Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Donald Trump Returns To Iowa As Republicans Ramp Up Campaign In Early Nominating States; Trump Touts Wide Lead In Polls, Dismisses Haley "Surge"; Trump Urges Supporters To Vote Amid Strong Lead In Iowa. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 14, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: Donald Trump is focusing on Joe Biden in Iowa, but the former President's advisors tell CNN they're

concerned about the primary in New Hampshire. Plus, the White House pushes for a last-minute deal on border security and Ukraine funding, even as some

in President Biden's own party say he is going too far on immigration. And Nikki Haley says the fellows, they don't know how to talk about abortion.

We're going to have the latest from the campaign trail.

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

December 14, just 32 days until the Iowa caucuses, 326 days until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.

Welcome in. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is making sure he is front and center with Iowa voters, less than five weeks to go before they'll

decide whether they'll give one of his rivals a chance to take him down in the primary, or if they'll send some of his challengers packing. Trump was

in Coralville, Iowa, on Wednesday, attacking Joe Biden who is of course the all but certain Democratic nominee. But, Trump was also watching his back.

He again attacked Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for backing Ron DeSantis, and he threw this jab at Nikki Haley after she was endorsed by New Hampshire

Governor Chris Sununu.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: They've been talking about the Haley surge. So, she goes up two points, I go up I think 10 points, nine or 10

points. And they say that's a Trump surge. But, they don't want to say that. They said she is surging against him, but he has gone nowhere.


HUNT: OK. Let's dive into all of this with today's panel. Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona, CNN Political Commentator; Doug Heye is a

Republican Strategist, former Communications Director at the RNC, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, and CNN Reporter Alayna Treene

is here as well.

Alayna, you and I were talking this morning about this. We showed what he had to say there about Nikki Haley, which I think you pointed out is really

kind of the most -- some of the most she has talked about her -- the entire campaign.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: No. Exactly. And I made this joke. I'll make it again now is that I attend almost all of Donald Trump's events. And so,

I feel like I know what he is -- something he is saying is a change, and this was a change. He talked about Nikki Haley more and attacked her more

than he has, I'd argue, at any other point in his campaign so far. And I think that just in itself shows the increasing threat that Nikki Haley is

posing to the other Republican contenders and to Donald Trump.

And I will say, when I talk to Donald Trump's campaign advisors, his allies, they recognize that Nikki Haley's prominence is growing, and

particularly in New Hampshire. I mean, they contend, obviously, publicly that they're not worried about her, that he is still doing so well, which

he is. He is still leaning very heavily in the polls, but she is continuing to rise. And New Hampshire is a state that the campaign is a little bit

more worried about, because you do have Chris Christie also doing well there. You have Nikki Haley rising there. She just got that endorsement

from Chris Sununu.

And the goal for them has really long been that they don't just want to win these primaries, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they want to

dominate them. They want to really build that momentum to carry him through the rest of primary season, but then also to force his other opponents to

drop out.

HUNT: Right. And to that point, he talks a little bit also yesterday in Iowa about the margin of victory that he is looking for. Take a look at

what he had to say about that.


TRUMP: We are leading by a lot, but you have to go out and vote, because so much means, you know, going out. The margin of victory is very important.

It's just very important even for foreign countries watching. But, it's very important that margin of victory is so, so powerful.


HUNT: So, clearly, Susan Page, someone is telling him the margin of victory is so, so powerful.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: Especially, apparently with foreign leaders. I don't know that. The fact that -- he has kind of a

little bit of a problem here. He has got this enormous lead. He has got a lead of 30 or 40 points in some of these polls. If he wins in Iowa by 10

points, you know what? We're right.

HUNT: Wow.

PAGE: He only won --


PAGE: -- by 10 points. If Nikki Haley comes within 10 points of him in New Hampshire, it will be, Oh, my goodness, look what Nikki Haley did. So, that

is, I think, a real image optics problem for him because of his dominance of the polls these days.

HUNT: Yeah. No. I think it's a great point, and it's the example I keep coming back to is like everybody who is my age or younger thinks Bill

Clinton won New Hampshire in 1992, which is not the case.

HEYE: Yeah.

HUNT: He was called the comeback kid because he came in second in 1992.


We're going to take a pause here for just a second because we do actually have some serious breaking news. We have to interrupt our conversation for

briefly, because a top German prosecutor says that multiple alleged Hamas militants have been detained for plotting a suspected terror attack. We're

joined now by Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen. Fred, what do we know about this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. It's pretty complicated, actually, and it might actually be a lot bigger than we

initially thought. Right now what we're hearing is about arrests of possible Hamas members, Kasie, in Denmark, in the Netherlands, and in

Germany as well. We just got a press release by the German Federal Prosecutor's office who said that four members of Hamas had been arrested,

three of them in Germany, and one in Denmark. Now, what the information that we're getting is that they, apparently Hamas, has been working on

filling what the Germans call an earthbound weapons depot, which seems to me like weapons that were buried in Germany, and that these four men,

apparently, were looking for this depot to try and bring those weapons to Berlin.

