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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Campaign Strategy Shift: Trump To Skip SCOTUS Arguments On Colorado Ballot Case; Federal Appeals Court Rejects Trump's Jan. 6 Immunity Claim; "Grumpy Old Men": Haley Jabs At Trump & Biden Over Age. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 07, 2024 - 11:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNNI HOST: Donald Trump expected to skip what is arguably his most important legal proceeding yet. The Supreme Court will hear arguments

tomorrow on whether the former President can be removed from the ballot over his role in the January 6 insurrection. Plus, Nikki Haley often says

both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are too old, saying that politicians over 75 should take mental competency tests. We'll discuss how she talks about

aging. And is she risking alienating possible supporters?

And in just a few hours, the Senate will vote on advancing the border security bill that includes Ukraine and Israel funding. President Biden

warning that Republicans will pay a price in this election year if they vote against it. We're going to get a live report from Capitol Hill, just


Good day, everyone, I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching across the globe. It is 11 a.m. here in Washington, Wednesday, February 7. There are

just 17 days until the South Carolina Republican primary, 271 days until Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.

The courtroom as a campaign stop, Donald Trump has perfected that. But, tomorrow, when the Supreme Court hears arguments over Colorado's decision

to remove him from the Republican primary ballot, the former President won't be there. Justices are reviewing the landmark ruling from Colorado's

High Court that says Trump should be disqualified from running for the White House again on constitutional grounds because of his role in the

January 6 insurrection. A source close to Trump's legal team tells CNN this about the change in strategy. "There is no upside to him attending these

arguments. Trump understands how serious this is. The stakes could not be higher."

All right. Let's welcome in our panel, including CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid. We also have Washington Post Reporter Paul Kane,

and Republican Strategist Doug Heye as well.

Paula, this is incredibly high stakes. It's the Supreme Court. We know what our political team is reporting about the strategy here. What are the kind

of unique circumstances about what we're going to find out yesterday that might impact the decision here from Donald Trump?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, what was interesting when we're reporting this story is what a contrast. The strategy for

tomorrow is to what we've seen over the past few weeks and months with the civil cases and even the D.C. Circuit. They are clearly taking a much more

traditional, more disciplined approach to tomorrow's oral argument, and you see that manifesting in several different ways. The first is, at this

point, Trump is not expected to show up. A source telling me, look, he knows that this is serious. The stakes could not be higher, and there is

really no upside to him turning up. Now, that is also a tacit admission that bringing the Trump campaign to the courtroom may not have yielded the

benefits that they had hoped over the past few weeks in New York and D.C.

We're also seeing, even if he won't be there, right, he is represented by a lawyer. And Jonathan Mitchell, he is a very experienced litigator before

the Supreme Court. It will be the sixth argument before the court.

HUNT: And it's not the woman that sat next to him that we all got used to seeing in his New York proceedings. Right?

REID: Exactly.

HUNT: The decision was that was not going to fly in this particular case.

REID: Alina Habba's resume is not one that would make her a leading candidate to the people --

HUNT: That's very diplomatic of you.

REID: -- who are at the Supreme Court. I mean, look, she is still his legal spokeswoman. She is still general counsel for the PAC. But, in many ways,

Jonathan Mitchell is the anti-Alina Habba. He has been an academic for most of his career.

HUNT: Yeah.

REID: He writes scholarly articles on textualism. Right? This is a very different approach. And right now, as we speak, the team, as they did

yesterday, they're doing moot court arguments. Right? I used to do this in law school. This is how most people prepare for the Supreme Court.

HUNT: Right.

REID: But, as we know, the Trump team, they're not always conventional. So, quite a contrast as they prepare for tomorrow.

HUNT: Yeah. No. It's actually -- it's really interesting.

I mean, Doug Heye, how do you think about this from -- there does seem to have been a campaign in the courtroom strategy around these newer trials,

and some of it was they couldn't convince Trump not to go to the one that was about his brand and about Trump Tower --


HUNT: -- right, as much as they would have liked to. Have had him not do that. He couldn't -- it was his turf. He couldn't bear to not do that. He

is clearly listening to advisors in this particular case. Part of me also wonders, in the Republican primary, there is a strategy around that in

terms of ginning up his supporters, making them angry because they're convinced that it's rigged, because he has convinced them. Is this more

about the general election?

HEYE: I think so. And what we see are sort of two tracks, only be slightly less diplomatic than you are. Quite often, we see Donald Trump standing

next to lawyers that we would otherwise see on television with William Shatner saying, if you need a lawyer, call this person. They're really



But, what we're seeing with this one is a very seasoned lawyer in front of the Supreme Court, and that also speaks to, I think, some of the

intimidation factor that the Supreme Court brings to this. It's a very different ballgame that we see than everything else we've seen thus far.

REID: And I want to say, yes, it is true that sometimes Trump has lawyers who, look, probably don't belong in that particular courtroom, especially

when the stakes are so high. But, what I've also seen, what they would argue to me is they say, look, Paula, with the criminal cases, we have

serious lawyers and we take this seriously. I agree with that. But, I have watched his lawyers, really fine lawyers play at the edges of what any

serious lawyer would do and say in federal courts, because they're catering to an audience of one.


