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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump's Shifting Message on Closing the Border; Democrats Demand Mueller Report & Trump Taxes; Biden on Defense After Women Say He Made Them Uncomfortable. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 7, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:18] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The president at the border. Tough talk to close a chaotic week of policy shifts.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to shut it down if we have to.

KING: Plus, Joe Biden says he gets it.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I feel badly about that. It was never my intention.

KING: Does he?

BIDEN: He gave me permission to touch him.

KING: Nancy Pelosi makes her mark, challenging liberals on health care and the president on several fronts.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Show us the Mueller report. Show us the tax returns and we're not walking away.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

A strong economy could be President Trump's best message, but his focus is most often elsewhere, as we just saw in a confusing week that included major retreats on health care and immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The system is full. Can't take you anymore. Whether it's asylum, whether it's -- anything you want. Illegal immigration, can't take you anymore.

We can't take you. Our country is full. I'm sorry. Can't happen. So turn around. That's the way it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, Joe Biden tries to calm a controversy, but instead raises new questions about his judgment and his discipline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you think you owe these women a direct apology who have come forward so far?

BIDEN: Well, look, I -- the fact of the matter is, I made it clear, if I made anyone feel uncomfortable, I feel badly about that. That was never my intention ever, ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Democrats demand the full Mueller report at the president's taxes. Both fights could land in the courts and test the balance of power here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: We are a separate and coequal branch of government. We don't work for Donald Trump. We work for the American people.

So we have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out-of-control executive branch. That's not the Nancy Pelosi playbook. That's not the House Democratic Caucus playbook. That's the James Madison playbook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", CNN's Manu Raju, Dan Balz of "The Washington Post", and Shawna Thomas of Vice News.

The president back here in Washington today after a weekend swing west that reminded us he does not -- will not follow a traditional script. A new government jobs report was a political gift to the president, nearly 200,000 new jobs. Unemployment rate near a 50-year low.

Yes, the president did take a few moments to celebrate those numbers, but then flew to California to focus on his preferred issue, the border and immigration. It was a big focus Saturday, too, at a Republican Jewish Coalition fund raiser in Las Vegas where the president called U.S. asylum laws a scam.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're full. Our system is full. Our country is full. Can't come in. Our country is full. What can you do? We can't handle anymore. Our country is full. Can't come in, I'm sorry. It's very simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Really simple, the president says. But confusing is a better way to describe border policy in the week just behind us.

The president begun at threatening to shut down parts of the U.S./Mexico border. His aides scoffed at the suggestions he was bluffing. But he backed off after vocal complaints from Republican lawmakers, the business community and his own economic advisers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If we don't make a deal with Congress, the border is going to be closed, 100 percent.

If the drugs don't stop -- Mexico can stop them if they want -- we're going to tariff the cars. The cars are big. And if that doesn't work, we're going to close the border.

We're going to giver them a one year warning.

REPORTER: So the border stays open at least for a year?

TRUMP: No, I didn't say that. We would start with the tariffs and we'll see what happens.

I never changed my mind at all. I may shut it down at some point, but I'd rather do tariffs.

I don't mind closing the border. I'm OK with it. I don't want to do it, but I'm OK with it. I'll do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Help me.

In the sense, the president sometimes says this is on purpose. You know, he says Mexico, for example, is apprehending people and turning them away, sending them back to their other countries because of his threats. Other people say it's hard to follow what you're trying to do, what is your policy when you go from Monday to Tuesday to Thursday to Saturday, and it's all over the place.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think it shows some of the tension within the administration where you have the president who does want to go aggressively on immigration. I think he would be fine closing the border, yet he does hear from, as you mentioned, Republican lawmakers, economic advisers who say this would be a disaster and would really undermine the one thing he really has on his side going into re-election which is a strong economy.

I do think we shouldn't overlook one thing he said, which was on the asylum system.

[08:05:01] And what he said is so at odds with the ethos of America. I mean, this is a country that for centuries has had people come here seeking asylum, who come here seeking an escape from persecution, from violence. And that message, even from a president who takes a tough line on immigration, is really quite an extraordinary statement.

