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State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD); Interview With Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL); Interview With Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR). Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 27, 2023 - 10:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ready for his close-up?

The 45th president gets a new picture and an inmate number.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a very sad day for America. We did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.

BASH: As the country grapples with the meaning of a mug shot, I will ask former Trump impeachment manager Congressman Jamie Raskin what happens next.

Plus: an alternate reality. Republican voters get a glimpse at a Trump-free field on the debate stage.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I pledge to you as your president, I will not let you down.

FMR. GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our nation is in trouble because of failed leadership.

BASH: Who stood out? And who may struggle to get a second shot at a national spotlight?

2024 presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson joins me next.

And the other J.B. He's a big Joe Biden supporter with big Midwest momentum. So what's his advice for the president? I will speak with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is counting to 19.

This week, 19 of 19 criminal defendants surrendered in Fulton County, Georgia. The former president and all his alleged co-conspirators now must answer a critical question, go slow or go speedy. It is tricky for both prosecutors and for Mr. Trump. Ask different lawyers and you'll find varying answers about the strength of the Fulton County case against the president. And in case that wasn't enough to keep track of, yet another legal

fight over what the Constitution allows already is taking shape.

I want to bring in now Jamie Raskin, the congressman from Maryland.

Thank you so much, Congressman, for joining me. Let's start with the question of what I was just mentioning, which is the fourth arrest. You have seen, first of all, how incredibly viral this mug shot has gone? Given how intensely political it was -- it is and that is obviously an expected thing, do you think taking that mug shot was necessary?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, I think the critical thing is that Donald Trump and his co-defendants be treated exactly like everybody else would be treated in a similar prosecution. Fani Willis, the prosecutor involved, has undertaken numerous state RICO prosecutions, and as long as this is consistent with everything that's happened before, I think it's the right thing to do.

BASH: Former federal prosecutor in DeKalb and Cobb County said that the racketeering charge might seem like a little too much to a jury. He told "The Wall Street Journal," quote, "I like a state's side but it's not -- I like the state's side but it's not a slam dunk. Any time you bring a RICO case when it's not against the mafia, there is a chance that the jury thinks the case is overcharged. There is a massive danger in jury nullification." Do you share that concern?

RASKIN: Well, RICO has been used mostly not against the mafia, if you look at all of the RICO prosecutions in the country at the federal and state level, and of course there would be something strange about a law that applies only to one group. It applies to a pattern of racketeering activity that is organizing people together into a conspiracy in order to achieve an illegal end, in this case the overthrow of a presidential election and substituting a counterfeit process made up of fake electors for the actual process that the people voted on.

So there are lots of component criminal parts to it and there were a lot of people involved, and that to me seems as if it's custom made for a RICO prosecution the way that we've developed it. If people want to talk about reforming the RICO statute, then we can analyze that. But it's been upheld against constitutional attack repeatedly.

BASH: Five of the 19 individuals charged as part of this conspiracy are now asking to move to federal court. And it raises questions about whether a state can charge individuals for actions that they allegedly took when they were federal officials.

Do you believe that these cases dealing with individuals who were working for the federal government or elected officials in the federal government like the president belong in federal court?


RASKIN: Well, there is no question that the state has the power to prosecute someone who is a federal official or a federal employee. You can just think about a federal official employee who engages in a

bank robbery or a murder, obviously the state would get to prosecute them. That is a statute which says that if a federal office or employee is conducting their federal work under an order from a superior to execute a federal policy, then they can petition to have that removed to federal court. If they're being prosecuted for work they were doing as part of their job.

So, that, of course, raises the question, when Mark Meadows tries to remove from Georgia state court to federal court, whether he was actually engaged in the work of the federal government and he was acting pursuant to a federal policy, the court is going to have to rule on that.

In any event, even if it is removed, all that this means is that the federal court will conduct the state criminal prosecution under the auspices of the federal judiciary.

BASH: So you're saying it doesn't have much of a pragmatic change? I mean, one obvious change is you won't actually see it.

RASKIN: Well ...

BASH: In Georgia you would actually have a camera in the courtroom. But beyond that?

RASKIN: That's right. Well, we won't be able to see it and also obviously after four years of packing the courts with Federalist Society bloggers, someone like Mark Meadows is going to feel a lot more comfortable in federal court. There is a political irony there of course because these are supposedly the big champions of state courts and state law. But they're trying to flee from it as quickly as possible to get into the warmer climate of the federal judiciary which they have worked so hard to gerrymander.

