Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Interview With Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR); Interview With Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA); Interview With FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell; Interview With Fmr. Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); Interview With Former Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 20, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Life-threatening. A dangerous storm barrels down on California just as President Biden prepares to survey damage on Maui.
DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: This is a really hard disaster.
HUNT: As the climate crisis gets worse, is the U.S. ready? FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell will be here.
And take four. Donald Trump will surrender to Georgia officials. Now two legal experts say he's disqualified from being president again.
GOP Senator Bill Cassidy, who voted to convict Trump after January 6, will be here.
Plus: taking the stage. With Trump set to skip the debate, will his Republican rivals swipe at each other instead?
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have a lot of super PAC puppets. I'm not one of them.
NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to put that negativity and drama behind us.
HUNT: David Axelrod and former GOP Governor Larry Hogan talk debate strategy ahead.
And Republican candidate Asa Hutchinson on his progress toward making the stage.
HUNT: Hello. I'm Kasie Hunt in Washington, where the state of our union is bracing for impact.
Hurricane Hilary is barreling toward the West Coast of the United States and could dump more than a year's worth of rain on Southern California, where the storm has forced evacuations, closed beaches and parks, and prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency Saturday.
President Biden says his team is closely monitoring the storm's path, as they also prepare for his visit tomorrow to survey the devastating Maui wildfires, where painstaking search efforts are still ongoing, as FEMA confronts a record-breaking year of billion-dollar disasters.
And joining me now is FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
Administrator Criswell, thank you so much for joining us this morning, as so much of -- so many fellow citizens are facing very difficult times ahead.
Can you give us the latest on Hurricane Hilary? How dangerous will it be? And what should people in the affected areas be doing to prepare for this storm?
DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Good morning, Kasie.
Hurricane Hilary is going to be a serious impact and threat to Southern California. And so what I encourage everybody to do is take this storm serious. Listen to your local officials. If they're asking you to evacuate or stay in place, they're going to have the best information that you need to make sure that you are doing everything you can to protect you and your family.
We are in close coordination with the governor's team, and we have staff that are in California all the time and embedded in the Cal OES office. We have staff that are working with them side by side right now.
California is a very capable state with a lot of resources, but we have also moved in additional resources just in case it exceeds capability, so we can quickly come in and support if asked. I think the biggest thing, again, Kasie, right now is people need to take this storm serious, they need to listen to their local officials and they need to make sure that they're not putting themselves in harm's way as this storm passes through.
HUNT: We really aren't used to seeing hurricanes on this side of the country.
This is the first ever tropical storm watch for Southern California. These warnings are about catastrophic flooding, landslides, mudslides. What's driving this? I realize this is the first time this has happened. You're saying your organization is ready, but, in the future, are you going to be able to handle things like this time and time and time again?
CRISWELL: This is what we are seeing. Kasie. We are seeing just this increase in the number of severe weather events, but not just an increase in the number. It's the severity of these events.
And we knew, with El Nino coming in, the forecast was a more active Pacific season,and I think that's exactly what we're seeing right now. We have to also look at, what is the change in the climate doing to these severe weather events, what is the risk going to look like into the future, work with our communities to understand how severe these storms are going to be, and then invest in mitigation projects that are going to reduce the impact from these storms.
We will continue to respond and support our states and our local partners, but we also have to support them right now in investing in mitigation projects, so we can protect people, and so that, as these storms occur, the impact is less and there's less people in harm's way.
HUNT: So let's turn now to Hawaii.
You're traveling with the president to Maui tomorrow. And this is already the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century, the official tally, 114 dead.
But the Hawaii governor said this week that more than 1,000 individuals are still unaccounted for. Is it possible that many of them were lost in the fires? How many are still unaccounted for right now?
CRISWELL: Yes, the actual number, I would just refer you back to the governor and the local government there in Maui County for what that exact number is.
What we're doing is making sure that we go through every bit of the burned area to make sure that we have identified any remains that might be there. The report that I got last night is that we are 78 percent complete with the search. And our teams are continuing to go through, through the day to go through every part of that and help identify anybody that might still be missing.
And we brought in additional teams, right? The FBI is on scene, the Department of Defense, along with HHS, to help identify and also reunify people that may be in shelters, may have gone somewhere else, making sure that we can work together to identify who is still unaccounted for, where people are, and as we continue to identify those that unfortunately have been lost by this tragic event...
CRISWELL: ... making sure that we link up all of that information.
HUNT: You say that we have to ask the Hawaii officials for the count.
But you also say that you are working with them. I think it's hard for people. You know, there are potentially 1,000 people who have perished in this fire. How can we not know more about this, this many days out?
CRISWELL: Yes, again, we take all of our numbers from the local officials. And we are supporting them with our teams to help better understand.
