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INSIDE POLITICS

CNN Poll: Biden Is Top 2020 Contender; Washington Post: Warren Listed Race As American-Indian For Texas Bar; Beto O'Rourke: I'll Make 2020 Decision By End Of February; White House Defends Decision To Withdraw Troops From Syria And Afghanistan. Aired 12:30-1 ET

Aired February 6, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is an open question, but just anecdotally we know that Elizabeth Warren has taken dozens of questions since she announced her exploratory campaign on New Year's eve and by my count she's been asked this question exactly two time to make of that what you will but obviously the timing of this is not great given that she's going to formally announce her campaign on Saturday, John.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And we'll see how it plays out. MJ Lee, appreciate the reporting there.

Let's bring in the room to MJ's point, the question is President Trump cares about this. He has several times taken her on Twitter in the past. Many people think the reason she had a DNA test which then the role out of that was a mess for Elizabeth Warren, which is to somehow try to quiet the President. It did not work.

I just want to show here. These are just times Senator Warren identified herself or was identified as a Native American. A local Oklahoma Cookbook called Pow Wow Chow, that's what it's called back in 1984. Sorry if I even have to say that.

The Association American Law School's directory from 1986 to 1995, she notified officials at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard following her hiring of the DNA test that came out last year. This its come out, the question is, what is the impact on the campaign?

Let's talk more about this poll in the next segment. But we have brand new poll numbers out today and if you look at them Elizabeth Warren is viewed favorably -- very favorably by Democratic and Democratic leaning voters. Fifty-two percent view her favorably of these of the candidates who have announced they're running for president. Warren, Harris, Castro and Gillibrand, Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard. She's the viewed most favorably there.

But, when you ask Democrats what's the most important factor in picking a nominee, they talk about a good chance of beating Trump. So will this hurt that argument? If electability is the defining issue for Democrats will this hurt her candidacy?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, this has already sort of caused sort to make a number of stumbles in the early stages of her candidacy. She's tried to put up a DNA test that sort of ended up being a flap. She's talked about saying that, "I'm not a person of color". That ended up not being enough because now we're seeing new documents that show she did claim that she was Native America -- American back when she was, you know, at the Texas Bar.

And I think that's one of the reasons why this issue is dogging her campaign is because there are so many different iterations of this problem. She hasn't been able to put it behind her because new documents come out, new different strategies come out and they're not working.

I think she needs to put this behind her and she hasn't been able to do it.

KING: It raises the question, are you ready for a prime time? I was talking to a number of democratic strategist yesterday, she just ran for an election in Massachusetts last year. If you have to deal with stuff like this and she tried to deal with it in that campaign, but deal with it. Deal with it fully and completely.

If you know this is an issue, call your staff in. Where was I registered for the bar? Where did I ever bring in a suit? Where did I ever sign a piece of paper and you do it yourself. This is the same conversation we just have about Virginia. If you have a problem there's a way to get out ahead of it. The fact that she did the DNA test and she apologized to the Cherokee nation, then you get this reporting this document on her by "The Washington Post" that has lot of campaign strategists wondering, what else?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, because the DNA test wasn't the attempt to get out ahead of it and it was so botched. I mean, 101 in that situation should have been to go to the Cherokee nation and say, hey, if I were to do this what would you think about that? What would your reaction be?

I think the reality for her is this is not going to go away. So whether it's more revelations or whether it's President Trump keeping in the spotlight, this is something that she's going to be dealing with throughout the course of her campaign. The question is and I don't think I know the answer right now is what do voters take away from this?

Do they look at this and say, you know, this is someone who was trying to claim she was something that she's not and that means we don't trust her? Do they look at this as something that's just political motivation from Trump? Do they look at this as someone as someone who's not really prepared for prime time.

I don't think we know the answer but somehow this is going to be part of her campaign. So whenever it was that one.

KING: Does another Democrat bring it up?

PACE: Absolutely.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well if that happens, I mean you know, as of now the candidates are generally not taking swipes each other. It happens faster than we think every cycle. Someone may try to make gains with this.