SHAWNA THOMAS, DC BUREAU CHIEF, VICE NEWS: If you think that your base wants to hear you be strong on immigration, even with the shifting policies, he can spin that as I'm grappling with an issue that is a crisis, that is a big problem on the border.

And as long as he keeps saying immigration and I want to be hard and I'm going to look at parts of the wall and I'm going to keep this in mind, that I want to keep out people, then it kind of doesn't matter that he's shifting policy. It's like in the politics of it for his base, as long as he stays strong on that message, then that is what people who like him already are going to hear.

KING: He animates the people who like him most. The question is, is it enough? But he does animate them without a doubt. That's always been -- that's always been reflex number one. You would think with the jobs report on Friday, that's all he would have talked about all weekend. Instead, he thinks immigration is a better calling card.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And he -- you know, to Julie's point, he paints immigrations with a rather broad brush, not all asylum seekers come in with an attorney waiting for them, reading what the attorney wants them to say. He says a lot look like they're heavyweight champs. That's not how all asylum seekers look. But that's what he says politically.

But this is an issue he believes for the Republican nomination, he doesn't want to look like he's deviating at all. He still has strong support within the Republican base. He views if he can maintain that 35 percent support and pick off 7 percent, 8 percent more in the polls, he may be in a good position come re-election. He doesn't want to show he's wavering one way or the other, which is why he continues this hard line letter, even if it's unmatched of policy that we saw with closing the border. It's something that would be perhaps significant ramifications, cause significant backlash, could ultimately, force him to cave, but if he keeps up that rhetoric, he can keep that base.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think one of the issues he'll have to deal with is the degree to which his policies, quote, unquote, policies of the wall or whatever it is, has failed. Immigration is worse today than it has been. The problem is greater than it has been, and I think part of his challenge is to try to convince the people who have been with him throughout, that that is the fault of others.

In a variety of ways, the system is preventing him from being able to solve this problem. I think that's one of the reasons he continues to talk the way he does, throws out ideas, backs off, moves in a different direction. When he's in a tough position, goes to the border to try to reinforce.

KING: It's a great point, because you're right, he thinks this is why he won the Republican nomination and why he won the blue collar workers, the Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the blue states he flipped red. Some of his own base, here is a friendly audience saying, Mr. President, you have us confused.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Mr. President, sometimes -- sometimes your rhetoric doesn't match the policy and we're getting -- sometimes mixed messages. Mr. President, you're the only leader on the scene who can keep Americans and their wages, frankly, safe. But for that to happen, consistent, bold policy and follow-through with determined rhetoric. Got to have the policy follow-through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Consistency and follow-through are not this president's calling card.

THOMAS: No, but you got to hand it to Fox News, they're trying to like write his communication message (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS: They're trying to steer him in a direction. I mean, that's interesting.

I mean, I think one of the biggest issues with the policy, though, is they're trying to cut off funds to the Northern Triangle, right, because if you talk to anyone especially -- even Republicans behind the scenes, but also Democrats. We talked to Jeh Johnson on Vice News tonight this past week, the essential problem is there, and that's is why people are fleeing. And no wall, no anything else is going to actually solve that problem. So, it is -- it is confusing that one of the things that might actually help that you would cut off.

RAJU: That's also -- Laura Ingraham clip is Trump's biggest fear. If that heading into reelections becomes what conservatives are saying, you did not deliver on your central campaign promise, that is the one thing that he's worried about could provoke significant backlash. That's why he keeps saying things like the wall is already built or it's being built, or, you know, completely exaggerating the reality on the ground because he's trying to convince those folks he did not fail.

PACE: Part of the reason we have this confusion is he does policy making in reverse. When he states a policy and then sends his administration out to try to figure out how to enact it, in that process, a lot of roadblocks are found and a lot of downsides to those policies come for him and sometimes he changes his mind.

[08:10:02] This is not a traditional process by any means where you --

KING: Another great example this past week was health care in which the president said we have a great new plan, working on a great new plan. Let's get about passing our new plan.

