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Trump Brushes Off Sen. Graham's Plan on National Emergency. Trump Targets Senator Warren in Racially Insensitive Tweet. Trump calls Joe Biden Weak and Says He Never Gets Above One Percent. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 14, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Some of the options that may have been put on the table earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Well, that was a suggestion that Lindsey made, but I did reject it, yes. I'm not interested. I want to get it solved and I don't want to just delay it. I'm not looking to call a national emergency. This is so simple we shouldn't have to.

Now, I have the absolute legal right to call it, but I'm not looking to do that, because this is too simple. This should be the easiest deal that I've ever seen. We're talking about border security. Who can be against it?


MATTINGLY: Deal not so breezy so far. What he is referring to Lindsey Graham, was Lindsey Graham over the weekend pitched the idea that's actually been pitched by multiple people over the course of the last couple weeks, which is reopen the government in the near term, put a deadline on it, have the deadline kind of service and end (ph) over people's heads and then reopen the government.

Also rejecting a national emergency which as of like Thursday of last week. Everybody on the Hill was certain that was the direction he was going.

So, OK, how does this end?

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think, thequestion on everybody's list, right?

I mean, maybe it's the Senate nerd (inaudible) in me that thinks this may end if more Senate Republicans feel the heat, pressure Mitch McConnell, hey, like maybe we should have a stopgap. Maybe we should budge a little bit. That's not happening right now, though.

We have some skepticisms, some concerns from corners of the GOP conference but not really enough to push McConnell in that direction. So, that's one way we could get out of this but has been sort of closed for now. I mean, we'll see. Short of that, that Democrats budging, but it's hard to see that happening right now. I mean, they feel like they have the upper hand.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And going to that argument about Senate Republicans cracking and pressuring Mitch McConnell because that's something Chuck Schumer talked about for a while.

The magic number here in that point would be 67, which would be the number necessary to override a presidential veto in the Senate. I was walking through this with some Republican sources last week. And look, the first tier of Republicans who might crack are pretty easy to figure out.

Cory Gardner has a tough reelection challenge. You have the institutionalist who hate shutdowns like Lamar Alexander. And Susan Collins, throwing a couple of retiring folks like Pat Roberts and what not.

That gets you to like mid-50s, what's that next tier? Who's going to crack in that more conservative next tier of Senate Republicans? A lot of them who will be watching for primary challenges in 2020. I don't see how you get there at this point and that explains the impasse or whatever you want to call it, right now.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: But this is also -- this is why, we have heard from White House officials. Again, top Republicans on the Hill that even though the President went out today and said, "I'm not doing an emergency declaration right now" That is not off the table. It's very much on the table and they're staying now with the last resort.

And in the meantime, the White House has been talking about trying to go around Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and bring a bunch of blue dogs, moderate House Democrats from the House to try to say, "Hey, what do you think about DACA, the hope for DREAMERS for some wall money?

But you're right the President just a couple of days ago hands that idea and said he want to do the national emergency. Now things apparently have flipped and he is open to a bipartisan something at this moment and doesn't want to do the emergency.

How do you negotiate with a President who changes his mind every day? Democrats don't want to do it, and you can't blame him for that. So, I don't know how we're going to get out of this.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's an issue kind of underpinning all of this, right? Is nobody knows where the President necessarily is and so it's tough to, I think Schumer called him tried a nail -- to a wall at one point and that's at one point and that's not exclusive to Democrats. Republicans on the Hill feel the same way, too. They're not totally sure which way this is going to go.

You brought an interesting point. There are people on the Republican side who believe that Democrats may be cracking, particularly some of the freshmen who came here to do something and preferably not this. Is there any sense in your mind that that might be a way out? I haven't seen it but you're a better reporter than I am.


I think its wishful thinking right now, but I do think from the President's language and you could see it outside at the Marine Wonder Park at this morning. You can hear it in his language that he's saying, Well now, the Democrats there -- he's trying to build this sort of narrative of transition in the hopes that if this goes on long enough, he can remessage this to convince people that the Democrats created the shutdown.

And I do think it's important for everyone to remember that the only reason the Border Wall and the shutdown are co-linked intractably because President Trump co-linked them.

So I think right now the Democrats see there is no upside in making the first offer here, because they don't think they need to make an offer, anyhow. But I think the part of what we're waiting for is the President to test the idea of whether he can remessage this. If he can't, if the numbers don't change and the public continues by a large majority, they either completely blame him or partly blame him, then he has a bigger problem than he has right now.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Just a reminder, there are staff on both sides of the aisle in both chambers that could get them out of this like that. They just need the green light to do it.

[12:34:47] All right, up next, the harshest of harsh words by a member of Congress against the President. His response? Who cares?


MATTINGLY: Topping our political radar, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heading home from the Middle East early for a family funeral. They're making multiple stops, including Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman and crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Pompeo says, he told them those responsible for killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. Secretary of States as the Saudi leaders reiterated their commitment to ensuring that happens.

