Jagaul.com Business Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” Dec. 31, 2023

Full transcript of “Face the Nation,” Dec. 31, 2023

On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan: 

  • Camilo Montoya Galvez, CBS News immigration and politics reporter
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina 
  • Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Denver Mayor Mike Johnson 
  • David Becker, founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research and CBS News election law contributor 
  • Jo Lin Kent, CBS News senior business and technology reporter
  • Ben Tracy, CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”    

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.

And this week on Face the Nation: At year’s end, America’s immigration system is in crisis. Will 2024 finally bring some solutions?

Every day this month, thousands of migrants crossed America’s southern border into the U.S., increasing the strain on both federal officials and local communities. Meanwhile, bipartisan negotiators in the Senate are struggling to strike a deal that might stem the crisis and overhaul immigration laws for the first time in nearly 40 years.

But with the issue tied up in the debate over aid for Ukraine, Israel and more, what will it take to find a compromise?

We will check in with a top Republican negotiator, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. And we will hear from two Democratic mayors who say the influx of migrants has brought their cities to a breaking point, and they want more help from the Biden administration.

Then, with just over two weeks until voters begin to choose the Republican nominee, the candidates are furiously trying to topple front-runner Donald Trump and are struggling through some unforced errors.

(Begin VT)

NIKKI HALEY (R-Presidential Candidate): What do you want me to say about slavery?

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is Trump’s own candidacy in jeopardy, as two states seek to disqualify him, citing his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol?

In just nine days, an appeals court will consider Trump’s claim of presidential immunity. Special counsel Jack Smith warns in an urgent new court filing that all presidents can be held criminally liable and Trump should face consequences for trying to seize power despite losing the 2020 election.

We will get the latest from election law expert David Becker.

It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

We have a lot to get to on this New Year’s Eve, but we want to begin with the dire situation at the southern border. New Customs and Border Protection data obtained by CBS News show that agency is on track to process more than 300,000 migrants, an all-time monthly high. That includes record numbers of families and children.

Meanwhile, cities, states and federal law enforcement report being overwhelmed as the ripple effects spread from border communities to all across the country.

And, for the latest, we are joined now by CBS immigration and politics reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez.

Camilo, you have done some extraordinary reporting on this. Can you tell us, what is really driving the sharp increase and who is making up the majority of migrants?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: I think, Margaret, the more precise answer I can give you is that the push-and-pull factors that historically have driven migration to the U.S. have intensified to a degree that I don’t think we have ever seen in U.S. history.

We have a relatively stable economy here with many job openings, and that is driving a lot of migration. We also have an immigration system that is massively backlogged and cannot determine quickly who qualifies for asylum and who does not. That also attracts migration. Those are the pull factors.

But we have very powerful push factors as well. Deteriorating political and economic conditions in countries like Venezuela, in countries in Africa and Asia are driving record numbers of people to the U.S. This is truly an unprecedented crisis of humanitarian proportions along the border. We have never seen this before.

A quarter-of-a-million migrants are being processed each month at the U.S.- Mexico border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s breathtaking. And this is a hemisphere-wide crisis.


MARGARET BRENNAN: The president sent the homeland security secretary and secretary of state to Mexico to press Mexico’s president to help police that border.

What did they achieve?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Well, I was told that U.S. officials asked Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to increase enforcement within the interior of Mexico to stem the flow of migration further south at the Guatemala-Mexico border and effectively divert migrants away from Northern Mexico and along the U.S. border.

And it really does illustrate the outsized role that Mexico plays in how we deal with this incredibly complex and vexing problem. We are relying on Mexico, Margaret, to do much of this border enforcement and immigration policy, because they really are the key player in this debate. They have to accept the returns of non-Mexicans, and that is a big diplomatic task for the Biden administration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we know that some of those ports have actually been shut down…

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Yes, for commercial…

MARGARET BRENNAN: For commercial…

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: … and vehicle traffic, which is a huge economic…

MARGARET BRENNAN: Has an economic – yes.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: … yes, consequence for Mexico and the U.S., correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, exactly.

This is just beyond humanitarian crisis. We are at so many levels of complexity now.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Texas’ governor has signed into law that hasn’t yet taken effect, but it would in March…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … the ability for his state law enforcement to stop migrants and arrest them.

Texas has vowed that they will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court. But the Biden administration is going to take them on.

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: This will be one of the most important legal clashes on immigration in 2024. The Justice Department has already told Texas that this law will undermine relations with Mexico and prevent federal officials from enforcing federal immigration laws, including U.S. asylum law, which allows migrants on U.S. oil to request asylum, even, Margaret, if they enter the country illegally.

