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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Voter Calls Out Nikki Haley For Failing To Mention Slavery Answer About Cause Of Civil War; Haley Clarifies Controversial Remarks On Civil War; Colorado Republican Party Appeals Trump's Ban From State Presidential Ballot To U.S. Supreme Court. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 28, 2023 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: 2024, our election year, just four days away, and somehow we're still debating what happened in the 1800s. Presidential
hopefuls Nikki Haley is in damage control mode today after she made comments ignoring the role that slavery had in causing the Civil War. Plus,
the Colorado GOP says it's asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling barring Donald Trump from the ballot in their state. We'll talk about
Trump's troubles with the 14th Amendment. And the crisis at the southern border with thousands of migrants arriving every day, immigration is among
voters' top concerns. We are live at the border.
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It is 11 a.m. here in Washington. It is
Thursday, December 28. There are just 18 days until the Iowa caucuses, 312 days until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.
Welcome in. Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley is scrambling this morning to repair damage that she did to her own campaign last night.
Listen to how she answered a straightforward question from a voter at a New Hampshire town hall on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the cause of the United States Civil War?
NIKKI HALEY (R), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, don't come with an easy question or anything. I mean, I think the cause of the Civil War was
basically how government was going to run, the freedoms and what people could and couldn't do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the year 2023, it's astonishing to me that you answered that question without mentioning the word slavery.
HALEY: What do you want me to say about slavery? Next question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've answered my question. Thank you.
HALEY: Next question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Something? Anything? Let's dive into all of this with today's panel. CNN Political Commentator and Republican Strategist, Alice Stewart. We have
Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta- Journal Constitution. Thank you all for being here today.
Alice, I have to start with you. Since this is your party, Nikki Haley, well, let's talk about -- let's stay in the current moment. I want to talk
about her past and kind of the layers of nuance that come into this conversation. But, she is already trying to clean this up in a radio
appearance that she did this morning. We're also watching -- she is about to take the stage with Chris Sununu. The Governor of New Hampshire has
endorsed her. He is introducing her at this event in North Conway, New Hampshire, right now. So, we're going to monitor that as well.
Let me show you what she had to say on this radio --
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & U.S. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right.
HUNT: -- appearance, and then we'll talk about it. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: Of course, the Civil War was about slavery. We know that. That's the easy part of it. What I was saying was, what does it mean to us today? What
it means to us today is about freedom. That's what that was all about. It was about individual freedom. It was about economic freedom. It was about
individual rights. Yes, we know the Civil War was about slavery. But, more than that, what's the lesson in all of this, that freedom matters, and the
individual rights and liberties matter for all people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, clearly, a forum there where they kind of offered her -- through her pitch --
HUNT: -- she needed to try to fix what was going on here. It does seem like this was an acknowledgment that she made a mistake last night.
STEWART: Clearly. Look, the lesson here, if she wants to talk about lessons here is that the Civil War was caused by slavery. Period. No questions
about that. And that should have been the one-word answer to this question last night. Look, oftentimes, when you're at this stage of a campaign, you
have people going out there, operatives and other campaigns that will try to plant trick questions to trip you up and try to give a viral moment.
This was not a trick question. This was a very simple question that had a simple answer. And for her to not acknowledge slavery called Civil War, and
to talk about government freedoms and individual liberties, that's a great answer for New Hampshire, the "Live Free or Die" state. But, that wasn't
the question that she was asked.
And the unfortunate thing, when you're 18 days out from the Iowa caucuses, when she has the wind at her sails, the momentum, she has the polls going
in her direction, that is the needle going across the record, a big screech moment, because now she is talking about this instead of the momentum that
she has going into to Iowa.
HUNT: So, just to bring everybody into this, this is Nikki Haley's -- this is the live picture you're looking at. She is up in North Conway, which is
way up in the New Hampshire White Mountains.
It's a very chilly, very small town, but it is a place where Republican candidates, especially, always make a point to stop. And so, we're going to
keep listening to see if she starts talking about this. We will bring you those remarks.
But, Maria, to Alice's point, a DeSantis spokesman tweeted this about her radio cleanup attempt, "Embarrassing cleanup attempt. Even if that is true,
if she can't handle a question as basic as the cause of the Civil War, what does she think is going to happen to her in a general election? The
Democrats would eat her lunch." Now, let's acknowledge upfront, Ron DeSantis is far from a perfect messenger on this issue --
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & U.S. DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.
HUNT: -- which, Tia, I would look --- actually, let's hold on. Let's dip in. She is talking it about right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: -- about the Civil War, and what I think of the Civil War, what was the cause of the Civil War? Of course, the Civil War was about slavery. We
know that. That's unquestioned, always the case. We know the Civil War was about slavery. But, it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms
of every individual. It was about the role of government. For 80 years, America had the decision and the moral question of whether slavery was a
good thing, and whether government, economically, culturally, any other reasons, had a role to play in that.
