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Talks Break Down As Deadline Looms; Trump and O'Rourke Hold Dueling Rallies; Klobuchar on Staff Treatment; Freshman Democrat Ignites Anti-Semitism Controversy; Interview with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.

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

Underway right now, the president's back against the wall as talks collapse with just four days to go until a government shutdown again, leaving the government on the brink.

Plus, a Texas duel as the president heads to the border town that's home to a potential 2020 contender.

Pot, prison and progressives. We are on the campaign trail as 2020 heats up.

And, hate out in the open? A freshman Democratic accused of anti- Semitism and the president openly mocking the genocide of Native Americans.

Up first, border talks at a standstill and the possibility of another government shutdown growing more likely by the day. Sources say the top negotiators from each party are meeting today to try to find a way forward after talks broke down over the weekend. A key sticking point involves the number of beds in detention centers that house undocumented immigrants. Current funding allows for more than 40,000. Democrats want to decrease that number to about 35,000. Republicans want an increase to 52,000.

We have correspondent Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill following this for us.

So update us on these talks. Tell us about this stalemate over detention beds.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is certainly, Brianna, a precarious moment right now on Capitol Hill. We are now four days away from the deadline to get a deal to avert another government shutdown. There is no deal and there are certainly considerable pessimism over -- that came -- and concern that came after those talks broke down over the weekend. The negotiators say that they still have not brokered a deal, specifically gotten any agreement on that dollar figure for a potential physical barrier at the border.

And then, also, one of the real flashpoints that emerged from these discussions over the weekend, and in large part what led to the talks breaking down as the real deep division among Democrats and Republicans on this committee over the issue of detention beds for undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes. Democrats on the committee, they have demanded for that number of beds to be reduced. They want to see a cap on the number of beds. A cap at the level that Republicans, frankly, will not go for.

Now, this afternoon, in just a few hours, at 3:30 up here on Capitol Hill, there will be a critical meeting, a critical moment where the top four negotiators are going to sit down back at the table, trying essentially to restart the talks. The big question, of course, Brianna, is, are -- is there something that's salvageable here four days before the deadline, or do they have to start to move toward plan b and plan c? A lot will come from that meeting, potentially.

KEILAR: All right, we'll be watching with you, Sunlen.

And while Washington remains at an impasse over the border, President Trump is taking his border wall message on the road to Texas. The president is holding a campaign rally tonight in El Paso, a key outpost in the immigration fight. At the same time, and also in El Paso, potential 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke will be taking part in a counter-rally. O'Rourke is El Paso's former congressman and a former Texas Senate candidate.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlin Collins is in El Paso for us.

So, Kaitlan, the president has made this area a major part of his push for the border wall. What are we expecting to hear tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a major area. And you heard the president make that argument during his State of the Union Address last week as well. And he's saying essentially that this city makes the argument for him for why we need a border wall, that it -- essentially once something is built, like this structure behind me, this border fence behind me, that it will help bring the crime rate down in cities like El Paso.

Now, you saw the president lay that out in his State of the Union Address, but that is something that local officials and even the numbers are disputing. You saw the mayor of El Paso on CNN earlier today saying that the president's argument just simply doesn't line up with those numbers. Those numbers that show actually the violent crime rate in El Paso peaked in 1993 and then continued to decline over the next decade and some change. And it wasn't until 2006 that President Bush authorized the building of this border fence here behind me and it's construction on it didn't even start until 2008. So they say the president is wrong when he argues that this fence has helped bring the crime rate down here in El Paso. But, Brianna, of course, that's still an argument you can expect the

president to make here tonight in his first campaign rally of the year where he's going to come the closest he's come to someone who could be running against him in 2020 and, of course, that's Beto O'Rourke, who is from El Paso, and who is also going to be holding essentially a counter-rally against President Trump as he continues to make this argument saying that El Paso really lays out his argument for the border wall for him. And as Sunlen just laid out, essentially coming amid that looming government shutdown since those talks on Capitol Hill stalled over the weekend.

[13:05:00] KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan Collins in El Paso, thank you.