BASH: A judge in Georgia is now saying that fake elector mastermind Kenneth Chesebro's racketeering trial will start on October 23rd. That's just about two months from now. Will it help Donald Trump and other defendants like Rudy Giuliani or Mark Meadows to see what happens in earlier trials and try to learn from it?

RASKIN: I imagine so. You know, I think that the key thing here is the establishment of the fact because Mr. Chesebro has petitioned for a speedy trial, that it's perfectly legitimate to have a trial this year to make it happen in the fall. And that the courts are fully equipped to do that. But I think obviously the defendants are going to be able to learn from each other's experiences. But they're up against a mountain of evidence that they were involved in this complex conspiracy to accomplish a single criminal objective which is to overthrow our actual presidential election and substitute a counterfeit process for it.

BASH: 2024 presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson who will join me in a bit, he says that Donald Trump might be disqualified from holding office based on the 14th Amendment which says that U.S. officials who engage in insurrection or rebellion or aid and comfort them, cannot hold office again.

You were not only an impeachment manager in the January 6 impeachment of Donald Trump, you were a constitutional scholar. So do you agree with Asa Hutchinson on this?

RASKIN: Well, absolutely, and we've been saying all along that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment presents a clear and unequivocal statement that anyone who has sworn an oath of office, and by the way not just the president but members of Congress and others who hold federal office, who engage in insurrection or rebellion, having sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, can never serve again in federal or state office.

And this was added after the civil war as a general constitutional principle, and we have to abide by it. Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection against the union and then 57 of 100 senators determined as a constitutional fact that Donald Trump had incited an insurrection.

So I think you've got robust, bicameral, bipartisan majorities that have already established this as a fact and I agree with the conservative Federalist Society law professors who are out there saying as well as Mr. Hutchinson that Donald Trump is disqualified just as if he were running and not a born U.S. citizen or if he were running and he were 24 years old.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask about President Biden releasing a tweet literally as Donald Trump was arriving at Fulton County, in the jail, and he said, "Apropos of nothing, I think today is a great day to give to my campaign," and there is a link to donate.


Are you comfortable with President Biden fund-raising off of Donald Trump's indictment and arrest?

RASKIN: I mean, I think it would be strange if President Biden had to organize his campaign schedule around all of the court appearances and pleas and mug shots of Donald Trump. I think Joe Biden should be free to run his campaign and if it happens to coincide with something happening in Donald Trump's extremely voluminous and complex legal docket, that's Donald Trump's problem, it's not Joe Biden's problem.

BASH: Yes. Well, it was coinciding on purpose because he was fund- raising off of it. But we're going to have to leave it there.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

And up next...

RASKIN: The pleasure is all mine. Thanks for having me, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

Up next: A popular Midwestern governor gets called on to step up. He says he's fine right where he is, but what would he tell Joe Biden about how to rebuild his 2020 map?

The Illinois governor, J.B. Pritzker, joins me in moments.

And ahead: when telling the truth gets you in trouble. Asa Hutchinson takes a stand on the debate stage and makes clear he's nearly a man alone in the 2024 field.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Attack ads shall appear from Joe Biden. And, in fact, he wasted little time going on offense attacking his potential rivals on the other side of the ballot on abortion. But days after Republicans tangled in Milwaukee, Mr. Biden finds himself questioning -- trying to answer a question that's hard to shake. 436 days from the 2024 election, should he be the Democrat on the ballot in 14 months? His age and economic pessimism leave some inside of the party saying, maybe there should be another option.

Let's talk to my next guest about all of that, Democratic governor, J. B. Pritzker of Illinois. He was a member of the Biden advisory team. Thank you so much for joining me, sir.

You are -- I think you're currently on the president's advisory board for re-election. Recent national polling has him neck-and-neck against Donald Trump, a candidate who, of course, was just arrested for the fourth time. Why is it so close?

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): Well, let's face it.

All of the attention's been on the Republican side with the in- fighting and the debate that just went on. They can't decide on who the challenger on their side is going to be to Donald Trump, and it appears that the guy who is rising in the polls and the one who is going to be the big challenger to Donald Trump will be Ramaswamy, who I just heard on your program say that he thinks that racism is over in the United States and that white supremacist is OK. I think the American people understand that that's not where they are and that's extreme.