But, look this is all her own doing. This is not a staff issue. This is her own doing. She did not have staff with her at that time when she was signing this all this years ago.

I am told her staff has been researching absolutely everything more aggressively than some of the others looking at their background. It raises the question why didn't this come up sooner and what else is there? But I think it's also a good point, we cannot sit here right now and say that voters are actually are concerned about this.

You know, we all remember things 12 years ago in the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign, other campaigns, or even Reverend Jeremiah Wright, that was supposed to do in his candidacy, it didn't. So we don't know how voters react to it but how she reacts to it is--

KING: Didn't do with candidacy but he did have to give big speech on it.

ZELENY: He did.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: The candidate had to right to show. Someone seem the candidate well see how she do it in this case.

Up next, our new CNN poll we'll get much more into it. Shows some Democrats are most likely to support come 2020.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:39:08] KING: It's a new reporting today on Joe Biden's 2020 time line and some new poll numbers that could help him work through any last-minute doubts. Let's get to the numbers first and take a peek.

In our new CNN SSR poll, we asked, who you very or somewhat likely to support for president in 2020? This is not a horse race. We're not asking voters this candidate versus that candidate.

Who do you like? Who could you see yourself supporting? Who you likely to support?

Well, Joe Biden comes out on top ahead of President Trump. Thinking about running for president? You've got to think that's pretty good, right?

Bernie Sanders does pretty well here. Kamala Harris, she can say she is moving up. Her rollout out of the national attention, just talking about Elizabeth Warren, this poll is taken obviously before the latest controversy but she also rises up pretty high.

This is a who are people thinking about. Don't take this as who will they going to vote for but who they think they likely to support for president. If you're Joe Biden, and you're making your final decision, you like that. You're the only guy ahead of Trump in this poll.

What's the most important is Democrats choose a nominee? A good chance to beat Trump comes in first. Has the right experience. Second, willing to work with the GOP comes in third.

[12:40:07] Again, if you're Joe Biden, one, two and three you think that describes me, making that final decision. Races don't always end as they begin, but if you're Joe Biden, look at the beginning those are pretty good numbers for you in our new poll.

Now, this is just Democrats and Democratic leaning independence. Who are you very likely to support? And again, you'll notice this adds up to weigh more than a hundred. This is not a horse race poll. This candidate versus that candidate. It's who you warm toward, who could you very likely to support.

Joe Biden still leads the pack.

Again, if you're Senator Harris, you think you're moving up, you're encouraged by that. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth warren, Cory Booker round out the top five there but again Joe Biden making his decision says, I would start as the front-runner.

Here is the bottom of the pack here, Beto O'Rourke still not sure if he's going to run although he told Oprah yesterday, probably. You see here, if you're Michael Bloomberg or Sherrod Brown, you think OK, I got some work to do among Democratic voters. Especially if you look at not all likely to support.

Mayor Bloomberg, 30 percent of Democrats there. That's a problem for him as the tries to say, I was Republican, I was man independent. Now, I want to be a Democrat.

Beto O'Rourke, also are showed you in the plus side. There's a negative there. So if we watch play out -- we see these all plays out. One thing we do know, one day I'm not there. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, is she going to run? Tune in Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Sunday, come to Boom Island in Minneapolis as in Boom Island, drop the mic. And then you'll find out.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: You're going to announce your decision?

KLOBUCHAR: I am. We've had so many discussions about this so I thought, well here you go. That's the moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Klobuchar on Sunday. We'll come back to that in a minute. Now, you've been working your Biden sources and the answer is?

ZELENY: His orbit and world is still preparing for the likelihood that he'll run. He still has not made a final decision yet. So there's always the open question here with Joe Biden but I'm told they are likely eyeing a date at the end of next month, the end of the first quarter or the very beginning of April so he doesn't get caught up how much money did he raise in the first quarter because that's what's going to be happening here.

