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Gillibrand Vows to Nominate Judges Who Will Uphold Roe V. Wade; Buttigieg Sees Dip with Non-White Dem Voters; Jill Biden: Joe Is A Unifier, He Brings People Together; Key Talk Looms As Trump Ups Ante in China Trade War; Liz Cheney's Tough Choice. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 7, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:15] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Some important battle lines being drawn today on both sides of the abortion debate. In Georgia, the Republican Governor Brian Kemp just signed a bill that bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, that's usually around six weeks. Many women don't even know they're pregnant. The so-called heartbeat bill is sure to set off a drawn-out legal battle that could land in the Supreme Court. It's also one of more than 20 actions in state legislatures to debate new abortion restrictions.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand declaring today because of those actions that if she gets elected she would only nominate judges who specifically promise to uphold Roe v. Wade. Now candidates traditionally disavow such litmus test but here's what the senator says. "That tradition ended when Mitch McConnell obstructed the nomination process and stole a Supreme Court seat when Donald Trump nominated dozens of ideologically extreme judges hand-picked by far-right think tanks, and when Republicans confirmed a Supreme Court justice who is credibly accused of sexual misconduct."

Strongly worded statement there. It is normally people get aghast you're not supposed to -- both sides, you're not supposed to have a litmus test, you're supposed to appoint qualified judges, you know, that's part of what's been, forgive me, a joke in politics all along. But what -- if you're not Joe Biden and you're not Bernie Sanders, you're looking to break out in the presidential race. Elizabeth Warren on the floor of the Senate today, how does this factor in?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Gillibrand is going to get and already is getting some praise from liberal activists in the Democratic Party who have been pushing these candidates to break down some of these traditional guardrails that have been around things like the Supreme Court. They want these candidates to be bold. They think that Republicans have been playing by a different set of rules certainly over the last, you know, eight to 10 years, and they think that Democrats need to play this new game. They think Democrats have been -- they've played an old more traditional political game and they need to be as aggressive on policy and on their ideas particularly as it relates to the court as they believe Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have been. KING: And the litmus test thing is interesting. You get the idea, if you don't think presidential elections have consequences, look at what has happened in the Trump presidency. Two Supreme Court justices, 37 circuit court judges, 63 district court federal judges, more than a -- there's 102 so far. So far confirmed to the bench during the Trump presidency.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you heard Mitch McConnell claim that this is basically the signature achievement of the GOP under Trump. And you could say, yes, it's not traditional for presidential candidates to promise this but it's also not traditional for the president and the top Republican in Congress to proudly state that this is the main thing that they are doing with their presidency. So it kind of mixes the issue of a fair game. It's a little bit of a question as to whether this is great for the future of the judicial branch that you keep arguing about these in very partisan tones, this early in a campaign season and that might continue.

But it's out there and it's real and it's potentially got a generational shift that is significant in where these courts go. And that, you know, if the courts are going to be reviewing all the laws than that, the actions of Congress don't matter much if the courts are all one side or other.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is not just about the issue of judicial nominations. It is also wading into the identity politics territory, right? There's -- it's not an accident that Gillibrand is a female candidate and one of many female candidates and she is choosing to talk about the issue of the judicial branch in the context of Roe v. Wade or in the context of frankly Kavanaugh which she was very, very outspoken about when his nomination was working his way through the Senate.

She's clearly doing this to remind voters and maybe even specifically to speak to women voters who look at that chart that you put up before about the judicial nominees under President Trump and are fearful about these very specific female issues.

KING: And let's shift for a second to another of the Democratic candidates. This one actually was moving up, and now you could say with Biden's entry in the race is frozen a little bit, but the South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the early surprise of the Democratic race, he wants to grow more. And he acknowledges, listen here, one of his big problems is a, he's relatively unknown, he's having a hard time especially in a state like South Carolina breaking through with African-American voters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you plan to speak to African-American voters specifically?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Part of it is by laying out an agenda on the issues that black voters also asking me about most often but a lot of it is also about a relationship. It takes a lot of work to make sure people get to know you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just as with we have this conversation, I want to show you our recent polling, our most recent polling. Joe Biden way at the top of the pack here with 39 percent, Pete Buttigieg, for a guy who was nobody when he started the race, I don't mean that as an insult, nobody really knew him very well, that's pretty good especially when you're looking at senators you don't like in the race. But if we shift this over here, here's the challenge. One of the reasons Joe Biden has this big lead is, yes, 29 percent of white voters but 50 percent of non-white voters. Familiarity, right, Bernie Sanders, let me blank this so you can see Senator Sanders' numbers here. Senator Sanders also with, you know, at the top of that pack.

[12:35:00] So the lesser knows Pete Buttigieg, 10 percent of white voters, only three percent of non-white voters. Is it just unfamiliarity or is it more?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: It's that more Democrats identify as Obama Democrats than as any other faction in the Democratic Party. That's Joe Biden's top asset. It's been interesting to see after weeks and weeks and weeks of coverage predicting that he would droop after initially announcing because he was only notional and, you know, everyone was fond of Uncle Joe, and he would fade once he got in the race, that's not happening.

