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State of the Union
Interview With Rep. James Comer (R-KY); Interview With Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA); Interview With Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA); Interview With Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired March 26, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Legal peril. Facing multiple criminal investigations, a defiant Trump rallies his supporters.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're not coming after me. They're coming after you.
TAPPER: As House Republicans rush to his aid, is the U.S. prepared for what's next?
I will speak to two members of the House Oversight Committee, Republican Chairman James Comer and Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, next.
And brazen attacks. President Biden orders an airstrike in Syria after Iranian-linked groups attack Americans.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Be prepared for us to act forcefully to protect our people.
TAPPER: Is it enough to deter Iran? Senate Intel Chairman Mark Warner is here to discuss.
Plus: Clock is ticking. TikTok gets walloped from both sides.
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA): Your platform should be banned.
TAPPER: But what threat does TikTok pose to everyday Americans? I will speak to Republican Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers in moments.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is taking it all in.
Once again, the former President Trump finds himself right where he wants to be, in this case, Waco, Texas, near the 30th anniversary of the standoff with that infamous cult. The former president was there at the center of a new political maelstrom Saturday afternoon, lashing out at his enemies and nursing personal grievances, alongside his die- hard fans, lying about the 2020 election and making martyrs of the folks who violently stormed the Capitol, as so many in his party seem to be snapping back in the line behind him.
In his first official 2024 campaign rally, Donald Trump spent much of his time railing against the multiple criminal investigations into his actions and his behavior. Tomorrow, the grand jury in New York hush money case is set to reconvene, as district attorney Alvin Bragg weighs indicting a former president for the first time in American history.
And in a separate Justice Department investigation this week, a federal judge rejected the Trump team's claims of executive privilege in the probe into January 6. And the judge ordered top Trump White House aides to testify.
The Justice Department is also, of course, investigating the former president over that classified documents case, those classified documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago.
Joining us now, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner.
Chairman Warner, good to see you.
Let me start with the fact that Donald Trump is explicitly raising the possibility of -- quote -- "death and destruction" if he ends up facing charges in the Manhattan hush money case. A charging decision could theoretically come as soon as tomorrow.
How concerned are you that there could be more violence because of Donald Trump's rhetoric?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Well, we all recall the horrors that took place on January 6 spurred on by then-President Trump.
I think the fact that he's calling for protests again -- I have been briefed by the FBI. They say they are fully prepared, but this kind of outrageous behavior, this man obviously has very little moral compass. And if he spurs on additional violence, it would be one further stain on his already checkered reputation.
TAPPER: What can you tell us about what the FBI is telling you? Are there genuine threats of violence because of the things that Donald Trump is telling his supporters?
WARNER: I got briefed before the supposed Tuesday indictment. That didn't come to pass. We have had an update. They have seen no specific strains.
But the level of rhetoric on some of these right-wing sites has increased. Again, I would hope that some of your Republican guests on your show this morning would also say, you have got a right to have a First Amendment protest, but that right should not pass into violence. And the horrific activities that took place on January 6, God willing, we will not see them repeated this week, should any one of these cases move forward on Trump. TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the fact that the first one might be this New York case, which has to do with a hush money payment made to a porn star and director.
It is a business offense. It might be a misdemeanor. Your fellow Democrat Senator Mark Kelly told me that there are risks in taking the unprecedented step of charging any former president and that prosecutors better have a strong case to back it up if they go forward.
Do you agree?
WARNER: Well, I do, Jake.
I think that whichever of these prosecutions move forward -- and lord knows, this guy appears to have as many things -- done lots of things inappropriately. But I hope whoever moves toward has a rock-solid case.
TAPPER: A federal judge this week ordered Donald Trump's lawyer to testify before the grand jury investigating Trump's handling of classified information.
You and your counterpart on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Marco Rubio, said that a Biden administration briefing last month on the documents -- quote -- "left much to be desired" and the Biden administration's refusal to provide more details -- quote -- "doesn't pass the smell test."
