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State of the Union

Interview With Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie (D-NJ); Interview With Trump Defense Attorney John Lauro; Interview With Former Vice President Mike Pence. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 06, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Trial on the trail? Donald Trump lashes out after a third indictment.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those indictments aren't worth the paper they're written on.

BASH: How will he defend himself? And will he go to trial before the election? Trump's attorney John Lauro joins me in moments.

And too honest. A central figure in the new case, the former vice president ramps up his criticism of his old boss.

MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president ultimately continue to demand that I choose him over the Constitution.

BASH: What does he make of the case? GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence is next.

Plus: on message. With just over two weeks until the GOP debate, other candidates struggle to break through.


BASH: Is there a new opportunity to edge out the front-runner? GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie joins me ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is watching court filings pile up.

Donald Trump is kicking off a new week juggling an ever-more crowded legal calendar after his third indictment over alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. As usual, the former president is lashing out at the legal system and those he perceives to be his enemies. Last night, he called special counsel Jack Smith -- quote -- "mentally ill" and -- quote -- "deranged."

And a Trump campaign adviser told CNN the president has no plans to change his rhetoric, even as, in federal court this weekend, Trump's attorneys work to respond to a filing by the Justice Department which took issue with a new threatening social media post by Trump.

Here with me now is Trump attorney John Lauro.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning, Mr. Lauro.


BASH: This weekend, the judge rejected your request for three more days to consider the special counsel's proposed rules for how to handle evidence, the proposed protective order that would let Trump use some sensitive information, but not take that information with him.

Will you agree to that?

LAURO: Well, first of all, this protective order that's being suggested by the Biden administration is an effort to keep from the press important nonsensitive information that the Biden administration has that may speak to the innocence of President Trump.

BASH: This isn't by the Biden administration. This is by the special independent counsel.

LAURO: And -- and -- no.

No, here -- for this reason. No, the independent counsel -- it's not independent -- it's special counsel -- has to get the approval of Merrick Garland in order to go forward. Joe Biden said in November 2022 that he wanted to see President Trump prosecuted and taken out of this race. So, it is the Biden administration. Make no mistake about it.

But the bottom line is...

BASH: OK, there's no -- I'm just going to stop you, because there's no evidence that Joe Biden is involved in this.


BASH: And you're right. It's a special counsel.

Let's just stick to the question.

LAURO: Well, the evidence...

BASH: Do you believe that this is something that you will agree to?

LAURO: Yes, so the point is -- the point is that -- the point is that we will not agree to keeping information that's not -- that's not sensitive from the press.

The press and the American people in a campaign season have a right to know what the evidence is in this case, provided that this evidence is not protected otherwise. So we're going to oppose it, as we have. But, for whatever reason, these lawyers on the prosecution team want to keep that from the press. And I'm shocked, candidly...

BASH: Well, won't the evidence come out in trial anyway?

LAURO: ... that the press -- it -- some of it will, not all of it.

I'm shocked that the press isn't lined up objecting to this protective order, because not only is President Trump being attacked for his First Amendment rights. Now these prosecutors are trying to infringe on the freedom of the press.

BASH: OK, let's -- OK, let's stick -- I appreciate you tried to stick up for us.

LAURO: So, that's the reality. You asked me what's happening. I'm telling you...

BASH: I appreciate you trying to stick up for us, but let's talk about the actual substance of what they were trying to do in the filing...

LAURO: I'm -- no, no, I'm -- I'm telling you what is going on right now.

BASH: ... which was try to make the point not only that they want to keep the discovery information, what the witnesses said for the time being quiet, but, also, he made pretty clear, the special counsel, that the idea that the former president is calling him deranged and mentally ill is something that maybe shouldn't be happening.

So, let me ask you as his attorney in this criminal case, do you want your client to stop speaking publicly like this, using terms like that?


LAURO: This case was brought by -- this case was brought by the Biden administration in the middle of a political campaign and with the realization that people are out there campaigning for office.

I'm not involved in the campaign. I'm involved in representing Mr.Trump in a criminal proceeding. But one...


BASH: Totally understand. You're not his campaign manager. You are his lawyer.

As his lawyer, would you want a client to say things like this about the special counsel?


LAURO: One thing that -- one thing that we are going to do is fight this very, very unusual, outside-of-the-bounds criminal prosecution of First Amendment rights vigorously in court.

My focus is on addressing the issues. One of the issues that the Biden administration will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that Donald Trump had corrupt intent, had criminal intent when he protested the results of the 2020 election. That's core freedom of speech.

BASH: OK, let's talk about this.

LAURO: That's core political speech, which is protected under our Constitution.

BASH: You have talked about freedom of speech. You have talked about freedom of speech a lot.

