David Muir, tonight, what that plan is, if they have one yet. This is what he told him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: Those who don't want to continue the way of Hamas. It certainly is not -- I think, Israel will, for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility, because we've seen what happens, when we don't have it.
What we have is the eruption of Hamas terror, on a scale, that we couldn't imagine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: What do you make of that answer?
BOOT: Well it's very interesting, because this is the first time, I've heard a senior Israeli leader, basically acknowledge that the endgame, in this operation, is going to be a renewed Israeli occupation, something that Israel thought that they were done with in 2005, when they pulled out of the Gaza Strip.
But I think, basically, Netanyahu is acknowledging a very sad and dismal reality, which is that if the IDF doesn't go in there, and maintain security, who is going to do that? There have been a lot of plans, rooted about for, an international peacekeeping force. But the reality is there are not a lot of countries that are eager to send their own troops into Gaza.
And ultimately, I think, the best end game would be for the Palestinian Authority, to reestablish control of the Gaza Strip. But they're a long way from being able to do that. And frankly, the Netanyahu government has been undermining the Palestinian Authority, making it hard to do that.
And so, I think what Netanyahu is saying is, that is the reality. The IDF is probably going to take ownership of the Gaza Strip. But it's the last thing that the people of Israel want. It's the last thing that the U.S. wants. It's the last thing the region wants. But that's probably going to be the result.
COLLINS: Yes, they've greatly weakened the PLA. And so, that is the question on what that looks like here.
The effects of this are being felt in Washington. I mean, the pressure, on the Administration, to figure out something here, is growing. They're facing all these calls, from world leaders, to find a way, to get a ceasefire, humanitarian pause, tactical pause, whatever you want to call it.
I mean, look at, over the weekend, you can see these pictures that happened. There were protesters, pro-Palestinian protesters, outside the White House. This is paint, I should note. But this is something that they were removing, from outside the White House, today, as all of these protesters were there, making very clear their feelings, on this, with this red graffiti.
I covered the White House for several years. There were always protesters out there. I don't know if I've ever seen anything like this, though.
BOOT: Yes. And I think it actually may relate to your previous segment, because you were talking about why is President Biden looking suddenly weak, against Trump? And part of it is he's lost support among young voters. And I think part of that may be attributed to this, the fact that a lot of younger progressives are more pro- Palestinian, rather than pro-Israel.
And so, Biden is getting a lot of blowback, from in his own party, for basically standing with Israel. And so, you're seeing the political pressures, at home, as well as in the region.
COLLINS: Yes. And Muslim Americans, obviously not a monolith, though we've heard from several of them saying --
COLLINS: -- if there's no ceasefire, they're not going to vote for Biden.
COLLINS: Max Boot, great perspective. Thank you, for your time, tonight.
BOOT: Thank you.
COLLINS: All right. It is also Election Day Eve. I know maybe that's confusing to some people, thinking isn't the election a year away? But there are big races tomorrow that could have implications, for 2024. We'll talk about the biggest ones, to keep an eye on. That's next.
COLLINS: Abortion rights are on the ballot, in Ohio. There's a major governor's race. And there is a key fight for control of a swing state. All of that is up for grabs, tomorrow, when it's Election Day, here in America. The results could also tell us a lot about the mood of the country, and maybe even serve as tea leaves, for that 2024 election.
Joining me now is CNN's Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten.
Harry, I think one of the biggest ones that people are watching, tomorrow, is this amendment in Ohio that would enshrine abortion rights, in the State's constitution. What are you -- I mean, what kind of impact would that have, depending on which way it goes? What could it tell us?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, it could tell us a lot.
Obviously, there was the proxy vote, back in August, right, which was essentially a proxy vote, where "No," which was the proximate for abortion rights, easily won, easily won.
And that is in line with what we've seen, throughout the nation, right, which is there have been six abortion rights ballot measures, that have taken place, since the Dobbs decision. And, in each case, the abortion rights side, won in those.