HUNT: Really? You don't say.

KANE: In the New York -- in the one New York, Kasie, he asked to speak and he berated the judge. Stuff like that would not go over well with the

Supreme Court.

HUNT: Can you imagine? Could you imagine?

KANE: And also, he has potentially a couple more cases or at least one more coming down the pike with these nine justices. So, you've got to play nice

on this one into trying winning them over, work in the ref for the next couple of cases.

HUNT: I mean, Paul, the -- it's the political assumption, and I want to get your legal take on this too, Paula. But, the political assumption from

people that I talked to, in some ways, it's the political wish, not just from Republicans, but from Democrats as well, is that he does win, that

Trump wins this case that he stays on the ballot, because I've talked to Democrats who are basically, like, well, if he gets thrown off the ballot,

then there is this case to be made -- legitimate case to be made that the election will not be free and fair that the people didn't want to support

them are disenfranchised. And I hear from some political hands privately in Democratic circles, like they'd rather beat him fair and square. Is that

what you hear too? Or what is your sense of how the politics of this is playing out?

KANE: There is two sides in sort of the Democratic circles. There are those that see him as this existential threat to democracy, and would like to

ensure that he never gets anywhere near the Oval Office again.

HUNT: Right.

KANE: But then, there is this other side that, like you're saying, they don't know the law well enough. This is really uncharted territory. And if

it feels like you're cheating in order to keep him from the presidency, then it feels like you're kind of becoming guilty of the same thing that

you're accusing him of in 2020. Plus, there is also a segment of smart-ish Democrats who believe that he is the candidate that Joe Biden can beat. And

you see some polls with Nikki Haley. We're going to talk about her a little later. She does pretty well with suburban women. She does well with the

people who have left the Republican Party and become independents or Democrats. So, there are some who think, well, geez, Trump might be our

best chance to win and keep the White House.

HUNT: Doug, do you agree?

HEYE: Absolutely. And it's the thing that you hear, I think the most from Democrats is, you hear from certainly Joe Biden, I can beat Donald Trump

because I've already beaten Donald Trump. And they see the same polling everybody else sees. They probably see more of it. That shows that Nikki

Haley doesn't have a three-point lead or a five-point lead, but a 13 or 15- point lead against Joe Biden. That scares them.

HUNT: Yeah. Paula.

REID: Yeah. Legally speaking, Trump is expected very likely to prevail on the merits of this case. That's probably how he got these good lawyers, why

they're taking a different approach, not bringing the circus-like atmosphere. And that could be -- even though Trump wins the case, really

win for Democrats for two reasons. One, it deprives them of the opportunity to go and shout from the rooftops. They're being unfair. I'm the victim of

an unfair judicial system. We are the victim of an unfair judicial system. But, it also in a political calculus makes it a little bit less likely that

the justices will take up the immunity case. And if they don't take that up, it makes it more likely Trump would go to trial on the federal

elections diversion case before the 2024 election.

HUNT: Yeah. What is your sense on that? I mean, what does your reporting say about what the court is going to do on the immunity question?

REID: So, I can tell you, sources in and around the Trump legal team say, look, we know we don't have like a real winner on the merits here on this

immunity case. We would be surprised if the justices even took it up. But, the strategy is really about delay. And it's interesting. Even though the

Circuit took a month to give us the answer that we all expected, they tried to kind of pen them in, fence them in to not take too long with their

appeal. So, they're saying, look, you have to go to the Supreme Court and tell them what you're going to do. They'll appeal by Monday. But, there

were supposed to be an intermediary step. You have the opportunity to ask the full circuit to hear your case. Again, they don't think they're going

to win, but that would stretch it out.

So, I'm curious to see what they're going to do, how they're going to get around this. But, delay, delay, delay is the expectation. And again, my

reporting is that sources inside the Trump camp say they would be surprised if the justices took up immunity. And if they did, they don't think they

would win on the merits. But, that would likely delay that case until after the election.

HUNT: Right, which, of course, is the whole end game for the Trump team. And Paul, I want to show you what the House Speaker Mike Johnson had to say

yesterday on this immunity question actually.


Take a look at what he said.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): They've been after President Trump with partisan political purposes. I think that's obvious. And we call it lawfare. And I

think there is no other way to describe it.


HUNT: So, he is obviously buying into the way Trump is framing all of this, which -- I mean, I just think about how we are careening towards this

election in a way that -- we're still few months out from it. But, do you remember how that period before January 6 felt where there was this kind of

build-up of Republicans who were kind of giving Trump space, kind of do what he was going to do, and they were kind of defending him? And when I

hear the way Republicans are starting to talk, it's just -- it's giving me flashbacks.

KANE: There was a day in late September 2020, Trump had been near Harrisburg, PA, at a rally, and that's when he first sort of floated the

idea that he might not accept the results of the election. And our editors at The Washington Post made me and a few other colleagues ask every member

of the Senate about a peaceful transfer of power and to a person. Every Republican Senator dismissed us as being silly. What would you ever think?