KING: Right.

KNOX: And so that's a really interesting dynamic.

DEMIRJIAN: It is interesting that you still have a larger percentage of non-white voters saying that they'd vote for Sanders over someone like Harris though and suggests that it's still kind of early and maybe there's more messaging to be done here and that we will see how those numbers (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Recognition, familiarity, I think the two guys who've run before and/or been Vice President Biden and Sanders so far but we'll see. An interesting conversation.

Up next for us, to the Joe Biden point, Jill Biden in an interview with CNN on why she thinks now is the right time for her husband to be in the race.


[12:40:21] KING: Topping our political radar today, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is abruptly canceling a trip to Berlin. That announcement came just hours before a scheduled meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. No reason was given for the cancellation. Reporters traveling with Pompeo were then were not told where they're going next and warned they might not be able to report from the unknown destination until after they leave.

Today is the one-year anniversary of first lady Melania Trump's "Be Best" initiative. She marked the occasion with President Trump at a Rose Garden ceremony. The program you probably remember focuses on issues facing children, their well-being, cyberbullying, and opioid abuse. At that Rose Garden event, she reflected on the campaign's achievements.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Since announcing "Be Best", I have visited schools and hospitals, and visited 15 states to promote and highlight some of the successful work being done that so many on behalf of children.


KING: Jill Biden has a new memoir that hits bookstores today. It's called, "Where the Light Enters". The book offers an intimate glimpse of her marriage to former Vice President Joe Biden and the personal challenges her family has faced. Mrs. Biden sat down with CNN's Dana Bash and explained why she believes the country needs her husband in the White House this time.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: One of my favorite stories in the book is 2004, your husband is meeting with advisers --


BASH: -- about whether he should run. You're out at the pool in your bikini, you walk through the meeting and you write in sharpie on your stomach, your bare stomach NO.

BIDEN: They got the hint.

BASH: Why is this the right time for Joe Biden to run for president and be president?

BIDEN: Well, for the past two years, everywhere I've traveled across this country people are coming up to me saying he's got to run, he's got to run. Joe has to run, and I really have taken it to heart.


KING: Taken it to heart in that she supports it this time where she had a very colorful way of making clear she did not support it the previous time. She certainly an asset, she has the experience, she can do media, she can travel the country. What else do we take away from that?

PACE: I take away from that that the Biden family is all in. And that's significant for a couple of reasons. One, Joe Biden is extremely close with his family. Anybody who's ever heard him speak knows that but Biden family has gone through a lot over the last couple of years and they are well aware that Donald Trump picks on your weaknesses and he knows that is going to be a sensitive point for the former vice president. And the fact that they have said we understand that that's coming and we're OK with it. It was probably a real tipping point for the former vice president.

LEE: And just in terms of optics, too, I think for people who have any sense of nostalgia for the Obama years, they are going to look up and see the former second lady and think this is what it could be like again if they were happier under the Obama administration and under the Obama White House and in their minds, at that time was much more or less I should say volatile. And all of the drama that we see from the Trump White House, they are completely sick of that and don't want that. Yes, I think they see a Jill Biden and it is another reminder of the Obama years.

KING: It's an interesting interview. (INAUDIBLE) go to to see more of here. Keep watching throughout the day. There'll be more (INAUDIBLE) with us.

Up next, new trade tensions spurred by the president. Yes, his tweets, and what the jitters mean for your money.


[12:48:20] KING: Welcome back. Let's go straight to what you see right there. The DOW down 393 points. That on new trade jitters. The president promising as soon as this coming Friday to increase tariffs on Chinese goods. Despite that, the Chinese were still sending their top trade envoy to a meeting planned later this week at the White House. But, the markets are unnerved by this.

CNN's Christine Romans looks at the impact of this trade disputes so far and where we could be headed?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, import taxes on steel and aluminum have already raised costs for carmakers and manufacturers. American companies, importers, and retailers have already been paying a 10 percent tariff on food and consumer goods since last September, and many of them have mostly absorbed the costs.

Now with five days notice, American companies face sharply higher tariff rates on everything from bicycle helmets to processed seafood to car seats and furniture. Really, thousands of different items. Consulting firm Trade Partnership estimates the entire cost of all of Trump's tariffs, this 25 percent tariff and the existing taxes on high tech imports from China would cost jobs and raise expenses for the average family of four by $767 a year.

Now, it'll be felt mostly by the retail industry so reliant on China to manufacturer its low margin goods like tennis shoes and clothing. The National Retail Federation warns that jacked-up tariffs would disrupt the especially smaller American companies and will mean higher prices for consumers. American business, no fan of tariffs as a negotiating tool, but this president is, he has famously called himself tariff man and he holds the false view that the Chinese government somehow pays those tariffs.

[12:50:02] He has said many times he is taxing China. Now, in reality, the customs bill is given to and paid by the American companies at the port of entry. They can either eat the higher costs or pass it along.

