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Questions over Barr's Appearance on The Hill; Synagogue Attack in California; Biden Fundraising and Pennsylvania Visit. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:23] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Phil Mattingly. John King is off today.

A congressional clash over who gets to grill the attorney general as Democrats return to Washington still wrestling with impeachment and the president asks, Bob who?

Plus, Joe Biden gets a second chance at a first impression. His campaign trail debut promises to focus on three words, the middle class. And he hopes you forget about his struggles to say two other different words, I'm sorry.

And, the White House defends the president's denunciations of anti- Semitism and white nationalists as mourners today bury another victim of a hate crime.


ISRAEL DAHAN, DAUGHTER INJURED IN SYNAGOGUE ATTACK: Someone getting in with a rifle and starts shooting all over the place. And you see in your family and friend member surviving on their life, it's -- it is not -- is not the feeling that you want to feel on a daily basis.


MATTINGLY: And we'll have much more of that in a bit.

But we begin this hour with a Capitol Hill test of wills and a big question now that lawmakers are back at work, just how far did Democrats want to go? The dynamic is the defining question in Congress today and how House Democrats answer on three specific issues will dramatically shape what the next 18 months to two years actually look like.

On infrastructure, the riddle is whether cooperating with the president at all, that the Democratic base despises, is worth the price of progress. On impeachment, the question is, again, about balancing what the base wants versus what Speaker Nancy Pelosi fears, a bad verdict from voters, 2020, who say Democrats crossed the line.

But the urgent question this very hour, will Democrats subpoena the president's attorney general? Here's why. William Barr says he won't show up for hearings this week if Democrats don't adhere to his demand and keep committee lawyers away from the microphone. But the chairman of the Judiciary Committee yesterday says Barr doesn't get to dictate the terms of his own testimony.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): And the witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period.

QUESTION: What does it say if AG Barr doesn't back down on these injunctions?

NADLER: Then we will have to subpoena him and we'll have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.


MATTINGLY: Let's get straight to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, who has been working this story.

I watched it in person on Saturday night late when the rest of us weren't trying to work.

Manu, look, the negotiations between committees and administration officials, that in in and of itself is not new. For them to spill out publically like this and in this -- to this degree of contention is. You've got some new reporting. What is the actual status of this right now?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats are going to push forward and demand that he appear and say that if committee lawyers want to question the attorney general, they are allowed to question the attorney general. Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee is actually going to vote on a Democratic motion to allow for an additional hour of questioning at Thursday's hearing, allow staff attorneys, if they want them to question, to be allowed to do so.

Now, the Republicans are likely to oppose this effort tomorrow, but with Democrats in control of that committee, expect that to pass. That will essentially set up a game of chicken, if you will. Democrats plan to move forward with Thursday's hearing, and they have not yet heard back from the attorney general about whether or not he will actually appear. But I am told that he warned the committee that he would not appear at Thursday's hearing if they go forward with this plan. He's objecting not just to allowing committee staff to question, but also Democrats want to allow the full committee to see the un-redacted report, the sections of the report that were blacked out when it was released by the Justice Department. So far Barr has only allowed 12 members to see a less redacted version of the report. He has not agreed to allow the full committee to see everything.

So on multiple fronts, this clash coming to a head. But we do expect to see Barr before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of course led by Republicans, on Wednesday, even as Thursday's appearance is still in doubt.


MATTINGLY: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. The clock is ticking. Game of chicken. A pretty apt description of things.

All right, here to share their reporting and their insights, their scoops, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press," Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post," Molly Ball with "Time" and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

All right, guys, I want to start with what the Justice Department says -- said on this because, again, the negotiations aren't necessarily rare on something like this, but the degree to which they've already reached this point of acrimony kind of is.

The Justice Department over the weekend putting out a statement saying the attorney general agreed to appear before Congress, therefore members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report (INAUDIBLE) and that is he's not so happy to engage with Judiciary Committee counsel and certainly in a private setting.

[12:05:02] Seung Min Kim, you are our resident Hill ace. How exactly does this end given this is supposed to happen on Thursday?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this week is going to be such an escalation of tensions between this administration and congressional Democrats. And I think particularly what Barr decides to do, does he not show up, do Democrats have to go ahead and subpoena for his testimony, is really going to mark this turning point in how aggressive or how much more ramping up that Democrats do in oversight and perhaps even in those impeachment proceedings. And you'll recall that the caucus is very still much divided on the impeachment question, even after the release of the redacted Mueller report, which had all these details about the president's conduct and the contacts between the Russians and his campaign.