And this is where the federal prosecutors say that they were for possible terror attacks against Jewish institutions, possibly here in Germany,

possibly elsewhere, as you know, here in Europe and most parts of Europe. The borders are open. So, it's very easy and very quick to get from country

to country. It's unclear whether there were any concrete plans for attacks. But, certainly, the Federal Prosecutor's office does believe that attacks

were in the works, as they put it, against Jewish institutions, probably -- possibly right here in Germany.

At the same time, we're also getting information from Denmark where the Danish authorities are saying that they also conducted raids throughout the

entire country, throughout the day, and arrested three people, they say, in Denmark, and they're also speaking about one arrest in the Netherlands,

unclear whether the Germans and the Danish are speaking about the same person. But, they're also saying that they tried to prevent possible

attacks against Jewish institutions in Denmark. They are speaking of cooperation with foreign intelligence services, unclear whether or not they

mean the U.S. or possibly the Israelis. But, certainly, it does seem as though there is a flurry of arrests that are going on right now against


And it's very uncommon, Kasie, for Hamas to be plotting terror attacks here on European soil. It's not really something that we've seen. So, certainly,

obviously, this coming right now in the wake of what's going on right now in Israel and Gaza. Definitely a troubling situation here on the European

continent, Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah. Fred, I mean, that -- you hit on there, exactly what my question is here. I mean, we've heard a lot about other terror groups, Al-

Qaeda, others who perhaps are operating in Europe. But, as you say, I don't think we're used to hearing about Hamas taking actions outside of the

region. I mean, do we know anything about what kind of presence they previously had in Europe before the war --


HUNT: -- or anything else about this?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know what, that's a really interesting question, because it's definitely something that the Europeans are grappling with,

because in a lot of the countries here in Europe, Hamas was not per se outlawed in a lot of these countries. In fact, the country that we're in

right now in Germany, they're just moving to outlaw, to ban Hamas. In fact, I think that just went into effect, right as we speak. But, it certainly

seems as though Hamas, if the allegations are correct, by the Federal Prosecutor's office here in Germany, the Hamas has been working or appears

to have been working on putting together weapons depots here in this country, in Germany, for possible attacks in the future.

You're absolutely right. It's not something that we've seen in the past. It's not organizations like Al-Qaeda or ISIS where we've seen on the

European continent actual terror attacks being conducted. So, this is certainly something that would up the ante a great deal, and certainly

something that, if you will, would also justify the fact that the German authorities have moved forward to ban this organization in the past couple

of months, ever since the attacks of October 7. So, again, we're in the early stages of all of this. The Germans are saying that these people are

going to come before a judge tomorrow, and then it will be decided whether they will be remanded in custody, whether they have to stay in custody.

But, I can tell you from the vibe here in Germany right now, where were are sitting, that the authorities here are taking this extremely serious. The

Justice Department here in Germany is taking this very seriously, and certainly the Federal Prosecutor's office as well, putting out that press

release and really making these arrests and making this case a top priority. They've clearly been very worried about the safety of Jewish

institutions here in this country. I can tell you from on the ground here in Germany, especially in Berlin, that security that has been upgraded a

great deal at these institutions because of the possible backlash after the October 7 attacks, and then of course also after Israel's military

operation in Gaza as well, and this now raises the alarm bells just that little bit more, Kasie.


HUNT: Of course. All right. Frederik Pleitgen for us in Berlin, thank you very much for that report, and we of course will come back to you with any

new developments in this story, as we continue our conversation here. Our thanks to Fred for that.

I do want to bring my panel back now, though, since we have been talking about the -- what is the -- the final countdown here to Iowa. And Doug

Heye, Chris Christie's name was evoked a little bit while -- a little while ago. And I want to show you what he had to say about how he sees things

playing out first in Iowa and then in New Hampshire. We'll talk about it. Take a look.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With Donald Trump's Make America Great Again, what he means is Make America his again. All he

cares about is getting back to the White House, and Hampshire is the only place that's going to stop him. I was not going to stop him. And if Iowa

gives him a big win on January 15, why in the hell would New Hampshire do the same thing?


HUNT: Doug Heye, fair question. Is he right?

HEYE: I think potentially so, and it goes back to what Susan was talking about, about the expectations game of all of this. So often we use sports

analogies in politics, but they really don't apply. If you win the game by one point in football or basketball, game over. You move on, your opponent


HUNT: Yeah.

HEYE: If you lose by one point in politics, it's a big day for you potentially. And I think the best example of that when it comes to

expectations was the midterm elections we just had. Republicans won the House of Representatives, Democrats threw the party.

HUNT: Maria.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & U.S. DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's exactly right. But, I think in terms of the expectation game, Donald

Trump himself is setting himself up for this kind of big expectation for what he was just talking about in terms of the margin. But, the fact of the

matter is that if he wins Iowa by 10 or more, which is very possible, and he wins New Hampshire by 10 or more, he is going to run the table. He is

going to be the nominee. There is no way that anybody can really step up. And so, my question is, if that happens, does Nikki Haley drop out before

she gets to South Carolina in order to not be embarrassed? Now, everyone talks about her big surge. But, I think that's a difficult question for


HUNT: We'll see.