But everyone in his orbit is preparing for him to run. He's looking at polling and he believes that there is more of a lane for him. I'm guessing this poll will certainly heighten that argument, but again, it has to be his decision and I'm told he's not quite there yet.

KING: The question is how you read the data because if you look at the history of campaigns they very rarely end as they begin.

UNIDENTIFIEF FEMALE: Right.

KING: So if you're Biden, you're the horse, you're ahead of the track. You're around the first curve. Can you count on that to last?

PACE: You generally don't want to be the front runner at this point and what are the other takeaways though from there and this is interesting because Joe Biden's argument if he does go forward and this is largely going to be, I'm the only one who can beat Trump.

I think if you look a lot at the polling including this new one there are a lot of candidates who voters think can beat Trump. So, I'm not sure that message I'm the only one who can do this is necessarily going to resonate with Democratic primary voters.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and the other thing that was really interesting about the result of that poll is that, you know, you had about 26 percent said, you know, the most important thing was who can beat Trump. You have 30 percent who said none of the things --

KING: Right.

DAVIS: -- that were on that list. We don't know that yet. And I'm not sure that Democratic base really knows what it is that they're quite looking for in presidential candidate.

I think because Biden was vice president. He's very well known. He has all that name recognition, people familiar with him, he associated him with the Obama presidency. Perhaps, and you know, nostalgia for that under President Trump is pushing people toward him, but we don't know what the other 30 percent. Isn't that's a really important question and Joe Biden doesn't know that either and so I think that's probably one of the things he's weighing now is would that actually be the winning, you know, lane for him to be in.

KING: And so, one of the candidates we're waiting for, Senator Klobuchar, Midwestern voice. Most people expect her to get in but we'll see what happen Sunday when she makes her decision in Minnesota.

Now, the candidate Beto O'Rourke who did his drive after he lose the Texas senate race, it's a medium posting. Some people loved him. Some people thought what is this all about? Sat down with Oprah yesterday, dropped a hint.

I'm sorry. Yes, I thought we had sound. "We want to play a great a role as possible to making sure this country lives up to our expectations to the promise to the potential that we all know her to have. I have been thinking about running for president. I've got to tell you and you can tell I'm so excited at the prospect of being able to play that role. None of us have the luxury of sitting any of this out". That tells me he's running.

OLORUNNIPA: He definitely sound like a potential candidate. It was interesting to look through the poll and see that his numbers he was just second to Mayor Bloomberg and the number of Democrats who said that definitely would not support him. So there is sort of some residual opposition to Mr. O'Rourke maybe because of his sort of dilly dallying about whether they'll jump into the race and his road trip. I think that turned a lot of people off. But he is someone who -- a lot of people are watching and waiting to see whether or not he jumps into the race. That could also impact other folks like Biden. It could also impact Senator Sanders who's thinking about a run as well.

So, there are a number of people who are on the sidelines right now who could really shake up the polling and shape up the race if they decide to jump in and right now because the race is so wide open it looks like more people are looking like more likely to run and more likely to jump and then not and sort of at this point why not.

[12:45:06] ZELENY: It's why the expectations may have lowered a little bit for him as we've gone on here. That could be a good thing for someone who's new on the national stage is that introduced himself. But he also said his family still isn't there yet. He was very specific in that interview which Oprah that his son, Ulysses, his oldest son, doesn't want him to do it.

So, he left open the possibility is not. As per Senator Klobuchar, if you know Minneapolis, the Boom Island part she's talking about, the backdrop of that is the I-35 Interstate and the bridge which collapsed. It was a major tragedy there and she with the Republican senator, with the Obama Administration worked to get that rebuilt.

So, maybe a coincidence perhaps not that's where she is making her announcement. A sign that she can get things done.

KING: More this feels going to be crowded.

Up next, 2020 Corey Booker pulls no punches, while questioning a key judicial nominee, his conservative critic say he went too far.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:14] KING: Topping our political radar today. President Trump has another high-profile meeting with fellow NATO leaders on the horizon. The alliance announcing today and members will meet in London this December to mark NATO 70th anniversary. No official confirmation from the White House the president will attend but NATO says it's highly likely.

