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INSIDE POLITICS

2020 Hopefuls Tout Parental Issues On The Trail; Trump Confidant Speculates On DNI Coats' Job; McCabe Confirms He Opened Counterintelligence Investigation Into Trump; 16 States Challenging Trump's National Emergency Declaration. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 19, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


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SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), FORMED 2020 EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE: If you had a national paid leave plan, more women would stay in the work force longer. We are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have national pay leave. Literally, the only one.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Make sure that we are doing something about health care, child care, paid family leave so that we make it easier for people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support a nationwide paid parental leave policy?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely. And even more than that, I support what we need to have which is a national policy for an affordable child care. I support what we need to do around having universal Pre-K.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm elected President, I'm going to make Pre-k for the USA happen in this country because it's right for our students.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You see it on both ends there. Childcare, Parental leave. The Democrats believing that they can sell this. Again, there'll going to be price tag questions. The President makes his socialism argument. But they believe as they look at this and specially learned from past election cycles that they can sell this.

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: One important part of Warren's specific plan that goes farther than someone in her rivals you just put it as, she's selling this as a job creator in part because you've guaranteeing jobs at public school teacher level wages to focus in this federally run childcare program. And that's an upside for some voters.

KING: Up side from some voters and Democratic Primary. The question is, can you -- this is my question about 2020. I mean, I started like my first campaign was New Caucus (ph). He lost 40 states. He said it was too liberal.

Bill Clinton, run as centrist. Obama one going back to the left. What is where -- where is America at this moment? Can the Democrat sell this agenda?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, I think that's where we get back to this counter of President Trump saying socialism, socialism --

KING: Right.

DAVIS: -- because that's a very easy way to sort of be back some of these. But when you get in to the details of what is being proposed here, again, these are things that the American people I think if you look at some of the polls, they want to see addressed. And so you do see Ivanka Trump and other people in the administration paying lip service to the fact that we need to do something about the affordability of child care. And will voters actually be willing to say, OK, well, we think this should be perhaps another entitlement program that we add to the mix that we already have. Or, will they sort of accept this argument that this is all sort of the back doorway to make us into a socialist country.

KING: Let's have a policy debate. Let's have a policy debate. That would be nice.

Up next, the President seems to be thinking about replacing his Director of National Intelligence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:36:41] KING: Topping our political radar today, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg back on the Supreme Court bench for the first time since she under went cancer surgery back in December. She returns in time for the last three months of oral arguments. In this court term that features cases on gerrymandering with freedom on the 2020 census.

The Vice President will soon have a new chief of staff, Marc Short. The Trump White House former Director of Legislative affairs will now lead Mike Pence's team. Short worked for him during the 2016 campaign. He will now replace Nick Ayers who left the administration after turning down the job of White House chief of staff and to disclose, Short was a CNN Political Contributor after he left the White House. He's no longer a paid contributor here.

One of the President's close friend and long time confidant says there maybe big changes coming for the intelligence community. Chris Ruddy speculating to CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the director of national intelligence then, "Might not have his job that much longer".

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CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: I'm hearing from sources around the White House there is just general disappointment of the President with Director Coats, there is a feeling that maybe there needs to be a change of leadership in that position. CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Do you think he'll dismiss Director Coats?

RUDDY: Well, I don't know what his plan is. He doesn't tell me who he's going to do that dismiss or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You might remember, Director Coats, recently contradicted the President at an open Congressional hearing. The White House has not commented on the future of Coats' job.

But this is, we've seen this before. The President goes to Mar-a- Lago. He has dinner with his friends, including the CEO of Newsmax who is in the media business, number one, and then also does median interviews. Number two, the President knows exactly what he's doing at dinner Mar-a-Lago, he starting the rumor mill.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well ad that's the question here. We know that the President has complained about Dan Coats, it was just less than a month ago that we reported that the President not only when he went after the intelligence chiefs on his tweets after they contradicted him during those hearings. He singled out Dan Coats by name during this morning rant about what they had said.

