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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Supreme Court To Rule On Trump's Immunity by December 20; Smith's Request Puts Embattled Supreme Court In Spotlight; Zelenskyy On Capitol Hill Seeking More War Funding. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 12, 2023 - 11:00:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Ukraine's President hoping for a warm welcome on a cold day in Washington, Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Capitol

Hill, taking his case for aid straight to skeptical lawmakers before meeting with President Joe Biden. We're going to speak to Democratic

Senator Jeff Merkley about that.

And Mr. Smith goes to the Supreme Court. The Special Counsel asks for an expedited decision about whether Donald Trump has presidential immunity in

his election subversion case. How it will play out for the Republican frontrunner in the middle of the GOP primary season?

Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching the United States and around the world. It's 11a.m. here in Washington, Tuesday,

December 12, just 34 days until the Iowa caucuses, 328 days until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.

Happening right now, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy here in Washington, speaking with lawmakers on Capitol Hill before he heads to the

White House to meet President Biden. His visit comes with U.S. aid to Ukraine stalled in Congress, as he tries to win over American support for

Ukraine's war against Russia. We're going to be tracking this news throughout the hour.

But first, the Supreme Court considering Special Counsel Jack Smith's request to decide whether Donald Trump has any immunity in his federal

election subversion case. Lawyers for Trump have argued that the former President's alleged actions were part of his official duties at the time.

I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Joey Jackson, and Senior Supreme Court Analyst, Joan Biskupic. Let's dig right into this. And Joan, I want

to come to you in a second in terms of how the Supreme Court is likely to handle this. But, Joey, can you first set the stage for us as to why it is

that this question of presidential immunity is one that needs to be determined at all in this case?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, & CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, Kasie. It's very important. And the significance of it is that we have an

impending trial. Right? There is a trial scheduled for March before Judge Chutkan, and it relates to issues with respect to presidential conduct,

right? What did he do in terms of the subversion of the election? And so, as a result of that, before you get to the trial, if the President has

immunity, the argument is there should be no trial, and there would be no need for a trial. And so, it's significant because prior, right, to

engaging, that is a jury and going forward, you have to have that critical question answered.

Now, from the President's perspective, I think there was some thought in filing the papers for immunity to indicate that everything should be

dismissed because we have immunity, which means in English, I'm untouchable, is that this could occasion delay. Right? We know that the

President had wanted to delay the matter as long as he could. But, Jack Smith, as we see there, has said, look, Supreme Court, I need you to

entertain this and entertain it immediately. And it seems as though the Supreme Court is poised to do that.

And so, the question will then become when the Supreme Court gets the issue on the question, what will they do with the Judge Chutkan's ruling in which

he said, look, we don't represent or do we elect kings or monarchs? We elect a President, and a President is not above the law. The President is

subjected to the Constitution and the rule of law, like everyone else, by the way, and there is no support within the Constitution itself for any

immunity, in addition to a number of other reasons and bases as to why the judge viewed immunity as a non-starter.

So, in light of that, we would and could get to the Supreme Court. I think it's a determination that they could reach quickly, and that the trial

should be able to proceed in order in March, if all things fall in place.

HUNT: We have the best person available to ask about that. Joan, you are -- have just such deep knowledge of how the Supreme Court functions, not only

from a technical and process perspective, but from the perspective that it is made up of a group of people who have been buffeted like never before in

recent years by political wins. How do you see the court conceiving of this problem, handling these initial steps here as this plays out in this very

public way?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, good to be with you, Kasie. And you're right. This is going to be as much a test of the Supreme

Court as it is of Jack Smith's prosecution of Donald Trump. The justices, back in 2020, rejected baseless claims brought by Trump's allies to the

2020 election results, but they were constantly, constantly ensnarled in litigation that involves Donald Trump's defense of his administration

policies, and Donald Trump's defense of his own business dealings, remember on the tax and other business records.


And those cases were always very difficult for the justices. Donald Trump tried to politicize the judiciary. He thought he could use it for his own

ends. And in fact, when he would lose in lower courts, he always said, see you at the Supreme Court. So, this case is coming to a set of justices who

are wary of Donald Trump, but many of whom also have relationships with Donald Trump. Three were appointed by the former President, and one

Clarence Thomas has a wife who helped Donald Trump tried to press his case that he won the 2020 election.

So, the key question right now to use your device at the top of the hour about the countdown clock, we're just eight days from when Donald Trump's

lawyers are going to submit their response to the justices about whether this should be taken up by the Supreme Court at this time, or go to an

Intermediate Court, because the justices could reject this. And if they do, Kasie, it will mean more delay for this this trial, and probably what

Donald Trump wants is more delay.

