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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump: I'm Declaring National Emergency at the Border; New Attorney General Will Decide Fate of Mueller Report; Decision Time for 2020 Presidential Hopefuls. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 17, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:19] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST (voice-over): The president's big move: a new plan to build his wall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're talking about an invasion of our country. We have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it's unacceptable.

MATTINGLY: Plus, taking on Trump -- a 2020 preview?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: But this is an emergency of this president's own creation for political purposes and it's irresponsible, the height of irresponsibility.

MATTINGLY: And Democratic freshmen taking on the titans of Capitol Hill and capitalism.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: And we do not have to settle for scraps in the greatest city in the world. We do not.

MATTINGLY: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories, sourced by the best reporters now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Phil Mattingly, in today for John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

President Trump warns of an invasion on the southern border and he's building his wall with or without permission from Congress. There's bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill that he is overstepping his authority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So I'm going to be signing a national emergency, and it's been signed many times before. It's been signed by other presidents from 1977 or so, it gave the presidents the power. There's rarely been a problem.

They sign it. Nobody cares. I guess they weren't very exciting. But nobody cares. They sign it, for far less important things in some cases, in many cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Plus, Bill Barr sworn into office as attorney general. That makes him Robert Mueller's new boss and gives him the power to decide whether to release the special counsel's final report to Congress.

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REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We need to see a full report. This is the largest investigation into any of the 44 people who have served as president of the United States. And so, it's critical that we understand whether the president worked with the Russians and whether he is compromised today. So, we're going to do all we can to make sure that report gets out.

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MATTINGLY: And to run or not to run? That is the question facing a handful of Democratic presidential contenders who still have time to decide.

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BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: I haven't made a decision with my family about what we're doing next. But definitely listening to people who are far smarter than I am, far more experienced to gain the benefit of their wisdom and then make an informed decision about what is best for the country.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: No, I haven't received a decision. I'm in the process of doing that. There is sufficient amount of time to do that. And I think that we have a tendency, particularly the states, to start the whole election process much too early.

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MATTINGLY: With us to share their reporting and insights, Julie Hirschfield Davis of "The New York Times," Josh Dawson for "The Washington Post", Matt Visor, also from "The Washington Post", and CNN's own Abby Phillip.

Now, President Trump's first big campaign promise was to build the wall on the southern border and have Mexico pay for it. Mexico, well, they said, no thanks, and he's failed to convince Congress to cover its full price tag instead. So, on Friday, the president said he'll find the money himself and declared a national emergency to divert billions of dollars from Pentagon construction projects.

And experts say there's no historical precedent for declaring a national emergency as a way to spend money on a project Congress has already refused to fund. Democrats call it a violation of the Constitution's separation of powers. And the first lawsuits to block the move were filed within hours of the president's announcement.

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TRUMP: We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it should not be there. And we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we'll get another bad ruling, and then we'll end up in the Supreme Court and hopefully we'll get a fair shake and we'll win in the Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Concise view on what comes next.

Congress will try and block him as well. And a handful of Senate Republicans may actually join with Democrats to reject the emergency declaration.

It is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said in a statement. After the American Revolution against a king, our founders chose not to create a chief executive with the power to tax the people and spend their money any way he chooses. The Constitution gives that authority exclusively to Congress elected by the people.

Most Republicans in Congress have signaled they'll also go along with Trump's plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the president has been making a pervasive case the border is broken. Drugs are flowing across the border killing Americans, human trafficking.

[08:05:04] We've got a dangerous situation along the border.

We're talking about steel barriers, not a concrete wall. And, unfortunately, when it comes to Trump, the Congress is locked down and will not give him what we've given past presidents. So, unfortunately, he's got do it on his own. And I support his decision to go that route.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now the court fight could easily drag into the general election campaign, meaning you can expect to hear a lot more "build the wall" chants over the next two years. A lot more. Maybe "finish the wall" as well. We'll get to that in a second.

But I want to play something from the president's press conference in the Rose Garden which I think we all watched with attention, several different subjects. But one that's stuck out and may resonate from a bigger picture perspective. This is what he said about why he was doing this and whether he needed to do this. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster. And I don't have to do it for the election. I've already done a lot of wall for the election, 2020.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: That sound were the ears of every liberal lawyer in America perking up. And it has already been used in a letter from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee as a reference point of why they are starting to look into this.