I want you to listen to what Donald Trump's own former attorney general said about that argument.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I really don't think that's a valid argument. He can say whatever he wants. He can even lie. He can even tell people that the election was stolen, when he knew better.

Free speech doesn't give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.


BASH: Your response?

LAURO: Well, first of all, there was no fraudulent conspiracy. That's part of the reality of the defense.

What President Trump was entitled to do and what Mr. Barr misses -- and I'm not sure he's read all the cases, but when it comes to political speech, you can not only advocate for a position, but you can take action. You can petition. You can ask even your vice president to pause the vote for a period of time in order to allow the states to recertify.

BASH: But you can't break the law, which is what this indictment alleges. It alleges that he caused actions, like approving fake...


LAURO: What was it that was fraud...



LAURO: What was it that was fraudulent?

BASH: I will tell you what the indictment...


LAURO: What was it that -- no, no.

BASH: I will tell you what the indictment says.

LAURO: Go ahead. Go ahead.

BASH: The indictment says that he attempted to cause actions, like approving fake electors, opening sham fraud investigations, and obstructing the certification of the election.

Whether he can prove that, that's going to happen in the trial.

LAURO: OK, let's -- let's...

BASH: I'm just saying what's in the indictment.

LAURO: Yes, but let's -- right.

And let me take the first thing, the question about electors, OK? Alternate electors are used in every four-year cycles, OK? The Senate parliamentarian acknowledged to Vice President Pence that they always receive protest alternate electors. None of those electors were counted.

Vice President Pence was completely aware of the nature of the protest, of the nature of the right to speech.

BASH: They weren't counted because Mike Pence rejected this scheme. That's why they weren't counted.

LAURO: Absolutely.

And that's how the -- of course. And that's how the political process works. But there was no defrauding.

BASH: No, it doesn't.

LAURO: There was no trickery. There was no deceit, because everybody knew. It was out in the open.


BASH: Because, if Mike Pence had said yes, then that's exactly what would have happened.

LAURO: No, because, thankfully, with freedom of the press...


BASH: And that's only one -- but I don't want to -- I don't want to go down...


LAURO: You have to let me finish, though, because -- no, but you asked me a question.

BASH: Go ahead.

LAURO: And I hope you can let me finish, because the government alleges deceit or trickery.

And all of this played out in the open. It's all free speech. There was a Supreme Court decision, Hammerschmidt, which is right on point, that says, when you're exercising free speech, you're not engaging in a fraud on the government.

BASH: OK. And we...

LAURO: And that's what, unfortunately, most people don't understand in this context.

Now, it's very political.

BASH: That's just one -- that's just one example of the actions. that's just one example of the actions in this indictment.

LAURO: Right. But -- but -- absolutely, but you're entitled...

BASH: And this is a long list that we have compiled from the indictment.

LAURO: Right.

BASH: I mean, there are -- it's more than a dozen...

LAURO: Right.

BASH: ... not speech, actions that the former president allegedly took.

LAURO: Like what? Like what? Like what?

BASH: I mean, where do I even start?

LAURO: Tell me. What actions?

BASH: The -- asking the Arizona speaker to interfere with ascertaining Arizona's electors...

LAURO: Asking. Asking.

BASH: ... the Justice Department to conduct....

LAURO: Asking is speech. And that's the point. Asking is speech. It's not action.

BASH: But any alleged -- any alleged -- any alleged -- almost all alleged criminal activity has to do with using words and a speech.



BASH: And that's...

LAURO: What you don't -- no, what you don't..

BASH: Listen, this is obviously the defense that you're going to use, and it will be fascinating to see how it works out in a court of law.



BASH: I want to move on to another issue. And that is...


LAURO: No, I got to tell you, though, but you make an interesting point, because you're saying that asking is action.

No, asking is aspirational. Asking is not action. It's core free speech. The press should be defending free speech in this case.


LAURO: Because free speech is the most protected speech.

BASH: Let's talk about something else that you repeatedly said, and that is that the former president...

LAURO: Anybody.

BASH: ... ultimately asked his vice president only for a pause in the electoral count, right? But it follows weeks...


LAURO: Right. That was one of the things, ultimately, the final -- the final ask. Right.


LAURO: The final ask in the Ellipse speech was that, which was -- President Trump was following the advice of his lawyer.



The word ultimately I have heard you use many times. The word ultimately is doing a lot of work in that sentence.


BASH: I know you're intentionally using the word ultimately, because, at that point -- at that point...

LAURO: It's -- I'm using ultimately because it's truth.

BASH: I know. You're right. It is the truth, because, at that point, he was asking for a pause.

LAURO: Right. And I'm entitled to advocate on behalf of client.

BASH: But it's only because -- it's only because -- it's only because for many, many other asks before that, what the former president was asking Mike Pence to do was to completely stop -- stop it and reject it.

And that is the point that Mike Pence is making.