But, right now, that action and every action they take down the road as they assess this very weighty constitutional question will be a test of the

justices, and it will either feed into the current public opinion that -- where public approval polls are at record lows right now for the court,

because of the way they've overturned precedent and the way they've been ensnarled in various ethics controversies. Or alternatively, the court

could do something that kind of -- that raises its stature and brings, frankly, more respect to the court depending on what they do, irrespective

of which side prevails here.

But, it's -- I cannot overstate the weight of the constitutional question for these justices, and how much their own reputation is at stake along

with the Smith prosecution.

HUNT: Yeah. And well, I'm sure you're going to be covering it every step of the way. Joan Biskupic, Joey Jackson, thank you both --

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

HUNT: -- for being here today.

We're going to dive into all of this with today's panel. Seung Min Kim, CNN Political Analyst and a White House Reporter with the Associated Press;

Jonathan Kott, a former Top Aide to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, also a partner at Capitol Counsel, and Alice Stewart, CNN Political Commentator

and a Republican Strategist who served as Communications Director for Senator Ted Cruz, also co-host of the podcast "Hot Mics from Left to

Right". Thank you all for being here.

Alice Stewart, this is a -- in many ways -- it's almost a no win situation for the Supreme Court, we're being honest. It seems like half the country

is set to potentially turn on them depending on how they handle this. They have been seen as much more political in recent years. If in fact they

decide against Donald Trump in this and they decide that he is not immune, how does that play among the Republican base? And I mean, I think we've all

been taught that the Supreme Court certainly shouldn't worry about that. But, it doesn't mean that they're not doing it.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. And look, this will be a great test or a strong test to see how much the

Supreme Court can put the blinders on, and focus just on the legal aspect here and not let politics play into their decision. But, we all know that

will be extremely difficult. Look, politically speaking for Donald Trump, his base has doubled down. His base believes the nonsense that this was a

political witch hunt and Jack Smith and every indictment is going after him because he is a political adversary. But, there are many people, many

voters out there who -- six in 10 say I'm going to see where these cases go, and I want to see what kind of legal jeopardy he sends before I cast my


And then, the timeline on this is very important. Jack Smith realizes this case he wants to try would go March 5. That is one -- or March 4, one day

before Super Tuesday.

HUNT: Let's put that calendar.

STEWART: And that's a really critical component. If things go on track, March 4 is the day this trial would start, and obviously would take some

time. The next day is Super Tuesday, a huge day for Republican voters to cast their ballots for or against Donald Trump. And the calendar here is a

critical component.

HUNT: Yes.

STEWART: And the more we can keep it on track, the better for voters.

HUNT: Let me just push pause here because everyone can see it now up on the screen, in orange there, in March 2024, that's Super Tuesday. The election

subversion case, as it's set right now, set to take place one day before, and of course, the speculation that Trump is attempting to delay this as

far as possible into and closing in on the election season.

HUNT: Jonathan Kott, I mean, this -- I mean, it really does when you look at this jam-packed calendar, look as though Republicans are currently on

track to nominate someone who then is going to be tried on numerous felonies for the remaining months, putting us in a potentially

unprecedented situation. Meanwhile, of course, President Biden facing his own challenges throughout this. But, it does seem to me like Democrats are

betting on this to take care of the Trump problem for them. Is that what's going on?

JONATHAN KOTT, FORMER AIDE TO SENATOR JOE MANCHIN, & PARTNER, CAPITOL COUNSEL: I don't know if we're betting on that. I think we'd like an answer

to all of these cases before the more origin date, not Super Tuesday, the actual day of the election.


I think it's important for voters to know whether Donald Trump might be convicted of potentially being a domestic terrorist, somebody who tried to

overthrow the government before voters go to vote. I don't think it has any impact on the primary. Republicans seem to be perfectly fine with

supporting a guy who is under four indictments. In fact, I think his poll numbers have gone up each time he gets indicted. So, I think he uses these

almost as campaign events. He is certainly using the one in New York as a campaign event. So, I don't think it's for Democrats. It's more what the

country deserves before they go to vote in November.

I think his biggest problem is the Georgia case, because if you're running an election in Georgia, and all the local news everyday leading up to it is

about a case where you tried to steal the election in that state, no amount of ads you can run are going to overcome what The Atlanta Journal-

Constitution runs on their front page every morning.

HUNT: Well, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be thrilled to hear you say that. I don't know. Many local newspapers.

KOTT: Ad makers might not be.

HUNT: Probably not. Seung Min Kim, to John's point, put that calendar backup, the Fulton County, they've proposed that they are starting their

trial in August of 2024. You covered the White House, the Biden campaign. You've covered Capitol Hill. It's -- I almost find it difficult to craft

questions about what we're facing here just because it is so unbelievably unprecedented. But, how are aides to President Biden thinking about this

period that's looming?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS, & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that you're seeing a more aggressive tag as of late

coming from Joe Biden. And I think that's a lot of the recognition, obviously, among people close to Biden that Trump, barring some crazy last

minute curveball in the Republican primary contest, he is going to be Joe Biden's general election challenger.

