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Elizabeth Warren Says She'll Reject Big Money Fundraising Events; Pence Announces New Sanctions On Venezuela; Iowa Dem Voters On 2020 Priorities. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 25, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:42] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Bernie Sanders kicking his second presidential campaign into a higher gear this week, including a big CNN town hall right here tonight, on the other side of that wall behind me. You'll find the 2020 thrill much more crowded than 2016.

Ten Democratic hopefuls were out this weekend, six in Iowa alone. And just today, new evidence one key rival is ready to fight for voters who were attracted to Sanders last time.

Elizabeth Warren bowing an e-mail for her supporters this morning that she will quote, "not hold any fundraisers or dinners or phone calls for that matter with wealthy donors." For every time you see a presidential candidate talking with voters at town hall rally a local diner, those same candidates were spending three or four or five times as long with wealthy donors, all behind closed doors.

She went obviously, "Democrats deserve a chance to choose a nominee whose time is not for sale to people who can write checks. When I thank the people giving to my campaign, it will not be based on the sized of their donation," Senator Warren says.

This step takes Warren a step beyond her earlier pledge to reject any lobbyist or PAC money. And it's another play for progressive voters who see big money as a cancer in politics. That was a major source those voters source of support for Sanders in 2016 and, he hopes again, in 2020.

And you did the reporting on this, this morning. Warren is trying to carve out the Sanders' space. Sanders now just guest town hall tonight. He announced this last week. He has been out nearly state yet. She is trying to get out there ahead of him and literally take some of his people.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I try it in, you know, in a lot of ways, she actually doesn't have a lot to lose by making this announcement as novel as it seems, because the people that she was going to get to support her campaign in a big way were never going to be the wealthy donors. And she was never going to be the person who wanted to do these glitzy fundraisers and dinners.

This actually goes very much in line with the message that she was sending already. And it's really the theme of her campaign which is to get corruption and big money out of politics. I do think the most fascinating thing will be how other Democrats respond to this.

We obviously know how Bernie Sanders already responds to this. His model is very much similar, and you are right that I think she's going after sort of that model and the supporters who would have been supportive of Bernie Sanders last time, the sort of the Kamala Harris's and the Cory Bookers of the world, Kirsten Gillibrand of the world.

Do they take this as an implicit challenge to them? And it maybe even increases of them but they are the candidates in the field who are going after the wealthy donors. But as Elizabeth Warren is saying this has no place on politics.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: The reason that those candidates will have to go over the -- after those wealthy donors is they're not going to have enough grassroots support especially at this early stage. I mean there's the messaging side of this and there's the practical side of it. The messaging side, it's really smart for Warren to do this, this extinguishes her from the rest of the field.

It is the way to energized for progressives who don't want to see big money in politics but there's a practical side. And if she can't get enough grassroots money, can she stay competitive in a field that's going to have some candidates with big outside money but also some candidates like a Bernie Sanders, a Beto O'Rourke, if he gets in, who may suck up a lot of that grassroots support money she's trying to get.

KING: I don't know if you never heard this before. Bernie Sanders gets an average contribution of $27. At least, we say it laughing but he did that all through 2016. He also just raised what, $6 million in a day. He has served notice that his people are out there when Warren trying to get him, sorry.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I know when she's going to jump off that that and say, you know, that number, the $6 million, a lot of people saw that look Bernie's still got it. He's still around. But, this, you know, Elizabeth Warren taking a piece of each from his playbook, again highly problem he has and that is last time. He was just running against Hillary Clinton. And they were totally different candidate.

[12:35:07] Now, he's got, you know, at least half a dozen candidates were carving out the same sort of space that he sort of trail blaze last time. How does he make himself unique? Also, he's older, he's white and he's a man. These are not the demographics that Right now Democrats want to talk about getting women in politics and minorities. And that's another issue that's going to happen.

KING: And so we're going to up crowded debates stages. And the question is, when does it get more prickly if you will win? Does Kamala Harris say something Elizabeth Warren say? Well, now that you must learn that in a big donor fundraiser. You know, you had some Democrats and you can't afford the Green New Deal, a Medicare for all."

When does this get pointed in the debates? That's a few months down the road. Here, Senator Bernie Sanders who again with town hall tonight with Wolf Blitzer. "Let us do our very best to engage respectfully with our Democratic opponent," he said in e-mail to supported over the weekend.

"Talking about the issues we are fighting for, not about personalities or past grievances. Remember that our struggle is bigger than a Twitter or a Facebook comment. And remember that our primary opponents are decent people." I love the part of our personalities or past grievances. "I just came back Iowa."

There's a lot of tension between the Clinton people and the Sanders people. Still, now, those same people couldn't stop running. All those people are still early activist in Iowa and New Hampshire, whatever. Bernie Sanders is trying to say, "Can we kind of quiet this down a little bit?"