So, Ohio would be the seventh, which to me is an indication of how popular abortion rights are, in this country.
COLLINS: OK. But, on this issue, you have to vote, "Yes." It's one of the ones, where it's not -- you're not voting, "No." You're voting, "Yes."
COLLINS: I mean, there's -- seems to be real concern that the confusion, over the language, could end up how this vote looks.
ENTEN: Yes, there's confusion on that.
And what's notable is on the ballot, you don't actually have the amendment language. What you have is essentially a summary, by the GOP Secretary of State, on there, which a lot of those, who want this ballot measure to pass, say that that language is trying to skew things, in favor of being against abortion rights. Will that change the outcome? Look, we'll have to wait and see.
Obviously, there's a reason why the GOP Secretary of State is doing that. I've looked at some numbers, to suggest that it would probably still pass, if people are in fact in favor of abortion rights. But it just throws an extra element in there, just to confuse us, as we're trying to figure out what exactly is going to happen.
COLLINS: Yes. And it's called the same thing as the issue in August.
COLLINS: But the other thing?
ENTEN: Ballot measures are tough. COLLINS: Yes. I mean, God bless those voters, in Ohio.
But also, in Kentucky, we're watching the Governor there, a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, had a bunch of Republicans running, to run against him. It ended up being the Attorney General, Daniel Cameron.
COLLINS: What is the impact of that race?
ENTEN: Look, it's a very red state that has only elected, I believe, three Republican governors, in the last like 75 years. So, Andy Beshear is running in a very red state that Donald Trump won, I think, by 26 points. At this point, it looks like a very tight race.
I basically looked at historical data. And the chances of Beshear holding on, winning a second term, is about 60 percent. That is well within any margin of error, right?
ENTEN: Daniel Cameron has a real shot in this race. But at this particular point, it seems like Beshear would hold on, and give Democrats at least some leg, in a very red state.
COLLINS: What else are you watching tomorrow?
ENTEN: Virginia. I mean, Virginia is the other thing, I'm watching, right? We have a Republican governor there. The House of the Delegates is controlled by Republicans. The State Senate is controlled by Democrats.
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up. All 40 seats in the State Senate are up. And historically speaking, the party that wins the State Senate, at least the last few cycles, has done very, very well in the next year's presidential race. So, it's one of those tea leaves that you teased at in the end show.
COLLINS: And marijuana as well, right?
ENTEN: Marijuana as well. There's a marijuana ballot measure, in Ohio. Look, marijuana is something that has tended to do even better than Democrats have done. Right now, I'm probably expecting that to pass. It's really only failed, in some very, very red States. Ohio is a red state, but not that red, just quite yet.
COLLINS: All right. Harry Enten, we'll check back in with you, tomorrow, to see if any your predictions pan out.
ENTEN: We'll see. We'll see. I'm not Nostradamus. I'm just a man.
COLLINS: We know. Harry Enten, thank you.
And tomorrow, you can watch our Special Election Day coverage. I'll be co-anchoring it, to kick it off, with Wolf Blitzer. That starts at 4 PM Eastern, tomorrow.
Now tonight, this might be the best job, in the news business, apart from this one right here. America's first full-time Taylor Swift reporter, we'll tell you who it is, right after this.
COLLINS: Tonight, the wildest dreams, of a journalist, and Taylor Swift fan, have now become a reality.
Bryan West is America's first dedicated Taylor Swift reporter, for Gannett, America's largest newspaper chain. West is a veteran journalist and two-time Emmy winner, I should note.
And the Vice President of Gannett's Local News added this about the candidate search. And pay attention. They said, when "We were very pleased with the caliber of the pool that we had... It ran the gamut from veteran hard-news reporters, including at least one very established White House reporter, to Swifties who have blogs and are influencers."
To be clear, I am not that former White House Reporter, who applied for that job. But has anyone seen Wolf Blitzer, lately?
Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.
Abby Phillip and "CNN NEWS NIGHT" starts, right now.