Remember, he said in the campaign repealing and replacing Obamacare would be easy we're two-plus years in. The Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell had to have a conversation with the president saying, no, sir, A, we don't have a plan. B, the Democrats control the House, so even if we did, we couldn't pass our plan. But Mitch McConnell says they worked it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Is there a distance between you and the president on what he wants to do on health care and where you see the health care debate standing right now?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Not any longer. We had a good conversation yesterday afternoon and I pointed out to him the Senate Republicans' view on dealing with comprehensive health care reform, I made it clear to him we were not going to be doing that in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This was amusing in the early months of the Trump administration. He had never been in government before. Whatever you think, he had never been in government before, never had to deal with this before. So, him doing things in a way that drove the town into fits was amusing and interesting.

What's the word for it two-plus years in when you party is trying to head into an election cycle where not just the presidency at sake, but the Senate majority, they're trying to retake the House. And, clearly, Mitch McConnell trying to be nice saying, please, Mr. President, stop.

BALZ: This is a president disconnected with everything around him. He operates in his own realm. He doesn't do in a traditional way any other kind of consulting that a normal president would do in reaching out to Senator McConnell or others or necessarily to his staff. And so, you see this time and time again. He has not learned a lot of the basic blocking and tackling of being president of the United States. It shows in moments like this.

RAJU: And Mitch McConnell doesn't want to do major policy. He wants to confirm judges. That's his thing, like he did last Congress. Health care would open up a whole can of worms and they don't want to deal with.

KING: No, they don't want to do it.

Up next for us, frustrated rumblings from Team Mueller about the attorney general and brace for a big, potentially long court fight over Democratic demand for the president's taxes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:02] KING: Democrats already on record demanding not only the public release of the full Mueller report, but also that Congress get access to the special counsel's work files. But the midweek headlines gave that Democratic push new urgency. Take a peek.

Some on Mueller's team say the report was more damaging than Barr reveal, that from "The New York Times". "The Washington Post" put it this way. Limited information Barr has shared about Russia investigation frustrated, some on Mueller's team. There are more headlines, as you can see there.

And the House speaker making clear Democrats are losing patience with the attorney general and are prepared to subpoena what they want if the Justice Department won't hand it over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: There's an easy answer to this, release the Mueller report as soon as possible. Let me just say the Mueller report will be released. It's a question of, to us it is inevitable, to them it is inconceivable. We need to shorten the distance between inevitable and inconceivable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is it inevitable?

RAJU: I think it's inevitable that Congress will see potentially the full report. I don't think it's inevitable that the public is going to see a completely unredacted report. I think this week will tell us a lot. I mean, it could come -- the Mueller redacted version could come out this week. Bill Barr is on Capitol Hill twice this week testifying for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees over the budget, not about the Mueller report.

So, it's unlikely it will come out before he has to come before Capitol Hill. But he could shed some light about what exactly the public is going to see, his decision making. So, we could learn a lot about what could happen.

KING: And the attitudes about the attorney general changed significantly. When he was picked by the president, a lot of Democrats said, we're going to have to vote no. A lot of House Democrats who don't get a vote said, we're going to have to be critical and skeptical. But privately, they said, wow, this guy served in the George H.W. Bush administration. How did Donald Trump pick a guy with the credibility and experience? But if you listen here, Democratic views about Bill Barr are changing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We're two weeks into this, all we have is Bill Barr's word for this. Of course, that comes from someone who was picked for his hostility to the obstruction case.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think he was put in place by the White House to do exactly what he did, is to keep this report from getting to the American public.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Barr was hired to be his fixer, his Roy Cohn. And that's what he's doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Maybe that part is predictable from the Democrats, you see the House Democrats are more partisan. But these headlines, the grumblings from Team Mueller do add to the pressure on Bill Barr to be as transparent as possible, does it not? That no rules apply anymore?

THOMAS: I think it does. I agree with Manu. I think the American people will see some sort of redacted form of this report. Whether it's this week, next week, may, whenever. But I think one of the things we saw in those headlines that you showed before is that the people around Mueller who helped in that investigation are willing to get their message out.