However, there are so many other areas in which the president has -- and his administration have just declined to cooperate all together with congressional Democrats. I mean, obviously, the Barr testimony and everything related to the Mueller report is the main focus. But a week from today is the third deadline for the president to turn over his tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. Lawmakers are going to be questioning the White House's former personnel -- director of the personnel office, although we'll see how many -- how much details that Mr. Carl Kline will be willing to give to Democrats. So it will be quite the week to watch.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, it's a great point because the context of this is important. The framing of what happened in the two-week recess that essentially wasn't for Capitol Hill, where every other day the White House was saying no or being defiant or saying we aren't going to agree to Democratic requests.

I guess, Julie, what's your sense from the White House perspective right now? Is this a hard and fast line, or is this part of a broader negotiation on all oversight basically?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": The administration is basically taking a just say no strategy to all of the investigations. It's pretty amazing if you think about the level of tension that we have over something as relatively straightforward as the attorney general going to Capitol Hill to testify. Imagine that when we start talking about some of the folks who are -- who are administration officials who are mentioned in the Mueller report. The taxes is another perfect example as Seung Min mentioned. Basically anything that congressional Democrats ask for right now, whether it's relatively straightforward or quite detailed, the administration is going to try to say no. They look back at the Bill Clinton White House and the way that the Clinton White House handled requests from Congress at the time, which was similar. They were quite defensive. They tried to resist most requests for in-person appearances, for documents. They think that actually worked out well politically for Bill Clinton. And as they eye the president's re-election campaign, they think that this will set him up in a similar position, making it look like Democrats are doing nothing but launching politically motivated attacks, politically motivated investigations and requests.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's a great point because I think legally the question is whether or not this is a dubious strategy, but legally it's something that's going to take months, if not years, message- wise.

Take a listen to how White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders kind of framed this all earlier today.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You have to look at the outrageous behavior, particularly of the House Democrats, who are asking for things they know they can't have, that they know they have no legal authority to have. And, frankly, they're -- they're just acting really childish. It's almost embarrassing.


MATTINGLY: So, Nia, I guess one of the questions that I have is, how do Democrats respond? We've seen back and forth on letters, on threats, but they're back now. This gets real now. What's the next step for Democrats here more broadly?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it's unclear. It's unclear how this all plays out. It's unclear if the sort of escalating threats around subpoenas and contempt of Congress actually work, or even sort of calling out Republicans for (INAUDIBLE) fall in line with this White House. The White House is essentially saying that Congress doesn't have any oversight ability or oversight authority.

And it's not just with Mueller, and with the sort of documents that you hear Sarah Huckabee Sanders talk about. It's with calling somebody, Stephen Miller, before Congress to talk about immigration policy. It's about this idea about adding a citizenship question to the census. It's about national security in terms of the security clearance process in the White House. So -- so the White House has really drawn what seems to be a pretty hard and fast line, not only with documents related to Mueller, documents related to the president's taxes, but any number of issues. But the Democrats, at this point, it's unclear what they can do other than sort of issue these threats around contempt, issues these threats of subpoena and try to call Republicans to the carpet on it. But the Republicans seem pretty dug in here, Donald Trump among them, of course.


Molly, I want to get you in this because I think this is an interesting thing. It's one of the things I've been thinking in the last two weeks, that there's a tension here of, you know, Nancy Pelosi is trying to make sure her caucus stays in line, making clear they can investigate through any number of different pathways, it doesn't have to be through impeachment. And you can pull up -- you can pull up "The Washington Post" poll that was released today, and, yes, there's a majority of Democrats that perhaps want to lead towards impeachment. But when you look at the broader numbers, you look at independents, they are not quite there yet.

[12:10:10] What is the management practice like now that Democrats are actually back on Capitol Hill? I was texting a lot of kind of front line Democratic freshmen who were making clear during their town halls, they weren't hearing anything about impeachment. But there's clearly got to be some frustration at this point, right?

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's interesting to see that that number among Democrats, I think, is so low. It has been higher at certain points of the Trump administration, the number of just rank and file Democrats in polls who want to proceed with impeachment. And I think that really is testament to the messaging that Speaker Pelosi, in particular, has done thus far. She has drawn a very hard line. She's been very aggressive in coming out and saying that she does not want impeachment to be a priority. She's never taken it off the table, but she has taken this hard line. And I think that has convinced a lot of her party's base actually to cool it a little bit.

