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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Republican Candidates Campaign In Iowa After Trump's Praise Of Dictators & Attacks On Immigrants; Trump Refers To People Attested On Jan. 6 As Hostages; U.S. Intel Assessment: China, Russia, Iran And Cuba All Tried To Meddle In 2022 Congressional Elections. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 19, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN AVLON, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: The weather may be getting cold on the campaign trail, but attacks between the candidates are heating up. In
Iowa, Nikki Haley is taking aim at Donald Trump's praise for dictators, while his team is responding in reaction to her rise. And all is not well
between Wilmington and the White House, as President Biden's team confronts another falling poll, despite signs of a rising economy. And in the halls
of Congress, one GOP Senator says there is no way a border deal gets done this week, setting them all up for lumps of coal in their respective
Good day, everyone. I'm John Avlon, in for Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It is 11 a.m. in
Washington, Tuesday, December 19. There are 27 days until the Iowa caucuses, and 321 days until the election. This is today's State of the
America is saying goodbye to a Supreme Court pioneer, a centrist icon, the first woman on the High Court. You're looking live National Cathedral in
Washington where the funeral for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is underway. President Biden and Chief Justice Roberts are among
those who will be eulogizing her.
But, meanwhile, on the campaign trail that will determine our democracy's future, Donald Trump's GOP rivals are wrestling with how to respond to his
comments praising dictators and attacking immigrants. Trump said over the weekend that immigrants were "poisoning the blood of our country". He also
called President Joe Biden a threat to democracy, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin while doing so. But, here is former UN Ambassador Nikki
Haley responding in Iowa on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The part that bothers me is our national security is at risk. And what's he doing? He is praising
dictators. When Israel fell to her knees, what did he do? He talked about an old vendetta with Netanyahu and praised Hezbollah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: But, here is the thing. It wasn't all criticism from Haley. She also took time to praise her old boss, saying his policies were right when he
was President. Meanwhile, Trump is set to speak in Iowa today, and his super PAC is attacking Nikki Haley in a new ad, while Haley's ads target
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and President Biden.
So, let's dive into this with today's great panel. We got LZ Granderson, Los Angeles Times OpEd Columnist, Visiting Scholar at Western Michigan
University; also former House Republican Adam Kinzinger, CNN Senior Political Commentator. He is also the Honorary Chairman of the Country
First Political Action Committee. And last but not least in no way is Maria Cardona, a CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist. All right.
It's great to see you all. We've got a lot to talk about.
Adam, I want to begin with you about Trump's praise for dictators, the escalating rhetoric and signs that maybe Nikki Haley is stepping up to
criticize him on that, certainly very divergent views of foreign policy. Is it too little too late? Or are you on the Nikki Haley bandwagon right now?
ADAM KINZINGER, FORMER U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN, & CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I mean, it feels like -- good to be with you, by the
way. It feels like it's a little bit of too little too late. I mean, we're 27 days from the Iowa caucus. The last three or four months, it's not like
Donald Trump had been quiet and he wasn't saying anything crazy. He was saying crazy stuff then. But now, it's like -- it's good. And I mean, I
encourage her to -- you've got to go after Trump, but then the -- give that compliment sandwich of, yeah, but his policies were really good. It is
tough to separate the man from his policies. When the man is praising dictators, I don't care what his policy is. He is a dictator praising
President, and he obviously has an affection for that.
So, look, I encourage anybody to come on the "tell the truth train" and I'm glad she is there. But, I guess if I was advising her four or five months
ago, I'd say now is the time when he is 50 points up in the poll to go after him, not at the very end when people generally have their mind pretty
AVLON: The "tell the truth train", I like that. Maria, I want to play for you Nikki Haley's new campaign ad. She is using humor pretty effective, not
something we see very often, but also going into a real weak spot for the current President and Congress. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: I'll just say it, Biden is too old, and Congress is the most exclusive nursing home in America. Washington keeps failing because
politicians from yesterday can't lead us into tomorrow. We need term limits, mental competency tests and a real plan to defeat China and restore
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Now, you're a Democrat, but I want you to grade that campaign ad. It seems pretty effective to me.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & U.S. DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah. I think it is effective. And for those voters who believe that age is
going to be a defining issue for them, meaning that they're not going to be able to vote for somebody who is old, like she says, I think it could be
effective, but it might also then keep him from voting in November, because let's face it, to your point, just now the discussion you just had with
Adam. I think it's too late for Nikki Haley. I think that she might have tried to get on the truth train. But, I think the truth train left her
months ago. Right? If she had started telling the truth and going after Donald Trump at the very beginning, she might have had a chance to be maybe
tied with him now at least in New Hampshire.
