Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Hints At 2020 Announcement "In A Few Weeks"; Washington Post: Spotlight On Biden And Sanders In 2020 Race; NY: Attorney General Subpoenas Trump Organization Banks; Paul Ryan: If 2020 Campaign About Trump's Personality, He Loses. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 12, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, Mr. Biden, for the past couple of months as we go through this. That was pretty clear that essentially his decision is to stop running. I mean, he is in.

If he does it, it's going to be pulling back and that was much jumping in. That was as supportive of a crowd as you're going to get with the firefighters. Was that the body language that, just wait a couple more weeks?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, I mean, he is not a declared candidate yet, but everything in that speech on sounded like he was out on the campaign trail touting that middle class message that he's kind of embraced throughout his political career but also showing that willingness to go ahead and take on President Trump. And it shows you what that message might be like heading into the Democratic Primary that maybe President Trump is going to be his main focus, not necessarily those Democratic rivals.

Now, that crowd in that room was -- it was clearly a Biden crowd. They had those signs that read "Run, Joe, Run," "Firefighters for Biden " and he really was teasing that announcement, almost getting to the precipice as the general president of the Firefighters Association told me that he was going to get to the end of that diving board but not quite there just yet. And I asked him on the rope line, when are you going to make your announcement? He just said, pretty soon.

KING: Pretty soon. So, we're in March. We expect it, I assume, in April.

Being Joe Biden is the question is can he sell it? Can he sell it to this Democratic base? You just heard him in there saying, this country wasn't built on hedge funds. Not that they're bad guys. Elizabeth Warren might disagree and he got in the race but not that they're bad guys and listen to him here, again, talking about a recent controversy where he said had kind words to say about Mike Pence then had to take them back because of Mike Pence's record on LBT -- I know, I lost there -- and few issues. Listen to Joe Biden today.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mean pettiness has over taken our politics. Sometimes it seems like we can't govern ourselves or even talk to one another. If you notice, I get criticized for saying anything nice about a Republican. Folks, that's not who we are. That isn't how we got here.


KING: He did, though, go on Twitter and essentially say sorry for saying nice things about Mike Pence because of his record on gay rights issues, but Mike Pence's Press Secretary tweeting out just moments ago. So is Mike Pence a decent guy again? This is the issue with Joe Biden because he does want to run on a unity message. Not that he won't go after the President and go after Republicans, but he doesn't want to make it personal. Can you do that in today's politics?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I don't know if you can do that in this Democratic Primary. I think that you know, it sometimes can sound a little silly, we're debating whether Mike Pence is decent or not decent, whether he should say something nice about Republicans or not say something nice about Republicans.

There is a real part of the Democratic Party right now that is simply not interested in happy talk about bipartisanship. They feel like Republicans have not played fair over the last several years. They are still scarred by Barack Obama's battles with Republicans, a lot of the ones that Joe Biden was there for and they don't want to hear candidates come up and say, this is how I will work with Mitch McConnell. This is how I will work with the Republican Congress.

They want to hear a Democratic president strategy for just blowing past those guys. That's not going to be Joe Biden's style. I mean, he's built his career on being someone who can reach across the aisle. He feel that he has a track record. There's no way he's going to walk away from that.

But it's unclear whether there's going to be an audience for that among part of this Democratic Primary.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I think it also matters who you're talking about because you have heard some people like Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar talking about reaching across the aisle, bills they've worked on with various Republicans, but there are certain politicians out there that among the Democratic base, Mike Pence is one of them, that right now, this field you cannot say something nice. And that's very old school Joe Biden but there are some people that will appeal to but not the ones that where the energy is right now in the Democratic Party.

KING: And the fascinating part about it and let's just have the conversation as we anticipate a Biden candidacy. Again, he's doing everything to run. It would be almost stopping if he decided not to in the end, is for all this talk of a fresh face, for all this energy in the active base of the party. If you look at our Iowa poll this past weekend, Biden and Sanders. Two familiar faces among the top Dem voters writing in the post very smartly about these two guys who you would have to say are at the top of the pack. Biden and Sanders occupied competing poles in the Democratic Party, idealogically and in style and temperament. Few Democrats are more representative of the party establishment than Biden. Few politicians are more indifferent to party politics than Sanders. Biden is an insider Sanders despite long service an outsider.

