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Sanders Joins Race for 2020; Stone Ordered to Court after Posts; White House Ties to Saudi Nuclear Project; Warren's Child Care Plan. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 19, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The former number two at the FBI says the president's conduct was under scrutiny in the Russia investigation long before the James Comey firing. And Andrew McCabe says congressional leaders were looped in and that they did not object.

Plus, Trump confidant Roger Stone is getting hauled back to court. A federal judge now angry after Stone published her picture on social media, along with a targeting crosshairs.

And, feel the Bern, take two. Bernie Sanders launches a second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. His impact on the party's agenda is enormous, yet might he also be somehow out of step with what Democrats are looking for in 2020?


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Together you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.


KING: And we begin there with Bernie Sanders and the big question raised by today's official 2020 launch, does the Democratic Party want him or just his ideas? The Vermont independent is promising this time will be different. An even bigger grassroots campaign, he says, than last time when he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton but not before shocking the party establishment without his fundraisers and his level of support.

Sanders, on CBS "This Morning," looking to prove he is up to the challenge of beating President Trump.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is absolutely imperative that Donald Trump be defeated because I think it is unacceptable and un-American, to be frank with you, that we have a president who is a pathological liar, and it gives me no pleasure to say that, but it's true. We have a president who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a xenophobe.


KING: One giant change from the 2016 is the competition. Senator Sanders joins a crowd of historically diverse Democratic field. He's the sixth senator to announce his candidacy or to form an exploratory committee.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us live now in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Bernie Sanders made a big mark by winning his first win against Hillary Clinton there in 2016. What about this time around, Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, there's no question the announcement of Bernie Sanders is the buzz in the very chilly air here in New Hampshire today. And one number stands out, he beat Hillary Clinton in the primary in 2016 by 22 percent. That was the place that launched him. This is the place that launched him. But talking with New Hampshire Democrats, talking to others, it's unclear if he is welcome in the Democratic Party this time.

As you said, his ideas certainly are. There is no doubt that Bernie Sanders has had a tremendous effect on the direction of the Democratic Party. For better or for worse. We don't know the answer to that question. But there is a sense of that support here. And 13 million votes across the country. Now that is much likely to be divided among several candidates. He's now running against others who share his ideas.

So the question here for Bernie Sanders, can he develop a second act? Can he win over some of the people he didn't last time? That would be older voters, African-American voters, some female voters. His crowds, if you'll remember, John, were remarkably young, promising free college for all, promising other things. So that is something that he must do.

But, John, I'm also struck by something the DNC did last summer. They passed a rule which was not seen as much of a big deal at the time last summer, but they said that anyone running for president has to declare themselves as a Democrat. It was aimed at Bernie Sanders. Vermont, of course, does not have party registration. So he is running as a Democratic presidential candidate, but he will not be, I do not believe based on my conversations this morning, nearly as welcomed as he was four years ago largely because there is so many other options.


KING: Jeff Zeleny on a windy day in New Hampshire. Jeff, appreciate the time and the live reporting from there.

With me in studio -- it's a little warmer, less windy in here -- to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times," Tarini Parti with "BuzzFeed" and Elana Schor from "The Associated Press."

And that is the question. There's no doubt some Democrats don't like it, but Bernie has moved the party. His ideas have moved the party. His energy has moved the party. His success on the Internet has taught people a lot of lessons about how to raise money. But did he prove something and now they say thank you and move on, or does Bernie -- you could argue the crowded field thing two ways. Number one, he's got a base of support, a crowded field that helps you to have your own solid base. Others, you could say, wait, this is -- there are more women running, there are African-Americans running, thank you very much, see you. Which is it?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I don't think we know. I mean I think that's going to be one of the big questions that Sanders will have to answer and that the other Democrats in the field will have to answer. There is no question that his ideas have sort of been adopted by a lot of the people who are already running, and there are things that four years ago you wouldn't have expected -- or two years ago you wouldn't have expected to hear Democrats running on.