But, look, she might be rising now. The momentum might be with her. But, I do think is too late. Now, anything can happen, obviously, right? New
Hampshire, Iowa, today's politics, it's all crazy. Anything can happen. And a day is a lifetime in politics. But, the problem with Nikki Haley is that
she can't have it both ways. And Adam just talked about this too. She can't say on the one hand that he is talking about being a dictator, and her
criticizing that, and then saying that she supports his policies. Well, did she support when he separated babies from the arms of their mother? Did she
support the Muslim ban? Did she support when he was calling his supporters to go and attack the Capitol? I mean, all of those are in the Trump
package, and you cannot try to make yourself support that and then also divide yourself from it. It makes absolutely no sense.
AVLON: Can't do Donald Trump ala carte. All right.
AVLON: LZ, you are a student of language, my friend. A great columnist. And I wanted to -- some jumped out of me, a lot of Donald Trump's rhetoric is -
- it's not dog whistle anymore. It's bullhorn. But, in his persistent defense in calling for the release or amnesty for the January 6 defendants,
in the wake of the horrific October 7 terrorist attack in Israel with hostages still being held by Hamas, over 100, I was struck that President -
- ex-President Trump has started to shift his language from calling those January 6 defendants political prisoners to hostages. Take a listen. I want
you to -- get your take on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call them the J6 hostages, not prisoners. I call them the hostages, what's happened.
And it's a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: What do you make of that?
LZ GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES, & VISITING SCHOLAR, WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY: Well, obviously, it's purposely done to
increase the victimizing of the participants of January 6, not really to characterize the reality of where we're living. Right? And we know this is
a tool that Donald Trump has used before he was even a political candidate. I mean, he literally wrote in the art of making the deal that he believes
in what sort of like this inflated, sort of ambiguous, sort of existence of reality to begin with in order to make deals.
AVLON: Truthful, kind of horrible.
GRANDERSON: (Inaudible). So, it's like none of this is new. Right? My problem is this. We are too focused on what he talks about, and not what he
is doing in the shadows in terms of strategic strategy, in terms of who he is targeting with his not just rhetoric, but presence, who is he is into
primary against. Look at the state attorney generals he has targeted. Look at the Heritage project, the Project 2025, and everything that's laid out
for the first 180 days that the conservative movement wants to do. That doesn't mean Trump wants to do it all. But, I mean, there are tangible
things we can actually look at, and ask ourselves, what does this mean? Not just focus in on what he talks about, but actually what he is doing before
he actually finds himself maybe in the White House.
AVLON: That's such an important point, and we're going to get to actually some of that Heritage Foundation stuff later. But, I think you're exactly
right to shift the focus to what he is actually proposing.
Adam, before we go, I want to get your take on this. There is a story, intelligence report released, written up by CNN and others about Russia and
China and Iran trying to meddle in the previous midterms in 2022 in the congressional elections. All these countries are pushing their agenda, Cuba
as well. China trying to get pro-Chinese views across on social media, but the detail about Russia really struck me, and I wanted to get your take on
it. Pull up the full screen there.
It's that Russia -- Russia, meanwhile, sought to "denigrate the Democratic Party before the midterm elections and undermine confidence in the
election, most likely to undermine U.S.", I have continue there, "support for Ukraine," the intelligence community assessed with high confidence. So,
first of all, is that surprising to you? You've served in Congress through that election. And what do you make of that escalation of meddling by these
adversaries and the autocrats?
KINZINGER: Yeah. It doesn't surprise me at all, because what Vladimir Putin has seen, I mean, you keep in mind, in 2016, it's not like America all of a
sudden became united around defending our election systems against Vladimir Putin. He became a controversy -- he became a partisan figure himself with
some Republicans defending him, including Donald Trump. And then, Democrats going after him because of Donald Trump. And so, he knows that there is no
downside to meddling.
And so -- by the way, it's interesting, because somebody that sat through these briefings that has obviously seen classified information in my prior
job, when they say high confidence, that is very rare for an intelligence agency to say high confidence. It means they've seen it happen. It's not a
conjecture. It's not taking three or four pieces and making a complete picture with that. It's actually having seen different things without going
into more information. I know they have the capability to do it.