I'm wondering, we don't know what the legal ramifications are going to be going forward but did the president just undercut his very specific idea of what comes next?

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he very well might have. It is true that particularly this Supreme Court that now has two conservatives that were appointed by President Trump would seem to be -- would seem to have less of an appetite to invalidate this move than past Supreme Courts maybe. But -- you know, this is an area declaring a national emergency where the president has broad powers. So, the likelihood that court or group of courts would want to come forward and say, OK, we're going to look at the substance of the situation and see whether this was or wasn't an emergency, that's not something courts are likely to be enthusiastic about doing.

However, having said this and having essentially admitted the key argument against his action last week, which is that there is no emergency, that this is not the same as a natural disaster, it's not the same as all the emergencies that have been declared to invoke sanctions on people who are actually posing a threat in real time to the United States on national security. He basically stepped all over that in that news conference, or in that Rose Garden ceremony and that was after not having waited about ten minutes even to start to talk about the reason everyone was there.

It didn't -- he didn't come out there and give people the real sense that there is an emergency, that there is a crisis that warrants this kind of action. And the Congress just passed thus legislation that essentially said, you can spend money on border security. Here's $1.4 billion to spend on border security, but not on the wall.

And so, he is actively defying what the very clearly stated will of the Congress with this action. And I think having said that, he's going to have a difficult legal case to defend.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. Well, the nexus of a national emergency came more than eight months ago when the president -- the first spending bill did not get the money he wanted for the wall, and Mick Mulvaney, his OMB director, now his chief of staff, sat down with the president and said, how can we get this through executive power? So, for eight months they've been working on that, in some ways that undercuts the definition of an emergency. When you say emergency, that means urgent, things are heading in the wrong direction and heading there quickly.

This is something they've been looking at for months and months and months and the president has vacillated on whether he was going to declare the emergency or not based on what he got from Congress and based on what he got legislatively, which in some ways is not the definition of an emergency. I mean, a national emergency would define something that happens, you know, quickly, terribly and we've got to move on it right now. This has been part of a strategy for almost a year now.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's well known that behind the scenes, Mitch McConnell was urging the president not to do this, saying there's question on legal grounds but also this is problematic for Republicans in the conference, and there's a very real possibility the Senate has to vote to potentially block this.

I want to read "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board which is always a go-to for constitutional conservatives, Republicans in general, maybe not Trump Republicans but traditional Republicans, if you will. It said, quote: Mr. Trump is right that Democrats never objected to Mr. Obama's abuses. But Democratic abuses of power are no excuse for Republicans to do the same. The Framers created constitutional guardrails to protect against the political passions of the moment.

This is the political passion of this moment and now it's going to blow back. Even though the government fight is over, it's going to blow back in the laps of Republicans, correct?

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, President Trump is not careful about protecting his members, but Mitch McConnell is. In this case, you expose people in tough re-election fights like Thom Tillis in North Carolina, even John Cornyn in Texas, Martha McSally in Arizona. You know, in some of these states where they're going to have to defend this and defend the emergency declaration.

[08:10:02] And it sets up a tough vote for some of them. Some of them may peel away which I think sets up the political dynamics over these next couple of weeks where the House will surely pass this and the Senate probably will, too. The question is whether it's veto-proof majorities.

But this sets up a lingering fight that I think the president probably welcomes. I mean, he likes this issue. He likes hammering away at it and sets it up for his re-election campaign over fighting the wall yet again. So, I think he likes this territory. I think Senate Republicans probably like it a lot less.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and to be clear, McConnell is now supporting it. He's going to work to help the president try and get this through and make this as painless as possible on Capitol Hill. I don't go that's going to be possible.

But to your point, I think this is an interesting way to spin everything forward. What does this mean? This is a pivot point, an inflection point. Heading into the 2020 campaign, Josh, you had a great piece today in "The Post" about this. I want to quote from this. A White House official talking about: Finish the wall is really just finish what we started. It's about the Trump presidency more than anything. It's telling voters to stick with us, finish what we started as the Democrats pursue the Green New Deal and Medicare-for- All.