I mean, Alayna, a final word to you here. I mean, how do the Trump folks look at it? Like, what do they think the margin needs to be in Iowa? What

are in their view the expectations that they need to meet?

TREENE: Yeah. I don't know if I have any specific number from them, but they need it to be big, and it's exactly what everyone here is describing.

They recognize that there is so much riding on him, winning in a landslide, that they need it to be big. That's why you're seeing Donald Trump at these

series of events. He is essentially teaching caucus goers how to caucus. He is telling them --

HUNT: Which is hard.

TREENE: -- this is what you need to do.

HEYE: Yeah.

TREENE: This is what we need -- like, in his speeches using very explicit language, saying this is how we need to get out. You cannot stay home. You

cannot think that we have this in the bag. You need to come out for me in a big way. And they are expecting it to be a very big lead. I think they will

be very disappointed.

HUNT: Well, and of course the DMR poll, the gold standard in polling there has really been moving in his direction. He is going to lead --

TREENE: Right.

HUNT: -- from under 50 to over 50.

All right. Alayna, thank you. I really appreciate it. The rest of panel is going to stick around, because the White House is now all in on

negotiations with Congress to make big changes to border policy in order to get aid to Ukraine over the finish line. Progressives in the President's

party are not happy with how much the President is giving up.




HUNT: Welcome back. The clock is ticking as Congress tries to make an 11th- hour border policy deal to try and unlock U.S. aid to Ukraine. Negotiators said last night they're inching closer to an agreement. But, can they get

it done before the Senate goes on their holiday break at the end of this week? The House scheduled to adjourn this hour. President Biden has been

pressing for a deal. And in it, he has been willing to make some major immigration changes that harken back to the Trump era. That is bringing

some serious heat from members of his own party who say he is going too far.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): We're not going to fix the problem. We're going to drive our base even further away. We have to put together a

coalition that is the same coalition we delivered in 2020 for him to win the White House, for us to win the Senate, and for us to take back the

House. And that coalition involves a lot of young voters. It involves a lot of immigrant voters. It involves a lot of folks of color. And this issue of

immigration is critically important to them.


HUNT: Let's get back to our panel now. So, Maria Cardona. I mean, some of these changes involve, when we say going back to the Trump era, it's about

what it takes to make a credible asylum claim when you're here in the border, whether or not you're going to be detained or let into the country.

Once that has happened, whether you're going to be immediately deported, whether you're forced to potentially remain in a country like Mexico or

elsewhere. Is Pramila Jayapal right, in your view?

CARDONA: I think she is right. And I think that the White House and Democrats really have to look at what they are about to give up in order to

get money for Ukraine and Israel, which is absolutely critical. But, immigration law and asylum law is so incredibly complicated. They shouldn't

be giving up something that's permanent, especially if it's going to harken back to Trump-style policies for something that's temporary. They need to

sit down. If Republicans were really serious about fixing the issue of immigration and the border, they would sit down with Democrats to figure

this out.

It's not easy. We haven't been able to come to a deal for years, and there is a reason. It should not be done at the 11th hour under this kind of

pressure. Polls show over and over again that what Americans want, independence. Democrats, progressives, Latino voters, the coalition that

Biden is going to need to energize and mobilize in order to win, they want a balanced approach. That absolutely includes strong border security

measures, but it also includes humane legal pathways so that people can come here. The people who need it the most.

HUNT: Yeah. Although I will say we are so far from that conversation. I mean the reality of where we move to is much, much different from the

conversations we were having back, when it was George W. Bush was performed, asking for a pathway to citizenship for millions of people

already here.

Let's listen to a little bit more of what Pramila Jayapal had to say about the White House negotiations, and the Democrats were talking to

Republicans. Take a look.


JAYAPAL: If the reports are true, then I think the Senate Democrats in the White House are the ones that are negotiating or are trying to out

Republican Republicans on immigration, which never works, because Republicans, it's never going to be enough for them.


HUNT: Doug Heye, I have had some sources raise questions about whether Republicans here are negotiating in good faith.

HEYE: Fair.

HUNT: And do you think that's a fair question?

HEYE: It is fair. But, I think one of the more interesting voices on immigration that's emerged over the past couple weeks has been John



He said last week that essentially Pittsburgh shows up at our border every month and that we can't absorb that, and it's because he sees his

constituency the same images that we all do. And independent voters especially are saying, make it stop. Figure out the details from there. And

that's a very real political reality for Biden moving forward. And I think Fetterman gets that. And as we've seen Republicans have splits on issue

after issue, immigration looks to be a very real split for Democrats coming up in the coming weeks.

HUNT: I mean, Susan Page, it does seem like -- I mean, the White House is caught between its base on the one hand. They need them to turn out in the

2024 election. But, Doug is right. I mean, independents and swing voters are in a much different place on this issue, even than they were 10 years

ago. How do you see -- I mean, White House seems to be siding with independents and swing voters on this.