So even that redacted report, if they feel that there are two many redactions, that it doesn't actually portray an accurate presentation of what they gave over to the Justice Department, that signals that maybe they will talk more. So, that will create even more and more pressure. I don't think we'll ever get to the point, at least not any time soon the unredacted report is seen by the American people, just because there's classified information, there's grand jury testimony they have to be careful of. But it shows there's a group of people who is willing to push back. So, this will continue to be contentious.

KING: It's under the president's skin. It's under the president's skin. You can see, tweeting again over the weekend.

He's won the first round of this, if you will politically. But if you see the tweets over the weekend, 13 angry Trump-hating Democrats, he's talking about Mueller's team, no collusion, no obstruction. The Democrats, no matter what we give them, will never be satisfied.

PACE: Well, we talk often about how Trump is quite transparent, and I think we're seeing that again here. Yes, he did win the first round of this. But he knows and is being told by lawyers and advisers that there's more to come. I do think that this raises interesting questions about Justice Department protocols on what you do with information about people who aren't charged with a crime.

[08:20:04] And it really actually goes back to the way James Comey handled the situation with Hillary Clinton where there was a lot of frustration on the part of Democrats for him coming out, speaking publicly, releasing information when she was never charged with something. We'll be facing that exact same situation, there's no additional charge, including the president and members of his family, other members of his administration, how much information does the Justice Department feel like they need to release?

KING: Democrats who thought Comey was unfair want to apply the same standard in this case. The other big issue this week, a lot of Democratic subpoena threats. The big one is this call for the president's taxes from the House Ways and Means Committee chairman.

Six years of the president's personal taxes, some of the Trump entities, they want to see the business taxes. The president has said whoever is in charge will make that decision. But what the president says is not often what the president means. His lawyer sending a very strong letter to the Treasury Department. Even if the Ways and Means have a legitimate committee purpose for requesting the president's tax returns and return information, that purpose is not driving Chairman Neal's request. His request is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech.

Of it goes saying, this one -- the Supreme Court may get this one?

BALZ: Yes, this is going to be a hardball legal fight and it's gong to go on for quite some time. I don't think the Supreme Court is going to want to rush to get this case. And so, it's going to go through the normal processes. It could drag into 2020 and who knows how it will end up. There's no question that the president is going to fight this.

RAJU: Democrats are trying to make it seem like this is not politically driven.

BALZ: Good luck.

RAJU: Nancy Pelosi -- exactly. Nancy Pelosi said it's a policy move. Richard Neal said that in his letter, it's part of an effort to see if legislation is necessary to deal with how a president is audited. So, they realize that, politically, it may not look great for them and they always see it legally, if they show there's a policy reason, they can potentially win in court. We'll see how public opinion changes that.

KING: This one is going to go on for a long time.

Up next for us, Joe Biden says he gets it and before more careful about personal space. As we go to break, politicians say the darndest things, Andrew Yang edition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, everyone. More cameras that I've ever seen in my face before. It's very exciting.

If you heard anything about me, you heard there's an Asian man running for president who wants to give everyone $1,000 a month. And all those things are true.

We will take this case all the way to the White House and win because the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:44] KING: Step one in Joe Biden's damage control plan this past week was a video in which he promised to listen to women who say the former vice president has made them uncomfortable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Social norms have begun to change, they've shifted. And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it. I get it. I hear what they're saying. I understand it. I'll be much more mindful. That's my responsibility, my responsibility, and I'll meet it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Step two was a speech here in Washington to union members designed to showcase Biden's blue collar appeal. But then he took himself off script.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie.

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

And you guys can sit -- I don't want you to have to stand all along. By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.

(LAUGHTER AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There's an old line in politics that fits well here. When you're explaining, you are losing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I'm sorry I didn't understand -- I'm not sorry for any of my intentions. I'm not sorry for anything I've ever done. I've never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or woman.

REPORTER: Is this whole episode of the past week, is this going to change how you campaign?

BIDEN: Well, I think it's going to have to change somewhat how I campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What have we learned from this?

PACE: I think we've learned how hard it's going to be for Joe Biden to change the way he campaigns. And Joe Biden has been someone who has been in the spotlight for quite some time. You talk about going off script. That's sort of the story of Joe Biden's career. He is who he is. I don't think we should have expectations that he's going to somehow be dramatically different or be able to change significantly.

