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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
2024 U.S. Election; Biden And Trump On The Campaign Trail Today; Before January 6th, Biden Will Deliver Speech On Democracy; 10 Days Prior To Caucuses, Trump Will Conduct Rallies In Iowa Today; Interview With Axios Senior Contributor Margaret Talev; As Attacks From Haley And DeSantis Intensify, Trump Holds Rallies In Iowa; Days Prior To Caucuses, Haley And DeSantis Will Confront Iowa Voters; In Key Campaign Address, Biden Will Alert Voters To Threats To Democracy; Army Commander Alleges Retribution For The Reaction From January 6; Interview With DC National Guard Former Staff Judge Advocate And U.S. Army Reserve Col. Earl G. Matthews; Interview With Whistleblower Aid Chief Legal Counsel Andrew Bakaj. Aired 11-12p ET
Aired January 05, 2024 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN. More people get their news from CNN than any other news source.
KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Joe Biden is preparing to jumpstart his reelection campaign. The president is set to
depart the White House this hour. He's heading to Pennsylvania, where he plans to deliver a major speech that will try to portray Donald Trump as a
threat to American democracy itself.
And in back-to-back CNN Town Halls last night, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis both took on the frontrunner, Donald Trump, as Trump headed to Iowa looking
to maintain his massive lead ahead of the caucuses.
Plus, tomorrow is the third anniversary of the January 6th riot and attack on the Capitol. I'm going to speak with Army Colonel Earl Matthews, who
claims he's been retaliated against for accusing two generals of making false statements about the delayed deployment of the D.C. National Guard
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt. To our viewers watching in the United States and around the world, it's 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, Friday,
January 5th. There are just 10 days until the Iowa caucuses, if you can believe that, and only 330 -- excuse me, 304 days until Election Day. This
is today's STATE OF THE RACE.
Welcome in. The 2024 race, in many ways, the general election version of it is kicking into high gear today. President Biden will launch his reelection
bid by arguing Donald Trump is a serious threat to democracy. While Trump is back on the campaign trail in Iowa just 10 days before the caucuses.
Biden will mark the third anniversary of the January 6th Capitol attacks with remarks near Valley Forge where George Washington famously commanded
his troops during the Revolutionary War.
The president is expected to strike a grave tone and frame the 2024 election as being a question of whether democracy is still a sacred cause
in America. That message is at the center of his new campaign ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: There's something dangerous happening in America. There's an extremist movement that does not share the basic
beliefs in our democracy. All of us are being asked right now, what will we do to maintain our democracy? History's watching. The world is watching.
Most important, our children and grandchildren will hold us responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: And of course, Donald Trump is still holding a massive lead in Republican polls. He's in Iowa for the first time in two weeks. He talked
to supporters over the phone during an event hosted by his son, Eric, yesterday. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND U.S REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to be coming out there on Friday. I'm going to b e
there Friday and Saturday then I'm coming back the following week. And I'm going to caucus, probably in Des Moines. I'll be doing caucus with you.
We're going to work it. And we can't take any chance and everybody has to get out because we don't' want to sit back and rely on the polls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: All right. Our CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes is in very chilly Sioux City, Iowa, where Donald Trump is going to be -- Sioux Center,
excuse me, will be holding a rally later today.
Kristen, always wonderful to have you on the show. Clearly Trump, they know -- they don't make the same mistakes they made in 2016 and that's why, you
know, he's been approaching Iowa the way he has. Talk a little bit about that. What you expect to see from him for the next 10 days. But also -- I
mean, Biden's kicking off the general election here and he's doing it with attacks around January 6th and, you know, that that's what Trump's legal
troubles are all about. Those are attacks Republicans have not been willing to make against Trump in the primary.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So, let's talk about first what we expect to hear from him today. He has two
events today, one in Sioux Center where we are, another in Mason City, and he'll be across the state tomorrow as well.
Now, we do expect he's going to be delivering his closing message. And according to his senior advisors, this is really twofold. Part of it is
what you just heard there. And you talk about making the same mistakes that they had in 2016, which was essentially believing that they were in the
lead and then losing coming in second place. They do not want that to happen again.
Now, we have seen the polls, the margins are much bigger. But there is some concern that one, the margins are bigger in polling than in reality. And
two, that if supporters see those numbers, they think that Donald Trump has it in the bag and that they don't have to show up in caucus. The only way
that Donald Trump gets those margins is if the people who are talking to the pollsters actually show up on caucus night. So, that's what they're
trying to do.
The other part of his closing message really looks towards a general election, particularly on the economy.
He has a new ad here in Iowa running today that essentially asks Iowans, were you better off least again financially when it comes to the economy
four years ago under my administration than you are now? And if the answer is yes, then let's forget all this noise. You can put me back in the White
House. You know I can do it. I have done it once before for you. I can do it again.
Now, in terms of any kind of response to Biden and his arguments that we're expecting to hear later today about Donald Trump being a threat to
democracy, which, of course, we know the center to that campaign if the two do end up in a rematch. Donald Trump has really just tried to flip that
argument on its head. He says that Biden is the one who is the real threat to democracy because of all the legal problems that Trump is facing.