And certainly so far she's been able to keep the caucus in line. We did see after the Mueller report that there -- there were a couple of more members who were willing to say publically they favored impeachment. But what you don't really see is the members who want impeachment pushing hard for it to start now. They're saying we want to get there. They're -- and some of them are saying we don't, but they're not -- they're not criticizing the speaker for not going -- moving faster. And that's when I think you would really see a fracture is if there was a group that thought that they needed to be more aggressive.

I think especially since, you know, as Julie was saying, the White House has forced the Democrats into a much more aggressive posture than they originally planned to take. The plan was to cooperate as much as possible and only issue subpoenas when they absolutely had to. But since the White House has determined that they're going to stonewall everything, that's going force the Democrat to subpoena these witnesses, and these fights will end up in court, and we'll see how the D.C. Circuit interprets the Congress' subpoena power and the precedents there. But, you know, that -- those fights are going to -- are going to have a disposition in court, and that will determine who has to come before those committees.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's right, a lengthy process, but a real important point there for all the bold kind of headline grabbing, people who want impeachment, people who are pushing impeachment, it's not a big number. Speaker Pelosi still has her people pretty well in line.

All right, up next, a return to somber breaking news in California where a synagogue prepares to bury their congregant killed at a weekend shooting.


[12:16:29] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD LORBER, CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL COUNCIL: Who could have imagined that today we would be in mourning again. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims who were targeted solely because they were Jews.


MATTINGLY: A somber moment on Capitol Hill this morning, marking the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Week and the tragic shooting at a San Diego area synagogue this weekend. Lori Kaye, the congregation member who was killed as she blocking the rabbi from a gunman will be remembered this afternoon at a funeral service. What was a tragic day may have actually been worse if not for an Iraq War combat veteran who ran toward the shooter when he heard the gunshots. Oscar Stewart shared his story with CNN last hour.


OSCAR STEWART, CHASED GUNMAN OUT OF SYNAGOGUE DURING ATTACK: As soon as I ran into the lobby, I didn't see anybody except for the shooter. And I let out a scream that was unbelievable from what I understand. People keep telling me that they said that they thought it -- it was like four people, like a chorus of men screaming at once. The priest at the church next door said he heard this scream, you know, it traveled far, more than a football field. I don't even know how I did that.

So as soon as I saw the gunman, he discharged his rifle twice as I was going toward him. When I got to him, I screamed in his face and he dropped his weapon to his side. He had it slung, so he wouldn't -- he wouldn't lose it. And he immediately took off running.


MATTINGLY: Three others who were wounded in the attack are all home now from the hospital. President Trump, on Twitter, said, I spoke at length to Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. I extended my warmest condolences to him and all affected by the shooting in California. The rabbi says the president's call was, quote, so comforting.

And, guys, I want to get to the politics and the president and all of that in a minute, and obviously that's an important discussion, but I think there's also a broader discussion to have about the anti- Semitism, the rise of these types of attacks, terror attacks against people of faith across multiple different religions. And I think one of the things I'm struck by personally is a person of faith who goes to church and doesn't really think about safety -- I think about the fact that I'm in church with my family -- is kind of this moment and the fact that this has become such an issue and just a poignant issue and such a dangerous issue to some degree.

And I guess I'm trying to figure out kind of how we're supposed to think about this at this moment.

Nia, where do you kind of come down on where the country is, where the world is right now with this issue?

HENDERSON: Yes, I think people are afraid and in some ways they should be afraid. I mean if you look at what's been happening, the synagogue shooting, black churches being burned in Louisiana. I think there were three. A suspect arrested there. Obviously what we saw happen in New Zealand as well. It's a frightening time. There does seem to be -- there clearly is this rise in white nationalism and this sentiment that's going against people of faith, Muslim faith, Jewish faith, Christians, black Christian worshippers in particular. And I think one of -- one of the responses is just fear.

Obviously, politically, you've seen some of the presidential candidates come out and talk about their needing to be a -- more of a focus on white supremacy and the rise of white nationalism and what that means for this country and what it's meant globally, and also in terms of gun control. But I think just sort of the visceral feeling in talking to folks over this past weekend, people I know who go to church and go to synagogue, there want just real sort of fear about what is going on and what it means for people's personal safety as they're going into houses of worship during the week.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it.

And you noted that this has -- this has kind of spilled into or onto the campaign trail.

Take a listen to what several 2020 Democrats had to say about this issue broadly.

[12:20:02] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment to define how we will be defined. By calling Nazis and Klansmen very fine people.