This law not only allows Texas to prosecute and jail migrants on actions that are already legal on federal grounds, on federal statutes, but it also allows state judges to issue what are effectively deportation orders, even though Mexico has said that it will reject returns of migrants from the state of Texas.

The Justice Department has given Texas until Wednesday to say that it will abandon plans to enforce this law as planned in March, but that is very unlikely to happen. Texas, I think, will try to implement this law, so we should expect a prolonged legal battle, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And potential development as soon as this Wednesday.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, that brings us back to what’s happening here in Washington, or what’s not happening, frankly…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … with lawmakers talking about trying to put together some piece of legislation…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … to change immigration laws, which haven’t really been updated in decades.



MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, and to put in the funding that President Biden has asked them for.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Where are we in those negotiations?

CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Well, the White House, importantly, is currently entertaining some sweeping border restrictions, including an authority to expel migrants when Border Patrol is overwhelmed and to suspend asylum law, just like the Title 42 pandemic era policy that ended earlier this year, to convince Republicans to get on board in terms of backing additional aid to Ukraine.

That would have been unthinkable just three years ago, and it speaks to the situation we’re in at the U.S.-Mexico border. I think that these talks will intensify in January. They could very well collapse because we are dealing, after all, with immigration. And, as you know, Congress has been desperately gridlocked on this issue for decades, but I think there are two different factors here at play that could make this a different scenario.

The White House really wants aid to Ukraine, and it is under tremendous political pressure to do something new at the U.S.-Mexico border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Camilo, we will continue to follow your reporting.

And we’re going to turn now to one of those negotiators involved in the talks. That is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is with us from Seneca, South Carolina.

Senator, welcome back to the program.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina): Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard laying out for you all the incredible things that are now being considered in this proposed deal, that they seem significant.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that you and the Republicans involved in this negotiation can get the party to sign on?


We need to do it, not only for Ukraine, but for our own national security.

I look at the border problem as a national security nightmare for America. The threats to America are at all-time high from jihadist groups. We have a broken border, 300,000 people in December alone, up about 400 percent from 2020.

Here’s the key, I think. We’re asking the administration to use Title 42- type authority to tell people we’re full. It takes four years to get your asylum claim heard. We have 1.7 million people who are ready to be deported, but they just won’t deport them. We need to send some people out of the country to stop the inflow.

But Title 42 authority in the hands of any administration willing to use it would stop this. When you come to our border, we say, I’m sorry, we’re full.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, at what number would you institute this? And just to be clear, this would allow for the expulsion of migrants without a guarantee of an asylum hearing.



SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: OK. Here’s what – yes.

So, OK, we turned people back because of COVID. We have a pandemic in the country. Our system is broken. You’re going to have mayors talking about more money to help relocate migrants.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: We’re not going to have a remain-in-Texas policy.

I don’t know if Abbott will win in court having a state law to deal with this. I don’t know if he will or not, but he’s a desperate man trying to protect his state.

So, to the mayors, call up the White House and say, work with Republicans to change asylum, change parole, but implement a Title 42 authority that would stop the inflow.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: We’re full. Don’t come.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will talk to the mayors about that. They are actually asking the Biden administration for help.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But are you suggesting here that there isn’t yet agreement on expulsion authority in your group of negotiators?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: There is – there is – I am telling you right now, expedited removal is on the table. They want more exceptions to make the rule almost meaningless. We’re having to pull teeth to change policy.

This is not irregular migration. That’s a bunch of B.S. This is a predictable outcome of bad policy choices made right after Biden became president. We all said, if you do away with remain-in-Mexico, you’re going to have a run on the border. Bad choices led to this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you know the Supreme Court got involved in that. And that’s complicated with the Mexican government too.

But, in the past…

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: No, it’s not complicated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, in the past…

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: No, it’s not complicated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: … you have suggested in interviews that parole was a sticking point, specifically, that part of the policy.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: It still is. It still is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it the deal-breaker for you? What do you want to change?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, under our law, you’re supposed to parole people on an individual basis. They’re using humanitarian parole, a concept not even in law, to parole people at 145,000 a clip.

I want to go back to the original intent of the law. I don’t want to do anything dramatic. I just want to enforce the law. The asylum laws are being abused. Let’s change them. Title 42 authority needs to be reapplied here on the concept that America is full.

If you have to wait four years for an asylum hearing, let’s slow down the asylum system; 1.7 million…


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … people are ready to be deported. Let’s deport them before we let new people in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you said you are not asking for what the House was demanding, this bill known as H.R.2.




MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you been talking at all to Speaker Johnson about what he would be willing to put on the floor?


