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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Hunter Biden Makes Surprise Appearance At House Cmte. Hearing; Trump Attacks Haley As She Builds Momentum; DeSantis: Haley Keeps Putting Her Foot In Her Mouth. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 10, 2024 - 11:00   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNNI HOST: 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's Wednesday, January 10. We have just five days until the Iowa caucuses; 13 days until the New Hampshire primary, 299 days until

Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.

All right. A shock on Capitol Hill today, Hunter Biden, the President's son, making a surprise appearance at a House Oversight Committee hearing.

That hearing taking up the question of whether to hold him in contempt of Congress.

Our panel is here today. Mark Longabaugh, Democratic Strategist who worked on Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign; Charlie Dent, former Republican

Congressman, and Leigh Ann Caldwell, the author of The Early 202 at The Washington Post. It has been quite a morning. Charlie Dent, you're the

perfect person to have with us to help us understand all of this. First, though, I just want to show you a little bit of what unfolded. I mean, I've

covered Capitol Hill for many years. There are definitely days like this, but this one is up there in terms of sheer surprise, sheer mayhem, the

level of political theater, really pretty high there today. Take a look.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): First of all, my first question is, who bribed Hunter Biden to be here today? That's my first question. Second question,

you are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be

deposed. What are you afraid of? You have no balls to come up here and --

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Mr. Chairman, point of inquiry.

MACE: Mr. Chairman --

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The lady is recognized.

MACE: I'm not done.

MOSKOWITZ: If the gentlelady wants to hear from Hunter Biden, we can hear from him right now, Mr. Chairman. Let's take a vote and hear from Hunter


MACE: I'm speaking --

MOSKOWITZ: What are you afraid of?

MACE: Are women allowed to speak here?

COMER: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Order. Order. Order.


MACE: Are women allowed to speak in here or no?

COMER: All right.

MACE: Are women allowed to speak in here or no --

COMER: Order.

MACE: -- because you keep interrupting me?


HUNT: OK. We didn't even get to the part where somebody was calling somebody else a Nimrod. There was -- there is a lot. There is a lot here,

Charlie Dent. What did you make of this as it all unfolded?


context of fact that -- they have a deadline next week. They have to fund the government. I mean, they're --

HUNT: Right.

DENT: I mean, this is like really important.

HUNT: Right. I almost forgot about that.

DENT: I mean, there is a -- but, I am looking at this theater, and it just feels like we've had so many contempt resolution, so many impeachments,

another one, I just -- I sometimes wonder what congressional oversight means anymore if people just ignore it. I mean, I'm not saying that Hunter

Biden, but we saw others Republicans ignore it, Steve Bannon, McCarthy and Jordan didn't appear for their -- they were subpoenaed. They did not --

HUNT: I would just like to underscore, you are a Republican routing that --

DENT: Yeah.

HUNT: -- because there was a member today who -- I mean, he literally put them all down on the -- with a list, Kevin McCarthy, Scott Perry, others

who were subpoenaed and didn't show.

DENT: And it just seems like this is all -- Congress's powers are eroding because of things like this. I mean, they've lost so much authority to both

the judiciary and to the executive branch. This doesn't help particularly when now they're waiting on a major deadline on funding the government.

They got this supplemental package. It's not being addressed. And this is what the American public gets to see this circus atmosphere.

HUNT: Leigh Ann Caldwell, let's kind of pull back on this from a political perspective to just kind of talk about why it is that this happened today.

Right? I mean, we know the actual facts of the matter which are that they were about to hold a hearing to hold Hunter Biden in contempt for not

complying with a House subpoena. That's why he showed up. But, this takes place against the backdrop of a presidential campaign, right, where Donald

Trump is embroiled in a host of legal problems. The Trump campaign would like to focus on this. Many of the people in that hearing are surrogates

for the former President. There is an effort to kind of equate the two. Well --


HUNT: -- everyone has a problem. Right? Everyone is a mess, both sides. It's no --


HUNT: -- different, right, to kind of equate it. And then, you've had Hunter Biden, who for the longest time had a strategy, it seemed, of

basically flying under the radar. We never really heard from him. He did put out a book. We had a couple interviews that were kind of around his

struggle with addiction and kind of his particularly personal, not his legal challenges. And now, all of a sudden, we have this very aggressive

public strategy. This is the second time we've seen Hunter Biden on the Hill. He didn't talk today, but he did the last time. He gave a forceful

defense of his father.

And here, let me show you a little bit of the continuation of this. And we're obviously reporting all of this out. But, the man you're about to see

is someone who in Washington is known as a really pugnacious, both behind the scenes and public, if necessary, fighter for a whole host of very high-

profile clients, and that is Abby Lowell, who is acting as Hunter Biden's lawyer. He previously served as Jared Kushner's lawyer.


So, keep in mind, this is not -- this is not partisan representation here necessarily. Perhaps, it's the money that's talking. But, that aside, I

want to show you a little bit of what Lowell's argument was in -- for his current client, Hunter Biden, earlier today on the Hill. Watch.


ABBE LOWELL, HUNTER BIDEN'S ATTORNEY: The Republican chairs have today commandeered an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who

has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions. The question there is, what are they afraid of?