TAPPER: Is there anything you can and will do to compel the Biden administration to let you know more about what these documents are, to even turn them over to you?
WARNER: Well, Jake, remember our interest from the Intel side is not about the mishandling by Trump, Biden, Pence. That's a criminal investigation.
Our job is to oversee the intelligence community. And while we have some sense of what some of these documents are -- and, clearly, I want to make sure that, if they fell into the wrong hands, there's been mitigation efforts -- we have an obligation to see these documents and, again, make sure that, if there's any potential compromise, it's mitigated.
We took the first step. I'm not satisfied. We have expressed that. And it just makes no sense to me that, somehow, the special prosecutor's equities on the criminal proceeding somehow takes precedence over our Article 1 responsibility to oversee the intelligence community.
We have made that clear. We have some additional ways we can ratchet up the pressure on the I.C., Senator Rubio and I. And, frankly, this is completely bipartisan. All the Democrats, all the Republicans on the committee feel the same. We also are going to try to press the Justice Department harder to make sure that we do -- can do our job as well.
TAPPER: We learned yesterday, shifting topics to overseas, that Russia is planning to station tackle nuclear weapons in Belarus.
It's yet another escalation of tensions with the West and tensions with Ukraine. Russia says it's just doing what the U.S. already does with countries in Europe. What's your response to the Russian move?
WARNER: My response is twofold.
Putin is a dangerous man. We have always known that. We have seen that the Russian offensive in Bakhmut -- that's a city in the eastern part of Ukraine -- seems to have stalled out. I'm hopeful that the Ukrainian counter offensive is going to be successful.
And I think it also drives home the point that any wannabe American political leader that refuses to acknowledge how dangerous Putin is or that somehow that, if Putin is success useful in Ukraine, that is against our national interest, what that would do in terms of threatening the Baltic states, what it would do in terms of threatening Poland, what it would do in terms of giving President Xi more of a green light to potentially take action against Taiwan, anyone who doesn't understand that is remarkably naive or not understanding the kind of geopolitical, challenging times that we live in.
TAPPER: The United States retaliated with airstrikes on Friday after an American contractor was killed in Syria and five service members were wounded.
This is by a suspected Iranian-affiliated drone attack in Syria. Since then, there have been four additional attacks on U.S. forces by these Iranian-linked groups. How worried are you about the risk of further escalation? And, on the other hand, do you think the Biden administration has maybe not been doing enough to deter these kinds of attacks against U.S. troops by Iran affiliates?
WARNER: There has been this low level of violence in Syria literally over the last year. And the strikes that the administration took that took out and caused casualties among some of these Iranian-backed groups, I think, was appropriate.
And I think, if they continue, they ought to -- we ought to up the ante in terms of the strikes that we send back. But, remember, we have a couple of troops there in both Iraq and Syria working with the Kurdish forces, who still are in the process of wiping up the final remnants of the ISIS folks.
And there are a number of ISIS prisoners being held. It's a dangerous area. But I do think the administration's response so far has been appropriate.
TAPPER: All right, Chairman of the Senate committee Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Mark Warner, great Commonwealth of Virginia, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.
WARNER: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: My next guest is demanding more information from the Manhattan district attorney. How far will he go to get it? The House Oversight Committee chairman, James Comer, is here next.
And then: Will he or won't he? He's been weighing a run for U.S. Senate from California. He will join us live with an announcement, Congressman Ro Khanna.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
There is a new battle brewing between top House Republicans and the man leading the Trump hush money investigation in New York. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg's office is accusing three GOP House chairmen of trying to interfere in a local investigation as they renew their demands that he testify about his current probe of former President Trump.
Joining me now is one of the Republicans behind the request, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman James Comer, Republican of Kentucky.
Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.
You just wrote a new letter to Manhattan DA Bragg defending your decision to investigate his office, saying that you're considering taking legislative action to prevent presidents from -- quote -- "politically motivated prosecutions."
As of right now, of course, Trump has not been charged with anything. What do you say to Bragg, who says you're trying to stop a charge from happening even before you know of any evidence?