In fact, we see a smorgasbord of extremism on their side of the aisle where Joe Biden is just doing his job, and for the last two and a half years gotten more done than most presidents get done in eight years for working families across the United States.

BASH: Yes. And I hear you, Governor. But when polls show Joe Biden neck-and-neck with Donald Trump who definitely has gotten a lot of attention, but you would think that attention, given that it's been four indictments four arrests has been negative attention, why is this sitting Democratic president neck-and-neck with him?

PRITZKER: Well, I think when you put up a candidate directly with Joe Biden and compare the records, Joe Biden is doing much better than any Republican could. And like I said, he's gotten a lot done. You're saying that you guys keep repeating that Joe Biden is older than you think he should be, but remember, he brings a ton of experience.

This is a guy who spent years in the United States Senate, he's worked across the aisle, look at how much he's gotten done because he worked across the aisle. And why would you throw all of that out?

BASH: So, it's experience. I want to ask specifically about the economy. Poll numbers, again, show it's the number one issue for voters, it usually is. Here's one ad that is airing in battleground states from the president.


NARRATOR: Today, unemployment is at record lows. Our economy is leading the world. Joe Biden passed historic laws to rebuild the country. There are some who say America is failing. Not Joe Biden.


BASH: But we've seen poll after poll show that just isn't resonating yet with a lot of Americans. What is your recommendation as a mid- western governor for the president to do to make that message resonate more? Do you think he has to acknowledge the reality more that people aren't feeling the economic recovery that he sees and touts when it comes to the data?

PRITZKER: Well, remember, we've just come out of a terrible global pandemic and the economic consequences of that, it was Joe Biden that led us out of that. And it's true that when people are hurting, and then things start improving, it takes a while for people to start to recognize the actual reality of the economy doing much, much better.

There are more jobs. In fact, here in Illinois, I can give you an example. We have many more jobs available than we have people. That's good for workers and working families, their wages are rising. We are protecting a woman's right to choose in every democratic state, and even in the swing states, people believe that as an important factor in the 2024 campaign. We've barely begun to talk about that with voters.

BASH: Yes.

PRITZKER: And Joe Biden is the leader on so many issues that are important to their futures.

BASH: You mentioned abortion, it was, of course, a big topic on the GOP debate stage and continues to be in the race for the Republican nominee.


In your state, in Illinois, there is a protection for the right to an abortion up until fetal viability. After that, around 24 weeks, abortions are illegal except for the life or health of the mother. Do you believe that more national Democrats should support that limitation on abortion?

PRITZKER: Well, I believe that is where most Democrats are, in fact. And it's about a woman making a decision for herself with her doctor, not with a politician in the room making the decision for her. Women should be able to do this on their own.

And that's what we've done in Illinois. We've guaranteed that right. That's what's happening in Michigan, in Minnesota, in Wisconsin, we're fighting to make sure that that happens by electing good people to their Supreme Court. And that is what is going -- those are kinds of issues that are going to win it in 2024, recognition by the voters that it's Democrats that are standing up for their individual rights.

BASH: Not all Democrats are as clear as you are about -- and as your law now is in Illinois that you signed about, again, not just allowing abortion up until viability, but making it illegal afterwards. So, you think that that is where most Democrats are? Do you think they should be more robust in explaining their position more broadly?

PRITZKER: Well, after 24 months, it is a decision made by a woman with her doctor.

That's what's happening in Illinois, and that is the right that we've guaranteed. In fact, we're seeing people from across country come to Illinois to exercise their rights at every point in this process and especially when women are being rejected to exercise those rights in Indiana, in Iowa, in Kentucky, in Wisconsin, we're trying to change that across the country. But most importantly, protect that right here.

We've seen tens of thousands of people trying to exercise those rights. And we think that in 2024, with the Republicans trying to essentially outlaw abortion across the United States, and certainly take away a woman's rights, that it's very important for us to communicate with voters that it's Democrats that are protecting women, Republicans are trying to take away those rights.

BASH: You mentioned the president's age and that he should lean into the fact that it brings experience.

He would be 86 years old by the end of his second term if he wins re- election. And the president's age is an issue, it's not -- it's the voters who are raising questions about it. He has said, watch me, and touts his first term agenda. But Americans seem to be looking for a bit more reassurance. Is that possible? How should the president handle that?