HUNT: What are they afraid of?

CALDWELL: Well, what Abbe Lowell was referencing is that Hunter Biden has said and he demonstrated today he is willing to appear in public before the

Committee. What the Committee members want is him to appear behind the scenes in a deposition where Hunter Biden and his attorneys say that those

transcripts -- just a one-sided argument will be released from those transcripts. So, what they're worried about is that there isn't continuing

to be no evidence that ties Hunter Biden to President Biden for any wrongdoing that President Biden profited off of Hunter Biden.

But, getting back to your previous political point about how this muddies the water for the public, if Donald Trump is in the middle of a court case

after court case after court case during this campaign, which he is likely to be the Republican nominee, meanwhile, there is an impeachment going on

against President Biden, it confuses voters to dismiss what perhaps the allegations are against Donald Trump. And so, then it maybe equals the

playing field and minimizes and detracts from President Biden's argument that it is Donald Trump that brings chaos.

HUNT: Yeah. And I think -- we should be clear. There -- are I mean, Hunter Biden has been indicted on criminal charges. We're not trying to minimize

that. What we're talking about here is strictly the politics.

I want to bring in our Melanie Zanona who was there this morning as all of this unfolded. Mel, I've been in chaotic hallways like the one you had to

navigate this morning. Can you just kind of take us behind the scenes to how it felt this morning? Were you surprised how surprised were the people

around you? How the members of the Committee reacted? And just kind of the level of emotion around this this morning.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah. Well, it was already expected to be a contentious day because, remember, House Republicans are

preparing to recommend that the President's son be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to apply -- comply with a closed-door deposition.

But, in the moments leading up to the hearing, we started hearing rumblings that Hunter Biden might be showing up in some capacity. Then my colleague

Annie Grayer was able to confirm that recording. And lo and behold, Hunter Biden did show up just moments before the hearing got underway.

So, him and his lawyer walked in. They were sitting in the audience for about 20 minutes. They listened to the hearing as it kicked off, and then

they left the hearing, and they made a -- his lawyer, I should say, made a brief statement on some prepared remarks, but reiterated what Hunter Biden

and his team have been saying all along, which is that he is willing to appear for a public hearing. He just doesn't want to sit for a closed-door

deposition because he doesn't trust that Republicans aren't going to cherry pick or selectively leak his testimony.

So then, Hunter Biden left and the hearing continued, but of course, not without fireworks. Republicans were furious about Hunter Biden showing up.

They said this is a political stunt and a distraction. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican, said he should be arrested there on the spot. But,

Democrats made the point that if Republicans' goal here is to really hear from Hunter Biden, well, they have the opportunity to just do so. He was

sitting right there. He has said he would testify under oath. And so, they argued that Republicans were being hypocritical. They also pointed out that

there have been other Republicans in the previous session of Congress who defied congressional subpoenas from the House January 6 Select Committee.

So, there was a very contentious back and forth between Republicans and Democrats on the Committee. The hearing is still ongoing. But, in the end,

we're not expecting the outcome to change here just because Hunter Biden show up. Republicans are expected to advance this resolution out of the

House Oversight Committee. Judiciary Committee, we should point out, also marking up a similar resolution that would do the same thing. Then that

resolution would go to the House floor. So, the entire House need to vote on this effort. Senior Republicans, I'm told, are confident they're going

to have the votes there. And then, it would be up to the DoJ to determine whether to prosecute the President's son. A reminder, the DoJ is already

looking into some tax charges and gun charges related to the President's son.

But, the big picture here, Kasie, is that House Republicans, this showdown has been really months in the making between the President's son and House

Republicans, as they really struggled to prove that the President profited or made policy decisions based on his son's foreign business deal. So, now

they're taking a new turn instead of trying to get information for what they saw as a critical witness in Hunter Biden.


They are now going the route of contempt proceedings. Democrats on their end see this as nothing more than a political stunt, and they're pushing

back against the impeachment effort as a whole.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean -- and we should underscore, we still have no -- the Committee has provided no evidence definitively linking the President to

any of this that they've been investigating. Mel, briefly, I couldn't help but notice that it was Marjorie Taylor Greene who was cut off when Hunter

Biden got up and left. She was the one who was taking the microphone. She was very clearly not happy about it. And all of the cable networks cut from

her talking to Abbe Lowell talking and trying to figure out what was going on with Hunter Biden in the hallway. What do you make of -- I mean, that

seems like a very intentional move to me.

ZANONA: Yeah. Yeah. I don't think that was an accident. I mean, there is a couple of elements at play here. First of all, Marjorie Taylor Greene has

been one of the sharpest critics of Hunter Biden. She at one hearing was displaying some nude photos during a hearing. She has just been a real

thorn in Hunter Biden's side.

But, to your point, the fact that he got up and left, the attention did strategically turn to Hunter Biden and the statement that his lawyer made

outside of the hearing room afterwards. And so, I really think you can view Hunter Biden's actions today as probably both a PR and political move in

terms of the messaging and trying to make the point that, hey, I'm here. I'm not scared of the Committee. And then, there is also the legal element.

