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INSIDE POLITICS

Romney Not A Shoo-In For Utah Senate Seat; CNN Analysis: Dems Lead GOP Fundraising In 49 House Races; National School Walkout Renews Calls For Gun Safety; U.S. Workers Worry Trump's Tariff Plan Will Hurt Economy. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:02] MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: So we're expecting a potentially wild GOP convention this weekend, because the party basically has been at war with itself for quite some time. Romney is going to be on the primary ballot here in Utah no matter what, because he collected the requisite number of signatures. But there's been a big fight within the party, between party activists and the more establishment types over whether or not the party should continue to have this caucus process that will unfold on Saturday.

So, Romney is basically going for the party's nomination this weekend in the caucus voting, but he could potentially lose that fight because you have to clear 60 percent of the vote in order to go on to the ballot unchallenged. And there are 11 other people running against him and a lot of party activists who really don't want to see an establishment candidate put up as sort of the clear frontrunner for the Utah Republican Party.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Democracy in action.

RESTON: So that's the fight, John.

KING: We'll watch that one play out over the weekend for Governor Romney, wants to be Senator Romney. In addition, to those internal tensions, Utah also factors into the Democrats' math as they look to try to take back the House.

Here's a question. Is Mia Love, she's a rising Republican star nationally. Is she really in trouble back home?

RESTON: She is. I'm going to spend a lot of time in that district later today and have been talking to voters there. And what happened, she's always had really close races but she is really one of these candidates who is laboring under the shadow of Donald Trump. He is not as popular here as he is in other red states partly because of the huge Mormon population here who don't like his tone, particularly on immigration, and she has drawn a very charismatic opponent in Ben McAdams, who is the mayor of Salt Lake County, and he's going to give her a real run for her money. He has the ability to draw a lot of Republican support and he is kind of this wonky, nerdy Democrat who's got a very bright future here in Utah and it's going to be a very tight race.

KING: Maeve Reston, I'm jealous. Enjoy the fun out in Utah this weekend. We'll talk to you afterwards and see what you find out out there.

RESTON: Thank you.

KING: Maeve just talked about a strong Democratic candidate in Utah. Here's another way to understand why Republicans are worried about losing the House. Democrats are more than holding their own when it comes to fundraising. First the basic balance of power.

Democrats currently have 193 to 237 for the Republicans, but just look at how we rank the races so far. You could tell by looking at this. Republicans have a lot more of their races either in the lean or toss- up category than the Democrats do. So the Democrats start in stronger shape.

Now, look at this. Fundraising. This is among the 88 most competitive races. Now a handful have not yet reported, but among the 88 competitive races where we have financial reports, look, the Democrats outracing their opponents well in excess of more than half of those races. Advantage Democrats.

Now, let's look at a smaller subset here. These are races that are likely Republican, lead Republican or toss-ups. And again, we're missing one report here, but among races that most of which should be leaning to the right, the Democrats holding their own in the fundraising. Again, that's a bad challenge, that's bad news for the Republicans.

Let's look it at this way. Among those 88 races, how many were the incumbents were trailing in fundraising? Only two Democratic incumbents in those most competitive races have been outraised by their opponents. Forty Republican incumbents have been outraised by their Democratic challengers even though these guys, ladies, hold office. They should be able to raise more money.

This is one of the reasons, a lot of people said Paul Ryan announced he's not running for election. Maybe he's step down as speaker. It's one of the reasons Ryan says, no, you need me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: You all know that I came into this job as a policy guy, not a political guy, not a fundraiser. I have shattered every fundraising record any speaker's ever set. I came into this job with a speaker -- with a goal of a speaker to raise $20 million. I doubled it to $40 million. Not only did I hit that goal, I hit it eight months early.

So there is nobody who has come close to being able to raise the kinds of funds I have and still can raise for this majority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No matter how you look at it, a guy like Romney who thinks, check the box, please, no controversy, let's move on. Strong candidates, the Democrats. The money number is there. Let's start with Romney for a minute. This is where Mitch McConnell lost his best friend in the Senate, Robert Bennett, the Utah Caucuses, the convention turned against him. So welcome to the Tea Party, welcome to the grassroots activism out there to the Senate.