You're talking to folks inside the White House, you know folks in the campaign as well. This is a loss of not getting $5.7 billion or $25 billion, but now, it feels like they're going to grab this and rock and roll with it regardless of what it means on Capitol Hill.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this is a somewhat convenient loss for the president because in a lot of ways, President Trump, and there's a distinction here between President Trump's view on this and what a lot of other Republicans believe about this, but President Trump believes that the wall is important to his base. He thinks that it's an organizing principle for his supporters in a lot of ways. In many ways, the president kind of needs or wants to run on the wall. This allows him to do it. It allows him to say these Democrats on the Hill are standing in my way and I'm pushing to build the wall.

The problem for the rest of the Republican Party is the wall has become a polarizing issue. If you're talking about suburban voters, and moderate voters, it can be a wedge between voters and this president and his party. So, for President Trump, he might be great with his base, which is already really behind him, and that's really what he cares about. But for the rest of the party, this can be problematic going into 2020, because they would really like to be talking about a lot of other things, other than this really polarizing immigration debate, caravans and invasions and things that don't really speak to moderate suburban women -- these voters that rebelled so harshly in the midterms and gave Democrats a 40-set victory over Democrat -- over Republicans.

MATTINGLY: You want to know how big of an issue this is going to be, just go to a rally. You guys made this point in the story, "finish the wall" is the not so subtle sign which is interesting because they haven't started technically any of the wall. They have contracts out and will soon. But just a note.

All right. Up next, there's a new attorney general in town, and he gets to decide what happens to Robert Mueller's final report.

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[08:16:46] MATTINGLY: Paul Manafort could be going to prison for a long, long time, potentially the rest of his life. Up to 24 years is the recommendation after a federal judge voided Manafort's plea agreement for lying to prosecutors.

In a sealed transcript released Friday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson found that Manafort lied to investigators about three issues, including his dealings with Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian associate who prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence. Also on Friday, prosecutors revealed they have effort of Roger Stone

communicating directly with WikiLeaks. And we learned that Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, was interviewed in recent months by the special counsel.

On top of all of that, William Barr took the reins at the Justice Department. The new attorney general will now oversee the Mueller probe and will have to decide what to do with Mueller's final report once the investigation is complete.

You got all that? Everything completely tied together?

Look. I want to start with Bill Barr. First and foremost, we've talked about what's next for the administration. Now they have a permanent attorney general. We saw news broke last night, Heather Nauert, the nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is officially pulling out, underscoring the idea there's all these open positions across the Trump administration as they head into this pivotal point of their next two years, their re-election campaign.

Bill Barr is now in place. If you want to know what the public thinks about whether or not the Mueller report to be released, well, take a look at some of these poll numbers. It's not subtle. Democrats, 85 percent believe it should be public. Independents, 80 percent. Republicans, 79 percent.

Now, there's some stuff with the Justice Department regulations that limits him a little bit, but, what your sense, I guess I'll start with you, Matt, the testimony, everything Bill Barr said, is the public going to see the report that it seems like everybody wants to see?

VISER: Well, he wouldn't commit to it in his confirmation hearing. So, I don't know that he'll make it public. I think members of Congress want to make it public. You have the House controlled by Democrats who could have a role in trying to make it public.

So, I mean, I think the public pressure on him to release it and what Mueller does, too, you know. I don't think Mueller can unilaterally release it, but he can certainly talk, you know, which we -- you know, we haven't heard him talk for a long time. So, I think after that report is released, what Mueller does is going to be interesting as well.

PHILLIP: What's funny about this is that this is in some ways very similar to the position James Comey was in during the Clinton investigation in the campaign. There was a feeling that there was a public need to know or right to know about how this all turned out. But what really, I think a lot of people would think should govern the decision making here is, is it right, and this is what Bill Barr is weighing. Is it right to release information about people that might be negative if you are not charging them with some kind of crime?

That's a really pivotal question for Barr that we know that he is weighing. And I don't know what the answer is to that. I mean, I think there is a good argument to be made that after two years and this massive investigation that has wrapped so many people close to the president with real jail time, facing real prison time, that there is a public need to know here. But at the same time, it seems releasing the public report is almost going to guarantee a lot of people are going to be denigrated in public and potentially not charged.