MARGARET BRENNAN: What is he willing to do?


We need policy changes that address the pull factors. There’s nothing irregular going on in the world. This was created by policy choices that created new pull factors. So, asylum reform, limitations on parole, reinvoking Title 42, I think, would be enough to get it through the House.

The policy changes have to be real. We have to start deporting people to slow down the inflow. If you see people leaving the country, people are less likely to show up at the border. So I’m urging the Biden administration – when Trump gets to be president, if he does…


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: … if you’re here illegally, you’re going to be deported. There’s going to be mass deportation under Donald Trump of people here in violation of the law who have received a final order of deportation. They’re going to be going.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, some of those have restarted in terms of Venezuela. As you know, there are a lot of complicating diplomatic factors here with some of the countries you’re talking about.

But I want to make sure I ask you about the connection here to Ukraine.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You have seen this incredible attack…


MARGARET BRENNAN: … by Russia on Kyiv, some of the most significant missile attacks since this war has begun.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And it happens days after the United States sends the last shipment of aid for 2023.

Do you see a connection? And when will Ukraine aid actually be able to get through the Senate?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: It will be a package. I want to help Israel. They’re under siege. And I’m not objecting to Secretary Blinken sending them weapons as an emergency declaration. I think it makes sense.

Ukraine, I want to help desperately, but we have got to help ourselves. I cannot come back to South Carolina and talk about giving aid to Ukraine and Israel if the border is still broken. It is not broken. It’s in chaos. I cannot tell you the humanitarian problems people are suffering due to this immigration.

But our national security is very much at risk.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: So, Ukraine aid has to be tied to border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but we’re still not there on border. So both seem very much at risk right now.


Here’s what I would tell the Biden administration. Accept the idea that we’re full. Let – give us – take the tools we’re willing to give you to stop the inflow. Start deporting people here who should be deported. Then you will turn things around pretty quickly.

To the Biden administration, accept the tools that will change things and will get money for Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to also make sure, since you are on the Judiciary Committee, I ask you about what is happening right now with this pressure for the Supreme Court eventually potentially to take on some of these cases involving the election.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You said back in 2021, after the Senate impeachment trial, you said of Donald Trump: “The president’s conduct is subject to the law of the land. If you believe he committed a crime, he could still be prosecuted after he’s out of office.”

Do you stand by that statement that Mr. Trump could be prosecuted and criminally liable?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yes, it depends on what the conduct is.

Now, if you’re doing your job as president, and, January the 6th, he was still president, trying to find out if the election was on the up-and-up, I think his immunity claim, I don’t know how it will bear out, but I think it’s a legitimate claim.

But they’re prosecuting him for activity around January the 6th. He didn’t break into the Capitol. He gave a fiery speech, but he’s not the first guy to ever do that. So, at the end of the day, I think this case will not go to trial before the election. I think there are more legal issues around this than you can even imagine about what – what – what can a president do as president, what are the limitations of being president?

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, to be clear, you do not believe that a president should be immune from prosecution if he committed a felony?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, it depends on – right. I mean, nobody’s immune from the law, but you do have presidential immunity to do your job.

I mean, I have immunity to do my job under the Speech and Debate Clause. That’s what the legal issue is. This went before the nation through impeachment. He got acquitted. I think January 6 is baked into the cake. I think the Jack Smith cases are not changing the political outcome in polling.

We will see what the court does. At the end of the day, Donald Trump is in a good position to win the Republican primary, because Republicans believe he had a good presidency. And I think he can win the general election. And all these – like in Maine, knocking him off the ballot, the secretary of state in Maine is a pretty radical person.

She said the Electoral College was a product of white supremacy. No, it’s a product of negotiation. Civil War was about slavery. The Electoral College was about negotiations between small states and large states.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, all this will go to the courts, as you’re laying out there.



MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to talk about that ahead with David Becker, our election law expert.

Senator Graham, good to have you with us.

Face the Nation will be back in a moment. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: For more on how immigration is affecting communities across the U.S., we turn now to two Democratic mayors, Chicago’s Brandon Johnson and Denver’s Mike Johnston.

Gentlemen, welcome to Face the Nation.

BRANDON JOHNSON (D-Mayor of Chicago, Illinois): Good morning.

MIKE JOHNSTON (D-Mayor of Denver, Colorado): Thank you for having us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks for joining us.

And, Mr. Mayor of Chicago, I want to put to you a question about what seems to have developed overnight. There are reports of a plane from Texas landing in Chicago carrying more migrants that arrived around 1:00 a.m. I’m wondering if Texas officials gave you any heads-up. Who’s on the plane? What happens next?