Of course, there will be a peaceful transition of power. That turned out not to be the case.

And there are elements of it and you see it in Congress where he when he starts saying, I'll only be a dictator on day one, and other -- and

members, Republican members now are like, Oh, that's just as tough guy talk. It's his New York talk.

HUNT: It's just a joke.

KANE: Yeah. So, there is a lot of that still happening. There are serious Republicans that are very concerned about this, and they are -- they think

about it, but they don't really have a plan or a strategy.

HUNT: Right, which is deja vu all over again, to tell you.

All right. We're going to pause here because we have a lot more to talk about. Nevada says no to Nikki Haley, but her campaign is still going full

steam ahead to South Carolina. We're going to talk next about the thin line that Haley is walking as she tries to both appeal to older voters while

criticizing the candidates who she says are too old to try to appeal to the next generation.





HUNT: Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, or Donald Trump and Joe Biden, those Grumpy Old Men are the words -- the phrase Grumpy Old Men, I should say, is

the one that Nikki Haley is using for the people that she is running against for President. She has ramped up her attacks on Donald Trump's

mental fitness in recent months. And she has also, of course, jabbed at President Joe Biden.

But, is it working? On Tuesday, she lost Nevada's Republican primary, not to Trump. He wasn't on the ballot. But, to the option, none of these

candidates. It stings a little. South Carolina's Republican primary, though, is just a couple of weeks away. Haley's team has been focused on

that and they say that they need to at least do better there than they did in New Hampshire.

CNN's Kylie Atwood has reported, Haley's strategy heading into the Palmetto State has been to convince voters that she can be the leader of the next



NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are people making decisions on our national security. These are people making

decisions on the future of our economy. We need to know they're at the top of their game.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (VOICE-OVER): Nikki Haley not backing away from her argument that the American President shouldn't be

in their 80s.

HALEY: Mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75-years-old.

ATWOOD (voice-over): It has been a critical piece of the 52-year-old's pitch to voters from day one, one that she has both sharpened --

HALEY: Why are we allowing ourselves to have two 80-year-olds who can't serve eight years, who both are diminished, whether it's in their character

or in their mental capacity?

ATWOOD (voice-over): -- and played with in recent weeks --

DONALD TRUMP PLAYED BY JAMES AUSTIN JOHNSON: The Sixth Sense, remember that one. I see dead people.

HALEY: Yeah. That's what voters will say if they see you and Joe on the ballot.

ATWOOD (voice-over): -- often to an audience filled with retirees, like this bar in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

MAUREEN BULGER, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I just don't think our country should be with somebody who is going on its way out when we still have so much

young blood.

ATWOOD (voice-over): For 69-year-old Maureen Bulger, the idea of moving to a new generation is energizing. South Carolina was the fastest-growing

state in 2023, largely because of an influx of almost 40,000 retirees. And Haley is betting that they get her argument.

HALEY: I think older people see it too. They know that we need a new generational leader.

ATWOOD (voice-over): 61-year-old Anna Memmo is one of them.

ANNA MEMMO, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: Whether it's the Biden ticket or the Trump ticket, I do feel that it's very important to look at age and

consider age and cognitive skills.

ATWOOD (voice-over): But, not everyone considering the state's former governor found it to be the best.

RAY MAKALOUS, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I do think that we still have people that are 78 and 80 that can be senators and Representatives.

ATWOOD (voice-over): For Edward Spears, currently an undecided GOP voter, it's just a part of the game.

EDWARD SPEARS, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: She wants to be elected. If I was a younger candidate, I would do the same thing. That's just a political


ATWOOD: You are 82.

SPEARS: Right.

ATWOOD: Do you find her arguments about age and not wanting an 80-year-old in the White House offensive at all?

SPEAKS: No. Just politics.

ATWOOD (voice-over): And for older Trump supporters, even those interested in Haley, like Carol and Greg Carty, who moved full time to Hilton Head

nine years ago --

CAROL CARTY, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think she is a neat person. We read her book.

ATWOOD (voice-over): -- the tactic of going after Trump's age hasn't been a decisive factor because they are squarely set on voting for the former


CARTY: It's typecasting the seniors, and that's not right, because we're individuals.

ATWOOD: But, if she weren't doing these age things, it's not like you would go for her if she had left that argument in the past.

CARTY: If Trump were not running, yes, I would. I'm old. So, I'm stubborn.


HUNT: Fair enough. We're back with our panel, and joined now by CNN Political Commentator Ashley Allison as well. Thank you for being here. And

let me put this kind of first question to you, because as a political strategist, I mean, this is something that applies in both parties, right,

elderly voters, older Americans. They vote in big numbers. And I think Kylie was trying to get at this question of, is this a -- is this safe

territory to tread on? What do you think?


people who are considering his -- both of their ages, this will fare well for Nikki Haley.


It's no secret Joe Biden is 81 and Donald Trump is just, what, 76. So, if it's not -- if there hasn't been a deciding factor yet for voters, I don't

think people will be offended by it. There are a lot worse things that you can say about Donald Trump and perhaps Joe Biden as well that people could

become more offended by, that it is not connected to their age.

