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Special Counsel Accuses Manafort Of Witness Tampering; CA's Jungle Primary Key To Dems Hopes Of Retaking House; Trump Weighing New Approach To NAFTA Talks; Starbucks Chief Howard Schultz Fuels 2020 Speculation; Bolton Sidelines As Trump Readies For North Korea Meeting. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:04] MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: -- he is saying to Mueller and his team. Manafort, certainly -- yes, President Trump is now distancing himself from Manafort, but he of course knew a lot about the ins and outs of the campaign.

KING: And one person who knows more than we do -- a lot more than we do is the President of the United States because he finds out from his legal team, he finds out when the Special Counsel says here are the areas of interest. If we could ever get an interview with the President, which is why yesterday this hour we talked about the President's tweet and asserting that he has the right, the power to pardon himself. Senator Chuck Grassley said the President should get a new lawyer. A Republican there is saying that he didn't agree with this. Listen to more reaction from Capitol Hill.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I take it that the President feels that he may be in need of a pardon. That he likely has done something wrong.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: If you ask me my opinion and (INAUDIBLE), I would suggest to him that tweeting less would not cause brain damage.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: President Trump, you went 0 for 2 on the Constitution this morning.


KING: Two Democrats and one Republican there. But a several other Republicans, I think Susan Collins said this would be catastrophic with the President. Are we seeing some evidence? Congress is normally, when you ask these questions, they just look down. They wish the President won't tweet. Republicans don't want to talk about it. Is there a little bit of push back here?

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's hard to say. I think there's -- it's all sort of tactical, right? What's the story of the day? How do we push back? But I want to go back to Paul Manafort and his legal strategy because I think there's another clue in that as to whether or not he'd be willing to flip. It doesn't seem to me as much of a legal strategy, much of a P.R. strategy. An effort to discredit Bob Mueller and say that he is going too far, he is pushing too much.

And I actually think he has been relatively successful for a one-man band in pushing that argument. He won a little bit at least of the judge down in Virginia. But if you look at what's happened here and this response really from Bob Mueller, it's not good for Manafort's argument that Mueller is going too far when you're, I mean, doing something like tampering with witnesses, trying to tamper with witnesses. It really under cuts Manafort's sort of P.R. argument that Mueller is the guy going sort of too far.

KING: Really interesting to see how this one plays out in court. They're going to end up in court. Special Counsel is going to say put him in jail for doing this. We'll see how that one plays out because the -- more how they got this, what comes in it's going to be called. That's where we learn about the Special Counsel when he has to either disclose documents, he's fighting (ph) court because he want to talk public.

Coming up for us, it's primary day. Huge stakes today across the country. California is the focal point. Seven districts on the Democrats' minds. That's next.



[12:37:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were running in this district. Why did you drop out?

PHIL JANOWICZ, FORMER CANDIDATE, CA-39: I dropped out because we had too many candidates running at the time.

LAURA OATMAN, FORMER CANDIDATE, CA-48: I withdrew from the race and not only withdrew from the race but decided to get behind the strongest candidate who I believe can win.


KING: Two Democrats there who not long ago dreamed of being in Congress, but who decided to drop out in hopes of helping their party. The Democrats to avoid a California nightmare today.

Yes, it's primary day. The President tweeting support for his two favorite California Republicans. On tweet, "Vote for Congressman Devin Nunes." The President calls him a true American patriot. The likes of which we rarely see in our modern day.

President also turning (ph) his support behind the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy warning voters to quote, keep our country out of the hands of the high tax, high crime, Nancy Pelosi. Eight states in all voting today. California, plus Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. But California getting the most attention because if it's so called jungle primary system. The top two candidates make the November ballot. There's nothing to do with the party. The top two candidates and some House districts have so many Democrats running. The party is worried those candidates will split the vote. And then some of those districts, two Republicans, will end up on top.

Let's take a closer look to walk through California here. They took that away from me. Here we go. Come back to California here. You see the giant state, all the congressional districts. But there are 10 races, 100 House races right now that CNN lists is worth watching as we go into November. Ten viewed as most competitive.

If you look at these, you see these districts here. Three lean Republican, two lean Republican. I'm sorry, three likely Republicans. You see the toss-ups in the lean Democratic. That's of the 10 we're watching.

Then come down to the seven. Why do we look at these seven? These are all Republican held seats, but Hillary Clinton carried their districts in the presidential election. So Democrats think we need 23 to take back the House. These seven should be good targets, right? Hillary Clinton carried them. It should be a Democratic year.

Here's the problem. What we're looking at today. See these three districts down here. Right now, if there's a Democrat on the ballot in November, we lean two of them Democratic and say one is a toss-up. Good chance for Democrat to pick up Republican seats. However, there are so many candidates on the Democratic side in these districts. It is possible we could be talking to you tomorrow morning and tell you there's no Democrat even on the ballot there. Republicans could have the top two finishes.