MAYOR BRANDON JOHNSON: Well, what we have is clearly, clearly an international and federal crisis that local governments are being asked to subsidize.

And this is unsustainable. None of our local economies are positioned to be able to carry on such a mission. And what we have attempted to do is to create structure and some coordination around this humanitarian crisis. And, unfortunately, the governor of Abbott – the governor of Texas, Governor Abbott, is determined to continue to sow seeds of chaos.

And last night and several nights before, a number of buses continue to arrive in the city of Chicago and throughout the country without any coordination. And now he’s taken on this very dangerous task of placing individuals on airplanes and flying them into our various cities. This is certainly a matter of – not just of our national security, but it’s the type of chaos that this governor is committed to administering.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Mayor, Mr. Mayor of Denver, to be clear here, I know that you have looked at New York and Chicago making decisions to restrict bus arrivals.

Are you trying to take measures in your city to restrict them from even arriving in the first place?

MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON: No, all we want is a system that is – that is humanitarian for both the new folks that are arriving and for our cities and our city employees.

And so we understand there will be an inflow. We have already had 35,000 migrants arrive to Denver. We have successfully helped them integrate into the country here. What we don’t want is people arriving at 2:00 in the morning at a city and county building with women and children outside in 10-degree weather and no support.

And so we want buses here to do whatever the bus does, which is land at a bus station and a bus stop and hours when we can have staff there to receive them and to direct them toward services. And so we understand the flow is coming. We just want it to be coordinated, and in a humanitarian way, which we think makes it effective for the city and for those newcomers.

So that means things like arriving 8:00 to 5:00 Monday to Friday with notice.


And I understand that you haven’t been able to get the state of Texas to stop sending people. But when it comes to your party’s leadership, as Senator Graham said, you have asked the White House for more help. Did they respond to your public call?

MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON: Yes, we’ve talked to the White House. We’ve talked to leadership there. we think they agree on the core needs that we see.

I mean, we think this is a solvable problem. There are key priorities we need. We need federal dollars to help support our work here in the cities. We also need federal dollars for more support at the border, the ability to adjudicate asylum claims more quickly, so they can be done in 90 days, and not in four to six years.

That makes a massive difference. If we have the resources for cities to support us, if we have – when people arrive, we actually have work authorization when they get to a place like Denver, so we can put them to work, which is what they want, and we have a coordinated entry plan, where it’s not just the governor of Texas deciding what cities to send people to, but it’s actually the way we’ve welcomed asylees in this country for years.


MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON: When we had asylees from Afghanistan or Ukraine, we had federal support, we had coordinated entry, we had work authorization.


MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON: And those efforts worked quite smoothly. America knows how to do this. We think we can do it here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Those are different programs for those refugees. But I hear your point on the work authorization.

Mayor Johnson of Chicago, did the White House give you what you need in your public call this week?

MAYOR BRANDON JOHNSON: Well, look, I think there’s no secret here that we need comprehensive – comprehensive immigration – immigration reform.

This comprehensive immigration reform would certainly transform this situation. In fact, it solves this – this crisis. What we have said repeatedly is that we need Congress to act to provide the resources that are needed in order to – to carry out this mission.

But what we can’t have is a governor in the state of Texas acting the way he is acting. And, quite frankly, the rogue buses that are being dropped off across this country in the middle of the night, leaving people with – with no real support at all, no coordination with the local municipalities, that type of chaos is – it’s certainly dividing our country.

And we need better coordination between all levels of government to be able to respond to this mission.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you reach out to the governor – I’m – I’m assuming you have – do you get any response?

MAYOR BRANDON JOHNSON: Well, we sent an entire delegation to the border to see firsthand what’s happening at the border. I have actually spoken with leaders of the Mexican government.

They’re having the same challenges that we’re having here in America. And so there has to be a real coordinated effort to be able to respond to this crisis. Again, putting people on airplanes, and dropping them off in the city of Chicago and Denver, New York, without any coordination, without a manifest, I don’t know how many federal laws or aviation laws he can be violating.

But this type of chaos is not what’s needed in this moment. We need a coordinated effort between all levels of government to ensure that this humanitarian mission that’s an international crisis is met with the type of civility and sanctity that’s required.


I mean, I checked the weather and both of your cities. It’s 32 degrees in Chicago. It’s 25 degrees in Denver. I’m guessing someone walking across from Mexico isn’t outfitted for that kind of frigid arrival.

MAYOR BRANDON JOHNSON: Yes. That’s absolutely right.


MAYOR MIKE JOHNSTON: We say that every day. We have folks arrive in T- shirts and sandals.