Essentially saying that he's going after his top political opponent, Donald Trump, and that's why he's facing all these legal issues even though,
obviously, we've gone through all of this.
There are real legal cases, some of which have nothing to do with Democrats at all. But going back, the other part of this is January 6th. As you
mentioned, we're coming up on the three-year anniversary. And just -- I feel like I really need to continue to stress the messaging that Donald
Trump has had since he left office on January 6th, which is he has downplayed the violence and he has really embraced the January 6th rioters.
He has said that if he is reelected, he not only will pardon some of them, but that some of them will receive a full government apology. He even
recorded a song with some of the people who are currently being held because of what they are accused of doing on January 6th. So, clearly this
is going to not be -- you know, he's not going to have a new reflection on that day than what we've seen.
When I'm talking to his advisors, they say that a lot of the same talking points I just listed out, they don't tell me for sure he's going to respond
to Biden. He'll be speaking about an hour after Biden speaks. But they say that he will be making some of the points that are similar to what we've
heard in the past.
HUNT: A song with January 6th rioters, I had forgotten all about that. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for that report. Stay warm.
We're going to dive into all of this with today's panel. CNN Political Commentator Kate Bedingfield's here. She's a former Biden White House
communications director. CNN Political Commentator Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican strategist and pollster. And Margaret Talev, a senior
contributor for Axios.
I'm so grateful to have all of you here. And you know, Kate, let me start with you just to, kind of, give us a little bit of insight into how the
White House is thinking about this. Obviously, the president's going to be taking off here in the next hour or so to make this speech about January
And, you know, I think there were a lot of questions, especially heading into the midterm elections, about whether focusing on democracy and the
idea that there is an existential threat to it was the right move. There were a lot of Democrats who were saying kitchen table issues, even Nancy
Pelosi was saying kind of a version of that yesterday.
But it does seem like it resonated in the end in 2022 and clearly that's where the White House wants to be and the Biden campaign wants to be here
on what is basically day one of their general election campaign. Do you think that's the right approach and why are they looking at it this way?
KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes, well, I think we've seen a lot of evidence
that it is. Obviously, you referenced 2022, this was a core piece of Biden's argument running into the midterms. He made a big speech in the
weeks -- the -- 10 days before the election in 2022 that reinforced this, and we obviously saw the outcome in November of 2022.
You know, there was also a poll a couple of weeks ago, I believe, a "Washington Post" poll that showed that 80 percent of voters have concerns
about threats to democracy and believe that there is some effort to strip away our democracy.
So, you know, there are a couple things about this argument I think in terms of the way the White House thinks about it. One, it is fundamentally
something that Joe Biden really believes. I mean, he got into the race in 2019, talking about what we saw in Charlottesville, hate speech, political
violence. It really -- I can tell you as somebody who was there alongside him every day, it really motivates him in a personal way. So, you know,
your candidate is always going to be more effective when they're talking about something that they feel passionately about.
HUNT: And just briefly, let me put up his comments about Trump most recently for the fundraiser. He said, "If Trump wasn't running. I'm not
sure I'd be running. We can't let him win." Now, obviously, he was kind of criticized for this for saying, well, I wouldn't be in it. But I think this
underscores your point that, like, it's very personal for him.
BEDINGFIELD: It is. It is.
HUNT: Continue, I'm sorry.
BEDINGFIELD: No, no, no, no. That's very salient. And it is. And I think that kind of takes us to the second point, sort of, second way that I think
the White House is thinking about this, which is, it is incredibly energizing argument for -- even for people who maybe don't pay attention to
politics as, you know, in the back and forth the way that, you know, really high information voters do. Even low information voters feel motivated by
this fear, this threat that, you know, maybe their vote isn't going to count, that there is an existential threat to democracy.
So, this kind of allows Biden and the White House to turn up the temperature and to bring the conversation to a place that benefits him,
that we've seen benefits him. You know, and then lastly, I think -- you know, I sort of touched on this in the beginning, but it just is an
argument that casts a really wide net. I mean, what Biden's trying to do is rebuild his winning coalition from 2020, right? And this is an argument
that we know motivates Democratic based voters.
We know it appeals to more independent, moderate voters, because we saw it in the midterm elections. And so, this will be an opportunity to put an
argument front and center that has shown electoral success for Biden.
HUNT: I mean, Kristen, you spend all your time talking with Republican voters. What do you make of that argument and what the president's doing?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND U.S. REPUGLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: Well, one, I think the more that Biden takes a
really strong stance against Trump on these democracy issues, in some ways, the more it forces Republican primary voters to rally around him, although
that's not Democrats concern per se, but it's definitely making it easier for Trump to say, look, look how much they hate me. Look at how much you
need to renominate me to his Republican base.
But I do think in terms of the general election, the -- Biden is, sort of, boxed into focusing on this issue because the other issues available to
him, he does not do as well in polls with voters. So, those kitchen table issues, things like the economy, Donald Trump has a pretty sizable
advantage. When you ask voters who they trust more to handle that issue, who do you think would make you better off or made you better off in the
case of Donald Trump? Things like the border. Things like crime. These are issues where Republicans are perceived as being the party, perhaps more
able to bring about stability, prosperity.