[12:05:08] But the Trump effect has been such, it's not just Bernie Sanders, but the Trump effect has been such, I think, that, you know, things that Democrats would have shied away from making the centerpiece of their campaigns, things like Medicare for all, things like free college tuition. We hear Elizabeth Warren starting to talk about this child care plan. Things that are real big spending plans that Democrats might have shied away from before. They're running against -- they're going to be running against a candidate on the Republican side in President Trump, who has not been shy about proposing some incredibly big ideas, even some ideas that entail a lot of federal spending. And so I think Democrats feel like they really need to answer in kind and be just as bold and be just as dramatic. And I think that is sort of pushing them towards some of the ideas that Bernie Sanders espoused in the last cycle. But they may be -- some of these other candidates may be more able to push those forward given the demographics certainly have changed as well.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I also think it will be interesting to see what the other candidates do, the way they talk about the president. Because you see Bernie Sanders saying the president is a racist, saying he's xenophobic, saying all of these thing about the president outright, listing what he believes the president is. So it will be interesting to see if those other candidates try to match his rhetoric and talk about the president as bluntly as he does, or if they try to moderate their language a little bit.

We've already seen a Trump reaction from this because the Trump campaign has only put out two statements on two candidates who are running for office, even though there have been several Democrats who have declared that they're going to run. Elizabeth Warren and then today they put out a statement on Bernie Sanders going ahead and following the president's strategy to frame the 2020 election around socialism, saying that America is not going to be a socialist country. And they were more than happy when Bernie Sanders entered the race to put out a statement going ahead and laying out those stakes.

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: But to that point, you know, there are other candidates who see Bernie's entry into the race as a good thing for them. Cory Booker sees a really sharp contrast. Booker's message is one of unity. He deliberately did not call the president a racist. So he can draw a pretty bright line between his style, which may appeal to more independent, swing-leaning voters, and Sanders' style. Even Elizabeth Warren is probably saying, oh, Bernie Sanders gives me a great opportunity to draw a contrast. I believe in capitalism. He's a socialist. I'm not.

KING: And with that the part to me is interesting how this plays out in a crowded field. Who wants the lanes? If you're Amy Klobuchar, you say, I'm more centrist. Great, the more liberals the better. You take the centrist spot. If you're Mike Bloomberg, you're still thinking about it, you say, sorry, Amy Klobuchar, I'm coming in to try to take the centrist spot.

Sanders gets the difference. He knows this time he's going to have at least a half a dozen women running after 2018, which was viewed as the year of the woman. He gets you have two black candidates running for the Democratic nomination, the African-American vote in the Democratic primaries is critical.

Listen to this on Vermont Public Radio today. He understands the field. Still trying to make his mark.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by -- not by their sexual orientation or their gender, and not by their age. I mean I think we have got to try to move us toward a non-discriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.


KING: It's an interesting way of saying, don't count me out because I'm an older, straight white male running for the Democratic nomination.

DAVIS: Right. And the only -- you know, the only one right now, you know. It's just the field has changed so much and I think he does understand that he's going to have to answer that question, but it is another point of contrast for the other candidates without having to say a word just by their very presence, you know, you know that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren look different and sound different from Bernie Sanders. And that's going to be a challenge that he's going to have is to sort of explain to voters why, you know, this is the right person for 2020.

Schor: But in addition to that, black voters also had a real issue with Bernie Sanders in 2016, in part because they perceived him as really obsessed with economic inequality, but not to attuned to racial inequality. And these comments are going to stoke some debate.

KING: Right, and he -- he alleges he's gotten the lesson. And we have seen him down -- working South Carolina. We'll see this as how it plays out. Do you learn the lessons of the last time? One great advantage he has is he's been around the track. He's been bruised as a presidential candidate. You get -- all candidates get knocked down. You learn the lessons. You learn what you did right and learn what you did wrong.

