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Republicans Target New Democratic Congresswomen; O'Rourke vs. Trump. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 12, 2019 - 16:30   ET




JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president chose the West Texas border town for his first campaign rally of the year Monday night, but it's also O'Rourke's hometown.

Their dueling rallies offered a preview of the immigration fight already brewing in the 2020 campaign. The morning after, the president was fixated on, what else, crowd size.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From what I hear, he had listed 1,000 people.

ZELENY: Actually, thousands, but who's counting?

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: This is where we make our stand. And there's no other place I would rather be and no one else I would rather do it with. I love you, El Paso. The country's counting on us. Let's do it.


ZELENY: Inside the Trump rally, as a supporter attacked a BBC photographer, the president was increasingly fixated on the Democratic field, returning again to O'Rourke.

TRUMP: The young man who's got very little going for himself, except he's got a great first name, that I would say that may be the end of his presidential bid.

ZELENY: Never mind that O'Rourke is still deciding whether to run.

O'ROURKE: We will see you out there.

ZELENY: And long before he could ever take on Trump, he faces a crowded field of Democratic candidates already in the race and others likely to jump in.

(on camera): After all this, how can you not run?

O'ROURKE: Oh, I don't know. I just want to make sure that whatever I do next does the greatest good for this country. And I want to make this town proud. ZELENY (voice-over): He's not the only Democrat flirting with a

presidential bid. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio heading to New Hampshire this week.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I will be doing this kind of thing to get a message out that I think is important to be heard at this point. I haven't ruled anything out.

HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: What kind of country do we want to live in?

ZELENY: All this as former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is still exploring a third-party bid.


ZELENY: And Howard Schultz has been going across the country observing the situation, exploring a potential bid for the presidency.

Jake, he will be here in Houston tonight taking questions from voters and our Poppy Harlow, exploring again if he's going to join the 2020 campaign as a third-party candidate. Of course, Texas history is rich with that, in 1992, Ross Perot. Of course, he gained a large share of the vote, but did not win.

So Howard Schultz will have to make his case here tonight and going forward if he runs. As for Beto O'Rourke, Jake, he told me he will make a decision by the end of the month -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jeff Zeleny in Houston, Texas, the site of the Howard Schultz town hall which will be this evening.

I want to start with the town hall.

Bill, you are a Republican who is opposed to Trump. Is that fair to say?




KRISTOL: That's why Jake gets the big bucks.


TAPPER: I don't want to generalize it.

You are theoretically a candidate -- somebody who an independent candidate might appeal to, theoretically. You are a potential Howard Schultz voter, potential. What does he need to do tonight at the town hall?

KRISTOL: No, I think he's getting a little unfairly beaten up. I mean, he probably could have rolled his candidacy out better. He is an impressive person. I think he should talk about what he wants to do as president. I mean, at the end of the day, people aren't going to vote for someone just because he's in between. I mean, they will, some people will vote for you, because you're in between two unacceptable alternatives.

But I think talking about some issues, what he would do about debt, federal spending, education, whatever he wants, could be foreign policy, would be a good idea. And I don't know. I actually am interviewing Schultz in Philadelphia. Won't quite have the publicity of this big CNN town hall tonight. He's asked various people to come do these forums with him. And so I'm going to watch it tonight and get some tips on tough, tough questions for Howard Schultz, I guess.

TAPPER: You probably have some tough questions for Howard Schultz, because you don't want him to run because you think he will help elect Trump, take votes from Democrats.


But you know what I think the question he has not answered that he should answer tonight and, frankly, throughout this period is, why should we do another business -- why do we trust another businessman? Because we did that, right? We elected a businessman. For years, people have said, let's bring that kind of rigor of running a business to running government.

Well, they're not the same thing. And it's a horribly failed experiment, I think most of us would say. Why would we do it again? What is it about his experience and running this corporation and building this corporation that makes him qualified to be president?


KRISTOL: I'm going to ask him that tomorrow night in Philadelphia.


TAPPER: I want to turn back to Beto O'Rourke challenging the president with that duel rally in El Paso last night.

Jeff Roe, who is a Ted Cruz strategist -- Ted Cruz obviously a senator from Texas -- he told Politico that O'Rourke's handling of the situation was a -- quote -- "home run swing." He went on to say, "It shows that if he can find a balance between being smart and strategic, and a yin to the president's yang, that's what Democrats are seeking."

And, Kaitlan, you said that you were surprised at how much President Trump talked about Beto O'Rourke last night.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was lengthy. I mean, it was a long rally.

And, of course, the president really set the stage for that counterprotest to happen because he chose to go to El Paso, a city the president has never been to before. He's been the state of Texas several times and border cities, including McAllen before.