And so, it is on democracy where that there is the greatest weakness there. So, in some ways, it makes perfect sense that the Biden campaign would want
to touch on this issue because it's their greatest strength. But from the Republican perspective, it's because perhaps there's other issues that are
really core to a lot of voters' decision making. Democrats don't have as much of an advantage.
MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS AND DIRECTOR, DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM AND CITIZENSHIP AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: It's also --
SOLTIS ANDERSON: But it's --
TALEV: -- it's also the core issue -- it's also the core argument against Trump on the merits. Like set aside the -- I know we're talking about
TALEV: But set aside the politics for a minute. If Donald Trump were a normal American politician who embraced the rule of law, embraced the
important connections between an independent free press and democracy, embrace multilateralism --
HUNT: He's willing to abide by the results of an election?
TALEV: Yes. Honor the results of an election. There wouldn't be any controversy about this, and he would probably be in a really strong general
election position steaming into the next election cycle.
HUNT: Yes, I mean --
TALEV: Like, it -- the -- he -- Biden is arguing it because it's actually important. Also, because -- to go back to politics, because the visuals are
very strong. Because when you are in advertising season, you're trying to reach Americans who have a short attention span. People respond much more
visually than they do to text and words and talking a gumming over issues that we've been talking about.
And you know what? Like a picture says a 1,000 words, the guy with the horn hat running towards the capital. The -- those -- the searing images. We all
know -- everyone in America knows where they were on January 6th. And the majority of the population does not see it as a good day. Those images are
going to become important.
BEDINGFIELD: And it also -- can I say one -- just to piggyback on this. It also -- another reason it's a politically beneficial argument is it forces
other Republicans to then have to defend Donald Trump and defend January 6th. I mean, he's their nominee. He's making this incredibly threatening
and frightening argument about how the fundamental laws of our democracy should be dismantled.
And it puts, you know, establishment Republicans who would otherwise like to be making this case about, you know, the economy and what Republican
administration would do to help people. It forces them to instead be in this position of having to defend Trump. And so, there's electoral value
for the Biden campaign and for Democrats in that way, too.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes, if this is an election that's going to be fought, less about left versus right and more about kind of chaos versus stability.
If Donald Trump is ultimately going to try to say, I'll bring you stability on the border, crime, et cetera. Images of January 6th are a pretty potent
way to undercut that message.
HUNT: Yes, you know, and one of the things we learned as well, speaking of like, of iconic images and kind of the way to talk about this, Harry Dunn,
a Capitol Police officer who defended me and everyone else that was at the complex that day is running for Congress, and he has this new ad up. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY DUNN, OFFICER WHO DEFENDED CAPITOL ON JAN. 6, RUNNING FOR CONGRESS IN MARYLAND: On this day, my role was as a Capitol Police officer. I'm Harry
Dunn, and that meant putting aside who I am. A father, a Marylander, a Democrat. Because I swore an oath to protect our constitution, to protect
our democracy. It's what allowed me to protect some members of Congress, who I knew were bigots, who helped fan the flames that started all of this.
We can't ever let this happen again. And you've heard it from Trump himself, he is hell bent on finishing what he started this day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I mean, Margaret Talev, I -- like, it's kind of stunning that such an ad is -- can exist, but there you go.
TALEV: But we live in stunning times, and so it does.
HUNT: We sure do. The other thing about this too is that the -- there was a poll recently in the "Washington Post".
And they asked voters, true or false, the FBI organized or encouraged the January 6th attack? OK. So, 25 percent of Americans say that they believe
that this is true.
TALEV: And a third of Republicans, I think, right?
HUNT: And -- yes, 26 percent are not sure if it's true or not, and a little less than half the country says it's definitely false.
I mean, Kristen, why do -- this seems like stunning evidence that Donald Trump has convinced a lot of people of something that's really not true.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, there's also the -- I think for me, the stunning number there is the very high unsure, right? I -- it is not surprising to
me that in highly polarized times, you can get a quarter of Americans to, kind of, say they believe anything is true. It's the fact that the seeds of
doubt have been so planted. And this is something that this is just bigger than January 6th or this one particular question. But we're headed into an
election cycle where things like generative A.I., misinformation, et cetera, are going to create this really incredible cloud of what can I
believe? What am I seeing that's really true?
We know that there's such rising distrust in media that's been happening over the last, not just since the Trump era, but even much predating it.
This is going to be a bizarre election, if only because you're going to have so many Americans who just live in alternate information universes
from one another.
HUNT: OK. Buckle up, everybody. We should note we are going to take here at CNN Joe Biden's -- President Biden's speech this afternoon live. Tune
in. It's scheduled for about 3:15 this afternoon.
Up next here, while Biden and Trump make plays for their second stints in the White House, Republican candidates Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis trying
to make a dent in Donald Trump, a little bit harder than maybe they have been in the past. Our "Town Halls" from last night, that's up next.
HUNT: Welcome back. Donald Trump's rivals, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are trying, trying, trying to close a huge polling gap between them in the
race for second place.