Our Miguel Marquez is in one of those districts. He's live in Huntington Beach, California. Voting has started. Miguel, we're going to have a long night of counting. What do you seeing so far?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It may be a long several weeks of counting in California. What we are seeing are a steady stream of voters. Not a massive turnout today, but that's because in part California votes by mail. Early and absentee ballots and also early voting in California. And most people walking up to the precincts here and just dropping off their envelopes. So, when polls close here at 8:00 p.m. Pacific, 11:00 Eastern, the first votes to be counted will be the electronic votes that they have, the people who are actually casting today.

There are a lot of mail-in ballots that came in previously that they'll be able to count. But then all of those mail-in ballots that people are dropping off precincts across state today, those will have to be counted. And it could take days if not weeks to get through all of those.

[12:40:13] A couple of numbers, the tea leaves that we have out here right now is that there are more people voting this year in this off year primary than they did the previous off year in 2014. But so far in the three districts here in Orange County, more Republicans have sent in their ballots than Democrats. We'll have to see. John.

KING: Interesting test there. Miguel, I appreciate you being on the ground with the reporting right there. It's going to be a long night. And as Miguel says we may be at this for few days.

But the California system, again, top two finishers are in the November ballot. It doesn't matter whether you're Democrat or Republican. The Democrats thought they could pick up six, seven seats in California this year. If they get locked out of two or three of these races, how big of a blow is that to the party's overall? Can we get the House back now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It makes the math much harder. And the reality is I think this will be a good reality check and a reminders. We do not know the outcome of the November midterm elections. For all that history tells us, this is a new moment, a new president. Let's just see what plays out over the next five months or so.

But if Democrats are shut out because of the resist movement and too many of them, this helps Republicans tremendously. I think the primary is also in some other states is going to show the strength of Bernie Sanders in that movement. Iowa particularly. I have my eye on the Democratic governor's primary in Iowa. Bernie Sanders has played strong there in Congressional races as well. Let's see how much juice he still has.

KING: And today's California races, California is expensive anyway. It's a big TV state. It's expensive to advertise anyway. But you normally don't see this kind of spending in House primaries.

Look at this, in California 49, $6 million in outside spending. California 48 more than $4 million. California 39 more that $3 million. California 45 more than $1 million. Almost $million in California 10 and California 25. In a primary for a House district, even in expensive California, that's a little nuts. So let's give you a sampling here of some of the candidates on TV spending that money.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's the old boys in Washington and those running to get there. Then there's Sarah Jacobs. There aren't a lot of people in Congress who look like her. They won't change Washington. Sara Jacobs will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Washington is moving us backwards. President Obama fought to move us forward. Democrats and Harley Rouda will do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a champion for fiscal responsibility and smaller government. She is Mimi Walters, helping past historic tax cuts. The double the child tax credit and put more money in our paychecks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Interesting. That's the Chamber of Commerce trying to help a Republican there, that last ad. The first ad, Sara Jacobs would be the youngest member of Congress. If she wins it's also a test of this whole year of the women theory.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Yes. I think that it's very interesting to see the messaging from both sides here. And obviously as Jeff was saying that's going to evolve quite a bit as we get further into midterm territory.

There is tremendous down side for the Democrats in these primaries. But, of course, nothing is going to be decided. But it has happened before that they have been locked out by not actually getting one of their candidates through this jungle primary and that's not even having a chance to compete in November.

But as Jeff was saying, I think, you know, we have two political parties in the United States right now that are going through an identity crisis. Both of them are quite severe identity crises. And so these primaries to me are most interesting for the way they give us an indication of the direction that the party bases, the activists in the party, the ones who vote in primaries. They are very concerned with directing the way that the party is going to go. So this tells us something about that and where we've seen in special elections so far, in primaries so far is so much energy around women candidates.

And so, you know, I would think that if you're a Democratic voter going to the polling booth today, you don't really know any other candidates, you're just excited because you don't like the President. If it's basically a coin flip, you're going to look for the woman's name on the ballot. And I think a lot of these candidates are betting on that as well.

WARREN: Here's a California race that we haven't mentioned that is -- to Molly's point. Maybe we can look at where the direction of the Democratic Party which is the Senate race. We will not know who the next senator will be after this primary because it's most likely going to be Dianne Feinstein and another Democrat facing off against each other in November in the run-off based on this primary.

I think if you look at that race and sort of look at where is the energy in this party. It can tell you a lot not just about California and the Democratic Party there, it actually the Democratic Party going into 2020.

KING: And the Republicans might not have a candidate for Senate and governor. We'll see in governor, you're on the cast break there. That tells you about the long-term state of the California Republican Party. Even though they're optimistic a lot of few days and the statewide level --

WARREN: All they have really is House district.

KING: -- missing in action for some time. Before we go to break here today's contest could be key to deciding if Nancy Pelosi will get another chance at the speakers' gavel. Some Democrats of Washington say she's not the leader their party needs.


[12:45:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is the leader of the Democratic Party?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Who is the leader of the Democratic Party?


MOULTON: That's what she asked. She asked you that. Does my silence say something?


MOULTON: You know, this is the challenge that we have right now.



