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Democrats and White House Battle Over Trump's Tax Returns; Trump Admin Silent on Netanyahu's Annexation Announcement; Election and Annexation Stories Make Jerusalem Post's Front Page; Cory Booker Announces Fundraising Numbers. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 8, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): This is a call for basic transparency, and I think most Americans will realize that that's fair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which, if the Democrats are going to go to the math on them, the president's taxes or the full Mueller report, which should it be?

KHANNA: I think the Mueller report.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: He thinks the Mueller report. It is, and sometimes we just, you know, we let it go because in the age of Trump so many norms have been busted. Most presidents do release their taxes, but this president has decided I won an election without doing it, I'm not going to blink.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: Yes. I mean, I think -- and there are two different things that I guess will be litigated. One is whether the White House or the IRS, whatever has to turn over the president's tax records to the committee chairman. And then the second is whether they need -- whether there's a right for them to be made public. And these are two really distinct things. The White House's position right now is no on both.

KING: Right.

TALEV: You'll hear some argument that it's because they assume once it gets to the commit they'll slip out. I don't think that's necessarily true, although there certainly be a temptation for that, a lot of pressure for that. But the -- I think the question that is more of a gamble for the White House ultimately is whether they have to turn those records over to the committee chairman. But if this ends up going all the way up the chain of the courts, that could take longer than between now and the November 2020 election.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And there are serious penalties for releasing someone's personal tax information. I mean, it's years in prison and monetary fines for each infraction, so, you know, if they want to release these publicly they basically have to go into a closed committee session, then they have to hold a vote and then only after that would they become public. Of course, that's a political decision that Neal would have to make, but, you know, it's very, very difficult political territory when you start getting into having to make those kinds of decisions.

KING: And as we watch the debate in Congress which will become a debate in the courts, we should also note in New York, this legislation is trying to get the president's state taxes as well in a much more Democratic state. We have divided government here. We'll see how that plays out.

Chief of Staff Mulvaney who says never when it comes to the president's taxes says relatively soon when it comes to a Trump administration healthcare plan. Listen to him over the weekend.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We talked about the individual marketplace. We talked about how we're protecting Medicare. We're talking about getting drug prices down, and I do think you'll see a plan here fairly shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you see it before the 2020 election?

MULVANEY: Oh, yes. No, we want to run on this. We want to -- Democrats have -- keep in mind, Democrats have already admitted that ObamaCare doesn't work, that's why they're out there talking about this sort of this amorphous Medicare for All.

We're firm believers that you can't beat something with nothing. We have -- Republicans have better ideas than Democrats. We should not be afraid to talk about that.


KING: Somebody help me here in the sense that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had great pleasure coming out last week saying he had talked the president out of this. Mick Mulvaney goes up to Camp David with some administration officials says, no, we're going to come forward with a plan. Not right away, not for Congress to act on before the election but he says they're going to have a Republican plan in 2020 so Republican candidates say here's the president's plan, this is what we'll do on healthcare.

That's not what most Republicans want. They want to run against Medicare for All, they want to hope the Democrats get in what President Obama himself over the weekend called a circular firing squad. What is he doing?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: The most advantageous position to be in politically because healthcare is such a complicated thing as we've seen is to be the antagonist, it's to say that's not working, I can do better, right? And whatever the reason is either the -- you know, Nancy Pelosi is the block or the president is the block. You know, it's a better position to be in for them when they can give a simple pitch versus the complicated, you know, sell on what it is.

Right, exactly.


DEMIRJIAN: The fact that the president was less than two weeks ago pitching this to random members -- Republican senators who are saying, wait a second, that's not what I'm working on. And then they did a first round of clean-up saying, oh, no, we weren't really going to do this until after 2020, and now we're in the next round of cleaning up to clean up maybe to kind of make it messier. And it just seems like this is going to continue to be a back and forth and whatever the president in the White House put out, it'll likely going to be far less workable than whatever those Republican senators might have come up where were they actually working on a plan right now that could actually maybe bring some Democrats along which you have to have because you have different leadership in each House of Congress.

So this is maybe going to be something for the president to wave in front of his base but I don't know if how many Republicans would wave that in their own re-election campaign.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It makes me wonder if Mick Mulvaney has taken off his old hat here or if he's still sort of remembering the -- you know, his old view when he was a House member. But he's in a very different job now. His job now is to guide the president. So we'll see how this plays out.

I will be very surprised if we're sitting here analyzing a serious plan going forward but, you know, we shall see.

KING: We shall see. Yes. And speaking of taxes, seven days until the April 15th deadline. A recent Wall Street Journal poll finds just 17 percent of Americans believe they're actually paying less under the new Trump tax law, 28 percent say they're paying more. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation says that's a misconception, you only half of all households are getting a $500 tax cut. Many Americans (INAUDIBLE) smaller refunds because their withholding was reduced when the new law kicked in.

Math, fuzzy math, some say. We'll be right back.


