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Notre Dame Cathedral Fire; Fundraising Numbers for 2020; Democrats Subpoena Banks for Trump Records. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 16, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:03] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

House Democrats issue new subpoenas asking several banks for records about the president's finances. It's proof there are some investigations just starting, even as we await Thursday's release of the special counsel's report.

Plus, new details today from the first set of big fundraising reports from the candidates running for president. The Republican incumbent begins with a giant money edge.

And one big test for the Democrats is whether they can match the president's strength with small donors.

And Paris turns from flames and horror to the challenge of securing and rebuilding a global treasure. The fire at Notre Dame unites leaders from every corner of the globe, and Persians, who live in the shadow of the now scarred cathedral.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, I must say, it looks better than I thought. The firemen did work very good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I saw the first pictures, I thought it was a hoax, honestly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I -- I got out of the building I was in, and it was nearby, so I went to see it with my own eyes. I just couldn't believe it.


KING: And we begin there, the solemn day and the solemn scene in Paris right now. Firefighters, as you can see, working to better understand the damage to a global landmark, the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral.

Today's work is cautious, methodical, a contrasting scene to yesterday's chaotic inferno that Parisians and the world watched with horror. Today, the two iconic bell towers, the flying buttresses, they are safe. The grand rose windows, the crown of thorn, the original organ, safe. But so much of the roof structure, forest of oak beams that framed the ceiling, gone. The famous spire, fallen.

The process of removing other precious art and artifacts that survived the fire is underway, but numerous items must remain inside for a while, while the safety of the structure is still being examined.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now from outside of the cathedral.

Melissa, what do we know about what is happening right now as they try to assess the structural risk?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me just show you behind me, John, what's going on here just outside that iconic facade of Notre Dame Cathedral.

As you said, so much of what makes this one of the world's architectural wonders, its flying buttresses, its gargoyles, its sculptures, its gothic exterior and stone work, largely still intact. And when we were watching this fire consume the roof of the cathedral yesterday, it would have been unimaginable that so much of it would be standing intact.

We're coming up to the 24-hour period. You can see here that the cranes are there and up towards the structure we've been watching the firefighters outside at the very top of those towers today assessing the damage. We're told, we're hearing from the authorities, that it will take probably another day to establish that the edifice is absolutely sound.

But we've also been hearing that with just half an hour longer, if that fire that after all raged for nine hours long overnight, had lasted even another half hour, the whole structure might have been far more compromised, may even have collapsed entirely. Clearly that that wasn't the case has real changed the emotions of the crowds, very vast crowds that continue to pour in here to see for themselves. It was horror. It was shock. It was sadness. And that has really turned to a great deal of relief.

But, still, this very strong emotion, and that will be expressed in a short while at the 24-hour mark, 6:50 local time, in about 50 minutes time, the cathedrals around France will be ringing their bells, John, to mark the moment when the fire so spectacularly consumed the roof of the cathedral.

KING: A fitting tribute there.

Melissa, please stay with us.

Let's bring into the conversation our senior Vatican analyst, John Allen. He's in Rome. And architect Kobi Karp, also here to join the conversation.

John Allen, I want to start with you.

So often when we go to our correspondents, our analysts at the Vatican, it's because of some world controversy. Today, you have, from every corner of the world, from Queen Elizabeth, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Chinese President Xi Jinping, in terms of this as a tragic event, yet one that has brought the world together at the same time.

Your thoughts today?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, John, you're absolutely right, I actually wrote a piece for the news site that I run, "Crux," this morning. The headline of which was, we're all Parisians now. I mean I have been struck, I think all of us have been, by the -- the unsolicited outpouring of first shock and horror, but then complete solidarity, not only with the catholic church in France, but with Paris, with all of France, as it struggles to come to terms with this.

And I think what's underneath that, John, is a recognition that the cathedral of Notre Dame, although it is a functioning catholic church, and one of the immediate questions is where the thousands of Catholics who were planning to be there on Holy Thursday, where they're going to go now. And all that has to be sorted out.

[12:05:05] But, from an artistic and cultural point of view, it is also part of the patrimony of humanity. It's the kind of thing that does bring people together.

KING: And, Kobi, help us understand, especially in light of what we just heard from Melissa, that the experts think if this fire had gone on for 30 more minutes, the entire structure could have been compromised. We now know, we see what is left intact. Take us through your thoughts on the rebuilding process. Obviously those wood beams cannot be replaced. How do you come at the giant challenge ahead?

KOBI KARP, AWARD-WINNING ARCHITECT: So we're very lucky that the foundation and the masonry structure, which is the base of the cathedral, is substantially intact, and that helps us to come back and rebuild and resurrect the wood frame structure above and bring the roof frame back to its original glorious volumes. This is a sculptural, gorgeous piece of architecture, which is a unique piece that is gorgeous and being celebrated by all of people who have come there from around the world, both inside and outside.