One thing he did right last time, and this will be a test to see whether he's kept a level of support. Look at the fundraising here. This is through June, the end of June in 2016. Bernie Sanders got out of the race in June. It takes a while to count the money. Yes, Hillary Clinton outraised him $275 million for her, but did anybody think at the beginning of the last campaign that running against the Clinton juggernaut, Bernie Sanders could raise $235 million? I mean he shocked the party.

Now, you can make the case it was one-on-one. You know, running -- you're -- it's just one-on-one. Democrats are always looking for a fight. Or you can make the case, this guy proved a lot of people wrong.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BUZZFEED NEWS": He did. And, I mean, small dollar fundraising, it was really Bernie Sanders in 2016 that showed the Democratic Party and Republicans that this is something that they can work on. You know, for years presidential candidates have been courting big donors. They haven't really even thought about the small dollar fundraising basis much. And now Bernie Sanders is sort of showing the way on this front.

[12:10:03] And we also actually -- for a candidate who campaigned on campaign finance as one of his core messages, he actually did have an outside group that he created when he, you know, when he quit the -- when he didn't get the nomination that has also been fundraising and really putting out his message in the years in between. So he's had this sort of campaign in waiting thanks to his small dollar fundraising that's been there, you know, for the last two years.

KING: We won't know this for almost a year, but do the changes impact Bernie Sanders? We know there's a more crowded field. We know there's a more diverse field. We also know that Iowa is changing the rules of the caucuses. Hillary Clinton won in Iowa, but it's a liberal state. You would think it would be a place where Bernie get in charge (ph) but they're going to change the rules of the caucuses to allow a broader participation.

Then there was, as Jeff Zeleny noted, the Democratic National Committee, you know, essentially passing a new policy saying you have to be a Democrat. If there are a lot of Democrats, I suspect, in a debate, and Kirsten Gillibrand said this offhand a couple weeks ago, going to turn to Bernie and say, great, but you're an independent. If -- you know, help the Democrats. Become a Democrat. Does that matter?

COLLINS: Well, that would be a big question. I think actually that could mirror part of what we saw in 2016 with Donald Trump, that when they asked everyone at one of the debates, if you don't win the nomination, do you say that you won't run as an independent? And Donald Trump didn't raise his hand. So the question will be, is Bernie Sanders fitting into that mold in this race and, you know, how does that -- how does that work out with all of these other candidates? And is he still able to hold onto that anti-establishment group of voters that he was able to illicit so much support from?

PARTI: I think, on the flipside, it also means that every other candidate gets asked, are you a socialist?

KING: Right.

PARTI: Are you a Democratic socialist, which is what we saw with Kamala Harris just yesterday getting asked that in New Hampshire. And then they are forced to respond, especially since the president is sort of trying to frame the entire Democratic Party broadly as socialists.

KING: I would say this is the beginning. A lot of people are saying, you know, he had his shot. His time is past. Let's not repeat the mistake of the last campaign. To borrow a phrase, do not missunderestimate (ph) him. We will see where we go.

Up next, beware of what you post on Instagram these days, especially if your name's Roger Stone.


[12:16:12] KING: A federal judge ordering Roger Stone back to court today. That after a social media post he calls a big misunderstanding, but that could easily be viewed as a threat against that judge. Judge Amy Berman Jackson this morning scheduled a Thursday hearing to determine whether she should change the terms of Stone's bail, including rules about any media comments or contacts. The long-time Trump confidant is charged with lying, obstructing justice and witness intimidation. At issue now is an Instagram picture showing Judge Jackson's face with what appears to be gun sight crosshairs lurking over her shoulder.

CNN's Evan Perez and Kara Scannell join the conversation.

Number one, it's just stupid. Let's just put that on the record. It is stupid to put a picture of a federal judge over -- any federal judge, but the federal judge overseeing your case on Instagram. She's clearly angry. What now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to get a talking to on Thursday. I think the judge has every reason to be angry about this. And I think, you know, federal law enforcement, the U.S. Marshals, are going to take this very seriously. I mean they're probably going to have to increase her security because you never know whether someone stupid might do something as a result of this.