LAURO: Well, let me -- OK. Can...

BASH: It's that it got to the point where he said pause because Mike Pence said, I'm not going to reject it.

LAURO: Can I respond?

BASH: Sure.


So what we have -- and many people don't understand this -- is a memo from John Eastman, an esteemed constitutional scholar, laying out a number of scenarios. Those scenarios were presented to Vice President Pence. He considered them, and, as a constitutional matter, he rejected them.

One of the last and the ultimate requests that President Trump made was to pause the voting for 10 days to allow the states to recertify or certify or audit. And Mr. Pence rejected that as well.

After that, there was a peaceful transition of power. So, that's how the constitutional (sic) works.

BASH: Right.

LAURO: Now, one thing that needs to be clear is...


BASH: What happened on January 6 was not peaceful.

I want to ask you something about John Eastman, because you have talked a lot about how he's a respected constitutional attorney.

LAURO: Well, wait a minute. The -- right. The transfer of power was certainly peaceful.

BASH: Did you see what happened on January 6? Did that look peaceful?

LAURO: And, by the way, did you -- I'm not saying that that was in any way inappropriate -- appropriate, but the ultimate power of the presidency was transferred to Mr. Biden. We all know that, as you do. BASH: I just want to quickly ask about John Eastman.

John Eastman said, according to this indictment, that he actually, even when he was talking to the vice president's counsel, that he thought that his plan to reject the slate of electors would be rejected by the Supreme Court 9-0.

LAURO: He thought he was right. And, by the way, that proposal was not the ultimate one presented to Vice President Pence.

But what happens in the course of a constitutional discussion like this is all legal theories are discussed and analyzed. And, once again, what President Trump was doing is within the reality and the realm of free speech. He's asking his vice president, what about taking this course of action?


LAURO: Ultimately, his vice president rejected all of -- all of the proposals that were made. But what is critical...

BASH: One quick question before I let you go about the trial.

LAURO: Let me -- but you have to let me finish. No, no, no, one -- one quick -- one quick response.

What President Trump did not do is direct Vice President Pence to do anything. He asked him in an aspirational way. Asking is covered by the First Amendment.

BASH: And said some pretty intense stuff online that caused people to think that they needed to build gallows outside of the Capitol. But we can talk about that in another time.

Would you be open to having cameras in the courtroom?

LAURO: And he's not being charged for that, by the way.

BASH: I -- yes. You're right. You're right. You're right. You're right.

LAURO: And, by the way, that's not part of the criminal case, so just to be clear, OK?

BASH: It is -- you are right about that. Would you...

LAURO: So, you can say that politically, but it's not in the case.

BASH: Would you be open to having cameras in the courtroom during this trial?

LAURO: I personally want the public to see what's going on in this country right now.

I want the public to see what kind of prosecution is going on.

BASH: So, yes?

LAURO: And I want the public to see the evidence. If you ask me what my personal opinion is, the answer is, absolutely, I'd like to see that.

What I'm concerned about is, the government has already signaled that they don't want the press and the American people to see the evidence in this case, because they filed an emergency protective order to prevent that from happening.

BASH: Thank you so much, John Lauro. Appreciate your time this morning.

LAURO: Great to see you. Absolutely.

BASH: He is a central figure in the new Trump indictment. I will ask former Vice President Mike Pence about the case against his former boss and now opponent for the GOP nomination.

Plus: the gift Chris Christie brought all the way to Ukraine for President Zelenskyy. Chris Christie is just back and joins us exclusively coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

As Donald Trump lashes out on the campaign trail over his third indictment, none of his competitors are as well-versed in the substance of the allegations as his vice president, setting up a clash between the former running mates.

Joining me now is former vice president and GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence.

Thank you so much for joining me, sir.

PENCE: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Just a few days ago, the former president had this to say about you. He said -- quote -- "I feel badly for Mike Pence, who is attracting no crowds, enthusiasm or loyalty from people who, as a member of the Trump administration, should be loving him. The V.P. had power that Mike didn't understand."

So you hear there he is still claiming to this day that you had the power to reject electoral votes. And his lawyers are suggesting reasonable people can disagree on whether you had that authority.

PENCE: Well, Dana, President Trump was wrong then and he's wrong now.

I had no right to overturn the election. Very clear that, under the Constitution of the United States, Article 2, my responsibility as vice president, as president of the Senate was to preside over a joint session of Congress, where the Constitution says the electoral votes shall be opened and shall be counted.


And I really do believe that people all across this country are coming to realize that more every day, although, as I have told you before, Dana, I -- over the last two years, I have been deeply humbled how many Americans have come up to me and expressed their appreciation.

And I truly do believe that we kept our oath to the Constitution that day. But the American people deserve to know that President Trump asked me to put him over my oath to the Constitution. But I kept my oath, and I always will.

