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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump: Rep. Omar The New Leader of Democratic Party; Trump Campaign Raised Over $30M in First Quarter; Democrats Demand Documents After Later Trump Threat; Pelosi Downplays Democratic Factions and AOC Caucus. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 15, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact -- those are her words, that's what's putting -- making the threats, but make no mistake. No Congressperson, no American should be threatened and no one is inciting violence. I think what they are doing is showing outrage toward words that should have been better thought out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Now, it is a fact the president has the right to do what the president wants to do, but it's also a fact that using images of the Twin Towers in a political statement is pushing another norm. And it's a fact that the Capitol Police will tell you the threats are real. So where's the off-ramp here?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if there is one. I mean, I think the president is going to -- you probably see him today make it very clear that he views her as the face of the Democratic Party, they view this as a political advantage. He's -- doesn't seem concerned about these threats that she says that she's facing. Death threats that she's facing because they believe that they have a political advantage in making her putting the Democrats in a position where they have to agree with her views or not. But one thing that he has done -- she had -- what she had said about 9/11 probably was going to put Nancy Pelosi in a difficult spot. But by the sheer fact that he had gone after her the way he did, as a result, Democrats have turned the attention towards what Trump has said and essentially rallied Democrats --

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: (INAUDIBLE) managed to unify Democrats.

RAJU: Exactly.

TALEV: But look, when we talk sort of conventional wisdom about Trump and 2020, we talk about his need to hold those three states that gave him the electoral advantage, right? Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. Whether he can do it, if he can't do it, maybe there's no path for him.

Minnesota is kind of the counterintuitive angle where this is a place that Hillary Clinton won, not by a lot, pretty close, and if the president either really believes he can win Minnesota or as it gets Democrats thinking about putting them on defense rather than on offense in some of those states, that's part of his tactic in changing this message, but part of the tactic is just much more raw.

KING: Well, part of this, if you -- I want us to just dwell on this point for one second about the map. The president thinks that even though she is from Minnesota, he is not going to her district today. He thinks that attacking her, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, socialism, immigrants, that he animates his white working class base into America is changing in a way that threatens you. That's what the president is trying to do.

To your point about the map, and let's look at the map, if you're the president, this is the one that stands out in the region if you will, you're going to (INAUDIBLE). This one right there, you came close. You think you can get it again.

So let's move over and take a look. You made this point, he won all around it. He won Michigan, he won Wisconsin. The question is can he get Minnesota? It was really close when you look at the numbers here.

This is incredibly close if you look at the Clinton/Trump numbers. So, can you get it this time? That's the argument. That's the argument for targeting this state. There's a whole separate argument about how you do it.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And I think there is some risk to this strategy. The president as you point out believes that he can motivate his base to turn out in big numbers with this kind of new culture war issues. Immigration, Islamophobia, racial issues, these divides in American culture but, he's not going to be running against Hillary Clinton. He's going to be running with a record, a record and a style that we know from looking at the data has alienated a large number of independents, has alienated women. And it's hard to see how continuing down this line helps him make inroads with those groups, so he's pursuing the strategy of doubling down on the base, but you can't fight the last war.

KING: Well, I'm not so sure they don't think then in the sense that there's a lot of people think the president is most likely going to lose the popular vote again. The question is, can he put together the electoral map in a way that squeaks it out. And to the flip side of that is, you do see, yes, Congressman Omar said some anti-Semitic things for which she was chastised on a bipartisan base, here in a speech where she mentions 9/11, she could have said more, still what the -- what her words are being taken out of context --

TALEV: That doesn't make her a terrorist.

KING: Yes. She could have been more careful in what she said. That doesn't give you the right to take, you know, some people did something out of context. Go ahead.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: No. I was going to say, I'm surprised more members of Congress no matter who you are aren't speaking out against this. We -- I've been covering Congress since 2005, I've seen two members of Congress shot since then. That's -- and a lot of these -- there are several members who've served with these people who have been shot. The rhetoric, this ratcheting it up, politics aside is disturbing, and it really is incumbent on members of Congress to speak out to make sure that their colleagues stay safe.

LERER: But that's part of why the president is targeting her. I mean, there's a number of reasons but she is a difficult messenger because she had made those comments that played so heavily on these anti-Semitic troupes that is -- like that is clear, you should make sure members of Congress stay safe but you clearly do have the sense that people feel the politics are complicated when it comes to her in a way.

TALEV: But aren't the president's calculation at least among the voters who he thinks that he needs in order to win a second term is that this old notion that we're talking about that you have a moral responsibility when you're president or that you have a responsibility to kind of play fair.

[12:35:08] You know, you don't use your power of the pulpit to pick off the first term Congressperson, you know. He thinks that the public doesn't really believe that. Maybe some people believe that but not enough people to really make a difference politically. If he thought it was that politically risky, he wouldn't be doing it. It is another stress test on another notion or American political institution.

KING: His way of doing things is different from the normal way of doing things and he thinks it's right and he thinks it's going to work again.