The Democratic race for president is getting even more crowded, if you can believe that. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are both officially saying that they are in. Warren laid out her major talking points to supporters in Massachusetts, including her pledge to help those that she says are being left out of the booming economy.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The middle class squeeze is real, and millions of families can barely breathe. It is not right.

When it comes to climate change, our very existence is at stake.

Stop handing out enormous tax giveaways to rich people and giant corporations.

We can't be blind to the fact that the rules in our country have been rigged against other people for a long time.

The man in the White House is not the cause of what is broken, he is just a product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.

We need to change the rules to clean up Washington. End the corruption.

We all know the Trump administration is the most corrupt in living memory.


KEILAR: And Senator Amy Klobuchar and her supporters toughing it out, as you can see, in sub-zero temperatures. And not light snow. We're talking pretty heavy snow there in Minnesota as she announced her bid. She told the crowd that climate change is an issue that is not going away.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE : The people are on our side when it comes to climate change. They believe in science.

We can't get there if people can't afford their healthcare. And that means getting to universal health care.

I am not afraid to stand up to the gun lobby and put universal background checks and common sense gun legislation into law.

We must respect our frontline troops, diplomats and intelligence officers. They deserve better than foreign policy by tweet.

And one last obstacle that we must overcome to move forward together, stop the fearmongering and stoop the hate.


KEILAR: Senator Klobuchar also facing questions again this morning about reports that he has mistreated her staff over the years.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, I love my staff. We wouldn't be where I am and we wouldn't be able to pass all those bills and do all that work if we didn't have great staff. I am tough. I push people. That is true. But my point is, is that I have high expectations for myself. I have high expectations for the people that work for me. And I have high expectations for this country.


KEILAR: Chief political correspondent Dana Bash is here with me now to talk about this. This is -- this is a topic that she's had to confront a lot. And on one hand, we know Amy Klobuchar's an -- she's quite a perfectionist. Staff, in many reports, will talk about how detail oriented she is. And it seems to cut both ways.



It seems -- it seems to -- and I think that's also -- yes. I mean what do you think?

BASH: Look, I think -- I think this is interesting and about time that we have these conversations because, Brianna, you and I covered Capitol Hill together for a while and I think we both know and heard, maybe observed and also heard a lot of the rap on not just Senator Klobuchar, but other female senators in particular was, they're tough. They yell at their staff. They rid them too hard. And there's -- it's not that the male senators didn't have those tendencies, but you just didn't hear about it as much. And I think that part of this, if you kind of take it up to, you know, 10,000 feet, is that it is -- even though there are 20 plus female members of the Senate, it is still true that women are held to higher standards. They have to work harder to get where they are.

It's changing, but that is -- certainly even just a few years ago, when Senator Klobuchar was first elected, that was the case. And because of that, they have higher expectations for their staff to keep them at that level to work harder. Now, you know, we can address -- and, you know, I don't even know if it's worth talking about some of the specifics now of the allegations which she has denied --

KEILAR: And when I said detail -- detail-oriented, to be clear --

BASH: Yes.

KEILAR: I wasn't being pejorative.

BASH: No, I know.

KEILAR: I actually -- some people were very --

BASH: I know.

KEILAR: They were complementary about -- they felt that she was very committed to all of the -- the policies.

BASH: No and absolutely. Absolutely. And that is true.

And, look, Senator Klobuchar, obviously, was ready for this question. And to be fair to her, there are other female senators, again, who have reputations of being very, very tough. And if you dig into the details of what that means, you can find examples of men who are in politics, who are as, quote/unquote, tough but don't earn -- and I use earn in a -- in a -- in a sarcastic way, that reputation.

[13:10:20] KEILAR: Can we -- let's talk about the visual --

BASH: Wasn't that amazing.

KEILAR: Of the crowd, because it's sort of arresting, actually, when you see it. I -- it looks like a Packers game. I mean I've never -- I've never seen an announcement like this. And I think, you know, Donald Trump took her on on Twitter about it, but she fired back at him asking him how his hair would stand up in the snow like that. Zing.

BASH: Yes.

KEILAR: Which is something that Klobuchar is known for, which is her sense of humor.