The Federal Court in California putting the brakes on a Trump administration policy concerning Obamacare just one day before it goes into effect. The presiding judge said Sunday the administration's weakening of the contraceptive mandate could have, "Dire public health consequences." And the new rules would allow more employers to get exemptions. The court's injunction only applies to the 13 states that sued in the District of Columbia.

[12:40:08] The Supreme Court sidestepping a challenge to Matt Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general. Critics concerned he could fire the special counsel, so the President's choice of Whitaker violates federal law. But in an unusual move, the high court rejected that argument by means of a firearms case that sought to have Whitaker's name removed as one of the parties. Other challenges are still pending however.

And President Trump this morning brushing off reporters' questions about a new member of Congress who says he's a racist on national television. Here's the brief exchange outside the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez had called you a racist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.

TRUMP: Who cares --


MATTINGLY: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez firing back on Twitter saying, "I bartended for years in New York City. I understand guys like this like the back of my hand. We got under his skin "

MATTINGLY: And up next, President Trump brings back a familiar nickname for one of his possible 2020 opponents, this time in a racially insensitive tweet.


[12:45:22] MATTINGLY: President Trump says he's not worried when it comes to Democrats growing 2020 field. But, that didn't stop him from going after Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who is exploring a possible White House bid.

And a pair of tweet last night, President mocked Warren for drinking a beer live on Instagram "If Elizabeth Warren often referred to by me as Pocahontas did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash." Trump also called the social move a catastrophe.

And Warren isn't the only candidate catching the President's attention. He also had this to say about potential 2020 opponents including former Vice President Joe Biden.


TRUMP: Well, I don't want to pick anyone out, but, a lot of people say Biden's doing OK. But, he was always a one-percenter. He was a one percent guy. He ran two or three times. He never got above one percent and then Obama came along and took him off the trash heap and he became a vice president and now he's probably leading. But he's basically a one percent guy. He's weak.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTINGLY: All right. A very subtle. Look, kind of want to put the tweets aside, to be frank, other than if it forces people to read about Wounded Knee, great. Because you should -- It was a horrifying time in history and people should learn more about it.

But more broadly and this is something we're talking about during the break, so I hope you guys sharpened your message to the best points on this, but this is something the Democratic field has going to have to contend with. How do you respond to this? Because it's coming in spades and you're covering them right now. What's your sense right now of where people think they should go?

SCHOR: My sense especially when it comes to Warren but this is true for all candidates, is people are wary of trying to beat Trump at his own game. And by his own game, I mean, some of these occasionally very insensitive and politically incorrect things he'll say.

Elizabeth Warren tried to get out and beat him at the game under cutting the terrible Pocahontas nickname with her DNA test roll out. And we saw how that played. It just played as very tone deaf and now it's interesting to see Warren -- she didn't respond to that tweet and I don't think we can expect her to respond to that tweet.

When she travels Iowa for the first time, she conspicuously didn't really make it about Trump. She made it about her own policy. So it feels like she's kind of learning that lesson, and other candidates, I think, will follow.

MATTINGLY: Almost lines (ph), Julian Castro who announced officially he's running for president this weekend kind of weigh in on this a little bit. Take a listen what he had to say.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I see myself as the antidote to Trump. My story is an immigrant story it's a testament to what immigrants have contributed to this country. I'm convinced that we're not going to beat Donald Trump by trying to be Donald Trump.

What people want is they want a strong positive vision for the future of their country and how it's going to impact them and their family, and that's what I laid out today, but that doesn't mean you don't stand up to him or point out policies that are bad policies.


MATTINGLY: I think in theory that's the dream, right, that you can pick and choose your moments, don't have to respond to everything, and mainly focus in on policies that are reality.

BADE: Yes, I mean, I think Democrats are going to try to do that. I think they learned a valuable lesson in this midterm, this past (ph) midterm cycle, and that was though House Democrats didn't focus a lot on Trump.

They let the media sort of do the covering about all the scandal and controversy coming out of the White House. And when they were doing ads in their districts, they were focused on things like health care, pocketbook issues.

And that was a strategy that they developed two years ago, and Nancy Pelosi and people who were sort of governing the communication strategy including Hakeem Jeffries who is now leading their communications arm. They were adamant about sticking to that message and it really worked for them.

So, I think that Democrats who are running in 2020 are obviously looking at what House Democrats did successfully to pick up 40 seats this fall and going to try to continue do that.

Now, can they withstand Trump goading them and not hit back? TBD on that.

MATTINGLY: Yes, go ahead.

KIM: Yes, I mean, it's been a while since we've heard things from Democratic leaders saying when they go low, we kick them, or we go lower. I mean, they've tried to project a little bit more of a positive message that doesn't necessitate requiring or responding to Trump at every turn. And I'm really interested in seeing, how the rest of the 2012 -- 2020 feel first of all, how many there are.

But what their respect active approaches are to Trump. Because as we were talking about earlier, there isn't anyone yet that has made kind of their brand as fighting Trump except for Michael Avenatti who we know is long out of the race.

So the interesting to see if there is another candidate among the 57 who run that does take that more confrontational approach.

TALEV: But, OK so -- I don't do media criticism but I'll do it for two seconds here.