Up next, somewhat connected, related story. Today is not just tax day, it's the deadline to file your fundraising report if you're running for president. Some Democrats have impressive numbers but nothing anywhere near the president's.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:12] KING: Another official candidate in the 2020 presidential race today, and with that some important perspective. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Democrat of South Bend, Indiana, drawing a contrast with the Republican incumbent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's why I'm here today, to tell a different story than make America great again.

Because there's a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities, the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back. It is time to walk away from the politics of the past and towards something totally different.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now, within hours of that launch yesterday, the Buttigieg campaign said it raised a fresh million dollars. Impressive, yes, but now that prospective thing. Mayor Pete ranking fourth in the Democratic dollar horse race, trailing behind Bernie Sanders. He's the big leader and you see all the Democrats there, look over to the right of your screen. All of the Democrats dwarfed by a massive $30 million first-quarter 2019 haul by the Trump re-election campaign. And part of that, you can say, a lot of Democratic money still on the sidelines, you got 18, 19, 20 candidates. A lot of people saying let's wait, let's see how this sorts out.

But part of that is, the president launched early, he's raising money early, and, you know, for the Democrats who think we just won big in 2018, this is going to be easy in 2020, think again.

LERER: Yes, look, I think money isn't everything but it's an awful lot. And -- I mean, the fact that the president is walking in with this financial advantage certainly is freaking out a lot of Democrats. That's clear. Now, I think it's worth noting that he raised maybe half -- a little more than half as much as Hillary Clinton in the last election and he won and she didn't obviously.

KUCINICH: Right.

LERER: So it depends how this money is used and Democrats also, you know, you have a lot of Democratic donors who were sitting on the sidelines because it's such a crowded field but Democrats on the flip side of that argument are not doing super PACs largely, not everyone. A lot of them are not. They're not taking corporate dollars, they're not doing big fundraisers, at least Elizabeth Warren is not.

So they are trying to really be very heavily dependent on the small donors, and we're just not sure how that's going to look in a general election in part because we've never seen it before. So how this all plays out is totally unclear. It's still really early but what is clear is the president has a big advantage at this point.

KUCINICH: Well, I think big donors, Democratic big donors who are actually really nervous about the strategy from a lot of their candidates are going to point to this and say, look, this is what we're going to be dealing with, because almost no matter what the president is going to be able to sledgehammer whoever emerges from this massive field because of that money. So this -- I think you're going to keep having that friction internally among Democratic fundraisers and the strategists of these campaigns as to how to go forward in a way that's best for the party.

KING: And if you just think about connect the dots, if you will. In today's digital age and whatever you think of the Trump campaign, whatever your politics at home, they know what they're doing when it comes to the digital space. Why is the president talking about the Mueller report, why is the president talking about immigration, why is the president going after Ilhan Omar? Because he raises money, look at the numbers here, there is $33.3 million, they have almost $41 million cash on hand. Ninety-nine, 98.79 percent of quarter one contributions, low dollar, the average donation $34.26. They are doing on the right what Bernie Sanders does on the left, getting small money. Well, how do they get that small money? Listen to the campaign manager Brad Parscale. You keep in touch with those people, you know which issues motivate them. You, a, raise money and, b, you keep them on the field.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD PARSCALE, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's much more efficient two years out to try to find a possible voter or a possible donor. There's so much across the social networks the sort of capabilities to now go find somebody that's a prospect. I think that that is a considerable advantage in getting that. If we can get to 40, 50, 60 million prospects, that will generate millions of dollars in donations later to be able to spend in advertising.

That also gives you direct contact via phone or text message, email. It's just a considerable advantage that the other side won't have because you just can't replace time. That fact is, when you go build that army now, it gives you the time (INAUDIBLE) to only worry about activation and not worry about trying to find them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the connection to that interview last month with Dana Bash. So that's the connection. You raise money off them but you keep them activated and you know from that text messaging and e-mails, immigration motivates this voter. It's something else that motivates these voters, it's the Mueller report that motivates this one. A, not only to get the money but to get them out to play.

RAJU: Yes. And one thing we do know is the Trump campaign -- Trump has basically never stopped running for president. As soon as he was inaugurated, he filed for re-election and he's been, you know, not concerned about how it looks to campaign in the first couple of years of a new presidency. That -- President Barack Obama was not even near where President Trump was. He barely even launched his re-election campaign at this similar point.

[12:45:03] They started really raising money in the second quarter of 2011. So President Trump is way ahead of where Barack Obama is because he knows it's going to be an incredibly closely contested election, but he's not been afraid of how it looks.

KING: And he may get a challenge, but right now he doesn't have a serious challenge at all and you have this divided Democratic race that could go on in a long time. It's an advantage to incumbents. It's hard to beat an incumbent.

Up next, President Trump threatens to star dumping undocumented migrants in sanctuary cities. Now, House Democratic chairs want some answers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Topping our political radar today, just moments ago, the president again tweeting he wants to dump migrants into sanctuary cities. The president saying this, quote, those illegal immigrants who can no longer be legally held, Congress must fix the laws and the loopholes will be subject to Homeland Security, given to sanctuary cities and states.