[08:20:01] MATTINGLY: Yes, it's got a cost/benefit. There's so many threads out there and so many questions, so many assumptions, so much speculation that perhaps a final report is what everybody needs, but how can you do that without -- you talk about speculation, assumptions, rumors, things that have been posted. Andrew McCabe is somebody I think we're all pretty familiar with, former deputy director of the FBI, former acting director of the FBI. He's now out with a book, also kind of an arch nemesis of the White House to some degree.

And he's talking about something that made some big headlines not attributed to him about a couple months ago. Take a listen to what he had to say in an interview.

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ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI ACTING DIRECTOR: Discussion of the 25th Amendment was simply Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether there was a majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the president?

MCCABE: That's correct. Counting votes or possible votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: So, just some brief context. Twenty-Fifth Amendment would give an administration or cabinet officials the opportunity to remove a president. It's never been utilized before. It's a constant thing that people seem to go to during the Trump administration, but it's never been in my sense anywhere remotely real although this seems to provide some meat to those bones.

The big question is -- it's surreal to hear that. And, Josh, you've covered this White House as close as anybody. How does the White House react when they see something like that and see it on record on camera, on TV?

DAWSEY: Well, you saw with the president. He immediately went to discredit Andrew McCabe and, you know, called him again a liar, referenced his wife taking donations from Terry McAuliffe. It's been someone who he has really been aggrieved with any time he's seen him publicly.

And what the White House says about this is two-fold, one is that McCabe -- and it's public. McCabe has had a lot of problems with honesty. I mean, that's been documented fairly vociferously. The second thing is that Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein who he's

talking about there are kind of in a death war. I mean, they've both been telling their sides of a story. There's a lot of bad blood there. Both of them, you know, really have turned on each other. And that has to be taken into account here.

Now whether he's telling the truth or not, I wasn't in those rooms obviously, so I can't say. But there are questions about this book and how much it can be believed. And I think the White House, you know, should get more fuel, will raise those questions and elevate them as best they can.

DAVIS: Right, Rosenstein has said, has come out and rejected McCabe's account and said it didn't happen the way he said it happened. But interestingly, he's never denied the allegation discussion took place about the 25th Amendment. That's incredibly bothersome to the president but it underscores his narrative that there was sort of this plot under way inside his own government to either undermine him or flat-out get rid of him.

And in a way, that helps him as he tries to set the table to discredit the Mueller investigation, to discredit all of the threads they were seeing being pulled on the Russia front. For him to be able to refer to now on the record in a book, on TV, a member of his own administration saying, yes, we were thinking about getting rid of him is actually in some ways perversely a good thing for him.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No, it's interesting. And, frankly, I'm kind of unsettled that Dawsey wasn't in the room for this. It's a total failure, given all his past work.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTINGLY: All right. Up next, the Hawkeye State was bombarded this weekend by presidential candidates who all find an Iowa connection to tout. But next door neighbor, Senator Amy Klobuchar, maybe the only one running who can claim this.

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SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I've told you many times, in Minnesota, we can see Iowa from our porch, and I love coming here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[08:27:55] MATTINGLY: Happy Presidents' Day weekend to all of you, but especially all the would-be presidential candidates out there. Two dozen or so are running or thinking about running in 2020, most of them Democrats. But a few Republicans and independents as well.

And a lot of them are spending the long weekend out on the campaign trail. Let's take a look at this, because you sort of get a sense of just the fact even though there's 650-plus days until the campaign or until the election, well, everybody is out there already working. In other words, we're already in this.

How do you know that? Well, take a look at Iowa. You've got five potential presidential candidates or declared presidential candidates out there this weekend. Obviously, very important state, first caucus.

Move over to the first in the nation primary state. You've got six candidates or potential candidates that are already there as well. Again, this is just over the course of this weekend.

Move over to Nevada. Elizabeth Warren making a swing out there, obviously a crucial early primary state as well. What about South Carolina? Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren.

What you're seeing right now is Democratic candidates, even though it seems very early, are very much in the game and making moves and trying to giving a sense of what their early state strategy maybe.

What about somebody else? Well, how about Joe Biden? He's in Germany, at the Munich security conference.