So now we have an opportunity to come back and rebuild it. And not only to rebuild it, but rebuild it to today's means and methods and hopefully an opportunity to create a fire and life safety system that will help us to make sure that this never ever happens again. This is a glorious masterpiece of architecture that has been celebrated for hundreds of year, and the opportunity now is to bring it back and resurrect it to the way it was.

And it will take some time, and it will take some money, but we really do have an opportunity to do that.

KING: And, Melissa, to that point, one of the heartwarming things in this horrible 24-hour period has been the outpouring of support and the pledges of enormous sums of money to help with that rebuilding. Update us on that.

BELL: That's right. And just to be clear, John, it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of money. We've been hearing from experts, heritage experts, who have been saying, this is going to cost billions of dollars, and it's going to take not years but decades to complete the restoration of the cathedral and try and get it back to something like its former glory.

As you say, so much outpouring of emotion over the course of the last 24 hours and, of course, very concrete pledges of financing already within that 24-hour period. Let me just give you a few examples. LVMH, $226 million pledged. The Pinault family, $113 million pledged. Total, $113 million as well. L'Oreal and the Bettencourt family that founded it, $226 million. So we're going to be coming up by the end of today to a very substantial amount of money.

But it is, of course, going to take a lot more tomorrow. The French president's going to be holding a meeting at the Elysee Palace here in Paris to launch the beginning of an official fundraising drive to try and attract as much of that funding as they can and really spread, in a sense, the privilege of contributing to this as widely as possible. And that's something we've been hearing a lot from the faithful who have gathered here over the course of the last 24 hours, but also people from other faiths and people who are here for other reasons who had come to see, because, for historic reasons, this mattered so much to them as French people or as foreigners, this is something that they wanted to see. So many of them have said that they will be contributing to that effort on however small a scale, to try and help Paris to recover and to try and restore Notre Dame to something like it was just 24 hours ago.

KING: The privilege, it's a great word.

John Allen, I want to come back to you, to that point, as this challenge is before the world, before the catholic church, before the global community. You mentioned the hardship of this happening, the horror in some ways of this happening during holy week. But you also wrote this morning that in some ways there's an opportunity?

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, holy week is sort of the biggest -- it is the most sacred and, therefore, the best attended and most celebrated moment on the Christian calendar every year. That's certainly true for the Catholic Church. I would imagine all around the catholic world, John, as these holy week ceremonies unfold, particularly once we get into the weekend, we have the vigil mass on Saturday and the Sunday mass, Easter mass, you will be seeing special collections taken up. You will be seeing priests from the pulpit encouraging people to be generous in response to this global fundraising campaign.

I mean the cathedral of Notre Dame, first of all, you know, there is a strike percentage of Catholics all around the world who have been there at least once because it is such a draw as a pilgrimage site. Even if you haven't, it lives in your imagination. It's one of those things that plugs at the catholic heartstrings. And whether this -- whether they're a catholic specific fundraising campaign is explicit, I think it will be happening spontaneously at the grassroots all around the world. And I would expect it to be substantial.

KING: We'll return to this story a bit later in the program. I want to thanks you all for getting us started.

[12:10:01] Also I should note, the White House saying President Trump spoke with the French President Emmanuel Macron today as well about the challenge, pledging U.S. support as the effort goes forward.

Again, we'll return to this a bit later.

Up next, though, a shift to politics. A crowded field of Democrats competes for 2020 money. We're diving deep into the new campaign finance reports. That's next.


KING: The first real votes still months away, but what some in politics call the first primary, or the first big test anyway, is over. Presidential contenders were required to file first quarter fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission by yesterday, Monday. At the top of the heap, the president, President Donald Trump. He raised more than $30 million total. That's from individual donors, committees, and the war chest of the Republican Party. No Democrat coming anywhere close to that fundraising haul.

The Democratic National Committee sending out this e-mail with the "we must keep pace" in subject lines. In all caps, the DNC pleads, Trump has raised more money for his re-election than any other president in modern history. It's all hands on deck to defeat him and his fundraising machine in 2020. That's the Democrats' take.

[12:15:07] So what else do these new filings tell us? With me to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press," Carl Hulse with "The New York Times," Elana Schor with "The Associated Press," and CNN's Fredreka Schouten.

You've been going through all of these reports. What's the big takeaway, especially -- we know the president's an incumbent. We know he's going to raise a lot of money. We know he started early, and his numbers are wow. What's the flip side for the Democrats?

FREDREKA SCHOUTEN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITER: Well, the Democrats, Bernie Sanders leads that field at this point, but that's actually no surprise, right? He ran for the presidency in 2016. He has a big, small donor base that he relied upon.