It’s – I want to talk about this more, but I have to take a commercial break. So, if you would both stay with us. As we do that, I will be right back with you and be back with you all in a moment.

So, stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Tune in to Face the Nation next Sunday for an interview with House Speaker Mike Johnson. We will travel to the border to speak with him, getting his thoughts on immigration reform and the rest of the agenda in Washington, as Congress begins a new year.

We will be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with the mayors of Denver and Chicago, as well as our election law expert, David Becker.

Back in a moment.



We pick up where we left off with Denver Mayor Mike Johnston and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Gentlemen, I do want to pick back up on one of the points you raised.

Mr. Johnston of Denver, the White House says it takes 30 days to process work permits and temporary protected status for – for some of these migrants. You’re saying you need people to arrive ready to work. What happens in that 30-day period? Why is that not fast enough?

MIKE JOHNSTON (Mayor of Denver): Yes, we were grateful for the government’s action, including the secretary’s action, to provide temporary protective status for Venezuelans who arrived before July 31st. We advocated for that. They made that change. That was a huge help.

The challenge now is Venezuelans who have arrived in the last several months are not eligible for that temporary protective status. They often don’t have a path to work authorization and they may have an asylum claim that is three or four or five years in the waiting until the claim is heard. And so the challenge on our city streets, we have folks that are here who whenever I talk to migrants, I was with them yesterday, they’ll just say, I only want one thing, which is the ability to work. And we have employers calling me every day saying, hey, mayor, I have open jobs, can I please hire these folks. But we have folks that right now are currently without a path to work authorization. We’d love to see that path to work authorization expand for more recent arrivals the same way the secretary of health did be possible for those who arrived before July 31st.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that was done through – through federal authority through the administration. But changing the law would require Congress to – to alter some of these programs. I thought it was interesting, Mayor Johnson of Chicago, you also made the point that when it came to Afghanistan and Ukrainians, they arrived without a problem in your city and that you would like to replicate that program for everyone.

BRANDON JOHNSON (Mayor of Chicago): That’s exactly right. There are 30,000 Ukrainian refugees that are in the city of Chicago right now. The difference is, of course they were fully supported by the federal government and they were able to acclimate themselves and integrate into our economy. We have a number of asylum seekers from Central and South America and the continent of Africa, and the question is, why are we not providing that same support and treatment here?

Look, the bottom line is this, we need Congress to act. And we need them to do it expeditiously. But we cannot have the type of chaos that continues to come from the state of Texas. And, clearly, the governor of Texas, Governor Abbott, is certainly afraid and mad, but he can’t cut his own nose off, right? And so what we’re simply saying, and what I’ve done over a month ago, we provided an ordinance that would ultimately provide some structure and some coordination around when busses should arrive. Should not be dropping people off in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere without the type of support that’s needed.


Very quickly, before I let you go, I read, Mayor Johnson of Chicago, less than two weeks ago a five-year-old boy died after falling ill at a migrant shelter in your city. What state are people showing up in, and what is the health risk here, if any?

BRANDON JOHNSON: Well, our condolences are still with the family and we continue to pray for the – the – the family who lost their – their child. I’m a father of three. This is just an unimaginable pain.

But what is very clear is that not only are we providing mental health related services, as well as vaccinations and health screenings, and providing medical health care for these families when they arrive the moment they get off those busses, we’re not seeing that same treatment at the border. In other words, there’s no health screenings, no vaccinations. That process at the border is absolutely raggedy and reckless, but we cannot have a governor who decides that he’s going to cling to the vestiges of Jefferson Davis when we should be pulling to the hopes and aspirations that were left by Frederick Douglas. We have to have a coordinated response to this humanitarian crisis. We cannot allow chaos to dictate and to divide this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will wait to hear from Governor Abbott’s office in response to that.

Mr. Mayors, thank you both for joining us.

We’ll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the 2024 election. The Supreme Court is under growing pressure to quickly resolve the question of whether former President Trump is eligible to serve as president after two states, Colorado and Maine, have moved to strike him from the Republican primary ballot for allegedly supporting an insurrection.

For more we turn to CBS News election law contributor David Becker, the founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

David, it’s always good to have you here to cut through the politics on this.

Both of Maine’s senators, an independent and Republican, said they disagreed with this, even though they both personally voted to convict Trump in the Senate trial that involved (ph) the allegation that he helped to carry out an insurrection. Do you think that this decision to try to remove him from the primary ballot in Maine will stand up in court?