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, what the DA is trying to say is what you just quoted. He said, stay out of local investigations.
The problem with that is, this is not a local investigation. This is a federal investigation. He's investigating a presidential candidate, not to mention former president of the United States, for a federal election crime.
That has no business being litigated in a local district attorney's office.
And when he says he's not going to cooperate with Congress, unfortunately for Mr. Bragg, he doesn't have the luxury of determining whether or not he can comply with congressional requests, because he crossed over two levels of government from the local level to the federal level to try to prosecute something that, clearly, if there was a reason for prosecution, it should be done by the Department of Justice on the federal level.
TAPPER: Well, he's investigating, as I understand it, potential violations of state crimes.
COMER: Even at that, look, let's just be honest here.
I mean, this is about politics. This is a presidential candidate. When you look at what we believe the role of the Manhattan DA should be is to fight crime. I mean, that's one of the biggest issues in New York. We saw that in the midterm elections last November.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected many Democrat candidates because of the crime issue. We have a crime crisis in many of our cities. And we're trying to do something about that in the House of Representatives. And one of the reasons we believe we have high crime rates in certain parts of America is because we have prosecutors that are soft on crime.
And we believe that our tax dollars -- and that's where I come in with the House Oversight -- we believe tax dollars would be better spent prosecuting local criminals. That's what a DA is supposed to do.
TAPPER: Are you arguing that people who commit business crimes are not committing crimes?
COMER: Look, well, is this a business crime? We're talking about a federal election crime here, Jake. This is a federal election crime.
The Manhattan DA does not write federal electoral law.
COMER: Congress writes federal election law.
TAPPER: My understanding is that he's being investigated for falsifying business records. It's -- there was a related prosecution. Michael Cohen went to prison. That was a federal investigation from the U.S. attorney during the Trump years.
But that U.S. attorney, Mr. Berman, prosecuted -- and Mr. Khuzami -- prosecuted Michael Cohen. He went to prison for the that, as well as related crimes. I don't remember hearing anything from you during that period. I guess he wasn't a candidate, but he had been working for Donald Trump.
COMER: That was a U.S. attorney that prosecuted.
COMER: We're talking about a local attorney.
And the problem -- and, look, if you open a can of worms here, here's what's going to happen. You're going to have county attorneys in red areas, in parts of Kentucky, rural Kentucky, where I am, that are going to start trying to overreach into the federal election law.
This is something that, if it needs to be investigated or prosecuted, it should be done on the federal level by the Department of Justice. This is a presidential candidate. One frustration Republicans have in Congress is that we keep having interference in our elections. I know that the Democrats complained about that, rightfully so, when James Comey just a few weeks or a few days before the presidential election in 2016 said that Hillary was being investigated for mishandling e- mails.
Look, that shouldn't have happened. That shouldn't have happened. And we keep having stuff like this happen in our elections. We just want the government out of our elections. We don't believe tax dollars should be spent for this. We believe this is a political stunt by Mr. Bragg.
We believe the statute of limitations has expired on all of this stuff.
COMER: Clearly, if there's something that rises to criminal level, then -- then that should be done on the federal level.
TAPPER: He hasn't -- I mean, you keep asserting what this investigation is. And we haven't seen an indictment. We haven't seen charges. We haven't seen evidence.
TAPPER: What if district attorney Bragg comes forward with an indictment with evidence and proof that Donald Trump did commit these crimes. You still think he shouldn't be charged?
COMER: Well, we believe that he should come explain to us exactly what he's investigating, because, at the end of the day, this is a presidential candidate.
This is the, for better or worse, leading contender for the Republican nomination of the presidential election next year, as well as a former president of the United States. It's unprecedented for a local district attorney to investigate things that we believe the statute of limitations expired years ago.
Now, look, if the special counsel that's looking into this wants to do something, if the Department of Justice wants to do something, then -- then they probably, for better or worse, have the ability to do that. This is a local DA. We believe the local DAs need to be focused on business crimes, on burglary, on thefts, on -- on carjackings and all the things that we see happening in these big cities that are that -- are creating a crime crisis in America.