This is from Rod Arquette, our conservative talk show radio host out there, about Romney. "It's a mixed bag. Listeners raise the same questions. Romney and Romneycare, his attack on President Trump during the campaign, the carpetbagger issue."

So, you know, the Republicans is likely to win this race. It's likely to be Mitt Romney but you got to get bump up along the way.

CARL HULSE, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. There's no easy path for Republicans this year. The year that could be easy for them since the Democrats have such a disadvantage on the map (ph).

[12:35:02] It just shows you how deep the dissatisfaction on the right is with people who are seem to be perceived to be establishment Republicans, and they just have to fight through this, and it's going to be happening around the country.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And you saw that with Jeff Flake in Arizona felt like he couldn't run for reelection while still being a Trump critic. You saw Bob Corker out for similar reasons.

And in Nevada, in Dean Heller, I mean, he has decide to take the calculus that he's just going to give the President a giant, big hug and go for that way, even though that is the toughest states for Republican --

KING: You mention Bob Corker, Mitch McConnell is mad at him, again or still depending on your definition. Because Bob Corker did a breakfast in town the other day, the retiring Republican Senator from Tennessee. He said nice things about the Democrats (INAUDIBLE) running in that race. And so Bob Corker said really nice things about him, he's a nice guy, Republicans can vote for him. He's very effective good mayor, good governor, good businessperson.

Mitch McConnell told him aside of the Senate floor this in The Washington Post. "McConnell told Corker his comments were unhelpful, both in the Tennessee race and in the larger battle for the Senator majority. McConnell also reminded Corker, the Republicans were in the current situation only because Corker had decided to retire.

KIM: Friendly reminder from the Senate majority leader.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: This is so much like grade school word. Yes, very apt for the current situation. I find today's politics so interesting, because the Tea Party had a clear, idealogical mooring in a certain way where you knew we're going to get primaried and issues would be your position on debt, deficits, they were animated by extra spending. Obama was a big part of it. And I think the objection to candidates today is less clear. Loyalty to the President is a part of it, but that doesn't have such clear, idealogical, you know, strictures to it. So, I think these guys who are running, they get changes (ph) establishment but it's not quite clear what that means. And the politics are very amorphous.

KING: And on the fundraising thing, all the Republicans who we've been through this freak out by this because they have for months has been telling these candidates, you need to raise more money, you don't understand this climate.

What they say they have is a number of especially relatively new House Republicans and their campaign teams who have only lived through the great Republican years. They've only lived through 2010 and 2014, and when the gray beards tell them, you don't understand what the other side looks wave looks like, they laugh at them and don't take it seriously. If you look at those fundraising numbers, if you have momentum and you have more money on the Democratic side, boom.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, but you also have to sort of understand or try to figure out where that money is going. For instance, big numbers for better O'Rourke. The Democrat challenging Ted Cruz there was a close poll for better work actually within the single digit of Ted Cruz. But most political observers think that that's a race that Ted Cruz may have some trouble in but will probably win.

A big fundraising whole for a race that Democrats have probably not going to win. It does sort of change, you know, change how you analyze those big fundraising numbers. But I think they more reflect where the enthusiasm is, and that tells you maybe more about where the electorate is in November than sort of does it predict that Democrats will to better because they have a lot more money earnings.

HULSE: Although that number with the incumbents with sterling. I think we all look at that.

KING: And where the incumbents? And that's only in the competitive races, 48 in the top race.

HUSLSE: Whomever take the warning that you just mentioned, they don't take the warning. It's too late and they go, what happened?

KING: Well, having lived through a few tsunamis that go both ways, a lot of surprises to that.