And I'm running for president in part because I think anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. I mean, our Constitution is more important than any one man. Our country is more important than any one man's career.

And I'm running for office because, when people look at my record, I hope they understand that we have kept faith, not just with the Constitution, but with the broad conservative agenda that's always carried our party to victory and, frankly, always carried America to unbounded security and prosperity.

BASH: I'm sure you have heard the former president's lawyers saying that he -- quote -- "ultimately" asked only that you pause in counting the electoral ballots.

I just want to be clear. Did the former president ask you to pause or did he at any point ask you to overturn the election and keep him as president?

PENCE: Well, you can look at the tweets and public statements the president made all the way up to the night before and the morning of.

Look, what the president was convinced, it seemed to me, in December was that I had some right to reject or return electoral votes, even though no president -- vice president in American history had ever asserted that right. And no vice president or any one person should ever have the right to choose the American president.

The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. But, look, in the days before, the president was talking about us rejecting votes. Then, late in the process, his lawyers suggested that we return votes to the states.

But, frankly, the day before January 6, if memory serves, they came back, his lawyers did, and said, we want you to reject votes outright. This -- they were asking me to overturn the election. I had no right to overturn the election. I know we did our duty that day, and I couldn't be more encouraged, whether it's here in New Hampshire, in Iowa or all across the country, how many people come up to me and express their appreciation for the stand that we took.

BASH: I hear you talking about this, and I know you have also said that you wish that there were no criminal charges that had to be filed, as what happened this past week.

But do you ever wonder what would have happened if you had come forward with the specifics that you were just talking about just now, the pressure campaign that you got from the then-president, from his attorneys, and talked about that in the days after January 6?

Because now he's really solidified his grip on your party and helped lead the party's view of his unconstitutional actions. A vast majority of Republican voters think he actually won in 2020. Do you wish you said what you're saying today sooner?

PENCE: Well, I don't know, Dana. I have been saying this for two years.

After leaving the White House, moving home to Indiana, I think it was on the 100th day of the Biden administration that I spoke about this issue at an event right here in New Hampshire. And, as you know, I have given countless interviews. I wrote an entire book telling our story now more than a year ago.

But, look, it -- I understand that the news events of this week have caused renewed focus on this issue. And, in some respects, I welcome it, not because I welcome the indictment. I had hoped it hadn't come to this. I had hoped the questions about the president's conduct on January 6 had been left to the judgment of Republican primary voters and the American people.

But now that this has come, I have had people coming up to me ever since that day and, in some respects, telling me that they didn't know. They didn't know what we went through. They didn't know about the stand that we took.

BASH: Exactly.

PENCE: And I'm very humbled by that. But I...

BASH: And, so, do you think -- so, do you think, if you would have said so public, you would have, for example, been able to influence your fellow Republicans in the Senate? If he was convicted in the impeachment trial, he wouldn't even be able to run for president.

PENCE: Well, I mean, come on. Come on, Dana.

I mean, we lived through the Russia hoax, the president being impeached for a phone call. The day after January 6, Nancy Pelosi tried to distort the 25th Amendment to get us to remove the president. And then to go through a process of impeaching the president of the United States after he left office was just one more effort by the Democrats.

BASH: So, you...


PENCE: But, look, I want to tell you, I trust myself to the judgment of the American people and to the judgment of history. I really do believe people see through the agenda of the Democrats.

And that partisan committee on Capitol Hill that I refused to have anything to do with spoke for itself.

But, at the end of the day, my one aspiration as I travel here in New Hampshire and everywhere around the country is for people to know that the oath that I took in January 2017, I kept every single day.

BASH: The indictment says that the former president told you that you're too honest after you said you didn't have the authority to reject electors.

Did Donald Trump ever acknowledge to you that he lost the election?

PENCE: I don't recall that he ever did.

But with regard to being called too honest, Dana, I have been called worse. And, frankly, today with people here in New Hampshire, I had a lot of people coming up to me expressing their appreciation for it.

I want people to know I'm going to be honest with them as a candidate and I will be honest with them as president, whether we're talking about the need for fiscal responsibility and reform to tackle the national debt. I'm going to be honest with them about the dangerous world we live in.

I'm going to be honest with them about what it's going to take to secure our border and lower energy costs and also stand by our values and liberties. So...

BASH: Would you be willing to testify?

PENCE: ... I'm more than happy -- I'm more than happy to wear that label.

But, honestly, to your -- I don't recall the president ever telling me that. I don't know what was in his heart. I don't know what his intentions were. But I do know what he and his lawyers asked me to do. And it's what no vice president in American history had ever done before and, frankly, no vice president or any one person in Washington should ever do again.

The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. Our founders would have never vested authority in one person to overturn an election, and I stood on that principle.