So, it's very clear. I mean, look, just a week ago, or even a couple days ago, Vladimir Putin is praising the Republicans for blocking aid to
Ukraine. So, there is no doubt who he wants to win. And I have no doubt and I am not surprised that he would want to meddle in the election for his
AVLON: I mean, it's just pretty stunning to see it so starkly. Maria, what do you make of the Chinese role in all this? Because a lot of focus is on
Russia. Russia, are you listening, the 2016 election? But, China is clearly ramping up its efforts, broadly just to push a pro-China line. What's your
take on that?
KINZINGER: Yeah. I think that's right. I think it's equally dangerous because, obviously, we know that Russia is one of our biggest adversaries,
but China is as well. And we were just talking about Nikki Haley. Nikki Haley loves to rail against the Chinese, and she has some very good reasons
for doing so.
And so, I think that China and Russia and Cuba and all of these things put together in this package also underscore the kind of existential threat
that Donald Trump will be if he is elected President, because he will kowtow to all of them. Even though he might have tough talk against some of
them, he will kowtow to all of them, because they all have dictators. He loves dictators. He wants to be one. He wants to be a strong man. He said
he would be a dictator on day one, if we actually let him near the Oval Office again. And he is a dictator on day one. Do we really think he is
going to give up that power? So, he looks up to China. He looks up to Russia. He looks up to Cuba. He looks up to all of those governments
because he wants to convert the United States democracy into his own one man dictatorship, and we cannot let that happen.
AVLON: Well, we're going to leave it there for now. We'll be back in a second. But, on the other end of the spectrum of lowercase our Republican
values, I want to go to the funeral for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in Washington. CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula
Reid joins us. Paula, describe what we've heard and seen at the funeral so far.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it is just getting underway now. But, we expect that she will be eulogized by two men
who played a pretty key role in her confirmation hearings back in the early 80s, one, Chief Justice John Roberts, who, back when she was nominated to
the High Court, he was in the Reagan administration and played a key role in helping her to prepare for her confirmation hearings, which she aced, as
you can tell from the vote count on her confirmation. But, she'll also be eulogized by President Biden. Here you can see there, and he was at that
time just 38-years-old, but the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, so also a key figure in her confirmation.
And John, I expect that we're going to hear them reflect on this incredible life, this legacy, and they will likely touch on just how different her
path was to the Supreme Court, because right now, John, look, there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. I can tell you exactly who is on the
shortlist and the long list for either party. But, she had this very circuitous and unexpected, mostly unexpected to her, of course, path to
become the first woman on the High Court. She was the child of ranchers in Arizona. She went to Stanford undergrad and in law school, but she was one
of only three women in our class, and she had an impossible time finding a job.
When she got out at this time in the 1950s, people were just not in the habit of hiring women at law firms. So, she started her own shop. But, she
also spoke really publicly about how difficult it was, particularly at that time, to manage a career and a family.
She took several years off of her career, but eventually went back and had several state-level positions before joining the Arizona Court of Appeals,
which is a relatively low level court compared to the resumes that you see now. But, when Reagan had a vacancy to fill, she got some calls from the
Justice Department, did some interviews. John, imagine that she comes to Washington and at some point in the process, someone says, hey, would you
like to go to the Oval Office? She didn't even know what that was. Right? This was not a position that she was gunning for. She winds up there.
She meets President Reagan, and she describes being on the plane home back to Arizona thinking, wow, what an amazing trip. I would never want that
job, too much heat, too much pressure. But, what an incredible experience I've had. And the phone rings a week later, it was President Ronald Reagan
offering her the chance to be nominated to the High Court. So, it's so remarkable to hear that story when you compare the process now. Right?
Like, Leonard Leo is somewhere like sketching out possibilities if Donald Trump returns to the White House. We know the shortlist, if there is any
vacancies anytime soon during this administration. It's just so unusual.
But, it was indicative of the experience for women, particularly in the legal profession at that time. There were not many of them. There were
certainly not many of them serving as judges, and not many with the resume, right, the judicial credentials, in addition to the right political
context, and that's what she had. She'd worked for Nixon's reelection. She'd even socialized with Ken Starr, long before the Clinton
administration. So, it's really just remarkable how she came to the High Court. And of course, we all are more familiar with her legal legacy on
abortion, on affirmative action. And we're seeing right now this more right leaning Supreme Court undoing a lot of her legacy when she was on the
AVLON: No question about it. And she also on the bench was a stalwart figure in the center who sort of --
AVLON: -- had independence and integrity. And that's something that Justice Roberts is desperately trying to shore up as things have moved more
ideologically to the right. I'll also say, in her retirement, she devoted a lot of time working on civics education, which is another piece of her
legacy that hopefully will continue forward. It's just an amazing American life.
