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Sen. Harris Debuts Possible 2020 Message in New Book; Bolton's Walk Back of Syria Withdrawal Angers Turkey; Russian Lawyer at June 2016 Trump Tower Meeting Charged in Separate Case; Trump Will Address Nation From Oval Office For the First Time. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: But while Senator Harris's official line on 2020 is, I'm not going to decide right now, she's kind of leaning in. Let's take a listen here, Good Morning America.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I would come home with a problem. Other parents would say, oh, darling, I'll take care of it. My mother, the first thing she would do, she would look at us and she'd say, well, what did you do? So I think this is that moment.


KING: CNN's Maeve Reston joins our conversation, welcome to the East from the West Coast. Let's start with one of the many questions for Kamala Harris. Female Democrat, a woman of color? Can she run against President Trump? Does she think a woman of color can beat President Trump? Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this country, after what Trump has unleashed and what we have seen, ready for the first woman of color president?

HARRIS: Absolutely.


HARRIS: Absolutely. I mean, listen -- and I'm not saying that about myself, but I am saying that about the capacity of the American public. And we need to give the American public more credit.


KING: Clever answer. Now it's not about her, it's not about her.

UNDIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not about her, it could anyone.


disciplined and cautious politician, always has been in California. But, you know, this book, the memoir which is very interesting about her own journey as the daughter of immigrant parents and how that connects with the policy focus that she's had. But she really does make the case here that this is a battle against the agenda of the Trump administration. It's a rallying cry. She frequently in Iowa and other places says, you know, we're better than this.

So she has the core makings of her argument here and is very likely to announce that by the end of the month that whether she wants to be coy about it or not.

KING: By the end of the month. By the end of the month. So, that's a fast track. And she's looking obviously at Elizabeth Harris up -- Elizabeth Warren, excuse me out in Iowa this past weekend, Joe Biden (INAUDIBLE) to run. There's other long, short candidates say they're willing.

So a question for any Democrat, what's the sweet spot? Are you tough enough against the chainsaw, the human chainsaw? President Donald J. Trump and his Twitter account. What's the sweet spot? Can you be tough enough without going too deep in the mud?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If someone -- if you were to run against President Trump --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- who does make comments about women and their appearances. How do you handle that? Can you be successful by not going down in the mud?

HARRIS: I absolutely believe so. And I think that there is something to be said for the nobility of the office of the president of the United States. I just frankly feel that one should not have the bandwidth to engage in childish banter.


RESTON: She was -- I mean, this is her -- this is what she has tried to prove over the last two years in Washington, through her interrogation of John Kelly, other Trump administration officials that she can take it. And, one of the most interesting anecdotes in the book actually is when she was attorney general in California, and she was going up against big banks trying to get a bigger settlement for homeowners in California. And she described this shouting match with Jamie Dimon on the phone where she took her earrings off, Oakland- style and really gave it to him, and they were like dogs in a fight.

And I think that, you know, what she's going to try to prove here is that she is tough enough to go up against Trump without sinking in the mud as she talks about it. And Warren obviously has had a terrible time with that. So we'll see if she can be more successful.

KING: Does any Democrat know where that line is? I mean, does anybody -- never mind a Democrat, does anybody (INAUDIBLE) 16 Republicans didn't know where that line was.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, when you talk to Republicans who ran against him and there are more like their staff, they'll say that you're not going to go lower than Donald Trump.

MARTIN: Right.

KUCINICH: And if you try, you're going to fail and you're going to turn people off. And that is going to be one of the challenges whoever ends up as the nominee.

MARTIN: The biggest news so far I think of the presidential race which is now with all of two weeks in, is what Warren didn't say last weekend in Iowa. She didn't mention Trump until she was asked about him directly, avoiding his name. Why? Because she didn't want to provoke a fight with him online where he's going to invoke the Pocahontas (INAUDIBLE) and then she's back to that question over and over again.

This is the challenge with Trump, is that if you fight on his terrain, he's going to pull you into battles that you probably can't win and that you don't even want to engage. But at the same time, yes, the base of the party wants to know that you are tough enough to take him on. So, look, it's a challenge that they haven't figured out still. I don't think they're going to for some time. And I think frankly, the hope among Dems is that the problem takes care of itself, that Trump is so weak eventually by year's end that it's not going to be a problem to figure out.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think the other reason Warren might have avoided Trump in Iowa, is also because for Democrats, the other challenge is do you connect with people?

[12:35:07] MARTIN: Yes, her own story. Yes.

PHILLIP: Putting Trump aside, do you genuinely connect with people? I think every single one of these candidates has to prove that in these early states. It's not just about whether you can take on Trump, it's whether or not you have a message that people gravitate toward. That's one of the weaknesses that Hillary Clinton had putting Trump aside. Can you connect?

And I think that's why Warren is wise to focus on something else, focus on her message or herself or her personal story. And Kamala Harris is doing the same.