BASH: Would you be willing to testify at the president's trial if the special counsel called you to do so?

PENCE: Well, I testified before the grand jury under a subpoena after we got clarification from the court about protections that I have under the Constitution as the president of the Senate.

But I have no plans to testify. But, look, we will always -- we will always comply with the law. But, look, I want to tell you, I don't know what the path of this indictment will be. The president's entitled to a presumption of innocence. He's entitled to make his defense in court.

There actually are profound issues around this pertaining to the First Amendment, freedom of speech and the rest. I'm confident he and his lawyers will litigate all of those things. But what I want the American people to know is that President Trump was wrong then and he's wrong now that I had no right to overturn the election.

I had no right to reject or return votes, and that, by God's grace, I did my duty under the Constitution of the United States, and I always will.

BASH: You have said before, you said again just a few minutes ago that anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president. If he is the nominee, could you support him?

PENCE: Well, Dana, you guys like to talk about the polls on CNN a lot. Everybody does.

But, look, it's awful early here. I mean, we're still about six months away from Iowa, and then right after that New Hampshire. And I got to tell you, I really do believe that there's a lot of Republicans that know we not only need new leadership in the White House, but we need new leadership in the Republican Party.

I mean, we can't endure four more years of the failed and feckless leadership of President Joe Biden and the Democrats in the Senate. We have got to turn this thing around. And everywhere I go, more and more people are coming up. More people are understanding, I think, the stand that we took that day.

And even the minority of Republicans that have had a different view of what I did that day have been coming up to me and expressing appreciation, for which I'm humbled.

BASH: Does that mean you can rule out...

PENCE: But I got to tell you, everywhere I go, people are telling me, thank you for talking about the issues we're dealing with, and not what the media is talking about any given day of the week.

BASH: You can say right here that you will rule out voting for Donald Trump again for president?


PENCE: Dana, I will tell you, I don't think we will have to make that decision.

BASH: What if you do?

PENCE: I'm confident I will be able to support the Republican nominee, especially if it's me.

But I will tell you...

(LAUGHTER) PENCE: I will tell you, I'm confident, as they have done so many times before, Republican primary voters are going to choose new leadership for a new time in the life of our nation.

BASH: I do want to...

PENCE: We simply have got to move our country forward. We have got to put Joe Biden into retirement. We have got to win back the Senate, keep the House, and get this country turned around.

And I'm confident Republican primary voters will give us a nominee who will do just that.


BASH: Sir, I know that you are unveiling a new energy policy this coming week.

The European Union says July has been the hottest month in recorded history. Tens of millions of Americans are constantly under heat warnings. You have seen the wildfires making the air unsafe to breathe. All of this is expected to even get worse in the coming years due to the climate crisis.

Do you think that human activity is the primary reason behind all of this?

PENCE: Well, I don't know.

I mean, it's clear from scientists that, over the next 100 years, that the climate is changing. But, frankly, you talk about our European partners, we got out of the Paris climate accord, and nobody really noticed we actually exceeded the goals in the Paris climate accord in reducing CO2. But we did it through American innovation.

We did it through unleashing American energy. And the energy plan we will unveil this week is going to be an all-of-the-above energy strategy. I mean, Joe Biden declared war on energy in his first day in office, shutting down the Keystone and Dakota pipelines. Gasoline prices are jumping back up again this week.

We had $2-a-gallon gas under our administration, and we achieved energy independence. We can do it again. And in my campaign going forward, whatever the news of the day is -- Dana, it's just like last week, when we unveiled our inflation plan. This coming week, we're going to lay out a plan to restore American energy independence.

And I believe, through innovation, through diversification in energy, we can practice conservation on our land. We had the cleanest air, water and land in the history of the country during our administration. We can meet the goals in our environment without crippling the American economy.

BASH: Yes, and I'm sure you remember the very first sentence in the 2018 report from your Trump/Pence administration said that the Earth's climate is now changing faster at any point in history. And it went on to say it was primarily because of or the result of human activities.

I look forward to seeing your report this week. We're going to see you on the debate stage. It sounds like you're getting closer to getting those 40,000 unique donors?

PENCE: Dana, we're getting closer every day. People are going to, even contributing a dollar, just to make sure that the most experienced and the most proven conservative in this race is on the stage.

I'm confident we're going to be there, and I'm looking forward to it.

BASH: Former Vice President Mike Pence, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

PENCE: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Chris Christie just got back from a surprise trip to Ukraine. We're going to talk to him about that and get his first comments on the new Trump indictment when he joins me exclusively next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

While the political world was focused on Donald Trump's legal woes, one of his competitors was secretly on an overnight train in Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and visited cities decimated by Russia's war.

Here with me now is former New Jersey Governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

I want to get to your trip to Ukraine in a minute. But, first you just heard the former president's lawyer criticize the DOJ over this indictment about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He says all Trump did was exercise his free speech and follow the advice from his own lawyers.