By the grace of God, we did the right thing, and slavery is no more. But, the lessons of what that bigger issue with the Civil War is that let's not
forget what came out of that, which is government's role, individual liberties, freedom for everything single person, freedom of speech, freedom
of religion, freedom to do and be anything you want to be without anyone or government getting in your way. That should be the goal of what we always
try and take away from that, right, because we never want to return back to that place. But, we always want to remember the lesson of what it means to
be a free individual, and that everyone deserves to be a free individual.
So, we stand by that. I say that as a Southerner. I say that as a Southern Governor who removed the Confederate flag off the Statehouse grounds. And I
say that as a proud American of how far we had come. So now, I'll start. I'm going to tell you a little bit about myself. We're going to talk about
the state of the country and we're going to talk about how to save her. I was born and raised in a small rural town in South Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. We have been listening to Nikki Haley in North Conway, New Hampshire, where she just spent a significant chunk of time trying to clean
up the remarks that she made last night when a voter asked her point blank, what caused the Civil War, and she did not use the word "slavery" in a
considerably lengthy answer. She is now saying that, of course, that is the case. But, she has gone on -- she went on to talk about individual
freedoms. Then, of course, she mentioned her own history with the statehouse in South Carolina when she was governor. The Confederate flag
had been flying on the grounds, and she had it removed in the wake of that shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.
Tia Mitchell, I just would like your reflections on what we heard here, because I -- it was one of those kind of -- also, it was remarkably awkward
moment for her to have to explain this front of this audience.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA-JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: It's awkward, and I wonder if she is digging herself a deeper hole, because
number one, the questioner last night literally said, I'm surprised you didn't mention slavery. So, if she thought at that moment, well, of course,
this is about slavery. She could have said it then and she didn't. And now that she is in cleanup mode, she is somewhat saying the right things after
it's gone viral. But now, she has to grapple with the fact that people are pointing out you didn't move the Confederate flag until people were
slaughtered at a church because you had been asked for months, if not years prior, you don't always support individual liberties on issues like
abortion or transgender rights.
So, now that you're making these additional comments, there is just opening herself up to more criticism, more scrutiny of current and past statements.
So, I think this is going to continue to snowball, and this is what's to be expected. She wants to be the big rival to Donald Trump. Well, now you're
being -- your feet are being put to the fire saying, what exactly do you stand for? What have you said in the past? How does it compare to what
you're saying now?
STEWART: The thing -- I'm sorry.
HUNT: No, no. Go ahead.
STEWART: Her explaining that in that where she is right now in -- with her group, with her supporters, people that get up and brave the cold in New
Hampshire and go to an event for her, they're going to give her a pass.
They're going to say, OK, we understand what you're saying. But, there is a lot of people out there that are saying, you know, I'm still shopping
around for a candidate, and especially in New Hampshire, they wait till the last minute. There is going to be people that -- now, they're going to have
pause. They're going to say, well, let me just give Chris Christie another look, or let me give Ron DeSantis another look, and she is not talking
about the issues that are important to the people of New Hampshire. She is still talking about the Civil War.
CARDONA: And here is the thing, undoubtedly what happened there, I think, is something that voters are just completely turned off about, and that is
just the lack of authenticity. If she did know that this was slavery, which she now tends to say, and you're right, people will be like, well, if
you're saying, of course, why didn't say it last night? Right? That clearly means that what happened in your brain was, oh, I don't want to make the
MAGA extremists not like me. I don't want to say slavery, because then I'm going to be accused of being woke. Right? There was all this calculation in
her head that was happening. That is not what voters are looking for, especially in New Hampshire. They want authenticity, and they want somebody
that stands for something. That is not somebody who stands for something.
HUNT: OK. So, we're talking a lot right now about what exactly was that Nikki Haley said last night and what she had the opportunity to say, and I
did -- I wanted to make sure everyone had the opportunity to see the entire thing, if it was necessary, as we had this conversation. And I think it is.
I'd like to show you -- I don't want to be unfair to her either. So, there is a small piece of this. There is an inaudible -- the voter says something
inaudible to her. But, we're going to show you the full extent of what she said in response to the voter. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are, and we -- I will always stand by the
fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. That was never meant to be all things to all people.
Government doesn't need to tell you how to live your life. They don't need to tell you what you can and can't do. They don't need to be a part of your
life. They need to make sure that you have freedom. We need to have capitalism. We need to have economic freedom. We need to make sure that we
do all things so that individuals have the liberties so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they
want to be without government getting in the way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. In the year 2023, it's astonishing to me that you answered that question without mentioning the word slavery.
HALEY: What do you want me to say about slavery?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've answered my question. Thank you.