I think the question that is whether the Joe Biden we've seen for so many years is the right man for this moment or whether he is on policy and his tactile style of campaigning, whether he is just out of step with where Democrats and a lot of the country are right now. THOMAS: I also think, if you have to post a video on Twitter

explaining how you are going to campaign, if you're going to talk about campaigning, it is not the best way to start your campaign with that individual video on Twitter. And basically what we saw was Joe Biden thought this was important enough to say something which means he's running for president, right?

I think the other issue we have is that Nancy Pelosi said something that I thought was smart in a "Politico" event this week which is she didn't consider this to be disqualifying. So the question is, is it disqualifying? I'm not saying it is disqualifying, but you'll have a lot of progressives and a lot of young people who think if he's from an era where he doesn't understand how a woman's personal space is an actual issue, and we'll see how that plays out, then they're not going to want to vote for him.

So, it will be the people who decide if we have moved on from the era of Joe Biden, but that is a bygone area to a certain extent.

KING: You're right about that, the generational challenge if you will. He's beloved in the Democratic Party for the most part, even the women who said he's made them uncomfortable. None of them suggest it was sexual. They just think that he just didn't respect them and didn't respect their space and he should know better.

Can he convince people in this age of the MeToo movement in a historically diverse field with younger candidates, with so many women candidates, with diverse candidates to go back? Because that's essentially what he's asking them, go back. He calls himself an Obama-Biden Democrat.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": I think it's going to be difficult in this sense -- and the only way he's going to do it is by campaigning and showing that there's something different about him or that he is, in a sense, that he is of this moment.

You know, John -- I mean when Joe Biden talks, he talks in so many ways about things of the past. I mean it's just his frame of reference. It's the fact that he's 76 years old. And I think that that's going to be a struggle for him.

This week was very difficult for him. They started with the idea that this was not going to be a big deal. They put out a statement and then they put out a more aggressive statement. Then they did the video. Then he went out Friday. This has rolled on for a full week now.

We'll see once he becomes a candidate what he's going to be like. But it is going to be a challenge for him.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is going to continue to replicate itself. I'm sure there will be other people who will come out at points of the campaign to say that he made them feel uncomfortable. He's been the person as he says who has campaigned like this for some time and it may not be disqualifying, but it will be a distraction that he's going have to deal with time and again.

I think it's also (INAUDIBLE) to say yes, he's at the top of the polls right now but that really just is all about name recognition at this point. The old adage is, you know, your best day as a candidate is the day before you enter the race. When he enters the race, the deniers (ph) will be out from the other candidates and these distractions could continue.

KING: The joke about, you know, I had permission to touch both the union guy and the kids, is insensitive and disrespectful, more to the women who again feel that Joe Biden violated space. That's one issue.

Does he get -- does he really get it that there's a second person involved here, that their opinion matters, too? So you just joke about it.

The other thing is he does have a history of this. We can go back in time and show whether it's Anita Hill or whether it's early in his last campaign for president where he talked about Barack Obama as clean and articulate, he often has to explain when his tongue gets out ahead of the brain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right, but I've always tried.

To this day I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved. I wish I could have done something.

I truly regret that the words I spoke offended people I admire very much, but I'm humble that so many of these same people judge them by my history and my heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: His strength in the early polls which are to be what's called an early, early, early, early polls -- but his strength is that A, that he's known; but, B the Democrats think he could beat Trump. That he -- they look at this younger untested field, they think here is a guy who's may be electable.

If you're constantly trying to explain things away, does that undercut what is the foundation of his candidacy (INAUDIBLE)?

PACE: It could. And it's actually really interesting to watch those clips because at the start of this Democratic primary, you actually saw several other candidates come out and just quickly apologize for a whole bunch of things in their past

It's become kind of the cool thing to do to say yes, hey, I was wrong. I changed my mind. I'm sorry about that. Getting these issues off the table instead of letting them drag on and short of shadow you throughout the course of this primary. There are though Democrats I talked to this week really worry that Biden will die by death of a thousand cuts. That Democrats will just try to tear him down throughout this process and that he is, in the eyes of a lot of Democrats, the strongest candidate to beat Trump and they could be putting their prospects of taking back the White House at risk by undergoing this strategy.