What's your response to that?

CHRISTIE: Look, obviously, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia disagrees, and they returned an indictment.

And now what we see from Donald Trump is what we always see from Donald Trump, insulting anybody who raises any questions about his conduct on January 6, when he invited people to come to Washington and told them it was going to be wild, then spoke before them, told them the election had been stolen, which was a lie that he had continued from election night forward.

Then he told them that Mike Pence could overturn the election, only Mike Pence could do it, and that, if he didn't do it, he would be a major disappointment, asked them then to march up to Capitol Hill to stop what was going on up there, said he would march with them.

But, as I have told you, Dana, I knew that, if Donald Trump had a risk of breaking a fingernail, he's such a coward, that he wouldn't go up to Capitol Hill. So he went back to the safety of the White House and sent those folks up there to do what they did, which was to create, many of them, violent conduct up on Capitol Hill to try to stop what was going on, in terms of confirming the election.

BASH: So, you don't think it's speech; you think it's conduct?

CHRISTIE: Well, it's very clearly conduct.

Now, there may have been parts of it that were speech too, Dana. Nothing's ever absolute. But the fact of the matter is, the president wanted what happened to happen. And, in fact, the way to know that is that, when it started to happen, he did not run out of the White House and say, put me in front of the cameras. Let me tell those people, stop being violent up there. We shouldn't do it.

No, he didn't do that. He sat, ate his overdone hamburger in the White House Dining Room he has off the Oval Office and enjoyed watching what was going on. In fact, we know he told Speaker McCarthy that maybe it's those people care more about the fact the election was stolen than you do.

I mean, does that sound like somebody who was concerned about anything other than keeping himself in power?

Look, the bigger lie now is that Donald Trump says he's doing this for us. Yet, if you listen to everything he's had to say, is he talking about what Joe Biden's inflation has done to the American people? Is he talking about what the energy crisis that Joe Biden created has done to the price of gasoline and to what's going on all across this world, in terms of the fight for energy?

Is he talking about the crime in the streets, Dana, and how that's affecting citizens of every one of our major cities? No, he's just talking about himself. So, I want Republican voters to know, this is a preview of the election coming up if Donald Trump's the nominee.


He will be talking about Donald Trump, rather than Joe Biden. And what we should be focused on is talking about Joe Biden and his record.

BASH: Yes.

CHRISTIE: And that's why he cannot be the nominee.

BASH: I want to move on to Ukraine.

But, real quick, do you think that, in Washington, D.C., a place that Joe Biden won by almost 90 percentage points in 2020, Donald Trump didn't get a fair trial? CHRISTIE: Dana, unlike anybody else in this race, I actually did this

for seven years as the U.S. attorney in the fifth largest office in the country, in New Jersey, which is a very blue state.

And I could tell you, I watched as jurors put aside any of their partisanship or politics and listened to the evidence and returned in my state fair and just verdicts, 130 of them in political corruption cases that we did without a defeat and never was one of them overturned on appeal during my seven years.

BASH: So, yes?

CHRISTIE: And so my view is, yes, I believe jurors can be fair. I believe in the American people. And I believe in the fact that jurors will listen fairly and impartially.


CHRISTIE: And for people who say they won't, Dana, those are people who believe only in themselves, like Donald Trump, and not the American people.

BASH: Let's talk about your trip to Ukraine. You are the second Republican candidate to visit. You met with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv. You paid your respects to civilians killed in Bucha, and you said you would come back and tell everyone what you saw.

What do you want the American people and people around the world to know?

CHRISTIE: I want them to know about the atrocities that were being -- were being and are being committed against the free Ukrainian people by the Russian military. I went to the town of Bucha, where I went to a shallow grave of 160 civilians who were executed by the Russian army.

But, before they were executed, Dana, for many of them, their eyes were gouged out, their ears were cut off. Then their hands were tied behind their back and they were shot in the back of the head by Russian soldiers, civilians, not soldiers, civilians.

And then Russian soldiers went in and raped the mothers and the daughters that were in the house after the men of the house had been killed.

I went to the children's center for civil rights in Ukraine, and, there, they told us that over 19,000 children have been abducted, kidnapped by the Russian military and brought back to Russia, so they can be programmed to work for the Russian Federation.

Dana, I met some of those mothers whose children were ripped away from them by Russian soldiers. They don't know how they are, where they are. This is not a territorial dispute, Dana. This is an absolute authoritarian attempt by Vladimir Putin to overtake the free country of a neighbor. And it's obscene what's going on there. And America is right to

supply. And I spoke with President Zelenskyy for an hour. He never once asked to have American troops, American men or women there. All he wants is the ability to fight the war on an even basis.