You do have at the top of the polls two interesting familiar faces and if you -- you don't want to be the frontrunner normally. Do you in this dynamic want to be the frontrunner in a party that's got a lot of bubbling energy?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean, bubbling energy and a little bit of schizophrenia are too. And this is an example of is that they don't that the party as a whole has not centered around one person. It's going to be hard when we're heading into dozens of candidates being out there. And frankly, it's not surprising at this juncture early on when the newer candidates, the younger candidates, are is well known nationally, that they would have, you know, unseated Biden and Sanders in that top post.

But frankly which means that those numbers can say it as others, you know, make deemed. But also it almost seems like given that they are entities that we know, and everybody else kind of fights among each other and gets part of the angry base that wasn't anything nice about Republicans and isn't OK with the establishment and everything else or wants a new face.

[12:35:08] There are so many choices that it let's everybody else in the party can choose one. It's almost, you know, incumbent on Biden and Sanders try to ride that out as much as they can to survive this. At this juncture these numbers don't really mean that much. They mean that people have heard their names before.

KING: And they do mean though that especially because he's made us wait, that if and when he comes out of the box, he has to be wow, because frontrunners fall in Democratic Primary. That's the way it works.

And so if he wants to be, do they get that, that for all the weight that when they get out -- sure, every candidate makes mistakes. He'll make mistakes some point on the way that was out of the box, they need to be wow.

SAENZ: I mean, there -- his friends have said that he knows that he is going to be target immediately when he gets in the race not just of this primary opponents but also of the President. And one thing that's going to be interesting to see play out is the fact that Joe Biden has never been a frontrunner before.

His 1988 campaign failed. In 2008, I think, he placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses. So it's going to be interesting to see how he runs that type of campaign being a target for so many people when he's never really had to do that before.

KING: He remembers us very well. Trust me.

Up next, the presidential candidate now among those saying the FAA should ground a type of Boeing jet involved in two recent crashes.


[12:40:42] KING: Topping our political radar today, a new book out next week reveals the first daughters private defense of her dad, the President, in immediate aftermath of Charlottesville.

According to the New York Times, the book captures Ivanka Trump's reaction to then White House Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn -- when Cohn voiced concerns about the President's, "On both sides assessment of the violence in Charlottesville" "My dad is not a racist", Ivanka reportedly told Cohn. He didn't mean any of that, that's not what he said, she added according to the book.

Spokesman or her husband, Jared Kushner, calls the new book, fiction.

Democratic presidential Pete Buttigieg now his campaign says, reaping financial rewards from his CNN Town Hall performance, an aide to the South Bend mayor has more than $ 600,000 poured into the campaign from some 22,000 donors in the 24 hours after that town hall. Mayor Buttigieg who's promised not to accept for PAC money, says he's thrilled by the surge and support.

Scrutiny mounting today after two -- for Boeing after two recent crashes involving its 737 MAX 8 jet. You recall President Trump oversaw the sale of 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes to be and his officials just two weeks ago when he was in Hanoi. Boeing says the order was worth more than $ 12 billion.

Vietnam now says, safety issues must be resolved before they can use those planes. This comes as a growing group of senators are calling on the FAA to ground Boeing jet -- among those lawmakers, Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, plus Senators Mitt Romney, Diane Feinstein and Richard Blumenthal.

Up next for us, subpoenas at the Trump organization big lender.


[12:46:24] KING: More legal headaches for President Trump today and it appears the source is Michael Cohen, the one-time Trump fixer the president now calls a bad lawyer and a liar.

The New York State Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed Deutsch Bank, the Trump organization's long time big money lender. The same office subpoenaed a second bank, Investors Bank which also lent money to the Trump organization. The subpoenas were the opening act in the new civil investigation and they demand documents related to four major Trump organization projects and a failed effort by citizen Trump to buy the Buffalo Bills.

