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CNN NEWSROOM

Iowa Poll Finds Strong Support for Sanders and Biden, Trump Holding Steady Among Republicans; Li Yang Funded Trump Campaign, Brought Chinese Businessmen to RNC Event; Interview with Venezuelan Opposition Leader Juan Guaido; Following Yesterday's Crash, Boeing Issues Public Statement on Safety of Boeing 737 MAX 8; Senate Set to Reject Trump's National Emergency Declaration. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 11, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: There is new polling this morning from Iowa. And for Democrats, two names are now standing out high above the rest of the field to take down President Trump in 2020. The only problem? One of them hasn't even announced that he's running yet.

Joining me now is J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer and Company and conductor of the Iowa poll.

Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

J. ANN SELZER, PRESIDENT, SELZER AND COMPANY: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: So at the top of the list -- and really, by a long shot. Let's throw the numbers up on the screen. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, far ahead of the rest of the field, at least so far, with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris still in single digits.

Is that, in your view, an enduring dynamic in this race? Or is it just early, and this is mostly about name recognition?

SELZER: Well, it's certainly early. I don't know that it's all name recognition. But in terms of enduring, if we thought this was the way things would turn out on caucus night, we'd stop polling.

So what it tells us is, how things are shaping up. And there's been a lot of activity since our last poll, with several of the candidates announced formally.

You know, it also says a lot about -- a lot of information about whether Joe Biden has a chance --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SELZER: -- if he were to announce. These are really good numbers for Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: Yes, good point. Especially as, you know, if he's still trying to make a final decision, right? Although his family seems to say he is going to jump into the race. Let's dig a little deeper on the numbers. Of course, Sanders and

Biden are both older white men. The same poll shows that more voters -- 38 percent -- would be satisfied if the Democratic nominee were a straight white male, 21 percent who say they would be dissatisfied.

How do you read that result there? I mean, of course, there's a large unsure number there.

SELZER: Well, and that large "not sure" number is what I think is really interesting. And we asked this question because this identity politics thing is swirling around this very diverse field of Democratic candidates.

And people are saying, "You know, it's time for someone other than a straight white male to be the nominee, and potentially to be president." And so that big "not sure" candidate, I think -- I read it as a lot of people saying, "Well, it depends on who it is."

And I think we'll be looking at this issue a lot in different angles in coming polls because I think it -- there's a real question here, is whether you can represent a constituency if you're not part of that constituency. And I think that that's going to be part of the conversation, going forward.

SCIUTTO: To have a Biden and a Sanders at the top here is interesting as well because, of course, Biden trends moderate for Democrats, Sanders more to the left, has described himself as a socialist. Of course, you can see that a Trump and Republican attack line on Democrats is already starting, is dismissing Democrats as socialists.

As you look at this poll, do you get an answer as to which way the party is leaning in terms of what candidate they want? Or does it really just show that there's a genuine split in the party, as to how far left they want the nominee to be?

SELZER: Well, we also had a question about whether you'd be comfortable with a candidate who would be taking the party in a more socialist direction. And there's some support for that.

[10:34:58] One of the telling things, though, I think is that among Biden supporters, the most common second choice -- which we ask -- was Bernie Sanders. Among Sanders supporters, the most common second choice was Joe Biden.

So, you know, in primaries and caucuses, you're competing against your friends. And I think, you know, while they are looking to maximize the differences that they have, there's an awful lot of common ground here.

SCIUTTO: Understood. About the Republicans, because there is unity among Republicans polled here, 81 percent registered Republicans in Iowa approve of the president's job as president. Roughly two-thirds, 67 percent, said they will definitely vote to re-elect him.

TEXT: In 2020 Election Would You... Iowa Republicans: Definitely vote Trump, 67 percent; Consider someone else, 18 percent; Definitely not vote Trump, nine percent

You don't see any evidence of that splintering, really. and that 81 percent approval figure has been pretty consistently high for this president.