And I think the unaccounted piece is just making sure that we are accounting for everybody that was reported as missing. And it could be that they are staying with family and friends and we haven't been able to contact them yet.
There's a lot of different reasons on why people are unaccounted for. Again, we have to just really work through this area, as far as where FEMA's role is, and make sure anybody who was lost in this event, that we are going through every inch of the space in Lahaina and identifying anybody that is still there.
HUNT: So you and President Biden are -- you are joining President Biden on his visit to Maui.
CRISWELL: I am.
HUNT: The president has faced some criticism from Republicans, because he spent about five days not talking about this as many of the devastating images and numbers were coming.
Do you think the Republican criticism of the president's willingness to talk about this in public, or lack thereof, is fair criticism?
CRISWELL: What I can tell you is, the president directed me to go to Maui to assess the damage, meet with the governor, meet with the local officials, giving me the opportunity and the space to make sure that I can understand what's going on, and then I report back to the president.
I was in complete communication with him throughout this event, helping him understand what I was seeing and what needs are -- what resources needed to come in. And he directed me to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help the people of Maui and to bring in all of the federal resources to help with this immediate response, but also to begin thinking about what this long-term recovery and rebuilding is going to look like.
HUNT: What have you told the president that he needs to be aware of tomorrow when he's on the ground? What have you seen that you have told him, hey, we need to make sure we address this?
CRISWELL: Yes, I think the biggest thing is, he's really going to be able to see the impact, right, and just feel this devastation in this community and how widespread it is across this community.
And he's going to be able to talk to families that have been impacted. I think what he's going to be able to do is, he's going to be able to reassure the people of Maui that the federal government is there to support them. But we're doing it in a way that's going to allow them to rebuild the way they want to rebuild.
And I think that's the biggest message that he's going to be able to get across, right, is that we are here for them and we are going to help them with their vision for how they want to rebuild Lahaina.
HUNT: Big picture, you said last month that FEMA's disaster relief fund could run out of money by the end of the month.
HUNT: This -- we're dealing with Maui. We have this potential hurricane in the -- on the West Coast.
Congress is at an absolute standstill on government funding. We might face a government shutdown. If that happens, what are you going to do?
CRISWELL: Yes, one of the things that we always take into consideration when we are doing our analysis of where we're at with the disaster relief fund is incidents just like this, what we saw in Maui, as well as what we're seeing in California.
We do still anticipate that we will have a shortage of funding at our current spending levels by mid-September. And so what we will do is, we will continue to push, we will push projects, recovery projects into the next fiscal year, so we always have enough money to support any of the immediate lifesaving needs.
So, we will take measures to ensure that there is always going to be enough funding to continue to support immediate responses to these types of severe weather events. And the administration is working with Congress on what we can do to help facilitate the recovery projects for the rest of this year, but also going into next fiscal year.
HUNT: All right, tough times ahead.
Administrator Deanne Criswell, thanks very much for your time this morning.
CRISWELL: Yes. Thanks, Kasie.
HUNT: And, of course, our thoughts are with the people preparing for the storm on the West Coast and as Maui -- and in Maui as well.
And now I want to get to our other big story of the week. The first Republican debate is this Wednesday.
And joining me now is presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Governor, thanks very much for being here.
The first Republican presidential debate is now just about 72 hours away. Are you going to be on the stage?
FMR. GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer, Kasie, is yes, I will be on the stage.
I'm pleased to announce that we have met all the criteria that the RNC set to be on the debate stage. We have met the polling criteria. And now we have met the 40,000 individual donor criteria. We have submitted to the RNC 42,000 individual donors. And I'm delighted and thank everybody for helping me to make this threshold.
The debate is going to be exciting and very important. As I have been in Iowa, people are waiting to make decisions. And the debate will be an important part of how they factor in who's going to be our next nominee.
HUNT: That's a little bit of news there, another candidate on the stage.
But I need to ask you, sir, the other requirement for the stage is that you have to sign a pledge to support the eventual nominee. And you and I both know Donald Trump is far and away the front-runner. Are you going to sign the pledge?
HUTCHINSON: I will sign the pledge. I'm confident that Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee of the party. And I have always supported the nominee.
So, I'm going to sign the pledge and be on there. And it's really fascinating that now we have a number of legal scholars...
HUNT: But if he is the nominee, sir, if he is the nominee, if he is the nominee, will you support him?
HUTCHINSON: I'm going to support the nominee of the party. I do not expect it to be Donald Trump. And that, I'm sure, question will come up in the debate, so stay tuned for that.
But what I want to point out is, I'm not even sure he's qualified to be the next president of the United States. And so you can't be asking us to support somebody that's not perhaps even qualified under our Constitution.