And I do think just talking to senior Democrats privately, they feel that the insanity of the Trump era and also just the gravity of these 91

criminal charges spaced out in these four criminal indictments, not to mention the civil cases that he is going through right now, that's kind of

faded weirdly from public's minds, because they are so focused -- for people following politics, they are looking at what Joe Biden is doing in

office, what -- how the President's policies are affecting them.

They feel that -- Democrats, some Democrats privately feel that people have kind of forgotten about Trump. So, they are very focused on reminding

people what this man is, and in their view, this is someone who is a threat to democracy. President Biden has said that repeatedly, particularly as of

late. This is someone -- they've warned about the various policies that he would resurrect should he be back in the White House in 2025. That is a

contrast --

HUNT: Yeah.

KIM: -- that they're focused on making and really ramping that up right now.

HUNT: Alice, what does this -- I mean, what are Republicans going to do if some of these -- if in fact the schedule stays the same and Donald Trump is

convicted on some of these before the convention?

STEWART: Well, look, I mean, his base is not going anywhere. To John's point, some people are doubling down on this. And his response to Jack

Smith seeking this U.S. Supreme Court ruling is classic, saying, oh, they're trying to subvert the process, and they're trying to throw a Hail

Mary pass and rush this sham case through. That's nonsense. He is trying to make sure that he can't move forward if they're going to move forward.

But, look, his base is going to come out and support him, whether he is convicted, whether he is thrown underneath the jail, but there are a lot --

KOTT: True people on Fifth Avenue.

STEWART: Yeah, exactly.

HUNT: As he said.

STEWART: But, there are a lot of rational Republicans and independent voters who are going to be critical in the general election that are not

going to support him. But, unfortunately, looking at these polls, he has a good chance in the primary as it stands right now --

HUNT: Right.

STEWART: -- because people believe what he says that this is a witch hunt, and this is weaponization of the DoJ because they see him as a threat to

Joe Biden.

HUNT: Well, and the reality is Super Tuesday is one day after this all starts in the primary. It could easily be locked up.


HUNT: I mean, the number of states that vote. Briefly, John Kott, hypothetically, wouldn't it be better for Democrats to be able to beat

President Trump just fair and square out in an election, rather have him taken off the field?

KOTT: Oh, yeah. I think that's absolutely what they're going to do. I don't think there is any chance Donald Trump gets taken off the field. If he is

convicted, he will appeal. He can be convicted and still run. I think he would run from prison. That was his point. I'm not sure he wouldn't get 35

percent of his base still. So, that's what Democrats intend.

HUNT: You mean the 35 percent of the country that's presently his base.

KOTT: Yeah.

HUNT: Yeah.

KOTT: That is already supporting him. I think what Democrats intend to do is spend the time from March to November reminding voters what Donald Trump

did and how crazy it actually was with him in office. And I think you're going to see a billion dollars in ad spending on that, because the voters

right now that Donald Trump is winning in these polls are the voters who are sort of low information voter, aren't engaged every day, aren't the

ones waking up every morning and watching CNN and tuning into the news, as we do. But, most of the country isn't.


So, I think they've forgotten what a Donald Trump presidency was like. The Biden campaign is going to remind them.

HUNT: And a lot of Trump voters certainly --

KOTT: Yeah.

HUNT: -- I mean a lot of them are -- told us in our most recent polls that they didn't even vote in 2020.

KOTT: Yep.

HUNT: So, there you go. All right. We want to get to a quick update from the campaign trail, because sources tell CNN that New Hampshire Governor

Chris Sununu is set to endorse Nikki Haley for President at a rally tonight in Manchester. Sununu is a moderate Republican and has long sought to

prevent Donald Trump from getting the party's presidential nomination. He has appeared with nearly all of the challengers in the GOP field before

deciding on Haley in recent days. Of course, if this shakes up this -- if Haley -- if Nikki Haley is going to shake up this race, it's going to be in

New Hampshire, and this could -- this endorsement could be something that no just her in -- what she would see as the right direction there.

All right. Still ahead here, we're going to talk to a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who says that bailing on Ukraine would be one

of the biggest foreign policy mistakes the United States could make.


HUNT: Welcome back. Let's go now to Capitol Hill where we are joined by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. He sits on the Senate Foreign Relations

Committee. Senator, thank you very much for being on the program today.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): You bet. Good to be with you.

HUNT: So, let's start with the all-senators meeting that just wrapped up with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. What did he have to say

to you? What did you hear from him?