Now, not a lot of primary voters there, but he makes important points about his gravitas as a statesman, as a foreign policy experience as well. Even though Biden hasn't been to a lot of the early states up to this point, others have.

Take a look, this is just since the beginning of the year, how these numbers start to roll up. Elizabeth Warren leading the group with early state visits, through tomorrow, she already have eight. John Delaney, the congressman, who spent a lot of last year in Iowa, at 6. Kirsten Gillibrand, five. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker both at four.

What this underscores, there are a lot of people that are making a lot of moves in early states right now. But what about those who still haven't decided yet? There are still major questions about these candidates right here. When are they going to decide?

Beto O'Rourke says likely some time in February. In March, likely to hear from Sherrod Brown, aforementioned Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, TBD, Bernie Sanders. Some sense it may be soon but we're still waiting to actually see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our allies. The America I see values basic human decency, not snatching children from their parents or turning our back on refugees at our border.

I promise you, I promise you -- as my mother would say, this, shall pass. We will be back. We will be back. Don't have any doubt about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: So Joe Biden not in an early primary state in Germany in Munich, but that speech has a purpose. And I think if you're listening to that speech and you're listening to the message that he's trying to give out, he's making clear that he's got some fire in the belly. And it seems like he's leaning towards something.

Viser -- you're our expert here.

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": It is -- well, expert in predicting Joe Biden is a fool's errand here. But I do think that those around him think that he does have time, you know. That Biden is unlike all of the other candidates who you mentioned in that leadup who have to get out there. They have to increase their name ID. They have to do things that Joe Biden could come in later and do.

That said, you know, Biden has made a whole career out of playing the hamlet routine of, will he or won't he since 1980, you know, he's been considering running for president. So I think that Biden is one of those who could get in. But I think he likes that contrast.

Mike Pence was also there. There's a contrast there between Mike Pence and Joe Biden that I think he welcomes. And is projecting a different image on the world stage which would be his strength I think if he gets in as a candidate.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think that that is sort of what you heard there with his -- sort of his central argument for running. I mean obviously, he's going to make a domestic case to voters about why he's the best person.

But this idea of nostalgia for a time when the United States was seen as a leader on the world stage, nostalgia for when Barack Obama or even George W. Bush was president among Independents and even some Republicans and certainly Democrats I think would be sort of the case he would make for why he is the best person to go up against President Trump.

And so even though he's not in Iowa, he is making that case that's going to be crucial if he does decide to run.

(CROSSTALKING)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Unlike a lot of the people who are also running, you know, he might be sharing a sort of working class voter lane with Bernie Sanders or Sherrod Brown. But not a lot of the other candidates in the Democratic field have foreign policy credentials to their name.

So Biden kind of elevating himself on the world stage at this particular moment is just another way for him to say, this is another way in which I might be the best person for this race. Not only because I can speak to people in middle America but also because I can speak to people on the world stage as well.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's a clear advantage he has over others. And there's advantages across like everybody is trying to figure out which advantage is actually going to play in the primary.

One of the interesting moments now that we're starting to see from people actually out on the trail is you get a sense of what their messages are or will be or at least what they're testing out.

Take a listen to what Kamala Harris had to say during a visit in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to speak truth that right now this economy is not working for working people. Let's speak that truth.

Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia are real in this country. Let's speak those truths so we can deal with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Speak the truth is something that Senator Harris has talked about. I think you've heard it a couple of times. Josh, you're our resident gamecock here and know all things that happen in the state of South Carolina. Early takes or at least what you're hearing right now based on her early visit down there over the last couple of days.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well the past couple of days, Kamala Harris has gotten crowds in South Carolina that have really stunned longtime observers there.

MATTINGLY: Yes.

DAWSEY: I mean she's filled up gyms. She's had lots of -- lots of huge crowds. I mean it's one of the things that the President has actually been impressed with about Kamala Harris and has said to folks around him, wow, she really gets a crowd. She has a lot of people out there.

You know, she certainly has a big foot in South Carolina. South Carolina's Democratic primary is dominated by African-American voters. Barack Obama did very well in South Carolina.