RAJU: We still haven't heard what Biden's vision is for becoming president. Why he wants to do this. What he -- how he plans to drive the Democratic Party going forward? He has not come out yet, obviously he's not a candidate yet.

But he's had to deal with all these other issues, apologizing for things in the past, trying to suggest he's still -- he's the most progressive person in this race, as he said. But we need to hear that, Democratic voters need to hear that and they need to be convinced of that. And that's going to be a huge challenge.

KING: And his saying that I'll be last (ph). I get it. He's the former vice president of the United States. He has more experience on the national stage in the Senate and vice president. But that's a very traditional approach. I'm the big guy so I'm going to go last. Do we live in traditional times?

BALZ: No, we don't live in traditional times. Although, you know, from his point of view, from the point of view of the people around him, nothing certainly until this week perhaps had caused him any problem of waiting. I mean he wanted to see how others did their rollout, take a measure and wait to get in.

The people, who are helping him make this decision or get ready for this campaign, believe a couple of things. One, they don't think that his poll numbers are just name recognition. They believe there's something more solid that we will see whether that is the case.

The other thing they believe is that, yes, they know all the vulnerabilities. They can inventory that better than we can at this point. They know that those are going to come up in the campaign.

[08:34:59] Their hope is that people will look at Joe Biden, the totality of Joe Biden's career and say, yes, he's had some bad moments, but over time he has evolved as the country has evolved.

KING: We'll see how it goes. And again we expect him some time after Easter to make it official.

When we come back, two top Democratic stars -- President Obama and Speaker Pelosi offer some unsolicited advice to that very, very crowded 2020 Democratic field.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It has been a busy weekend for the big 2020 Democratic presidential field. They are out campaigning everywhere -- that after a big week that included a big opportunity to court a critical party constituency, African-American voters. As the hopefuls visited the National Action Network Conference this past week, its leader had a question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has proposed a bill to form a commission to study how to do reparations. If you're elected president, would you sign that bill if it came across your desk?

[08:40:00] SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I'm elected president, I will sign that bill.

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I firmly support Congresswoman Jackson Lee's bill to create a commission to study reparations.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I would. I already support that bill. Go HR-40.

SENATOR CORRY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely I would sign that into law.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the House and Senate pass that bill, of course I would sign it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Reparations is just one long-time progressive goal that is it's getting more attention and more support in the early stages of the 2020 campaign. Another is Medicare for all, an idea President Trump and most other Republicans label as socialist.

The nation's top elected Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi waded into that debate as the week wound down. Once again, just like on impeachment, taking a position at odds with most of her party's liberal activists.

"I'm agnostic," Speaker Pelosi said. "Show me how you think you can get there. We all share the value of health care for all Americans, quality affordable health care for all Americans. What is the path to that? When most people say they're for Medicare for all, I think they mean health care for all. Let's see what that means. A lot of people love having their employer-based insurance and the Affordable Care Act gives them better benefits."

Let me try to translate that. The Speaker is saying don't give Donald Trump and the Republicans a gift by getting too far over our skis on something they're going to label as socialist, that we probably can't pass now anyway.

As someone who lost her gavel after the Obamacare debate, when the Democrats lost majority, will the party listen?

RAJU: That's a good question. I think that there's a faction on the left that won't. The Democratic presidential candidates, most of them will not because according to that very faction of the left, she's also thrown cold water on the Green New Deal, skeptical, and didn't know how and what to refer to it as. People viewed it as their way to take a little dig at that legislation. It's been the dream child of the people on the left.

She has different imperatives, too. She has a lot of moderate members who won in Republican districts who the reason why she's speaker right now, she has to worry about those folks. And that's her challenge.

KING: They also finally just won the election. They won back the majority after getting pummeled on Obamacare in 2010, pummeled on Obamacare in 2014.

(CROSSTALKING)

KING: They just actually won an election.