So we know the President has been unhappy with him. It happened also last summer when Dan Coats was on stage doing an interview and they told him that the White House had invited Vladimir Putin to come to the White House before the midterm elections and he was had that shocked reaction.

The President didn't like that coverage just like he didn't like the coverage of them on Capital Hill. But the question for this with Chris Ruddy is, is the President just complaining? Because there will be days when the President will complain about have a dozen people in his cabinet. That is a typical thing for him.

So the question is, is it a sign that they're on their out or is it just the President airing his grievances once again?

KING: This is not the way they draw it up in the HR manual. I don't think. I think in the HR manual this is the way it's supposed to be done.

Up next, a former top FBI official says, Congress knew that the Bureau had opened an investigation of the President.

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[12:43:35] KING: Today, we have some new and big information about the Russia meddling investigation courtesy of the fire former acting Director of the FBI.

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SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you order a counterintelligence investigation into the President?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I did.

GUTHRIE: Did you suspect the President might actually be working for Russia?

MCCABE: We thought that might be possible, yes. We thought it might be possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Andrew McCabe confirming that he made the decision May 2017 to investigate the President of the United States. Another revelation, top Congressional leaders knew the FBI was working to determine if the leader of the free world was a Russian asset.

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GUTHRIE: Did you tell them that you had opened a counterintelligence investigation into President Trump?

MCCABE: The purpose of the briefing was to let our Congressional leadership know exactly what we'd been doing. Opening a case of this nature, not something that an FBI director, not something that an acting FBI director do by yourself, right?

This was a recommendation that came to me from our team. I reviewed it with our lawyers. I discussed it at length and discussed this in general.

GUTHRIE: Did you tell Congress?

MCCABE: And I told Congress what we had done.

GUTHRIE: Did anyone object?

MCCABE: That's the important part here, Savannah. No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.

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KING: CNN's Evan Perez back with us with this conversation. That is an important point in the sense that if you're a Trump supporter, you don't like Andy McCabe. He does have some credibility issues. You don't like James Comey. We could have a debate forever about how he handled the Clinton e-mail investigation.

[12:45:01] EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right

KING: And you say this is all a deep state plot. Andy McCabe saying, hey, we went and let's put the Gang of Eight up on the screen. We went to the leaders of Congress to get the most sensitive information, meaning the majority leaders, the speaker, the two deputies, the chair, the top two members of the intelligence committees. He said, hey, we brought these people into the loop. They could asked as questions, none of them raised any alarms, try to make the case. This is solid investigation we had every reason to do this.

PEREZ: Right. I think you've heard from Rudy Giuliani and from the President's son. Another people that this was essentially a coup. This was a bureaucratic coup of the duly elected President of the United States. And if it was, then this was a strange kind of coup, right, where you let in the bipartisan leaders of Congress and let them know what you're doing.

And by the way, I mean, the investigation, even after the President took office and so on, they kept going back and briefing members of Congress about the progress of the investigation which, you know, means that people were being brought in to the sphere of knowing what exactly the FBI was up to.

KING: And of course, yes, that's Andy McCabe saying we checked the boxes, we did the right thing. Here's how the President of the United States views this. The biggest abuse of power and corruption scandal in our history that's much worse than we thought.

Andrew McCabe admitted to plotting a coup when he was serving in the FBI before he was fired for leaking, lying and leaking. And he tweet of the whole bunch of Fox there. That's where the President getting his information. Remember, that Senator McCabe didn't go to the bathroom without the approval of leaking James Comey. So the President is mildly interested in the story.

COLLINS: Mildly is putting it lightly, I would say. I like also like how his one tweet raises that that he didn't call his wife a loser to his face. The President clarifies that. But I do think this goes back to what we've seen the White House try to do is say that, Andrew McCabe was unethical because he misled investigators and was fired.

James Comey was fired because of how he handled the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation, but I think Andrew McCabe saying that he briefed people like Senator Mitch McConnell on this investigation and then they didn't push back which I don't think McConnell has so far responded to that accusation.