And I'm referring to the 14th Amendment, that a number of legal scholars said that he is disqualified because of his actions on January 6.
HUNT: So, what would you have officials in your state, any other state do, based on the 14th Amendment? Would you have them just leave Trump off the ballot, off the primary ballot, off the general election ballot?
HUTCHINSON: No, there should be a court declaration.
And so there would have to be a separate lawsuit that would be filed in which there would be a finding that the former president engaged in insurrection, and that would disqualify him. That's one avenue. The other way would be that, if a specific state made that determination their own, then that would put the burden on someone else challenging that.
Either way, it winds up in court for a specific finding. But I expect those lawsuits to be filed. I expect some states to take that action. But I think it's a serious jeopardy for Donald Trump under our Constitution and not being qualified.
HUNT: So let's talk about strategy on that stage.
How much do you think this debate is going to matter without Donald Trump on that stage? And what is your approach going to be to the elephant in the room, so to speak?
HUTCHINSON: Well, I expect it to be even more important without Donald Trump on the stage, because this is the first time voters are going to be able to contrast the candidates and their positions.
And I know we want it to be civil, but let me tell you, it's going to be a vigorous exchange. And it's important, because there's difference between the candidates. Donald Trump will be in the background, because every candidate needs to state what their position is on Donald Trump, whether he -- and his actions on January 6 and talk about the differences for our future.
He has a very isolationist view of the United States of America, wanting to give Russia a victory in Ukraine. That's not where I am. And that will be made clear on the debate stage as well.
HUNT: Is this not, though, just an example of what we saw in 2016, where, essentially, all of the candidates, one at a time went up against Donald Trump, tried to take him on, and failed?
It became ultimately a fight for second place, and he won. Is that what we're going to see on Wednesday?
HUTCHINSON: Well, I don't see that happening.
First of all, it's really early. I mean, I talk to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and they're going to be late-deciding. And that's why you're going to see in Iowa where Trump's numbers come down first. It will be here in Iowa, in my prediction.
And so they need time. This debate is important, and they're going to start making decisions later into the fall. This is really a reduced number from 2016, with eight or nine on the debate stage. We will see who else qualifies for it, but the voters are going to be able to lock in on it, make decisions. And they're not going to be in a hurry to move.
So, everybody needs to be patient, including the media, as to let this unfold over the next three or four months, and the right alternative to Donald Trump will surface.
HUNT: Fair enough, urging patience, never a bad thing.
Sir, congratulations on making the debate stage. We look forward to seeing what happens on Wednesday night.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Great to be with you today.
HUNT: Great to be with you as well.
All right, you heard the FEMA administrator say there that she needs more funding from Congress.
Well, Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy joins me next to talk about his plan and the latest Trump charges.
Plus, Trump won't be on the debate stage, so how should that change his rivals' strategy? Two strategists, David Axelrod and Larry Hogan, former Republican governor, are coming up.
HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Kasie Hunt.
You just heard the FEMA director tell me that her department urgently needs more funding, as the U.S. faces more frequent and more destructive natural disasters.
I want to bring in a lawmaker who is no stranger to that process, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
Sir, thanks very much for spending part of your Sunday with us.
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Kasie, thank you for having me.
HUNT: So, let's start with the climate.
For so many Americans, this was really a taste this past summer of how the climate crisis is going to start to impact their lives, really already is. In just the last few months, Louisianians, those in your state, experienced sweltering heat. There have been record water temperatures in the Gulf, other extreme weather events.
You're representing a state on the front lines of this crisis. Did the last few months drive home the threat of climate change for you? And what are you doing about it?
CASSIDY: Well, a couple of things about that.
I'm aware that my state has lost land about the size of Delaware, so we're no stranger to this issue. You got to have a rational response. What people sometimes forget is that emissions from the United States are now lower than they were in 2005, lower, despite a bigger economy of many more people, et cetera.
Why? Because natural gas has replaced coal. The drivers of international increased CO2 emissions, Asia, but principally China.
Now, if we're going to have a rational solution, then we need to address China's emissions. I'm about to introduce legislation for a foreign pollution fee. If China does not want to enforce international norms for the environment, then -- and they want to import a good to us, a good that we would not produce here because of the associated air pollution, we will put a little bit of a fee, a little bit of a fee, if you will, to pay back to the United States for the harm that China is doing.
So, one, I want to continue to promote things like natural gas to replace coal worldwide, and, secondly, try to specifically address China's particular role in driving increased air pollution.
HUNT: That could drive up prices a little bit for Americans. Do you think you can get 60 votes in the Senate for that proposal?
CASSIDY: No, not if you -- Kasie, if I may, we already have tariffs on those Chinese goods.