It's going to really be up to DoJ to determine whether Hunter Biden made every effort to try to comply with a subpoena.

And we should also note that when he did have that scheduled closed-door deposition that was back in December, he also had showed up to the Capitol

and did a press conference outside of the Capitol, making a similar message. So, ultimately, again, it's going to be up to the DoJ to determine

whether or not they're going to prosecute the President's son and hold Hunter in contempt of Congress. But, House Republicans, nonetheless,

pushing --

HUNT: Right.

ZANONA: -- ahead with their efforts to try to impeach the President over his son's foreign business deals.

HUNT: All right. Our Melanie Zanona, who had a much more interesting morning than perhaps you bargained for, Mel, thanks. I really appreciate


All right. The panel is back. Mark Longabaugh, let me go to you since you didn't have a chance to weigh in on all of this yet.


HUNT: Let me show you a little bit of what Jared Moskowitz, who kind of led the charge on this in the Committee for the Democrats this morning --


HUNT: -- had to say at the top. Take a look.


MOSKOWITZ: For some reason, the Chairman, who on multiple occasions invited the witness to come on TV, apparently, the Chairman wants to pretend like

his statements on television or in interviews don't matter, but it didn't happen once. It didn't happen twice. It happened multiple times. The

Chairman said the witness can choose whether to come to a deposition or to a public hearing in front of the Committee. The witness accepted the

Chairman's invitation.


HUNT: So, really, this is an attempt to try to call their bluff. Right? What do you make of it?

LONGABAUGH: Well, I mean, I think it's a brilliant strategy. I mean, I think Hunter Biden has decided he is not going to be a punching bag, and as

you mentioned, the heavy loyal in his corner. I mean, if I was ever in a jam, that's certainly somebody that I would want by my side.

HUNT: You've been most of Washington, D.C.

LONGABAUGH: Yeah. That's exactly right. And so, I think, listen, they've decided to go on the offensive here and call the Republicans bluff. And I

think showing up this morning was a real smart move on their part, just basically daring up. OK? If you want me to testify, I'm here. Let's go. And

he did call their bluff. They really didn't want to have him testify.

DENT: I'm not so sure that the Biden White House, though, appreciates Hunter Biden becoming such a spectacle like this. I mean, I think that --

Hunter Biden is a liability for the President. The Republicans have made a compelling case to impeach Hunter Biden. Of course, he is not a federal

official. They haven't made the case.

HUNT: With Hunter Biden?

DENT: Yeah. They can (ph) impeach him. In other words, Hunter Biden's malodorous business activities are bad. It doesn't look good for anybody,

for the White House. I'm not saying Joe Biden has benefited in any way by his dealings. But, with Hunter Biden out there, I don't think that helps

the Biden White House in the campaign. I don't think they want the focus to be on him. So, by showing up, I don't think he helped his cause. It didn't

help anybody, but it's just -- it just turns into a circus. So I --


HUNT: Yeah. What do you think?

LONGABAUGH: I guess I got to disagree a little bit. I mean, I think we're in a different era. I think you're right. Right? The White House would not.

But, I think in this era, if you don't stand up and fight back, you're just mincemeat. And I just think Biden -- Hunter Biden is in a very, very tough

jam. The White House is in a tough jam. And the option is to lay low and have -- Marjorie Taylor Greene put naked pictures up in the Committee room

or it's to fight back and go on the offensive.

CALDWELL: It is a Trump-like tactic --

HUNT: Yeah.

CALDWELL: -- that we haven't seen up from anyone other than Trump until now. But, you have to also take a step back and remember that this is also

happening in the backdrop where they are also holding their first impeachment hearing today about Alejandro Mayorkas. James Comer has

threatened to bring impeachment forward for Attorney General Merrick Garland as well.


And now, General -- Secretary Austin is also in impeachment crosshairs of Republicans. So, there'll be no government. There is going to be a

government lag (ph). But, they are threatening to kind of gut the entire Biden administration. So, it is reducing the meaning of impeachment.

HUNT: Well, I mean, it kind of goes to your earlier point, Congressman. I mean -- and I've thought a lot about this. I mean, I thought when Trump was

impeached the first time, I was on maternity leave, and I thought I'm missing the only impeachment I'm ever going to cover in my career. And I

was so wrong.

DENT: You are.

HUNT: I was very wrong. But, it really is -- like, what used to be extraordinary is ordinary now.

DENT: Well, it's proving that this January, January is a total crackup month, this month, I mean, between the government funding, the supplemental

appropriations bills. We got impeachments of not only Joe Biden, the inquiry now of Mayorkas. Hunter Biden comes up and throws himself into this

whole thing, makes himself the center of attention. I mean, I'm probably missing five or six things that they're going to do. And this is a mess.

HUNT: Yeah.

DENT: I mean, we're Ukraine is still not funded. The government, they're not going to meet their deadline next week.


DENT: And so, they've got that, and that's like really important, because that is about keeping the government running. And then -- and now we've got

this sideshow circus going on. Right? This is bad.

HUNT: Well, and we've got Republicans going out there saying, well, better we have a two-week shutdown and a two-week CR, get some urgency behind

things. That's kind of where we are. All right. Great discussion, guys. Thank you.

