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INSIDE POLITICS

U.S. Farmers Struggle As Trade War Escalates; Pompeo Meets With Putin Amid Rising Iran Tensions; Actor Tim Conway Dies At 85; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Announces White House Run; O'Rourke Team Recalibrates as 2020 Dem Field Grows. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 14, 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] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A and B that he can just resolve the problem with farmers by redistributing wealth essentially by moving $15 billion to farmers, but that's obviously not what the industry wants. They want a permanent resolution to this problem and president Trump doesn't seem to be getting people that that's the direction that he is personally heading in.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: But to that point, let's listen some voices from the farming community and the sense is if you run a farm, especially if you're a family farm, you have to think two years, five year, 10 years into the future just to make ends meet and to figure out export markets, to figure out and how crops to feed -- to plant and to think do I need to diversify or change your crops, voices from the farmers saying, Mr. President, we need to know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVAN HUNLTINE, BUREAU COUNTY FARM BUREAU PRESIDENT: Is our fourth generation farm going to still be feasible, you know, two years from now, five years from now if the president doesn't wrap up these trade wars with a win, so there's all these pressures weighing in on us.

JOHN WESLEY BOYD JR., SOYBEAN FARMER IN BASKERVILLE, VIRGINIA: Farmers were his base, you know, was his base, you know. They helped elect this president and make him president of the United States, and now he's turning his backs on America's farmers when we need him the most.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: To be clear, you also find a lot of farmers who say that the president is right, that this is a fight that need to be fought, that China has been cheating the system and gaming system for many, many years. They just want to know what and when and how they're going to come out of this.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, the truth is that a lot of times these international negotiations are uncertain. You don't know where it's going to come out, and I think that one of the biggest concerns for farmers and for people generally is this sense that the president isn't being straight with them about the potential pain, short term and then potentially long term, right?

If the president came out and said, look, tariffs are painful and nobody wins and nobody makes a lot of money and there is going to be some short-term payment. We're going to do what we can do to ameliorate it, then great, and there would be a sense among farmers, and I think, I think especially since a lot of farmers are his -- part of his base, I think they're willing to give him some string.

KING: Farmers understand how this works, they understand unlike what the president says. Again, you can say this is a worthy fight and the president is right that there are issues with China. But the tariff spring money into the trade -- yes.

SHEAR: That doesn't make any sense to them.

KING: Yes, right.

SHEAR: And so then it's feels like either he's being duplicitous or he doesn't understand which is more concerning especially those farmers because I think it will -- does he think we can just let this situation go forever, you know, and they know that's not true.

KING: "The Wall Street Journal" Editorial Board put it this way regarding China, Americans have been giving Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt that his tariff strategy is intended as leverage to negotiate a better, fairer trading regime. But Mr. Trump seems to sincerely believe that tariffs are a free lunch. There's not an economist we know -- White House adviser Peter Navarro doesn't count -- shade there from the journal -- who thinks the tariffs are net economic benefit.

Meaning tariffs are paid to importers who then decide to eat the costs and leave the sneakers or electronics at the same price when you go to Walmart or Target or raise the price and then you the taxpayer pays, there's no money going into the United States Treasury because of tariffs.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, we're seeing "The Wall Street Journal," you know, they are the voice of the Republicans right now. I mean a lot of Republicans have stopped pushing back on Trump when it comes to tariffs.

They sort of also given him the benefit of the doubt that, you know, if he talks tough and he threatens these things that maybe China will back off and in the end run it will be a good thing for the united states, but "The Wall Street Journal," again, reminding folks this is not -- tariffs are not part of the Republican Party platform.

This is not a principle that they typically hold up and one thing in the editorial that was interesting is they pointed out that, you know, the stock market right now is totally plummeting, and Trump usually points to the stock market saying, look, we're doing great things for the country. Everything is hunky-dory. Well, they're hoping he's watching the stock market right now and taking a message.

KING: And so how low is the question and you're right the case closed on the Mueller report, trade policy. This is President Trump's Republican Party, period.

Up next, President Trump disputes a report that the United States is now considering sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:38:13] KING: Topping our political radar today. President Trump downplaying a "New York Times" report that he was given an updated military plan for responding to potential Iranian aggression. The plan reportedly envisions sending as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East. Here's the president reacting last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely, but we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that, and if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: U.S. officials in recent days have been warning against what they see as an increased threat from Iran and Iranian backed forces against U.S. forces in the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria, but a British major general disputing that today saying there's no increased threat right now. Meanwhile the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting with top Russian officials today in Russia.. CNN's Matthew Chance joins us now live Moscow.