But he had never been to El Paso. And he kept bringing up Beto O'Rourke on stage, as you saw there, saying that he believed his crowd was so small that it meant his presidential bid was over already, even though, of course, as Jeff just laid out, Beto O'Rourke hasn't announced whether or not he's running for president.


TAPPER: Also, his crowd wasn't small.


COLLINS: Big takeaway.

But it does show that the president is going to really relish this 2020 fight and watching the Democrats fight it out to see who it is that is going to run against him.

You can tell he's already relishing it. He's already been focusing on it privately for so long now. And clearly last night the fact that he kept going back to the fact that Beto O'Rourke was having a rally right outside where the president was, was clearly something that has taken up a lot of...


TAPPER: Jackie, I want you to take a listen to the whole exchange that Jeff Zeleny had with Beto O'Rourke at that chain-link fence. Take a listen.


ZELENY: After all this, how can you not run?

O'ROURKE: Oh, I don't know. I just want to make sure that whatever I do next does the greatest good for this country. And I want to make this town proud.

ZELENY: How close are you?

O'ROURKE: Before the end of this month, I will make a decision and an announcement.

ZELENY: It sure looks like a yes.

O'ROURKE: We will see. We will see.


JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He couldn't very well do it through a chain-link fence.


TAPPER: Jeff is right. It sure does sound like a yes.

KUCINICH: He does -- we were joking during the break. He had this stirring speech he was giving, and it's not like he was going to end it and say, that's why I'm going to stay right here in El Paso.

It certainly looks like he's gearing up. We will have to see. And as to the point Jeff made, got some stiff competition out there. And he will have to start building an operation in several states, which I don't know that he started doing that yet.

FINNEY: He hasn't. But, remember, Texas has moved up to the almighty Super Tuesday.

So showing that you can have a big crowd in a state like Texas, which has kind of been a white whale for Democrats for a very long time in terms of wanting to flip Texas, is not a bad way to try to wiggle yourself into the race.

KUCINICH: And I don't think he's going to have any trouble finding people to work for him.


TAPPER: So, just moments ago, Senator Cory Booker, another 2020er, in a radio interview in Iowa suggested that the Democratic nominee might not actually be running against President Trump.

He said -- quote -- "Well, first of all, we don't even know Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. He's got some -- he's got some rocky roads ahead of him."

Of course, Senator Elizabeth Warren said something even bolder than that, saying that he might not even be a free person.

What do you make of this?

KRISTOL: I'm with Cory Booker. And I think the Larry Hogan-Nikki Haley ticket is going to be much tougher to beat. It's going to be much tougher to beat.


KRISTOL: But Kaitlan's point about Trump's focusing on the Democrats, I mean, how idiotic is that? He is the incumbent president.

We have been through an incumbent reelect, some of us. It's all about the incumbent. He has a crummy approval rating. It's not getting better. Does he have any strategy to get that back up? He's not going to beat any of these Democrats, honestly, if he stays at 41 percent approval if he can't even put together the 46 percent he had four years -- in 2016.


TAPPER: It's what Obama -- obviously, I'm not comparing Obama and Trump. But Obama faced some headwinds in 2012. But they made Mitt Romney unacceptable.

KRISTOL: He also got his own approval up to 50. The economy came back in 2012.

The economy is not going to get better, I suspect. It doesn't look to me as if the White House is going to be more competently run over the next two years. He's off to a bad start with a Democratic House.

I think he should spend a little more time worrying about how he's governing and a little less time letting Beto O'Rourke and others get inside his head.

FINNEY: But I think to what Cory was trying to do, and I think it's a smart strategy, part of what the Democratic candidates have to do is, one, say it may not be Trump because he could be in jail or what have you, but also to get Democratic voters, to get them excited and energized for this fight, to think about a world past -- beyond Trump, right?

Because for so long, so many people have said he's going to be impossible to beat, he's going to get a second term, there's nothing we can do about it. So part of what you have to do is say let's think about what it could be like without him.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.

Tonight, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar will join CNN live on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That will be at 8:00 p.m. Eastern this evening.

Stay with CNN, because at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, Poppy Harlow is joined by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for a live town hall in Texas.

She's one of the new House Democrats getting a lot of attention. Up now, how AOC and a couple of her colleagues, well, they are targets for Republicans who say that they are extremists.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: President Trump again this morning painting his reelection in 2020 as a choice between him or socialism.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Socialism does not work too well, and we don't want that as part of our country and as part of our heritage. We just can't have it.

Everything would come to an end and rapidly. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Three female freshman members, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, have brought not just gender and racial diversity to Congress, but also ideological diversity.

AOC and Tlaib are self-described Democratic socialists. Now, some missteps by the three have generated headlines and attention from Republicans who say they're extremists.

In response, Tlaib told Politico -- quote -- "I think the fact that somebody like myself who's a woman of color is now an equal to many of them, people are very fearful of that" -- unquote.