MERKLEY: Well, certainly, he is saying this matters now that if the United States does not provide additional aid, they will not be able to continue

to resist the Russian invasion in the fashion that they have. They certainly won't be able to make any progress. He is really laying down the

urgency and noting right at the beginning that if Russia makes progress invading Ukraine or overruns Ukraine, that the United States is going to be

facing, a lot of countries facing more aggression from Russia, and this is a place the world doesn't want to go.


HUNT: Senator, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, came out after the meeting and said that it's important to prevent anyone who is a surrogate

of Putin from influencing the process. Who is he referring to?

MERKLEY: Well, I don't know who he is referring to. But, I'll tell you this, that individuals who are saying it is OK for Russia to overrun

Ukraine, those are folks who are following in Chamberlain's footsteps. Chamberlain went to Germany. He spoke with Hitler. He said, we will just

let you take a big slice of Czechoslovakia and we'll just declare peace in our time and assume that that will be the end of it. That is simply wrong.

This would not be the end of it. Appeasement is not the right strategy. Following Churchill's example is the wrong approach. We must stand up to

Putin in the same fashion that we should have stood up -- Chamberlain should have stood up to Hitler.

HUNT: Do you feel as though your Republican counterparts are appeasing Putin in the same way that Chamberlain appeased Hitler?

MERKLEY: Those who are opposing, those who are opposing aid to Ukraine, are falling into the same mistake Chamberlain made. Yes. But, let me point out,

many of my Republican colleagues are very supportive of aid to Ukraine. That is why we need to get this done, and realize that not only would it be

a failure in terms of supporting the democracy and freedom in Ukraine against the oppression and autocracy of Russia, in addition, this would

fracture the Atlantic Alliance. This would put big cracks in NATO. This would be the biggest foreign policy mistake we could possibly make.

HUNT: So, Senator, the reason it's delayed is because it has been tied up with border security policy changes that Republicans are demanding as

necessary in order for them to be willing to support a package that includes aid for Ukraine and also for Israel. I want to show you a little

bit of what Senator James Lankford had to say about potentially pulling these apart to my colleague Manu Raju a little bit earlier this week.



SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Quite frankly, we're not going to go help other countries and not look at actually what's happening in the United States

and our national security risk, when we're all keenly aware of the national security risk as well.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, if he says can you just approve Ukraine aid, could you punt on immigration and approve?

LANKFORD: No, no, no.


HUNT: Was it a mistake to tie these issues together?

MERKLEY: Well, listen, in any chamber, any group, any party, can say we want to tie these things together. And I think that it's not a mistake. I

think that Biden has said, look, I want to invest some $13 billion to $14 billion, and I want to be able to make sure that everyone has a credible

fear interview. We want to make sure that asylum hearings are done in a responsible bases. We know right now that in that package is enormous

support for making the border far more sealed, far more effective. And so, really, what we're hearing from Republicans is they want to preserve the

border as an issue for November, next November for the election. They want to keep disrupting the ability to get to a reasonable agreement.

Biden has put out billions and billions of dollars to do the very things that Republicans and Democrats have called for. And now, Republicans are

trying to bust that up to preserve a presidential issue. That is just wrong.

HUNT: Are you comfortable with some of the things that President Biden has said he is willing to do and many of them would kind of reshape the system

so that it looks a little bit more like how it looked right after -- right before Donald Trump was leaving office? There were some progressives who

put out a statement calling some of these changes unconscionable. Do you agree with them, or do you agree with the President?

MERKLEY: Well, there are a bunch of H.R. 2 House proposals that are unconscionable, that would basically say the America will be sealed and we

will hurt people up in America and we will ship them out of this country. We will become an authoritarian state. Those things are unacceptable. What

is acceptable is security at the border. The rule of law is certainly important, having a case manager for every family, because we know that 99

percent of the time they will show up for hearings if they have a case manager, proceeding to have asylum hearings within about a six-month period

rather than having a backlog that lasts for years. There is so much we agree on here. It's just outrageous far right authoritarian style proposals

that are being used to disrupt getting to an agreement on the floor.


HUNT: Let me ask you about politics more broadly since we are really heading straight for 2024 here in just a handful of weeks now. Some new CNN

polling out of critical battleground states like Michigan and Georgia is showing that there is a real deficit among young voters, for Democrats,

that they were actually breaking for Trump in some of this polling. How do you read that? And what do you think Democrats in the White House, the

Biden campaign need to do differently?

MERKLEY: Well, I know that many young folks are very concerned about climate policy. They want to see us make that transition from fossil fuels

to renewables. And they've been very upset about the Biden administration continuously green lighting new fossil projects, including, for example,

the Willow project in Alaska and the Mountain Valley pipeline. And furthermore, when these things are done by the administration, they

undermine our authentic ability to have a powerful international voice. America has to lead on this issue by the power of their example. And right

now, our example is to keep doing more fossil fuels. That means the future for these young folks is in deep peril.