HALEY: Next question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Tia Mitchell, that was pretty clear that she had every opportunity, as you mentioned, to answer it, to talk about it, and she
declined to take it. I'm curious, you covered -- you cover this town for a southern paper. She -- I covered her gubernatorial race in South Carolina.
There is a way that people in the south talk about these kinds of issues. And I'm wondering if you hear -- what you hear and how she answered this
question, because I hear someone who has spent a lot of time trying to appease the right --
HUNT: -- in a southern state.
MITCHELL: Yeah. And I think it's someone who -- again, it's -- unfortunately, the way we talk about the Civil War is part of the culture
wars that divide Republicans and Democrats in a lot of ways. And it comes down even the way we talk about the Confederate flag. And I grew up in
Kentucky, which is a border state. It's very southern. I grew up around the Confederate flag. But, as I became educated as an adult, and you learn the
Confederate flag and Civil War kind of mystique is used as a tool of racism, is used as a tool to shield the truth, the truth about the Civil
War, then you can speak more honestly about it.
And so, to me, again, it is -- when you listen to what she said, and she is talking about the Civil War in ways, quite frankly, that parrots (ph) some
of the arguments that Confederates made for why they wanted to secede, and it was about freedom, and it was about our economy, and it was about
preserving our way of life. Again, this was about slave states wanting to continue being slave states, and we have to speak honestly about that, and
not try to mix it all in at some feel good Americana story.
HUNT: Yeah. No. I'm really glad that you're here to provide that perspective. And I want to also show Nikki Haley in the wake of, again,
when she was governor, this -- the Confederate flag came off the statehouse grounds in the wake of that shooting. As Tia mentioned earlier, it took
that event to cause it to happen. But, she explained this in an interview with CNN at the time. I want to show you a little bit of that right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: A flag is living and breathing. And so, it represents something. I think it should be in any museum setting. I think it should be at Fort
Sumter. I think it should be in those places of historical settings, not in places that represent all people. If someone wants to travel to see it,
that's one thing, but it shouldn't be in front of someone's face to where they have to feel it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I mean, Tia, how do you square what we've heard from her there with what we saw last night?
MITCHELL: Well, again, it -- unfortunately for Nikki Haley, she is being perceived right now as someone who massages what she says for the moment
and for the audience, because, again, she has to grapple with the fact that there were people, not just black people, but there were people saying, why
does the capital of South Carolina, a building that should represent all the people of South Carolina, why is it waving a Confederate flag? And she
defended it or was -- had inaction around that question until a tragedy, until blood was shed, and she says, this is what's opened my eyes. And I
think a lot of people were saying at the time, why did it take that? Why does it take bloodshed? Why does it take such -- it had to punch you in the
face for you to understand why there is problems around the Confederate flag.
And let's be clear, the Confederate flag has been a symbol for racist organizations for decades, and that's the reason why there has been this
movement to remove the Confederate flag, because if you're a black person like me and you see the Confederate flag --
MITCHELL: -- I don't know why you're waving it.
MITCHELL: I know it's there. And I know that behind it, there is racism. And sometimes, there is active racist acts behind the waving of that flag.
And that was true years before the massacre in Charleston.
CARDONA: And it took another punch in the face for her to yet again acknowledge that it was slavery that caused the Civil War, the punch in the
face of her, basically having this embarrassing moment on national TV, and for Ron DeSantis to have to go after her. This could have been a golden
moment for her in terms of differentiating herself from Donald Trump and giving people a reason to vote for her instead of him. Now, to Alice's
point, they're giving voters a reason to go somewhere else.
HUNT: And Alice, it occurs to me -- I mean, it does play into as -- to Tia's point, I mean, the thing that she is getting attacked for by her
Republican rivals is for basically blowing in the wind, right, for not being authentic to herself. And this does seem to play right into their
hands on that.
STEWART: Right. It's almost as though she needed to wait and uphold test the answer before she got -- gave the answer. And she -- you don't get that
opportunity when you're live out on the campaign trail with voters. But, I grew up in Atlanta. I'm very well aware of the tension and the vitriol that
is surrounding the Civil War and the Confederate flag. But, you cannot ignore the basic truth that the Civil War was caused by slavery, and that
southern states wanting to expand it out west, there is no denying that. That would have been a very simple answer.
Again, she eventually gets to the right place. It just takes her a long time to get there. And look, the other campaigns, it was five minutes after
that hit social media. All the other campaigns send it to me saying, look at this, and --
STEWART: -- they're going to capitalize now.
HUNT: No. I woke up this morning --
HUNT: -- at 3:30 a.m. to read it for my shows.
HUNT: And it was all --
HUNT: -- multiple texts from people. I mean, this was not a tough one.