DAVID BECKER: Well, it’s a – it’s a big question. The Supreme Court has never resolved this issue, especially with regard to a president, about what engaging in insurrection means under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Now, of course, as you just mentioned, both senators from Maine and a majority of the U.S. Senate, including seven Republican senators, voted to disqualify Donald Trump from the presidency in February of 2021, as did a majority of the United States House, including 10 Republican members of the House. So, it’s clear that this is an open question. There’s legitimacy to the question. And it has to be resolved by the United States Supreme Court. They are the final arbiter of what the United States Constitution means. And this 14th Amendment still exists – it might be inconvenient, but it exists, and it has to have meaning. It doesn’t say convicted of insurrection, it says engaged in insurrection. And we’ve seen it applied in other offices, as in New Mexico just last year, to someone who was not convicted of insurrection, someone who was convicted of criminal trespass against the Capitol on January 6th.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Interesting, because the special counsel, Jack Smith, has not invoked insurrection in his federal case against the former president.

In terms of what happened in Colorado, which was the first state to try to do this, to remove Trump from the primarily ballot, he – in Maine Chris Christie’s not on the primary ballot. In New Hampshire, Joe Biden is not on the primary ballot. So, does any of this really matter I guess is the question?

DAVID BECKER: Well, I think it might matter. And certainly we need this resolved because Donald Trump may very well end up being the nominee. And it’s important to resolve this as quickly as we can and on the merits so that the Republican Party knows if it has a qualified nominee so that election officials can print their ballots, which has to be done well in advance, so the voters know what the choices are.

But as you point out, it’s not anti-democratic per se to disqualify someone from the ballot. There are – everyone under 35 is disqualified from being the president of the United States. Anyone who’s not a natural born citizen, for instance, Governor Schwarzenegger, former Governor Schwarzenegger of California is not eligible to be president. Barack Obama and George W. Bush aren’t eligible to be president because they’ve served two full terms. So, this is working through the process. This is the beginning of that process. And, fortunately, whether you agree with it or not, this process is moving quickly. And the Supreme Court now has it, at least in reference to the Colorado case. And hopefully they’ll recognize, and I think they will recognize, the importance of them ruling clearly and quickly on this issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Republican Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who endorsed Governor DeSantis, was out there yesterday on the campaign trail, and he said, “Congress is the ultimate arbiter of whether we recognize electors from the states or not.” He said, “I could be inclined to not recognize electors from those states because he doesn’t like what they’re trying to do here.

Can they? Can he do that?

DAVID BECKER: Well, first of all, as we saw in 2021, on January 6th, Congress can’t just decide to throw out the results of an election they don’t like. Members of Congress aren’t going to like the results in every single year, but that’s not the way the Constitution works. And the Electoral Count Act, which applied in 2020 and 2021, was reformed last year.


DAVID BECKER: And we now have an Electoral Count Reform Act. And this strengthens the guardrails. It requires more members to Congress to object – 20 percent of each house of Congress to object in order to send it into deliberations. It applies stronger presumptions with regards to the electoral certificates that are submitted by the executive, buy the governors in the states, if they’re done on time, December 11th and December 17th, as it occurs in 2024.

So, I think it’s going to be very difficult for Congress to just dismiss that. Also important to note, that Congress that gets to decide this is the next Congress. It’s not the Congress that’s currently sitting, it’s the Congress that’s elected in November of 2024. So, the majorities might shift. And so assumptions made now might not apply in January 2025.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And if you are not a U.S. citizen you cannot vote, but Donald Trump is saying that that’s part of this migrant crisis, part of a conspiracy.

DAVID BECKER: Yes. It’s true, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you don’t have the right to vote.


DAVID BECKER: The protections in place are stronger than ever before.


DAVID BECKER: There’s federal law that is applied for over two decades that requires every voter to show I.D. in order to register to vote.


DAVID BECKER: And we’ve studied this for years, and we know that fraud is very, very minimal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: David, thank you.

DAVID BECKER: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Now to the latest in the war between Israel and Hamas. IDF ground forces are pushing deeper into southern Gaza and war planes are striking refugee camps in the center of the territory.

Ian Lee is in Sderot, near the Gaza border, with more.


IAN LEE (voice over): Street by street, house by house, Israeli forces press the offensive deeper into Gaza targeting Hamas and their massive tunnel network, including what Israel says is the headquarters of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. Militants fight back, putting up stiff resistance.

Last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis the war could last months longer, saying, “we continue to fight until the completion of all the objectives of the war.”

But more fighting means more suffering for the people of Gaza. Nearly 2 million Palestinians have fled their homes cold and hungry. Tents now dominate the southern Gaza city of Rafah. CBS News witnessed thousands standing in a food line, their only hope for a meal.