PRITZKER: Well, again, it's him actually accomplishing things that should be proof to people that he's the right man for the job going forward. Nobody talks about the fact that Donald Trump is similar age to Joe Biden. And the truth is that what Joe Biden is proving is that that age also brings experience.

And one more thing that you should recognize, because you've seen Joe Biden over 50 years now in public life. Here's one thing everybody knows. This is a man who brings empathy to everything that he does. And I think the working families of America want someone in the White House who actually cares about them and is kind.

The Republicans and particularly the leading Republican have demonstrated cruelty all along the way and that's just not something that the American people want in 2024.

BASH: Governor J. B. Pritzker of Illinois, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

PRITZKER: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And coming up: He broke with his party over Trump on the first debate stage. What will it mean for his chances to be on the second stage?

Presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson joins me in minutes.




VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now that everybody has gotten their memorized, preprepared slogans out of the way, we can actually have a real discussion now.


FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't make women feel like they have to decide on this issue, when you know we don't have 60 Senate votes in the House.

PENCE: Seventy percent of the American people support legislation to ban abortion...

HALEY: But 70 percent of the Senate does not.

PENCE: ... after a baby is capable experiencing pain. It's called leadership.



HALEY: Seventy percent of the Senate does not.


BASH: Onstage fireworks at the Republican debate this past week. Yes, that was this week.


BASH: My panel is here with me now.

Nice to see you all.

I'm going to start with you, Matt Mowers.

You worked for Governor Christie. You saw him on that stage. Big picture, what do you think the takeaway is for Republican voters...


BASH: ... particularly since Donald Trump wasn't there?

MOWERS: I think, too often, we focus on who the winners and losers are, when, really, you want to see, who took advantage of an opportunity to get in front of over 12 million Americans?

And I'd say 3.5 candidates kind of took advantage of that. Nikki Haley certainly rose to the moment. She had had a lot of attention on her initial announcement in February, kind of lost some attention and movement, until just the other night.

Vivek Ramaswamy, I mean, there's probably folks in our orbits who probably looked at him and say, wow, that guy was over the top. He was too much. He was too Trumpy. Republican primary voters love that right now.

I think Chris Christie, who you mentioned, did very well too. I mean, he was playing, obviously, to a crowd that was not in that audience. He is talking to independents in New Hampshire. He's talking to disaffected Democrats in New Hampshire who may become independents because they can't vote for Joe Biden in the New Hampshire primary.

That was his audience. I think he delivered. And my half-measure was Ron DeSantis. I know a lot of folks kind of compared him to Homer Simpson kind of hiding in the bushes or moving to the bushes. But if you talk to Republican primary voters at home, he hit singles and doubles, and no one came after him, which gave him a great opportunity.


BASH: Although, in a post-debate poll "The Washington Post" did, he -- they thought he did the best.

MOWERS: Yes. And I was talking to his team yesterday. They have been citing that poll to a lot of folks.

BASH: Yes, I'm sure, yes.


BASH: I would too.

Thirteen million people watched a non-Trump debate.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, of course. BASH: That's not nothing.

FINNEY: That is not nothing.

And, look, I think it shows that regardless of whether Trump is there or not, the Republican primary electorate and probably other voters were watching to see, OK, what is the future of the Republican Party? What is the Republican Party offering?

And what they saw was extremism. And they saw a party that, on three key issues, even to their own voters, reproductive freedom -- eight in 10 Americans support Roe v. Wade -- guns, as well as climate change, where none of them could even come up with an answer.

I mean, you saw post-debate focus group saying young Republicans who care about climate change were disappointed that they didn't hear much of an answer. So I think the problem for the Republican Party -- I agree, some folks had good nights. I think Nikki Haley did a good job trying to find a compromise and sound reasonable on reproductive rights.

I think they tried to make the best of the moment. And yet what a majority of Americans saw, if you're not a Republican primary voter, was, that's the future of the Republican Party. And it is out of step with America.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the big question is, a lot of what we heard, is it the future of the Republican Party or is it the past?

Is it a Republican Party that doesn't exist anymore? I'm hopeful that the fact that you see, for instance, in that "Washington Post" poll that someone like Nikki Haley has seen a lot more consideration from Republican voters. She's getting a lot of second looks. I think that's a good sign.