But there is a contradiction here for American business, John, they hate tariffs but they don't like China's trade practices either, and do favor getting tough on China. Trump's trade advisers think the U.S. has a -- has more leverage here, a very strong American economy that can absorb any economic hit from the trade war.


KING: Christine Romans, thanks for breaking down the numbers. The question is will this work? This is the president's (INAUDIBLE), you can agree with it, you can disagree with it. Certainly outside of the box. The president thinks the economy is strong enough to take this hit right now at least in the short term.

The Chinese are sending the vice premier. The question was would they say never mind. And the White House says China backed off some things they had agreed to do in this deal. Is the president prepared to carry this through if they can't work it out this week?

KNOX: Well, you asked will it work and I don't know what work means here. Will it drive a deal? Well, one of the problems is that we're keep being told oh yes, we've wrapped up 95 percent of this trade deal. All we have left is the relationship between China's government and its economy.

KING: Right. Which is the deal.

KNOX: Which is of course not five percent. That is actually the bulk of the problem, the bulk of the conflict between the United States and China. Are they going to change that relationship in any fundamental way in response to tariffs? I'd be very, very surprised especially the time when their economy is not doing as well as it used to.

PACE: This is a bit of a gamble for the president. This issue being tough on China, trade, tariffs has been really central to his political message, almost as central in some communities as his immigration message. He's basically making the calculation that even if there is some short-term economic pain if you go to the store and you pay a little more for sneakers, your washing machine costs a little more. That this overall idea that we are rebalancing our relationship with China, that we are being tough, this is better in the long term, will work for him. But again, it's a gamble particularly at a time when the economy is strong, and that is his most powerful message heading into re-election. He could really upend that.

KING: And so corporate interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we can show you a graphic. They put out the statistics, they want the president, please, Mr. President, cut a deal, don't extend these tariffs. And they say, look, a lot of those states that have a lot of their exports, excuse me going to either Canada, Mexico, or China, a lot of those states are Trump states. You really want to go into your re-election year where you could be hurting yourself and your own political base? That's the Chamber of Commerce's argument. Brookings though did an interesting study looking at the businesses that are prominent in Trump country, places where Trump won. And most of them are actually doing pretty well during the Trump years. So the question is, you know, does the president think, again, you know what, it's risky but we're strong enough to take it and I'll be keeping a promise.

DEMIRJIAN: That does seem to be the calculation he's making. He's also betting on the strength of his messaging which is frankly pretty good and makes a lot of people, you know, kind of sweeps people up who might actually be looking at their personal bottom line and find that maybe it's not quite in line with how much the president is promising. But this message has managed to kind of heal a lot of wounds in the past.

The question is though, does it backfire on him across the country? Does it backfire on his North Korea plans because you can't really touch one part of China without having affecting other international relationships? And does the president have to answer that sometime before he comes up for re-election and that's going to when it becomes an issue potentially?

KING: Interesting to watch as negotiations resume at the end of this week.

Up next for us here, could the highest-ranking Republican woman in House history give up that leadership post? And if so, why would she?


[12:58:01] KING: Liz Cheney has a big decision to make. Does she stay or does she go? For the congresswoman, staying in the House could set her on a path to the speakership if Republicans win back control. Cheney is already the number three ranking member for House Republicans. She's only in her second terms but Mike Enzi is retiring meaning Wyoming would have an open Senate seat for the first time in more than 20 years, and Cheney would be a giant favorite to become the state's first female senator. So what will she decide?

Joining me now is CNN's Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill. How does she strike this tough balance?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, this is actually one of the more intriguing senators with all that's going on, on Capitol Hill. One of the most intriguing sidebar stories I think that's going on right now. Look, Liz Cheney's ambition is no secret, it's so much of that it's unsettled to her leadership colleagues in the House Republican conference over the course of the last couple of months.

But the real question is just this, what does Liz Cheney want to do? In a second term, already the third-ranking member of the Republican conference. There are very clear eyes on the potential for a speakership at some point in the future, the first Republican female speaker. There is constant talk that she has told colleagues, she's told reporters as well that she now understands why her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney holds this institution, the U.S. House in such high regard. But there's also kind of the intent of what she wants to do in the future. Speakership obviously is out there as a possibility.

But if she decides to run for the Senate, the expectation is she would win, the expectation right now is the field that's essentially frozen that that would be perhaps a bigger platform for the issue she cares about most, and that's foreign policy. It would also potentially be a bigger platform if she wants to run in a national election, like say for president which a lot of people have been talking about up here.

So the decision is really hers. The field is frozen. I'm told there's no decision that's imminent at this point in time. Part of that is technical. If she decides to run for Senate, she has to give up her leadership position, and one that I think she's relished particularly in the rhetorical battle she's had with the Democrats over the last couple of months.

But keep a close eye on this, John. You and I have talked about this repeatedly over the last couple of months. She's ambitious, she knows what she wants to do. Where she ends up, an open question.

KING: Trademark Mattingly subtle there. A national election say for president, just say it. Maybe, down the road somewhere. We shall see, it's an interesting choice, it's a fascinating choice actually especially she'll get some advice from her father, you can count on that.