All right. Very good conversation. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
Coming up next here, Donald Trump's disqualification from the ballot in Colorado is being appealed by the state's Republican Party, what they're
arguing and their requests to the nation's highest court to overturn the ruling.
HUNT: Welcome back. The Colorado Republican Party is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision by their state's Supreme Court. The
Colorado High Court deemed Donald Trump ineligible to run under the 14th Amendment's ban on insurrectionists holding public office. The state party
is arguing that they showed unprecedented disregard for the First Amendment. Trump is facing similar challenges to get him removed from the
ballot, including one in Maine where the decision is in the hands of the Secretary of State, who is an elected Democrat. Trump's lawyers say she
should recuse herself from making that decision based on prior social media posts condemning the January 6 insurrection.
Our panel is back with me. And CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes also joins us. Tia, we are talking the 14th Amendment, obviously, the
insurrectionists. That was all about the Civil War and slavery. So, we're going to continue the theme. I'm heading back to the 1800s today. But, no,
in seriousness, Kristen, you cover Donald Trump day in and day out? How do they view what the Colorado court did here? I mean, obviously, it's not a
state that -- I mean, it would be presumed to be a blue state in any general election. I will say I've talked to some people who think that this
was good for Trump that it created -- it was a political -- basically a political win for him played into his the system is rigged argument. But,
I'm curious what you hear from them when you talk to them.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, when it comes to Donald Trump's legal issues, this is just not one that really concerns
them. And it's not just Colorado. It's all of the ballot cases. They believe that at the end of the day, he is going to be on the ballot in all
50 states. And part of that is because of what we've seen in so many states already. We've seen Secretaries of State time and time again refuse to take
this up. We've seen Supreme Courts refuse to take this up. So, while this is -- was a surprise to them, because they actually thought that if
anything, they were going to get ruled against in the lower court, not in the Supreme Court, that they'd be fine in the Colorado Supreme Court.
HUNT: Got it.
HOLMES: They do believe at the end of the day that he is going to be on the ballot. Now, it is an opportunity for them to make this political, and
that's obviously also what you saw with the Secretary of State in Maine asking her to recuse herself. And obviously, Maine is a little bit
different than some of these other states. It actually goes to the Secretary of State first, then to the court system, if it's appealed. So,
Trump would have an opportunity anyway, and could use this political argument in an appeal. But, clearly, they wanted to get it out there
starting early, this was political.
HUNT: Yeah, I mean, I will say, though -- I mean, I absolutely take your point. But, let's play a little bit of what Donald Trump had to say about
this in a recent radio interview, just kind of underscore what's going on. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT (VIA TELEPHONE): It's very bad for Colorado, very, very bad for Colorado, but we just had the big win in
Michigan today, and that was a good one, and we have 31. And we have 33 wins, and this isn't a loss because we'll have to see what happens. This is
not a final determination --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TRUMP (VIA TELEPHONE): -- as you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Alice, Kristen is obviously correct. They have bigger legal problems than this one. However, he clearly is very up on exactly the
details of what's going on with this.
STEWART: Oh, sure. And to her point, yeah, he has a lot of legal issues with regard to ballot access. He also has a lot of legal issues with regard
to January 6, with regard to documents, with regard to many other legal issues. But, what he has managed to do is convince his base and his
supporters, these are all one big conspiracy by the courts and the DOJ to attack me because I am the biggest challenge to Joe Biden. And that is what
this is all about. They look at them all the same. And even though that's not true, that's what they believe.
And here is the thing. You cannot like Donald Trump. There is a lot of Republicans like myself that don't particularly care for him.
You can think he was wrong to question the certification of the elections and he was wrong to incite what happened on January 6. But also, I believe
and many Republicans believe, the court shouldn't be taking this action in Colorado. He has not been convicted of this. And until -- if and until he
is convicted, they shouldn't be, as a court, take him off the ballot. Let the people decide if they want him to move forward and not the courts. And
I think we're going to see that in other states, and if and when it does get to the Supreme Court as well.
HUNT: Well, I mean, Maria, it seems like a fair point Alice is making. I mean, innocent until proven guilty. And I will say, I have talked to
Democrats who are looking at Colorado and saying, what are you doing? This is just making it better for -- it's making it easier for him.
CARDONA: Well, I don't know if it's making it easier for him because he is going to make this argument regardless of what happens. I do agree that he
is ultimately going to be in all 50 states, and I hope that he is, because if for whatever reason, let's say, he is kicked off of several states, then
he can make this argument even stronger. And what I would like to happen at the end of the day is that when Joe Biden beats him in 2024, that he beats
him by a big margin, and he beats him, him having been on the ballot in all 50 states, to frankly, take away what I believe, what is my fear, is that
when Joe Biden wins, a worst January 6 is going to happen.