And with just 10 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, both DeSantis and Haley sharpened their attacks on the former president during their CNN Town
Halls in Des Moines last night. Arguing, Republicans could lose the general election if Trump is their nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans don't want another nailbiter of an election. And that's what we'll get. Look at any of
the polls. Head-to-head against Joe Biden. Trump, head-to-head with Biden. On a good day he might be up by two. I defeat Biden by 17 points. 17
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Democrats want Trump to be the candidate. They are going to talk about all
the legal stuff, January 6th. That will be what the election will be about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Jeff Zeleny is in Cumming, Iowa for us. Jeff, it's always great to see you. I'm honestly interested in just what you are learning and picking
up as you have been on the campaign trail there in this, kind of, final days before Iowa. Whether you think President Trump is correcting the
mistakes from 2016, and whether you think either one, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, do they have any hope of reaching him? Are we going to see any
change in this race?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: All good questions, Kasie. And the final answers, of course, will come in 10 days.
But a few clues towards those answers may be. We did hear a sharpening of the argument about electability, about that Donald Trump just didn't quite
get the job done. He didn't live up to his promises. Both candidates have been making the argument. DeSantis really has been doing it more than
Haley, but not in a prime-time way like that. Not on a big stage.
So, clearly, it's crunch time for them to begin -- you know, it's all or nothing now. If you're not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?
And Governor DeSantis has really been answering some questions from voters. Saying, why aren't you going after Donald Trump more? I've seen that twice
this week. So, I think that's one of the reasons last night. He was really sharpening his attack.
So, at this point, I'm standing here in Cumming, Iowa, just outside of Des Moines. There's going to be a DeSantis event here. Nikki Haley had an event
earlier this morning. The big event here today, Donald Trump is coming back to Iowa for the first trip of the year. He'll have a couple events today, a
couple tomorrow. The big question probably is, what is his ground game? It seems to be much stronger than 2016. The reason that matters is he has to
get all those supporters, people who tell pollsters actually out to vote.
So, is his organization as strong as it may seem? That's one of the questions, sort of, hanging over this. So, it just feels a little closer
than those polls would indicate. And it's been a little while since those polls were taken. So, I think all of us will have our eye on the next Iowa
poll in the Des Moines Register coming up in the final days before the caucus rather than the last one.
HUNT: Yes. No, for sure. Always an event, the release of the DMR poll. And, Jeff, it's always great to have you reporting back from stomping
grounds that you have trotted for quite some time. So, thanks very much.
All right. We're going to bring back our panel now. I mean, Margaret Talev, I want to play one answer that Nikki Haley had last night as well. Because
-- I mean, I think Jeff's reporting on DeSantis is interesting, but I think all eyes are on Haley in terms of, you know, how things shake out if she
goes to New Hampshire, really has a chance to take him on -- to take on Donald Trump.
She was asked last night about her comments where she failed to name slavery as the cause of the Civil War. This is how she answered questions
about that from my colleague Erin Burnett. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: I should have said slavery right off the bat. But if you grow up in South Carolina, literally, in second and third grade, you learn about
slavery. You grow up and you have, you know, I had black friends growing up. It is a very talked about thing. I was thinking past slavery and
talking about the lesson that we would learn going forward. I shouldn't have done that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, she said, I have -- I had black friends growing up.
TALEV: Yes, I don't even know what to do with that. Yes. I think that her explanations are explanations for a general election audience. I just don't
think there are that many GOP caucus voters who are trying to decide whether to go with Trump or Nikki Haley and are getting hung up on this
issue. I'll tell you that, she's obviously trying to put it past her and trying different strategies and this is as close to just owning it as she's
gotten. I don't know why she just didn't -- doesn't say. I really screwed that up. I was trying to have it both ways and it blew up in my face. I'm
sorry, you know.
But to me, I was more struck by a different answer during this Town Hall, and that was her use of the word chaos. The idea that she's ramping up her
attacks on Trump by talking more about chaos. But what she says is a passive construction. She says something like chaos always follows him. As
if chaos were just, like, walking around with a duffel bag looking for someone to follow.
BEDINGFIELD: I think that's also a Taylor Swift lyric.
TALEV: It is.
HUNT: Somebody compared it once to Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown. Somebody at this table, you know, where like the dirt just follows Pig-Pen wherever he
TALEV: Like, even in the toughening of the attacks on Donald Trump, there's such a reflexive reluctance by Haley and DeSantis and everyone
except for Chris Christie in this primary to just say, he starts the chaos --
HUNT: Yes, they all say it's his fault.
TALEV: -- and then it follows him, yes.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: The reason why she's doing it, the reason why I actually think it's strategically smart in this primary is that that's the way
Republicans talk to each other.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: That's what Republicans think. So, if you come out full frontal assault, Donald Trump is a chaos agent and he's done this all to
himself, Republicans are like, I don't think so. That's what Chris Christie's tried and it clearly doesn't work.
TALEV: It doesn't work.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: And so, when you talk about it as, he's his own worst enemy, you acknowledge that he plays a big role in the chaos that follows
him but are not absolving the others that you say, look, if he wasn't Donald Trump, I don't know if New York goes after him, et cetera. I mean,
some of that stuff, a lot of Republicans say, yes, that's true too.