[09:20:02] TAPPER: So, a lot of your fellow Republicans on the Senate side seem to be concerned about what you and your fellow committee chairmen in the House side are doing.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said -- quote -- "I personally prefer to see them work on the agenda they ran on and that got them the majority."
Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, said: "I think you have got to fall short of getting involved in the legal process."
Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas said: "You want to know lots of facts before you set down that path."
They seem to think that you and your colleagues are going way beyond looking into the use of federal funds and are risking interfering in a local investigation of a private citizen allegedly accused of committing a crime that someone's already going to prison for.
COMER: Again, this is a local investigation.
It's not a sincere argument to say it's a local investigation, when you're investigating a presidential candidate and a former president of the United States. Again we believe that this should be done on the federal level. We don't believe this is a good use of tax dollars.
And if Mr. Bragg wants to come in and explain to us what he what he's doing, and he makes a good explanation, he makes a good argument and we see that we're in an area where we shouldn't belong, such as the Republicans -- some of the Republican senators say, then we will back off.
But we're sick and tired of meddling in federal elections. And I don't believe that Bragg would be doing this if Donald Trump were not running for president, and that's something that we would like to ask Mr. Bragg as well.
COMER: Would you be doing this if he weren't a declared candidate for president -- for president of the United States? If so, if this is the reason you're doing it, then this is a political investigation, and we, again, desperately want to keep the Department of Justice from meddling in presidential elections.
TAPPER: Oh, I thought the issue was that it was a local prosecutor, not the Department of Justice.
But let me ask you. If he refuses to come in willingly, will you -- will you subpoena him?
COMER: Well, that will be up to Jim Jordan.
I mean, he's the lead investigator in this particular situation. I come in as oversight because this deals with unnecessary use of tax dollars. Chairman Steele is head of House administration. He's in charge of
elections. That's why the three of us were the three that that signed the letter. But Jim Jordan is the -- is the lead. And he would be the one to answer that question.
TAPPER: Jim Jordan, who refused to comply with a congressional subpoena in the previous Congress?
COMER: Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
TAPPER: All right.
Chairman Comer, good to see you, as always. Thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.
COMER: Thanks for having me, Jake.
TAPPER: So you just heard from the Republican leading the Oversight Committee.
Let's get a response now from a Democrat who is a member of that committee, Congressman Ro Khanna of California.
So, Congressman Khanna, what's your response to what you heard from your chairman and his demand for Alvin Bragg to explain himself and explain his investigation, why he's investigating a Republican nominee for president, et cetera?
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Jake, there used to be a time in this country where politicians didn't comment on law enforcement investigations.
I don't know why that's so hard. Why can't we just go back to that? And, by the way, the Republicans, who have faith in American democracy and our judicial system, if Chairman Comer is right that there's a statue of limitations issue, I have faith that the courts will work that out.
But politicians, we should be focused on the economy, on inflation, on bringing manufacturing back and leave law enforcement to those who are tasked with law enforcement.
TAPPER: Do you share the concerns of some Democrats I have spoken to that this is not the strongest case against Donald Trump, and it might not be -- it might actually rally people to his support?
KHANNA: I think there are other things that President Trump has done that are more serious, such as January 6.
But, again, it's not for me to tell a district attorney who to charge or what charges to bring. I mean, I never speak to my local district attorney about what he should do. It would be an outrage if politicians started to do that.
And I guess, ultimately, I have faith in the jury process. I have faith in our courts. You can appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. If there is something that is not correct, it's not going to require Chairman Comer to figure it out. We have got one of the best judicial processes in the world.
They will make sure that justice is done.
TAPPER: You have been considering a run for the U.S. Senate to represent California.
Senator Dianne Feinstein is not running for reelection. Have you made a decision about that yet?
KHANNA: I have, Jake.