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: This is unsustainable, but they all seem to be trying not to say anything nasty about the Democratic side. Everyone is trying to be near very collegial because a lot of them are, in fact, colleagues in the senate right now.

And you'll see that until it becomes clear that they can't do it anymore, then it become as between them and voters. And I think the other test with this small donor, it is -- how much is this a gimmick? Because when we get to a general election, you mean to tell me they're not going -- they're going to try to go against the RNC Trump money machine with just small donors?

PACE: And whether they like it or not, there will be --


PACE: -- PACs around them, there will be an incredible amount of money in a general election whoever the Democratic is.


LEE: And you were so right that so much of this is about messaging, too, for Elizabeth Warren when her numbers officially come out. And they're lackluster, she is able to say be able to say, well, of course, they're lackluster because as I said I'm not going to the wealthy donors for the big dollar checks.

KING: Senator Harris gave me a big smile when I ask her about the differences between her and some of the other candidates. She said, "I look forward to the debate stage. I look forward to it very much. She was smiling. I remember it was just Clinton and Sanders. Clinton and Obama went at it pretty good, too. Debates get interesting. The Republican saw that last time as well.

Special Programming which we just noted the CNN's Wolf Blitzer moderates our latest presidential town hall, Senator Bernie Sanders. That's right here on CNN tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern. You don't want to miss that.

Up next, Vice President Mike Pence in Colombia meeting with the man the United States considers the real President of Venezuela.


[12:42:11] KING: Coming our political radar today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set to test her new parties House of Majority and one of the country's most controversial issues. During event in New York this morning, she announced she wants to bring a new gun control bill up for a vote this week. It calls for universal back checks on all firearm purchases.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Mr. President, if you want to talk about emergencies, this is an emergency. When we bring up our legislation this week, we will pass the bill on the floor of the House to prevent gun violence.


KING: Warren Buffett says he knows who he'd like to seek and it's the presidential race and that's fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg. The Berkshire Hathaway chairman telling CNBC that Bloomberg announces he's candidate tomorrow he get behind them saying the former New York mayor, "Knows how to run things." Buffett acknowledged they don't agree on everything, but he says Bloomberg understands people and has the right goals for America.

Vice President Pence placing solidarity with the opposition in Venezuela where there was deadly violence Saturday over the government refusal to allow a humanitarian aid from the United States and other countries. The Vice President is in neighboring Colombia where he held proxy with Venezuelan south declared interim president by the regional conference on Venezuela crisis.

Mr. Pence trying to group (ph) moments ago. The United States will step up it's effort to get aid into Venezuela and announce new Treasury Department sanctions on four Venezuelan official aligned with the Maduro regime.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: What we've seen in the two days wasn't a bold stroke by a triumphant leader. It was the desperate act of a tyrant clinging to power with violence and intimidation. Our efforts to date will not only continue, they will be increased. Despite Maduro's brutality, we will press on.


KING: The Vice President also reiterating all options are on the table, he says, when it comes to resolving the crisis in Venezuela.

Up next, what voters in Iowa think of the crowded increasingly crowded 2020 Democratic field?


[12:48:21] KING: Iowa officially opens the 2020 presidential voting in 343 days. That might seem like a long way off but Iowa already inundated with candidates. And as they (INAUDIBLE) their choices, Democratic voters say, it's a bit like car or house hunting, yes? Many like Medicare for all in the Green New Deal, but many also say their caucus preference next February will be shaped by their frustration that their state went red in November 2016. Morg's in Waterloo, by the way, a great stop for breakfast.


DAN CALLAHAN, IOWA VOTER: I'm Dan Callahan. I live down the road in Independence, married for a long time. I have three kids. I've been a Democratic my whole life but I have been always as involved as maybe I should have been.

JONATHAN GRIEDER, IOWA VOTER: I've lived here in Waterloo. I live here since 2017. I grew up on the western side of the states. I went to college in the Northeast. I was one of the youngest (INAUDIBLE) champions for then Senator Obama at '17. I helped out in 2012. I helped out in '16 with the Clinton campaign.

RITA WAGGONER, IOWA VOTER: I worked at Hawkeye Community College and I taught ESL to most of the adult immigrants and refugees who came. I try to see every candidate that I can, listen to the questions, see how they -- you know, everybody's got their own spiel, everybody's got their stuff, but there are some of them that seem to be more to me fitting in the mid -- what the Midwest is kind of looking for.

KING: Are you at the stage where you're looking at who you want, or you still trying to sort through what you want before you can get to a who you want?

WAGGONER: What I hear people saying is, you know, we are just done with this drama.

[12:50:03] We are done with the tumult and the chaos that has in the last couple of years. We want regular order. We want somebody to govern well and competently with research and scandal free, good people.

And so some of that style, that sense of professionalism in government is more important right now than what I consider kind of the red flags of the things that, of course, maybe we would all love. Maybe we would all love --

KING: Like Medicare for all.