[12:39:21] KING: Topping our political radar today, two of the Democratic presidential hopefuls courting the union vote in Nevada right now. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Bernie Sanders speaking at a machinist union event in Las Vegas. Addressing the crowd just moments ago, Senator Klobuchar talked about the importance of not governing from chaos, and she touted the need for federal infrastructure projects. Senator Sanders is up soon.

The South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg sharing his personal story in Washington this weekend. Speaking at an LGBTQ event, the would-be presidential hopeful said if he hadn't been deployed to Afghanistan he may never have found the courage to come out. Buttigieg also telling attendees that when he was younger he would have done anything not to be gay and says people like the vice president just don't get it.


[12:40:02] MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), LAUNCHED PRESIDENTIAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE: Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand that if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.


KING: A strong new signal from the New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that he'll soon join the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. His spokesman telling CNN his communications director Mike Casca leaving the mayor's office at City Hall to work for de Blasio's political action committee. Casca worked for the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign before joining Mayor de Blasio's team.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons sticking up for his close friend Joe Biden amid allegations that the former vice president has been a little too hands-on with women over the years. Senator Coons telling CNN this morning that Biden's record on progressive causes is what should matter most. Asked if it matters that Biden's accusers think -- Senator Coons -- what they think, Senator Coons said this.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): It matters what America's women think and what their views of Joe Biden. There are folks who I think are coming forward and speaking up about this because they support other candidates, and there are folks who are coming forward out of a genuine sense of feeling disrespected or unappreciated. At the end of the day, the best way to measure this is to see how former Vice President Biden does on the campaign trail.


KING: Next, the Trump administration says no comment on a big announcement from the Israeli prime minister.


[12:45:47] KING: America's top diplomat is hardly a shy guy, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking a pass today when asked about a dramatic late campaign announcement by Israel's prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu says he will formally annex West Bank Israeli settlements if he's re-elected tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he wants to annex parts of the West Bank today, what's your reaction to that? Will that undermine the peace plan?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, I don't have comments on either one -- and a response to either one of those questions.


KING: The embattled Netanyahu faces corruption allegations and poll show him trailing as the election winds down. It's not secret the president has a favorite as he made clear yet again in a weekend speech to a Republican Jewish group.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I sat with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. I stood with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu. How is the race going by the way? How is it? Who is going to win the race? Tell me. I don't know.

The incredible bond between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than it is right now.


KING: Saw Americans in the room not Israelis. The president seemed to think that they -- well, but -- let's come back to Secretary of State Pompeo first. There's no question the president is trying to put his thumb in this race for Netanyahu but that's the American secretary of state, take Trump administration out of it. Any -- in any administration asked about it, pretty bold move that it's in violation of international law of U.N. resolution that says re-elect me tomorrow and I'm going to annex territories that the United Nations and that the United States Government pre-Trump was on the record of saying at least have to be subject to peace negotiations and as of now it's considered occupied land.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: I think the fact that Pompeo did not comment says a lot and essentially is a comment because the president has not tried to hide how he feels about Netanyahu at all. He's reversed decades of U.S. foreign policy toward Israel to embrace Netanyahu even closer. And as he tries to, you know, gear up for 2020 and portray Democrats as the anti-Jewish party, he's tried to sort of blur the distinction between being pro-Israel and pro-Netanyahu. He's trying to make that seem as it's though it's one, and I think this is just going along with that to try to show that they are very close to Netanyahu and that they're pro-Israel as Republicans.

TALEV: Look at the walk up to tomorrow's elections about what the U.S. has done. First, declaring that the Golan can be Israel's now, it's not disputed territory anymore as far as the U.S. is concerned. At least I think that's what the president said (INAUDIBLE) nobody said it on Twitter so it happened.

And then the decision today to designate the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as the -- as a terrorist organization, something the president wants to do for a long time. He does it the day before the election in Israel. This is another important sign. And so it's really interesting, I was talking to a foreign policy expert a week or so ago who said that they thought that assuming Netanyahu was re- elected, what might happen is the U.S. would then put out a peace plan, the Palestinians would say they can't support it and that would give Netanyahu the predicate to look at annexing a portion of the West Bank. I think we skipped right over that step with what BB's move over the weekend.

DEMIRJIAN: It's also just striking. I mean, traditionally you would hear the secretary of state revert back in that situation to we believe in the two-state solution, we think that all parties should try to, you know, wait on these sorts of, you know, later question issues. And the fact that you're not hearing Pompeo, you know, go back to that which is a non-answer and always has been, right or at least in recent years, means that maybe they have thrown the two-state conclusion out of the window which leaves open all manner of possibilities of what they might decide to endorse that Netanyahu might decide to do if he actually wins.

KING: If he actually wins. I just want to show you some headlines. The Jerusalem Post has the headline, ''The Prime Minister Claims the U.S. knows about his annexation plans." If the U.S. knows the secretary of state took even more of a punt by not answering it there. And the headline, "Netanyahu Warns Likud is Poised to Lose Election". Now he's the ultimate survivor, we will see how the election turns out.

This plays out in the Democratic trail as well. The president in the Republican Jewish coalition speech took after Congressman Ilhan Omar for anti-Semitic statements she has made that have complicated things for the Democrats.