And now Roger Stone has, as you noted, he's apologized. He says that he never meant to threaten the judge. The crosshairs were not intended to, in any way, threaten a judge. He says that it was -- somebody who was a volunteer on his, I guess on his staff, who posted this.

And he -- but, you know, the bottom line is that he does not like that this is the judge that's overseeing his case. He complains that she's an Obama appointee. She is. And he's not happy that this is the same judge, obviously, who oversaw the Manafort case.

The interesting thing is that this judge has actually been treating Roger Stone gingerly. Because, if you remember, in the Manafort case, she slapped a gag order on the first day for far less than what Roger Stone has done.

KING: And he -- his lawyers filed this. Undersigned counsel with the attached authority of Roger J. Stone hereby apologize to the court for the improper photograph and comment posted on Instagram today. Mr. Stone recognizes the impropriety and had it removed.

That's the apology. This was posed -- we also, if you look at his website, we can show you some pictures. He has a legal defend website.


KING: One of the reasons he's saying these provocative things on "Info Wars," he calls them a legal lynching when he goes on "Info Wars." A does these things on Instagram. A, he's trying to raise money. I suspect the judge will note that as she considers whether to accept that apology.

PEREZ: Right. And, look, I mean, one of my favorite albums is Pink Floyd's "Momentary Lapse of Reason." I think he could go in there and just like prostrate himself and say I'm really, really sorry, judge, I'm not going to do it again.

But, you know, the fact is, Roger Stone -- for him this is his oxygen, us talking about him. Getting media attention is his oxygen. If the judge wants to cut it off, it's going to be a severe penalty to him.

KING: And one would suspect she's going to have some new restrictions as well. We'll watch that on Thursday.

Also of note today, House Democrats now say they want to investigate why some White House officials, early in the Trump administration, backed an outside plan to give Saudi Arabia nuclear power reactors.

Kara, tell us why this matters specifically and who are the central players the Democrats say are raising flags.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Right. So the Democrats were looking here to determine whether the White House was pursuing this strategy to export nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in the best interest of U.S. national security or to line the pockets of people associated and close to those in the White House.

And this all relates to this plan by a private company that's run by former generals and it was promoted inside the White House by Michael Flynn, who was then the national security adviser. Now, they were pushing this plan forward, but staffers on -- the career staffers, even -- and some political appointees on the National Security Council had said, you know, hold on, this raises a lot of red flags. There are questions here about conflicts of interest because of the potential financial gain to some of these individuals, as well as whether it would violate the Atomic Energy Act, which requires Congress to be involved in decisions of exporting nuclear technologies.

[12:20:02] And so this was raised multiple times. You know, there was even one senior political appointee who was, you know, pretty senior up (ph) according to this staff report who said, this is not a business plan but a scheme for these generals to make some money.

So there were -- there were concerns here that went beyond this. They brought these concerns of staffers to legal advisers, to ethics advisers. And multiple times they tried to shut this down. They said, you know, stop pursuing this plan. But then again, it would repopulate itself, either from Michael Flynn pushing it, some of his deputies in the National Security Council, you know, as well as this external company keep bringing it forward saying, hey, we're going to lose our edge.

So, you know, the big concern here is that the administration was pushing through this, even though there were objections by career staffers, by other politicians, by the legal team saying, hey, you can't do this, you have to follow proper protocol. You can't just, you know, give out, you know, proposals and plans that are going to help your friends.

KING: Right. So a new sign of the Democratic oversight on Capitol Hill and yet another sign of, let's just say the swamp was not drained.

Up next for us, Sen. Elizabeth Warren pitches her universal child care plan. The price tag and her idea to pay for it.