HUNT: She has been pretty explicit about Biden too. I mean, let's put up -- well, first, we've got the picture of the two Grumpy Old Men. So, we saw

actual Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. This is the photoshopped version, including Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This was put out by her campaign, and

we haven't seen any more real material yet. We got a preview where she calls them basement buddies, debate dodgers, stumbling seniors, drama

divas. They're promising more ads and other things. We haven't seen any of that yet. Then, she has got this billboard that's driving around in South

Carolina on this truck. And it's pretty explicit because she says we're going to have a woman President and it's either going to be Nikki Haley or

it's going to be Kamala Harris, because Biden won't finish his term. Is that fair game, Ashley?

ALLISON: Well, look, I mean, the Vice President of the United States since the President can't serve its full term, they are the next person on line.

I think Nikki Haley is doing what she has been doing and trying to use Kamala Harris as a scary bugaboo woman who you don't want to have the keys

to the nuclear code. So, there is some different undertones in there --

HUNT: Yeah.

ALLISON: -- that are not about age.

HUNT: That's fair.

ALLISON: And so, she is -- it's not the first time she is doing it, and she is trying to stoke, I think, to the Trump base. I think an independent

moderate voter, is that going to really take that bait? But, to someone who was like, OK, well, Donald is starting to have the court cases, I really,

really liked him. But, that's for that voter.

HUNT: Interesting. Okay. So, Paul Kane, I want to show you something that unfolded at the White House yesterday that is -- there is no secret, right,

voters tell us in our polls that they're concerned about Joe Biden's age. It's also something that's talked about in Democratic circles in very

hushed tones. Joe Biden was asked yesterday about the hostage -- pending hostage deal. And this was how he responded. Watch.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There is some movement, and I don't want to -- I don't want to -- well, let me be -- choose my words.

There is some movement. There has been a response from the opposition, but it --


BIDEN: Yes, I'm sorry -- from Hamas. But it seems to be a little over the top.


HUNT: Paul, what do you make of a moment like that where he said -- we will say this. This was -- he was trying to choose his words carefully. There

has been a lot of people who pointed out he said opposition and he was obviously corrected there when he had Hamas. But, this is the kind of thing

that Democrats worry about behind the scenes. I mean, what do you hear when you talk to your sources?

KANE: So -- yeah. There are Democratic voters that are deeply worried about this issue, and that's -- it's the biggest concern in terms of polling

where his support among younger voters is not where it was four or five years ago, nowhere near where it was with President Obama. His support with

especially younger black and Latino voters is not great. But, in terms of the institutions of the Democratic Party, they still remain with him. I

spent --

HUNT: Sure.

KANE: -- two weeks ago, I spent two or three days talking to a bunch of different senators across the ideological generational spectrum, from Jon

Ossoff, the youngest member of the Senate, to Elizabeth Warren, mid-70s something, liberal, two centrists, and they say that he is effectively good

at his job. They look at the results of what is happening right now, unemployment low, inflation falling, and they believe that voters are going

to and then slowly but surely are just starting to recognize the success of this administration. They know that age is an issue, but they say they

would rather have that battle than have a recession than have --

HUNT: Sure.

KANE: -- like seven percent unemployment.

HUNT: Doug, do you think that that is a smart way to look at it?

HEYE: I think they're very right to be concerned and they're more concerned privately than they are publicly.


I -- every time I see you Biden clip, I watched that yesterday, I'm reminded of the fall of 1994. I went to Merriweather Post Pavilion to see

Frank Sinatra, and he struggled through my way. He stammered. He couldn't really remember the words. There was a teleprompter in front of him. Biden

is going to have more moments like this because he is at an age where you age faster, in a job where you age fast. And so, if I'm a Democrat, I'm

very worried, not just what I saw yesterday, but what am I going to see in three months or six months, especially if there is a debate? And if Joe

Biden has a moment like we saw Mitch McConnell have a couple of times, the race is over at that point, and they need to realize it's existential on

that level.

HUNT: Ashley, you're the Democrat at the table. Is it existential on that level?

ALLISON: Well, Mitch McConnell was, I think, recovering from traumatic brain injury from a stroke or some -- there was a health issue.

HUNT: There was an incident.

ALLISON: There was an incident. I don't think that I'm putting Joe Biden in what is going on with Mitch McConnell in the same way. That being said, I

do hear you. The -- OK. The answer to that question should have been like we're in negotiations and kind of leave it at that. And I think he was

trying to say too much and not wanting to say the wrong thing. But, you're right. I mean, we can't ignore their age. But, it's not just on the Joe

Biden side. It's on the Donald Trump side. I think once we figure out who is actually going to be the nominee, which is likely Donald Trump, I just -

- how effective of a debate is it when you're only talking about four years of difference in terms of age? I think it will become a less pressing

issue. The entire country doesn't --

HUNT: But, isn't it a performance issue at the end of the day when -- like what Doug is talking about. You're standing on the -- now, the debates may

not happen because Donald Trump might not do them. But --


HUNT: -- under these circumstances, he might also want to do them because of a potential contract.