[12:50:01] That tweet from the president coming just moments after House Democrats made a big new demand of the administration. The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary, House Oversight, and House Homeland Security committees want the White House to turn over documents about the president's proposed plan, including e-mails, internal -- and the internal Homeland Security memos

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins our conversation. She's been following the story. Priscilla, the chairman wants to know what? We've heard a lot of White House proposals in recent days. They want to know where this is coming from.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: They want to know exactly where this is coming from, and the correspondence between the DHS officials and the White House. So, among documents they are looking for is e-mails and correspondence between DHS officials and the White House, as well as internally within DHS and ICE officials. As well as any other documents and memoranda that might be on hand.

They called this in the letter alarming, and that is something that they have said and signaled since we heard of these reports that this was a proposal that was being floated and that later President Donald Trump did confirm that it is something that they are considering. And so what they are trying to get to here is the core of what exactly was floated and when, so the range here is between November of 2018 and April 2019. And the deadline that they are giving the administration to turn over these documents is going to be May 3rd of this year.

KING: Priscilla Alvarez with the latest reporting on that. Yet another confrontation between House Democrats and the administration over big administration policy ideas. We'll continue to track that.

Up next here, Speaker Pelosi plays down the sway of the freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AOC it turns out isn't just backing impeachment and the Green New Deal, she's got a peace plan for (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

Who's going to end up on the Iron Throne? Who's going to win the Game of Thrones?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Could you imagine if no one ends up on the throne and they transition to democracy? Like, wouldn't that be badass?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is such a skillful answer.

(END AUDIO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:33] KING: An interesting lesson in political math today. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just shy of four million followers on Twitter, but that's not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi counts influence. Listen closely here, this is the speaker last night on "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLEY STAHL, HOST, 60 MINUTES: You have these wings, AOC and her group on one side.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: That's like five people.

STAHL: No, it's the progressive group is more than five.

PELOSI: Well, I'm a progressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's some shade, that's what that is.

KING: That's like five people.

RAJU: It's not the first time she's done that, too. When the Green New Deal, she said there was the green new something or the other. She's questioned whether or not to move forward on Medicare for All. Push for moving forward I'm doing something on ObamaCare.

Clearly, this wing is the most vocal but Pelosi has a lot of power in her caucus right now realizes that the vast majority listen to her. Don't listen to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and she makes that pretty clear about her comment.

TALEV: I think part of this is like she has to. Obviously, she has to be able to be in charge of her party, but I think there is something more strategic to this looking ahead to 2020 also which is that she understands what Donald Trump is trying to do is divide and conquer, call all Democrats socialists, make AOC and Ilhan Omar and the freshman class, you know, the new face of the party. And Pelosi who for years was that person like if you wanted to like, liberal, standards about the Democrats, like Pelosi was your face, now Pelosi is the moderate of the Democratic Party. So, I think she's trying to head off what Trump is trying to do. She sees it as a strategic means to kind of redirect and to blunt what he's doing.

And, you know, we all like -- we watched her in her first go-round as a speaker and it was a really different dynamic when Barack Obama was the president, and you see her now. Remember when a couple of months ago we were like, in the fall talking about whether she could retain the speakership, you know, or whether she -- it seems absurd in light of the way she's managed kind of quickly dispense with these issues over the last couple of months.

LERER: Right. She wants the face of the Democratic Party to be a moderate member from a suburban district that flipped from Republican to Democrat, preferably a woman, that that's the face Democrats want to project so they can win those districts again and hold the majority in the House and maybe flip some of these states in the presidential. So that's part of what she's -- definitely a part of what she's doing and she knows as you point out that the backs of -- the back of -- her majority was won on the back of those kinds of members.

KUCINICH: Yes, she knows who made her speaker.

LERER: Right, yes.

RAJU: And those -- and that's exactly why Republicans are trying to cast most of these freshmen Democratic candidates who won in those conservative districts just like AOC. She's trying to say that's a very small group, there are far more people who are more pragmatic, more in the establishment, more in the center, that's where the drives the conversation on Capitol Hill not what AOC, that wing does.

KING: So let's get a little more into the "60 Minutes" profile last night. Lesley Stahl exploring the issue of, are Democrats afraid of the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANN MCLANE KUSTER (D-NH): She's the first person in my life that has scared the heck out of me. I'm honestly -- but I have so much respect for her. There were times early on when we had to take difficult votes. I'm kind of embarrassed. We would run to the lady's room after the vote.

STAHL: The run and hide.

KUSTER: Yes.

STAHL: Some of them told us that they are afraid of you.

PELOSI: Oh, no they're not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Sometimes yes, sometimes no?

RAJU: Yes, look, she controls a lot including committee assignments. Just ask Kathleen Rice from New York who went against her in the speaker's vote. It's not looking good for her because of the backlash she faced from Pelosi.

It's also the reason she's one of the best whips we've ever seen in the House of Representatives.