PAGE: This is a gift to the White House. This is an exit ramp on an issue in which they are in a very bad place when you look at most American

voters, the voters you need to attract to win elections, centrist voters, independent voters, Democrats, Democratic mayors, Democratic governors,

Democratic senators are raising alarms about the situation at the border. This gives the administration a way to say Ukraine aid is incredibly

important. It's incredible -- it's a big national security issue. We're doing some horse trading here and end up with an immigration policy that

puts them more in line with where most Americans are.

HEYE: But, to Susan's point, every time you see, almost every time you see a Democratic mayor interviewed on this, they're a Hispanic Democrat on the

border. They have a very different reality than a lot of the members of Congress and senators.

CARDONA: But, it's really important not to misread the polls. Independents and swing voters want a balanced approach. A balanced approach does not

mean let's accept every single Trump-style policy and have nothing in return. Republicans are negotiating in absolutely bad faith. Normally, in a

negotiation, you get something, you give something. Republicans are giving nothing on immigration. Normally, what would be on the table would be at

least legalization for Dreamers. 90 percent of the American people, including Republicans, believe that Dreamers should be given protection and

a pathway to citizenship here. Republicans don't even want to consider that.

HUNT: But, so --

CARDONA: I don't think the White House should just give everything for nothing in return to this.

HUNT: Well, I just would say that, I mean, that was never really part of what the White House initially went to Congress and suggested. It was not

as though -- I mean, I think it's kind of a misnomer to say they're putting immigration reform in this. I mean, the conversation has always been around

we're only in this bill, going to secure the border, and that conversation about legalization is for another day.

CARDONA: Well, you would --

HUNT: From the White House's perspective.

CARDONA: -- you would think that. Yes. Schumer has brought up the legalization, the Dreamers. Republicans have completely shut that down. And

let's not mistake this. What Republicans are trying to do is they are trying to fundamentally change immigration and asylum law. This is -- these

are not small edits what they are asking for, which is what the White House needs to be really careful about.

HUNT: But, the White House seems willing to go along with it.

CARDONA: And you know what? It's OK to look at it and say, where can we give on this? Maybe let's raise credible fear a little bit, right? There

are places where the White House can give. They are offering billions of money for additional border security, and Republicans have shut that down.

So, again, how serious are they really in order to really fix this? They don't want to fix it. They want to offer only Trump-style immigration,

draconian MAGA extremist policies --

HEYE: That's fine. You can use all the --

CARDONA: -- that Americans really do not support.

HEYE: -- far left bulk terms that will scare progressives away from this. But, tell it to Eric Adams. Eric Adams is not exactly a Trumpy (ph)

Republican here. He is a Democratic mayor from New York, which declared itself a sanctuary city because they sort of smugly wanted to demonstrate

we're better than everybody else. But, when the problem comes to them, they say, we got to fix this. And that's what voters are saying is --

CARDONA: Agreed.

HEYE: -- make this stop.

CARDONA: That's right.

HEYE: Figure out the rest later.

CARDONA: The additional resources that the White House has asked for would do that. It would go to that. I think the other thing that people don't

understand, and especially Republicans who do not understand immigration whatsoever and don't want to, is that what they are proposing is not going

to fix this. People are not going to stop coming until you fix the root causes. If you are in fear of your life, because they're about to kill your

family somewhere, you are not going to say, oh, well, I'm not going to go to the United States because they just passed this strict asylum law. No.

You're going to go because that is the only way forward for you if you want your family to live. This is a situation that Republicans don't understand

because they don't' want to.

HEYE: Yeah. I think it's -- but, it's Democrats too. If you're a Democratic mayor, whether it's El Paso or Eagle Pass, you don't have a proactive

strategy for how you're going to enact economic and political reform in Ecuador. You do have a problem at your border. You need that fixed

immediately. It is a daily situation for them that they need answers from this administration.


HEYE: Absolutely.

HUNT: I mean, isn't that part of it?

CARDONA: Say that again.

HUNT: Part of the reason why people come is because when they're in desperate situations, it's because they know they can come through.

CARDONA: Well, because that's the current law, as it should be. Let's also not remember our American values, right, the shining city on a Hill, not a

Democrat saying that, a Republican, Ronald Reagan, right?


Immigration writ large has been very positive for this country. Immigrants have contributed billions, even the undocumented immigrants that have been

here for years. So, again, yes, let's negotiate. The White House has said, we are willing to compromise. But, let's not give away the store for

nothing in return.

HUNT: So, Susan Page, I mean, big picture here, the reality is the United States is not the only country in the world dealing with a migration crisis

that is causing --

PAGE: That's right.

HUNT: -- domestic political havoc. Right? And oftentimes, it has explained the rise of nationalist movements in countries when this problem is not

necessarily addressed. Is the White House looking at it from that perspective?

PAGE: From a global perspective? Well, it is true. This is a problem in every corner of the earth. But, no. I think they're looking at this as a

domestic problem, as a domestic security issue, as a domestic political issue. And the problem for the White House is I think there are many in the

White House who would agree with you that relates to the root causes in these countries that people are coming from. It is the larger immigration

system that doesn't make sense in this country. But, their immediate problem is that there are thousands and thousands of people coming over the

border without documentation, illegally. And Americans feel embattled about that, and they want their political leaders to stop.