And I'm really encouraging, as I have throughout the last three years, encouraging Biden administration to pivot and really drive the transition

to renewables. And of course, we know that young folks are very concerned about reproductive rights, are very concerned about the cost of college.

They don't think they'll ever be able to buy a house. Homeownership is out of reach. These are issues that have to be addressed in the presidential

campaign to inspire and mobilize and support the aspirations of our youngest Americans.

HUNT: All right. Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much for spending some time with us today, sir. I really appreciate it.

MERKLEY: So good to be with you, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. I hope you'll come back soon.

All right. Coming up here, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with President Joe Biden today. We're going to have a live report from the

White House on what to expect, up next.




HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We are live in Washington. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy just hours away from

meeting President Joe Biden at the White House, after appealing directly to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for more funding. Ukraine remains locked in a

bitter war for survival with Russia as they head into the winter. But, the focus of U.S. Military aid has largely shifted to Israel, and declassified

intelligence indicates the Kremlin is counting on the West to drop its support for Kyiv. Congress, of course, remains deeply divided on the

Ukrainian aid package. Republicans saying that they want a deal tied to major border security policy changes, and the Democrats haven't gone far

enough with that.

CNN's is Kevin Liptak is live for us at the White House. Kevin, good to see you. The White House has also been involved in the negotiations. How do

they see it from their end of Pennsylvania Avenue?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, President Biden has said that he is willing to make significant compromises when it comes to

those border rules, because at the end of the day, they believe that this Ukraine aid will dry up by the end of the year. And they're warning of

fairly dire consequences if Congress does not approve the $60 billion that President Biden has requested. But, as Zelenskyy makes his way through

Capitol Hill, as he makes his way here later today, I think that the prospects that this is going to break the impasse are pretty low.

Republicans do seem dug in on the idea of linking these two things together. And Congress is set to leave by the end of the week. There is no

real prospect that they will be able to make that deadline, and I think that that is causing real concern at the White House about what happens

going forward.

And for Zelenskyy, the problem is that this is not necessarily something that he will be able to unlock with his own appeals. He doesn't have any

say over the U.S. southern border. And so, even though the White House believes that he is sort of his own best advocate when it comes to

providing Ukraine with more assistance, it is this question of the border that is going to have to be solved before anything can get done on Ukraine,

and that is causing some real concern at the White House. And so, you have seen Zelenskyy today meeting with senators, the discussions behind the

scene. A lot of Republicans raised their concerns with him about corruption in Ukraine. He tried to alleviate some of those concerns. He is also

meeting with the House Speaker Mike Johnson before he comes over here to the White House.

And it really is such a different moment than the last time he was here, the last two times he was here, when he was sort of welcomed with this

bipartisan show of commitment. There are now real concerns about how strong that commitment can be going forward, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Kevin Liptak for us at the White House. Kevin, thanks very much for that report.

My panel is back with me. And John Kott, I want to show you, Senator Schumer came and spoke. He is the only leader we've heard from since these

meetings sort of got underway this morning. Take a look at a little bit of what Schumer had to say earlier.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): He made it clear, and we all made it clear that if we lose, Putin wins, and this will be very, very dangerous for the

United States. So, we cannot let Putin influence through any surrogate what is -- what we need to do for Ukraine. He also made one other point. He

needs the aid quickly. If we don't give the aid quickly, several things will happen. First, the military needs. But, second, Europe and many other

allies will say, what is going on here. They're not giving them the aid.


HUNT: So, John, it almost seems like a foregone conclusion at this point that the timing of this is not going to be what Zelenskyy is clearly is

telling senators that he wants. What is going on behind the scenes? Why is it that this border security negotiation is failing, and therefore bringing

down Ukraine and Israel aid?

KOTT: I think the border security is failing because we failed at it for 20 years. I mean, I remember, in 2013, we passed a bill with 67 votes in the

Senate, and it never got a vote in the House because Eric Cantor lost his primary and John Boehner wouldn't bring to the floor because of politics.

This is continuing to happen. Congress has failed on this for 20 years. I also think the two people negotiating may not be the right two people. You

may need border state members to do it, or people who have cut deals in the past to do this. So, it's unfortunate. But, I think as Congress kicks the

can down the road on almost every issue, if we do it on Ukraine, there is actual lives at risk. There is actual geopolitical changes.

I'm old enough to remember when Democrats made fun of Mitt Romney for saying Russia was our largest geopolitical foe.

HUNT: Yep.

KOTT: Maybe Senator Romney should go hand out some history books in today's caucus lunch and explain to them what happens when we let an authoritarian

dictator rule throughout Europe and we don't do anything.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, I think that the -- what's happened in the Republican base, and Alice, I think you pick up on this in some of your focus grouping

and things, and our polls show that support for Ukraine is just -- has been cratering over the summer basically, and you're seeing some of that kind of

reflected here.