The thing that's really striking is how many candidates there are and the struggles that they are -- the lower tier is having raising money.

KING: Right. And to that I think some of that is, people don't know them.


KING: Some of that is, you could say Democrats are going to wait this one out a little bit, keep some money on the sidelines until they get a better sense of, is this a good investment.

One of the things you always look for, especially in early reports, with newcomers to national politics, is what they call in politics the burn rate, as in you're raising x but what are you spending? And does your spending, where is it in comparison?

So let's look at these numbers. I want to give you an important context. You're going to see this chart here, what they spent in the first quarter versus how much money they raised. In campaign speak it's a burn rate. Let's put up the numbers here.

This does not count Kamala Harris, for example, Klobuchar, for example, the senators have existing campaign money. They can transfer that over. This is an apples-to-apple comparison of, here's what you raised from donors last quarter, here -- individual donors, here's what you spent. If you look at the numbers here, who's worried and who's doing it right?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": So I would say a couple of people to be worried about, one would be Elizabeth Warren, whose burn rate is incredibly high. Now, her campaign counter is that they are really building out a large organization. They've got about 170 staffers, so they're plunging their money into people who will be on the ground who will help them in these early states. She's going to have to really keep pace, though, with that -- with those expenditures if she's going to be able to keep that amount of people on the ground through the early primaries and caucuses.

Another one I actually would be interested in seeing what happens in quarter two is Pete Buttigieg, who didn't spend that much money. He is in this situation where he got this big influx of cash because he is having a bit of a moment right now. The challenge for these candidates who have these boomlets is you've got to figure out how to take that attention, that media attention, and then build out the organization to support it and maintain it. He has the cash. What is he going to do with it? What kind of organization is he going to build around him? That, I think, will be the -- his big question next quarter (ph).

KING: Bricks and mortar, staff, in the key primary states early on, and then how much do you spend on advertising thinking that will help you raise more money or raise your poll numbers? It's a tough challenge, especially is -- it's a decent number, but it's a modest number there.

Another big test for the Democrat, most of whom have said, no big money, no PAC money, no corporate PAC money is, can you, like Bernie Sanders does, can you like President Trump does, raise money from small donors. You get it at $20, $30 a pop. It's great because you got them, but you can go back to that well and go back to that well. You keep them engaged through your digital communications so you're not only getting money, you have them on the field.

Let's look here at the Democrats. This is small donor fundraising among the 2020 candidates. The percentage of the contributions coming in that are less than $200. And, again, Bernie Sanders off the charts. Andrew Yang, not raising a ton of money, but it's coming from small donors. Elizabeth Warren, that's a good number. Buttigieg. And you see the rest there.

John Hickenlooper at the low end, if you will, of that scale, 10 percent of his money. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand in the teens.

Is that -- is that -- is it fair to say that that is a reflection of disappointment or lack of a grassroots organization?

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, for somebody like Booker, potentially, I mean we saw him draw fewer spectators at his own kickoff rally on Saturday than Pete Buttigieg did for his kickoff rally on Sunday. I mean this is admittedly a former mayor, but a sitting senator with a national profile who got lapped by Buttigieg in crowd counts. So you've got to look at that small dollar number and be a little bit worried about Cory Booker because he's going to need grass roots support to run the kind of campaign he wants to run. I mean Gillibrand overall is in trouble, right, but that Booker small dollar number is probably not great for him long term.

KING: And to the Bernie point, this is from Rufus Gifford (ph), in an AP story, Obama's former finance director, what's happening right now, and I think it's a brilliant political strategy on Bernie's part is that no candidate can touch him by raising money the way he raises it. If this continuing, you could see Bernie Sanders as the only candidate with a massive financial advantage. You've got to think that gives him a leg up on any other campaign. In my mind the other campaigns are walking into that trap, meaning, accepting that we're going to do this from small donors.


KING: We went through this some in 2016 when the Clinton people said, this guy's not going last, he's not going to be able to sustain this. Guess what, he lasted, he sustained it. The question is, can he do it a second time?

SCHOUTEN: Right. I mean small donors matter. And I think that's pretty important because it shows that there are people out there who are listening to you and your (INAUDIBLE). Whether he can sort of last in this enormous field remains to be seen because people can catch fire. I mean, Pete Buttigieg caught fire. I mean he is, in some ways, sort of in Beto O'Rourke's lane. So --

KING: Right.

[12:20:02] PACE: The problem with this small dollar argument though is that there are a very small number of candidates who can raise the amount of money that a Bernie Sanders can from only small donors. I mean Warren is sort of placing this bet that she will be able do this by saying that she's not going to do any big dollar fundraising, she's not going to spend any of her time doing fundraising and donor events or donor maintenance. Most of these candidates will not be able to sustain themselves through a long, competitive primary without doing the kind of big dollar fundraising that we'll see a Joe Biden, for example, do.