Kamala Harris, you know, seems to be resonating in South Carolina. But it's so early. And a lot of South Carolina voters I think are not even paying attention really yet. I mean you're seeing some of the insiders pay attention. You're seeing folks, you know, kind of start gravitating to who they're going to work for on staff level but the fact that she's getting this large a crowd in February 2019 I think is pretty impressive.

MATTINGLY: Yes. One other thing -- trek back to Monday which seems now like seven months ago, but there were dueling rallies in El Paso. You had the President in El Paso giving a rally, the finish the wall rally. And you have Beto O'Rourke, where everybody is still trying to figure out where he is at.

And there almost seems to be kind of a proxy war between the two of them at this point. Take a listen to this mash up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to a powerful border wall in El Paso, Texas it's one of America's safest cities now.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), FORMER TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: In one of the safest cities in the United States of America -- safe, not because of walls but in spite of walls.

[08:34:57] TRUMP: We want to stop criminals from coming in. Walls save lives. Walls save tremendous numbers of lives.

O'ROURKE: Walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: One of the difficult things about a Democratic primary is it will be difficult to draw distinctions sometimes between candidates. Luckily between Beto O'Rourke and President Trump it appears there will be no difficulty drawing distinctions here.

I guess the big question is when you talk to Trump campaign officials they kind of like the idea of Beto getting in particularly if this wall -- we talked last block about how much the President's team wants to talk about this issue.

Is this a winning message against the President's message, I guess at this point?

VISER: I think the interesting thing about the match up with Beto O'Rourke and Donald Trump is they both seem to welcome that debate over the wall. President Trump likes it because Beto O'Rourke will fight with him on that. And I think Beto O'Rourke sees advantage in going there.

Interestingly he, later after that, has said that he would be in support of taking down the border wall that separates El Paso from Juarez, you know, the Mexican border.

And so I think that's taking it in a different direction where he is saying no wall. And I think for Trump and his supporters, wall has been a stand-in for border security which Democrats have had a struggle arguing for border security but against the wall.

And so I think Beto, you know, takes that in a different direction. They both sort of welcome that fight.

DAWSEY: The Beto thing is interesting, Trump aides have been thinking reporters (INAUDIBLE) all the Democrats need to be asked if they'll tear down the existing wall. I mean they want everyone on the record about that.

The President, he sees, you know, border security, particularly the wall, as a viable contrast that he can draw. Some of his immigration messages like in the midterms about birthright citizenship maybe went a little too far but if you talk to his people closely, they will say, you know, putting us against Democrats on immigration is a contrast we'll take every day.

Now whether that's actually true or not, voters will decide. But there's certainly no -- they are brimming with confidence that it still remains issue du jour from them.

MATTINGLY: But (INAUDIBLE) it's early. Everybody -- please remember it's early. And one more quick note about weekend travels. Beto O'Rourke hasn't exactly been hammering out early primary states. He's kind of been all over the place.

And Amy Klobuchar, both in Wisconsin. Why does Wisconsin matter? Well, President Trump won Wisconsin, kind of shockingly. Hillary Clinton had cancelled her rally in Wisconsin. Not sure if it's explicit or implicit what they're doing but just note they'll be in Wisconsin.

DAWSEY: Right.

MATTINGLY: Up next, the Democratic House freshmen in the spotlight. Is all the attention good or bad for the party?

[08:37:30] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I really don't like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of let's hop a train to California, of you're not allowed to own cows anymore. You know, there're a lot of problems.

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MATTINGLY: That was President Trump in El Paso this week giving the audience his take on the Green New Deal. That proposal by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is just one of the ideas pushed by freshman Democrats garnering a lot of headlines.

And the AP article this week compares the new congressional class to the 2010 Tea Party Republican who pushed that party to the right. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is counting on that same divisive dynamic in the Democratic Party and promises this.

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SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I've noted with great interest the Green New Deal. And we're going to be voting on that in the Senate. We'll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.

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MATTINGLY: Now, the primary house GOP super PAC has already released two digital ads targeting Democratic congressmen in Texas and New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTONIO DELGADO (D), TEXAS: Why aren't we thinking of a Green New Deal?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less freedom, higher taxes. Antonio Delgado and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have begun their radical Green New Deal assault on the American economy.

Delgado and AOC -- a bad deal for New York.

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MATTINGLY: And what does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say about all the spotlight on the new freshman class -- more left-leaning policies?