Up next here, Nikki Haley is on the rise in the polls, and that of course comes with a lot of pressure. That's next.


HUNT: All right. Just hours from now, with the Iowa caucuses just five days away, frontrunner Donald Trump's top Republican rivals will face off in

their first head-to-head showdown right here on CNN. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis square off. The former UN Ambassador on the rise and therefore

under pressure.



RON DESANTIS, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She has a record of underperforming. I want to count. Now, she is in a situation where she is

getting scrutiny and it's like, almost every day she answers questions, something happens where she is putting her foot in her mouth. She just

can't handle the scrutiny and can't defend her record. That's why she rarely answers questions.


HUNT: Frontrunner Donald Trump is also focusing on Haley after a new CNN poll in New Hampshire showed his lead cut to single digits against her. The

former President now pushing false conspiracy theories that Haley is ineligible to be President because her parents were immigrants. Trump is

skipping the debate to do a town hall on Fox.

Our panel is back with us. Charlie Dent, I guess I should have predicted that we would start to find ourselves in a situation where there was a

Nikki Haley birther conspiracy if she started to actually challenge Trump, because at first when I saw this, I was like, what? I don't want to say

outrageous dead, but like our politics is just in a place that has become really, really remarkable. Do you think this is -- I mean, it's clear to me

it shows that he is threatened by her --

DENT: Absolutely.

HUNT: -- for one. What's your reaction to this?

DENT: Trump is nervous, as he should be. Haley is surging in New Hampshire. She is within striking distance. She might be able to consolidate the non-

Trump vote there and there are a lot of unaffiliated voters who can help her. So, I think she is in striking distance of winning. I'm not saying she

will, but it's going to be awfully tight. Trump knows it. So, now he throws his haymaker to suggest that she is ineligible because her parents are

immigrants. It's absurd. I mean -- but, this is what he does. But, Haley has got momentum. They know it. And we're going to see what happens in Iowa

if she finishes second, and then she comes plowing into New Hampshire, Trump's -- he is worried. That's why he put that out there.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it is the kind of -- I mean, Leigh Ann Caldwell, it's - - this race has really felt static for --


HUNT: -- a long time, this nomination fight. But, I will say -- I've covered enough of these to know that anytime -- there is so many times we

have assumed that something was absolutely going to be true. Hillary Clinton was going to be President of the United States. There was no way

Donald Trump was going to be able to win the Republican nomination. Jeb Bush was definitely the frontrunner for the nomination --


HUNT: -- in 2016. I do think there is an opportunity here, however small it may be that something changes here in the next couple of weeks.

CALDWELL: There is a critical week in this election and the primary, and that is obviously what happens in Iowa until what happens in New Hampshire.

It could be the shortest presidential primary election in a very long time, or it could actually -- there could be a huge, huge upset. I think that

what happens in Iowa is important, even though we know Donald Trump is very likely going to win in a commanding way there. But, how big is that

commanding lead? Is he only come out with 10 or 15 points ahead? Or is it the 50 points that he has been polling at? And so, if that margin is much

smaller, I think that gives a ton of momentum to someone like Nikki Haley in the state of New Hampshire where she is doing quite well in.

HUNT: Yeah. Mark. I mean, you've been on the receiving --

LONGABAUGH: (Inaudible) in these early states a little bit.

HUNT: Yes.


HUNT: Yeah. And the receiving end of people making a lot of assumptions about what would or wouldn't happen.

LONGABAUGH: Well, one of the things I would remind people again, as a veteran of these early states, how often they actually move late. I mean,

this is -- if you historically go back and look, and part of what is the dynamic today, I think, is expectations. Seltzer and the Iowa poll come out

this Saturday, I believe, and that's going to --

HUNT: Sunday morning. Yeah.

LONGABAUGH: -- set the -- OK, Sunday morning, set --

HUNT: Yeah.

LONGABAUGH: -- the expectations for the caucuses. And I think that's going to set a question of, who finishes second? How big is Trump's victory? But,

I actually think even if he scores a big victory, and Haley could get into second, man, he is in a world hurt in New Hampshire. Now, I'm not saying

that Haley ultimately seizes the nomination. I don't think that's possible. But, I do agree with the Congressman that I think she could win in New


HUNT: So, let's see about where that leads Ron DeSantis, because he also has been clearly threatened by Nikki Haley. Take a look at his latest ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is what Wall Street-funded Nikki Haley just said in New Hampshire.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know Iowa starts it. You know that you correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haley disparages the caucuses and insults you.

DESANTIS: Nikki Haley is running for her donors issues. I'm running for your issues.


HUNT: Ron DeSantis and he approved this message. It's -- I mean, look, I think she actually probably made a mistake there when it comes to -- she

was -- she is clearly banking on New Hampshire. I don't think -- I've certainly heard more rumblings that she is maybe in a better place in Iowa

than many people would have assumed, and that's I think kind of where that comment maybe came from.