So, what I think is so strategically smart, if maybe a little -- too little too late for her is that her attacks on Trump sound a lot like what
Republicans, who even kind of like Trump, will acknowledge privately. DeSantis's problem is his attacks on Trump are not the sort of things that
Republicans really say privately. Oh, I can't trust him. Oh, he's not conservative enough. That's a very, like, niche argument, and I think
that's part of why he has failed to catch on or really make a dent in Trump's support.
BEDINGFIELD: That's interesting. I -- that's really interesting. And I think that the electability argument that Haley's trying to make, it seems
to me -- obviously, I'm not a Republican primary voter or a Republican strategist. But it seems to me that that is the most -- that there's the
most daylight and the most potential in that argument because it's not, sort of, directly taking on Trump in the way that Republican primary voters
have made clear thus far. They're not open to.
But it is a compelling argument about, you know, whether you want to see a Republican in the White House. And she has, you know, good polling to back
it up and she has numbers to back it up. And I -- you know, it feels like she -- is she going to get over the finish line? I don't see a ton of
evidence that that's going to happen, but, you know, never say never as somebody who worked on the 2019 Democratic primary where the app that
tallied up caucus voters broke, and we didn't actually have a results --
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Oh, I remember that.
BEDINGFIELD: -- on the night of the Iowa caucuses and kind of threw everything into chaos. Anything can happen.
HUNT: So, Kate, I mean, the one thing that kind of occurred to me with the comment that we played from Nikki Haley is that the one -- the other thing
here and part of why Trump may be strong is that, I mean, he's done this before. He's campaigned before. He's been a nominee before. He's obviously
been president before. Unlike, as much as Nikki Haley can currently argue, hey, I'm way out in front of Biden in the polls, she's actually pretty
HUNT: -- in a stage like this.
BEDINGFIELD: Yes, I think that's true. I think that's part of why the slavery moment has been problematic for her, both the substance of the
answer, which was abhorrent. But also, I think it's probably so doubt among voters who were maybe looking at her as somebody who could go the distance
in a general election because it was kind of an untested, sort of, rookie mistake.
If you're still trying -- you know, if eight, nine, 10 days after the incident, you're still trying different tactics to, you know, sort of clean
it up --
TALEV: Clean it up.
BEDINGFIELD: -- and get past it, that's not been a successful effort from a communications perspective. So, yes. And the other thing I think, you
know, a savvy voter would think about is, you know, everybody's numbers look better before they're in the barrel, right? And so, if you do
something like make this kind of snafu on the two-yard line and you can't clean it up effectively, it, sort of, -- it augurs that you might not
survive and be as strong in a general election.
HUNT: Well, and speaking of snafus, we're obviously having one here. Welcome to Midnight's STATE OF THE RACE. We're going to try to fix it.
Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.
HUNT: All right. Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington.
Joe Biden's campaign says, the message is clear. The president's running for reelection because the fate of democracy depends on it. And in just a
few hours, President Biden is going to give a major speech linked to the third anniversary of January 6th.
And the attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump's supporters stunned the nation, proving the peaceful of transfer of power does not seem to be a
given. And rioters who believe the election was stolen assaulted dozens of police officers as they battled their way inside the Capitol building. It
took hours for the National Guard to get to the scene. They were very, very long hours, as someone that was there waiting for them.
We do have here today with us a former lawyer for the D.C. National Guard who has accused two top Army officers of lying about that delay. Colonel
Earl Matthews says he's now facing retaliation. An Army spokesman did respond to these allegations, telling CNN, "While I can't comment on an
ongoing action, I can say, as we have before, the Army's actions on January 6th have been well documented and reported on, and General Flynn and
Lieutenant General Piatt have been open, honest, and thorough in their sworn testimony with Congress and DOD investigators."
"As the Inspector General concluded, actions taken 'were appropriate, supported by requirements, consistent with DOD's roles and
responsibilities, and compliant with laws, regulations, and applicable guidance.' The Pentagon says, "We stand by all testimony and facts provided
to date and vigorously reject allegations to the contrary."
We are joined now by Colonel Earl Matthews and his legal counsel, Andrew Bakaj. Thank you both gentlemen for being here.
COL. EARL G. MATTHEWS, FORMER STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE, DC NATIONAL GUARD AND U.S. ARMY RESERVE: Thank you.
HUNT: And Colonel, thank you for the role that you played in protecting the country on January 6th. I know I'm grateful as are many others who were
there that day. Let's -- I just kind of want to start with a little bit of the facts of the case here and also what you, kind of, are going through
here personally. You were with the National Guard on this day.
HUNT: And the Army and the National Guard were working together. The Pentagon and the National Guard were working together, and you say that
there were generals who are now lying or have lied to Congress --
HUNT: -- about what happened. Can you explain what they lied about?
MATTHEWS: Sure. So, you say the Army and the National Guard, the National Guard is a part of the Army where our uniforms say U.S. Army. So, I'll say
But I'd like to go back to June of 2021, June 15, 2021. You had two senior officers of the United States Army, general Officers, Charles Flynn, full
general, and Lieutenant General Walter Piatt. They appeared before a -- the House Oversight Committee and they relayed our testimony about January 6,
2021. And I say, and I stand by it and I wrote about it, that their testimony was woefully inaccurate. That it was not a reflection of the
truth or reality --
HUNT: Because they blamed the guard for the delay, right?