KING: Topping our political radar today, divide and conquer. That may be the President's new strategy in the stalled NAFTA negotiations, that according to his Chief Economic Adviser during an interview a short time ago. Listen here, Larry Kudlow saying the President things bilateral has always been better. Hence, the new idea for getting a better deal with our North American trading partners?


LARRY KUDLOW, CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is very seriously contemplating kind of a shift in the NAFTA negotiations. His preference now, and they ask me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately. The President is not going to leave NAFTA. He's not going to withdraw from NAFTA. He's just going to try a different approach.


[12:50:14] KING: We'll watch that. First Lady Melania Trump scheduled to make a public appearance with the President tomorrow, that to highlight preparations for the coming hurricane season. Last night, we got a glimpse of the First Lady for the first time since she was hospitalized three weeks ago where her spokeswoman described as a benign kidney procedure. You can see the First Lady there, attending a White House event for gold star families. That event was closed to the press.

Republican megadonor David Koch stepping down from his role at Koch industries because of health issues. In a letter to employees, his brother Charles Koch writes that David Koch's health, quote, has continued to deteriorate. That letter says, as a result, he is unable to be involved in business and other organizational activities. David Koch is 78 years old. The outgoing Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz is weighing a possible presidential bid on Monday. Starbucks announce Schultz will step down at the end of this month after a 36-year run with the company. Schultz says he's a long way from any many decision, but says he's considering public service as a potential next step.

Here's Rachel at CNBC earlier today.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, OUTGOING EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF STARBUCKS: There's a lot of things I can do as a private citizen other than run for the presidency of the United States. And let's just see what happens. I've got lots of things I'm thinking about. I want to think about this through the lens of what it means to be a great American citizen. I don't know what that means at this point.

My concern for the country and my concern for our standing in the world, the lack of dignity, the lack of respect, the vitriolic behavior coming from this administration. I think we can do much better.


KING: Up next, it is exactly one week away and we now know the exact location of President Trump's big meeting with Kim Jong-un.


[12:55:53] KING: The giant Singapore summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un now has an official venue. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders revealing on Twitter just moments ago, the President will meet with Kim at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, so stop Singapore.

Also this hour, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the White House for lunch with the President. That lunch happening against the back drop heightening tension between Secretary Pompeo and the President's new National Security Adviser John Bolton. Sources tell CNN including our Jeff Zeleny right here at the table, that Pompeo warned the President it would be, quote, counter productive to allow Bolton into that meeting on Friday at the White House for the top North Korean official. That because of Bolton's -- the North recent criticism to Bolton.

One official says Pompeo has grown to dislike Bolton's approach and believe he is, quote, trying to advance his own agenda. That cannot be helpful one week away from this historic summit to have -- there's always in fighting on every President's team but that seems like a form (ph) on that.

ZELENY: It's not helpful at the moment for John Bolton of course. And it was striking the fact that he was missing from the meeting on Friday or he's not at the meeting. And the Vice President wasn't either. That's perhaps as more striking. So there is a divide. No question. And John Bolton has been the subject of much ridicule and scorn from the regime for a long time. In 2003, they called him human blood sucker I think and scum. So he has a long history with Kim Jong-un's father.

But the reality here is the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading this charge. He is leading the charge for the President. He's met with Kim Jong-un a couple of times. More than any American ever has. So this is his summit.

The question is as this goes on, as this, you know, is now looks to be extended for a long time, is the President going to have the patience to do the Pompeo approach or is he going to side with John Bolton once this is over and say it's time for a harder line.

KING: And the North most recent criticism is because public Bolton had said we have the Libya model here. We'll sit down with North Korea like the Libya mode, if you remember the Libya model. Muammar Gaddafi gave up a limited nuclear program then he was deposed and then he died. But it's not just John Bolton, that this is why this is interesting. Pompeo didn't like the words, but watch.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS ANCHOR: Is it a requirement that Kim Jong-un agree to give away those weapons before you give any kind of concession?

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I that's right. I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now, that model would take place if we don't make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was some talk about the Libya model --


PENCE: -- last week. And, you know, as the President made clear, you know, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal.


KING: So not just Bolton over there. It does seem like since he got into his new job, Secretary Pompeo is by nature of the job are open to diplomacy?

LEE: Yes. And I think, you know, this is a perfect example of President Trump, you know, sidelining someone because that person's views that this moment in time doesn't quite hold up what he is trying to achieve again at this moment in time. But I think the question is, you know, does President Trump actually have sort of a bigger vision when it comes to what he wants to accomplish in the Korean peninsula. And what is troubling for a lot of people is that they see how he behaves and they are worried that the only thing he is consumed by and he is driven by is wanting that photo op, wanting that handshake and that isn't much beyond that.

And by the way, his views, his mood, they are so volatile that, yes, he could be more allied with Pompeo today, but that could change tomorrow which I think is what you are suggesting.

WARREN: And I would say that I talked to somebody at the White House. That talk about Libya model. Everybody was on the same page. These principles at the White House were going to talk about this. To your point, MJ, it's when things changed when North Korea got so angry about this that the President himself and the administration shifted.

KING: One week from today. We'll keep an eye on the story. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS today. See you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington.