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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump on Recognizing Israel's Claim on Golan Heights; Trump Blames Media For His Attacks on McCain; Trump Would Like to Run Against Biden, O'Rourke, Sanders; O'Rourke Talks About Past Arrests on Campaign Trail; White House Bracing for Impending Mueller Report. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 22, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Frankly, I think they're anti-Jewish.

(END VIDEP CLIP)

[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That salvo from the president the day after he launched a tweet heard around the world promising to reverse decades of U.S. policy and, quote, fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The president elaborated on that decision in an interview with Fox Business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been thinking about doing it for a long time. It's been a very hard decision for every president. No president has done it. This is very much like Jerusalem, moving the embassy to Jerusalem. I did that.

Golan Heights is the same thing. For years, other presidents have campaigned, they said they'll do it, this is sovereignty, this is security, this is about regional security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Administration officials telling CNN the president likely to make a more formal announcement of that policy shift next week to coincide with a visit to Washington by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski joins our conversation, along with Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East negotiator now with the Woodrow Wilson Center. So, we know, it's obvious, they don't hide this. The president is close to BB Netanyahu, there's an election in Israel on April 9th, the president is trying to help out his friend.

We know the president, you heard the political agreement there. He is trying to somehow convince, you know, Jewish-Americans, I'm better for you than the Democrats are. What else?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, it's a trifecta. He's clearly going to throw his support to Netanyahu in a very close election where he's facing a (INAUDIBLE) and incredible challenger. He's also going to try to establish himself as the preternaturally most pro-Israeli president in the history of the relationship and he's trying to change U.S. policy toward the goal on (INAUDIBLE). So all of this, I think, is driven largely by domestic politics, his own persona, and his ego and his desire to demonstrate that he is the anti-Obama where a lot of this, I think, began.

KING: It comes out on Twitter like a bullet and everybody says, whoa. But then we've been working on this for a while. Actually, it's not a shock that he did it. How he did it might be a shock, the reaction on the world is -- there's some shock but they've been at this for a while.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right, and it's not expected. I mean, look at the responses we've seen so far from others in the Middle East. There haven't been these cataclysmic predictions of this being, you know, terrible going forward. It's been expected, it's been planned for, it's been talked about. I think it was very unusual to see it, like you said, by tweet, especially since one hour earlier the secretary of state said, no, I don't think we have diplomacy by tweet.

But he wouldn't answer any questions about even the possibility of this. I mean, he flat out said, no, I have nothing to say about this. Then in the next hour we see a tweet, so there you have a surprise, and then you see the secretary of state absolutely beaming next to Benjamin Netanyahu and he said this is a miracle for the holiday apparent.

KING: The United States supported two U.N. resolutions that say, no, this is Syrian territory and Israel is occupying it. And that should be resolved diplomatically at some point. The president just deciding, boom, we're done.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you just mentioned Syria. That's an important component of this, I think, you know, we all would agree that we haven't talked about. So much of it is about domestic politics for the president here with regard to the Jewish vote, the evangelical vote and just the fact the history that you so, you know, rightly pointed out with him being the anti-Obama and his relationship with Netanyahu and everybody in his administration.

The bonus, geopolitically, for the president is to make it clear to Syria, we're not on your side right now, because that has been the long dispute between Israel and Syria with regard to the Golan Heights.

KING: And you're poking around at the same time because (INAUDIBLE) what's in there.

Yes, let's come back to domestic politics. Benjamin Netanyahu is coming for AIPAC, the American-Israeli political action conference. And he's going to meet with the president, you mentioned the election, one of his opponents is coming as well to speak to AIPAC. And so you'll have the election play out. The question will be, how many Democrats will show up there? We know the leadership in Congress is going, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi. Move on, and Democratic liberal members have said, don't go, 2020 Democratic candidates. So we know most of them are not going. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff says Ilhan Omar deserves credit for this, tweeting out, " I hope it's not lost on anyone that this is a direct result of Ilhan Minnesota's leadership. Thank you for showing such courage". Essentially trying to convince liberals do not go to this (INAUDIBLE) organization.

Let's go to Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the Democratic leadership today clearly concerned he doesn't want this image to take hold, that we Democrats don't like you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: I can't speak for the presidential candidates, what I can speak for is the House Democratic caucus who clearly are strongly pro-Israel. They recognized that they shared values, shared strategic interests that are important. And I think that is the perspective of the overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives.

In fact, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be at the AIPAC conference, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in Senate will be at the AIPAC conference, and several of my colleagues will participate as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There are serious tensions within the Democrats over this issue.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, the caucus is very divided on that issue. He might not want to admit it there on TV but very much. I mean, there's going to be -- Democratic leadership will definitely show up, there's a number of Jewish Democrats who have just introduced a new resolution that basically pushes back on this international global boycott of Israel, calling it basically a movement to try to end the Jewish state.

[12:35:11] And so there's a resolution, the leadership is looking at that document, thinking about putting it on the floor. And what they're trying to do is tell the Democrats they are still pro-Israel overwhelmingly. But the issue is, there's a whole group of new progressive voices that have into the House, Ilhan Omar (INAUDIBLE) who are supporters of this movement. And a bunch of progressives will also see this boycott that Democrats are trying to push back on right now, and say that that actually infringes on free speech.

And so the caucus is very divided and this goes across the Democratic Party. We're seeing it all the way up to the 2020 candidates with some of them not -- clearly not going and purposely so to AIPAC.

KING: You're talking (INAUDIBLE), how new is this or how (INAUDIBLE).

I mean, I just mentioned it to Dana, is this a headline or a trend line. I mean, we've watched the U.S. -Israel relations for a long time, and the adhesive and the glue that's held them together is essentially bipartisanship. And you don't have a Republican view of Israel, and you don't have a Democratic view of Israel. There's real strain and resilience of the relationship.

Now, I think what's happening as you have a Republican view of Israel, a strong national state and Republicans are -- have established themselves as the go-to party, and you have at least two Democratic views of Israel. One more mainstream and more cautious and risk- averse in terms of criticizing Israel. And then a new space that's been opened up.

And the real question, again, is exactly how much traction will this new space occupy? Will it actually change the debate in Congress and in fact -- in effect over time change U.S. policy.

KING: And you have a presidential campaign underway in which it will play out to some degree. We'll continue to --

BASH: And an Israeli campaign.

KING: And an Israeli campaign as well (INAUDIBLE), the important point. Thanks for coming in. We'll continue this conversation.

Before we go to break, though, a military mission in Afghanistan claiming two more American lives today. Defense officials telling CNN early indications are the service members killed in Kunduz Province, excuse me, in a firefight with the Taliban. (INAUDIBLE), the Trump administration currently holding peace talks with the Taliban.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:41:34] KING: Topping our political radar today, TIME magazine in a cover story calls freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez the phenom. Some Republicans running for election painting her as a big problem. Case in point, North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Michele Nix who zeroes in on Ocasio-Cortez in her first special election campaign ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELE NIX (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she has the media, she has the followers but bless her heart, she has some terrible ideas. I'm Michele Nix, and I approve this message because I'll stand up to socialism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Top U.S. marine warning the, quote, unplanned and unbudgeted tasks are posing, quote, unacceptable risk to the marine's combat readiness and solvency. General Robert Neller cites assignments like deploying troops to the southern border using the defense budget to pay for the border and hurricane relief efforts.

President Trump is nominating economist Steven Moore to join the Board of the Federal Reserve. Moore was an economic advisor to the Trump campaign in 2016. He's still an unofficial advisor to the president. We should note, Moore also was previously a contributor here at CNN.

President Trump is defending his attacks on the late Senator John McCain despite calls from several lawmakers and McCain's family to please stop. The president telling Fox Business News he'll gladly avoid the topic but, and this is not true, the president says, it's only because he only talks about because reporters won't stop asking him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I didn't bring it up. I didn't mention John McCain until you asked me a question about John McCain. Now I could say I have no comment but that's not me. But you shouldn't have brought it up. Actually, I thought you weren't supposed to bring it up, but that's OK, you know. Fake news every once in a while.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS NEWS ANCHOR: It's not fake news. You just told me why you have an issue with him. It's --

TRUMP: I have a very serious issue. He handed something to the FBI on me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The fact is the president tweeted Saturday about this after seeing some report probably on that network, and then the president brought it up at a rally at a tank factory in Michigan. There was no reporter close to the president, he just brought it up.

But, I took that as the president wants to stop talking about it.

BASH: Exactly.

KING: That that was the president saying, I've been getting a lot of blowback from people, even my own adviser saying there's nothing to be gained here, stop. And that's what I took from that and what he said -- what the president said which is not true.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Sure. I mean, maybe he does not want to talk about it at that moment anymore, and he's maybe just heard from an adviser, hey, we should probably tone this down. But, in a matter of weeks, he could again shoot off another tweet if he gets frustrated because there's some praise for John McCain or John McCain comes up in a congressional discussion, and then he's off again because it clearly plays on certain insecurities that the president has.

KING: And as we continue this conversation, just one second and I would jump in. I just want to show people John Roberts, the Fox White House correspondent got the death glare from the president today. He was trying to ask questions. Watch -- just keep watching as this plays across and you'll see, if you could look at John's Twitter feed, to his credit, he makes clear the facts in the McCain episodes of recent days, shall we say. And the president wasn't happy with the question from Maria from Fox Business, he wasn't happy with John Roberts there. I'm sorry.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: No, no. I was going to say his event in Ohio this week was meant to be about talking about jobs, manufacturing, (INAUDIBLE) country, the campaign in the White House know they have to hold going into 2020, it's a very important political region, and instead all the headlines coming out of the event were about McCain and a, you know, a diatribe on McCain that he started without any prompting.

So that is an issue, and of course, it's going to be an issue whether it's about McCain or something else throughout this.

[12:45:03] BASH: I thought the most telling thing for Megan McCain on "The View" this week, and all of us who knew John McCain can relate to which is, if he knows somewhere that the president is -- that he is still getting under the president's skin seven months after he died, he is having a very loud laugh.

KING: Well, you know, let's hope that's the case.

When we come back, a presidential candidate on the road asking about the bail system, talking about his own time in jail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's a busy Friday on the trail for the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls. John Hickenlooper and Tulsi Gabbard were in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders out in California, Kamala Harris in Texas, and Beto O'Rourke getting his first taste of campaigning in South Carolina. You see him there live. There are historic number of women in the Democratic field, but when asked in that Fox Business interview to assist the race, the Republican incumbent mentioned only men.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:50:04] TRUMP: I'd love to have Biden, I'd love to have Bernie, I'd love to have Beto. I mean, Beto seems to be the one that the press has chosen. The press seems to have chosen Beto.

BARTIROMO: Is this socialism versus capitalism?

TRUMP: When I watch Beto, I say, we could dream about that. But whatever it is. No, I think it's competence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm going to just go out on a limb here and bet that the campaign is more about socialism than is about competence, but that's what the president said today.

BASH: You know, he's focused on the B bros, right? All the men whose name start with B, and, you know, maybe he'll be surprised. Maybe he won't beat them, maybe hope (INAUDIBLE).

LUCEY: I mean, he has talked about some of the women in the field in the past. I mean, he praised Kamala Harris, her rollout, he's talked about Amy Klobuchar. So, I mean, I think he's aware -- and he's -- we all know he is -- loves nothing more than political punditry. So he's certainly watching very, very closely, what they're all doing, where they're going, what they're saying.

KING: And you get -- go ahead.

BADE: I was just going to say, he's not wrong that, you know, those three certainly seem to be ahead in the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

BADE: I mean, Biden obviously hasn't jumped in yet. Maybe. We'll see. But, again, like this is, you know.

KING: So when you're a candidate, you get asked questions at these events and you get surprised. Now often these are active as we show up. Beto O'Rourke today in South Carolina in ACLU, a person who identified themselves with the ACLU asked him about what his views for the cash bail system, and specifically noted Beto O'Rourke has some experience with the cash bail system. He was arrested once for DWI, he was arrested once for burglary. Here's the answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In both instances, I spent a night in the county jail, and in both instances, I was able to post bail because we have the resources in our family to do that. I understand now how exceptional my experience was, so ending the cash bail system makes sense. You cannot be too poor to have your freedom --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did he somehow turn this to his advantage?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. Well, actually, that's something that O'Rourke said during his Senate campaign against Cruz. He said it often on the campaign trail because one of the big pillars of his campaign was criminal justice reform. You know, we heard the -- now this video that went viral when he was siding with the NFL players who were kneeling, but he also supports, you know, abolishing for-profit private prisons. And so that was a huge aspect of his campaign, and I expect he'll continue to have it be a big aspect of his presidential campaign.

KING: All right, it's interesting to watch. The guy telling us about his two nights in a county jail.

BASH: And he turns it to a positive (INAUDIBLE).

LUCEY: A moment when people want authenticity and (INAUDIBLE) from candidates and he's not backing away from these, he's talking about this really openly, and that could appeal to a lot of voters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. KING: We shall see. Before we go to break, a 2020 celebrity endorsement. Actress Amy Poehler says her character Leslie Knope would likely support Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete reacting on Twitter, 'Wait until she realized she is talking about the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association's 2018 elected official of the year, literally."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:57:29] KING: On this day, 675 since Robert Mueller took his job as special counsel, President Trump is waiting, Rudy Giuliani, waiting, William Barr, waiting, Congress waiting, newsrooms, waiting. Especially Russia investigation beat reporters like CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who is waiting but still joins us now. Twitter is not waiting because it never does.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: No, it never does, and it's a beast, right? You got to keep feeding it and really it's been an amazing experience because so many people are really learning minute by minute what we're doing through Twitter, and they're following us which is so extraordinary.

KING: And just some of your clues so far today, CNN's stakeout team have not seen Mueller arrive, other members of the team have arrived. Then the CNN's stakeout team says they haven't seen Mueller leave for lunch today. He usually does.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

KING: And some people will laugh at this, but it's important to keep your eyes on the right places.

PROKUPECZ: Right. And every little clue for us has been very significant from who comes to the office, who leaves when they leave. And we have our team out there that's following everyone that comes out when they come out when they go for lunch. And we know everyone's schedule pretty well.

The Mueller thing, what's significant is that if you don't see him, obviously it would be not normal, and so you would start thinking, well, what is going on? Could he be at the Department of Justice? We didn't see him today but I believe he's there.

I do think because of what happened yesterday, all the media that showed up and also the photograph of Mueller arriving in his private vehicle has really changed things. I don't think we're going to see him in that car for a while.

KING: And so, you guys report on Twitter, share your information on Twitter. You've got a lot of followers throughout this investigation. People who legitimately are interested. The president uses Twitter, too?

Witch hunt, a 170-plus times, collusion a 170 times, Mueller, 84 times, dossier 64 times, special counsel 15 times. I suspect when we find out what -- whatever we find out about the report, he will be on Twitter again.

PROKUPECZ: He will. And whether or not he sees the full report, there's always the chance that he may demand to see it. How the Department of Justice handles that is going to be interesting.

KING: And so we look for clues all the time. Here's one here. Andrew Weissmann in a tan suit. I think we have this picture here. Come on. There we go.

He's one of the top prosecutors. He's leaving. And so you're not going to go into court, you're not going into a big legal meeting in a suit like that.

PROKUPECZ: No. No, you're not, and that's the thing. And that's Jeannie Rhee who's in the middle. She's the more fashionable one of the crew there. Her Christian Louboutin shoes, she's been coming into court and it's all very interesting stuff.

KING: Christian Louboutin shoes. That's the art of the segue.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here, Sunday at 8 a.m. Eastern. Brianna Keilar, I don't know what she's wearing for shoes, starts right now.