And if any of this stuff catches fire, then -- and if Joe Biden wins, I do think it will be worse because he will be able to frankly cause something
worse within his followers by saying, look what happened. This really was stolen. I wasn't even on the ballot on these several -- in these several
states. Right? So, I agree with -- and a lot of my Democratic friends agree, we can beat him, and let's do it fair and square.
HUNT: Yeah. No. I mean, it's -- I'm glad you raised --
HUNT: -- that point. And to also say, if we're talking about whether it's going to be worse than what we saw on January 6, I offer you this word
cloud, which -- I was on vacation for Christmas. I realized it today. But, I think it's worth reading, because I'm sure many of you were also off for
the holiday, not watching the news. This is -- this was posted by the former President's account Truth Social, "Economy, power, revenge,
dictatorship." Those are the words associated with him.
And then, in case you missed this, I had missed this because I wasn't reading Truth Social on Christmas Day, he writes, "Merry Christmas to all,
including Crooked Joe Biden's only hope, deranged Jack Smith." OK. I'm just going to skip that, skip that. OK. So, he lists all of the things he
doesn't like, and then he says, "so much more, are looking to destroy our once great USA. May they rot in hell. Again, merry Christmas."
HOLMES: The best part of the "Again, merry Christmas". Like, don't forget.
STEWART: Don't forget, he also -- to someone else he said, go to hell. So, he wants people that are political enemies to rot in hell and go to hell,
and a couple Truth Social moments for -- nothing says merry Christmas.
CARDONA: But, merry Christmas --
HUNT: I got to get some Alberto here to talk to us about what Christmas really means and whether or not Donald Trump should actually be speaking to
Christians in America. What peace on earth, goodwill to men.
MITCHELL: This is like one of those like compliment sandwiches where you put like your criticism in between two nice things to kind of soften the
blow. So, he started and ended with a merry Christmas to soften the blow of the rotten Hill. But, I mean, to be serious about it, I do think for those
Republicans who are more like Alice and want a leader of the party who reflects thoughtful political debate and principled approaches to the job.
Donald Trump continues to give his critics ammunition for why they don't think he should get a second term. And for every win in Colorado that
galvanizes his support, he gives us a word cloud and a problematic post on Truth Social that further makes the case to why people wouldn't want to
support him in the general election now.
MITCHELL: What Trump right now, he is not talking about a general election. He is talking to his primary voters, but this is going to be problematic if
he is the nominee.
HUNT: So, briefly, I want to get Kristen the last word here because you have some new reporting also on kind of how the campaign is trying to
control this. Is this the kind of thing that Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, the people that are running his general election campaign, want
to see or not?
HOLMES: They're not going to touch that. And the truth is that they have made a determination that Trump is going to do what Trump is going to do.
And that's -- this is what our story is about today, which is that, truthfully, he has the most disciplined and experienced campaign right now
that he has ever had.
HOLMES: And it's not just messaging. That's the most important part. But, it's also in terms of getting the delegate fight. They know how it works.
They've been traveling to these state parties for the last year to try to figure out the math to have him seek the nomination to get it early in
March. On top of that, it's the messaging. And what they have done is created a situation in which everything goes through them. And for a while,
it was possible to do that because they had a very small operation.
But, there are two problems with that. One is that there are a lot of grifters who follow Donald Trump around. And as Donald Trump has grown more
and more popular, you have started to see and this was the actual quote from a senior advisor, people coming out of the woodwork. And they are
there trying to show that they are close to Donald Trump. Look at the relationship we have. I could probably serve in the administration. And
those people are going to the media around, Chris and Susie, and around the actual operations. That's the one problem.
HUNT: Or straight to him on the phone.
HOLMES: Right. Well, except --
HOLMES: -- well -- so, this is the other problem is that Donald Trump himself is always talking. I mean, we have an anecdote in there about how
at a donor event he started talking about, who do you guys think is going to be Vice President, and they started batting around names. Well, those
people don't call me. And we're like, you're not going to believe who he is talking about for Vice President. And that is something that Chris and
Susie are never going to be able to control. So, even though they can -- they know that though. They're aware of that. But, what they are trying to
do is get these outside influences to essentially fall in line. And I'm telling you, we have stories in there about them picking up the phone and
saying, knock it off, or else you're out, and certain people are falling in line.
CARDONA: But, you know who they can't do that with is Donald Trump.
HOLMES: Of course. Yeah, exactly.
HUNT: Exactly. On top of her story. Kristen, thank you so much for your reporting. We're going to be here -- Chris and Susie, by the way, the top
two strategists of Donald Trump's campaign, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles. You will learn their names if in fact we're going to go through this
another time with Donald Trump.