Amina al Raffi (ph) fled Gaza City with her four children. A can of chickpeas is all they have to eat.

“We face cold, hunger, and thirst. The water is salty. As for hygiene, it’s hard to keep clean,” she says.

The U.N. reports widespread outbreaks of disease, including respiratory infections and diarrhea.

While in the West Bank, violence spiked after Hamas’ October attack. Israeli military has killed more than 300 people since then. The U.N. is now warning of the rapid deterioration of Palestinian rights in the territory. And in northern Israel, militants launch rockets, mortars and missiles from Syria and Lebanon. Israel responds in force.

MAN: So we were called on –

IAN LEE (voice over): Captain Aton (ph) of the Northern Parachute Brigade showed me their positions. They’re all that stands between Hezbollah and Israeli communities.

IAN LEE: How tense is the situation here then?

MAN: It could be pretty intense here and the shooting, the – mostly, you know, rockets, mortars could follow around here.

IAN LEE (voice over): A tension that threatens to escalate into another front in a region already at war.


IAN LEE (on camera): Few, if any, Margaret, will be celebrating the new year here. Many hope, especially in war torn Gaza behind me, that 2024 brings a long and lasting peace.


MARGARET BRENNAN: There was no shortage of news on the technology and business beat this year. For a preview of what will dominate 2024, we turn to our senior business and technology correspondent Jo Ling Kent.

Jo Ling, good morning

JO LING KENT: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you cover Silicon Valley. There was all this talk here in Washington about trying to regulate artificial intelligence, AI. Is there any momentum here?

JO LING KENT: You know, there is some momentum, but Congress does not have a good track record when it comes to regulating tech or social media. And artificial intelligence appears to be yet another difficult challenge for them. You have the Senate AI Forum. It’s convened several times behind closed doors. And it features powerful CEOs. You’ve got Sam Altman of OpenAI, and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and, of course, Elon Musk, but no concrete progress has been made on the part of lawmakers.

Now, this comes as the newest version of ChatGPT 5 is expected to come out in the coming months and it’s expected to be a new increasingly complex set of capabilities.

Now, all of this happening as the backdrop of Goldman Sachs predicting that 300 million jobs will disappear or change significantly thanks to AI. And you can expect voters to be asking about that impact in the election year ahead, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Absolutely. And we know, in the immediate term, the Biden administration has been concerned about what this will mean for our politics on the campaign trail, the use of deep fakes or misleading voters. What are the companies doing to prevent that?

JO LING KENT: You know, the social media companies are telling me that they’re throwing every resource that they have to stop misinformation and disinformation. But the reality is, that this is a sprawling, endless game of Whack-a-Mole. That information spreads constantly online and it is continuing to be very hard to stop, especially with arguments and protections of free speech.

Now Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, says it removes manipulated media and voter interference misinformation. And the company does utilize fact-checking organizations and beyond. But the reality here is that taking down all of this bad information has always been an impossible task on platforms of that size.

And, of course, we cannot forget about X, formerly Twitter. Elon Musk and his team have basically allowed the return of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and they’ve also dramatically reduced the size of their trust and safety team, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Switching gears to the broader economy, which I know you watch as well. You know, the Federal Reserve had this end-of-year rosier prediction than many expected about what they may do with interest rates, including potentially carrying out three cuts. What’s going to determine that for people who are, you know, thinking that things are too expensive right now in terms of borrowing money?

JO LING KENT: Yes, borrowing money is really expensive right now. You’re absolutely right. And so the Fed’s going to be looking at three main things, the job market, inflation and GDP. That’s the size and productivity of the economy, right? And as those main markers change and report, they’ll decide how and when to cut rates.

Now, at this month’s Fed meeting, the country’s top central bankers’ forecast that inflation will drop to about 2.4 percent in 2024. And then finally reaching the target of 2 percent in 2026.

Now, we’ve also been looking at the dot plot, and those are some of the predictions about what’s coming next year from the December Fed meeting, and we expect to see at least three rate cuts next year as the Fed is trying to land this plane for that soft landing, basically wanting to bring down inflation without triggering a recession.

Now, as for when rates are going to be cut, Fed Chair Powell said something really interesting in December. And I want to share this quote with you. He said, we’re aware of the risks that we would hang on too long before reducing rates. And there is a risk that that poses to the economy.

But, meantime, we’ve been covering the vibe session here, right? There’s a real disconnect between encouraging economic data on jobs and inflation and spending versus the reality of how people feel about their personal finances when it comes to your rents, your gas, and the rising cost of insurance. So, this is a vibe session that went on throughout 2023, likely to continue well into the presidential campaign even.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jo Ling, thank you very much for joining us.