PACE: And they won it with moderates, not with the new freshmen who we're seeing coming from very safe Democratic districts who maybe ousted an incumbent Democrat but are in Democratic strongholds. They won with people who flipped seats. And so that is what Pelosi has to protect right now.

She also though sees her role vis-a-vis 2020 as kind of being the reality check and holding off putting legislation on Medicare for all, legislation on Green New Deal, and put impeachment on the floor so that her Democrats don't have to take votes and these 2020 candidates can talk in sort of broad strokes about these issues and not have to say I would vote for that or not.

KING: And so at the top of the program, we had Mitch McConnell doing the same thing on the Republican side, although he's having the conversation with the President.

Nancy Pelosi is having the conversations with some of her liberal members and with the presidential candidates. She calls them the presidentials.

Yesterday, we don't hear from this guy very often, former President Barack Obama overseas at a town hall had his own piece of advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I do worry about sometimes is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, "I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be," and then we start sometimes creating what's called a circular firing squad. You start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Of whom does he speak?

THOMAS: Only Barack Obama knows of whom he speaks. But I do think -- the thing is the circular firing squad analogy kind of works in both ways, right.

So you stray too far down the path of progressivism or you stray too far down the path of moderateness and who is going to take a shot at you? And there are so many 2020 candidates, that it's easy for someone to take that shot.

But I think what Nancy Pelosi and to a certain extent Barack Obama are saying is hey guys, we're politicians, be politicians. You don't have to like totally give up the ghost yet. You don't have to create a situation where we're having an internal fight before we have this external fight.

Try to moderate what you're saying enough, leave yourself room because you do have an energy on the progressive side. You do have the thing that almost got Stacey Abrams a governorship. You do have the thing that almost got Andrew Gillum a governorship.

So they don't want to like get rid of that yet but like try to walk the line, guys. Just be politicians for just a little while.

BALZ: I think that's exactly the tension that the party is going through. There's a legitimate debate within the party about how you maximize turnout in 2020 because we know this is going to be a turnout election and we know that Donald Trump knows how to turn out his voters.

So the issue is how do you maximize turnout on the left at the same time you maximize turnout in suburban areas or in the upper Midwest, in some of those white communities. That's the issue that they're wrestling with and that's what she's talking about.

KING: It is an issue. You see on the policy debate, from the policy divided. And we'll see that as the debates take place beginning this summer.

[08:44:56] You also see that in the diversity of the candidates. The newest candidate in the race, I believe this is number 17 -- it's hard keep track -- is Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, who -- you might say this is -- is this the Biden lane that used to be the Sherrod Brown lane. But if's more of the -- you know, you have candidates from the coasts and you have this guy who says, I'm from the working class Midwest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just maybe the person that can help heal these wounds is a working class kid from a working class family, from a working class community that will go work his rear end off for the American people.

The fly over states are going to start governing in the United States of America again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If you look back at history, it's hard to see a house member. If you look back in history, we all say Donald Trump won when no one thought he could. An African-American president won when no one thought he could. What do we make of this?

RAJU: Yes. I mean, who knows, right? Because you said 17 and growing --

PACE: Everyone in the pool.

RAJU: Everybody is running because they think they may have a chance because of what happened with Donald Trump. And Barack Obama was a state senator and then just suddenly became a U.S. Senator and then became president.

This is the same message that Tim Ryan used when he ran against Nancy Pelosi for the Democratic leader's spot after the 2016 elections. It didn't work with his caucus at that time because they were mostly more progressive. Can he win that over the Democratic base in Iowa and New Hampshire? That's a big question.

But again, this is so wide open it could be --

THOMAS: I mean I couldn't pronounce Buttigieg four weeks ago.

KING: Right.

THOMAS: I can pronounce it now. So, you know, is Tim Ryan going to be the next president of the United States? I don't know. But you don't know what will take off.

And what he was basically saying was, if he had added the word Scranton in there, he would have been giving Joe Biden's speech.

So this is part of the fight you're talking about, which side of the Democratic Party is going to win? And we will see. And I can pronounce Buttigieg.

KING: Amen to that. Buttigieg it is.

It's a fascinating field. They have some interesting people, interesting policy debates. We've got a long way to go.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next including whether Iowa Democrats are feeling the Bern.