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Welcome to the Democratic Party. We are not a rubber stamp for anybody. We are not a monolith. We never have been. And who would want to lead a party that would be described that way?

They are not programmed. They are spontaneous, prepared and I'm proud of them.

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MATTINGLY: The Speaker is proud of the new freshmen Democrats -- I do believe that's true. But I think one of the bigger questions -- kind of to broaden it out a little bit -- one of the big questions I have is, every kind of top tier freshman class comes here and everything is going to change and they're going to be the ones that make everything different.

And then eventually, reality becomes as a freshman back bench Republican, who barely has a role on top committees, there's not all you can change. So is this class actually different in that regard?

DAVIS: Well, I think the difference here and certainly a difference with the Tea Party in 2010 is that a lot of this group, definitely Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some of her colleagues who have also been getting a lot of attention are really activists. They're not politicians. They didn't come up through the political ranks.

And that was part of their appeal and it's part of the appeal that they made to voters. And so that usual process you talked about of like they get to Capitol Hill and they realize how things actually work and how hard it is to get things through. I'm not sure that that's actually going to have the same trajectory with this group because they came here to make a ruckus. They came here to be activists and they want to push the party in their direction.

Now, I don't think we're going to see necessarily the whole, you know, House Democratic caucus move toward them. But I think that they are going to have -- it's going to be harder to quiet them down, and I think that's by design.

And so as proud, I think, and I do think Nancy Pelosi is legitimately happy that her party is getting all of this attention for this new energy, it is going to be a challenge for her to navigate and for Senate Democrats as well because they're going to be pushing these ideas that now all of the 2020 field is going to have to respond to.

And I can't remember a time when I saw Mitch McConnell quite that giddy and happy to say, you know, Green New Deal -- he just welcomes it.

[08:45:01] And I can't remember a time when I saw Mitch McConnell quite that giddy and happy to say, you know, Green New Deal. He just welcomes this and he loves the idea that he's going to get to put all Democrats on the record on some of these ideas that Republicans --

MATTINGLY: So you make a really good point. I want to play two different sound bites from 2020-ers (ph) about the Green New Deal.

Take a listen.

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SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm in favor of it simply because I see it as a framework to jump start a discussion. I don't see it as something we can get rid of all these industries or do this in a few years. That doesn't make sense to me or reduce air travel.

SEN. KRISTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's so much opportunity in this bill for economic growth and really fixing things that are broken. So why not have an aspirational goal?

Maybe some things are hard to get to, and maybe we won't actually get there, but why not at least try?

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MATTINGLY: Now, aspirational is a way around this. I don't think when you talk to people who support the Green New Deal, they think of it as aspirational. Maybe the frequently asked questions that would pop up and then pulled down is a little aspirational.

But I think that's the big question. The party is not entirely -- they get all the headlines -- progressives are not the entirety of the freshman Democratic class. They're not the entirety of everybody in the Democratic Party. So where does this leave kind of the Democratic Party in this moment?

VISER: We saw how many presidential candidates quickly jumped on the Green New Deal.

MATTINGLY: Right.

VISER: Signed on as co-sponsors in the senate. And so they're on record supporting it which, you know, is different from the frequently asked questions and some of that. But I think it was remarkable how many people sort of jumped behind it.

And you saw with Gillibrand and others and Klobuchar in talking about this in theory. And these things are fairly popular in theory. You know, Medicare for all you can lump in there, too, with the Green New Deal as things that candidates talk about broadly.

But once you get into specifics, it gets a lot more challenging for candidates. And I think that's where Trump is trying to seize on some of these details that are much less popular and politically problematic.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I think one of those things to keep an eye on because again, big picture, makes a lot of sense. Polls very well. The details is when you get industries, constituencies, people in your district -- it gets a little bit more complicated there.

I think we'll have some more to talk about on this.

All right. Up next -- our reporters share a page from their notebooks, including why Congress is focused on bills with zero chance of becoming law.

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MATTINGLY: Each Sunday we ask our reporters to share a story or scoop they're working on so you get a sneak peek of tomorrow's headlines today.

Julie -- you better lead off.