That really shows that it wasn't just these two rogue people at the FBI, at the DOJ, acting aides of President which why -- how the White House just tries to spin this because of that. So I do think it raises more questions, because Mitch McConnell if he didn't say anything, I think the President will is going to have some questions for him.

KING: And McCabe is helpful, if you will, in connecting the dots. Again in the sense of when we think all Americans not with they voted for, Russia meddled in the United States Presidential election, you would want that to be investigated. So, there's topic number one.

Then the question of what's their Trump campaign collision of Trump's supporters back off of that one. But you would think if you have any evidence you want to investigate that. Then there's with the President trying to obstruct the investigation. Andy McCabe says we have to connect all three dots.

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GUTHRIE: Why was that just the normal obstruction of justice criminal inquiry which is substantial enough on its own --

MCCABE: Sure, sure.

GUTHRIE: -- but what takes it to this next level where there is a suspicion that he's working for a foreign government? I mean, this is extraordinary.

MCCABE: Because you have to ask yourself, Savannah. If you believe that the President might have obstructed justice for the purpose of ending our investigation into Russia, you have to ask yourself, why?

Why would any President of the United States not want the FBI to get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, if they have threshold evidence the President was trying tore their investigation, that's a very valid question.

DAVIS: Right. And the fact that he said now that he briefed the Gang of Eight on this not just once but continually, it puts everything that happened in the last two years in a very different light because these members of Congress were aware, at least, of some of the basis for the opening of this counterintelligence investigation.

And to the degree that he was able to connect those dots for the Gang of Eight, for the top Congressional leaders, they would have been read into that as well. So they've now watched as all of these developments have unfolded, they all had their own response when the President went --

PEREZ: Including some of Trump's allies, right?

DAVIS: Including some of his allies. Devin Nunes, who was Head of the House Intelligence Committee, then went on and was running his own investigation. All the while knowing some of the basis, some of the reasons why this investigation was opened and later on in the game pushing back I think quite forcefully, puts that in a new light as well. Why he was, you know, going to the White House and speaking to White House officials in the midst of all of this, knowing sort of what the FBI knew and why -- what got them to this, you know, not conclusion, but this, you know, set of very troubling questions that led him to open the investigation.

KING: And Ryan -- then Speaker Ryan and still Majority Leader McConnell, a lot of Democrats say they didn't rush the head of the line but were pretty clear to the White House don't fire Robert Mueller. Let this investigation play out because they have been looped in more than we knew at that time.

A quick programming now, Anderson Cooper, will interview Andrew McCabe live tonight at 8:00 Eastern. What more questions still I ask him, that's right here on CNN. Don't miss it.

Up next, it's a new poll numbers on how Americans feel about the President's national emergency so that he can build his border wall.

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[12:54:25] KING: Poll show the President is out of step with the country in declaring a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. But as his plan to go around Congress and build the border wall faces immediately challenges in court, there are some numbers in the new polling that explain, why the President's doing this.

Let's take a look and break down the numbers. This is NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll among all registered voters. Now, 60 percent of Americans say no, Mr. President, we don't buy this national emergency.

Among Democrats, more than nine and 10 say no way, Mr. President. But look at the numbers among Republicans -- 85 percent of Republicans are with the President on this. So they're with him on policy. He's heading into a reelection campaign.

[12:55:04] This is what the President worries most about. Independents say, no, we don't like this idea.

Let's take a closer look as we go through this. At the top here, Trump supporters, Republican women, white evangelicals, small town America. That's the top four lines. Why do they matter? Trump supporters off the chart supporting the President.

Republican women in that group, off the charts supporting the President. White evangelical 2/3 support the President. It's a little more mix in small town America but general support for the President's policy here well that was because of the bottom lines.

Independent women, suburban women, younger voters, urban voters -- this is the coalition that gave Democrats their big win in 2018. They say no, Mr. President, we don't see this as crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. You're making this up.