Give you one quick example. In artillery, the Russians are outgunning them on a daily basis nearly 11-1 in artillery. The Ukrainian army is incredibly brave. They're fighting for a unified and free Europe that we have maintained for 80 years, since the end of World War II.

And I'm proud to have been there with President Zelenskyy and to stand with the Ukrainian people, who are being abused and killed by Russian mercenaries.

BASH: You also -- you also brought the Ukrainian president something that maybe could give him hope, or at least a chuckle.

Your old friend Jon Bon Jovi shared a video of a band in Ukraine playing "It's My Life" as people in Odesa filled sandbags to defend their city. You called Bon Jovi before you went. And, quickly, what happened next?

CHRISTIE: Jon wrote out the lyrics to the song "It's My Life," which served as an inspiration for a lot of the citizens in Odesa as they were preparing for the invasion by the Russians.

He wrote it out in his own hand, got it framed. And I brought it to President Zelenskyy, presented it to him, and said that this is representative of many of the American people and what they feel about the cause that's being fought for in Ukraine and who support Ukrainian people against Russian barbarism.

And we got a good laugh over it about two guys from New Jersey trying to be supportive of what's happening over in Ukraine for the Ukrainian people. And so I was happy to do that and to be able to show him that there's lots of folks over here, in fact, hundreds of millions of Americans, who believe that the Ukrainian cause is just.

And let's remember this, Dana. Donald Trump said that the person perpetrating these atrocities, torture, murder, and the kidnap of innocent children is brilliant and an excellent leader.


That's the kind of thing that Donald Trump will bring back to the presidency, is that type of attitude towards somebody like Vladimir Putin. I think the American people need to really wonder whether Vladimir Putin is the role model we want for leadership around the world.

BASH: Well, as a Jersey girl, I have a special appreciation for the New Jersey -- former New Jersey governor bringing Jon Bon Jovi's lyrics over to Ukraine.

Thank you so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

CHRISTIE: Dana, thanks for having me on. I hope everybody has a great Sunday.

BASH: And Republican candidates are starting to band together against one particular Democrat. And I'm not talking about President Biden. We're going to get into that with my panel next.



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have this situation. Biden may not even be the candidate. I mean, you know, let's just be clear.


You could have Kamala. You could have Newsom. You could have some other people that will end up doing it.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't afford a President Kamala Harris. I will say that over and over.


BASH: Republican candidates, you just heard there, focusing on the vice president on the trail.

My panel joins me now.

Nice to see you all.

We know the reason, the main reason, that they are doing that is because they're trying to make the point that your former boss, who you worked for, for a long time, Kate Bedingfield -- welcome -- is old and that she's likely to be the president.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I mean, President Biden has been clear that he thinks age is a reasonable thing for people to ask about.

He says all the time: People can watch me.

They can look at his record. They can see him. They can address the age issue. Where I think the Republicans are making a huge mistake here and the way that the Biden campaign thinks about this is, what they're doing is they're putting the vice president front and center in the core arguments that are critical to the campaign.

This is the soul of the nation argument. This is -- you see Ron DeSantis coming at Kamala Harris on this issue around slavery and comments that he made that slavery had beneficial impacts for people of color, for black people.

That is a fight that goes to the core of who we are. That is how Joe Biden thinks about one of the key pieces of this election that's forthcoming. And so putting the vice president at the center of that, where she can make a really passionate, forceful argument, that is a good thing for the Biden campaign and for the Biden White House.

BASH: Do you agree?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I understand why Republicans are doing it. The vice president has lagged President Biden in terms of her polling and her favorability.

And they do want to highlight the issue of age, which I think is a legitimate conversation to be had.

What I would be doing if I was a Republican in the primary is also be talking about the fact that Donald Trump's 77 years old. He's no spring chicken. So, if you want to really have a debate about if we want an octogenarian class running our country, I think we have to be kind of honest on both sides.

ALICE STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we need to be honest about the origin of this.

Look, yes, the president is old, and Kamala Harris is the heir apparent, potentially, if he were to step aside. But look where this began. The vice president was given a very impressive portfolio to deal with the border crisis, as well as election reform. She failed on both counts. She has not done her job as vice president.

Her negative rating is at 49 percent. She's not a popular vice president. So, instead of her talking about her failures, she's attacking Republicans. And that is what she's doing. And they're simply responding. So this is not as much Republicans going after her as she has appointed herself and Democrats have appointed her the attack dog, and she's getting hit back.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I will just say, I think that this is happening for a couple of reasons.

Most people don't know what vice presidents do. And now she is a historymaker. She is a woman. She is a black woman. And it's the easy thing to do to say, she's the attack dog, go after her. She was not put in charge of the border. She was put in charge of the root causes and going down to Central and South America to discuss what is happening.