But at the same time, you still do have to wonder. Donald Trump wasn't up there on that stage. How different does this look when the field narrows a little, if Trump ever decides to hop back on that stage? I suspect a very different conversation.

JEFFREY NUSSBAUM, FORMER BIDEN SPEECHWRITER: And if I could try to play an intellectual game here and link one of your earlier segments to this segment, you had the Kings on, the March on Washington.

An interesting historical footnote is, both John Lewis and Dr. King didn't give the speech they wanted to give because they feared it would alienate the people they needed to bring over the vast middle. So, each of them tempered themselves.

And I think, in this debate, you saw Republicans refuse to do that in most cases. And so, ultimately, the goal is, yes, to win a primary, but it is to persuade the majority of Americans. And I think that this debate, watched by a lot of Americans who were not Republican primary voters, may serve to alienate them.

BASH: How so?

NUSSBAUM: Well, it's just, as Karen said, these are issues where the party showed itself, by and large, to be far apart from where Americans are on major and key voting issues, choice, climate.

Even -- even the sort of pile-on Biden on the economy is an argument that he has a very good counter to in lots of ways, based on his accomplishments and what we have seen in the economy recently.

MOWERS: That's not an argument the American people are buying, though; 34 percent of Americans right now approve of President Biden's handling of the economy. Over 60 percent disapprove of his overall job performance at this point.

So, arguably, the Republicans on stage are actually speaking for the majority of Americans on that issue. I think, to your point, you heard a lot of different ideas and different viewpoints on abortion. Nikki Haley, I thought, did a very good job putting in place a reasonable position on abortion that appeals to independents in the middle.

The American people aren't where the extremes of the Democrat Party are, and they're not where Mike Pence is either.

FINNEY: Well, but actually that's not the extremes, when eight in 10 Americans -- eight in 10 Americans don't agree on anything, and they support Roe v. Wade.

And, actually, having been part of this movement for over 10 years, I can tell that what we have seen in the middle is a real shift. We even saw it in the anniversary of the overturning of Dobbs. A majority of Americans think, actually, women should make these decisions, because they realize it's not about six weeks, 15 weeks, 20 weeks.

And, by the way, there's no such thing as abortion up to the day of delivery. That's ridiculous.

MOWERS: Well, there are in some places. There are.


FINNEY: That's called a surgery, actually. That's not called an abortion, so -- from a medical perspective. That's a political construct.

But what I would say is, those folks in the middle, what has changed since Dobbs -- and I think this is something that Republicans are trying to grapple with -- is the feeling of having a right, a freedom taken away, and the understanding since Dobbs has been overturned what we have seen happening to women, criminalizing women, criminalizing doctors, women losing their lives because there's so much fear about what to do, when people are saying, you know what?

The women and her doctors should make that decision. Government shouldn't be...

(CROSSTALK) SOLTIS ANDERSON: Nikki Haley specifically said, we shouldn't be criminalizing women. She talked personally about her own struggle to have children.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: That's why I think -- I don't want to speak for my Democratic friends up here, but I have to imagine watching Nikki Haley would make you a little nervous that you would probably rather run against Donald Trump than Nikki Haley.

The problem Haley's going to face is that I think one of the moments where she got the weakest response from the crowd was when she said, hey, everybody, Donald Trump's the least popular politician in America. We have got to move on beyond him. There were some boos out in that audience.


And I think the Republican electorate has not yet decided, yes, we actually think that direction is more likely to defeat Joe Biden. They still think Donald Trump is totally able to win.


BASH: I mean, every time somebody even remotely criticized Donald Trump, they were booed.


BASH: Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson.



Well, as our friend James Carville used to teach me, a man never stands taller than when he stoops to kiss an ass.


NUSSBAUM: And yet, on this debate stage...

FINNEY: Sounds like James.

NUSSBAUM: ... right, like, I think a lot of the candidates, they went -- when they didn't -- when they didn't kiss up, they got booed.

And, when they did, they debased themselves. And so they haven't cracked that code yet.

FINNEY: Can I just say, I think that's the other challenge, right?

We have been saying that people who haven't been criticizing Donald Trump haven't been doing so. Well, the ones who've been supporting him -- it's not like Chris Christie, who's been on the attack, is out rising in the polls.

I think the challenge...

MOWERS: In New Hampshire, he is.