One more way to look at this, Trump is in the eye of the beholder. If you like the President, you support his policies. If you don't, you don't.

Registered voters, here's the view on national emergency. Here's the President's job approval. They closely track. Among Democrats, 94 percent disapprove of the national emergency, 89 percent disapprove of Trump's job performance. Among Republicans, you see the track. They like the national emergency. Why? Because they like the President. Independents more on the other way.

The question now, this is the politics today, the question now is the policy? Sixteen states, the attorneys general running to court to say, Mr. President, sorry, wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM TONG (D), CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's become very clear that the states and state attorney general are the firewall. We're what stands between this President and his, you know, attack on our way of life and the constitution.

PHIL WEISER (D), COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is a moment when our basic constitutional design is at risk. If we don't protect separation of powers now and we allow it to be eroded, the challenge is what comes next?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the legal case here is, the question is Congress specifically passed a budget that says you can't do this. Can the President do it? For political case, if you look at those numbers, is pretty clear. That if you're thinking about the President should try to expand his base then why would he do this? But this President has never thought about expanding his base. He thinks about, this is what got me here. This is about I'm going to ride again in 2020.

DAVIS: Right, I mean, what it shows you is that this -- the wall has always been and so feel (ph) today, really a referendum on President Trump and the reason why those numbers are so illuminating is it really does show you that it's a matter of trust, right? Most people don't live on the border. They don't live the reality of immigration, illegal immigration, the border wall day to day. So, they have to, you know, they have to take people's word for it. Are you going to listen to Democrats in Congress who are saying this is not a crisis. There is nothing happening here that can't be solved with, you know, conventional border security measures. Or are you going to listen to the President?

It's an invasion. The only way to stop this is a huge wall and it's a question of whether you trust the President or not. And that's I think what you're seeing in those numbers there. If you like him, if you believe in Donald Trump then you're going to believe his case that he's making on the wall. If you don't, not so much.

SCHOR: There are republicans in Congress, though, who think this is a bad idea, this national emergency declaration. So beneath those numbers that shows strong base support, I'm curious to see what that will do when you hear Republican senators coming out and saying hey, well there we don't know if this is necessary. Will Republican voters care?

KING: To that point, let me just get this in. This is Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, not a Trumpy kind of guy, right? But he gets it. He gets it. He thinks it's a bad idea. He thinks national security is a bad idea, but he also knows there's a lot of Republican supporters so he gives an answer like this.

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SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: I think the court is likely to kick it back to us and to say, under The National Emergency Act, you know, there would be update to vote on this. There's report on funds and then there's also funding at DOD for drug in addiction that he can he can probably use without using an emergency. That would be my prefer root bill. I think that would be on safer ground both in terms of the court. But also it would enable us to avoid setting a president they could trap us in the future.

But I do support the President on securing the Southern border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: They always add that last part.

COLLINS: Yes, they always has to add that last part. And so here's the thing. Republican lawmakers can look at the numbers and see that voters do not think a wall is popular. Do nothing declaring a national emergency to build when it's popular. But they can also look at the numbers and see that President Trump is popular.

That's a decision that he makes, you're seeing right now so far they're sticking with him, even though some Democrats think they may be able to get some of the skeptical Republicans over to their side if they file that joint resolution.

But the President sees it very differently than these numbers. He thinks that this government shutdown really helped push the country on to his side about building the wall, even though that directly contradicts the numbers.

KING: I don't know how he sees that in those numbers.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: Right, I mean, the campaign has done a pretty good job in terms of showing him polls that somehow elaborate on what he thinks, he's doing -- his narrative of the shutdown helping his reelection chances. So, we'll see them keep doing that in the next two months.

KING: Well, and we'll see a campaign about this. First we'll see what happens in the courts, it kicks back to Congress. This one going to play with us for a little bit.

Thanks for joining us CNN's INSIDE POLITICS, see you back here this time tomorrow. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.