But, that said, I mean, clearly, she is the one that's under attack. What do you make of, a, what's going to happen with DeSantis? Because I feel

like if he comes in third in Iowa, we're all going to be asked me when he is dropping out of this race. But also, what -- his other criticism of

Nikki Haley has been basically that she is not ready for this. We showed it at the top that she -- and often, there is a legitimate question. The

crucible of a presidential campaign is unlike any other crucible in politics, and many people make the mistake of assuming because they want a

governorship or they're a big deal at home that they're going to be able to do it, and then they lose their footing in a moment like this. I'm curious

kind of your take on DeSantis' standing and on his critique of Haley, and whether he is right about that.

DENT: Well, first, New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state. Well, for DeSantis in Iowa, it's do or die. So, this is where he is. And he could

very easily -- look, this -- his campaign could implode right here. This is -- that's the whole campaign for him. So, his critique on Nikki Haley, I

think, is unfair. She is every bit as qualified as he is as a governor. And so, I think that DeSantis desperate, and it's clear. What's really clear is

that he is running for second place. Make no doubt about it. He is not even laying a hand on Trump right now. And she at least is trying to a little

bit. So, I think that she has got the whip hand position right now. DeSantis knows it. And he is smacking her over her comments. He shouldn't

have said that. She was correct in what she said, but he shouldn't have said it.

HUNT: Let's talk -- since we're more now back to New Hampshire, Leigh Ann, let us talk a little bit about Chris Christie, because he is the one who --

he stakes it all on New Hampshire. And if you look at these polls, let's pop that the CNN poll back up on the screen in the Granite State. We've got

Donald Trump 39 percent, Nikki Haley 32 percent. Guess who is next? Chris Christie with 12 percent. And we know from digging into these numbers that

a not insignificant number of those Christie voters would not go to Trump if Christie were to drop out of the race. It's not as though you'd see

suddenly 39 percent plus 10 percent or 39 percent plus 12 percent. They would go elsewhere. Presumably some of them would go to Nikki Haley and

with her in striking distance.

I mean, there have been some reports out there that Chris Sununu is having conversations with him about dropping out. Now, Christie was asked about

that, and was pretty sharp in response. Take a look.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It pains me to say this, but Governor Sununu is a liar.


HUNT: Tough. It does -- he doesn't seem like he wants to drop out.

CALDWELL: No. I mean, he has based everything on New Hampshire. And his thinking is, why would I drop out before the one state that I have been

spending the last seven months of my life in?

HUNT; But, this campaign is about taking down Donald Trump. Like that's really the only place to do it.

CALDWELL: Well, politicians have egos that they don't really past (inaudible).

DENT: But, he is making an argument different than the other candidates.

LONGABAUGH: That's true.

DENT: It's the frontal direct attack, and without him in the race, who is going to make that argument?

HUNT: Yeah. That's fair enough.

LONGABAUGH: One thing I would point out, it's not just Christie that's going to be a factor for Haley. It's going to be the fact that there really

is not competition on the Democratic side. And remember, independents or undeclared voters in New Hampshire can vote in either primary. And we've

seen -- I've been on the bad side of this actually with Bill Bradley and McCain in 2000, where those independents will move to where the action is.

And I think she very much could benefit from the fact that there is not a Democratic contest.

DENT: I mean, you are not going to let the Dean Phillips.

LONGABAUGH: Yeah. I don't -- we will see.

HUNT: Yeah. There was a picture from Dean Phillips. He held a coffee and conversation outside the forum. I still think of it as the Radisson, but

it's the main hotel in Manchester. Nobody showed up.

LONGABAUGH: They've changed the name of that hotel several times.

HUNT: It's now the DoubleTree. Yeah. Mark Longabaugh, Charlie Dent, Leigh Ann Caldwell, thank you guys very much --

LONGABAUGH: All right. Thank you.

HUNT: -- for being here today.

All right. Up next, DeSantis and Haley face off tonight in the CNN debate in Iowa. Still ahead, we're going to talk to a DeSantis donor and find out

what he hopes to see from his candidate tonight.




HUNT: Welcome back. Ron DeSantis has, pun intended, bet the farm on Iowa. He will face off against Nikki Haley on the debate stage tonight. It is an

expectations game, and the expectation is he will come in second in Iowa behind Trump. If he doesn't, expect questions about how long exactly he

plans to stay in the race.

Joining us now, key DeSantis donor, Pete Snyder. He is the CEO of Disruptor Capital, and he ran against Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in the 2021

primary for governor. Pete, it's great to have you. Thanks for being here.


HUNT: So, let's just do a gut check. We're five days from Iowa, two weeks out from New Hampshire. How are you feeling about your horse's chances


SNYDER: I feel great. We're at a strong second place right now. We have a debate coming up. And I think all objective observers, and again, I'm

biased, but would say that Ron DeSantis has won every single debate that's come across. So, I expect really big things from him in the CNN debate, and

even more big things when it comes to the caucuses in Iowa. So, we're just a couple days away. I'm fired up.

HUNT: Do you think Ron DeSantis has made any mistakes in this campaign?

SNYDER: Oh, of course, he has, just as every other candidate. And even more so, Kasie, I think he realized this. He has received $40 million of

negative ads against them. That is more than every single candidate combined. And you know this. There is not a lot of love from the media for

Ron DeSantis. So, he has taken it from all sides, and he is still doing really, really well, and has a great shot of coming out of Iowa in a strong

position and going after this nomination.