All right. Coming up, as thousands of migrants continue to enter the U.S., how the border surge will impact President Biden's reelection campaign? Our
panel weighs in.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. You're looking now -- we're going to show you the situation on
the southern border. This was on Tuesday, the day after Christmas this week. In the days leading up to Christmas, federal authorities in Central
Texas say more than 22,000 migrants were apprehended, and that's just in the Del Rio Sector.
Across the border, some 11,000 migrants are waiting in shelters and camps in northern Mexico. While many wait to enter illegally, the dangerous
illegal crossings are continuing as the border crisis becomes a major issue in the 2024 race. President Biden sent top officials to meet with the
Joining us now from Eagle Pass, Texas, where the crisis is being felt particularly acutely is CNN's Rosa Flores. Rosa, what do we know about how
this meeting went with Biden officials and Mexican officials?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, both Mexico and the U.S. officials from both countries appeared to be pleased, both of them using words like
this was a very good meeting and that it was very good all around, very productive. And today, we're learning a little more about the actual
substance of what was done. We're learning from a National Security Council spokesperson that Mexico's President actually took significant law
enforcement actions on the border. And Kasie, that's important to note, because what Mexico does acutely impacts the U.S. southern border and what
federal law enforcement see on the U.S. side of the border. And the numbers that you were mentioning is a perfect example.
So, last week, when this area was getting flooded, there was a very steady flow, on average, maybe about 3,000 migrant encounters a day just in this
area. Eagle Pass is Del Rio Sector. That's when we were seeing thousands of migrants that were waiting to be transported out for immigration
processing. After law enforcement actions, and we don't have a readout of what those exactly were, but I can tell you from experience that when
Mexico ups its enforcement actions, that usually means that there is National Guard members, Mexico's National Guard, on post in several areas
of the northern Mexican border that are on post where smugglers notoriously cross large numbers of migrants.
That could also mean checkpoints at trains and freight rail stations along Mexico's route, because migrants use those trains to get to the U.S.
southern border, and that could also mean deportations. This is the Mexican government deporting migrants from Mexico to other countries. And this
means that these migrants are not making it to the U.S. southern border. And so, all of these things impact the number of migrant encounters that
federal law enforcement see.
Now, the other thing that we learned is that now Mexican officials will be visiting D.C. in January. And from Mexico's President, what we learned is
that there is some agreement. And again, we don't know the details of the agreement, Kasie. But, what we do know is that according to the President
of Mexico, there was some agreement to reopen ports of entry. Now, these ports of entry were closed by the U.S. federal government to -- as a
mitigating measure, as a way to help them shore up their resources to process migrants.
Now, that makes sense on so many levels for these two countries to agree on, Kasie, because Mexico is the U.S.'s largest trading partner. And so, it
makes sense for these two countries to come together, do something because they're both losing a lot of money if these ports of entry continue to be
HUNT: All right. Rosa Flores for us in Eagle Pass, Texas, thank you.
Our panel is back with me now. I really want to kind of drill down on the political ramifications here of what we're seeing at the border because
this is something that -- for the Biden ministration, it's obviously a humanitarian crisis. It's in many ways an economic crisis. But, it's also
becoming a crisis for blue cities where mayors have been increasingly sounding the alarm. We're going to show you three of them in succession
talking about the migrant crisis. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: We cannot continue to do the federal government's job. We have spoken to FEMA and other federal officials who
have expressed concern about the border surge, but not offered additional help.
BRANDON JOHNSON, CHICAGO MAYOR: Without significant intervention from the federal government, this mission will not be sustained.
MIKE JOHNSTON, DENVER MAYOR: Denver finds itself right now at ground zero in trying to resolve and respond to the migrant crisis. We need more
federal support to be able to manage this amount of inflow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Maria Cardona, what should the federal government be doing that they're not doing?
CARDONA: Well, one of the things I think we need to point out that we don't talk enough about is that the Biden administration has asked for billions
of dollars to mitigate these crisis. A lot of that money would go to these cities. Guess who has said, no? Republicans. And this has to be underscored
HUNT: Well, Republicans have also been holding out for additional changes to border policy that Democrats hadn't been willing to give them, and the
President is being criticized from his left.
And so, you can't say Democrats haven't been willing to give, because President Biden has said from day one that he is absolutely willing to
compromise so much so that people on the left --
HUNT: Well, not day one. I mean, it took him a while to get involved.
CARDONA: Well, people -- like you said, people on the left are even upset for how much he is willing to compromise. He has been there, Kasie. He has
offered in the supplemental billions of dollars to exactly this issue. And so, when Republicans talk about how Joe Biden has done nothing, they have
done even less, and they're being incredibly hypocritical about it, because the money that the Biden administration has asked for would go to
additional Border Patrol, additional law enforcement, additional smart border security measures, more asylum judges, asylum processors, and
critically, a lot of money for these cities. And so, when that money is not coming, let's look to Republicans and say, cut the hypocrisy.
