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INSIDE POLITICS

Booker Announces Presidential Bid; January Jobs Numbers Show Gains; Deal with China in the Works; Trump Never Talked to Stone about WikiLeaks. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 1, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:30] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A gangbusters job report. The economy added 304,000 jobs last month. Wages up too.

Plus, the Trump administration suspends a landmark arms control treaty and says it will void the deal entirely if Russia doesn't dismantle systems that violate the pact.

And, he often mocks it in tweets, but the president craves attention in his favorite hometown newspaper during a wide-ranging interview rich with news on the border wall, and the Russia investigation, this priceless gem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yeaaaah?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just have some important calls whenever you're finished.

TRUMP: OK, I'll be in, in a little while.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

TRUMP: What's more important than "The New York Times."? OK, nothing, nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to that fun in a moment.

But we begin with a new entry into the 2020 presidential race. New Jersey's senator, former Newark mayor, Cory Booker, declaring his candidacy today, stressing his inner city roots as he joins the very crowded Democratic field.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind. Where parents can put food on the table, where there are good-paying jobs with good benefits in every neighborhood. Where our criminal justice system keeps us safe instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins. Where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame.

I'm Cory Booker, and I'm running for president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The 49-year-old Booker is the fourth Democratic senator in the race, and there likely will be more of them joining soon. He's the second black candidate joining Senator Kamala Harris in an historically diverse Democratic field.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the story of my life in many ways. From the time I was just coming out of law school, I ran to places where folks said things couldn't be done.

I'm running for all Americans, but I know that often in the black community the conditions and the realities are what is a good lens with which to view the success of our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press," CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Sahil Kapur with "Bloomberg," and Lisa Lerer with "The New York Times."

So where's he fit? What's his lane?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, I think he's doing sort of an Obama 2.0 in some ways. I don't say that just because he's African-American, but partly. He is doing the uplift, right, and he's talking about love and love being the answer. His video touched on his roots obviously in Newark as mayor there and the civil rights movement and struggles with the civil rights movement and his parents being able to kind of overcome some of those racial struggles that they had as they were coming up.

You know, the question is, does this work? He was on "The View" today. I think he was very well received. He's trying to really get that audience of women. He was on "The Tom Joyner Show" talking there about the specific lens of seeing problems through African-Americans. That's something that Obama didn't necessarily always do, right?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": Yes.

HENDERSON: Obama was like, I'm the president of all people, not just black America. Then he'd go in front of black audiences and sort of lecture them about their behavior. That's something that we're not seeing from any of these black candidates.

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: Here he is launching this candidacy, not only focused on Newark but with the drum line, right, which is, you know, if you've been in any sort of black setting in an HPCU (ph), that's something that's very familiar. So it's a very interesting sort of shift, I think, we've seen from Obama, who was very cautious on issues of race and Booker and Harris doing something different.

PACE: I think -- I think that that is such good point. I mean we're seeing in -- both with Booker and Harris, but also with some of the other women that are in the field, a real embrace of the diversity. I mean it's obvious to anybody who's watching this field. But you see a Gillibrand out there campaigning as a mom. You know, she's trying to make that a centerpiece of her campaign. So you see these candidates who are not shying away from the diversity of this field, but actually trying to make it the underpinning of their candidacy. Which, of course, speaks to the voters --

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right.

PACE: That Democrats think that they're going to need in order to become the nominee.

LERER: Right. I think that's a reflection, as you guys both point out, of like the diversity of the Democratic base, and that's a party that's only grown more diverse. And that diversity has grown even stronger during the Trump era.

But I think the question for Senator Booker is, you know, he ended that video saying "we rise," and I'm just not sure the Democrat primary electorate wants to rise. A lot of them seem to want to punch in the face.

HENDERSON: Yes.

LERER: And that is his -- a very different moment than this 2008, President Obama -- what's -- that hope and change he gave. That's right. That's what we're supposed to call it these days.

[12:05:01] I'm just not sure that the Democratic primary electorate is in a hope and changy mood right now, but that's part of what will be tested. And you see some of these other candidates like Elizabeth Warren, even like Senator Gillibrand, are just not running in that kind of way (ph).