[12:50:02] Democrats say that you can be anti-Netanyahu or critical of Netanyahu's policies and still be very pro-Israel. Beto O'Rourke, one of the Democrats over the weekend putting that to the test.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The U.S.-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on our planet, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist as he warns about Arabs coming to the pols, who wants to defy any prospect pore peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right racist party in order to maintain his hold on power.


KING: That sort of two elections that have become connected.

ZELENY: No doubt about it. It's been absolutely connected, and the president, the U.S. president has been a pretty I think skillful at least at the beginning of, you know, essentially drawing Democrats into this fight. So, you know, it's the first -- overall, we should point out that, you know, the vast majority of Jewish-Americans vote Democrat or they have, you know, all the way along. We'll, you know, see if 2020 is different, but it will be interesting on the margins to see how this is used as a lever by the White House, by the president, because that's exactly what he's doing. And we should point out one of the people who is in the front row of that speech on Saturday in Las Vegas was Sheldon Adelson. Of course, he is one of the biggest donors on the Republican side. The president -- the White House wants that big check again from him in 2020, will probably get it, so all this is incredibly connected.

TALEV: Yes. It's part of the fundraising strategy. It's part of the voter turnout strategy in a couple of states that have outsized Jewish voting populations, Florida, Pennsylvania, and maybe a little bit in Ohio and Michigan, and it's meant also to boost the evangelical vote because evangelical voters are decreasing in numbers as a proportion of the U.S. population but are every bit overrepresented in terms of voter turnout and intensity. The president is trying to maximize that vote.

KING: Yes, but -- go ahead.

DEMIRJIAN: The problem as we talk about many different issues (INAUDIBLE) is that you can play the short-term political strategy but with the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian politics you don't know what's going to happen once you let this out of the box. And frankly, you play a little bit of -- with a little bit of fire even domestically because a few years ago pre-Iran deal you wouldn't have had this sort of debate in the U.S. Congress and now you do where people are being much more critical about the leadership of Israel if not the country itself.

KING: You mentioned turnout here in the state, it's also part of the prime minister's turnout policies thanking the president for the big announcement today, designating the revolutionary guard, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. We'll watch this play out. The election in Israel is tomorrow.

When we come back, the election here, if you're a 2020 Democrat means raising money. Cory Booker just a few weeks ago said it would be a key first test. Now he says not so much.


[12:57:22] KING: Senator Cory Booker says he's raised more than $5 million for his presidential campaign, and with that announcement comes a little adjustment to his take on just how much money matters. That $5 million not even third of what Bernie Sanders raised and less than half of Kamala Harris' take, and it lags behind Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg. Ten days ago with the first quarter deadline approaching, Booker sends a fund -- bunch of fundraising e-mails noting, quote, big conclusions are made based on the reports and that the first quarter numbers, quote, will be seen as a measure of our strength. Now he says he's doing fine and money isn't everything.


I feel incredible. We've set goals for ourselves and we surpassed our own goals. We're seeing incredible energy and enthusiasm everywhere we go in this campaign. Money is important but it's definitely not going to be the barometer on which people make their decisions on who's going to be the next president of the United States.


KING: A little bit of spin there but I get it, it's hard. It's hard in this crowded field, number one to raise money. Number two, there's a bunch of the senators, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Booker, who are doing OK but not great.

ZELENY: Without question. And we've learned a lot of things over the last eight days or so, one of the things that Kamala Harris' 12 million looks much different now than it looked like a week ago when she announced it. It looks really good now. She's the second one and I believe she'll probably remain the second of all of them unless there's a giant surprise from Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar or Senator Gillibrand.

So I think, that look, a couple of realities we're seeing. One, there are so many candidates in the race as you've said so people are spreading their money out. A lot of people who I've spoken to are giving smaller contributions or watching from afar not sure who they want here. But when you slice it all, they'll probably -- most of them will have enough money to get by, but Senator Booker has built a very large campaign in early states and his headquarters here costs a lot of money.

KING: That's one of the issues.

ZELENY: And the biggest number we don't know, cash on hand for all of them. How much did they spend to raise that money? We'll find that out probably midnight on April 15th, not a minute sooner.

KING: The biggest challenge is, a, to pay for your operations to keep your infrastructure out there if you have it and Cory Booker does. And then, b, get to the debates. And then we're going to see if we have a reset. We have two debates, an NBC debate and a CNN debate coming up early this summer, you'll get a reset of the race after that and some of that money might come up the sidelines.

PARTI: I think one thing to note here is that it is important to have money obviously to set up your infrastructure. But money might in some ways I think you can make the case, might not be as important because all it takes is a viral moment. You don't need a big ad buy and so you can sort of capitalize on social media as a presidential candidate these days.

The other thing to note here is that we don't know what this pool of small-dollar donors that all these candidates are trying to vie for actually looks like and how big this pool is. So maybe a $5 million doesn't sound like much but it maybe is because we don't know what this pool looks like.

KING: We don't know. We're going to learn as we go. We don't know.

Thanks for joining us today on the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day. [13:00:00]