BASH: Yes, absolutely. And -- and it is the kind of thing that brings up the debate that is going on within the Democratic electorate and looking at the various options that they have for a potential opponent for Donald Trump is, how far do you want them to go? Do you want them to do, you know, zingers like that, which, in this case, was just funny, or to go for the jugular more, like you have Elizabeth Warren doing, or to say, you know what, we can't stoop to their level, which is the kind of tact that someone like Cory Booker is taking.

And so it's a reminder that that is a real thing. It's very substantive. There's very, very important discussion and debate going on about the policy differences between and within the Democratic Party. But, be sure that there's also a very kind of guttural, instinctual decision that a lot of these voters are going to make, these voters who despise Donald Trump and want the best person from their perspective to go up against him.

KEILAR: It's going to be interesting to see who takes him on.

BASH: Yes.

KEILAR: And when maybe also it's -- it's hard to imagine someone not taking him on at all, that maybe deciding when they're going to take him on, I guess, is that your expectation?

BASH: Yes, I think so. And, look, I mean, it's a different thing because if you look back four years within the Republican electorate, you had people fighting for this -- for Donald Trump supporters who tried and failed many, many -- in many different ways, from Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio, to take him on and they just ended up, you know, doing worse.


BASH: This is a different dynamic because they are appealing to people who really, really want that fighting sensibility. But you also have people in the middle who -- they don't exist to the degree that we have seen in the past, but they think they did -- they exist more than we realize, those who just want to say, OK, enough with all this, let's have a debate on the policy issues.

KEILAR: All right, we will see. Let's hope, right.

Dana Bash, thank you so much for that.

BASH: Thanks, Bri.

KEILAR: One week from today, CNN's Don Lemon is going to moderate a town hall with Senator Amy Klobuchar in New Hampshire. You can check that out at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

The embattled governor of Virginia forced to issue a response statement to his response interview as he answers for racist pictures.

Plus, a Democratic congresswoman being accused of anti-Semitism over a tweet about Israel. And this is not the first time that she's gotten into hot water over this.

And the president appearing to mock the Trail of Tears, a genocide that killed thousands of Native Americans.


[13:17:39] KEILAR: A freshman lawmaker is taking heat for remarks that critics are calling anti-Semitic. In a tweet, Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar suggested that Republican support for Israel is fueled by money, specifically by donations from a pro-Israel lobbying group.

We have senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju with details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, in just her seventh week in office, again enduring sharp backlash after challenging support for Israel. The latest, a series of tweets Sunday that were criticized as anti- Semitic.

First, in response to this threat from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: If they do not take action, I think you'll see action for myself on ways that we -- that this cannot sustain itself. It's unacceptable in this country.

RAJU: The Minnesota Democrat tweeted, it's all about the Benjamin's, baby. That remark sparking an uproar, including from fellow Freshman Democrat Max Rose, who called her statements deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself, calling her statement offensive by implying that Americas support Israel because of money alone.

As the controversy grew, Omar sought to clarify her comments by tweeting, AIPAC, implying she was referring to the powerful pro-Israel lobby. Yet that tweet doing little to calm the storm.

Fellow Democrat Josh Gottheimer called it an anti-Semitic trope that is hurtful to so many Americans.

Today, Gottheimer, along with fellow Jewish Democrat Elaine Luria, seeking signatures for a letter they plan to send to Democratic leaders, saying they are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our caucus.

Omar's election last fall was ground-breaking. Joining with Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib as the first two Muslim women to serve in the House. Both have been critical of Israel. They have said that their positions are criticisms of Israel's government, not of the Jewish people. And their allies believe they have been unfairly singled out because of their religion.

REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: I know Congresswoman Omar. I don't believe that she would harbor those sorts of views as they've been characterized.

RAJU: They are among the only member of Congress to back BDS, which is a Palestinian-led movement seeing to impose economic pressure on Israel. They have said efforts in Congress to target the peaceful movement would trample free speech rights.

[13:20:07] Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, declined to comment to CNN about BDS.

RAJU (on camera): Can I ask you a quick question?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: I'm going to be late. I promise -- if you call my --

RAJU: We have called. They haven't responded, though. TLAIB: Well, please, I'm sure they'll get it to you.

RAJU (voice over): Omar, a Somali immigrant, who came to the U.S. 23 years ago, told CNN last week that Israel is indeed an ally of the U.S.