KING: Build first, attack later.

MARTIN: And Trump ignored the trip entirely by the way because he wasn't evoked, you know.


KING: But we shall see how long any of that lasts.

We'll go to break. A little flashback, January 8, 2008, 11 years ago today, the night of the New Hampshire primary, John King meets the magic wall.


KING: Wolf, this is the map. Most of it white, this is the Democratic primary. Most of it white meaning the results have not come in yet. You do see the difference now. Senator Clinton is the lighter blue, Senator Obama is the darker blue on here. And you see here in Manchester, we'll bring that out in a little bit. Senator Clinton is winning there at the moment.


[12:40:37] KING: Topping our political radar today, the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg not in court for the second straight day of oral arguments that begin yesterday. Chief Justice John Roberts opening today's session by saying Justice Ginsburg will still participate in decisions by reading the transcripts, that as she recovers from surgery.

Meanwhile, Justice Brett Kavanaugh has now delivered his first opinion. He's being sworn in last fall. Writing through unanimous court, Kavanaugh held in a lower court the supplied president governing arbitration agreements.

Word just in to CNN that U.S. trade talks with China will now be extended through Wednesday. The source says negotiators need more time to discuss the issues on the agenda. Now, it's not clear how much progress being made, though the Wall Street Journal does report the two sides are, quote, narrowing their differences. President Trump, tweeting this morning, the talks already in his view going well.

Today marks eight years since the Tucson, Arizona shooting that killed six people and nearly took the life of then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She's joining House Democrats here in Washington today as they introduce the bill that would expand background checks to nearly all gun purchases. Also there, the proud law makers, survivors of the Parkland Florida Massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School.


JACLYN CORIN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: People die every single day because this bill isn't law yet. And we as American people need to step up especially young people to tell our elected officials that's its not cutting anymore.

DAVID HOGG, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: And if we really want to start talking about the national emergency like the president likes to talk about, 40,000 Americans dying annually from gun violence is a pretty damn one -- good one to start out with.


KING: National Security Adviser John Bolton causing quite the diplomatic dust-up in Turkey after saying the United States won't be pulling back troops from Syria right away and won't pull them back without protection for the Kurds. Turkish media says, Bolton's meeting with President Erdogan now has been called off. U.S. official say, it was never officially scheduled. Erdogan not pleased by Bolton's contradiction of President Trump who recently promised a quick withdrawal from Syria before pulling back.


PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKEY (through translator): We cannot accept the comments made by Bolton in Israel. Comments made by Mr. Trump are our criteria on Syria.


KING: The Turkish president also described Bolton's comments on Syria, quote, as a serious mistake.

A little dust-up between friends here. Is this Bolton's fault or is this the president's fault for announcing a policy before they quite understood the details of how to play it out.


KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: One issue is clear. One issue with the dust-up between friends which is that the U.S. and Turkey has been had a very tense relationship for a long time.

KING: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: So I think what this shows is that the Turks -- it look like a pretty significant thing for the Turks to say, oh cool, we're not going to worry about the Kurds anymore, that you know, (INAUDIBLE) Syrian because the Kurds -- (INAUDIBLE) have thought of the Kurds as an internal threat for so long.

But it also shows that there's a lot of freelancing going on here. It's not just a disagreement between Trump and his advisers about (INAUDIBLE) we should we pulling out of Syria and what the terms are. We're also stating our policy without checking in to see if there's actually going t be a road out on that which is actually not a bad thing necessary. If our policy is we don't pull out, if the Kurds are endangered, that's fine. You don't have to deal to, you know, you can say that without checking from, you know, decades of Turkish history first in terms of their relationship with the Kurds.

But, the question is, will we stick to that? Because Bolton can speak one way, but, you know, are we going to be in Syria forever because that would kind of undercut what the president said we would -- he was going to do. And it doesn't seem like Turkey is willing to parlay on this one.

PHILLIP: The problem is pretty clear that there is not a policy, that they haven't decided on what it is. And so therefore, people are saying different things at different times. That's being revealed publicly that there are foreign officials who are like this does not work. It doesn't jibe with what we were told before.

And so, this is the administration basically being called out publicly for not settling on what their plan is and their strategy is, getting the appropriate buy-in and executing on their plan. It's a pretty obvious result of what President Trump just yesterday said was a perfectly clear consistent policy from day one which everyone knows it has not been.

KING: It's perfectly clear that it's not perfectly clear.

Up next for us, new charges filed against that Russian lawyer who you might remember came to Trump Tower promising Clinton dirt.


[12:48:57] KING: New legal action today against the Russian lawyer who was at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and new evidence connecting her to the Kremlin. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers are here to help us through this one.