The "Times" setting a person brief on the matters says Cohen's testimony -- "The New York Times" I should say which reported this, says Michael Cohen's testimony prompted the subpoenas.

CNN Kara Scannell joins our conversation. I think Julie Pace has to refuse to talk about and take out, I want to buy your Buffalo bills. I will let you know.

PACE: That was not popular at the time it was.

KING: So, it just number one on the surface, just tells you the Congress is investigating. The Special Counsel still investigating, the Feds in New York are investigating, then now the state.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, I mean, this is the latest investigation and you know "The Times" says pettiness and when we spoke with someone who's familiar with the investigation he said that, it is teed off from Michael Cohen's testimony. We had last week also the top New York -- New York's top insurance regulator subpoena Donald Trump insurance broker. That was also a result of Michael Cohen's testimony.

So we really seen the fallout of Cohen's testimony that also I think as we know that the Mueller investigation is drawing to a close, it frees up these other agencies who may have been sitting on the sidelines to say, OK we are going to investigate some of these issues that are important in us and our constituents and that fall under their, you know, their jurisdiction.

KING: Loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit, other financing transactions. That's the legalese for it here. We also know in the President's terms that's over the line. This is where he's always said they're going to start going after my family, go after my business, go after my name.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is such an interesting ripple effect here that actually goes all the way back to the origin of Donald Trump's campaign and the fact that this is such an untraditional campaign that he wasn't even a candidate who really vetted himself.

And so there is a sense in which there are things here, that's why he called it a red line that he doesn't even know, really, what the legal ramifications could be for all the various things that they could dig into in his business past.

And some of the things his Republican opponents were trying to draw attention to during the 2016 campaign, the sort of Pandora's Box of problems that Donald Trump represented. And now that he's president, these things are all potentially coming home to roost. You have everyone really just sticking their hand into the cookie jar and seeing what they come out with.

And I don't think that this was something that President Trump really thought was a possibility. He said it himself, he pursued some of these deals like the Trump Tower Moscow deal because he thought, why not? If I don't win this thing, you know, which I probably won't, I don't want to close the door on all these potential deals. So he didn't really think this all the way through in terms of kind of making sure that some of these doors were closed before he ran for president.

DEMIRJIAN: And because of that, there are so many of those financial strings out there and follow the money for Trump and politically the money and his riches was a part of his mystique on the campaign trail. And now they are concern for everybody who -- Cohen testified that he didn't really think this is more than a business opportunity until he was elected. There's many people in Capitol Hill that are concern that whether he wants to pick up these jobs (ph) after he leaves office and then the legal implications of that as we're seeing fallout, too. I mean, these are all -- that the financial side of things has been a red line for Trump because it seems like that's where the rubber could hit the road if it's going to.

[12:50:01] KING: And his credibility is clearly an issue, but Michael Cohen did drop a lot of leads. He gave you a lot of things to pursue. The challenge is can you find documents to back it up because he's an admitted liar, convicted liar. And now the challenge for this State Attorney General in New York is just like the challenge from the Democrats in Congress because so many have been but not they're saying damning things about Donald Trump. Can you then lead a fair and impartial investigation? Let's go back campaign year and listen to General James.


LETITIA JAMES (D), NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: President Trump was almost on the verge of bankruptcy and then all of a sudden he was flush with money. And we all know that domestic banks were not offering him extending any credit to him. And so the question is where did he get all that money from?

He undermines our fundamental right, he tramples on our rights and he tramples on the rights of vulnerable and marginalized populations in this state and in this country and he's an illegitimate president. And I want to begin to engage in an investigation into the Trump administration with respect to his finances in the State of New York.


KING: It's a free country. Anybody running for the office has the right to say whatever they want. But when you're running to be the state attorney general and you say things like that, you're going to be held now to a high test. You should be held to a high test as you move forward these investigations.