We also shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this package has aid for Israel in it, which is something that Republicans are -- I mean, even if

they have a problem with Ukraine, even if it's currently 50:50 among Republicans in the Senate, let's say half of them are nervous about it, the

other half would be happy to do it, Israel is something that unites all of them, and they're putting off all of this over border security. Why?

STEWART: It's a risk. It's a very calculated risk. But, speaking with Republicans, look, there are a few things they hold true at the same time.

They understand, as they have said in the past, this money for Ukraine, it's not charity. It's an investment in democracy. And if Ukraine were to

lose here, democracy in the region would go down. And what would be next? Russia would just continue to expand and go after democracy-loving

countries. The same with Israel. If Israel were to lose and not be able to push back against Hamas, that is a tremendous defeat for Israel.

But, the Republicans say, look, we can engage in this investment, but it's not a bottomless pit. We need to make sure that we are responsible with

this money. And look, we're coming up on two years since the Russia invasion of Ukraine, two years of funding Ukraine. And remember --

HUNT: Yeah.

STEWART: -- Republicans say, look, I'm concerned about their border. But, I am more concerned about our border. Our southern border is porous, and

there is problems. We have an increasing number of undocumented migrants coming into this country. And we need to work on securing our border, not

exclusive of, but in addition to and with making sure that we provide funding to Ukraine and Israel. And they're dug in. They're not going to

give up. So, there has to be some concessions on the part of this administration and Democrats to include more U.S. border funding if they

want to get this money for Ukraine.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, so, speaking of Republicans, let's just show House Speaker Mike Johnson, he is a critical player, perhaps the critical player

in whether or not this actually happens, what he had to say about this earlier this week. Watch.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): My message to him will be the same as it's been to the President and to Senator Schumer and all of our colleagues, is that

we understand the crisis there. I understand the necessity of ensuring that Vladimir Putin does not prevail in Ukraine and march through Europe. I'm

one who believes he would probably go to the Balkans or somewhere else next. And so, this is an important battle for all the reasons we know. But,

I don't think it is a radical proposition to say that if we're going to have a national security supplemental package, it ought to begin with our

own national security first.


HUNT: He was of course talking about how he was going to approach Zelenskyy in today's meetings. Seung Min, I mean, you've covered Congress for a long

time, so have I. John has worked there. Alice, you've worked for people who've served in Congress. I think all of us know that absent a deadline,

they're incapable of doing anything. If we punt this past Christmas, what is the next deadline for them to actually get something done here?

KIM: Well, there is really technically no deadline, which is why you've seen White House officials, and first with John Kirby of the National

Security Council, and then formally through Shalanda Young, the Director of the Office of Management Budget, actually give Congress a deadline. They

say, if we go past this calendar year without replenishing this aid, this is going to be existentially bad. They were trying to give that deadline

for Congress, because we know that otherwise, absent that, lawmakers can't work.

HUNT: They can't turn their homework on time if they (inaudible).

KIM: They definitely can't. They keep pushing it.


KOTT: We even put deadlines on ourselves, just so we know we can hopefully meet it, and then we kick that can down the road.

HUNT: Well, then you change the deadline.

KOTT: Yeah. And then we change the deadline. But, to your point, like the White House smartly put out, hey, if you don't do it by this day, this is

what happens in war. This isn't a, oh, there'll be some FAA agents who don't go into work or some people will be deemed non-essential. Like this

means we lose a war.

HUNT: Right.

KIM: And I feel like there is more alignment with the White House and Republicans. And it feels like when you look at just the partisan dynamics

on Capitol Hill, because what Speaker Johnson just said about how we believe border security is national security, which is why it should be

lumped into this national security supplemental. People have forgotten that it was actually the White House who grouped those issues together when they

sent that emergency spending requests to Capitol Hill, putting all those issues together. That was an implicit sort of wink wink nudge nudge from

the Biden administration to lawmakers saying like, we're OK if you do something on the border here. And they've been open to policy changes all


President Biden explicitly said he is willing to compromise on the border. I think once he said that, and once lawmakers started to see kind of the

impact of what these changes could be, you have the advocacy community very concerned about these potential changes. You have progressive lawmakers

speaking out, and now everyone seems to be kind of going into their partisan corners.

HUNT: Yeah. No. It's -- and we're careening toward Christmas, and then in the New Year, we've got Iowa, New Hampshire. Calendar is going to get away

from everyone.


Not looking great for any of it, if you are interested in seeing Ukraine or Israel get more money from the United States.

All right. Up next here, the Texas Supreme Court says no to a woman trying to get an emergency abortion that her doctor says she needs. And now, she

is taking a drastic required step to protect her health.