FINNEY: OK, that's one state of -- how many do you have to win?


MOWERS: An important one, yes.

FINNEY: But point being, I think, nobody's found the right balance.

And I think Nikki Haley, to her credit, was trying to figure out and trying to be the truth-teller in the group. I don't know if that's going to work for her long term.

BASH: Donald Trump's Republican critics argue that he's toxic to general election voters, especially your former boss, that he's going to lose to President Biden again.

But a CBS poll taken before the debate says that's not how Republican voters see it. I mean, look at this. You think the candidate would definitely beat Biden? Trump is at 61 percent, and, again, just like pretty much every other poll, everybody else's double digits behind, and then some.

You think this is very telling.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: I think it's very telling.

And it's why folks like Ron DeSantis who have tried to say, look, if you like Trump, but you want a better shot at beating Biden, go for me, why that thus far has fallen flat. You see it in those numbers.

Additionally, in that poll, they asked the Republicans who are considering people besides Trump, well, why are you? And very few of them said, it's, I worry Trump can't win. I worry he's too controversial.

It was things more like, oh, I'm just seeing what options are out there. I'm kind of curious.

So they're not convinced yet that Trump can't win.

BASH: I want to go over to the Democratic side of the aisle and ask about a fund-raising letter that President Biden put out or his campaign put out just as Donald Trump was arriving at the Fulton County Jail.

And it said, "Apropos of nothing, I think today's a great day to give to my campaign," and there's a link to donate and there's a kind of a blurb about democracy from Joe Biden.

Is this the kind of thing he said he wasn't going to do?

NUSSBAUM: No, I think -- I think he is -- he has always said, don't compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative.

And when he is president -- and I could make an argument that, compared to the almighty, he's done a pretty good job on job creation, unemployment down, record number of manufacturing jobs, lowering prescription drug prices. I'd be happy to do that all day.

But when you are running against yourself, you don't look as good as you do when you look in comparison to someone else. And so if he calls a little attention to the split screen, I think that's totally fair game.

FINNEY: Well, it also was the night after the Republican debate.


FINNEY: So, it's a comparison to, here's what this field looks like, and the crime -- the Donald Trump crime syndicate image that we saw later in the day on the screen, and here's who I am, and here's what I have done.

And I actually think the president -- I'm going to go off of something that Bernie Sanders said to you earlier, because I would actually tweak what he said.

I think that one of the things that the president can be doing and Democrat seem to be doing is reminding people, we're fighting to keep money in your pocket. Republicans are trying to take it out of your pocket. And there's more to the Build Back agenda, like childcare costs, that would keep more money in your pocket.

And that's the argument for reelection.

BASH: All right, great discussion.

Thank you, everybody. I appreciate it.

Up next: The front-runner, as we have been discussing, is very much still the front-runner four indictments later. Why?

I will ask one of his competitors, presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson, after a quick break.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Joining me now is former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is joining me from his home state of Arkansas.

Thank you so much for being here.

I want to start with a moment on the debate stage. You were booed by the debate crowd for saying that you would not support Donald Trump for president if he is convicted of a crime. Last week, former Governor Larry Hogan told me that the fact that most candidates, almost all of them besides you and Chris Christie, raised their hands was disgusting, and he called it an embarrassment.

Is that how it felt on stage?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I was surprised. It was a very clear question as to whether we would support Donald Trump if he's convicted of serious felonies.

And I was the only one that -- that said very clearly that I would not support him. And so I was surprised at that. That doesn't seem to be a difficult question to me.

And I stood out at that moment. And whether I get booed in the audience is not really the relevant factor. The relevant factor is our country. It's our party. It's about standing on the principles that you believe in. And I stood out at that moment, and I'm proud of that decision. And it was the right call. And I hope more people identify with what I said.

BASH: I want to ask about comments from Vivek Ramaswamy. He was talking last week downplaying the prevalence of white supremacy, comparing Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to leaders of the Ku Klux Klan. You heard him on this program this morning stand by those comments.

You were a U.S. attorney, and you prosecuted violent white supremacist groups. I believe you even negotiated an end to an armed standoff while wearing a bulletproof vest. Given all of that, what's your reaction?

HUTCHINSON: Well, what you recited is true.

I have seen white supremacy in action. I have prosecuted them when they turned violent, and we put them in jail. And that's important for our society. And any time there is hate actions, like it appears to be in Jacksonville yesterday, we have to make sure that that's not something we're going to tolerate in America.