And so what this would do, it would replace the tariffs that we have now with a tariff related to the pollution that they are not paying to reduce. By the way, I will point out, we are already paying for that pollution. About 25 percent of certain classes of pollutants in the Western United States come from China.
It blows over the Pacific. We're paying now. And let's just make the Chinese pay, instead of us.
HUNT: All right, so you just heard the FEMA administrator warn that the disaster relief fund is going to run out of money. We're not even in peak hurricane season yet.
And House Republicans are demanding spending cuts right now. This is bringing us to the brink potentially of a government shutdown. I mean, would you support more money for FEMA? And would a shutdown be acceptable to you?
CASSIDY: I would absolutely support more money for FEMA, absolutely.
Americans help fellow Americans. And we in Louisiana are so indebted to those fellow Americans. But everybody, if you have not yet been hit by a disaster, sooner or later, one will hit you. So, we're committed to helping Hawaiians. I think the Cajun Navy is there right now as a direct group from Louisiana.
As regards a government shutdown, it's always talked about. It rarely impacts the lives of individual Americans. Most likely, there will be a continuing resolution. But I do think that there will be eventually funding of the government.
HUNT: So, let's talk now about the presidential race. We are 72 hours from the first Republican presidential debate.
It's going to be missing the front-runner, Donald Trump, the former president. He is facing federal charges over his efforts to overturn the election. And you did vote to convict him in his impeachment trial after January 6, you said -- quote -- "because he is guilty."
The former Attorney General Bill Barr says that the charges that have been brought against him are -- quote unquote -- "responsible."
Do you agree?
CASSIDY: Well, I'm not an attorney.
There's 91 charges, I think. I think the charge that seems most likely -- I mean, seems almost a slam dunk, is the one related to mishandling of classified documents. So -- so, I can't comment on the rest of them, because, apparently, you have to prove state of mind. You will have attorneys after me that can comment on that.
But there's at least one, which is the mishandling of the federal documents, which is -- seems, again, a very strong case. They have a tape recording of him speaking of it. If that is proven, then we may have a candidate for president who has been convicted of a crime.
I think Joe Biden needs to be replaced, but I don't think Americans will vote for someone who's been convicted. So, I'm just very sorry about how all this is playing out.
HUNT: Do you think that Donald Trump should drop out of the race?
CASSIDY: I think so. But, obviously, that's up to him. I mean, you're just asking me my opinion.
But he will lose to Joe Biden, if you look at the current polls. I'm a Republican. I think any Republican on that stage in Milwaukee will do a better job than Joe Biden.
And so I want one of them to win. If former President Trump ends up getting the nomination, but cannot win a general, that means we will have four more years of policies which have led to very high inflation, to a loss of purchasing power for the average American equivalent to $10,000, and to many other things which I think have been deleterious to our country's future.
HUNT: So, if Donald Trump does ultimately win the Republican nomination, will you vote for Joe Biden or the Democrat over the Republican on the ticket?
CASSIDY: I'm going to vote for a Republican.
But my threshold issue for any person who wants to be the leader of our country is, will you take care of the issues before us? Both Biden and Trump both have the same policy in Social Security, for example, which is to do nothing. Unfortunately, Social Security is going insolvent in eight to nine years, which means that somebody watching this who's getting Social Security is going to get a 24 percent cut.
Both former President Trump, President Biden, are basically -- basically saying, you're going to get a 24 percent cut because I'm not going to do anything. Now, my threshold issue, if you want to be a leader of our country, is to lead. And, right now, we need someone who will lead on that issue.
HUNT: Who on the debate stage on Wednesday night of the other Republican alternatives to Donald Trump do you think could be a leader on this issue that you raise, Social Security?
CASSIDY: Well, at least some of them are talking about it.
Frankly, I have a different approach than they. But at least they're talking about it. The first thing is to acknowledge that there is an issue. Now, the reason I hesitate on that is that the program I put forward, and, again, had seven Republicans and seven Democratic senators supporting, was to create a fund, separate from Social Security, no Social Security dollars, to invest in the U.S. economy and allow it to grow over time.
You do that, you can take care of 70 percent of the shortfall, and you can make sure that there's no cuts for people currently receiving Social. We also put in work incentives. We repealed WEP and GPO. And we also put in poverty-alleviation provisions.
President Biden could have endorsed it. Instead, he's decided to be political and make this an issue. It should be an issue, but it should be an issue of fixing it. And, so far, he's not come up with a credible plan.
HUNT: All right, so, one last question for you, just sticking with the debate stage coming up on Wednesday.
We know that the former President Donald Trump is planning not to be there. Was it a mistake? And do you think the debate is going to matter?
CASSIDY: Oh, I think the debate matters.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, who's a great guy, just pointed out that some legal scholars think that he will be disqualified based on the 14th Amendment -- I'm not sure that's true, but I'm not an attorney -- which means that the people you see on that stage, one of them, quite likely will be the presidential nominee.