HUNT: Welcome back. In what could prove to be a landmark case in post-Roe America, a pregnant mother of two, Kate Cox, left her home state of Texas

to get an emergency abortion elsewhere. That's after the Texas Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling allowing Cox to get an abortion 21

weeks into her pregnancy. Her doctor said the fetus had a fatal condition and carrying the pregnancy to term would pose a threat to her and her

future fertility. The higher court ruled her health was not at risk, saying "No one disputes that Ms. Cox's pregnancy has been extremely complicated.

Any parent would be devastated to learn of their unborn child's trisomy 18 diagnosis. Some difficulties in pregnancy, however, even serious ones, do

not pose the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses."

Let's bring back our panel, Seung Min Kim, Alice Stewart, and John Kott, all still with us.

Alice, I want to start with you on this, because honestly, this is the Democrats' campaign messaging encapsulated in a single case, and we've seen

it work with the electorate in the last handful of elections where this is an elected official, in this case, Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of the

State of Texas, deliberately intervening in between a woman and her doctor. That's just the facts of what's going on here. How does this look for

voters who, especially independent voters, who are going to be answering big questions on the ballot in 2024?

STEWART: Well, Kasie, we've already seen the impact of what Roe v. Wade has done for independent voters. Every time abortion is the single issue on a

ballot in terms of a providing protections for abortions, the abortion advocates have won.


And in this situation, look, I'm a believer for putting this decision in the hands of the states. But, it's also incumbent on state officials to

look at the difference of every single situation. This case has extremely extenuating circumstances, and with the health of the mother and her future

ability to have children is at stake, there needs to be a more compassionate way to go about dealing with this, and each case should be

separate and distinct in how they deal with this. And again, what we're seeing is that once this -- these decisions are put in the hands of people,

more voters, specifically those all-important independent voters are opting to side on the issue of abortion rights as opposed to the pro-life issue.

HUNT: Seung Min Kim, let me play for you a little bit of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who of course was sitting on the court until recently, when she

passed away, and of course, in her absence was when the court overturned Roe v. Wade and the Dobbs decision. This is how she talked about the issue

of abortion in 2015. Watch.


RUTH BADER GINSBURG, THEN-U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: There will never be a time when women have means will lack choice, because take the worst case

scenario. Roe v. Wade is overruled by the Supreme Court. What it means is a woman who can afford a plane ticket, a bus ticket, will be able to decide

for herself whether to have an abortion, but the women who won't have that choice are poor women. And that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I think.


HUNT: So, Seung Min, I mean, we saw exactly what she was talking about here, Kate Cox in this case, went out of state to have the procedure that

she had asked Texas officials to allow her to have in her home state. What is your reporting? Tell us about how voters are looking at this issue right


KIM: Well, it is something that has certainly galvanized voters ever since the 2020 -- ever -- 2022 elections right after the Dobbs ruling. And I was

just like, in the break, I was looking at the list of the possible states that could have abortion referendum votes. We saw how successfully Ohio

voters protected abortion rights in the elections just a couple of weeks ago. But, you're looking at the states that could have abortion

referendums, ballot initiatives on their own in states like Arizona, Florida, which -- it might be a longshot for Democrats, but the Biden

campaign is certainly looking at it, Nevada. I mean, these are swing states that obviously President Biden needs to put in his column, should he secure

reelection. And they know that right now what's going to galvanize voters the most is anger, and this drive to protect abortion rights.

It's really been successful for Democrats in the past several elections since the Dobbs ruling, and it is really part of their larger strategy, in

addition to going after Trump and creating that contrast, like we discussed earlier. It is really just getting the voters really motivated to go out to

the polls to protect abortion rights. It's going to be such a big part of the Biden campaign's message.

HUNT: Jonathan Kott, I mean, Democrats have been correct every time when we were -- there were discussion of a red wave in the 2022 midterm elections.

It turned out to be -- I don't think -- I don't know what a small wave is called a ripple. But, that -- it wasn't as big as many people said and it

was, in many cases, chalked up to the abortion issue. Do you think that we're going to see a similar phenomenon in 2024, as Seung Min was saying,

Democrats trying to get these referendums on these ballots? Or do you think it's going to be overtaken by other issues?

KOTT: No. I think this will be a major issue. I hate that it's become a political issue, because it shouldn't be. We shouldn't have a bunch of

judges deciding what medical treatment a woman can get after she sat down with her doctor. I think some of these judges and some of these attorney

generals need to sit down and shut up and let a woman sit with her doctor and make that decision. I think Democrats are smart to put this on the

ballot. I hate that it's a political issue. But, it becomes a human issue when voters don't like when issues and rights are taken away from them, and

they're being told what they can and can't do with their own body. Maybe we should just let this be up between a doctor and their patient, and not Ken


HUNT: It's funny. Senator J.D. Vance said something very similar, the very conservative Senator from Ohio, that basically when voters are seeing them

take rights away, he told my colleague Jake Tapper, they don't like it. And that's coming from the side of the aisle that he supported, outlawing

abortion. Alice, John mentioned Ken Paxton. He is a flawed messenger.