And that's one of the reasons, as governor, I signed a law that was our first hate crime law in Arkansas, making sure there was extra penalties for those that committed crimes in the name of racial hatred.

And so, whenever I hear Mr. Ramaswamy talk about this issue, he's not really looking at real life in America. Now, we can move beyond that. And the other thing that I'm concerned about -- it was Dr. King's 60th anniversary of his speech, and he was about expanding the voting base.

Mr. Ramaswamy wants to shrink the voting base and say those that are 18 years of age until 25 can't vote. And, to me, that was totally the wrong direction to bring young people in our party and set an example of where we need to move in our democracy and participation.

So, I think those are really important points to make today at -- near this anniversary of Dr. King's speech.

BASH: I want to ask about something that another one of your competitors, Ron DeSantis, said this week. He said he would send the U.S. military onto Mexican soil on day one of his presidency to try to stop the drug cartels.

One expert warned it would be a massive violation of sovereignty. You were also in your past a top border official under George W. Bush, the head of the DEA as well. Is that a realistic solution?

HUTCHINSON: Well, and I tried to make this point in the debate, when Governor DeSantis raised that issue to begin with, as well as others.

And there's a strategy that works in going after the cartel. I did that as head of the DEA when I worked with the Mexican government to go after the cartels. And we were successful, to a certain extent, at that time.

But that's the kind of cooperation that you need to build. You don't invade another friendly country that has historically been a commerce partner with us, an ally with us. And so you don't invade them. You work in cooperation with them. Sure, we need to put economic pressure on Mexico to cooperate to a greater extent in enforcing the rule of law.

These are all points that I made in the debate. And you have got to not just say what sounds great at the time, that you need to invade or you need to drop bombs. Sure, we need to utilize the military for intelligence-gathering purposes, but, obviously, we got to work in cooperation with Mexico.

BASH: The Trump campaign, Governor, says that it has raised more than $7 million since his arrest in Georgia, close to $20 million total since he was indicted -- indicted there. That's what they say. We haven't seen the FEC report, obviously, yet.

If it's accurate, what do you make of that?

HUTCHINSON: Well, in some ways, it's not a surprise.

Whenever you look at the way Donald Trump has misled his supporters from day one and continues to do so, he's depending upon those donations, and everything that he does is designed to raise more money to support his defense.

And, right now, whenever you look at the state of the Republican race, I think what everybody saw in the debate was that there are good alternatives to Donald Trump in leading our party and our country that will take us a different direction than Joe Biden.

But, secondly, it's going to take the base to be able to change, actually, those numbers. I think that will happen over time, but it takes people standing up, like I did on the debate stage. It takes people with courage that will tell the truth, in terms of where we are as a party and how this is defining moment for our country. And we can't be a party of grievance that Donald Trump wants to lead

us into or the past. It has to be the future and problem-solving. And that's what I want to bring, because that's what America needs right now.

BASH: You -- it was a little tough for you to hit the 40,000-donor requirement in order to make it on the first debate stage.

What has your fund-raising been like since the debate last week? Have you seen an increase in donations and overall donors.

HUTCHINSON: Outstanding.

And, actually, we did go over the 40,000 mark. It was after two weeks of getting about 20,000 new donors, and even on the debate night itself, we had almost 4,000 new donors that were added because of my debate appearance. And so momentum builds momentum, and very optimistic about being on the next debate stage, which will be in Simi Valley, California, at the Reagan Library, obviously an important occasion.


And I expect to be there.

BASH: So, just so our viewers know, in order to get on that debate stage next month, you, all the candidates, need to hit 50,000 donors and at least 3 percent in two national polls. You have one. Are you confident? You said you're confident, but are you confident you will reach both of those milestones in order to get there?

HUTCHINSON: Well, it's up to all your listeners.

And, obviously,, donation helps. And we will get there. The 3 percent, we actually made that in a recent poll. It hasn't been recorded in RealClearPolitics yet, but we have made that 3 percent. I just hope that pattern continues.

So we're going to continue with this message that's true, that is defining, that separates me apart, and I believe that will garner enough support to bring us to the next debate.

BASH: Former Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, joining me from Bentonville, Arkansas, your hometown, I really appreciate it.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And we will be right back.



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