TALEV: But if there is a 30 person field and everyone is trying to breakthrough with a message. They're talking about longevity for social security payouts going to get it done or how do you breakthrough and I think, that's going to be part of the equation.

[12:50:08] And also there are times when you have to respond to a President's attack on you. And a candidate's ability to focus on their own message when they want to but to instinctively hit back the right way without making it sounds like it's talking points, do you practice like 25 times with your consultant and don't really feel comfortable about doing off the cuff is going to be another challenge.

So I think its, like here is the perfect candidate, right, whoever that is, is someone who knows how to do it all.

MATTINGLY: Good news.

TALEV: Stay on message when he wants to stay a message, hit back naturally in an effective way. And figure out how to break through a crowded field. That sounds so simple.

MATTINGLY: Yes, the good news we're going to have like 966 candidates, right. And also some different theories (ph), there are like 300 things I wanted to get here unless when this one was cool. So probably (ph) we get to more this show games every single day of the week.

All right, up next, the President says he's not aware of Congressman Steve King's inflammatory comments. We'll catch him up, next.




TRUMP: I don't -- I haven't been following it. I really haven't been follow --



[12:55:44] MATTINGLY: And if you look at your screen right now, President Trump is walking into The Beast, as his presidential limousine is known. He's arrived in Canada to Louisiana. He would in short order be heading to New Orleans where he will be speaking at a farmer's event.

We see big public comments. I'm sure we'll have more from that later in the show actually, next show. I think we only have five minutes left. In those five minutes, let's address something that's actually rather important.

Steve King, how about you go ahead and call your office. The Iowa Republican Congressman who has a history of making racial inflammatory and controversial remarks has been summoned to an important meeting with House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy today. Following his remarks in the New York Times in which he question, "White nationalists, white supremacist, western civilization, how did that language become offensive?"

Those comments continued to be reviewed by just about everyone over the weekend. But many want action. And McCarthy says he's meeting with the nine term Congressmen would be about just that.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORIT LEADER: That language has no place in America. That is not the America I know and it's most definitely not the party of Lincoln.


MCCARTHY: I have scheduled meeting with him on Monday. And I will tell you this. I've watched on the other side that they do not take action when their members say something like that. Action will be taken. I'm having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party.

I will not stand back as a leader of this party believing in this nation that all are created equal that that stands our continue to stand and have any role with us.


MATTINGLY: So let's go and layout with some of the options could be as you see the President right now, looks like he's walking over to greet some of the people who are waiting for him at the airport.

But I want to talk about this. This is important. There are things that Congress can do. You can take him off committees. If you look over the course of history, there are reprimands, used about 10 members of history of Congress, centuries about 23 times in Congress, expulsion and other option.

Look, this is not new for Congressman Steve King. Anybody who has been covering Capitol Hill for any number of years knows that this is actually a fairly regular occurrence. The House Republicans better than anybody. There something actually going to happen or change this time.

BADE: I mean TBD at this point, we can say that the reactions from McCarthy is definitely stronger than we've seen and do before just a couple weeks before the election, King was saying additional racist comments. And we saw the leader from the House Republican campaign arms Steve Stivers push back on him and rebuke him on Twitter.

And Stivers actually -- some top Republicans were not happy with him for doing that right before a midterm election.

And now, we're seeing these comments again and King again has a long history of making these sorts of remarks, and McCarthy is reacting. I understand that he is not going to be asked to step down in this meeting with McCarthy, but there area number options depending on how he reacts and says he come out and apologize.

And one of the things Democrats are talking about censure. Some Republicans would like to see that move forward, but I don't know if McCarthy himself would support something like that. I'm just not sure at this point.

MATTINGLY: And I want to draw attention something, there's a national review editorial on this where it says, "It'd be better if Republicans police their own and the NRCC made clear won't back King in a primary general election in 2020. King maybe be clumsy, dangerous, bigoted, or some mix of the three, whatever he is, he doesn't deserve the support of conservatives. He now has a primary challenge.

There are people who have been talking to Jeb Bush. He's talking about perhaps donating to his primary challenger. Is that become the outlet here and is that not enough? KIM: Well, it's unclear right now whether the party of leadership will stand and supporting in his calendar. Like typically Republican campaign are have a traditionally supporting incumbents and that policy that general tradition is really going to be put to the test.

Now that Steve King does have a primary challenger that's condemning the Congressman's rhetoric. It's a question we'll be asking the Chairman time and more in the coming days.

But, again, I do want to emphasize that his comments, as reprehensible as they are, they are nothing new. But it's just this pushback, coming back so fiercely from the Republican Party that's been remarkable to watch.

We talked about Congressman or leader McCarthy's comments. We talked about Joni Ernst, who is Congressman King Senator saying these comments are racists, that they do not represent the state of Iowa.

And again, Tim Scott, the only African-American Senator, Republican Senator, writing a very forceful opinion piece condemning those remarks.

MATTINGLY: Yes, Senator Scott's op-ed I think he seemed to open the floodgates, people taking a posture on this that perhaps they hadn't taken any of the dozen or sometimes we've seen something this -- like this before.

All right, that's all the time we have. Great panel as always. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts right now.