MATTHEWS: Well, they didn't do that. But they still didn't tell the truth. They said the guard -- they actually said the guard performed well, but
that's not the problem. What they did was they came up for reasons why the guards were delayed. And the reasons they provided were not true. And I
can, sort of, explain.
So, the D.C. National Guard on that day, we were supporting the D.C. government initially before the riot commenced. We were doing traffic
control duty. We were at 30 -- 36 different locations around the city. So, the question was, could those forces around the city at the traffic control
points and metro stations be diverted to the Capitol to support Capitol police and the MPD? Well, Piatt and Flynn said, no, because -- they said
that those forces didn't -- had no riot control gear. You know, the shields, the batons, the face masks, the shin guards. The things they would
need to respond to a riot.
He said -- they said that those things were located at the armory. But that was not true. Actually, our forces had riot control gear dispersed around
the city, and it was readily accessible. It could be easily distributed to the guardsmen who were on duty. So, that -- again, that was -- that's a
misstatement of fact, a material misstatement of fact.
They testified in June of 2021, five months after the incident. They knew or should have known that the D.C. Guard had that equipment out there and
they lied about it to Congress. And, you know, Kasie, don't believe me. I encourage folks to go to C-SPAN, pull that hearing, look at the hearing.
And I will tell you this, almost every word that General Piatt and General Flynn stated in that testimony is inaccurate and untruthful.
And I'm a lawyer, I -- you know, I -- you know, so I -- I'm just telling you that every single word they -- almost every single word they utter in
that testimony is inaccurate, untruthful and it's borne out actually by the January 6th Committee findings.
HUNT: But were they doing that because they were trying to protect themselves from accounts that said that they were worried at the Pentagon
MATTHEWS: Exactly. That's exactly what they did. They -- so, if you go back -- so, Chris Miller, who is the Acting Secretary of Defense, at 3:04
p.m., he gave the secretary of the Army full discretion to deploy the Guard to the Capitol. The Guards didn't get to the Capitol until over two hours
later. So, they had to explain that two-hour gap. And that's part -- and it's part of the reason why, you know, they come up with several different
I can give you another example. It's the Quick Reaction Force. So, we had a 40-man element at Andrews Air Force Base, Joint Base Andrews. These were
Air Force security personnel who were trained. They had done two days of training in civil disturbance here. They were fully kitted in civil
disturbance. They were ready to respond. They could have been sent directly to the Capitol.
Now, Pyatt and Flynn, in their testimony, falsely claimed that that element was not actually a civil disturbance force. That was a lie. That was
incorrect. So, that's another example of things that I -- and I spell out in my memo. So, I hope people will actually go look at the hearing and then
read my memo and explain. I go line by line through their testimony and explain why they're not telling the truth.
HUNT: OK. We don't have a ton of time here.
HUNT: So, I just want to, kind of, cut to the heart of this because you're saying that you were retaliated against because you were willing to speak
out about this.
HUNT: What has it been like to go through that?
MATTHEWS: I'm not an owes me guy. I'm not -- I mean, so I really want to talk about the facts of the case because that's really important. Yes, I
was telling you about it. But -- so, I would just show -- I would just say that the other -- I mean, there are -- and I talked about on my memo. A
documented instances of things that they said.
HUNT: But it says a lot about them if they are retaliating against you for coming out --
ANDREW BAKAJ, CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL, WHISTLEBLOWER AID: Exactly.
HUNT: -- and telling the truth.
BAKAJ: And one other thing -- you go.
MATTHEWS: Well, I haven't said they directly did that. I'm saying people in the army did that. So, just to be clear, I -- because I -- and it is
true, but I didn't say those two.
BAKAJ: So, the key thing here -- so I'm representing the Colonel before the DOD Inspector General. We filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint,
which we hope will be kicked out to an independent inspector general for investigation. What we're concerned about is the fact that Colonel Matthews
did contact Congress and went point by point to refute or rebut elements of the DOD I.G. report investigation into what happened on January 6th because
he's been targeted for retaliation. That is prohibited by law.
So, we are filing a complaint. We have filed a complaint for this to be investigated. Now, the thing that I want to make clear is that the colonel,
as he's made clear, he is proud of being an officer of the military --
HUNT: Of course.
BAKAJ: -- of the army.
He -- what -- what's concerning here --
HUNT: I mean, you're asking to be given -- you want to stay in and do what you should be doing.
MATTHEWS: So, listen. So -- I mean, I was recommended for promotion to general officer. I don't have to be a general, but it says a lot that even
after my memo was published, a board of active duty and reserve officers recommended me for promotion. They knew what I did and they still
BAKAJ: Well, what happened was we have -- I think, it was a couple of months after you had disclosed this to the Congress.
BAKAJ: I think "Politico" and "The Washington Post" published a story about Colonel Matthews's disclosure to Capitol Hill --
BAKAJ: -- to the Jan 6th Committee's to the -- I think, Hogar (ph) House.
MATTHEWS: Yes, yes.