CNN's Tom Foreman now takes a look at the most talked-about freshman congresswomen among both Democrats and Republicans.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Parlaying a mix of social movements, environmental worries, and seething anger at President Trump, progressives have become the sizzling edge of the Democratic Party, just as it retakes the House with more women and more diversity than ever before.

[16:45:00] But the Republican Party is focusing energy on three of these freshmen for various missteps.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: Because we're going to go in there we're going to impeach the mother (BLEEP).

FOREMAN: Representative Rashida Tlaib from Michigan jumped way ahead of her party's leadership right at the start with a profane promise to impeach Trump. She apologized but only for being a distraction. New York newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or AOC joined a protest outside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi office then went on to push her own plan for a Green New Deal. The bill was greeted with jubilation by progressives and embraced by many 2020 candidates.

Some off message moments came from a posting on her Web site saying a Green New Deal would provide economic security to all who were unable or unwilling to work. After some confusion in her own camp that was removed and the congresswoman was soon trying to clean it all up.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: We are in this together. We are 100 percent in this together.

FOREMAN: And now Minnesota's Ilhan Omar is in the hot seat for suggesting congressional support for Israel is entirely rooted in financial donations, all about the Benjamins baby, she tweeted. Pelosi and others instantly called it anti-Semitism and Omar too had to issue an apology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret your comments, Congresswoman?

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: (INAUDIBLE) that was stated in my statement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you surprised by the criticism?

OMAR: Always surprised.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She should resign from Congress, frankly.

FOREMAN: Eager to change the subject from the President's many missteps --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less freedom, higher taxes.

FOREMAN: Republicans are using the freshman stumbles to raise money for their party and alarms about the Democrats particularly AOC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colin Allred and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are hard at work eliminating Texas energy jobs.

FOREMAN: And it has teed up what appears to be a major theme in Trump's re-election bid against any and all Democratic challengers.

TRUMP: America will never be a socialist country, never.


FOREMAN: For some progressive Democrats this may look just like the fight they wanted, a head-to-head winner-take-all brawl with the old guard in both parties. But that stance is posing a serious challenge to more traditional Democrats who fear a rush to the left could leave a lot of voters stranded in the middle. Voters, they're sure they're going to need to beat Donald Trump in 2020. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. So Politico reports Republican lawmakers privately admit they are specifically targeting these three progressive Democrats more so than they are Speaker Pelosi. Bill is there a risk here? I mean all three of them are freshmen women of color?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, but they've said things that are pretty or introduced -- sort of introduced legislation like the Green New Deal or said things about Jews frankly or certainly talking about Israel that are pretty hard to defend and I think their fellow Democrats don't want to defender.

TAPPER: Sure. Pelosi said it's anti-Sematic. Yes.

KRISTOL: And McConnell -- and McConnell -- yes, I mean this actual Democratic Speaker of the House said that it was anti-Semitic. That's kind of a problem. Having said all that, they are only three freshmen Democrats and presumably -- I don't see how much the presidential candidates get intimidated. I think there's now a huge room for someone to stand up and say look, I respect them, it's great to have their energy, but you know I'm not like them.

Here's what -- here's how I would govern the country. And I think that person could get a lot of votes even at a Democratic primary.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you even have to say that. I mean, Sherrod Brown you know, when asked about the Green New Deal said look, I'm not going to talk about every piece of legislation that's coming out. That's the way to go, right. You're not going to -- don't let yourself get caught having to talk about every back-and- forth over every piece of legislation because then you'll never have a chance to talk about who you are and what your vision would be.

So I think that for the candidates, I think the smartest thing to do is to sort of stay away from it. I think for these three young women though, part of the learning process -- look, they bring in a lot of energy from young people. Obviously, you know, their comfort level on social media, that is a part of life in America now if you are of that age and younger. And some of the older folks are going to have to just get used to it.

On the same side, these women are having to learn this is part of being part of a team, a legislative body where things that you say can be held against other people. And I hope they develop some sense of self-awareness about that and find a way to balance that with being true to who they are.

TAPPER: So you mentioned Senator Sherrod Brown, another potential 2020-er not taking a position on the Green New Deal. Here's that sound.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've gone back and forth and I haven't heard you take an actual position on it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: And you haven't and you won't. I'm not going to analyze every bill that some -- that some people with a lot of big ideas are proposing.


TAPPER: You might not have that luxury for much longer though because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might bring up the green new deal and force a vote in the Senate on it so Sherrod Brown will have to be yay or nay.

[16:50:01] JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It depends on how Democrats cast this. If they cast this as McConnell pulling a stunt because Republicans roundly mocked the Green New Deal, they're clearly not taking it seriously. This is a resolution. It doesn't really have plans that are set out.

TAPPER: It doesn't actually appropriate money created.