HUNT: And the reality is, it's giving ammunition to his likely opponent in Donald Trump.

All right. We're going to push pause here because we had a lot more to get to on the campaign trail. Nikki Haley says her male rivals for the

Republican nomination don't know how to talk about something in particular. We'll look at her recent comments on abortion, up next.



NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When it comes to abortion, quite honestly, I don't think the fellas have known how to talk

about it properly.


HUNT: That was Nikki Haley in New Hampshire on what is an intensely emotional issue.


Our panel, Susan Page, Doug Heye, Maria Cardona, is back with us to talk about this. Susan Page, she has taken a notably different tone in

approaching how to talk about this issue, even if she has at times expressed willingness to or said she would sign certain things that would

be more limiting around this than say Democrats, should she eventually become the actual nominee. I want to show you a little bit more about how -

- of how she talks about this, and then we'll talk about it. Watch. Here is a little bit more about -- from Haley on abortion.


HALEY: I don't judge anyone who is pro-choice any more than I want you to judge me for being pro-life. Can't we find consensus? Can't we all agree to

ban late-term abortions? Can't we all agree to encourage adoptions and good quality adoptions? Can't we all agree that doctors and nurses who don't

believe in abortion shouldn't have to perform them? Can't we all agree that contraception should be accessible? And can't we all agree that no state

law should tell a woman if she has an abortion that she is going to jail or getting the death penalty? Let's just start there.


HUNT: So, Susan Page, I would say that, no, it's unlikely we're going to find a national consensus on this issue. But, she did go through and name a

couple of things that are drawn into question by some other Republican candidates that -- yeah, I mean, contraception is one of them.

PAGE: And she says I'm pro-life, and she supports restrictions on abortion and states that will pass them. But, she has found a way to talk about this

difficult issue. That is really smart. And she is like the only person in the Republican Party who seems to have figured this out, because mostly,

these Republican candidates would like you never to mention the word or ask a question about it, because they do not -- the fellas do not seem to know

what to say. She is articulating a message that I think a lot of voters in the middle will say, yeah, I can identify that. I can agree with that.

HUNT: Doug.

HEYE: The fellows have had a problem talking about it for a long time. We could be talking about the 2010 or 2012 or 2014 --

HUNT: Yeah.

HEYE: -- cycle with a Todd Akin or a Richard Mourdock where we left --

HUNT: Oh yes.

HEYE: -- Senate seats on the table --

HUNT: Yes.

HEYE: -- because they said dumb things about abortion.

HUNT: I had forgotten about both of them. But, I covered those at the time. Yes.

HEYE: I still can't sleep some nights because of it. And look, what we heard from Nikki Haley is somebody who can win in November in 2024. The

challenge is she has got to get there. And she still hasn't shown the willingness to take on Donald Trump directly to do that. Demonstrating

you're a great general election candidate and the polling having to back you up should be a good thing. But, you still have to use that and you have

to use it methodically against an opponent who is running the table right now. And you're not doing anything to change that situation.

CARDONA: Yeah. I think that she talks very sweet about it. But, can't we all agree that what a woman should be able to do is make decisions about

her own body with nobody in the room except herself, her doctor, her family? That's the bottom line.

HUNT: I mean, a lot of the country is saying we can't agree on that. I mean, probably more than aren't. But, it is still --

CARDONA: I mean, yeah.

HUNT: -- if that's the issue.

CARDONA: That is -- exactly. But, that is the bottom line. She can talk about it as sweetly as she wants. But, when it came down to it, when she

was asked if she was President, if a national abortion ban would come to her desk, she would sign it. So, she really is not in any different

position than all of the other Republicans who have talked very harshly about this. So, I do think it's smart of her to talk about this in the

primary, maybe. I don't know. But, it's not going to mean anything unless she can get somewhere in the primary. And right now, it doesn't look like

she is.

HUNT: Governor Chris Christie talked about how Haley has approached this and other issues in this way. Take a look at what he had to say.


CHRISTIE: Now, look, I'm pro-life. And I believe that we should try to save every life that we can, because I believe every life is a precious gift

from God. Before remaining major candidates have gotten asked about this, Donald Trump won't comment on. Nikki Haley got asked about it, and she said

we should deal with this with compassion, and my heart goes out to the mother. This is a continued disturbing pattern on Governor Haley's part. If

the question is really hard, she wants to make everybody happy.


HUNT: I will say, Doug, I wonder if he has hit on something. I mean, look, Christie, you can criticize him if you want. I'm not trying to say that I

agree with him politically or take a partisan stance, but he is pretty good. He has got some pretty good political instincts. And I do think he is

hit on something with Nikki Haley that should she become really the proper frontrunner, I mean, the scrutiny that's going to come with that is going

to put some of this in the spotlight.