DAVIS: Well, this -- we're about to see a very early beginning to this season of political messaging votes (ph). You always have this in the run up to an election, a presidential election. You have both parties trying to stake out their positions and really cast votes on the House and Senate floor to kind of message that and show the public what the contrast is.

We've just come off of a season of -- you know, a brief season of legislating where the appropriators are able to come to this deal on the border security issues. But they are about to turn in the Senate to abortion votes.

We're going to see votes as we discussed about the Green New Deal which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is very enthusiastic about getting everyone on the record on and gun votes in the House. These are ways that both parties, Democrats and Republicans are going to try to put themselves on the record and put their opponents on the record -- excuse me -- in the run up to a very competitive set of elections that are still more than a year away obviously.

MATTINGLY: Everybody is opposed to messaging votes unless it hurts the other party.

Josh.

DAWSEY: The national conversations were dominated obviously for the past two weeks by the border wall but now we're turning to North Korea. The President is pretty excited by all accounts, we talked to folks in the White House to get to go to North Korea and do a summit with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.

This is a president who thought the first one was a ratings bonanza who loves to talk about all of the supposed concessions he's gotten. Folks inside his administration have been more skeptical and said what exactly are we doing here? What's the point of doing this trip again? Why are we giving him a second meeting?

But the President is gung ho to do it. So you're going to see a lot this week, national set y officials, the President prepared to go to Vietnam in a few days to see Kim Jong-un.

MATTINGLY: Stay tuned.

All right. Matt.

VISER: So far most of the candidates in 2020 have focused on the early states of Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. That's starting to change with Nevada.

Today Elizabeth Warren is there. In two weeks, Kamala Harris is heading there. And that demonstrates a little bit the outsized presence of Hispanic voters which is increasingly a big voting bloc. In Nevada they make up one in five voters; Florida as well.

And this field is interesting in that respect. Julian Castro is a Hispanic candidate himself. Then you have Cory Booker who speaks Spanish, interestingly. Beto O'Rourke getting in the race has a name of -- his El Paso community and also speaks Spanish.

So as the candidates sort of turn toward these states, look for them to start doing things to cater to that community.

MATTINGLY: Messaging. It's all about messaging, all about strategy here.

All right. Abby.

PHILLIP: Well, as the opening salvo of divided government is over and the President suffered a really stinging defeat with his border wall. And there's been some talk for months now about ways in which the President and the White House can cooperate with Democrats on issues like infrastructure.

But inside the White House there's not a lot of hope that those kinds of things can actually be done especially on some big issues.

And President Trump is coming off of such a big defeat. He hates losing. A lot of people are skeptical that he'll be willing to meet Democrats in the middle on anything in the future. Not to mention that in the White House at the staff level, not a lot of people have great relationships with Dem leadership. Efforts to court moderates have not really gone anywhere. And I think we're likely to see more stalemate as we go forward for the next two years of leadership from Nancy Pelosi in the House and President Trump wanting to get a win from Democrats any which way he can.

MATTINGLY: Are you implying infrastructure week may not be successful?

PHILLIP: It may not happen?

MATTINGLY: All 52 of them coming forward (ph). Thanks guys.

[08:55:01] I'll close today with this. There haven't been many bright spots in the last nine weeks of gridlock and impasse. And this may seem like more bad news.

The next spending battle about six months from now will have even higher stakes. There's a debt ceiling to deal with. The budget caps return. Meaning if Congress can't reach a deal, the government will face approximately $126 billion in automatic spending reductions.

But and hang with me here now, there is a positive note. The spending decks are now cleared. Lawmakers and staff have time and some level of a road map, thanks to the agreement just reached to chart a bipartisan path forward to address the next crisis before it's an actual crisis. Can they actually do it?

Aides I'm talking to on both sides acknowledge it's a long and very, very bumpy path ahead. But had a long-term spending bill not been reached this past week, any chance for an agreement in September would have been, according to all involved, officially dead.

So rest up budget appropriations staffers. In a few weeks, it all starts again. But at least now there's a real if small, window to avoid the paralysis of the last 60 days.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again -- thank you very much for sharing your Sunday morning.

Hope you can catch us weekdays as well at noon Eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with guest host Dana Bash. She will be interviewing possible presidential candidate Sherrod Brown and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff.

Stay with us. You have a great Sunday.

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