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": Yes, those were might thoughts exactly. I mean the --

HENDERSON: Yes, and even Kamala -- yes, Kamala Harris even running, saying she's a fighter, right?

LERER: Yes. Right.

HENDERSON: I mean that is what she's talking about. She isn't talking about hope and change. She's not talking about love.

And you even see some liberals essentially saying, oh, how is that love thing going to work out when you're negotiating with Mitch McConnell, right? Is that going to help you push a liberal legislation through Congress?

KAPUR: Yes. No, Democrats tried the come together mindset in 2008, and they were very excited about it. President Obama's message worked very well then. And then they saw eight years of him getting obstructed every step of the way --

PACE: Yes.

KAPUR: Less because of what he did and more because of who he was. And I think that has left a deep impression on the Democratic base. So they're going to be looking for someone instead who wants to flip the table.

LERER: But --

KING: That's a great point, but that -- that -- that cycle was a clear Democratic cycle.

PACE: Absolutely.

KING: That was a clear Democratic cycle. I'm not sure we know. I mean you can look at President Trump's numbers and say he's down. But then you can look to 2016, and to your point about, do you want to be the uplifting candidate. I mean he is, and this is not a criticism, he's the human chain saw. Ask -- you know, ask Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush and everybody else. So is that what you want there.

Let's listen to a little bit. You look at this field. It's a fantastically diverse field. A mix of experience. You'll have mayors. You'll have senators. We're waiting on governors. Issues divide to.

Listen to a little bit of Cory Booker this morning on the radio mostly talking about the issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We disproportionately incarcerate black and brown people. That has got to stop. It's hurting us all. I signed up and am a big believer in Medicare for all, but I believe that because if we give people a quality public option, that we are going to be able to get more people into the system.

If you just lower the eligibility age for Medicare down to 50, into your 50s, the Congressional Budget Office actually shows that that would save money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Where does he fit ideologically in a field where you have, you know, sort of Elizabeth Warren populism, Kamala Harris stressing this, on criminal justice reform as well, although some of her records as attorney general will come into play in California. Where does Cory Booker fit?

PACE: Booker --

KING: It's hard to -- it's hard to say --

(CROSS TALK)

KING: It's hard to say at the end. We don't know yet, right?

PACE: Booker's pretty interesting because I think he is viewed within the Democratic Party as actually being a little bit more of a moderate, but he actually has quite a liberal voting record. He's talking about Medicare for all, which is becoming a bit of a litmus test for Democrats in the primary. So some of this actually I think will be interesting to see how he portrays himself. Is he going to try to cast himself as sort of more of this moderate lawmaker, or is he going to go toward this liberal part of the party?

LERER: But, you know, he -- he represents --

KAPUR: Well, anti-Trump record --

PACE: Right, he's -- he's --

LERER: But --

KAPUR: voting record in the Senate. (INAUDIBLE) most anti-Trump. So he's definitely gotten on that page.

LERER: Yes.

KING: Well, OK --

KAPUR: But in 2012 we saw -- you know, we saw some of where his instincts were. Newark, where he grew up, is right across the street from downtown Manhattan. He jumped in to defend Bain Capital when President Obama's campaign was playing up (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Yes. So we could -- to that point we could show, as you keep going, show some of his money. I mean he gets money from law firms, money from securities investment, money from real estates that, if he gets traction. The Democrats are being nice to each other right now.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: When they start to get traction, then you'll see the feuds begin as we get closer.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: This is the introductory phrase. Iowa caucuses are a year from Sunday. So we've got a ways to go here.

But if Cory Booker starts to get traction, I think you might see somebody like Elizabeth Warren saying you're the Democrat -- or the Wall Street guy. (CROSS TALK)

LERER: I think, you know, I -- his advisers, they did weigh -- right now he's saying that there is a super PAC that's supporting him, but they are not endorsing that super PAC. But that was a discussion among his survivors, whether they would sort of support a super PAC. And a lot of these campaigns for the other senators, that's not even a question. There will be no super PAC.