And I think any of them will be better than Joe Biden. So, if you're concerned about the future of our country, watch that debate, find your candidate, support that candidate.
HUNT: All right, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, thank you very much for joining us today, very interesting conversation.
CASSIDY: Thank you, Kasie.
HUNT: All right, with Trump on the sideline for the debate, will the other candidates attack him, or are they just going to turn on each other?
David Axelrod and former GOP Governor Larry Hogan join me up next.
HUNT: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Kasie Hunt.
Republican presidential candidates are in debate prep, but, with the front-runner planning to skip the stage, are they fighting for second place?
Joining me now to discuss, former Obama senior advisers David Axelrod and former Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan. Gentlemen, thank you both very much for being here with us this
morning as we talk through what the strategy is, should be.
FMR. GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Good morning.
HUNT: So, sources, Governor Hogan, tell CNN that Trump is planning to skip the debate. And, instead, they are touting this interview that they're going to do or have done, potentially, with Tucker Carlson.
What impact do you think Trump's absence will have on the debate? Does it mean the debate just doesn't matter?
HOGAN: Well, no, I think the debate still matters, but, obviously, it's a much different thing without the far-and-away front-runner being there.
The counterprogramming is typical Trump, right? I mean, he wants to suck all the oxygen out of the room. He wants all the attention to be on him and not on the other candidates. And, to some extent, he will probably have some success with that.
But I think there are going to be people tuning into this debate, and I think it's a great opportunity for each of them to try to make their to be. I think it's going to be -- it would be a better debate with Trump there, but I think it's still going to be important to watch.
HUNT: David Axelrod, is there any chance it backfires on Trump, this decision?
I mean, is his ability to counterprogram as strong as perhaps it once was?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's got Tucker's star power, as you know. So, I think there will be quite a few people watching that, assuming -- I guess it's on Twitter, assuming Twitter doesn't collapse.
But, listen, I have said from the beginning that Trump would be nuts to show up. He's got a gargantuan lead. DeSantis said the other day that his followers -- he implied that Trump's followers were like listless vessels.
But he's got quite an armada. He's 40 points ahead. No one with even, I think, half that lead at this point nationally has ever lost a nomination. Now, no one has had four indictments going, four separate indictments going, at the same time either. So this is uncharted waters.
But his not being there means, once everybody takes -- who wants to, Chris Christie, most likely, takes shots at him, they're going to turn to each other.
And I think DeSantis is the guy who is in most jeopardy here. He started off -- his whole candidacy was premised on, he was the alternative to Trump. And getting back to the vessel reference, he's been doing nothing but sinking since he became a candidate. And now he's in jeopardy of losing that distinction as being Trump's principal challenger.
And that's an opportunity for everybody else on the stage.
HUNT: Yes. No, I'm glad you raise that. And we are going to talk about some more about that.
HOGAN: Well, and I agree with that.
HUNT: Yes. Sorry, Governor, go ahead.
HOGAN: Yes. Yes. Yes, actually, I agree with that.
I mean, I think it's a make-or-break moment for Ron DeSantis, who's been in freefall and dropped nearly 20 points. It's been going on for quite some time. And I think he's really got to turn it around and distinguish himself.
The fact that Trump's not there, I would imagine not only Chris Christie, but a number of others are going to be coming after DeSantis. So, you saw that memo where they told DeSantis to go after Ramaswamy and he had to defend Trump. He'd better defend himself, because I think there's going to be some hits coming towards him as well.
HUNT: Yes, Governor, what did you make of the back-and-forth with the super PAC and the campaign?
Because that memo that you mentioned came out of a DeSantis super PAC, outlined all of these things that they think that Ron DeSantis should do in this debate, suggesting, basically, that the campaign couldn't handle the prep for it for him. The campaign came back with their own memo saying back, you know what, we're not going to follow any of that advice.
What does this back-and-forth say about the campaign, Governor Hogan?
HOGAN: Well, the campaign is somewhat of a disaster. And, I mean, it's been one stumble after another since the failed launch of it on Twitter when he first kicked off his campaign.
And it was just the latest in a series of things. But they're trying to utilize the super PAC in ways that you really -- nobody has in the past. And so the super PAC is. spending most of the money, and they're crossing over into territory where they can't share information with the campaign, so they put it out there for the campaign to utilize.
But it was a dumb move. We now know what his strategy is, and it came out publicly. I don't even know if it's a good strategy, because, like I said, I think people are going to be coming after DeSantis. And just defending Trump is not going to be enough. He has to distinguish himself from Trump. And he's the number two guy at this point, so it's going to be a tough night for him.
HUNT: David Axelrod...