[08:41:58] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's head one more time around the INSIDE POLITICS table ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks, help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Julie Pace.

PACE: I spent some time in Iowa the past two days covering Bernie Sanders. And if anybody is still wondering whether he's a front- runner for the Democratic nomination, the answer is simply yes.

His fundraising far surpasses his rivals and the energy among his crowds was really palpable. He had about 1,200 people in Davenport on Friday night. And what's really interesting about Sanders is that he's not doing much different than he did in 2016 with the exception of a few references to Trump in his stump speech the remarks that he's giving could have been from a 2016 rally or really any of his congressional rallies from years past.

And it really goes to the core of Sanders' belief in this campaign was just that his 2016 effort was not a fluke and he will win by moving voters to where he is, not by changing his strategy or trying o appeal to some segment of the Democratic Party that might not be naturally (ph) with him.

KING: One to watch -- in a crowded field, what he's got is real.

Manu.

RAJU: Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State will be reporting to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week amid continued concern from both parties about the administration's handling of the aftermath of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The administration has provided briefings to this committee in the past several weeks.

Democrats and Republicans say they're not satisfied by it. They have not made a determination under the Global Magnitsky Act as they're required to do to determine whether or not the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for that. So expect some lines of questioning around that.

At the same time, there's a bipartisan bill before this very committee to slap Saudi Arabia with some sanctions, go after Saudi Arabia. The chairman of that committee, Jim Risch, has put the brakes on that for now as he's tried to discuss other alternative ways of going forward.

He told me he's still open to that notion, but nevertheless, pressure billing as the administration continues to side with Saudi Arabia because of economic concerns and down playing the significant human rights concerns that are happening in Saudi Arabia.

KING: Fascinating one to watch.

Dan.

BALZ: John -- we're in the middle of the financial reporting season for the presidential candidates. And so far the numbers are actually not that impressive. As Julie said, Bernie Sanders leads the Democrats with $18 million. But the Center for Responsible Politics noted this week that they appear to be lagging from past campaigns.

If you go back to 2007 (SIC) in the first quarter, Hillary Clinton raised about $26 million most of that for the primary season, some for the general. Barack Obama raised $25 million just for the primary season. John Edwards raised $14 million, Mitt Romney raised $21 million. Rudy Giuliani raised $14 million.

What this tells us I think is that there's a lot of money on the sideline. The second question is how much of this grassroots money is really going to be out there for the candidates and how will they be able to distribute it?

And I think the third, and because we haven't heard from a lot of the female candidates is the challenge that women candidates still have raising money. And we're going to know more about that in the next ten days.

KING: Fun to watch. Interesting.

Shawna.

THOMAS: Well, this week on Friday the transgender ban in the military goes into effect. The Defense Department wouldn't necessarily call it a ban, but it is a change in how transgender military people are treated.

And what I'm most interested in seeing is sort of how that rollout goes on Friday as well as what does it mean for those who are grandfathered in.

So there are some members of the military who are transgender who will get able to keep their jobs. But it's going to be much more difficult for them to commission, to ascend into other careers or cross train. And so we plan on doing a couple of stories about that later this week.

KING: Interesting to watch as this plays out at the Pentagon. Also a court challenge will continue to go as well.

I'll close with this. All of Washington waiting to see just how much of the Mueller report is made public and whether the Congress gets access to the Special Counsel's interview transcripts and his files.

[08:55:00] But there's one group you might say has a unique stake in the outcome. That would be current and former Trump administration officials who cooperated with the special counsel. Some of them spent hours with investigators and even those who say they defended the President's actions worry, their accounts of his temper and his work habits would infuriate him if he got to read them.

One Republican source in touch with a few past and present team Trump insiders in recent days put their expectations this way. He said the President is expected to go quote, "bonkers "if and when he reads those accounts. They'll watch more closely than the rest of us.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Up next, a very busy "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER. His guests include the White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow. Senator and potential presidential candidate Michael Bennet and the House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff.

"STATE OF THE UNION" is just ahead.

Thanks for joining us today. Have a great Sunday.

[08:55:47] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)