ALLISON: Yeah. But, you might have Joe Biden, who was like trying to choose his words precisely, and Donald Trump who just says the craziest thing

about the world. So, it's kind of like six and half a dozen in one way or the other, because they're -- both of their performances are not probably

at the top of their game at this point in their career.

HEYE: The difference is, though, Donald Trump remains a ball of energy. He may be a malicious ball of energy, but you can't mistake when he is on the

stage. He is there very presently. Yeah. There is a lot of crazy talks.

HUNT: He makes some mistakes.

HEYE: But, he is real energy. Joe Biden is not. So, when he calls him low energy Joe, sleepy Joe, that's what that clip demonstrated, and I think

that's a very real problem moving forward for Biden.

HUNT: All right. It's good place to end this conversation.

So, up next, here, still ahead, a House in disarray. We're going to tell you about a double defeat for Republican leaders in Congress when State of

the Race comes right back.




HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. It was a stunning defeat for House Republicans, especially

considering they're the party in charge and they basically volunteered to do this. They didn't have to. There was this effort to impeach President

Joe Biden's top border official, Alejandro Mayorkas, and it failed last night on the House floor. That surprised the House Speaker Mike Johnson. He

thought he had enough votes to push the contra move through the chamber.


JOHNSON: On this vote, the yeas are 214 and the nays are 216. The resolution is not adopted.


HUNT: And not just that, moments later, House Republicans also failed to pass a standalone bill to provide billions of dollars in aid to Israel.

That was supposed to be a rebuke of the border compromise. And that border compromise over in the Senate, that deal that also includes funding for

Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, it's expected to fail today too. They're trying to advance it. President Joe Biden getting it on this offering this morning

to Republicans.


BIDEN: If the bill fails, I want to be absolutely clear about something: The American people are going to know why it failed. Every day between now

and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends.


HUNT: All right. Our panel is back with me now. Doug Heye, we've been talking about this off the air because you have been around --

HEYE: Yeah.

HUNT: -- on the Hill for other times border compromises. They've been trying to do immigration reform. It's always failed. But, never before have

Republicans had this kind of policy offer from Democrats. Is it going to bite them the way the President says?

HEYE: I mean, potentially so. I go back to 2014 when at the House Republican retreat, Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy --

HUNT: Hold on. Pause for one second. We've got the House Speaker Mike Johnson live. Let's listen.

JOHNSON: -- United States threatened to veto on the Israel funding package, Chuck Schumer then said that he would put a blockade up in the Senate, and

he had 166 House Democrats who followed leader Hakeem Jeffries off that cliff. They took that lead and they blocked the funding. Let's be clear

about this. That bill provided exactly the amount of funding that the President himself had requested. It was $14.3 billion that we passed many -

- three months ago. And then we added to it to replace our stockpiles and our munitions on what's happening in that region.

There is no reason whatsoever for them to object to the contents of that bill. They're doing it for political purposes. It's bad for national

security. It's also terrible policy and terrible politics. The President of the United States has a 37 percent approval rating. If they're going to

follow that lead, I think they did it to their detriment, and it's a very shameful thing at a time when our Israel -- our ally Israel needs the help



UNIDENIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, does this puts you in a bind, though, if they're able to move the bill in the Senate that deals with both Ukraine

and Israel here? Because you just pushed for Israel. You have been skeptical of aid for Ukraine here. Does that put you in a bind if they knew

something over there and send it back to the House?

JOHNSON: Look, we'll see what the Senate does. We're allowing the process to play out and we'll handle it as it is sent over. I have made very clear

that you have to address these issues on their own merits. And Israel desperately needs the assistance. Everyone knows that. Things have changed

pretty dramatically since we passed that first Israel package in the House three months ago. Everyone knows the tensions have escalated and we need to

support it there. So, we'll address that. We'll see what the Senate does. We spent a lot of time on the House side awaiting the Senate's action and

it's frustrating sometimes, but that's the way the process plays out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, on impeachment, I mean, what happened yesterday with the vote on Secretary Mayorkas? Why bring that to the floor

if you didn't have the votes? And will you hold another vote to impeach him?

JOHNSON: Yeah. On impeachment, last night was a setback. But, democracy is messy. We live in a time of divided government. We have a razor-thin margin

here and every vote counts. Sometimes when you're counting votes, and people show up when they're not expected to be in the building, that

changes the equation. But, listen, we have a duty and a responsibility to take care of this issue. We have to hold the Secretary of the Department of

Homeland Security accountable. Mayorkas needs to be held accountable. The Biden administration needs to be held accountable. And we will pass those

articles of impeachment. We'll do it on next round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, what would you say to Americans concerned that Congress isn't able to do basic functions?

JOHNSON: Well, it's just simply not true. We're governing here. Sometimes it's messy. The framers anticipated that you would have a system where

people with very different philosophical viewpoints that come from different parts of the country and different constituencies would have

different ideas on how to resolve their problems.