I have concluded that, despite a lot of enthusiasm from Bernie folks, the best place, the most exciting place, action place for me to serve as a progressive is in the House of Representatives, and I'm honored to be co-chairing Barbara Lee's campaign for the Senate and endorsing her today.
We need a strong anti-war senator, and she will play that role.
TAPPER: Your fellow California House Democrats Katie Porter and Adam Schiff are also running for the seat. I'm sure that they are watching right now with sad faces on.
They have more name recognition than Congresswoman Barbara Lee. They're polling at the top of the pack. Why not endorse either of them?
KHANNA: I have respect from them.
But Barbara Lee is a unique voice. She was the lone vote against the endless war in Afghanistan. She stood up so strongly against the war in Iraq. She worked with me in stopping -- trying to stop the war in Yemen and the war powers resolution.
And, frankly, Jake, representation matters. We don't have a single African-American woman in the United States Senate. She would fill that role. She will be the only candidate from Northern California, and she's going to, I think, consolidate a lot of progressives.
The other two are formidable candidates, but I think Barbara Lee is going to be very, very strong.
TAPPER: Congressman Schiff's been trying to boost his progressive credentials during this race. He asked to join the House Progressive Caucus, where you're a deputy whip, and then, apparently, he withdrew his request.
Do you consider Congressman Schiff to be a progressive?
KHANNA: I'm glad that he is now for Medicare for all and some of the progressive policies. And my view is that politics is about addition. If he wants to join, that's great.
But I think Barbara Lee has had the track record for the past 20 years really to earn a lot of the progressive trust, particularly, again, on issues of war and peace and social and racial justice. And so I expect a lot of the progressives in California will rally around her.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman Ro Khanna with some big news, not running. He's co-chairing the election campaign of Congresswoman Barbara Lee running for the Senate seat in California.
Thanks for joining us, sir. I appreciate it.
KHANNA: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Nearly half of all Americans are on TikTok, 150 million of you.
Are lawmakers really preparing to ban it? That's next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
TikTok's CEO came under fire from both parties this week on Capitol Hill. But, for the 150 million Americans who use that app, have lawmakers done enough to show what they say are its dangers?
And joining me now, the congresswoman who led that TikTok hearing, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Chair Rodgers, thanks so much for joining us.
So, lawmakers have thrown around a lot of hypotheticals about the national security threat posed by TikTok. And I certainly understand them about how China, the Chinese government, could use the app to spy on Americans. And, personally, I deleted the app from my phone.
But have you seen any evidence that any data from TikTak -- TikTok has been accessed by any officials of the Chinese government?
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA): What the hearing made clear to me was that TikTok should be banned in the United States of America to address the immediate threat.
And we also need a national data privacy law, because, to your point, repeatedly, Mr. Chew said that the data that they are amassing on Americans is accessible by the CCP. He was asked about the -- about ByteDance spying on Americans. And he responded: Oh, well, I wouldn't describe it as spying.
What we are seeing is that TikTok and Mr. Chew have repeatedly been caught in this lie that there's not a connection to ByteDance and ultimately the CCP.
TAPPER: Just to be clear, just so people know what you're talking about, those were four employees of China's parent company, ByteDance, the TikTok owner, which improperly accessed American journalists' data. They were looking for who was trying -- was leaking them information.
They were fired. But that is not the Chinese government. I still understand, like, you're talking about what could happen, but I'm just wondering, have you seen -- is there clear evidence -- and maybe it's classified or maybe it doesn't exist, I don't know -- that Chinese government officials themselves have accessed any data?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, what we do have evidence of, Jake, is that TikTok cannot be trusted, that they have repeatedly lied.
So they cannot be trusted to protect our data. They cannot be trusted to ensure that our children's mental health is a priority. Mr. Chew was unable to convince us that the data that they're -- he keeps wanting to say, well, there's no -- we aren't -- we're a separate company. We're a private, independent company.
But yet they are connected to ByteDance. That was clear and that the data right now is accessible by the Chinese Communist Party.
TAPPER: A lot of the push against TikTok is coming from its competitors, Meta, Twitter, Google.