STEWART: If I can politely interject --
CARDONA: Tell me what you are feeling because you are polite.
STEWART: -- with my dear friend Maria, she loves to put the blame of this crisis on Republicans. And let me just say, Republicans have been sounding
the alarm of the crisis at the border for years. We know Donald Trump said we'd build a wall in Mexico. We would pay for it. Obviously, we knew that
was never going to happen. But, these numbers are astronomical, the surges. We've had just in the past month nearly a quarter of a million migrant
encounters by CBP, and that needs to stop.
The only reason this is coming to a head at this point is because border cities, border states, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been sending the
influx of these migrants in buses or planes to these sanctuary cities who say that they will welcome these people.
CARDONA: And they have. They have welcomed them.
STEWART: And now, we're seeing New York -- New York's mayor and Chicago and Denver saying, hold on a minute. We can't handle this.
HUNT: Because it's overwhelming there.
STEWART: It is overwhelming.
STEWART: And that's been overwhelming to these border states all of this time, and Republicans have been saying that --
CARDONA: Now let's give them money that they need to get.
HUNT: OK. Just one moment. Let's look at -- I want to show how this -- how people are receiving this. And we're going to do it through the lens of the
border wall, which is, as Alice mentioned, the policy that Donald Trump ran on now. We're going to set aside the Mexico paying for it part because that
obviously did not happen. But, a recent poll by NPR and the PBS NewsHour asked Americans, do you want to continue with the border wall? 54 percent
of them said yes. 45 percent said no. But, let's break it down by party, and you're going to see the argument between Maria and Alice here in the
numbers, because Democrats, 74 percent of them say don't continue with it. Republicans 85 percent say continue with it.
Tia, I want to zero in on those independents because 58 percent of independent voters say in this poll that they want to continue the border
wall, and those are the voters that are going to decide this election.
MITCHELL: And I think that's quite frankly, it's fine that this is an issue. And it's fine that this is an issue that we can say, if you want a
border wall, you might want to consider supporting the Republican candidate for President because that's more likely to make it happen. That's just the
facts, right? We know that Democrats are probably going to look to other solutions, not necessarily a border wall. Now, you can also talk about
whether a border wall will truly accomplish what, I think, people think it will accomplish. That's something different. The places where border walls
have been built haven't always -- in America, haven't always accomplished what you think it's going to accomplish. There is still a lot of money.
And so, if we're going to build a border wall, we have to think about the trade-offs. Those are the deeper conversations. But, to me, to build a
border wall or not is healthy debate on the issues. It's what's not happening in Congress this -- these days, honestly.
HUNT: Quick last word, Kristen. I mean, in some ways, this is vindication for Donald Trump.
HOLMES: Yeah. And if you actually listen to his immigration policy now, he doesn't really talk about the border wall. He is much more extreme. I mean,
part of what he is going to do if he was to get a second term is to expand on those hardline immigration policies. But, I will say, when you listen to
those back to back to back Democratic mayors, that is a campaign ad for Donald Trump in 2024, should he run against Joe Biden, at least they're
saying. Look, even the Democrats are saying this is a huge problem, and your President is now letting them in. And this is something that Donald
Trump back in 2016 made immigration a top issue in a way that it had not been before, but it had been in people's minds for a long time. And --
HOLMES: -- now he can do it again.
HUNT: Yeah. All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it. The rest of you guys are coming back right after
the break, because we have a mere 18 days until the Iowa caucuses. Republican candidates making their case to voters in the Hawkeye State.
We're going to speak with native Iowa reporter Erin Murphy coming up next.
HUNT: Welcome back. Iowa's first in the nation caucus is just 18 days away. The latest polling by the Des Moines Register, NBC News and Mediacom shows
Donald Trump way out in front, above 50 percent among the state's likely Republican caucus goers. Ron DeSantis follows at 19 percent, Nikki Haley at
I'm joined now by Erin Murphy. He is the Des Moines Bureau Chief for The Gazette newspaper of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Erin, thank you so much for being
here. I'm jealous. I normally -- I have to say, the caucuses are a little later this year. I have spent several new years in Des Moines with you. I
wouldn't trade those experiences for the world. But, look, what do you know on the ground that we can't see from our studios here in Washington,
particularly around what's going on with Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, and whether or not he is going to end up surviving the outcome of the Iowa
caucus or not?
ERIN MURPHY, DES MOINES BUREAU CHIEF, THE GAZETTE, & THE GAZETTE NEWSPAPER OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA: Yeah. There is no better place than New Year's in
Iowa. It's -- what we're seeing on the ground matches up fairly well with the polling that you just described. Former President Trump just seems to
still have a solid grasp on the Republican Party here in Iowa. He -- there is a lot of interest in him when he holds events. A lot of people still
coming out to him. And you don't see that level of enthusiasm for candidates like Governor DeSantis an Ambassador Haley.