SELZER: Yes. Now, this is all registered Republicans, it's not necessarily self-identified Republicans. But this is a strong poll. Any time you look at what things look like for Donald Trump, you would say that's a strong showing. His favorability numbers, if anything, have ticked up since our December poll. That's absolutely true.

There's just one finding that gives pause, I think. And that is a question that we asked about whether you hope that President Trump would be challenged for the nomination.

And there, registered Republicans in Iowa would divide almost evenly between those who say they would -- they hope there is a challenger, and those who say they hope there isn't, 40-41. And that, I think, is one of the very interesting numbers that flies off the page to a pollster.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Although we did check, there were similar numbers for Obama, which was -- leading up to the 2012 race. So not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

J. Ann Selzer, thanks very much. Always good to have you on. And I know we're going to be talking to you a lot between now and early next year.

SELZER: I look forward to it.

SCIUTTO: A new report about the woman who once owned the spa where Patriots owner Robert Kraft is accused of soliciting prostitution. What she was doing at one of President Trump's fundraisers, even taking a picture with him. We're going to have details on this story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:41:47] SCIUTTO: We're learning more today about the former owner of a Florida massage parlor where Patriots owner Robert Kraft is accused of soliciting prostitution.

According to the "Miami Herald," Li Yang told a source that she brought a large group of Chinese investors to a fundraise for President Trump in Manhattan. This comes after an earlier report from the "Herald" that said Yang attended a Super Bowl party with the president earlier this year, hence the photo there.

For more on the timeline, let's go to CNN correspondent Kaylee Hartung in Jupiter, Florida. She's been following this.

What kinds of connections are we discovering here, and how significant are they?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, that Super Bowl selfie taken by Li -- or Cindy -- Yang with President Trump first grabbed our attention when the "Miami Herald" first circulated it. But we are learning more about her proximity to the president. You know, that picture, taken just two weeks after police say that Robert Kraft was caught on camera at this day spa behind me that she formerly owned.

Yang tells the "Miami Herald" she's no longer in the spa business. Now it's her new business that's raising new questions. The "Miami Herald" is reporting that she's now running a Florida-based consulting firm. This firm advertises to Chinese businessmen, saying that it can introduce them to President Trump by way of events at the White House, VIP-exclusive events at Mar-a-Lago.

And the "Miami Herald" is pointing to an event in December of 2017 that illustrates Yang's company doing what it advertises. A paid fundraiser for President Trump was held in New York City in 2017, and Yang arranged for a group of Chinese businessmen to attend.

She referenced them to a source at the event as "all of her guests," and she identified herself to that source at the event as an official with the National Committee of Asian-American Republicans.

There are campaign finance laws in this country that govern who can and can't contribute to presidential and political campaigns in this country, Jim. And so foreign visitors are allowed to attend political fundraisers so long as they don't pay their entry fee into them.

Now, that being said, we've learned that Yang, she contributed nearly $30,000 to funds supporting President Trump in the days leading up to that December 2017 event. So it would be illegal if a foreign visitor reimbursed her or any other U.S. citizen, for paying their way into such an event.

Jim, we've reached out to the White House, the RNC who hosted that particular fundraiser, the Trump campaign and Yang herself. But no one has returned our request for comment.

SCIUTTO: All right. We know you're going to stay on it. Kaylee Hartung in Florida, thanks very much.

[10:44:26] Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, now accusing President Maduro's government of murder because of 17 deaths during the massive power outage there. Guaido's new plan to help the country during the crisis. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is expected to call for a state of national emergency today. Schools and businesses across the country are closed today as the blackout there enters its fifth day. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Caracas.

Patrick, I know you spoke with Guaido himself about the ongoing struggle for power in Venezuela. What did he tell you? What are his plans now, going forward?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well if he declares a national emergency in the National Assembly, as is expected, he says that would allow him to ask for international cooperation, which is something of a misnomer, Jim, because in many ways, what he's talking about is military intervention.