So I think that shows where he is on some of these issues and what his instincts are. He's not quite as clearly in that progressive lane. But I do think on the love message, like the one thing we know about this field is that authenticity is key. That's what we -- that's what a lot of people have taken away from the Trump era. And that is where, like a lot of the people at this table heard him speak in 2012, in 2016, that has been his message. So, in a way, he sort of has to lean into that because that is where he has been.

KING: And it -- forgive me, he is -- and he's also been early on social media. He's someone who's done it from the beginning, very active on social media.

LERER: Right.

PACE: Absolutely.

KING: Listen to him here. Again, he's today getting -- he's on the radio a lot today. Very -- he's busy. He's busy today. Including -- including "The View," where he gets asked a couple interesting questions by Meghan McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN MCCAIN, HOST, "THE VIEW": How do you convince people, especially on the left, that you're authentic and that you're not a phony, especially during this time? And this isn't just, you know, sort of a political stunt, if you will?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you can't speak to authenticity. No, you've just got to be who you are. And there are going to be critics all the time. It's about what you do. Let my works speaks for me.

MCCAIN: When I think of you now, I think of I am Spartacus. And that -- I don't know if is the best reflection of you. So -- so --

BOOKER: Well, I hope people go back and watch that old click (ph) because even that was twisted. What we do in this culture right now, it's a tear down culture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean there have been times where he hasn't been able to figure out his lane, vis-a-vis Elizabeth Warren, vis-a-vis Kamala Harris. Somebody who, for instance, walked out I think one of the Senate hearings. He couldn't figure out how to -- how to play that. He's been very differential, for instance, to other Republican members on that committee, something you wouldn't necessarily hear from Kamala Harris. He's got to figure out if this love message, I think, is right for moment, or if it's too much of a retread of what we saw from Obama. And you mentioned that.

[12:10:16] And the thing is, a lot of liberals, black liberals in particular, aren't too happy, you know, in retrospect with the way Obama played things. This idea, if you get everybody in a room and, you know, everybody sort of sings Kumbaya, that you can work things out. And they saw that that didn't necessarily work for Obama.

So it will be interesting to see what -- he says I think in the -- in the background you see a lot of jockeying, particularly in South Carolina for aides, right, people who are going to staff the campaign. Some of the Sanders people look like they might go with him. They see him as more of a progressive, particularly on that issue of criminal justice, which is going to be such a lightning rod issue, particularly for these two black candidates.

KAPUR: The flip side is it may have value in a general election.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KAPUR: I've talked to a number of Republican operatives over the last two years saying who -- which candidate do you fear most in the 2020 general election? And the name that came up most often is Cory Booker, because he doesn't have the effect of a harsh partisan and they think he's likeable.

KING: All right. We'll see as this plays out. And I think, again, him getting in, because of this competition, it's not important to most people out in America but it's important to these candidates, this competition, Bernie Sanders is going to have to make up his mind. Other people are going to have to make up their mind pretty quickly because people in those key counties want to know, who should I be with.

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: Up next, turns out the shutdown to end all government shutdowns made barely a dent, if at all, on the job market.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:33] KING: The White House today celebrating a better than expected jobs report. The January numbers far exceeding expectations after many economists predicted there might be a slowdown due to the partial government shutdown. Turns out, the labor market mostly writing off the shutdown as no big deal. The president could hardly be more excited about the economy, tweeting this morning, best January for the Dow in over 30 years. We have by far the strongest economy in the world.

Christine Romans is here to explain the strong numbers.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, a really strong jobs report to start the year, finishing, really, after a very strong year last year. And 2.6 million jobs created last year, and here, the first month of this year, 304,000 net new jobs. That's more than economists had expected. And this is basically the labor market shrugging off that shutdown.

You had federal workers who were furloughed. They were not counted as unemployed. The government did not count them as unemployed.

The unemployment rate went up just a little bit to 4 percent, but this is still, you know, really low, near full employment. A 4 percent unemployment rate. This is 100 months in a row now of job creation. This marks a pretty interesting milestone for this labor market. Still quite strong.

And the hiring is it across the board here. Leisure and hospitality, bars and restaurants, a lot of hiring there. Construction, health care, warehouses, transportation, mining, you name it, there was strong hiring across the board here. And wages went up 3.2 percent. That's three months in a row of higher wage growth. That's something that's great for workers, but may -- may be concerning to the Federal Reserve, who's trying to make sure there's not too much inflation in the pipeline.