HUNT: If he doesn't come in second in Iowa, are you going to regret having supported him?

SNYDER: Hell, no, no. Look, I'm right or die with Ron DeSantis. I think he would make a tremendous President. I'm going to be at the convention and

helping to lead the Virginia delegation for him. And I think he is a terrific leader. So, I don't regret a single thing. I think he is a

terrific leader, and I think he is going to win.

HUNT: Where do you think he needs to be when we are all flying out of Des Moines late next Monday night, heading to New Hampshire? What number does

he need to put in? More importantly, even than that, where does he need to fall in the order, and how close does he need to come to Donald Trump for

this to be something that can act as a springboard for him instead of something that raises questions about the end for him?

SNYDER: Sure. I think as far as what number, it really depends on the whole lot. Right? But, he needs to be the strong. I think he needs to and will be

in a strong number two position. If he does that, he is going to have a really good shot of doing well in New Hampshire and carrying this thing on

and battling Donald Trump and winning this nomination, which might even go all the way up to the convention.


So -- but, he needs and will get a strong showing in Iowa. No candidate has spent more time than Ron DeSantis. As we all know, he did the full

Grassley, all 99 counties. He has --

HUNT: Dedication.

SNYDER: -- the strongest ground game --

HUNT: Incredible credits too.

SNYDER: -- which really means something. Kasie, I'm a former mediocre college wrestler, and I've been pinned to more field houses across Iowa

than anyone I think I know. And it matters showing up. And he has the ground game there, and he is going to do well come caucus tonight.

HUNT: I really should count the number of counties I've been to in Iowa. It's nowhere near 99. But, I might be able to see your field houses. I

don't know.

SNYDER: I think my back -- you can still see the in front of my back on those mats.

HUNT: Fair enough. Pete, I want to show you a little bit of what the deputy campaign manager the campaign, David Polyansky, who -- for our viewers who

aren't familiar with him, he is a longtime Iowa strategist. He has seen many, many campaigns in the state. He talked a little bit about what Ron

DeSantis needed or was going to focus on in the debate tonight with Nikki Haley. Take a look at what he had to say.


DAVID POLYANSKY, DESANTIS DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Events like this tonight gives us the opportunity to stand on stage and not just push back, but

force finally Nikki Haley to answer questions about her failed record in South Carolina, for once to finally put her to the test and make her answer

the question that she is yet to answer, would she consider being Donald Trump's vice presidential pick, to questions about her unwillingness to

admit what she said publicly and on camera that Hillary Clinton was her -- the reason she got into politics in the first place.


HUNT: So, I was particularly interested in the line of attack around her potentially being Donald Trump's vice presidential pick. Is it your sense

that that's something that might resonate as a problem with Republican voters?

SNYDER: I don't know. I mean, I really can't keep track of where Nikki Haley stands on Donald Trump. She joined his administration and then wrote

scathing passages in her book. I mean, it's really -- it depends on the day on where Nikki Haley stands with President Trump. I mean, what I think is

really at stake here, and let me take nothing away from Nikki Haley. I like her. I think she has done well, and was and has been a star in the party

for a while.

But, it really does come to what your panel is saying before about scrutiny. She is not really doing all that well when the lights are

brightest. I mean, the -- I think it's weird that your strategy in Iowa is to say that you need to correct the voters there. But, we all know that

that's a -- there is a major gap and not a really good strategy at all in Iowa. Her comments on slavery, again, you know, this is 2024. What are you


So, unlike Ron DeSantis, who we all know has received every arrow from every single side, left, right, you name it, and he is able to stand up and

stand tall and act presidential and get the job done, unlike anyone else in our party, including former President Trump. He is -- he is battle tested,

and that's why he is going to win.

HUNT: All right. Well, we'll see if this battle, in fact, tested him or ultimately beats him in the end. Pete Snyder, thanks very much for coming

on the show. Really appreciate your time.

SNYDER: Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Cheers.

All right. We've got less than two weeks to go until New Hampshire's Republican primary. Chris Christie is rejecting calls to drop out as

Haley's momentum is building. I'm going to speak with one of my favorite political experts from the Granite State, Neil Levesque. That's up next.




HUNT: Welcome back. Well, Donald Trump continues to hold a large lead in Iowa. The race in New Hampshire is very interesting. Nikki Haley has been

surging. In the latest CNN University of New Hampshire poll, she cut Trump's lead in the state to the single digits, 39 percent to 32 percent,

and that is a 12 point jump for Haley since the last CNN poll back in November. There is no one better to talk about the Granite State and its

voters than Neil Levesque, who is the Executive Director of the legendary New Hampshire Institute of Politics, which is at St. Anselm College. Neil,

I'm thrilled to be able to turn the tables a little bit. I'm usually up in your neck of the woods doing TV. I'm thrilled to have you here today.


good to see you even if it's far away.