HEYE: Without question. But, I think there are a lot of voters. Again, these are general election voters, not Iowa caucus goers who are

Evangelical --

HUNT: Right.

HEYE: -- and conservative. But, she has found a way to communicate in a positive way that other Republicans can't. And I'm sort of -- the jarring

thing for me on that is, the last time I saw Chris Christie on TV, he was sort of running interference for Nikki Haley on a debate stage, and now we

see him going after her.


He needs to show some consistency here as well.

HUNT: Do you think if he stays in New Hampshire, he is going to ultimately -- I mean, I feel like I asked this question to you half the time that you

come on this show, really kind of -- it's still the main one. Is he going to end up handing it to Donald Trump at the end of the day?

HEYE: If your goal is to defeat Donald Trump, any vote for Chris Christie takes it away from Nikki Haley. A Christie voter is not going to DeSantis,

certainly is not going to Vivek, not going to Trump. If your goal is to beat Donald Trump, Nikki Haley should be the anointed one, so to speak.

HUNT: Yeah. So, let's turn in -- I want to talk a little bit more about Donald Trump and some of kind of the things we would be talking about in

the event that -- obviously, this stays on track. Vivek Ramaswamy was on CNN last night for a town hall with my colleague Abby Phillip, and he has

obviously channeled Trump quite a bit on the debate stage, has not broken with him regularly. But, one of the things we saw from him last night was

the embrace of a number of conspiracy theories. One of them, the last one in this clip I'm about to show you, stood out to me in particular, and

that's around January 6. Take a look at what Vivek had to say.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do have a government, first of all, we have to acknowledge that has lied to us

systematically over the last several years about the origin of COVID-19, about the Hunter Biden laptop that we were told was false by 51 CIA experts

and otherwise before we now know that it was true. You could go straight down the list. The Trump-Russia disinformation, collusion hoax, all of it.

Now, we come to January 6. The reality is we know that there were federal law enforcement agents in that field. We don't know how many.


HUNT: OK. So, I'm just going to take that little last part, the federal agents in the field on January 6, and show you what the FBI Director

Christopher Wray said last month about this issue when he was confronted by a member of Congress who has also bought (ph) into this conspiracy theory.

Take a look.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: If somebody is asking or suggesting whether the violence at the Capitol on January 6 was part of some operation

orchestrated by FBI sources or FBI agents or both, the answer is emphatically not.


HUNT: I mean, Susan Page, this is sort of a -- I honestly don't totally know what to do with this, as somebody that was at the Capitol Complex on

the day. But now, this is really being mainstreamed as part of this campaign.

PAGE: Yeah. And it's not true, and we know it's not true. We know from inquiries and investigations from multiple agencies and institutions that

it's not true. So, why is Ramaswamy spreading this? I guess it's for an audience of one. It's for an audience of Trump. Is it a bid to be Vice

President? Is he trying to be Trump's heir? Do we think Ramaswamy believes this? I don't know the answer to that question.

HUNT: I mean, he certainly is leaving the impression that he does.

PAGE: Yeah.

HUNT But, the other thing I wanted to mention, Doug, I wanted to get your take on this, because we did hear from Paul Ryan, the former House Speaker,

who we don't normally hear from, talking a little bit about Donald Trump, and it kind of plays into this entire theme that we're talking about here,

and that would be kind of authoritarianism and some of the things that we've seen from Trump over the years. Take a look at what Ryan had to say.


PAUL RYAN, FORMER U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: Historically speaking, all of his tendencies are basically where narcissism takes him, which is whatever

makes him popular, it makes him feel good at any given moment. And he doesn't think in classical liberal, conservative terms. He thinks in an

authoritarian way, and he has been able to get a big chunk of the Republican base to follow him because he is the culture warrior.


HUNT: Doug, were you surprised he came out and said that? I was a little surprised.

HEYE: No. I wasn't. It's what he has been saying privately for a long time. And he is obviously in a place where he can say these things. I was never

critical of Paul Ryan for not speaking out when he was Speaker, as so many called for him to do, because the reality is, what would have happened to

Paul Ryan is exactly what we saw happen with Kevin McCarthy. And where does that get anybody? Nowhere. But, clearly, he has an insight to Trump in a

way that most people don't because of his negotiations in dealing with Trump when he was Speaker. He knows what he is talking about in a way that

a lot of people don't.

HUNT: One last word.

CARDONA: Oh, I don't think that he has insight that others don't. I think others have very good insight into Trump. They just don't want to say it

out loud.

HEYE: Oh, that's very fair.


HEYE: That's very fair.

CARDONA: And so, Paul Ryan saying this and DeSantis and others going after Trump now is too late, because this is the whole thing. Right? If they had

done this, even Paul Ryan, if he really wanted to help his party, he would have gone out and screamed this from the rooftop --

HEYE: Well, remember --

CARDONA: -- at the very beginning when the primary was starting to come together, because --

HEYE: I was able to eavesdrop on the --

CARDONA: -- you don't go after Trump.

HEYE: -- House Republican conference call that Paul Ryan led where he told us members after the access Hollywood tape --

HUNT: Yeah.