O'ROURKE: No, we're not going to be defined by a smallness, our pettiness, our hatred or our racism. SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all agree that these are borne out of hate. Hate which has received new fuel in these last two years.


MATTINGLY: The Democrats aren't being subtle about this. They're obviously pointing the figure at the president. And I know statistics have obviously shown, particularly on the anti-Semitism side, particularly statistically with white Nationalism, that there has been an increase. Though, to be completely clear, there are strings of anti-Semitism on the polls of both parties. That's not of both sides. That's just a fact.

But I guess, Molly, one of my questions is, politically, can a -- how -- what -- what is this issue? How do you work through this issue in a political context?

BALL: Well, I think that the idea that the president is a divisive rather than a unifying figure was always going to be a main theme of all of the Democratic campaigns. And you saw that with Joe Biden's announcement, right, which obviously preceded this attack, but which focused on the Charlottesville march and -- and the bloodshed there. So I think that was something that -- that Democrats were already focused on. It's not a particularly divisive issue among Democrats. They pretty much all agree that the nation needs healing and needs a president who will do more to, as they see it, bring people together rather than push people further and further apart.

So -- and as -- and Nia mentioned guns as well. We've seen a dramatic turnaround in the politics of gun control just in the last few years. And part of it is a well-funded and more and more active gun control movement. But part of it is that feeling that there are so many more places that people don't feel safe, whether it's sending your child to school, something you ought not to have worry about, or walking into a church or synagogue, something you ought not to have to worry about. And this feeling that Americans have that despite historically low crime rates, despite a booming economy, people still feel that there's instability and danger out there in America.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's unsettling, no question about it. All right, more -- much more on this to come throughout the day on CNN.

All right, up next, Joe Biden prepares for his first rally of the campaign. We'll get a preview of his message.


[12:27:07] MATTINGLY: Joe Biden hitting the campaign trail in earnest today. He will hold his first rally this afternoon at a union hall in Pittsburgh. Later this week, he heads to Iowa, then South Carolina.

Take a listen to Biden's deputy campaign manager and see if you can pick up what the campaign wants to focus on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATE BEDINGFIELD, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR, BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT: Today, he's here in Pittsburgh to lay out his vision for an inclusive middle class, to make sure that everybody who works hard in this country gets dealt into the deal, and to remind people that, you know, it's the middle class that built the country, it's not CEOs, it's not hedge fund managers, it's not bankers, it's the middle class.


MATTINGLY: Subject there, middle class.

Over the weekend, the former vice president hopped on board the anti- super PAC train, joining his fellow Democratic presidential contenders in rejecting money from corporate super PACs. Biden adding on Twitter, quote, to speak to the middle class -- there that is again -- we need to reject the super PAC system.

Well, note here, that tweet came two days after Biden's campaign announce it raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours after announcing. That is a bigger fundraising haul than any of the day one amounts collected by his rivals in the Democratic field.

Now, CNN's Arlette Saenz joins me live from Pittsburgh right now, where the former vice president will speak in a few hours.

Arlette, it's now day five of this campaign. I think a lot of us take immediate snapchat reactions of what it all means. But it's still pretty early. What's the mood like right now inside the Biden camp?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, after months of will he or won't he run, I think Joe Biden and his team are both eager and happy to finally be part of the game. And today they'll be focusing on that message that you heard Kate Bedingfield talk about, trying to strengthen the middle class.

And Biden, just a short while ago, offered a little bit of a preview of something he might talk about in that event at the union hall. He tweeted saying that I am sick of this president bad-mouthing labor -- or, sorry, bad-mouthing unions. Labor built the middle class of this country. He goes on to talk about the minimum wage, overtime pay and the 40-hour workweek. He says that they exist -- I lost the tweet for a moment -- but basically Biden's going to be trying to promote this second pillar, the campaign says, of his entire candidacy.

Now, we are here in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state that Democrats lost back in 2016. Joe Biden and his team believe that he could be someone who could win over those working class voters and bring them back to the Democratic column going forward in 2020.


MATTINGLY: Arlette Saenz on the campaign trail, as she will be for a long time to come. Thank you very much, as always, for your great reporting. All right, guys, I want to talk about Pennsylvania, I want to talk

about the Democratic field, I want to do all that type stuff, but first I want to talk about the president's Twitter account because if you pull up the president's tweets this morning, and they range from a couple areas, it also appears that Joe Biden is living rent-free currently in the president's head as you've seem one, two, three, four.

[12:30:02] What -- what's going on here, Julie Pace? What's kind of the strategy here from the president?

PACE: Yes, I don't think it's rocket science