REID: It is an amazing American life, and it's a fascinating American story from where she stepped down off the bench to care for her husband, a
reminder that you can have, right, a robust career, a family life. And in marriage, there are times when one person's life priorities takes
precedent, and she believed that her husband struggled with Alzheimer's, and needed to take precedent, and really be at the forefront of their lives
during that time. And of course, now, Chief Justice Roberts was the one initially tapped to replace her when she stepped down, though, after the
death of Chief Justice Rehnquist, he was switched to that spot.
But, the overlap here is remarkable. And I'm really going to be interested to hear from the Chief Justice and see what he says, particularly about
your point about trying to bring the court back to a more centrist perspective and, of course, larger issue of civility and ethics on the
court. So, I'll be listening to see what he says.
AVLON: That's what we need to see. Paula Reid, thank you so much.
Now, coming up, a new poll showing President Joe Biden's approval ratings at a record low. Why many Americans feel he is neglecting the issues most
important to their families? That's ahead.
AVLON: Ukraine's President Zelenskyy is holding his year-end news conference. Let's take a listen.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (TRANSLATED): We have issues. I mean, we don't have some of the ammunition, but we're working on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANSLATED): (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Mr. President, (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). I have one question and want to follow your previous response.
So, Western leaders like German Chancellor Mr. Scholz, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, say that the war can go for quite long. One of his own
commanders already -- also says it can take years. Being the chief of the military in the country, do you think that the war may not end in 2024? And
following up your previous response, if the assistance from West, financial, military one, dwindles materially next year, do you have a plan
B that is -- will Ukraine have something to fight with and to live with?
ZELENSKYY (TRANSLATED): I'm thankful to our relations with the European Union. I'm missing some details now. I'd say the European countries who
respect us a lot, who are proud of our people, we built special personal relationships with them. The long-term aid, I think definitely, it will be
this leverage that you had in mind. Yes, there will be risks. But, I think again that we won't be betrayed by our partners. At least this is the
result of my visit. What we have now, $1.7 billion from Bulgaria, $2.4 million from Denmark, $2.3 billion from Korea, Lithuania, Latvia, the
Netherlands, hundreds of millions, Norway $7.5 billion, France $2 billion, Germany $8 billion, Sweden, a bit more than half a million. Huge, huge aid
from Japan. This makes for a strong basis.
So, if there are some risks, these amounts will be counting them. It's about the multi-annual support for a variety of objectives. Some will go
for humanitarian, some for economy, others for social benefits payments. But, again, great deal of this assistance from those states is about
military assistance. So, again, I'm very much confident about our partners. We did nearly everything, and the year isn't yet over.
Now, on the war ending in 2024, I think no one has the answer to it. Even those reputable army commanders here in the West, those who say that this
is a multi-annual exercise, they don't know yet if it will be. Yeah. We have dialogue. We have thoughts, and thoughts and ideas can be far from
realities. Sorry for revisiting them. Example, with a sick guy dreaming of being triumphant in just three days, his ideas were also ideas and they
flopped. I'm not going to compare in any way the ideas of that person with respectable partners had in mind. But again, just to be more specific, the
war, a victory, a failure, stagnation, these all depends on various factors and decisions from different risks from different areas and domains.
But, in the most, and for the most part, they depend on us, ourselves. If we lose our resilience, we will -- and this will foster -- if you want a
failing in our resilience, we will end this war faster. You can remain skeptical about everything, but you can lose the country with it. I'm not
ready for it. And I do know that there are many more of us, millions like me here, we are not ready to give up to let go our country. From day one
until the last day, this is how things will happen. We will keep all our objectives, everything we are capable of, and taken together, we are
capable of much more than individually. I think we can make this victory closer.
AVLON: A message of resolve amid multilateral support from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy at his end of the year news press conference. We're
going to have more on that later in the program.
But now, with the American election, now less than 11 months away, new poll numbers showing President Joe Biden has got his work cut out for him. His
approval rating currently stands at an all-time low, according to the latest Monmouth University poll. It shows just 34 percent of Americans
approve of his job performance, 61 percent disapprove. The poll shows that many people feel he is not paying enough attention to their top concerns.