HUNT: I'll be there in about a week, actually, straight off -- straight out of Des Moines. So, we'll have to catch up. But, look, I want to just kind

of get your gut check. You've seen so many of these races. You've seen all the polls, but you also have a better sense, honestly, a lot of times than

the polls do of how things are moving. Do you think these numbers for Nikki Haley, are they still moving in her direction? Have they sort of tapered

off? Where do you think things stand right now today?

LEVESQUE: I think Nikki Haley definitely has momentum, and she has definitely been moving up. There are factors out there, like whether or not

any of these other candidates were to drop out, where would those votes go? The other big factor is that Donald Trump really hasn't gone up or down. He

is like a goalpost. And she knows, Nikki Haley knows where the goalpost is, and she has got to catch up to that, and they've got to try to find every

last vote to do it. As you know, in New Hampshire, it's a different kind of election because independents or undeclared voters can vote. And it's very,

very hard to figure out what they're going to do. And as we get into this last stretch, the big determining factor here is, how many of those people

turn out and who are they going to vote for?

HUNT: Yeah. What is your sense -- I mean, that's -- you just took my next question out of my mouth in terms of -- I mean, there is very little

movement on the Democratic side, obviously, because there is an incumbent President in Joe Biden. There is also some other strange factors around the

fact that they moved the calendar around. Biden is not on the ballot there. I mean, do you think that's going to impact how undeclared New Hampshire

voters decide where they're going to vote and how they're going to vote, and if so, what's the impact on the Republican side?

LEVESQUE: I think they're definitely going to play in this election because people like to go and they like to participate. Particularly here in New

Hampshire, we have the highest voter turnouts. So, those undeclared voters, that's the largest voting bloc in New Hampshire, more than Republicans,

more than Democrats. I think they will participate. And it's going to be interesting to see whether or not they vote for someone like a Trump,

because he is a known commodity. He is the sort of almost like an incumbent at this point. So, do they go elsewhere? And I think that that's where

Nikki Haley, that's where Chris Christie are potentially looking for the next crop of votes. That is the big unknown. And of course, as I mentioned,

the other unknown is whether or not all the candidates that we know of now are in this race in two weeks.

HUNT: Yeah. Is Christie the person you're really talking about there?

LEVESQUE: Well, the thing about Chris Christie that's rather interesting is that if you look at the data when you poll him, a lot of those folks are

not going to vote for Donald Trump no matter what.


So, naturally, if someone like Nikki Haley is surging in the polls, she is doing quite well, and she is an alternative to Trump, then naturally you

could say that those votes will go to her. So, there is a lot of hope that potentially something happens in the race where he and his voters go to

someone who is challenging Trump. And in this case, obviously, that's Nikki Haley. I think you've seen Sununu, the Governor of New Hampshire, the very

popular, very, very talented communicator out there, sort of urging Christie to potentially get out because those votes would go to Nikki

Haley. So, there is a lot of scuttlebutt about that happening in New Hampshire. And I think --

HUNT: Yeah.

LEVESQUE: -- really the race will tune up next week when the votes are counted, or the caucus votes are counted in Iowa.

HUNT: Yeah. It always -- or it certainly can make a real difference. Since you mentioned Christie and kind of what is next for him, he and Sununu have

been going back and forth pretty publicly. Here is what Christie had to say in Rochester earlier this week. Watch.


CHRISTIE: I will be happy to get out of the way for somebody if they actually would vote against Donald Trump. But, like, I listen to Nikki, and

let's start off with this. She got asked this again yesterday in Iowa. Voters said, I will try and make my decision about who to vote for. I'm

against Donald Trump. Will you promise me that you won't accept the vice presidency from Donald Trump if he offers it? And she once again refused to

answer the question.


HUNT: What do you make of that?

LEVESQUE: I think that it's -- he is pointing out to voters who don't like Trump that Nikki Haley has been threading a needle here, and that needle is

the reality that if you want to win the Republican nomination and potentially become President of the United States, you cannot upset Trump

voters. You can make a contrast with Trump. But, you really cannot anger those people and be on the opposite side. If you look at the data again,

you see Chris Christie has potentially done some of that, where a lot of Republicans say they would never vote for him because he has been sort of

against Trump. So, there is --

HUNT: Yeah.

LEVESQUE: -- they're walking a thin line here, and that's what he is pointing out.

HUNT: It's a -- it's been a very difficult line all the way around. It's really been in many ways the story of this Republican primary. Neil

Levesque, thank you so much for joining us. I really do hope that I'll see you sometime in the next 10 days or so up in New Hampshire.

LEVESQUE: We're looking forward to it. Thank you, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Coming up next here on State of the Race, CNN sat down with one of the Capitol rioters sentenced to prison for her actions on

January 6. She explains how that day changed her life, but not her mind.


HUNT: Three years later, our country is still grappling with the fallout of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. We still don't know if former

President Donald Trump is going to be held criminally accountable for what happened that day. But, some of the rioters have been held accountable,

sentenced to prison for their actions on that day. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan spoke to one of them.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How do you feel when you watch this?

RACHEL POWELL, CONVICTED JANUARY 6TH RIOTER: You know, I think I -- I am more numb when I look at this stuff. It's like surreal to me. I mean, look

how angry I look.