They're getting -- look, don't get me wrong. Iowa Republicans are coming out and they're checking out Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, but it's just
nothing like what you see and what you hear when you talk to people about the former President.
HUNT: What -- I mean, how would you explain that when you talk to voters? I mean, what do you hear them say about it? Is it just that he is a former
President? He is basically an incumbent? Is it that they're not -- no one else has managed to rise high enough to gain their notice? I mean, what do
they tell you?
MURPHY: I think you might have touched on it a little bit there. It's like having an incumbent in the race. And Iowa Republicans here, the people who
are still supporting Donald Trump, they like what he did as President.
They liked the policies that he backed. They liked that he was able to oversee the addition of conservative justices to the Supreme Court. They're
very happy with his term as President. They view that as a better time than the last four years. And they think that he deserves another term. And the
vast majority of them are not shaken by the legal issues or the rhetoric that he sometimes gets into. None of that bothers the people who support
Donald Trump. They look at what he did in office. They like it, and they want another four years of that.
HUNT: Can I ask you, Erin -- I mean, for people who don't -- haven't spent as much time in the state as those of us who are campaign reporters, Iowa
does -- it's gone red in recent years, but it has been a purple state in the past. It has Cedar Rapids. There is a ton of Democrats who live in
Cedar Rapids where your paper is based. What do you hear from them when they talk about the race, and President Biden in particular? I mean, how
nervous are Democrats about the state of things right now?
MURPHY: Yeah. I think there is a little bit of unease (ph). They see the general election polls and see how close they are with the respective
matchups, or in some cases, President Biden trailing in some of those. So, there is concern. I think, like a lot of Democrats across the country, Iowa
Democrats are trying to break through and a messaging and portray an image that the economy is in good shape, is what they will say, and that they
lean on the infrastructure bill that the President was able to get passed, and try to portray a positive image of what will happen in the next two
years knowing that that's somewhat of an uphill climb right now when you look at national polling and the national mood.
So, they support President Biden here in Iowa. They like the things he has done largely. But, yeah, definitely some unease when they see those
HUNT: Very briefly, what number does Ron DeSantis have to hit in 18 days, do you think, for his campaign to avoid a collapse?
MURPHY: That's such a great question.
HUNT: And no one knows the answer. I know that.
MURPHY: (Inaudible). If you're just asking me because I think that is the question for these last 18 days that you noted up to caucuses. Can Governor
DeSantis or Nikki Haley have a search? It's got to at least get into the 20s, is my personal opinion. Part of Iowa is performance against
expectations. Governor DeSantis has been floating around in those high teens. He has got to show something stronger than that on caucus night for
people in New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc., to give him a serious look.
HUNT: Yeah. Super smart. All right. Erin Murphy, Des Moines Bureau Chief for The Gazette, thank you for joining us. I hope you'll come back before
the caucus. I know you're real busy. So, I appreciate you spending some time with us.
MURPHY: Anytime. Thank you.
HUNT: All right. See you soon. It's time for a quick break for us. Don't go anywhere. The panel is going to be back with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. My panel rejoins me, because before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail or
Washington you're watching for in the coming days. 30 seconds. Tia.
MITCHELL: So, I'm going to talk about the swatting (ph) that's been targeting members of Congress and local elected officials, because I think,
in Georgia alone, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, four state senators, Senator Rick Scott announced this morning, his house had been
swatted. And to me, it says something about our politics today, and that using resources in ways that could really bring damage are being used as
tools to kind of send a message or quite frankly harass --
MITCHELL: -- people that you don't agree with politically.
HUNT: Yeah. All right. Alice.
STEWART: Look, I think so much focus right now is put on the GOP primary and obviously Joe Biden. But, looking back bigger picture, there are still
a large number of voters that don't want a Biden-Trump rematch. I think we're going to hear more in the days and weeks to come about third-party
candidates. We certainly have RFK Jr. running as an independent, potential for a No Labels campaign. So, let's get through these couple of these early
states, and we might have potentially more choices as we get to November.
CARDONA: I have an OpEd published today in the LA Times with my dear friend Matt Barreto, who is a premier pollster on the Latino electorate, which
essentially focuses on the myth that Latinos are running into the arms of Republicans. That is not happening in a massive poll that was done by
UnidosUS, which is also an organization that knows how to do this. Latinos support Democrats by two to one, almost three to one on issues of abortion,
healthcare, and the economy. And so, focus going into 2024, let's get that message to Latinos, and we'll be in good shape.
HUNT: All right. Thank you all for being here today. I really appreciate it. And thanks to you for watching. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the
Race for today, Thursday, December 28. You can always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere.
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