Only 28 percent, for examples, say he has handled inflation well, and just 26 percent approved his handling of immigration.
Back now to our panel. Maria, it'd be malpractice not to start with you.
CARDONA: Thanks, John.
AVLON: There is no way you can spin those numbers as being positive, even though I think you need to acknowledge the gap between the actual trendline
and something like inflation, which is bad, but getting better --
AVLON: -- and people's perception. Same with the economy. Over and over again, it's that story with the Biden team. What do they do about it?
CARDONA: Well, I think what they're going to do about it is what they are doing about it, and they're going to do more about it in the new year,
which is keep their head down, focus on their messaging, focus on the work. And look, I think that while there is no question, John, that this is going
to be a tough election that the President has his work cut out for him, there are major challenges. I don't think that any President seeking
reelection in our generation has faced these many challenges all wrapped up in one. The country is in a malaise. Everyone just feels crappy. And they
take it out on the person who is at the top.
But, if you look at the polls, and I know that the polls have not been great, either, but today, there was a New York Times/Siena poll that had
Biden up two points with likely voters. And so, we know that this is going to be a very close election. We've seen polls that have Joe Biden more
points behind and then Joe Biden more points ahead. What this campaign has got to do, and I always have said this, they need to run like they're 20
points behind, because that way, you do not take anything for granted. You leave everything on the table. You have to run scared. It's the only way to
run to win.
And so, this campaign is going to be focused on continuing to communicate the message of everything that this administration has accomplished, and
they have accomplished a lot, close the gap between that and how people feel. And if you look at focus groups, and I've seen this happen, when you
explain between all of the accomplishments that Biden has done and how it affects people's lives, the infrastructure bill, the job creation, the
local economies being boosted, the Republicans who show up at ribbon cuttings, the same ones who voted against the money that they are now
People's perceptions change.
AVLON: I hear you. I hear you. But, they've also had three years to tell that story, and it's not sinking in. I mean, LZ, obviously, part of the
problem is politics' perception. It's around his age, and there is not a heck of a lot you could do about that. As you're fond of saying, it is just
a number. And yet, sometimes it's gotten greater weight. I want to play you -- I want to read you something that -- and Axios reported today. He said -
- they wrote "President Biden's reluctance to acknowledge his physical limitations at 81 is causing some tensions on his team, as senior aides and
the First Lady push him to rest more and be vigilant about his health going into 2024." Is this a messaging problem, or is this a problem with just the
facts of the man's age? And the message hadn't gotten out yet. And why should it get better?
GRANDERSON: This is a conversation about aging that extends way beyond on President Biden, if you will, because there are actually a number of
prominent figures, both -- in both parties, obviously in the Democratic side, we've talked about a number, but there are prominent figures who have
seemed to have, let's just say, had stayed a really long time in Washington. And voters are restless. Right?
And at a certain point, you can't continue to characterize yourself as the party of the future, while having political leaders on a national level not
being willing to pass the baton to the future. And I think someone that believes that you're sensing is maybe just people are just getting tired of
maintaining order, and that they actually want the change that was promised on the campaign trail. That's not just about age. That's about policy, but
the policy needs to be undergirded by excitement. And let's face it. Youth brings excitement.
So, the poll numbers are going to go up and down based upon how people are feeling. Yes. And I'm pretty sure when it gets to a general election,
people will make a decision that will be based on the lesser of two evils. But, what we're seeing right now, it's just a Progressive Party who are
saying when is it going to be our turn. That's all.
AVLON: Well, look, I mean, I'll go to the notably youthful former member of Congress, Adam Kinzinger, on this one. You and Liz Cheney and other
Republicans who stood up to Donald Trump, because of his lies and his record, have persistently made the point that this election is about
defending democracy, and Biden needs to build a broader coalition with the 25 percent of Republicans who say they would never support Trump to
independent voters who have slipped away from Trump, notably in the wake of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. I mean, these headwinds are serious. What
is your argument for how they can get off the back foot on this?
KINZINGER: Well, let me give you an example here. And I'm not asking for them to call me, please God. But, I've been out there saying there is no
way Donald Trump can win. I'll vote for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Democracy is so important. Do you know how many calls or outreaches I've
gotten from the Biden campaign? Guess. It's zero. And I talked to other members that are like me, people that are former Republicans that have come
out and said that Biden has to win, and all of them say the same thing. They've never heard from the Biden campaign. Now, maybe they're going to
reach out to us. And again, it's not an ego thing. I don't care. And I'd frankly rather not get involved. But, I know I have to get involved. But,
that goes to show a tactical issue.