[12:25:53] KING: Senator Elizabeth Warren sees her path to the Democratic nomination built on driving the policy debate. Her latest offering? A call for universal child care. The Warren plan covers children from birth to five years old. It would provide free or subsidized child care from public or family-run centers. No household would pay more than 7 percent of its income for child care. Senator Warren's plan would cost taxpayers $70 billion a year according to one analyst. She says taxing the mega rich is the way to pay to help the working and the middle class.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every parent should have access to child care and it's going to be free for most families. The ultra-millionaires tax that I've already proposed has more than enough money to pay for it. It would generate enough revenue so that the child care part of it would only use about a quarter of the money revenued -- the money generated.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: This connects in part to the Sanders conversation we had at the top of the show, in that he proved in 2016 that Hillary Clinton -- she had policy ideas, but her main thing was, look at my resume, I'm a Clinton, you want me to run as your nominee. Bernie Sanders kept coming out with ideas.

Is this -- is this more -- you see Warren, she came out with her tax on millionaires. Now she's saying, that's where the money is. Here's the pot of money. Here are the things I'm going to pay for it with, trying to drive the debate in the Democratic field.

SCHOR: It's actually brilliant, right, because as she describe it, she has more money to work with. This is only a quarter of the estimated revenue raised by this ultra-millionaire tax.

But what's really interesting about this child care plan to me is the economist who analyzed it in a memo that reporters received described it as an entitlement. Actually just came out and said, we believe that this plan would create an entitlement for universal health care.

And that opens the door for Democratic rivals like Amy Klobuchar, who's a little more pragmatic, and certainly Donald Trump to take a big swing at the expansion of the entitlement state.

KING: That's a great way to look at it. And to the point you mentioned, this is a Moody's Analytics provided this analysis. Interestingly, Warren campaign aides asked Moody's to do this. They gave it to them. Said, we're going to release this proposal. We'd like to show an independent analysis of it. It's $70 billion a year. Twelve million kids covered. That would be up from 6.8 million who get government help now with child care costs. A 2 percent tax on Americans with a net worth of more than 50 million, a 3 percent tax on Americans with a net worth of more than 1 billion. That's the Warren campaign.

Number one, I give them some credit in the sense of knowing -- knowing that with the president saying socialism, with the centrists in the Democrat field saying, how are we going to pay for all of this, going on their own and getting an analysis. Now, other people should scrub it as well. We'll go through this. But they seem to understand, number one, I want to drive the policy debate. Number two, let's answer the questions. How are we going to pay for it?

DAVIS: Well, right. And this is also an example of a policy that, if you look at the nuts and bolts with it, it is likely to be very popular with, sure, Democrats, but also a wide swath of independents. Everyone has kids. Everyone has, you know, work/life balance. Everyone has to worry about this issue of, how am I going to pay for child care? And this is a way for her to put sort of some details to the idea of, you know, we're going to do this millionaires tax and this is all of the things we could do if we did that. So not only is she driving the policy debate, but she's really sort of opening the door for the other -- for the rest of the field to say, OK, well, what are your ideas, what would you do differently than the current administration? And I think it's a question of contrast that Democrats, frankly, are going to have to draw if they're going to be successful in going up against President Trump.

COLLINS: Yes, it will be interesting to see how much of a central issue it becomes. Not just that, but also the green new deal that also has been talking about, that the president has already taken advantage of, not only tweeting about it nonstop, but also talking about it at his first campaign rally of the year. It will be interesting to see how much the next election is about things like that and what the candidates' proposals are and their policies on that, or how much of it is just -- people think they can rely on it being a referendum on the president, as we've seen some people try to do already by going after the president pretty bluntly.

KING: Right.

PARTI: And on the administration, we've seen Ivanka Trump actually talk about paid family leave, but she's been, you know, meeting -- having meetings on The Hill for the last two years and it really hasn't moved at all. And then here you have Democrats giving really specific ideas on policies. And we actually don't really -- we haven't heard too much from the president on how, you know, his views on paid family leave, something his daughter has been pushing. So it will be interesting to see if he brings up the issue more as we get more into the re-election campaign.

[12:29:59] KING: Right. And you mentioned the other candidates, you know, having to respond to this. Let's just listen here to several. This is not all of them, but several of the Democratic candidates on the question of, should the government be in the business of subsidizing child care?