But, what they also anticipated is that we'd be able to get in a room and arm wrestle over public policy and come to consensus to move the ball

forward for the most people. That is what's happening here. You're seeing the messy sausage making, the process of democracy play out. And it's not

always clean. It's not always pretty. But, the job will be done at the end of the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, some of your critics will say this shows your inexperience, and Congressman Massie says, getting rid of Kevin

McCarthy was an unmitigated disaster for your party. What do you say to them?

JOHNSON: Well, look, it was a mess what happened here, but we're cleaning it up. And Massie is one of my dear friends and colleagues. And I don't

think that this is a reflection on the leader. It's a reflection on the body itself and the place where we've come in this country. Look, the

nation is divided. We lament that. Right? The differences, the chasm between the two parties right now is wider than it's ever been. And there

are lots of emotions. And we live in the age of social media and 24-hour news cycle. There were previous Congresses where this -- a gaggle like this

would not even have been possible. So, we're in a different time.

But, what we need to do in a time like this, in a time of great challenge, is lead on principle, and that's what we're doing. Again, the process is

messy sometimes, but the job will be done. And we're going to govern this country. It's the greatest country in the history of the world. The entire

world is counting upon us. We have steady hands at the wheel. We'll get through it. Everybody, take a deep breath. It's a long game. We're going to

get the job done. Thanks for the time.


HUNT: All right. A pretty interesting news conference there. I will note that he says that Democrats blocked Israel funding for political reasons. I

will note Republicans are currently blocking the border compromise for political reasons that they -- they are saying straight out that that's why

they're doing it.

Doug Heye, what's your reaction to what we just heard from the House Speaker?

HEYE: Problem isn't leadership. The problem is the body itself. That is -- that caused a lot of laughs here, also completely true. One of the problems

that Republicans have encountered this year, last year, previous Congresses, is that the members are really running the conference at this

point, and leadership is less and less important. Being Speaker, being Majority Leader, still very important. But, you have small factions of the

body itself that run the Republican conference, and that's why we see things that fall by the wayside time and time again.

HUNT: Yeah. You pick up the thought that you were sharing before we jumped in to listen to Johnson because I think the context of it is really

important. You were talking about back in 2013.

HEYE: Yeah. Well, 2014, House Republican conference at the retreat, we put together for our -- for the conference what we called our immigration

principles, things like what are we going to do with dreamers, which was not a part of this conversation. Both of you were there for this -

HUNT: Yeah.

HEYE: And once that conversation was over, we were -- we stopped talking about immigration for the rest of the year. It was done. Our members didn't

want it. This bill went so much further for --

HUNT: It had no dreamers. It had no path to citizenship. I didn't know -- I mean, Republicans have caught amnesty (inaudible).

HEYE: If you talk to Republicans not two weeks -- two years ago and say, you can get this. They would jump at it. That's how fast our politics have

changed. And the reality is saying, let's wait till Donald Trump is President. If that happens, Donald Trump is not going to be able to get

what he didn't get last time on this.

HUNT: Yeah.

HEYE: This was a moment to get this done, and I think the moment is gone.

HUNT: Let's listen to what the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to say on this topic just a few hours ago. Watch.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Donald Trump wants chaos. Donald Trump does not want success at the border. He wants chaos. And if he became President, I

doubt he'd ever solve it. As Mitch McConnell said, the House is in chaos. It doesn't behoove the Speaker well to block everything because 30 hard

right-wing people just want chaos like Donald Trump.


HUNT: So, I will say, Ashley, I mean, the way I see this, if they don't take this now, if Donald Trump were to get elected, there is no way

Democrats give him what President Biden has offered on the table in this policy change. If President Biden would get reelected, we're looking at a

Democratic primary for President starting the minute after, and all of a sudden it's a race to see who can be the most progressive in part of that.

You're going to encounter way more Democratic opposition that currently exists in the Senate. Like -- just -- like, I'm struggling --


HUNT: -- I'm struggling for words because I'm trying not to swear on television and saying, like, what the heck is going on?

ALLISON: I know. I know. Well, I'll say, OK, Speaker Johnson, I felt like he should have just been on a spinning wheel because he was spinning what

was going on in --

HUNT: Oh yes.

ALLISON: -- the Congress --

HUNT: Yes.

ALLISON: -- right now. I agree that right now the Republican caucus has a group -- different groupings that are making it hard to be a leader. But,

if we rewind a couple years ago, Nancy Pelosi had that same type of makeup in the Democratic caucus and she was able to keep it together. That is what

a leader does. They figure out how to count the votes. You don't bring up an impeachment and not have the votes.

HUNT: Right. Right.

HEYE: Yeah.

ALLISON: Like, messy.

KANE: Yeah.


HEYE: You don't have -- by the way, you don't have your Speaker gavel in the vote that he lost.


His team --

HUNT: That was a strange decision.

HEYE: -- did him a disservice there.

KANE: Yeah.


HEYE: This is why you have loyal lieutenants, somebody takes that blow for.


HUNT: Now there is video --

ALLISON: They face a failure.