Let's look at where this stacks up. The -- last year you had 2.6 million new jobs last year. This was the best year in a couple of years. It looks as though this year, starting right where we left off.

John.

KING: Christine Romans with the numbers there.

Neil Irwin with "The New York Times" joins the discussion.

You look at the report and it's strong, strong, strong, strong. Anything? Any signs of weakness in here?

NEIL IRWIN, SENIOR ECONOMIC CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean there were some negative revisions to some earlier months, but if you look at the overall arc, it's absolutely a strong story.

What's the really good -- the really good news, as I see it, is that we're seeing evidence that people are entering the labor force who are not -- who were not in it before. It's not just that there's strong job growth, there's strong job growth at a time where you already have a low unemployment rate. That means that there's -- employers are finding new workers. More people are getting back to work.

KING: More people are getting back to work.

And -- so 100 months of consecutive job growth. So some Democrats will say, aha, this all began under Obama. And it did. But it's accelerated under President Trump. If you're a president gearing up to run for re- election, I mean this is a handstand moment.

PACE: It's terrific news if you're a president about to run for re- election. Trump, obviously, has a lot of negatives. Those are well- known. But the biggest thing that he has on his side, if this continues, and there's a long time between now and Election Day, is that the economy has been strong under his watch. And it did start under Obama, but it has continued for the first two years of his term. The thing that his advisers, of course, are always worried about is some kind of downturn, that this will shift, and that the economy, which is really what he is running on, a businessman who came into office and was able to come juice the economy, that he will lose that argument. But right now he's in a really good position on this piece.

KING: Right. And to that point, his overall approval rating, still in the tank. Thirty-eight percent approve of the job the president's doing, 57 percent disapprove. This is the latest Quinnipiac poll. On the economy, 46 percent approve, 51 percent disapprove.

Late last year he was actually above water on the economy. That's the -- it's been his strongest number. He's a little under water there. But, again, if you're ramping up for re-election, that's the source of his strength. There's a lot of Trump problems if you look at the polls. His numbers are down. That's why Democrats are optimistic.

But if you're a Democrat looking at these economic headlines, you start to get a little bit nervous.

To Julie's point about potential things down the road. Let's listen to the president yesterday. He's in the middle of these very important, high stakes negotiations with China. It's not just about trade of farm products. It's not just about trade, of manufacturing, intellectual property is involved, now the Huawei case gets involved because of its complications and the protests of the Chinese government. The president sounds optimistic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going into everything. This isn't going to be a small deal with China.

I think that probably the final deal will be made. If it's made, will be made between myself and President Xi. But we're certainly talking about theft. We're talking about every aspect of trade with a country. And we're talking about fentanyl, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: On this issue he's been pretty consistent. If you're a president running for re-election and you don't want to disrupt the economy, you assume the political impetuous would be, cut some kind of deal, even if you can't get to everything. Even if you can't get to intellectual property and some of the longer term Chinese problems. But, the president said we're going to get a big deal. Is that -- what is the potential impact of that?

IRWIN: Yes, those are very much intention, right, as you say.

Look, the Chinese could buy a bunch of soybeans, 5 million tons of soybeans. They could do some things to try and reduce the trade deficit and make the president feel like he has a deal and can sign something. That's actually what's best for the U.S. economy in the near term. That's what's best. If you want to see these jobs numbers rebound, if you want to see Wall Street and the stock market do better, getting some kind of deal that just papers over some of these longer term problems.

[12:20:19] But, look, these problems have been building for 20 years. These aren't new. These are -- this is about the fundamental economic relationship between the world's two biggest economies. It's been dysfunctional for a long time.

So the question is for the president, how much is he willing to hold out? How much is he willing to take the risk of some damage to the stock market, to the economy, in order to try and get a deal that will actually leave -- leave the U.S. economy in better shape in the long run?

KING: Fascinating moment with about a month to go in those negotiations. We'll see.

Neil, appreciate your coming in.

Julie, you don't get -- we're not going to let you get away. You've got to stay right here.