I get that Mark Zuckerberg is not a foreign adversary, but, frankly, I don't trust him or any of these companies with my data. And, as you know, there was a data breach by Meta, by Facebook's parent company, that exposed U.S. data to developers in China, in Russia, in Iran, in North Korea.
So I wonder, instead of banning TikTok, taking away an app from 150 million Americans, why not just pass a privacy bill for all of these companies that bans any of them from allowing anyone in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea to access any U.S. user data?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, we need to do both.
We need to address the immediate threat that TikTok poses, because it is ultimately the Chinese threat, the Chinese Communist Party accessing data. We need a national data privacy standard also. And that's what Ranking Member Pallone and I have worked on and we're going to introduce this Congress, because we need to take action, whether it's TikTok, big tech, or other data brokers, to restrict the amount of data that they're collecting to begin with.
We need to ensure that individuals have the right to know what their profile might be or it -- or to be alerted if their information, their personal data is being accessed or transferred to another country like China.
We need to protect kids, and we have the strongest protections for kids in the privacy proposal that we have been working on to protect anyone under the age of 17.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: And we need to stop this listening on devices of people.
We -- our bill would say you cannot listen to conversations on an app or on your device without people actually having -- giving you the permission.
TAPPER: So, speaking of protecting kids, one common reaction to your hearing among Gen Z and younger TikTok users was that you and the committee are focused on the wrong issue, if you're serious about protecting kids.
Take a listen to this one example.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty thousand one hundred and thirty-eight deaths from firearms in 2022, and the best that Congress can do to keep us safe is to ban TikTok.
I'm so glad that we have elected officials to protect us and our children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So what do you say to that?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: I would say there's an immediate threat via TikTok from the Chinese Communist Party that is the reason that I believe we need to ban TikTok immediately.
It is a national security threat, their access not just to our data, but the way that they have infiltrated. It Republicans and Democrats on the committee as to the urgent need for us to take action.
TAPPER: All right, Chair Rodgers, good to see you again. Thanks so much for being with us.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: Good to be with.
TAPPER: TikTok is responding.
I want to read their statement to CNN -- quote -- "The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent U.S.- based protection of U.S. user data and systems with robust third-party monitoring, vetting and verification, which we are already implementing."
Coming up next: He was the only Democrat to serve under Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in his administration. Does he think DeSantis has what it takes to beat Trump?
Our panel is next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But I did rallies for Ron that were massive rallies. Two years later, the fake news is up there saying: "Will you run against the president? Will you run?"
And he says: "I have no comment."
I say, that's not supposed to happen: "I have no comment."
No. So I'm not a big fan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
President Trump on stage last night in Waco, of all places, as he opens up a wider advantage against DeSantis, according to the polls.
My panel joins me now.
And we're joined for the first time by Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz from the great state of Florida.
You worked under Ron DeSantis in his administration. You were director of emergency response. So, how do you see this playing out between these two Florida men?
REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Well, look, I mean, obviously Trump is trying to define him early before the governor even gets out, right?
If you go on Twitter, you would say, well, that's a really effective strategy, but Twitter is not real life, so we will have to see how that's playing out. I mean, the DeSantis people are probably trying to figure out how they're going to deal with the president, just like everybody else who has run against Trump.
I mean, I think Ron is probably the only one who has both the political acumen, the ability. He's very bright. And he's been under the scrutiny in the media during COVID for two-and-a-half years. So I think he's probably the only one right now that has come out that may be running that could take on the president.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know about that.
I mean, I think back to what happened to Scott Walker. He was very popular.
TAPPER: Former Wisconsin governor.
FINNEY: Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, very popular. Everybody thought he was going to be a very serious contender.
And, again, having run against Donald Trump, those attacks daily, it's just -- it's like Chinese water torture. It just chips away, chips away, chips away. And what ended up happening, whereas Scott Walker won Wisconsin, Donald Trump did enough damage that he really didn't do very well beyond that.