WAGGONER: Right, right.

KING: Gun control.

WAGGONER: Yes, yes. I mean, I love the new energy. I really do in the party. And I think we have, you know, keep proclaiming that. But every time somebody says Medicare for all, there's a whole bunch of people that just kind of go, back off.

KING: But there are passionate people who would say, no, that's -- we need the ideas, we need Green New Deal, we need Medicare for all, we need --


KING: -- this and that.

CALLAHAN: But Bernie Sanders is great at bringing the ideas out. And they've been widely adopted. I don't know. There's probably half of the candidates right now saying the exact same thing he said two years ago. So now let's get somebody who can unite.

GRIEDER: We need to elect someone who can win because we care -- the constitutional norms that are being eviscerated on an almost day-to- day level are too important to worry about -- well, this person only wants to do affordable college but not free college for everyone. And so, I can't support them in the general election. We don't have time for that.

WAGGONER: I know just kind of a weird analogy, but I have a realtor ground and she said people go in and they look for a house. And somewhere else they decide within the first 15 seconds whether that house is for them or not. And then the rest is rationalizing.

GRIEDER: If you look at some of the conversations that go on, particularly among younger voters, you'll look at Senator Sanders having a pretty high rating from the NRA earlier on in his career. You have Joe Biden delivering eulogy for Strom Thurmond and voting for the crime bills in the '90s which Senator Sanders also voted for. You have -- so you have -- there is the history, there is the baggage in this sort of me too racial justice era that these candidates have to address.

CALLAHAN: That's interesting. Stuff that happened 30 years ago is easy to take out of context, you know. Twenty, 30 years ago, behavior with -- acceptable behavior was different, the political necessities were different. And I'm a big believer in second chances.

WAGGONER: I would love to see a different face. I mean, I love Joe Biden. I caucused for Joe Biden. I caucused for Bernie. But I would like to see things shaken up a little bit, you know, either a woman, or just something that looks different that brings in a new mix. And I think that would energize people who have not felt like they're part of the system.


KING: It's a great group. It's not scientific, but it's always great to sit down and talk to voters in these early states. And the voters are often way ahead of the candidates in the sense that again, these three people at the table, so if you can say this all a bio (ph). But allows with all these events I went from the weekend. A lot of these voters, yes, they love the Green New Deal. Yes, they want the rich to pay more. Yes, they want Medicare for all. But most all they have -- they only agree on how to do this, but they are big things especially in Iowa, they feel guilty. Democrats do, almost shameful, some of them said. The Trump carried their state and they want someone who can win it back.

PACE: Well, that point of the voter made. I've heard that over and over again already this cycle, we just want somebody who can win. And I think sometimes we can get caught up in a little bit of what, you know, the activists and some of the loudest voices in the Democratic Party are talking about which, you know, of course, some of the policies you're talking about. They're setting them up as litmus tests.

I have heard more from voters that they just want someone who can win. They -- and they don't care necessarily. They would like those policies but they would -- just like somebody who can defeat Trump. And if that mean they've got to give up on some of those policies that would be OK.

KUCINICH: Some of those policies make -- some of them a little bit nervous. As that one voter indicated that if they hear Medicare policies she's worried that, you know, perhaps those loud voices are chasing away some folks who actually aren't really happy with the Trump administration and may want a new person.

KING: Or they know people. Iowa has more Pivot Counties. They call them in any other state. Thirty-one counties who voted twice for Barack Obama and then flipped the Donald Trump, that's hard to do.

LEE: And that's right. And the best thing about Iowa voters is that they take this process so furious --


LEE: -- so they are eager to do the hallmark and they want to go to these rallies and campaign events. I've not really come across any voters I think in Iowa who have expressed concern that there were too many people in the field. They, in fact, see that as their privilege, that they get to sort of do these job interviews with the various candidates and sort of feel out, what did they stand for? What are there policies that they stand for?

And I think they're going to have to figure out on a on a number of issues, right. Do they want someone who is anti-Trump or do they want someone who is the uniter? Do they want someone who stands for progressive policies or centrist policies? These are all things that they're eager to figure out of the next year.

[12:55:03] BADE: Yes, that pragmatic strict you're seeing right there and those voters talked to, it's really interesting because there's not a place we're seeing it too and it sort of unreported in the House of Representatives. I mean, Nancy Pelosi, there's a reason that Medicare for all is not going to get a House vote through Congress. There's a reason, you know, yes, you have a lot of people signing onto these bills and endorsing the things like the Green New Deal. But privately a lot of people are expressing concern of this and that just shows you the sort of cautious approach that you're not hearing a lot about, but there are certainly Democrats, not just voters, including in Washington who are very cautious about these.

KING: If you noticed, that was a great breakfast and lesser time for me at the gym today. Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts after a quick break. Have a great day.