HUNT: Yeah. Final last word, Paul.

KANE: Listen, in 2014, it was the House Republicans that suffocated the immigration bill out of the fear of a primary. Yesterday, talking to Senate

Republicans, they kept bringing up the fear of a primary. They admitted that it is just the voters that they're afraid of. The Senate Republicans

are now morphing into the House Republicans, and they have a leader in Mitch McConnell who does not have the strong hold of that caucus the way he

used to, and he is starting to look more and more like Kevin McCarthy or Paul Ryan and John Boehner previously. And it is a very, very destabilizing

situation inside the Capitol.

ALLISON: Can I add one --

HUNT: Unfortunately, we have to go to a break. I do apologize. But, Paul, to your point, everyone is going to come back for one more thing. So, we'll

pick it up. But, you're -- I never -- I'm not sure I ever thought I'd see the day when Mitch McConnell will lose his hold on that conference. But --

KANE: Yeah.

HUNT: -- here we are. It's --

KANE: Yeah.

HUNT: -- it's a really interesting turn of events.

All right. Coming up, we're going to go straight to South Carolina to talk Donald Trump versus Nikki Haley with a reporter who has covered that state

for years. Don't go anywhere.


HUNT: Welcome back. With just over two weeks until the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, former President Trump is dominating so

far in polls. Nikki Haley is trying to surprise people in her home state.

Joining us now from Columbia, South Carolina, is Meg Kinnard. She is National Politics Reporter for the Associated Press, and has covered the

Palmetto State and it's specifically rather infamous, I should say, branded politics for a long time. Meg, it's great to have you.


HUNT: So, what are you seeing on the ground as you're covering this race? I mean, what are you picking up? What are you noticing that perhaps we don't

see as easily because we're not down there?


KINNARD: A lot. But, it is important. As you pointed out, there is a lot of support for Donald Trump here, and that's something that has been the case

since he first won the primary in 2016. There are people who have been looking for something different. But, there are also a lot of those voters

that -- from 30,000 feet, you might think, oh, Nikki Haley was governor there twice.

She is super popular in our home state. She has a lot of support. They may have been looking for something different, but maybe they also weren't even

South Carolinians back when she was governor. I've encountered a whole bunch of voters along the trail who moved to South Carolina at some point

since Haley left office in very early 2017 when she joined the Trump administration.

So, from -- a big picture, 30,000-foot view, you might think, yeah, it's our home state. Surely, she has some sort of a chance there. But, a lot of

the voters to whom she is trying to appeal weren't even here back when she was governor, and they really don't know her very well.

HUNT: That's so interesting. And so, our -- my colleague, John King, went and he talked to some voters. And -- I actually thought some of their

responses were pretty interesting. We heard earlier in the show from some people Kylie Atwood talked to and you got a lot of that. Well, I moved here

recently and this is what I think now. Take a look at what these voters in South Carolina had to say to John King. Watch.


JOY RENDULIC, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I totally believe that God has assigned him to this position. That was my true belief.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Assigned him to be the President of the United States.

RENDULIC: Yes. And that he'll be President again.

KING: The four years he was President, how was your life?

BILLY PIERCE, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN VOTER: Better, definitely better. We didn't have the high inflation. We didn't have a high interest rates. He

just shut up and got off of the Twitter and that kind of stuff. He'd have made a great President.


HUNT: So, there is a couple of different people speaking to this loyalty to Donald Trump. What are the reasons for supporting Trump that you hear? I

mean, one of those was clearly very religious.

KINNARD: Sometimes, it is religion and you get feeling that there is this calling and that Donald Trump has been picked for this. A lot of times it's

the economy, people thinking back to the Trump presidency and what it meant for their personal pocketbooks, and telling me, look, I was doing better

under Trump than I am now. And why not give him another shot at it if that's one of the top issues that's important to them? And among a lot of

these voters, in 2020, they did support Donald Trump. South Carolina traditionally votes for Republicans in general elections, at least in

recent history.

And so, if they're seeing that he is doing better in the primary right now, if they're not super impassioned or swayed by whatever Nikki Haley is

saying, and if they felt like their personal situation was better back during his presidency, why not give him another go especially when he is

going up against a candidate who doesn't seem to have really gotten a lot of traction in the votes thus far?

HUNT: Interesting. Let me ask you about Donald Trump's legal challenges, because this case is going to be before -- arguments are going to be at the

Supreme Court tomorrow. We're starting to hear more about how quickly or not his trial might move in the election subversion case. Do you hear

people talk about this? I mean, some of the exit polls from Iowa and New Hampshire suggest a conviction might make a difference to some of these

voters. But, I'm curious what you hear from people about whether this is on their minds.

KINNARD: It is interesting that you point to some of that data, because some colleagues and I were talking about this. It is rare that I encounter

a voter who is considering supporting Donald Trump right now in the primary, who says that a conviction would sway them, would change their

mind. A lot of the people that I meet along the trail, especially here in South Carolina, who were Trump supporters, are Trump supporters through and

through. I've had several tell me along the way over the past couple of months, they would rather vote for nobody if for some reason they couldn't

vote for him in the primary or even in the general election.