Another Congressional hearing concerning Michael Cohen has just been postponed. The President's former attorney will suppose to appear for the House Intelligence this Friday. But the Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff says it's been rescheduled to February 28th.

Cohen, you might remember also slated to appear before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow, but that appearance got scrapped last month. He is scheduled to begin a three-year prison sentence on March 6th for lying to Congress and other crimes.

Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker throwing the ire of conservatives for some pointed questions he asked the appellate court nominee Neomi Rao, Tuesday. Republican Senator Ted Cruz saying Senator and other Democrats are showing hostility to religious faith and in Senator Cruz's view turning the proceedings into a, "A court of inquisition with questions like these".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Do you think gay relationships are immoral? Do you personally believe the gay relationship --

NEOMI RAO, APPEALS COURT NOMINEE, D.C. CIRCUIT: No, I do not.

BOOKER: You do not believe that?

RAO: No.

BOOKER: Do you believe they're a sin?

RAO: Senator, you know, my personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put to one side, and I would faithfully follow the --

BOOKER: So you're not willing to say here that whether you believe it is sinful for a man -- two men to be married? You're not willing to comment on that?

RAO: You know, senator, no.

BOOKER: Excuse me?

RAO: I'm sorry?

BOOKER: I didn't hear your response?

RAO: My response is that these personal views are ones that I would -- I would put to one side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Booker also asked Rao if she had ever had any LGBTQ law clerks. Her reply, "Senator, I've yet to be a judge. I don't have law clerks".

Up next, the Trump administration has a new twist, that it tries to sell its decision to pull troops from Syria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:46] KING: The Trump administration today promoting and defending its decision to draw down troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reassuring allies today that the United States remains committed to fighting ISIS. Secretary Pompeo says progress is being made, but he stresses now the U.S. role in his view, evolving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: We're entering an era of decentralized jihad so we must be nimble in our approach, as well. The nature of the fight is changing. That's why President Trump's announcement that U.S. troops will be withdrawing from Syria is not the end of America's fight.

The fight is one that we will continue to wage alongside of you. The drawdown of troops is essentially a tactical change. It is not a change in the mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Rear Admiral John Kirby is with us for the conversation. It sounds like they're trying to give a better explanation that we have to readjust. Are they readjusting or are they retreating?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's a little bit of both John and it's definitely strategy post tweet and that's all this is. They're trying to figure out and how to make the tweet and the decision fit their narrative. But he's being too cute by half there. It is a change in mission.

Those troops were on the ground in a very tactile purpose to advise and assist to help indigenous forces, mostly Kurds, find, fix and finish ISIS targets. Well now they're not going to be doing that. They're still on the ground now and would eventually they won't be able to do that. So that is a change in mission.

I understand what they're trying to say, we're still going to put pressure ISIS and that's good and you can do that from Iraq. There's no question about it, but the mission is very different and I think again, I think they're being -- they're trying to sort of sell this thing in a way that's more palatable.

KING: Sell it because there's questions from allies in the region. Questions from Republicans in Congress who rebuke the President just this week. Questions at the Pentagon which says ISIS will continue to try to regroup and then ISIS is not completely defeated, that's a Pentagon report.

Listen to the President last night making his case and watch some of the key reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great nations do not fight endless wars. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these blood thirsty monsters. Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the chairman of the joint chiefs there with quite the poker face. All of the reporting, all of the reporting inside the building says that the chiefs and former Secretary Mattis who left, resigned over this, they think this is a bad call.

KIRBY: And just yesterday, Owen West, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and low intensity conflict in the House Armed Services Committee hearing just yesterday said he agreed with Secretary Mattis' decision to resign after the decision for the Syria withdrawal.

KING: A public rebuke from a still sitting Pentagon official.

KIRBY: Absolutely. No question about it.

KING: This debate is not over. I appreciate you joining us on INSIDE POLITICS a lot of breaking news to cover. Stay with us. A lot more ahead, Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.