BAKAJ: And so, when that was published, as we understand it, that resulted in the president pulling back the names of two generals, those general
officers who make the most --
MATTHEWS: Well, General Piatt --
MATTHEWS: So, the Army was pushing General Piatt for promotion despite his --
HUNT: Despite what happened.
MATTHEWS: --- despite his not telling the truth before the Congress.
BAKAJ: And so, this goes back to -- you know, again, he believes in army values, he's served in the military for many, many years.
BAKAJ: This is about two outliers or individuals who have targeted him for retaliation, and that's what we're focused on to ensure that there's
MATTHEWS: They -- those men don't reflect the army values.
HUNT: Colonel Matthews, thank you for your service. Thank you for your time today.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, ma'am.
HUNT: Andrew Bakaj, thank you as well.
BAKAJ: Thank you.
HUNT: And we will be following your story as it unfolds.
All right. Up next here, what could impact the 2024 election? It's not just who's running, and perhaps we have to use our imaginations, because look at
what's happened the past few years. We're going to take a look at some possible events out of this world that could have a major effect on the
HUNT: Welcome back. It is just January 5th, but of course the 2024 general election is approaching quickly. And the race to the White House, any race
to the White House comes with surprises.
Today, I read with interest a story in "Politico". This says -- it's called, "The unpredictable but entirely possible events that could throw
2024 into turmoil." The piece posed questions to historians, analysts, scientists, and other experts. "What is the unpredictable, unlikely but
entirely plausible thing that could happen this year that voters aren't even thinking about yet, but which could have a massive impact on the
outcome?" So, here are some of the responses. War with China. A digital apocalypse. And even signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.
The panel is back with me to talk through some of these possibilities. I will say that the very top of this, pointed out that in the last election,
we had a global pandemic, a siege at the Capitol. There was the very reality that we had -- we elected a reality star to the White House. And
they say that, you know what, hey, maybe we need to deploy some more imagination to this exercise than we normally do. So, fair.
So, one -- let's start kind of with a big picture. One that -- this was from Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group. Margaret, I'm going to put this to
you. He says, "I wasn't worried about a coup back on January 6th." Fair. "I don't see any way to overturn this coming year's election either, but
disrupting the U.S. election strikes me as plausible and deeply concerning."
I mean, this does seem like the top line. I mean, again, yes, I -- you know, even when I was walking into the Capitol on January 6th, I said to my
husband that day that it felt like something I had never felt before. He said, once you get in the building, you'll be fine. And then obviously the
day was not so fine. I mean, it really was outside. I think the realm of what a lot of people consider to be a realistic possibility.
What do you think the realistic possibilities are of election disruption this time?
TALEV: Yes, it's a great question because, of course, the -- sort of, concede (ph) to the story is, what's the crazy thing that could happen? And
it's important to be nimble and be prepared for crazy things you can't predict but it's also really important to be prepared for the things that
you can predict. And election interference, violence, ambiguity, misinformation, disinformation, this all seems like a certainty. The
question is in what form? In what volume? How significant will it be, right?
So, between A.I., the threat from foreign actors, the internal partisan chaos and the chaos that other countries that we are at odds with right
now, it seems highly likely that all of this will come together in some format. The question is how and how will we respond afterwards? Will we
respond in a unified way as a country, or is it going to be the left and the right facing off against each other and the Supreme Court has to fix
HUNT: Yes. another possibility that was raised, Kate Bedingfield, is that the battle over abortion kicks into a new gear because of a Supreme Court
decision on Mifepristone, which is, you know, the -- a medicated -- medication for abortion. This one actually seems entirely within the realm
of possibility to me. Robert Tsai wrote, whatever rationale the Supreme Court ultimately goes with, if the justices decide to sharply restrict
access to mifepristone, their decision could limit even a single state's ability to protect access to the drug outside of in person settings.
It seems to me that this further restriction, because I also think it's important to note that this drug is not just used in abortions, it's used
in miscarriage care, and all sorts of other ways for -- or ways that are -- I shouldn't say all sorts of other ways. But in ways that are critical to
women's health beyond simply access to abortion. What do you think the ramifications of a decision like this would be?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think it's hard to see how this would be anything but beneficial to Joe Biden and the Democrats based on what we have seen in the
last two election cycles since the fall of Roe. You know, any decision that further restricts a woman's ability to make her own reproductive health
decisions, to make her own medical decisions with her doctor, anything that gives people a sense that the government, you know, at Republicans decades
and decades of pushing, is now inserting itself and taking away freedoms that should belong personally to women, that will benefit the Democrats.
And I think, you know, in reading this whole article, which I thought was fascinating, you know, one thing that kind of struck me is, you know, good
campaigns, winning campaigns are campaigns that are nimble and able to adjust to events. But that, at a fundamental level, zero in on the strength
of your candidate and the weakness of your opponent.
So, you know, for example, in 2020, obviously, we -- on the Biden campaign, we, like everyone else, did not see COVID coming. Did not see a global
pandemic coming. But we were fundamentally building a campaign that was about talking about how Trump was an agent of chaos. How he only cared
about himself and only cared about politics. Didn't really care about you. Didn't care about your family. And so, a lot of how we talked about COVID
and how we talked about the pandemic was, you know, criticizing Trump's response through that lens.