On top of that, like, I do think this election is about democracy. That doesn't necessarily mean, though, that's what's going to drive the
electorate. I understand that, and I think the things the electorate is being driven by is, look, I learned this about when I got out of Congress a
year ago. I don't think people really care about what you've done for them anymore, at least in this moment. So, if you go to somebody and say I voted
for the infrastructure bill, which I did, by the way, I don't think they care, because they're wrapped up in these, yes, culture war issues, these
issues they feel bad about. You can come and say I had built the Hoover Dam, and they're going to say, OK, yeah, but my family is still struggling
to buy groceries.
On top of that, where is Joe Biden on Ukraine? Why is he not out there yelling from the top of his lungs that the Republicans are holding up aid
to Ukraine? Because I'm going to tell you, if Ukraine loses, and I don't think they will, but if they do, that will do more to destroy Joe Biden's
presidency than even inflation, because we're already upset about Afghanistan and some other things. He needs a win here, but he is nowhere
to be seen, and this has an effect, I think.
AVLON: Well, I think that's an interesting point. But, you also made some news right there. I mean, if the Biden team hadn't reached out to you, and
some of your colleagues who are former Republicans, that's political malpractice. That's so interesting.
All right. More to come up, guys, we got a Republican Senator warning now there is no way a deal on border security gets done before the holiday
AVLON: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm John Avlon. One of the top Senate Republicans now telling CNN there is no way a vote on an immigration
deal, really a border deal, can happen this week. Senator John Thune says he thinks lawmakers will eventually hammer out an agreement on border
security. But, they need more time. So, it won't happen before senators leave Washington for the holidays.
My panel is back to discuss all of this. Guys, immigration and border security, this is an issue that runs hot and deep, and people feel locally
as well as nationally. But, I'm struck by the fact that for all the urgency politically there is around the border and migrants, for the moral urgency,
there should be around Ukraine and Israel, which have been tied to this bill. I'm struck that Republicans don't seem to be hitting the gas, Adam.
They seem to be pumping the brakes. And the problem about returning in January is a lot on a little thing called the Iowa caucus and the
Republican primary. Is there a chance that some Republicans are playing politics with this? They don't actually want Biden to solve the problem
because they think that might hurt them politically or benefit him?
KINZINGER: Yeah. I mean, you hit the nail on the head. So, here is the deal. You ask the House, if Mike Johnson was on here, the Speaker of the
House, and you ask him, what is the Republican position on the border? What are you asking for, for Ukraine? He would say H.R. 2. Now, H.R. 2 was a
bill that was intended only to be a messaging bill. It was opposed by a few Republicans. Not a single Democrat supported it. And the only reason it
passed is because they convinced a number of Republicans that there is no way that this will become law. So, that's an unrealistic starting position.
You ask the Senate, the Senate, I think has some, whatever they're asking for, some changes to the asylum laws which, by the way, needs to be done.
It's being abused. But, regardless, the Senate has a position that I think you can get to, yes, even though I vehemently disagree that these should
all be tied together, but whatever they are.
The problem is the House doesn't have a position. The Senate is trying to negotiate the House when the House doesn't have a position, and part of the
reason they don't have a position is because those in the freedom club, the Freedom Caucus, they don't want Ukraine aid to pass. And so, they're
putting -- I mean, I went through this for 12 years. They're putting an unrealistic goal out there so that they achieve their other thing, which is
tanking Ukraine aid. I still think it gets done, ultimately. But, let's be honest. There are not honest players in this negotiation, at least on the
AVLON: That is a dynamic we have certainly seen in recent history on Capitol Hill. Maria, there is a lot of folks in the Democratic Party who
are very worked up about the possibility of some kind of border security agreement. Just briefly, we could even do a yes or no, is reforms to the
asylum process really the end of the world, or is that something that has political and practical upside for the President?
CARDONA: I think that there has to be some deal done, and there has to be additional border security. The problem that a lot of progressives have on
this, John, is that it should not be done at this 11th hour connected to something as important as Ukraine. As you know, we haven't been able to get
immigration reform done in decades. This is not the right vehicle to do it. Adam is right. Republicans are negotiating in completely bad faith. They do
not want to solve this problem. If they did, they would connect with Democrats and actually deal with this issue separately. It's that important
to the country, but they don't care.