Up next, what the special counsel has told us and the big questions Robert Mueller still leaves on the table.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:35] KING: Today, an answer to a long speculated about question, whom did Donald Trump Junior call before and after that now infamous Trump Tower meeting? Three sources telling CNN that Senate investigators have records showing Trump Junior made calls to family friends and business associates, not his father. The new information solves one Mueller mystery and debunks a Democratic theory pushed by many, including the now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

But the special counsel's paper trail leaves us still with a lot of big unknowns. Let's go through some of the big questions in this investigation.

Let's start with Rick Gates. He was the deputy campaign chairman. He pleaded guilty to lying to the special counsel and to conspiracy. The big point here is that he is now cooperating, and his sentencing has been delayed because he continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations. The big question, what? Mr. Gates was involved in the campaign, was involved in the transition. What has he told special counsel?

Paul Manafort was his long-time business partner, the chairman of the campaign, Rick Gates' boss if you will. He has now pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and lying to investigators. He was convicted in a court in Virginia. One of the issues here, the special counsel says he gave 2016 polling data to a Russian business associate who was known to have contacts with Russian intelligence. The big question, where'd that polling go? Was it at all used, possible collusion? Could the Russians have used it in their troll farms? We don't know the answer yet to that question.

Then you move over here to the president's long-time attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. He has now pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. Among the things he said he lied about was how long was the president's organization, the Trump organization, talking to Russia about a possible Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen tells the special counsel, gave them relevant and useful information, the special counsel says, about conversations with people in the White House before that testimony to Congress. The big question, whom? Who was he talking to inside the White House? And, what did they discuss? Did they suggest he say things that weren't true? That is something we don't know. The president has said it wasn't him.

Roger Stone, the most recently indicted Trump associate, due in court in just an hour or so. He's been indicted for lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Among the big questions here, the special counsel says a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Roger Stone about his back and forth with WikiLeaks to try to get inside information about what could come next. The big question here, and this is a big question, who is the senior Trump campaign official and who directed that senior official to contact Roger Stone? In his interview with "The New York Times" yesterday, the president says, not me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever talk to him about WikiLeaks, because that seemed to be what Mueller was --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never had a conversation with him?

TRUMP: No, I didn't. I never did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever tell him -- did you ever tell him or other people to get in touch with them?

TRUMP: Never did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Never did says the president.

Olivier Knox with Sirius XM, and former associate independent council Kim Wehle join the conversation.

No wiggle room there.

KIM WEHLE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No wiggle room.

KING: Never did. Never did.

WEHLE: Well, and -- but this is a president who's had thousands of lies that have been documented. So it's really difficult at this point to give any credence to what he's going to say. And, obviously, him and potentially his family are in some legal jeopardy, liability. So he has every incentive, I think, to continue that no collusion narrative.

But we have to remember, there's three prongs to conclusion, which is a loose term for other kinds of crimes. Russia, the 2016 election, and the Trump campaign. And we know from the exchange of the polling data, we know from the October release of WikiLeaks e-mails after the "Access Hollywood" tape dropped, and we also know from a June Trump Tower meeting -- I head a piece on this in "The Hill" yesterday, we have those three prongs, at least three times, and very prominently, in the public domain. So I think the notion that there's nothing with Trump and Russia is kind of in the rearview mirror at this point.

KING: It's his personal fingerprints I think that we still continue to look for.

I want you to listen here. This is going back in time. But Donald Trump Junior has a point, tweeting -- tweeting late last night, has anyone heard from Adam Schiff? I imagine he's busy leaking other confidential info from the House Intelligence Committee to change the subject. If you go back to when we first knew that he and -- that Donald Trump Junior, there were phone calls they were looking at and -- that were blocked on the other end, so we didn't know the number and, you know, every -- well, let's just say, Adam Schiff thought he knew.

[12:29:43] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: As they were setting up that Trump Tower meeting, as Don Junior was on the phone with his Russian counterpart to make arrangements to get this dirt on Hillary Clinton, there was a phone call sandwiched in between these communications between Trump Junior and Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, the son of that oligarch. And that call is a blocked number. And we wanted to get the phone records to determine, was Donald Trump talking to his son about this meeting? It's an obvious