RAJU (on camera): Do you think that Israel is an ally or Israel is an emissary?

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: Israel is an ally of the United States and we want to make sure that our allies are living out the same values that we push for here in the United States.

RAJU: Why do you support BDS? Why do you support BDS?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thanks.

RAJU (voice over): Influential Democrats are raising concerns about the congresswoman's positions.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: And I think the BDS movement singles out Israel. It singles out the only Jewish state in the world. And I believe it's inherently unfair.


KEILAR: CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is live for us from Capitol Hill.

So you are outside of Congresswoman Omar's office. How is she defending this, Manu?

RAJU: Well, she hasn't responded yet. We have reached out to her office. We do expect a statement to come from her. We also have not heard from the House Democratic leadership, Nancy Pelosi. The House speaker has yet to weigh in. We do expect them to weigh in as well, but they are getting a lot of pressure from some of their members, including Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, to come down hard against these statements. So we'll see what they have to say. But there is a growing push among Democrats to come out strongly.


KEILAR: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Thank you so much.

And you heard from Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer in Manu's piece. He was calling on the congresswoman and her -- to -- she was calling -- he was calling her tweet anti-Semitic and offensive.

Congressman Gottheimer is on the phone with us now.

Sir, thank you for being with us.

And explain why the remark and comments like this are so offensive.

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D), NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Well, thanks for having me.

You know, I think more than ever we know the impact, the effects of hate, any kind of hate-filled rhetoric and any use of anti-Semitic tropes or comments and it's hurtful not just to me but to many Jewish members I've spoken to. And I think we all agree that what we need to do now is hear from the caucus, the Democratic caucus, and we should all come out and say this is unacceptable and there's no place for it in our caucus or our country or our Congress for that matter.

KEILAR: You tweeted about how you've been trying to meet with her. You want to discuss this. She hasn't met with you. Tell us about that.

GOTTHEIMER: Well, we've -- there has been a lot of members talking now for some time because there has been many comments. And, you know, I think with -- with Representative Omar and others, the key is to make sure you have a dialogue and you can actually have a constructive conversation, or you can talk about how -- what these words mean and how these historic anti-Semitic tropes are unacceptable and they have no place in our caucus. And those are the kind of conversations I think we need to have.

But I also think we need to speak out as a caucus, which is what, you know, we've asked our leadership to do in this letter that Representative Luria and I have written together, and other members of Congress are looking at it now to consider joining. And I think I've heard from many members. We all agree, this is unacceptable and we should stand firm against it.

KEILAR: Do you expect that she'll meet with you? Do you expect you'll be able to have a sit-down?

GOTTHEIMER: I hope so and, you know, I --

KEILAR: And what are you hoping to get from that?

GOTTHEIMER: I hope that the representative can hear what others have, which is when you say things like this, not only is it divisive, not only is it hurtful to members but -- and to many in our country, but actually it moves us backwards not forwards as a country. We need to come together and we need to stand up to hate of any form and, of course, (INAUDIBLE) is part of that and then we -- there is no reason why, whether it's my side of the aisle or where it comes from, but there should be no acceptance of this kind of -- this kind of speech. And I really hope that we have a chance to talk about that and I've spoken to member about it and I hope that that's really where we can -- what we can do to move forward.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Josh Gottheimer, thank you for talking to us.

Now, Virginia's --

GOTTHEIMER: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. KEILAR: Of course. Thank you for being on.

Virginia's embattled governor is now doing some damage control on his original attempt to do damage control over a racist yearbook photo.

[13:24:38] And as we get closer to another possible shutdown, the president is heading to Texas to tout his border wall, and a possible 2020 challenger is hosting a dueling rally.


KEILAR: We have some breaking news on what we were just talking about before the break. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are now calling on a freshman Democrat to apologize over a tweet that many are calling anti-Semitic because it traffics in a trope.

Now, Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar suggested that Republican support for Israel is fueled by money, specifically by donations from a pro-Israel lobbying group.

I want to go back now to Manu Raju. He's on The Hill.

[13:30:00] If they're asking her to apologize, you would expect that they would have talked to her ahead of time and that maybe we will see something or is that your expectation?