AVLON: Well, I'll just point out, though, I mean, despite all the anti- immigrant rhetoric, a recent CNN poll had Latinos voters, Biden only four points up from Donald Trump. So --
CARDONA: I disagree with that poll. Another poll that actually does know how to poll Latino voters has Biden up by more than 20.
AVLON: All right. All right. Well, good people can disagree.
AVLON: LZ, I want to go --
CARDONA: Yes, we can.
AVLON: -- to you and talk local. You're talking to us from San Antonio, Texas, home of the Alamo, where your governor has just signed a very
controversial new law that would allow -- essentially allow state and local law enforcement to enforce border provisions, arrest migrants who come
across the border. "The measure, SB 4, grants local law enforcement the power to arrest migrants and judges the ability to issue orders to remove
them to Mexico." There are constitutional questions about this. But, there is also a history when local authorities start getting involved in this
sort of way. How do you see this playing out as a matter of criminal justice and civil rights?
GRANDERSON: Well, there is the criminal justice in the civil rights path. But, there is also the political path, which is the reason why Governor
Abbott did what he did, because this is bad policy. It's racist. And it really echoes what Arizona tried to do a few years ago, where it's
basically, show me your papers, a sort of bill that actually got them cost in the Super Bowl that year, I believe. And so, when you think about this,
this is an extension of what we've seen before. Trying to find reasons to stop people of color in the street, like a stop and frisk sort of scenario,
under the guise of this is good immigration policy, is bad policy. But, it's good politics in Texas. And this is why there is a problem here on the
And believe it or not, there is a lot of people who look like me, who do not believe national Democrats take this issue seriously. So, whenever
there is a school shooting or something horrific that's happening in Texas, and Governor Abbott gets in front of a microphone and says something
insensitive, and you find yourself asking, how do people keep the mechanist man, is because he understands there is a real fear about resources here in
Texas, as well as in Arizona, and California is facing as well, that when you're trying to handle that many people, if you don't have enough
resources, guess who is going to pay for it, the people who live in those states. He understands that. That's the reason why he did this. It wasn't
about the policy. It was about the politics.
AVLON: Such an important point, LZ. Thank you so much.
Still ahead, the White House warns that aid for Ukraine is about to run out. We're going to take a look at what this means for the war and the
AVLON: The White House is warning Congress that funding for Ukraine is about to run out. That's unless Congress gets its act together and approves
the additional help President Biden has requested. The National Security Council and the Department of Defense have both stated that additional aid
to Ukraine is in the United States' national interest.
Joining us now is Anne Applebaum, author of "The Twilight of Democracy". She writes for The Atlantic, a Senior Fellow for the Johns Hopkins School
of International Studies. And it's great to see you and to have you on the program. You've written so extensively and eloquently on this topic. I just
want to know concisely, what is your message to Republicans on Capitol Hill opposing aid to Ukraine?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, AUTHOR, "THE TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY", & SENIOR FELLOW, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It is in our national
interest that Ukraine not lose. Putin's goals in the war are the same now as they were two years ago. He said it last week, his goal is to destroy
all of Ukraine, to replace the Ukrainian nation, to remove the President, to remove the government, to change the nature of the country. If this
happens, there will be an immediate threat to Europe and to all of our allies in Europe. There will also be an immediate understanding that the
United States failed that we made a promise. We didn't keep it. And other countries around the world who consider themselves our allies, in Asia, in
Europe, will understand that as a message.
AVLON: Would you say that some of these individuals may be being played by Putin or at least his propaganda?
APPLEBAUM: I mean, it's pretty clear. We have a parallel situation in Europe with Viktor Orban. It's pretty clear that there are some members of
the U.S. Congress, especially the House, but not only who use Russian propaganda, the language of Russian propaganda, maybe they get it from
Tucker Carlson who does the same, maybe they get it from Russian social media, maybe they get it from contacts and allies, I don't know. But, there
are certainly members of Congress who speak the same language. They use the same arguments that that Putin and his propagandists use. And so, I don't
know what is the correct word for them. They're agents of influence. They're pro-Russian. They're acting on behalf of, I'm not sure what the
right language is, but they are certainly acting on behalf of Russia when they block aid to Ukraine.
AVLON: Because you mentioned Viktor Orban, it's striking to me how much Hungarian emissaries of the Orban government keep popping up in the context
of America's presidential campaign. Allies of Orban speaking at a Heritage Foundation sort of think tank confab the other day, President -- ex-
President Trump speaking at the New York Republican Party fundraiser, and there was the Ambassador to Hungary.