And so I do think that part of the strategy the DeSantis team has to be thinking about, A, he's had some fumbles dealing with national press and the kinds of national questions, like the war in Ukraine, that you're going to have to deal with. But, also, he's going to start -- he's taking on water.
I mean, these attacks, they do have an impact. And you have to be very mindful how much you ignore and when you actually respond.
TAPPER: So, I'm -- I get the Trump campaign e-mails, and a lot of times it's just nonsense, but, sometimes, there's actual information and data.
And one of the e-mails was just a measure of a bunch of Monmouth polls about who Republican voters prefer.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, am I correct in understanding the Trump campaign position is that the polls are not fake news anymore?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I just want to be clear.
TAPPER: He has always said, if the polls are bad, they're fake. If they're good, they're real.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Right.
TAPPER: There's no question about that.
But it is true that Monmouth is a credible polling organization.
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes.
TAPPER: And that, according to those polls nationally with Republican voters, Trump is going up, and DeSantis, who had a little surge there for a while, is going down.
How do you account for that?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: I think it's important for the DeSantis team to be ready to come out with a clear message and get this started.
I think this idea of, let's delay it and delay it and delay it until after the state legislative session in Florida, Donald Trump's not playing by that timeline. And if you're beginning to see this show up in the polls, you have to react.
I would caution, however, there's a wide range of findings in different polls about how well Donald Trump is doing relative to DeSantis. The Monmouth poll you mentioned is a particularly grim one for the DeSantis team. But, in that poll, not to get too far in the weeds, it estimates that the Republican electorate is very heavily weighted toward not having a college degree, which we know that that's the direction the Republican Party is headed demographically.
Ron DeSantis does very well with Republicans who have a bachelor's degree and higher. And so the big question mark is, what's the makeup of the Republican primary electorate going to be? Is Donald Trump going to be able to reassemble that demographic coalition that he put together to shock the world eight years ago?
I think that is still a little bit of an open question.
TAPPER: First of all, we like it when you get in the weeds.
TAPPER: That's why you're here. We want you. You're smarter than us.
Scott, what do you make of this? Is DeSantis going to have to take Donald Trump on more directly than he has been?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes.
I mean, you cannot ignore the front-runner of any campaign. I mean, if he intends to be the nominee, he's going to have to take him on. Trump, though, does have an interesting ability to re-coagulate. He's like the bad guy in "Terminator 2." Just when you think you have melted him...
TAPPER: It all comes back...
JENNINGS: ... and he's got the stabby hands or whatever.
And it happened after the second impeachment. Remember, he was down, and there was a moment there where some of us thought maybe it was time to move on him. And then, after the midterms, he was down. And here we are just a few months later, and you can see him.
I also think this prosecution in New York has -- even Republicans who don't want him anymore think it's crazy. And so I do think there's been a rally around the Trump campfire a little bit because of that. But, yes, he's going to have to take him on, and directly.
And, by the way, he's got the messages to do it. He's been a great governor. He scored a big reelection victory. And these college- educated Republicans are not going back to Trump. There is a base there for DeSantis. He's just got to consolidate it. And, right now, he's got a few ankle-biters that are splitting up some of that vote.
TAPPER: So you noted that there is a rally-around-Trump effect going on because of this prosecution specifically in Manhattan.
And it will not surprise you that Donald Trump in Waco last night talked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The new weapon being used by out-of-control, unhinged Democrats to cheat on election is criminally investigating a candidate.
Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state. That's the way it's got to be.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: We're at a very pivotal point in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "We got to destroy the deep state."
That comes at the same time that he's also, on TRUTH Social, talking about potential death and destruction, where he's belittling the notion of protests needing to be peaceful. There was a pretty nasty social media post that he put up there where he used this Christopher Walken monologue, and he talked about how he was going to be the lion that kills all the hyenas chasing him.
Are you worried at all?
MOSKOWITZ: Well, speaking of hyenas, I mean, you don't see stadiums of people chanting "Lock her up" anymore, because it's not -- apparently, it's a little ironic for his side.