When we come back, Donald Trump is richer than you think and somebody was sounds a lot like Donald Trump. Let's going to tell you that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:52] KING: Welcome back, topping our political radar today, Donald Trump way before he was president flat outlying to a Forbes magazine report to get on the magazine's prestigious list of super rich people. Who's claiming that he lied? The reporter Jonathan Greenberg. He said Trump called him in 1984 pretending to be his own spokesman named, John Barron.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BARRON, SPOKESMAN: Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump. And I'd like to talk to you off the record if I can just to make your thing easier.

JONATHAN GREENBERG, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: OK, sure.

BARRON: All right. But I think you can really use Donald Trump now and you can just consolidate it. I think last year somebody showed me the article and I think he had 200 and 200 and the other's been pretty well consolidated now for the most part as I also think somebody had mentioned that you had asked about that or somebody had and it's been pretty well consolidated, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: OK. Now the governor or Colorado not happy with rising crime rates and he might think it's related to legal marijuana in his state. The Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper says he's not going to make pot use illegal again right now but he won't rule it out. Crimes are up in Colorado even on nationally they're trending down. Colorado official say, they're going to study that data.

And at least one high school student is wounded and a suspect in custody that after a shooting of a high school on Ocala, Florida today. A somber reminder, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre is today. Shooting also comes in a day when high schools across the country are participating in a national school walkout, a protest against gun violence.

CNN's Jason Carroll live in Washington Square Park in New York. What are the students telling you, Jason? Look at that, it's a large crowd.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Huge crowd. And let me tell you, they are motivated, they are angry, they want to see start a gun control policy put forth. They said they're not going to stop until they see that's done.

I want to show you the crowd here that's packing to Washington Square Park, thousands of students here now listening to speakers. Organizers expected some 5,000 students to show up from at least 30 different schools. The Department of Education sending out a note saying, look, if you come out to this protest, you would be marked as absent, you will be penalized for coming out here.

I spoke to the mayor's office about that, John. The mayor's office said, look, we appreciate the students coming out to voice their opinions, to express their point of view, but we want to see them have a full day of school.

[12:45:09] The students have remained undeterred by that. They said this is not about missing a day of school, this is about stricter gun policy. The big question here, John, is when I'm speaking to a lot of these students I say, you've got some of this momentum now. What are you going to do to carry it forward? Will you be able to sustain this through the midterm elections? They're saying here today, they're confident they'll be able to do that. John?

KING: Jason Carroll in the massive (ph) for us. Jason, appreciate that reporting.

And let's bring it back to the room here. Whatever your views on gun control, whether you think we should have more laws, whether you think the law is fine, whether you think we should have fewer laws. I'm a fan of democracy. And, you know, if I were in high school, getting a little time out of school might not be so bad either. But the persistence is the -- you know, there's Parkland students came to Washington. Students around the country supported them.

There was a divide even among them of everything Congress should do. They were in a total agreement of what Congress should do. The Congress didn't do anything in the gun control arena and that these students are still back at it.

Florida has passed a new gun safety law that includes money for school safety but also new gun controls. The Republican governor signed that. He's going to test the politics of that in a Senate race this year. For a month, another big gun right state passed new gun controls as well.

Nationally, there is no disagreement, right? There's -- this is done, we're done with this issue in Washington for the year. But what? What is the next test for these students and what they want?

KIM: If the next test is to see if they can make it an electoral issue, because you're right, that this issue has basically disappeared from Congress' radar. Not the spending bill that the Congress passed in March had a few very moderate gun related restrictions and then were talking about the fixed next act which is that legislation that essentially streamlines and improves the background check system, but that's the furthest that this Republican Congress really goes.

It's really whether the students and the broader gun control of activists can mobilize in these districts and make it an electoral issue. Obviously, Rick Scott will be a test of that and these other swing districts where they are kind of spanning out and saying you have to -- this is going to be a voting issue.

WARREN: We can also put the other way. I mean, this is -- we've seen this in the past decade where every time there's an effort or the sense that there might be an effort in Washington to restrict gun rights and the ability to get a gun, you see gun owners come out to the poll. We saw this in efforts by cities and local governments to do this that were roundly and soundly defeated. And I think it does cut the other way.