HEYE: -- if you want to do anything pro or anti-Trump, you have permission to do whatever you want.


And what we've seen, I'll use a reference that I know you'll enjoy, is Kevin McCarthy and a lot of Republicans Jedi mind tricked themselves into

Donald Trump being all things good and powerful.


HEYE: Ryan has told his party privately, a lot of times leaking, that Donald Trump is a bad direction to go. But, ultimately, there was nothing

he as Speaker could do.

HUNT: Right.

CARDONA: Agreed. But, even now, publicly, he is saying this now, 32 days before Iowa?

HUNT: Well, I will say that --

CARDONA: What difference is that?

HUNT: -- anyone who has spoken out has been systematically and methodically basically excised from the party and ostracized.

HEYE: It's a great place to be, though. It's sunny. It's warm.


CARDONA: But, you know why? It's could be because not too many people have done it.

HUNT: Well, I actually think there are more than you think. It's just that it hasn't happened in mass.

CARDONA: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

HUNT: And so, the result is that they've all been --

CARDONA: That's exactly right.

HUNT: -- basically right. All right. Thank you all very much, Susan, Doug, Maria, for being here with us today. I really appreciate it. Oh, I'm sorry,

Maria and Doug are going to be back. They're not going anywhere. All right. Still ahead here, how the Supreme Court could play a dramatic role in

shaping some of the most controversial issues on the campaign trail in 2024?


HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. The justices aren't on the ballot, but the Supreme Court is right at the heart of the 2024

presidential campaign. First, there is Special Counsel Jack Smith's request that the courts swiftly decide whether Donald Trump has immunity from

criminal prosecution for his alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election. And this summer, the court is set to decide whether access to the abortion

pill mifepristone will be restricted nationwide, even in states where abortion is still legal.

My panel is back with me, and we're joined by CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst, Joan Biskupic.

Joan, thank you so much for joining today. And I was really grateful to have you as part of this conversation, because I think one of the things

I'm interested in the most is how the court is currently conceiving of itself as a political actor.


Obviously, it's not supposed to be in theory.


HUNT: But, in reality, that we all know it increasingly is not the case. And simply having to decide this question of immunity is a major political

calculation that they are going to have to answer. And I'm sure there are going to be questions in these cases around Trump that come up that we

can't even see, at this point, particularly for the Chief Justice John Roberts. I mean, how are they viewing what their role is going to be

history in this unprecedented campaign?

BISKUPIC: Well, I'm sure Monday was not a great day when Jack Smith came up there and said, we want you to decide it now rather than later. But, they

knew they were going to have to decide that question of immunity for former President Donald Trump. And I can tell you that what's happened in the

past, Kasie, is that the Chief Justice has felt that he is going to decide Donald Trump cases, but Donald Trump cases always are very fraught. When

you think of the administration during his four years, all of those cases came down to like five, four votes. Then, when Donald Trump was there on

his own personal business, it was always an issue where Donald Trump would tweet things like, "Do you think the court doesn't like me?"

And then, remember, the clashes that they had when Donald -- when Trump complained about a lower court judge as an Obama judge and the chief made

that remarkable statement, we have no Obama judges or Trump judges. We only have judges trying to neutrally decide cases. As I said, anytime Donald

Trump crosses their threshold, there is problems. But, they don't see themselves in that political context. They're just trying to say -- decide

these cases one at a time trying to assess what the law is, Kasie.

HUNT: Maria Cardona, do you think that the American public is going to buy that from -- and let me just ask you actually about you and your fellow

Democrats, and I'm going to ask the same question of Doug, because when you look at the polling, confidence in the Supreme Court has been on a downward

slide. How do you think Democrats, in particular, are going to look at -- say this decision is decided in Trump's favor, and he is granted immunity

from this or some version of that? Are they going to be able to trust the court in the future?

CARDONA: You know, one of the things that I think Democrats need to do a much better job of, and I've been saying this for years, is to make the

courts, especially the Supreme Court, an electoral issue, the way that Republicans have been able to do this for the past 30 years, and make the

case that these Supreme Court justices actually do affect our everyday lives. And I think there is no better way to demonstrate that than what

they did in taking away Roe v. Wade.

I think that Democrats are going to be making that argument, that message going into 2024, in terms of the Senate matters because of this, the

President matters because of the Supreme Court justices and what they have become. And so, I think that Democrats can use this to their advantage and

point to all of those things, right, not just the this case where they could completely take Donald Trump off the hook, obviously, Roe v. Wade,

mifepristone, anything having to do with women's rights, healthcare. There are so many things on their screen right now in order to make all of these

decisions that really affect people's everyday lives. And so, to make that connection, I think is something Democrats need to be doing.

HUNT: Sticking with Trump, etc., for a second, although I take your point, we will talk about mifepristone in just one second. Doug, the flip side of

this, of course, for Republicans and trust in the court is if Donald Trump loses at the Supreme Court on this immunity question, it is all but

guaranteed that he is going to call the system rigged and do everything he can to undermine confidence with his own supporters. No? I mean -- and do

you think that's going to resonate with people? And how does that affect, I mean, there is a real decline in the trust of our institutions for

differing reasons, but really across the board?