So, I think -- you know, all sorts of unexpected things can happen. I was really drawn to the example of extraterrestrial contact being made during
the campaign, which would really be something.
But you know, even that you as a campaign strategist, you sit down and you figure out how do we talk about this in a way that connects with people and
what we're trying to say and what we're trying to say about our opponent.
HUNT: I mean, I will say, these UFO hearings on Capitol Hill, I mean, people are obsessed with that. I mean, let's talk about that one because --
BEDINGFIELD: No question.
HUNT: -- this is the Galileo Projects, Avi Loeb, who told "Politico", "The sudden knowledge that we weren't alone in the universe would immediately
upend how humans think about themselves and their civilization, and the effects on Earth would be both momentous and unpredictable." Kristen Soltis
Anderson, what do you make of this? I have got visions of Bill Pullman in "Independence Day."
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Oh, yes. I was going to say this reminds me of "Contact" with Jodie Foster, like sign me up for this TV show, at a minimum, I would
totally watch this. To me, this is, I guess, the most unlikely but maybe the one that he was closest to the assignment. You know, some of the other
ones that this article mentioned were things like a big climate related weather disaster.
And in some ways, when you can think back to the 2012 election, you had a bit -- you know, Superstorm Sandy came and really caused a lot of
devastation in the northeast. And you, even to this day, have Republicans that kind of hold it against Chris Christie. Oh, he hugged Obama, that gave
Obama a boost. So, I think the idea of things like natural disasters are entirely plausible.
I also, think on this list there were a lot of things that were focused on foreign policy. What if China gets rowdy? What if there's a coup in Russia?
All of those are things that, right now, foreign policy, even with what's going on in the Middle East, even with what's going on in Ukraine, remains
a pretty low priority for American voters. But something like China actually invading Taiwan, or a coup in Russia. These are the sorts of
things that I think could really elevate foreign policy up the list of things candidates have to talk about.
HUNT: Yes. Well, and they're also --
BEDINGFIELD: Kasie, can --
HUNT: Yes, jump in.
BEDINGFIELD: Can I just say, I think Biden could make a really compelling argument. Do we really want Donald Trump to be the first emissary from
Earth to these extraterrestrial beings that are reaching out into --
BEDINGFIELD: Is that putting our best foot forward?
HUNT: I'm sorry, we're not sitting around the table for this conversation, guys. This is great. We're going to take a quick break, but everyone should
stay with us. Our panel's going to be back with one more thing.
HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE RACE. Our panel is back for "One More Thing", which we always do. What's that thing on the campaign trailer in
Washington you're watching for in the coming days? Kate Bedingfield, let me start with you.
BEDINGFIELD: Well, big jobs number today, better than expected for December, which points me to, you know, what are these economic indicators?
Are they going to stay -- what are the economic indicators that are going to stay strong? Is this going to be -- is this going to continue to be a
growing potential source of strength for Biden and the Democrats throughout the campaign or not? But looking at some of those indicators that don't
always get as much attention, as they might otherwise, but actually have a huge impact on how people feel about the economy.
HUNT: Yes. Kristen, what's your one more thing?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I'm from the state of Florida. Florida is a pretty red state these days, but activists who are pushing to have a ballot measure
that would set abortion rights at, sort of, the 24-week limit have acquired enough signatures to try to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in
This will go in front of the Florida Supreme Court. But Florida is one of the states that while it reliably votes for Republicans statewide, it also
has a propensity for voting for more progressive ballot measures. We see that pattern in lots of states. So, that's something I'm keeping an eye on
as the abortion battle moves into ballot measures and out of legislatures.
HUNT: Yes, that's really, really interesting how that's going to play out.
Margaret Talev, what's your "One More Thing"?
TALEV: Kasie, I'm watching the Red Sea. The Red Sea is not in Iowa, it is not in New Hampshire and it is not in Florida. It's halfway around the
world. But in the Red Sea, Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been, for the last six weeks or so, attacking more than two dozen commercial and U.S.
Navy vessels, and that has caused, a lot of concerns.
It's also spiking shipping costs. And there are some concerns that domestically -- forget about the foreign policy implications, that
domestically this could offset the reprieve to inflation that Joe Biden's been concerned -- enjoying lately that it could create shortages, delays
and price spikes for U.S. consumers. That's real concern for President Biden. And my colleagues at "Axios" reporting the Biden administration has
been considering if or how to get involved militarily to try to get this under control.
HUNT: Really, really interesting point and way to look at that as well. And I will say here in the final days before Iowa leading up to New
Hampshire, I'm watching Chris Christie and what he's going to do. He put out a very interesting to -- camera ad yesterday talking about -- saying he
was going to take responsibility for endorsing Donald Trump. Saying that that was a mistake. This, of course, back in 2016 when the former president
won the election over Hillary Clinton.
And now he's got a decision to make as he has staked his entire campaign around whether -- around being against the reelection of Donald Trump. He
faces a big decision around whether or not he's going to give Nikki Haley a clean shot at Trump in New Hampshire.
Thanks to all of you for joining us on this Friday. Have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kasi Hunt. That's the STATE OF THE RACE for today, Friday,
January 5th. Don't forget, you can always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere, "ONE WORLD" is up.