Now these new charges against Natalia Veselnitskaya are detailed in a new case not the special counsel, this is the southern district of New York. Shimon, take us inside what the prosecutors are alleging.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So essentially she was representing Russians in this action that was being investigations, it's a civil investigation, there were -- the government there in New York, SDNY was looking to get some money from some Russians involved in a tax fraud scheme. And she was representing these Russians.

And essentially what the government is alleging is that she filed false documents with the court. In fact, these documents she claimed were independent documents, stuff that she had put together in an investigation of these Russians. But what the government here says that in fact that's not the case. What these documents showed was that there was actually collaboration.

[12:50:00] They have evidence that showed that she worked with the Russian Government to submit these documents to the court, to try and fabricate evidence to help the Russians that she worked with on with the Russian Government.

So certainly a concern here because this -- what this shows us is that she has much deeper and closer ties to the Kremlin than she has led many to believe. Certainly, the issue here is obviously that Trump Tower meeting that she helped organize. She claimed it was to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton but turned out to be all about sanctions and adoptions. That is all under investigation by the Mueller team. She is not in this country, so she's unlikely going to ever have to face these charges, but nonetheless, the significance here is that is Department of Justice people who are now saying she has deep ties into the Russian government.

KING: So, Jennifer, let's follow up with that point. It's the Trump Justice Department saying she has deep ties to the Russian government, this particular case, nothing to do with Robert Mueller. But listen, NBC News put the question to her, this is back in 2017.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever worked for the Russian Government? Do you have connections to the Russian government?

NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA (through translator): No.


KING: Jennifer, does it matter to Robert Mueller? Again, this is a separate case, but does it in any way help or does it in any way give you clues about where Mueller might be going for additional information now that the Trump Justice Department laying out that yes, in fact, she is tied to the Kremlin?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly hard to tell what the Mueller team's reaction to this is or what they're going to do with it, if anything. But I do think that SDNY unsealed this indictment now and today for a reason. and they wouldn't have done it if it were in any way harmful to what Mueller is doing, and it might even signal that something is coming on the Trump Tower front. Although we of course don't know that for sure.

You know, I also think it's interesting that he actually may have some use for this new evidence that she is so closely tied to the Russian Government as she has denied so many times. You know, one of the points that came out after the Trump Tower meeting and she kept claiming, no, she has no ties to the Russian Government, we now have her actually working with Russian officials to falsify evidence and then present that evidence to an American court which I think is interesting to the Mueller team.

The question is, how can they possibly use that. And that's kind of the unanswered question here, what, if anything, are they going to do with this?

KING: And that is the question we're left with again. We get a tantalizing new development and the question of where is it going to take us next? Jennifer, Shimon, appreciate you coming in. Well, maybe we'll get that answer soon.

Up next for us here, the power of the Oval Office.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, I have spoken to you from this historical office on many occasions and about many things. The power of the presidency is often thought to reside within this Oval Office. Yet it doesn't rest here. It rests with you.


GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The way is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated. Our military objectives are met.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the years ahead, I will never hold a position higher or a covenant more sacred than that of president of the United States.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.


KING: Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, all there using the Oval Office speech in very different ways to project strength, to reflect on legacy or to mourn with the nation.

Now after nearly two years in office, President Trump will use the Oval Office tonight for the first time as he's sitting for national address to the nation making the case for his border wall.

What do we looking for?

PHILLIP: I'm looking for facts. It's really important. This is the place where presidents go to convey to the American people that they should be trusted, that they are with them. It's incredibly symbolically important. The president needs to not diminish the office by making claims that are not true. It will have an enormous amount of damage both to him but also just to the institution.

I think his bellows to kind of protect these sorts of things about the institution of the presidency. I think tonight's the moment where he has to be very careful.

KUCINICH: It's about more than stage craft. It is really is about the office. I completely agree with you. And, you know, what he says, how he says it, it matters.

KING: It gives you gravitas sitting at the desk. It also is a huge challenge. President Trump like many politicians is a very physical person. It's hard to sit still and make the compelling case.

DEMIRJIAN: And it's hard to stick to a script also for President Trump. I mean, he's a big guy, he likes to be able to work a crowd, and he's going to have to sit in that chair and stick to the short message that he's delivering. He cannot adlib, he can not riff, and if he does, it will start to do exactly what Abby warned about which is undermine the seriousness of the moment.

MARTIN: And it's not even the Congress there like, you know, there is.


MARTIN: And also he has a tendency to kind of read his script and respond to the script itself adding phrases like, oh, that's so true. He has to be careful on that tonight because that's going to sound very awkward if he does that in this format.

What I'm curious about, John, most of all is, does he try to broaden his message to appeal beyond his base and reach the middle of the country, or does is this just sort of base reaffirmation, making sure that those folks are on board as he goes to just re-elect.

KING: Well, it's hell of ground. It's a big moment. We'll see the president tonight. Again, that's 9 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. We'll analyze what the president said.

Brianna Keilar starts right now.

Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.