KUCINICH: Exactly.

TAPPER: It talks about goals.

KUCINICH: Totally. And so if they cast this as you know, a show vote, maybe they don't have to take a position on it. But the fact that the Republicans are trying to tie Democrats to some of the more left views of the Democratic Party, I mean you do have some of the major candidates, most of the major candidates signing on to the Green New Deal saying it's a great idea. So that's something that they're going to have to balance should they end up facing off against the President.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And the Trump campaign is more than happy to have that fight. They brought it up not only Donald Trump Jr. last night but when he introduced his father but also the President when he got on stage bringing up the Green New Deal mocking it. And this is a fight that they want to have.

They want to frame 2020 as Tom just showed that in there, about social some saying that they essentially want to make us a socialist country and make us like Venezuela. And that's the argument that they're going to make to voters. To say that the Democrats are so far to the left that you've got to vote for us because otherwise, you're voting for people like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and all of these others which Democrats like Nancy Pelosi do not want that to be the argument, and that's why they've distanced themselves from certain things that they've said.

FINNEY: Well, it's obvious that it's going to be a tactic, but at the same time you know, again, I think though -- like I said, I think for Democrats the best thing to do is you've got to stand up and talk about what you would do as a -- as a defining -- so what would you do on the environment, what would you do on climate change, I think becomes the answer to the question rather than taking the bait on every single time they make an issue of you know, pick a member of Congress because it's going to be you know, too easy to do. You can take anyone, any comment, any tweet, and use it against someone. And so again --

KRISTOL: No, you can't take any tweet use and it against them.

FINNEY: Just about --

KRISTOL: You just take an anti-Semitic tweet and use it justly against them so that's really a problem. But I think honestly --

FINNEY: Which is why -- which is why Democratic leaders come out as forcefully as they did yesterday and Congressman Omar having to apologize because they don't want -- they don't want Donald Trump to have someone to point to frankly.

KRISTOL: I think the last two weeks have been good for the possibility of Mike Bloomberg running. I mean, if I were Mike Bloomberg, I'd look at this and say I'm just going to get. I would say look, with all due, it's great. They're all energetic. I actually know a lot about climate change and here's what I've been for 20 years. I govern New York City in this way.

I'm a billionaire who's going to spend my own money and I'm going to defeat Trump. I can defeat this guy. All these other people should be -- I hope they're part of the legislative majority that can help me govern. I just think there's a bigger opening that I would have thought two or three weeks ago for someone who's a sort of moderate, sort of not obviously not socialist, Mike Bloomberg's not a socialist Democrat to run in the primary now.

TAPPER: Just quickly.

FINNEY: Yes. But the issue is also -- the issue landscape out there is different than I think people realize. When you're talking about having just in a race with Stacey Abrams in Georgia, a majority of Georgians want Medicaid expansion, so if these are not just Liberal ideas. A lot of Americans support these ideas and they're not going to see them as socialist.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. Using his own nephew as collateral in a coke deal. That's just one of the crazy things El Chapo did that resulted in today's conviction. Wait till you see what else he did. Stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "NATION LEAD" today, in New York City, El Chapo, the world's most notorious drug lord was found guilty on ten criminal counts. Meaning, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. The most shocking part may not actually be the verdict, however, but the real-life story of the way El Chapo lived and killed.


TAPPER: After some 200 hours of testimony for more than 50 witnesses, the jaw-dropping tales from inside the courtroom show Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's reputation as a ruthless, violent drug lord is hard- earned. Corruption and fear helping to keep some witnesses quiet for years.

In secretly recorded phone calls played for the jury, El Chapo was heard negotiating a deal for six tons, tons of Colombian cocaine.


TAPPER: What collateral might he used to ensure payment, his nephew. El Chapo was deadly serious. He has allegedly taken part in some 30 murders, many too gruesome to describe here. This diamond-encrusted monogrammed pistol was said to be his favorite and just part of a huge cache of seized cartel weapons including a grenade launcher.

One of El Chapo's former confidants told the jury that he was in jail when El Chapo tried to end his life. The drug boss even allegedly sent a brass band to perform his calling card song outside the would- be victims jail cell window.

Un Puno de Tierra played as grenades were tossed inside the cell. When El Chapo himself was first caught, he proved hard to contain. Witnesses say he continued running the Sinaloa empire from behind bars where he had taken a mistress and paid off guards. In 2001, El Chapo escaped and remained a fugitive for more than a decade. In 2014, he evaded Mexican Marines through the hydraulic hatch to this

bathtub fleeing fully nude through miles long tunnels to a series of safe houses. In prison a year later he escaped through another tunnel this time in his cell shower. But this dramatic raid in 2016 led to his latest capture. El Chapo now under careful watch and thus far unable to escape his fate.


TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER, you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.