In some ways, he has been -- I want to -- I just want to put up this Texas Tribune headline which says "Ken Paxton emerges victorious from yet another

career scandal. He has had years of legal, personal, political problems. But, he was vindicated, actually" -- hold on. I'm going to pause. We're

going to listen to the House Speaker who just met with Zelenskyy. Let's listen.


JOHNSON: The American people stand for freedom, and they're on the right side of this fight. I have asked the White House, since the day that I was

handed the gavel as Speaker, for clarity. We need a clear articulation of the strategy to allow Ukraine to win. And thus far, their responses have

been insufficient. They have not provided us the clarity and the detail that we requested over and over since literally 24 hours after I was handed

the gavel as Speaker of the House. And so, what the Biden administration seems to be asking for is billions of additional dollars with no

appropriate oversight, no clear strategy to win, and none of the answers that I think the American people are owed.

I have also made very clear from day one that our first condition on any national security supplemental spending package is about our own national

security first. The border is an absolute catastrophe, and this is because of the policies of this White House and this administration. We had 12,000

illegal crossings on one day last week alone, on Wednesday. We have almost now 280 known terrorists that have been apprehended at the border. None of

this counts the gotaways. If you add the numbers up, it's almost seven million people who have been encountered at the border, just since

President Biden took office, and at least two million gotaways. This is twice the population in my state of Louisiana.

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 49 in this country, fentanyl poisoning, because it's allowed over the border. We have

human trafficking and all the other terrible things. In the last three months, October, November, December alone, we've had more illegal crossings

at the border than in any entire year during the Obama administration. The American people see this. They feel it acutely. They see all the terrible

societal ills that come from this, and it must be addressed.

So, I've made this very clear, again from the very beginning, when I was handed the gavel, we needed clarity on what we're doing in Ukraine, and how

we'll have proper oversight of the spending of precious taxpayer dollars of American citizens. And we needed a transformative change at the border.

Thus far, we've gotten neither. The Senate has been MIA on this. The House passed H.R. 2 six months ago, more than six months ago. It's been sitting

and collecting dust on Chuck Schumer's desk. I have told him personally. I've told the National Security Adviser, the Secretary of State and the

Secretary of Defense, that these are our conditions, because these are the conditions of the American people. And we are resolute on that.

It is not the House's issue right now. The issue is with the White House and the Senate. And I implore them to do their job because the time is

urgent, and we do want to do the right thing here. With that, I'll --


HUNT: All right. You were just listening to the House Speaker Mike Johnson in the wake of his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy,

who is on a rescue mission for his country here in Washington today, as he tries to convince skeptical lawmakers to pass in a hurry an aid package for

Ukraine to keep the ammunition flowing to his soldiers on the front lines.

I'm going to bring our panel back in here. Seung Min, it does not sound as though his mind was changed in that meeting. He came out to the microphones

and the first thing he said is that, what I've been asking for all this time is a clear articulation of a strategy to win. It seems like it would

have been an opportunity for Johnson to ask Zelenskyy personally, what is your strategy? Of course, Johnson did not take any questions, I have to

think one of those would have been -- one of the first questions. What did you hear in how Johnson framed his meeting there?

KIM: Well, I think a lot of times, for the last several months, House Republicans have really been pushing this whole -- have been asking for a

clearer guidance from the administration as to their strategy as it relates to Ukraine. They want to know when President Biden says as long as it

takes, what does that actually really mean? And how long are we going to be sending money and sending aid to Kyiv and to help them fight this war? But,

I also heard -- I was listening to his comments on the border, and I think we were talking a lot earlier about how -- about the troubles in the Senate

and coming up with a bipartisan deal. I mean, that's not to speak of the problems in the House if they were to get a deal.

And what Mike Johnson is not saying there is that while his conference is demanding border security, and obviously there is a group in the Senate

that's trying to work with that, a lot of House members will not settle -- a lot of House Republican members will not settle for anything less than

H.R. 2 though, the term that we use for their very conservative hardline immigration border bills.


So, that -- not to like -- not to speak of just the problems in the Senate. But, if something happens in the Senate, you have the House to contend

with. And that is just a complete different scenario there.

HUNT: Yeah. John Kott, very briefly, how do you see this playing out in the Senate?

KOTT: I think the Senate will try its best to get a deal. I think they'll struggle too. I think it'll probably come in the New Year, which

unfortunately might be too late for Ukraine. And the House needs to learn to compromise. That's what the American people expect them to do.

HUNT: Perhaps. We shall see. Seung Min Kim, John Kott, Alice Stuart, thank you all very much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. And thanks

to all of you for being with us as well. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for today, Tuesday, December 12. You can always follow me on

Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. One World is up next.