AXELROD: Yes, it's an unbelievable, unbelievable case of malpractice, because none of the things they recommended, he can now do, or he will look like a trained seal act and everybody will point that out. So he can't do that.
But the interesting thing about that to me was the reference to Ramaswamy, who started off as an unknown and has proven himself to be a much more effective culture warrior than DeSantis himself and going after the woke and so on. He's just been much more compelling at it.
And I think what's going to be interesting on that stage to some degree is the interaction between Ramaswamy and Christie. I imagine that Christie will continue to go after Trump, because that's the basic premise of his campaign, and Ramaswamy is going to appoint himself, as he has on the stump, the number one defender of Trump.
And I think there will be some fireworks between them, but the others have to find a way to break through, to convey a message and to do it in a way that will provide viral hits, because most people won't be watching this debate. So they need to provide viral hits that give people a sense of why they should be for them.
It's a tough task.
HUNT: Not going to disagree with you, but, man, that's where we are. We're going for viral hits.
HOGAN: Well, I think Chris...
HUNT: Briefly, Governor.
HOGAN: Yes. I think Chris Christie -- I think Chris Christie is going to be the guy to watch. He's the most skilled debater. He's coming after Trump, DeSantis and Ramaswamy, and it's going to be entertaining.
AXELROD: It will be.
HUNT: It's rarely dull when Chris Christie is on the debate stage.
But, Governor, I do have to ask you. Your group No Labels is preparing a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option basically to try to run a third-party ticket in 2024. And you argue voters are really dissatisfied with both Trump and with President Biden.
If Trump does get the nomination here, is No Labels going to go through with this plan to run a third-party candidate? And would you serve on that ticket if they asked you to? HOGAN: Well, look, I think we're at a point that we have never been
in this country, where two-thirds of the people are not interested in voting for the Republican or Democratic nominee, the likely nominees.
And it's -- an overwhelming majority of people are completely fed up with politics. They think Washington is broken. And so, even though this normally is not something that we consider and talk about seriously, because it hasn't happened in the past, this is something that could happen.
We have to wait and see how this campaign plays out. We're a long way off.
HUNT: So, is this is a yes?
HOGAN: I don't know that, at this point in time, that Trump and Biden -- that Trump and Biden are going to do it.
But if Trump and Biden are the nominees, it's very likely that No Labels will get access to the ballot and will offer an alternative. And if most of the voters don't want A or B, we have an obligation to give them C, I mean, for the good of the country.
HUNT: But doesn't potentially just -- and I'm going to give you the last word, David Axelrod.
AXELROD: Yes, thank you. OK, thank you.
HUNT: But, Governor Hogan, doesn't that -- doesn't that give -- honestly, doesn't that pave the way for Donald Trump? Doesn't that siphon votes from Joe Biden and elect the person that you have criticized so heavily?
HOGAN: No. Actually, no.
That's that Democratic talking points because they're scared to death about this potential opportunity. But, no, it's -- they would only be in it to win it, and they would pull just as many votes from Donald Trump as Joe Biden.
HUNT: David Axelrod?
AXELROD: Yes, I mean, I love Larry Hogan, but that's just not true.
I think that broken glass will be the jagged edge that cuts the throat of the Biden campaign. History shows that. Trump has a high floor and a low ceiling. If you lower the ceiling to where his low -- high floor is good enough to win, he will win. And he benefited from third parties in 2016.
This would be a dreadful mistake if the goal is to deprive Donald Trump of the presidency. This is his hope. This is his prayer. HUNT: All right, David Axelrod, Larry Hogan, I'm so grateful for this
conversation this morning.
Please do be sure also to go to CNN.com/audio to sign up for new episodes of David's podcast "THE AXE FILES."
Thank you both, gentlemen.
AXELROD: Thanks, Kasie. Thank you.
HOGAN: Thank you.
HUNT: All right, does the Constitution bar Donald Trump from being president again?
A top conservative, a former judge, and a constitutional scholar say yes. They will explain why coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: The people who wrote the 14th Amendment were not fools. They realized that, if those people who try to overturn the country, who try to get rid of our peaceful transitions of power are again put in power, that would be the end of the nation, the end of democracy.
J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, FORMER FOURTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE: All officials, federal and state, who have a responsibility to put on the ballot candidates for the presidency of the United States are obligated under the Constitution to determine whether Donald Trump qualifies to be put on the ballot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: A constitutional legal scholar and a former federal judge on the 14th Amendment and whether Donald Trump can be president again.
Let's get a response to that new theory with my panel here.
And, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, I want to ask you to put that hat on as you respond here. Do you buy this?
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't as a practical matter here.
I mean, the 14th Amendment was written in the -- after the Civil War, passed after the Civil War, obvious historical landmark for the United States. And we're debating as a country what the consequences of Donald Trump's actions were. And that is best, especially in the midst of a campaign, to be left to the voters.