O'SULLIVAN: You'd admit this as a bad look.

POWELL: Totally. You know how dumb I feel when I look at this picture? Like, oh my goodness.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Rachel Powell, also known as the Pink Hat Lady, is about to begin a five-year prison sentence for her role in the January 6

attack on the U.S. Capitol. She is a mom of eight and grandmother of six, and she spent most of the last three years under home detention in rural



POWELL: And this is what you expected from an insurrectionist, the terrorist. How do I have time to plan an insurrection when my life is busy

like this, making pie, raising babies?

O'SULLIVAN: Why did you decide to go to D.C. on January 6?

POWELL: Well, how often does a President ask you to come to a rally? It doesn't happen.

O'SULLIVAN: At some point, this goes from peaceful protest to you having an ice axe in your hand, breaking a window, trying to get into the Capitol.

How did that happen?

POWELL: It got violent and it was violent for a while, and I'm completely in pain. And --

O'SULLIVAN: Because you had been hit?

POWELL: Oh me, I had been hit with the baton. I had been grabbed and thrown. I've been sprayed. I mean, my whole body was on fire. I don't think

there was rational thinking in my head at that point. And I didn't have an ice axe that passed through the crowd. Somebody put it in my hands. And it

was only in my hands long enough to take out that windowpane. And yet, I've been charged with a deadly weapon.

O'SULLIVAN: Somebody give you the ice axe?



POWELL: I don't know.

O'SULLIVAN: You don't remember?

POWELL: I don't know who they were.


POWELL: I don't know where it came from. I don't know where it went.

O'SULLIVAN: I grew up, and I guess you'd probably did too of being told, if a police officer tells you to do something, you should probably do it. That

didn't happen that day. Of course, the police were telling you guys to go away.

POWELL: They never actually told us to go away. I never had an officer look at me and say you need to leave or I'm going to arrest you.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Footage like this have Rachel seen here in the fur hooded coat, pushing against the police line, and messages she posted on

social media condoning violence ahead of January 6, were used by prosecutors to argue that Rachel wasn't just a peaceful protester who got

caught up in the chaos of the day.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you regret that day?

POWELL: I regret. I have a lot of remorse for ruining my family's life. I mean, in one day, I destroyed everything for really for nothing. I don't

have remorse for attending protests. I don't have remorse for speaking out and saying that I believe that the election is stolen. I do have remorse

for breaking a window and destroying my whole family's life and for thinking irrationally and not realizing like, why don't you just sit down

at this protest?

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): A federal judge convicted Rachel on nine counts, including destruction of government property, obstruction of an official

proceeding, and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds.

POWELL: I'm sorry. It's like my last weekend before I go in. But, like, I love my children so much, and it feels like the last thing they can take

from me. That'll be the hard part. And I don't deserve this and my kids don't deserve it, like have we not been through enough, like this is the

last thing that we have to lose is each other.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Prosecutors said Rachel showed nothing but contempt for the court and legal system.

O'SULLIVAN: You said, you know, that you feel dumb, set up?




O'SULLIVAN: Why do you feel duped?

POWELL: With January 6, I cannot prove it was a setup. But, I feel like what if it was.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Rachel isn't alone. A quarter of Americans believe the conspiracy theory, the January 6 attack was instigated by the FBI.

O'SULLIVAN: People watching this might say, well, you were duped by Trump, and everybody around him and the election wasn't really stolen. And you

buying into this as kind of ruined your life. Do you ever feel a bit pissed off with Trump?

POWELL: No, absolutely not. I don't. I've had problems with this election process for years and years. 15 years ago, if there would have been

protests about election fraud, I would have gone to those, because our whole country and everything about our lives is determined by voting.

O'SULLIVAN: Surely in the last three years being locked in here, have you ever had a moment where you're like, you know, maybe I'm wrong? Maybe by

now you won the election, maybe I'm the conspiracy theorist?

POWELL: No, not at all.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): She is due to spend the next few years behind bars. But, she believes one man could change that.

POWELL: So, this hat says "Rachel, we love you, Trump." My -- three of my sons, they met Trump, and you can actually see them one of the times here.

Trump was very encouraging to them.


He has made it clear he is going to pardon us.

O'SULLIVAN: There is a lot riding on this election --

POWELL: Totally.

O'SULLIVAN: -- for the country, but also personally for you.

POWELL: Oh man, for me, it's huge. For me, it's like life or death. It's huge.

O'SULLIVAN: If Trump wins, you could get out of prison?

POWELL: Correct. I will get out of prison.

O'SULLIVAN: And what makes Rachel's story all the more incredible is she didn't even vote for Trump in 2016. She says it was with COVID and

lockdowns and restrictions on movement during 2020 that she became particularly politically engaged. And of course, that journey brought her

to the Capitol on January 6 where she was found guilty on nine counts for her role in the January 6 attack. She began her prison sentence in a

federal prison in West Virginia on Tuesday. Back to you.


HUNT: Donie O'Sullivan, just a remarkable, remarkable story.

All right. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for today, Wednesday, January 10. You can always follow me on Instagram and the

platform formerly known as Twitter. But, don't go anywhere. One World is up next.