JO LING KENT: Thanks, Margaret. Great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now to the environment. Over the last several days rogue waves, some over 20 feet tall, have been crashing down on the southern California coastline, causing injuries and destroying property. And the region is bracing for more this morning. A recent study by an oceanographer at the University of California San Diego found that climate change may be increasing the size and frequency of big waves in oceans.

For more we go to our senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy with a look at what more to expect in the new year.

Ben, you’ve explained climate change is not the weather. But these broader climate changes can impact the strength of the things we experience in the weather. So, after 2023, which was tough, what should we expect in the new year?

BEN TRACY: Well, the climate scientists I have been talking to say that we should expect more extremes in 2024. You think of some of the things that we saw this past year. When you talk about these record heat waves. You look at those wildfires in Canada that sent these plumes of black smoke into U.S. cities. Record rainfall and flooding. They say these are things we are going to see more of. These are not one-off events that are happening.

And, in fact, when you talk about the record heat of 2023, the hottest year on record, 2024 expected to be even hotter than that. And the reason for that is scientists say we have this double whammy coming of long-term global warning, which is kind of making the baseline temperature warmer, but that is now coupled with a very strong El Nino. That’s the warming of the tropical Pacific waters, and that tends to spike temperatures around the planets.

And all of this is going to continue to happen as long as we continue burning fossil fuel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what can Americans do to protect themselves and their property?

BEN TRACY: We’re going to have to start thinking a lot about the health impacts of climate change. You know, the wildfire smoke, for instance. People are going to have to really start thinking about, when do you wear a mask outside if you have wildfire smoke drifting into the neighborhood that you live in, or when do you invest in an air purifier because this is something people are not dealing with for one day out of the summer, they’re dealing with it for weeks and months at a time.

Longer term, we’re going to have to think about where we’re living. We did a story this year about how insurance companies are pulling out of major coastal areas, major markets where flooding or hurricanes or wildfires are becoming big issues. So, that’s impacting the rates people pay for insurance and some places they can’t even get insurance anymore because the companies have said, this just isn’t worth it to us because there’s going to be so much long-term damage.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things that we’ve seen the Biden administration emphasize is they want to transition away from combustion engines to these electric vehicles. And it’s also a big challenge for the auto industry to make this shift. We saw all that play out with the autoworkers strike this past year and the companies saying they’re losing money on these vehicles. So, are Americans actually buying electric vehicles in the numbers needed?

BEN TRACY: For this year there’s going to be a record number of EV sales in this country. It’s going to top 1 million for the very first time. They now make up about 8 percent of new car sales in the United States. So, EV adoption is actually growing year over year, and it has for the last couple of years, but it’s not growing as fast as they once thought. And some of the reason for that is because these cars are still very expensive when you compare them to internal combustion engine vehicles and people do have real concerns, not only about the range in terms of how far their car can go, but when they do need to charge, are they going to be able to get one on the side of the road. And that has been one of the major impediments to people adopting these cars. And you’re now seeing the automakers, which had these grand plans for rolling out all these new models, they’re starting to slow roll that and saying, you know, we’re not going to put these on the market quite as fast as we thought and not in the number that we thought.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s the holdup with getting the chargers rolled out?

BEN TRACY: So, that is one of the big things. There is $7.5 billion from the infrastructure law that was passed more than two years ago to create a charging network across the country. And just this month, you know, almost two and a half years later, they finally installed the first charging station with that money. It actually is – it’s in place in Ohio at a truck stop. I’m told there’s a Waffle House right down the street. So, if you’re charging up, you can also get a little breakfast. But it’s kind of sad that this is the first one and it’s taken this long.

And part of that is, you know, what you might expect, a lot of government bureaucracy, paperwork. States have to administer these programs and get these chargers set. The goal is to have a charger basically every 50 miles on major interstates in this country, and that will be happening over the course of the next couple of years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And before I let you go, this is going to be an election issue as well. What are you watching in 2024?

BEN TRACY: Well, it will be really fascinating. I mean this race for the White House, if you care about climate issues is going to be a very important one. You have the Biden administration, which has passed all these climate initiatives, but then you also have former President Trump, who has campaigned on the idea of drilling more on federal land. He says drill, drill, drill. He has called the transition to electric vehicles the transition to hell. So, he has very strong opinions about these things. And you also have other Republican candidates who are campaigning on repealing some of the Biden administration’s, you know, landmark climate legislation. So, depending on how this election turns out, you could see some real changes in the climate space.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ben Tracy, thank you very much.

BEN TRACY: Margaret, thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us. Happy New Year. Thanks for watching.


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