And she -- and numbers have shown the border -- everyone admits our immigration policies are in crisis. It's not because of Kamala Harris. It's because we have not been able to find bipartisan reform. We all know the election, our voting systems are broke. We have a president who won't even -- or a former president who won't even acknowledge that he lost the election.

That's not because of Kamala Harris.


ALLISON: But my final point will be, she is taking it outside of Washington, D.C. She is done with us, the pundits, and she's going to the people who will actually elect her. She's talking about the issues that women care about, abortion. She's

talking about: I'm not going to debate Ron DeSantis on slavery. There is no debate there.

And I appreciate it. And I think you will see her numbers start to increase and people will be accepting her of the job.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Look, where I think that the Biden administration risks losing swing voters is putting Vice President Harris front and center, because when you make these core arguments about the future of democracy, Joe Biden is what is standing between us losing the country and having, let's say, Donald Trump, if the next -- the heir apparent for an 80-year-old president is someone who's deeply unpopular, who herself probably could not at this time win on her own as president, I think that that leaves people a little bit more afraid to actually support the ticket.

And I think that's borne out in this "New York Times"/Siena poll that has Trump beating Biden head to head.


BEDINGFIELD: ... though.

But if you look at the 2022 midterms and you look at -- there was a lot of run-up to 2022. There was anxiety amongst the pundit class, amongst the reporters that Biden and Harris weren't focusing enough on the economy. It was a mistake to talk about democracy.

And then, across the course of the -- across the course of the election, that was not borne out to be true, in fact. And since the 2020 election, Democrats have won statewide in all seven states that put Biden over the top in 2020, so, in real time, as we have seen people go to the polls post a Biden election.

So I think putting Kamala Harris front and center, letting her make this dynamic argument is smart. It's maximizing their appeal to different voters. And we know that independent voters and the very small slice of people who are left in this country who are truly undecided and independent, they're put off by the really divisive Republican culture war argument.


ALLISON: Wouldn't it make more sense, though, for the people in the Republican Party to actually go after the people they're trying to beat right now, which are other Republicans?


FARAH GRIFFIN: On that, we agree.



ALLISON: I mean, what benefit does it do to go after Kamala Harris?

Well, it is feeding red meat to their base to say like, we don't want this other person to be running our country. We don't want a woman -- it's no surprise we have never had a woman be president of our country yet. It is a leap.

And so it's cheap. It's easy. And it's calculated. And I don't think it will work in the long run.

STEWART: Here's the thing. Republicans are out there in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina talking about the issues that are -- people are concerned with and not obsessed with what the vice president wants to talk about for the day.

They're out there talking about the Biden/Harris policies that are not working for the American people. As much as the president and vice president want to say Bidenomics is working great, the American people do not feel that; 66 percent of Democrat voters say they are worse off economically.

And we see prices on the rise, gas prices on the rise, interest rates high. People are having trouble getting homes and cars. That's where American people are feeling it. And that's what Republicans are talking about there out of trail, and not necessarily the headlines.


BASH: OK, except Donald Trump, not so much. He's talking a lot about himself.

So, on that note, I want to talk about a bit of reporting from "The Washington Post" about a meeting between Joe Biden and Barack Obama in the White House recently in the summer.

It says: "Former President Barack Obama at a private launch with President Biden earlier this summer voiced concern about Donald Trump's political strengths, including an intensely loyal following, a Trump-friendly conservative media ecosystem, and a polarized country, underlying his worry that Trump could be even a more formidable candidate than many Democrats realize."

You probably agree with that, as somebody who worked for him.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Very much so.

I think nobody in this country should take for granted that Donald Trump very well could be president again. And I think that Joe Biden should be running with the assumption that he's running against Donald Trump. But we're also still in a Republican nominating process.

And I am stunned by how few candidates in the race who themselves have their own records to run on are not taking it directly to Donald Trump. You don't earn the right to run against Joe Biden until you beat Donald Trump or whoever else in a primary.

So I would say, whether it's my old boss Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, the clock is running out. The time to defeat Donald Trump is in a Republican primary.

BASH: And if that doesn't happen, is your former boss Joe Biden taking Trump seriously enough?

It looks like his old boss says no.

BEDINGFIELD: No, no question.

And I can tell you, as somebody who worked for Joe Biden for a long time, who left this White House in March, he absolutely takes the threat of Donald Trump seriously. He believes he's nothing less than an existential threat to the country.

He actually got into the race in 2019 making an argument about the specific threat that he believed that Donald Trump posed to the soul of the nation and was told at the time that that wasn't where the country was, that wasn't where the Democratic electorate was.

So I would argue nobody has taken Donald Trump more seriously. And, also, let's not forget, nobody else has beaten Donald Trump nationwide.

BASH: We're going to have to leave it there. Thanks for a great discussion.

Good to see you all.

Thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Fareed Zakaria is next.