Of course, the United States says that is on the table. The Trump White House says that is on the table. But of course, administration officials also say there is no plan to go to war right now.

[10:49:58] But Juan Guaido has said that while he of course would prefer peace over war, that essentially he feels that Venezuela is in a state of war. That you have no power, that many people don't have any water, that this is an incredibly violent city, where I am right now, Caracas. And that the country is disintegrating.

And when I talked to him yesterday, I said, "How long, if we keep on like this, until Venezuela collapses?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUAN GUAIDO (through translator): There is no service in the hospitals. These were the best hospitals in the country.

If we are in the capital, what is it like, kilometers inside Venezuela, where there hasn't been -- or there has been very little gasoline, with periodic cuts in electricity, without basic goods, with inefficient public transportation?

You can say with all responsibility, that Venezuela has already collapsed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OPPMANN: So some very stark scenes here, Jim. You go around the capital city, and it's a ghost town. No school, almost all offices closed. People looking for food as the food spoils in their fridges. The government, of course, is trying to get the power on.

But it now is really a question of keeping the power on. These rolling blackouts continue into the fourth day of this crisis. The power will come on for a while, but where we are, there is no water. And then as quickly as it comes on, the power goes off.

So it is a struggle and it does not appear that the government is advancing very much here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I think, I mean, having been there, I mean, this is a relatively wealthy country. It's an oil exporter, and they can't even keep the power on there. Just a remarkable crisis for the people on the ground. Patrick Oppmann, we know you're going to stay there. Stay on top of the story.

Coming up, the scramble is on. How the White House is trying to get Republicans, wary of the president's national emergency declaration, to stay on the administration's side. They're fighting behind the scenes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:13] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN, and it is a statement from Boeing's vice president of communications, Charlie Miller. This after a second deadly crash in just five months, with Boeing's new 737 MAX 8 plane comes as pressure is growing for airlines to ground the plane.

And here is what Boeing is saying to CNN this morning. I'm quoting, here. "We have engaged our customers and regulators on concerns they may have. And would refer you to them to discuss their operations and decisions.

"Safety is our number one priority, and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved.

"The investigation is in its early stages. But at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators."

That last sentence, very important there because it appears that at least at this moment, Boeing is not issuing any new plans, any new regulations. Does not believe that, at least based on that statement, that line there, any new plans to push for grounding of the plane although that, of course, would be up to the FAA.

Again, that statement to CNN from Boeing as they face increasing questions regarding the 737 MAX 8 jet.

In other news we're following this morning, the same week President Trump sends his 2020 budget plan to Congress, Congress is set to formally reject his off-budget spending on the wall.

CNN's Sunlen Miller (sic), she's on Capitol Hill. She's been following this. What's going to happen to this budget? Is it dead on arrival?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That budget certainly is, Jim. And certainly reinvigorates this conversation over the border wall, as the president has demanded his money to be sent to him through the -- declaring the national emergency.

And at some point this week, midweek, likely Wednesday or Thursday, the Senate will hand President Trump a huge rebuke in rejecting, voting down his national emergency declaration to get the money for his border wall.

They get there with the help of four Republicans on the Senate side. We've heard from many senators who are critical of this move by President Trump. At least four, now, coming out and saying that they will vote against President Trump on that.

TEXT: GOP Senators supporting resolution to overturn Trump's national emergency: Sen. Susan Collins; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Sen. Thom Tillis; Sen. Rand Paul

SERFATY: That will send this to President Trump's desk and force him to issue the first veto of his presidency. So certainly a big week up here on Capitol Hill, Jim. Republicans, members of his own party, handing him this big rebuke.

SCIUTTO: And Sunlen Serfaty -- I used your maiden name there. We've known each other a few years. Thanks very much. Always good to have you on the Hill.

And thanks so much to you for joining me today. A lot of news today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.