So, that's a really baked in deep conviction for him, and I don't mean to use conviction, and I play on words there. But, that is the level of

support and really believability that a lot of these folks have for the former President here.

HUNT: No pun intended, if you will. It's just absolutely fascinating. We were talking earlier in the show about Nikki Haley's focus on age. She has

tied Trump to Biden. She has called them both Grumpy Old Men. She is called for mental competency tests. Have you picked up anything about how that is

resonating or not, especially -- I mean, there is a lot of retirees in South Carolina. A lot of those new residents in South Carolina, they're

going to places along the coast.

KINNARD: Yeah, and it's really interesting especially when you go down to one of them. Like, I was in Hilton Head with Nikki Haley a couple of days

ago. That is a retiree-rich area, a lot of people who've come either from other places in South Carolina or across the country to retire in this

spot. And she frequently has a line in there, of we all know a lot of 75, 80-year-olds who are very capable, but they're just not Donald Trump or Joe

Biden. And she is saying this to a room of people who are fitting that age range. And honestly, when I'm in those rooms, I'm not hearing a whole lot

of pushback from the voters there about that particular policy of hers.

But, I have heard it throughout the campaign that you can't just paint a broad brush over a specific age range group of folks.


But also, people are pretty quick to point out. They know she is talking about Joe Biden. They know she is talking about Donald Trump now more

pointedly than ever when she is mentioning specifically these mental competency tests for older politicians.

HUNT: Yeah. All very interesting. All right. Meg Kinnard, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time.

All right. It's time for a quick break here. But, stay with us. Our panel comes back for one more thing.


HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. Our panel rejoins, because before we go, we always ask for one more thing on the campaign trail or in

Washington you're watching for in the coming days. We're looking for 30 seconds each. Doug Heye, let me start with you.

HEYE: Sure. One thing, Kasie, we see consistently in polling is that Joe Biden is underperforming with Hispanic voters, whether it's on immigration

or the economy or other issues. I'm looking for Republicans, candidates and super PACs, to try and maximize this by advertising not just on CNN

Espanol, of course, but channels like Univision that are very Hispanic heavy, not just in Florida, but nationwide to try and garner some support

and move the needle towards Republicans in these coming months and certainly up to November.

HUNT: Doug, have you seen anyone that you think is doing this well?

HEYE: Not yet. No. And it's an opportunity that's there for Republicans, not just on the presidential level, but certainly on the congressional as

well. It's a place where they really can up their game if they choose to do so.

HUNT: All right. Paul Kane, what's your one more thing?

KANE: Kasie, if you think things can't get worse for House Republicans, you're wrong. They can. On Tuesday, there is a special election up in Long

Island to replace everyone's least favorite member of Congress who was expelled last year, George Santos. And right now, it's a very close race.

Democrats have their previous incumbent Tom Suozzi who left that seat running, and it's up against a no name Republican. It's a very generic

race. It's going to be a close battle. And if Democrats win, that's one more vote they have and one less vote that Mike Johnson has as Speaker, and

gosh, he is having trouble with his majority this slim already.

HUNT: Indeed. He is. That is for sure. All right. Ashley, what are you looking for?

ALLISON: Changing topics a little bit, the Super Bowl is this Sunday.

HUNT: Yes.

ALLISON: And -- I mean, I'm not really watching it for the game this year. But, I am watching it for the halftime show because Usher is performing,

but also Taylor Swift, all the uproar from the MAGA base, the GOP and conspiracy theories. I'm interested to see what commercial is played

throughout the game? How they pay attention to Taylor Swift? Of course, how they pay attention to the players. But, what's the fallout after depending

on who wins the game? Are people going to continue with political conspiracy theories?

HUNT: Yes, all of the above. I have to say, I am a big football fan. So, I would have been watching the game regardless, but to have Taylor involved

in any way, I'm on board for that too.

So, my one more thing today and thanks to all of you for being here, the one more thing that I have today is watching Toby Keith's legacy. We've had

tributes pour in over the last day for the musician. He passed away earlier this week from stomach cancer. Toby Keith was a country music star, but he

did have sometimes a political voice that came through, and his music became a defining element of American culture in the post 9/11 era.


HUNT: So, he was an ardent supporter of U.S. troops, and those songs became anthems during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the early 2000s. He did

perform for then-President George W. Bush.



HUNT: So, later, he did also sing for Barack Obama and he even called him the best Democratic candidate we've had since Bill Clinton. Still, of

course, that music has really become part of the Republican soundtrack. I can't tell you how many times I heard Toby Keith songs while I covered Mitt

Romney's 2012 bid for President.


HUNT: That was on a loop. Keith also raised a red solo cup while performing at Donald Trump's inauguration.


HUNT: Donald Trump later awarded him the National Medal of the Arts. Toby Keith was 62-years-old.

Thanks to all of you for joining us today. I'm Kasie Hunt. That's the State of the Race for Wednesday, February 7. You can always follow me on

Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Please don't go anywhere. One World is up next.