SCANNELL: Yes, I mean, absolutely that's why the biggest challenge for her and this is because she's been so forward-footing on this. But even her predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, he was also out there. He was, you know, in Hillary Clinton's camp, he was anti-Trump, but his office brought the Trump foundation lawsuit which is working its way through the system.

So, you know, I think that it will be incumbent on her to make sure there is a solid case and that there is a lot of evidence to back it up. Or else, if she files a case and there isn't, it will be pretty transparent to people and, I think you know, would not be surprised that we'll hear. I imagine, from the Trump organization that they're fighting all of these -- they're fighting handing over documents to the Democrats right there. They're putting up a strong front here. So, if there is action by the New York Attorney General's Office, I would expect that they will play up this political angle.

KING: Dot the i's and cross the t's. Important for everybody. Kara appreciate you're sitting in.

Up next, Paul Ryan is back in the public eye. Will the President like or accept his 2020 advice?


[12:56:41] KING: Today we're getting our first glimpse of Paul Ryan out of office edition. The former House Speaker is on the lucrative paid speaking circuit offering, what I guess you can call unsolicited but not quite free advice.

His first gig , Vero Beach, Florida last night it included some shots of the conservative House freedom caucus under framing of the 2020 campaign, all I suspect will get the President's attention.

Quote, "The person who defines that race is going to win that race." The former speaker said. "If this is about Donald Trump and his personality, he isn't going to win it."

Waiting for the tweet. It's actually a valid point in the sense that if you look at the 2018 midterms, which in the suburbs, Donald Trump's personality does not sell. The speaker from a very important state, Wisconsin, essentially saying Mr. President, make it about policy, don't make it about you.

PACE: And that's what Ryan was trying to do for the two years he was speaker when Trump was president where he said, we need to do tax reform, we need to have actual policy proposals out there because he knows if this is about Trump and it's about the tweets and it's about some of the controversies that have surrounded the president, that doesn't put the Republican Party on strong footing.

I think, you know, the challenge for Republicans and Ryan now is on the sidelines here, is that it's really unclear over the next year and a half, two years, what policies Trump is going to have to run on besides things like building a wall. He's not putting a lot on the table. And Democrats are going to try their best to put Trump's personality and temperament on the ballot.

KING: And this morning, of course, the man who took over is leading the Republicans. They're in the minority so he's not the speaker, but the Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy having hey, do you agree with Paul Ryan?


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: I disagree. I believe this president will win re-election. I believe this president could run on many different items, but mostly about what he promised he would do for the American public and which he's been able to achieve. I know on his record overwhelmingly he will be re-elected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned that he is not talking about policies?

MCCARTHY: No, not all, I watch this president. I just was on the phone with him last night and the vice president, talking policies about around the world. This president can talk a lot of different issues at a time. I think you're pinpointing maybe one minute of a one-hour rally.


DEMIRJIAN: I hate to make a blaring point, but like policy can be boring, you know, and Trump is never boring. And so he kind of made that choice early on, this is a struggle between Paul Ryan and Trump for the two years of his speakership is what we're saying. And probably he kind of that last struggle and Kevin McCarthy is always been closer to the President than Paul Ryan was and he's going with the horse that is in the Whit House, whether not is the to the ones who win the race because you can try to bring in Trump and say policy, policy but Trump is going to be Trump and I think they know that.

KUCINICH: And then the policy is Trump and Trump has made policies about him. So you really can't in a lot of ways separate the two. Look at what's going on with the national emergency declaration right now. He's saying either you're with me or against me. It's not about the constitution to him. It's not about and the wall. Either you're with me or against me. He isn't -- it's all balled up in one package at this point, so good luck.

PHILLIP: And interestingly, the President's son responded to Paul Ryan basically saying, you didn't get us the wall. And even though, there's a lot of thing (ph) it just goes to show this is a frame that Trump folks are looking at this. Paul Ryan failed on a major issue but Republicans want to run on that forum.

KING: And it's a continuing debate about the party after Trump even if we still have Trump -- Ryan try to weighing on that. Thanks for joining us INSIDE POLITICS, see you back here tomorrow. Brianna Keilar starts right now.