But, look, this is a guy who went to Waco, Texas, to bring back visions of David Koresh. I mean, he's got Ted Nugent following him around as a spiritual adviser. It's very strange what's going on right now with Donald Trump.
I mean, just when you think it can't get worse, every week, it's more and more. Scott and I were talking about how the line that I think came out of the rally yesterday is that the greatest threat to America is not Russia or China, but it's Mitch McConnell, right, an 80-year- old who just got out of physical therapy. That is the greatest threat to the country.
I mean, do Republicans in the House think that? Does Comer think that? Does he think the greatest threat to America is Mitch McConnell? Does -- is that what Kevin McCarthy thinks, that the greatest threat to America is Mitch McConnell?
I mean, Trump's going to put some of the Republicans in some bad positions.
TAPPER: What do you make of this?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: Yes, I think it's perplexing that Donald Trump, in 2016, the last time he was truly successful at the ballot box, was when he was running on a message that was not entirely about Donald Trump.
I mean, you may love or hate the policy agenda there, but things like building a wall along the Southern border. I mean, these were actual policy prescriptions to address problems that a large swathe of the country thought were problems.
And now it is completely inwardly focused. It is all about him. And the irony is that, if he continues with this message and he becomes the Republican nominee, which is an entirely likely possibility, he will be handing more power to the Chuck Schumers of the world with the electoral results that will happen.
FINNEY: Look, I think, not surprisingly, he went to grievance politics. That's what he does.
I think the larger issue is, look at how beholden the Republican establishment is to Donald Trump that everybody came to his defense while trying to deny the -- decry the violence.
You own it. You own all of it if you're going to come to Donald Trump's defense.
TAPPER: And Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, he just got out of the hospital.
How is he doing? He's obviously not the number one national security threat to the country, or even a national security threat. How's he doing?
JENNINGS: Good, out, back home, glad to be home. Pretty sure he's watching...
JENNINGS: ... and getting engaged with the shows this morning, and I think looking forward to going back to work at some point after the next congressional recess.
TAPPER: What do you make of, as the congressman pointed out, Donald Trump called him the number one -- I mean, it's insane.
JENNINGS: I think Donald Trump is still -- and his supporters are still wrestling with something very difficult for them, which is that, when he was the president, his two greatest accomplishments were rewriting the tax code in 2017, a task that he outsourced to Paul Ryan...
TAPPER: Paul Ryan, yes.
JENNINGS: ... and judges and Supreme Court, a task that he outsourced to Mitch McConnell.
TAPPER: Mitch McConnell, yes.
JENNINGS: And another issue that DeSantis has pointed out, the thing his term is really defined by is deferring to Anthony Fauci.
And he's trying to rewrite history about, we got to get rid of the deep state. Remember, when he was the president, Ryan and McConnell were the architects of your greatest policy achievements. And he wants to somehow make people forget that.
TAPPER: Yes, Warp Speed also a big one, and the Abraham Accords also a big one.
Trump -- and Trump's trying to rewrite the whole COVID narrative, calling Ron shutdown Ron.
MOSKOWITZ: I mean, listen for anyone who was on the conference calls with the president, he instructed all the governors to shut down.
TAPPER: Thanks, one and all for being here. Really appreciate it.
Coming up: a well-deserved honor for a man who's been making us laugh literally for decades.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SANDLER, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: Hello. My name is Adam Sandler.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The stars are coming to CNN to celebrate Adam Sandler, who is receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, an honor his many famous friends, well, most of them, say is well-deserved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW BARRYMORE, ACTRESS: I feel like, in a great way, he's already cemented his place in comedy history.
BEN STILLER, ACTOR: He's always been very, very real. And I think that's what people really connect with.
DANA CARVEY, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: If you have to have a number one, he is. Nobody's lasted this long with this big a career.
STEVE BUSCEMI, ACTOR: I think his comedy will live on for generations. So, someday, they will be giving the Adam Sandler Award.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It's a very funny night. You can watch it at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now. I will see you soon.