This really just invites additional weaponization of the justice system and now the ballot access for candidates. And that's not appropriate. The American people should decide this.
HUNT: So, to that point, I want to bring in Lieutenant Governor -- former Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan of Georgia, the former Atlanta mayor.
You -- your state is again going to be at the center of so much of what unfolds in this political season in this election.
Geoff, if Trump's convicted in your state, should he be on the ballot in Georgia?
GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I'm not a constitutional scholar, never been accused of being one. I'm just looking through the lens of an average American.
And it's hard to believe somebody who's lied this intentionally this many times, that has 91 indictments deserves to be the president or should be the president of the United States. I sat in front of a grand jury this week that was laser-focused on the facts, on exactly what happened.
And he's going to have a tough road in front of him. I think this is an interesting case, 19 indicted, 30 unnamed co-conspirators all trying to fight for their freedom. And nobody really cares about being in Donald Trump's cool kids club anymore. It's going to be an interesting road.
HUNT: Nobody cares about being in the cool club. That's an interesting way to put it.
Madam Mayor, what's your view?
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), FORMER MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Yes, it's difficult to predict, because, no matter what decision the secretary of state makes as to whether or not he should have access to the ballot or be on the ballot, we know this will ultimately be decided by the courts.
And it's been very difficult to predict what the courts and how the courts will rule. It will likely go through the 11th Circuit and then to the Supreme Court. And I think, at the end of the day, whether or not Donald Trump is the Republican nominee really is up to those who will vote in the Republican primary.
So we're going to have to stay tuned on this one.
HUNT: Yes, well, so far, they don't seem to be moving there.
And that's a good -- a good segue to our next main topic, because we're heading into the debate season.
And, Paul Begala, you have been in many a room where you have prepared a candidate for the presidency for one of these events. I think we can all agree, although feel free to disagree with me, that this is a major test for Ron DeSantis. What do you think, Paul Begala, he needs to do on that stage? We have
seen a lot of -- I mean, some of my sources have thought it was pretty embarrassing -- back-and-forth between the super PAC and the campaign and telling him what to do and what not to do. Where does it stand going into this?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's got to show not just why Ron DeSantis, why Ron DeSantis and not Donald Trump. He's the elephant that's not in the room.
I find it interesting, by the way. Instead of going to the debate, he's going to do a -- he's with some fired cable host on a failing platform. I think the next debate, he's going to be with Bill O'Reilly on MySpace. I mean, I'm -- actually, if I worked for Trump...
HUNT: Does MySpace still exists?
BEGALA: That's my point.
BEGALA: Twitter doesn't either.
But Trump shouldn't show up. As a strategist, I wouldn't send him either, if I worked for him. But if I worked for DeSantis, I'd say you have to say, why me and not him. I think DeSantis has still been far too careful and pussyfooting around about why we should get rid of Donald Trump as the leader of the party and hire Ron DeSantis.
But that's his job at the debate.
HUNT: So, just a reminder for our viewers, Attorney General Cuccinelli, you are also the founder of the Never Back Down super PAC...
HUNT: ... of which we are discussing all of this.
I mean, was it a mistake to put those talking points out?
CUCCINELLI: It was.
HUNT: It was?
CUCCINELLI: But, to Paul's point, the key here is in the introduction.
I mean, if history is any guide, this will be the first and, for some voters, the only direct observation of the candidates, including Ron DeSantis, who will be at the center of the stage for all the reasons we're talking about him. He's got four of the toughest media markets in the country been in his grill five years. He hasn't made a mistake with them yet. That's pretty darn good preparation for what's going to happen on
Wednesday. And while he has very high name I.D. in the Republican electorate, he has very high favorables, there isn't a sense of knowing him yet, like people feel like they know Donald Trump after seven or eight years, for good or ill.
And so he's going to get that opportunity, now, having been the number-one attacked candidate in either party, to introduce himself personally to voters. I think he does have to make the case, but he has shown a great ability to make that case.
And I disagree a little bit with Paul that he has taken on Trump on issues from the minute he got in this race. What he's not doing is the name-calling, the -- that kind of Trump juvenile level of fighting.
HUNT: Let me stop you here. I get you on engaging Trump on the issues.
But there was a pretty interesting moment in a recent interview where Governor DeSantis talked about Trump supporters. He used the word -- words listless vessels. I want to play...
CUCCINELLI: But he wasn't talking about Trump supporters.
HUNT: Hold on. Hold on. I'm going to play it for everybody, and then you can go ahead.
CUCCINELLI: All right.