HEYE: Unfortunately, Kasie, I think in so many instances, credibility is in the eye of the beholder. And if the decision is made that I like, it's

credible. If the decision is made that I don't like, it's not credible. And nowhere is that, I think, been -- seen better than the decline in

credibility of the Supreme Court. And whatever they decide, we know what Donald Trump is going to say. It's sort of with Donald Trump, he is one of

those dollars. You pull a string, you know the words that are going to be said. But, what specific members of the Supreme Court do could temper to

that, some of it? For instance, Justice Kavanaugh votes against Donald Trump, any of the Trump-appointed or nominated justices vote against him,

that adds credibility to the argument that this is a credible decision.

But, again, there will be some part of the Trump base that unless it's a nine nothing decision in Donald Trump's favor, that justice and that

decision will be -- lack credibility in their eyes because Donald Trump says so.


HUNT: So, the other major issue here, Joan, that -- and Maria touched on it, that they have decided they're going to wait into this decision on the

abortion pill mifepristone that will decide -- they decided, OK, we're going to take up this case and make a decision about whether for

nationwide, including in states where abortion is still legal, are we going to outlaw this drug? I think it's important to note that this drug is now

used for miscarriage care in a very regular way. So, we're not just talking about the effect on people who are looking to voluntarily have abortions. I

think it's important to know that there is a bigger effect than that.


HUNT: But, this decision is set to come in the summer at the end of their term, which is at the absolute height of the general election, at

presidential campaign. And I know John Roberts was -- when they overturned Roe v. Wade, he, it reported, had been working -- he realized how dramatic

it was going to be for the country. Is there any similar thinking behind the scenes on this right now?

BISKUPIC: OK. Well, I can tell you that this is going to be a whole different kind of case. It doesn't involve the fundamental right to

abortion, because frankly, they got rid of that already. But, what this is about is a much more regulatory matter that I think actually the Food and

Drug Administration might win this case. It might say that these challengers, these anti-abortion physicians who have challenged these

regulations, that the Food and Drug Administration has had an effect for nearly 10 years. And I should say, Kasie, that this does not put on the

table the year 2000 approval of the drug. It's just some regulations that loosened requirements of when women could access it, up to 10 weeks rather

than just seven weeks by mail, rather than in person.

But, that is not to minimize the scope of the case. It's just to say it's a different kind of case. And it also goes to the core of the FDA's expertise

and scientific medical authority here. And I actually think this case is set up in a way that would be more likely to have a win for the FDA and for

people who want greater access to this drug. But, I think no matter which way the court goes, it will still have major reverberations for the

campaign, because you're right, it's going to come by the end of June.

HUNT: All right. It's time for a quick break for us. My panel is going to be back in just for a moment with one more thing.


HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. My panel rejoins me. Before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail or in Washington

that you're watching in the coming days. Your thoughts. Joan, what are you watching?

BISKUPIC: Well, I'll tell you one thing, right here in Washington at the Supreme Court, in the Washington National Cathedral, Sandra Day O'Connor,

the first woman justice in America, will be eulogized, and just to tie it into your State of the Race, Kasie, Ronald Reagan in 1980 vowed to appoint

the first woman to the Supreme Court to shore up his women's vote as he was running against Jimmy Carter. She served from 1981 to 2006. She controlled

the law in so many areas, including abortion rights, and she died at age 93 on December 1, and she will be eulogized, and there is no one left at the

Supreme Court like her.

HUNT: Indeed. All right. Thank you for that. Maria, what's your one more thing?

CARDONA: The Biden campaign just announced a series of ads in English and Spanish and in Spanglish that is comparing Donald Trump to dictators like

Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. I think it is super smart. I think it's about time that the Biden campaign starts being very aggressive

and making the comparison about how Donald Trump in his own words would be a dictator on day one, and for his coalition of voters that are Latino,

immigrants, voters of color, communities of color, that is going to be an incredibly powerful contrast that I think will help Biden in 2024.


HUNT: Very interesting. Doug Heye.

HEYE: Yeah. December is the fifth anniversary of the First Step Act, the landmark in bipartisan criminal justice reform that was enacted under

President Trump. Kevin Ring, who runs criminal justice reform efforts for Arnold Ventures, wrote a piece for The Hill that highlights why that issue

has fallen off the table for a lot of voters, the rise in violent crime and certainly a lot of the rhetoric that criminal justice reform advocates

used, defund the police and things like that. He argues that it's time to use smarter language so that as we look back at five years of a very

successful landmark bill, we can build from that and move forward.

HUNT: Very interesting, Doug. Thank you for that. And thanks to all of you for being here today. I will say my one more thing today is remembering the

20 children and six adults that we as a country lost at Sandy Hook 11 years ago today. May we never forget those faces, as we remember and think about

their surviving families and the grief that, I'm sure, that they are still enduring every day.

I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for today, Thursday, December 14. You can always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly known

as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. One World is up next.