You can look at perhaps point of the generic ballot actually shrinking a little bit in Republicans' favor. This is an issue that motivates another half of the country as well. And if it becomes a political issue for liberals on gun control, it could very well become a political issue for conservatives and perhaps be more potent.

KING: If it brings more people out to vote, whatever your positions, I'm for it, then. If more people would actually vote, that would be a decent thing.

JOHNSON: What I think is interesting is that for a long time the pro- gun side of this debate has been more passionate, more politically active, more mobilized. I think we're --

KING: More effective too.

JOHNSON: More effective. I think we're starting to see a little bit of a change in that with questions about how effective gun control activists will be, but I think the effects will be long term. So 10 or 20 years from now, our gun control activists, are they able to match the effectiveness of gun enthusiasts?

KING: Well, let me stop with that this question just into us. So, Michael Cohen's lawyer went to court today trying to stop, get a pause, a delay, in the Stormy Daniels suit. She's suing in California about the nondisclosure agreement. There's a big debate about that.

But in asking for the delay today, Michael Cohen's attorney said that delay was necessary because his client could be indicted within the next 90 days. Michael Cohen's own lawyer walking into a courtroom and telling a judge, we can't process this case right now because there's a federal criminal investigation against me in New York and my client could be indicted in 90 days. So Brent Blakely lawyer asking for a 90-day stay essentially to let the dust settle in New York. Is that just a smart legal tactic to your delay or is that Michael Cohen's lawyers publicly saying what a lot of people anticipate that the Feds would not have gone to the length they've gone to if they didn't have a strong case?

HULSE: I think that this has been the common perception among attorneys and prosecutors around here and in New York that there's an imminent indictment just based on the length of the investigation, the amount of surveillance that was involved. I do think it's -- you know, he's trying to get out of all these lawsuits right now so they can focus on the criminal one up there, and I think it's just a really -- a great illustration of how serious this is for Michael Cohen and probably for his clients.

KING: Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' lawyer, has said the same thing. And Blake -- Mr. Blakely, I'm sorry, Michael Cohen's lawyer at one point saying, he thinks that. So again, does he have information to thought that's credible that it's going to happen or does he just think it's reasonable? That might happen during the fight case.

[12:50:03] We'll continue to track that. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: The President taking heat from the people he says he's most trying to help. There's a comment period required when the government announces plans for new tariffs. And some American business owners are furious and trying to get the President a lesson in the global economy.

This comment from a small business owner in Georgia who buy some parts from China. "I don't know what you are trying to do implementing these tariffs but the result of many small businesses here in the -- be the loss of many small businesses here in the United States." A Florida business owner who imports Chinese air-conditioning parts says, "I thought the issue was theft of intellectual property. I don't understand why the tariff code for air-conditioning parts is being included in the regulations."

Michael Warren, this is your reporting in The Weekly Standard. A lot of these people are Trump voters, they don't like this.

WARREN: No. And the White House's response to this is to essentially say that -- we're also hearing from a lot of businesses that say Chinese bad trade practices, which are very real and actually the USTR made a very good thorough report about all those bad trade practices, that those are bad for business as well.

[12:55:10] But this is one of these, again, unintended consequences when Washington goes after a problem. There's an unintended consequence that --

KING: You write about with the other perspective. John Thune, the number three Senate Republican saying, I hope the President is listening. This whole tariff issue is pushing all the good economic news off the table.

KIM: And if the question whether the President is listening, I mean, there were, you know, this has come up constantly with Republican and administration officials. Earlier this week, Senate Republicans told Vice President Mike Pence that, look, this is hurting us. You're hurting your own voters. It's drowning out all the good tax cut news. It's unclear how much the administration is listening, but these farm states, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota is getting hurt right now.

KING: Trade issue for the giant economic conversation of the country. Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS today. See you back here Sunday morning.

Wolf Blitzer has more on the breaking news with Michael Cohen's case after a very quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)