What do you make of this sort of persistent riff we've seen in terms of policy that is attracting so many of the Trumpist right to Viktor Orban and
APPLEBAUM: So, Orban is someone who has done something that I think some Republicans admire, namely, he has -- he won a Democratic election and then
he used his Democratic victory to change the nature of his country. So, he -- it's a long story, but essentially, he eliminated the independent
judiciary. He mostly eliminated the independent media. He changed the rules of the Constitution and of the electoral laws that was almost impossible
for him to lose. And he did so all the while using this language of culture war. Hungary is fighting the scourge of immigration, which, by the way,
there are very few immigrants in Hungary. But, he achieved something that they admire. And they would like to do that too. They would also like to
take power in the United States, and then never lose it.
And I think his example for them and his proximity to Putin may have some influence on them as well. And I should also say, he and people around him
make an effort to cultivate foreign politicians, like the Republican far right, like the French far right. They see that if they have allies in
their illiberal undemocratic vision of the world that they will find it easier to stay in power.
AVLON: You have been very eloquent warning about the stakes of this race piece in The Atlantic recently about the threat to NATO. But, you also talk
about solutions. And that's what I don't think we do enough of. You recently wrote a piece calling for Russia's frozen assets to be given to
Ukraine now. Can you explain how that would impact the war?
APPLEBAUM: Yeah. No. So, at the beginning of the war, we froze Russian assets, we and other allies, a lot of the assets are in Europe, inside
Western financial institutions. And they -- Russia can't use them. They can't collect interest on them. I think -- and there has been a running
conversation going on for a number of months about why don't we unfreeze them and not give them back to Russia, but give them to Ukraine as a form
of advanced reparations. And Russia has robbed Ukraine of its property rights, undermined Ukrainian sovereignty. And so -- and broken all kinds of
international laws, and in recompense, we would give Ukraine Russian money.
I think there are some risks to doing this. But, I think the time has come to take those risks. I mean, now that we have embedded in the U.S. system,
and in some European systems, and certainly in the European community, we have pro-Russian politicians and political leaders who are arguing Russia's
case. That's making it hard to get money to -- the money that Ukraine needs to continue fighting the war. And I think the time has come to give
Russia's money to Ukraine. Why not? I mean, I think everybody understands the essential justice of that.
AVLON: Advanced reparations. Anne Applebaum, thank you so much for joining us. Be well.
All right. It's time for a quick break, but stick with us because our panel will be back with one more thing.
AVLON: Welcome back to State of the Race. Our panel rejoins. And before we go, I want to ask for one more thing. What's the one thing on the campaign
trail or in Washington that you're watching for in the coming days? Your thoughts, 30 seconds each. LZ, kick it off.
GRANDERSON: Well, we're barreling towards the holiday season, John. And so, I want to point out that the "National Alliance on Mental Illness" found
that one in -- three in five people are stressed out this time of the year because of the holidays, and overall, Americans are stressed out because of
the holidays. So, please keep that in mind. Let the car emerge. Don't crash to the parking space. Let the woman in the car get in front of you. It's
AVLON: Be kind. I love it. All right. Adam Kinzinger, what you got?
KINZINGER: Well, I'm watching the absolute victim nests of Donald Trump and how over this campaign he is a victim of everything despite having once
been the most powerful man in the world, and he thrives on convincing people that they're victims and they're recipients of the deep state. So,
I'm going to watch to see if the Democrats can actually push back on that message, or if they let him own the victim space, and hopefully they can
push back and show how weak he really is.
AVLON: I like that. Maria Cardona, one more thing.
CARDONA: The Vice President today is launching her reproductive freedom tour. She is going to be out there talking to our key coalition members
about all of the issues that they care about, reproductive freedom, gun safety, climate change, and yes, our democracy. This is key, John, because
in the run up to the 2022 elections where everyone thought a red wave was coming, VP Harris was out there talking to everyone on college campuses and
all of our local media markets, to all of the young people, communities of color, about exactly these issues. She is going to be underscoring that if
Donald Trump gets to the Oval Office, he will be an extinction level event for our democracy, our rights, our freedoms, our country, and I think
that's going to be a contrast that she and President Biden will win in 2024.
AVLON: There you go. All right. Thanks everyone for joining us. Be well. I am John Avlon, and that's the State of the Race today, Tuesday, December
19. One World is up next.