HUNT: Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A movement can't be about the personality of one individual. If all we are is listless vessels that's just supposed to follow whatever happens to come down the pike on TRUTH Social every morning, that's not going to be a durable movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUCCINELLI: Everybody just saw there that there was a cut. You cut from the beginning of that quote to the listless vessels.
You just did what the problem is. So, everybody who just watched that, understand, go read the transcript, and it is not correct...
HUNT: OK, fine. So, you summarize for us, what was it that he was trying to say?
CUCCINELLI: Well, first of all, his first point is an excellent point. This should be about America, not about individuals.
HUNT: Fair. OK. CUCCINELLI: And...
HUNT: How do we get from there to listless vessels?
CUCCINELLI: Yes, well, the rest of an entire paragraph, by the way. I mean, there's a pretty big gap in your cut.
So he's talking about some of the folks in D.C. who've endorsed Trump. He's talking about the more general environment. And referring to all of us collectively, we can't just sit back and take all of this, be listless vessels. We have to move ahead with a different vision, that was not Trump-assigned.
And so, folks, go read the transcript. You don't have to listen to me. You go read it yourself.
HUNT: Well, so, here's what we've got.
HUNT: You jump in.
DUNCAN: I have been a contrarian since hours after the 2020 election. And the contrarian was to, let's move to a GOP 2.0, a better direction forward.
I think all of the Republican candidates, for the most part, are -- have been aiming at the wrong audience of Republicans, right? There's this 35 percent group that just are in love with Donald Trump. They're who he was speaking about when he said he could walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and they'd still vote for him, right? That's the audience.
HUNT: And that's been borne out, yes.
DUNCAN: But the good -- yes.
The good part is, there's still 65 percent of Republicans that I think are approachable. And these are hardcore conservatives that just don't want crazy. They want somebody who's able to step up to the mic. And I think this debate should be an opportunity to separate the haves and the have-nots.
Step up to the mic and say, Donald Trump was wrong, he lied to us, and he has forfeited the right to be the president of the United States again. And here's my vision to tackle the border. Here's my vision to beat Joe Biden. Here's my vision to talk about inflation, national security, public safety. Those are kitchen table issues. But we have to reframe this conversation as Republicans.
If we're sitting here in 12 months and Paul and Mayor Bottoms are still talking about Donald Trump, and not defending Joe Biden's record, we're going to lose every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
HUNT: Mayor Bottoms, do you agree?
BOTTOMS: Yes, if this is about Americans, and not individuals, then why has the Republican Party allowed Donald Trump to hijack the Republican Party?
It's Donald Trump all day every day. And I think, when you see DeSantis on the stage, you're going to see this glass jaw that we talk about. When you have -- when he can't answer a question from a reporter without getting offended, what's going to happen when he's got all these people on the stage?
And I think what we need to look at is, why is this about Donald Trump? There are real issues facing the American people that we're not talking about. We're talking about a former president who has been indicted multiple times. Why will the Republican Party not take back its party?
CUCCINELLI: But you just -- you just said -- you just said it's all Donald Trump all the time. Why won't these folks talk about Donald Trump? Well, which is it?
And DeSantis has rolled out an economic program. He's rolled out an effort in the military. He's the only veteran running for president. So there's a lot of credibility there. These are things that matter at the national level that he's driven discussion about.
HUNT: Let me pause one second, because I want to show our viewers something new from CBS News this morning that goes to the point that you're making, which is a national poll that shows 62 percent of the Republican Party is with Donald Trump.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, and I don't buy that.
We're knocking doors. We have knocked over a million-and-a-half doors with the super PAC. The undecided is very, very high. And in New Hampshire and in Iowa, over half of Republicans don't want Donald Trump to be the next nominee.
I talked to reporters this weekend who were at the Iowa State Fair. People are going up, getting pictures with Donald Trump: Hey, this is great. This is the selfie they want.
But they come out and say: "Well, but I'm not voting for him."
HUNT: Quick last word.
BEGALA: It's not a political party anymore. Judge Luttig said that, most conservative constitutional scholar I know.
He says, it's not a political party. It's not. It's a cult of personality. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, the party of Reagan didn't even have a platform under Trump. They just said, we're a cult of personality.
Geoff is exactly right. When's the last time Donald Trump talked about the things even Trump used to talk about, the border or immigration or...
DUNCAN: Right. Right. Right.
BEGALA: But it's all -- my joke has been, he's like Pavarotti warming up for the opera, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, but never you, you, you, you.
BEGALA: But it's working...
DUNCAN: That's correct.
BEGALA: ... because the party's become a cult of personality.
HUNT: All right.
BEGALA: And good luck taking on that personality. I hope you do, but good luck.
HUNT: All right, we are, unfortunately, out of time, or I would let you continue with your opera singing...
HUNT: ... because who wouldn't want to listen to that?
Thank you all for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.