KING: I was just going to bring in Joe Biden, who's not a part of any of this because he's not in yet. The second quarter will be -- at the end of the -- when we get the next set of reports, we'll be having a Biden conversation, we assume.

There's been a little fun. There's always a little fun or a little poking at the end of these. Many Democrats are raising money off the president's number, saying, look at all that money he's raising. You've got to give us money.

Cory Booker trying to raise money off John Delaney, a fellow Democrat in this. John Delaney is a businessman and he's given his -- a big chunk of his own money to his campaign to get going. Cory Booker sends out a fundraising e-mail, friend, this weekend we found out that one of the other Democrats in this race has given over $11 million of his own money to his campaign. Self-funding is something Cory just can't and would never do. The Delaney campaign enjoying the attention, responding, if I had Booker's numbers, I'd go negative too. That from Delaney's press secretary.

The candidate himself, Senator Booker, was just asked about this and he claims, huh?


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not even sure what you're talking about because, again, we are not taking swipes at other candidates. The reality is, is we need to have a Democratic Party that shows how you run campaigns in this Democratic Party field by respecting people you're running against. And so I'm going to continue to conduct myself in that manner.


HULSE: He might want to check in with his fundraising folks.

KING: Yes. Yes.

HULSE: I think that Senator Sanders is a big beneficiary of having run a successful, to some extent, campaign last time, so he's able to build on that.

I -- actually, Elizabeth Warren's staffing number that you referred to, I was really astounded when I heard that, that -- so she's put in place a big staff and maybe that will produce money for her.

But I think, you know, we talk about the large field and we talk about there's a long way to go, but you can't have two bad quarters here.

KING: Right.

HULSE: I think this will quickly eliminate some people if they show they can't raise the kind of money to stay competitive. Unfortunately, we still consider fundraising to be a big gauge of credibility. And if you can't produce fast here, people are going to say, well, that -- you're not going to work. I've got to find somebody else.

KING: Right. So now you have the second quarter test for them.

HULSE: Right. KING: Then you'll have the first set of debate. And I think those two things will be a reset.

We've got 18 candidates now. Joe Biden would be 19. Might be one or two more out there. Then I think we'll -- we're getting addition. I think after next quarter, the first debates, then we'll have some subtraction.

Up next, the countdown to the Mueller report is on, but the president and Democrats are not waiting to send messages.


[12:27:24] KING: The Mueller report will finally drop on Thursday. And today is proof the pre-spin will be fierce to the very end. No collusion, no obstruction, the president tweeting this morning.

If the president has his way, you'll care less about what Robert Mueller found and more about how the FBI launched the Russia investigation to begin with. A scam, the president calls it, started by dirt devils. That's -- those are the president's words.

House Democrats have a pre-Mueller message today, too, and it is this, the special counsel may be done, but we are just getting started. The House Intelligence and Financial Services Committees hit multiple banks connected today with the president's finances with subpoenas. The subpoenas seek information about loans made to the Trump Organizations and documents Congress wants to see if those banks did business with suspected money launderers.

CNN's Abby Phillip joins our conversation.

And to the point of the subpoenas, we'll start with the subpoenas and the focus from the House Democrats essentially saying, we're still here and we're going to be here for a long time.

Eric Trump, the president's son, who runs the Trump Organization, now issuing a statement. The subpoenas went out to Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Citi Group. Eric Trump says this subpoena is an unprecedented abuse of power, simply the latest attempt by House Democrats to attack the president and our family for political gain. He goes on to say other things. They should be legislating and not doing this.

But the White House, I know the president's trying to pre-cook us for the Mueller report. They understand that is just one chapter that the cloud of investigation is with them.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I think that that's why they are reacting so strongly against all of these things because they believe that if you sort of give them an inch, they're going to take a mile. That's how they're approaching this whole thing.

And so it starts with the Mueller report and -- and essentially not -- they're -- they've already been saying there's no collusion, no obstruction. But now they are in a position where they have to continue to fight the Mueller report because there will be something in this report that they know is probably not going to be that flattering to the president and might fuel other investigations that are being launched or already exist on Capitol Hill. And you're already seeing the president sort of deploying a whole like universe of lawyers to kind of go after all of these different elements of the different probes. And it's a little bit like how the president typically operated when he was a private citizen as a business -- a business owner. He was well known to be very litigious, going after people, threatening them, don't do this or we will pursue legal action. And they're literally applying that same standard to Congress. And I think that it's going to be a huge, huge fight.

And this is a president who has tons and tons of resources to do it. So it's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. But they don't want to give even a little bit to Democrats on any of these fronts.

[12:30:03] KING: Any of those, whether it's taxes, whether it's the finances here. There will be other ones as well.

Back to the Mueller report.