Matthew, still waiting to hear whether Secretary Pompeo and President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov have reached any accommodations.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just giving a joint press conference. Of course, the meeting between Mr. Pompeo and Vladimir Putin of Russia was meant to happen an hour and a half ago and it didn't because Vladimir Putin was elsewhere inspecting Russia's latest high-tech weaponry, as a matter of fact, and he hasn't made the appointment that they had. That will happen later on this evening local time. That remains to be seen, as it were.

But, you know, it was a press conversation that jointly they said or Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister said that the talks were useful and frank. The Secretary Pompeo said he wanted an improved relationship, the Trump administration wanted an improved relationship with Russia and it was a step in that direction.

But when they listed all of the areas that they discussed, whether it's Iran or Venezuela or Syria or North Korea or Ukraine there were still fundamental differences between the two.

[12:40:03] They didn't find any sub-common ground on any of those issues and on the issues arms control even which is one of the areas which is seem to be the least contested areas between these two countries. And so, you know, it's going to be very hard. If this was a step in the direction of building a closer relationship with Russia, then that's a step along a very long path to go. Take a listen. KING: Sorry, apologies to Matthew Chance. The breaking news to

report from the entertainment world. Actor Tim Conway has died. His publicist says Mr. Conway passed away this morning in Los Angeles at age of 85.

Conway, you may recall, played a central role in one of the greatest TV comedies of all time, "The Carol Burnett Show." CNN's Richard Roth has a look back at a remarkable career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's how comedian Tim Conway once summed up his whole life. I was born and then I did "The Carol Burnett Show" for 11 years. What else is there to know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get me back into that wall there.

TIM CONWAY, COMEDIAN: It was marvelous. I had -- I admired her from afar, from the other side of the television set for a long time.

ROTH: Conway started outside of Cleveland, galloping horses for his father, the horse trainer.

CONWAY: First of all, I wanted to be a jockey, but as you know, they ask you to get off.

ROTH: Comedian Rose Marie spotted him on a local TV show, recommending him to network star, Steve Allen.

STEVE ALLEN, COMEDIAN: And I think -- wait! You don't have your suit on! You don't have --

ROTH: His feet now wet in Hollywood. Conway was hired as the bumbling ensign in "Mikhail's Navy."

CONWAY: Boy, you sure have a delicate touch. I didn't feel a thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't done it yet, ensign.

CONWAY: Thank you.

I just do what I think is amusing. I did, and it worked.

I couldn't go like the other elephants when they go whoop. All they can do is just blow and go --

ROTH: Conway was again a second banana on "The Carol Burnett Show", but comedy fruit ripened thanks to the host.

HARVEY KORMAN, COMEDIAN: Tim Conway was so brilliant on "The Carol Burnett Show," and the main reason he was, was that Carol Burnett gave him so much space. Gave him so much latitude.

ROTH: Ad-libbing as seen in the old man skits. CONWAY: Don't try to catch me.

I never did that old man until we were actually taping. It was a seven-minute sketch that went 23 minutes, because I was messing around.

ROTH: Conway described himself as the instigator, usually cracking up fellow cast member, Harvey Korman. In one of the show's most memorable sketches, Korman is the patient of a very inexperienced dentist.

CONWAY: Take a firm hold of the hypodermic needle, right.

ROTH: Conway told Conan O'Brien this actually happened to him.

CONWAY: In the army, yes. A guy said, that we're going to pull his tooth, and so he took my lip like this and he stuck a needle in, and it went through my cheek and into his thumb.

I'll just give you a little shot here.

CAROLE BURNETT, ACTOR COMEDIAN: Poor Harvey, he had not seen the Novocain bit until we were doing it.

ROTH: Tim Conway won six Emmys in his career, four for his work on the "The Carol Burnett Show."

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: You've got five minutes to live, you can tell one joke again before you peg it, what would it be?

CONWAY: I would go hold up a bank. I've always wanted to do that. And take as much cash as I could and run out and once my five minutes is up, bang.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Funny man. A sad day. We'll right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:48:48] STEVE BULLOCK, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE : We need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the peoples voice so we can make good on the promise of fair shot for everyone. This is the fight of our time. It's been the fight of my career.

I'm Steve Bullock, and I'm running for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, the 22nd, that's 22nd Democrat joining the presidential race. He's making campaign finance reform as you heard there, his number one issue out of the gate. Kicking off his campaign with a string of interviews before heading off to Iowa. So why Steve Bullock instead of Biden, Bernie and the rest? The two term governor points out he won in deep red Montana by four points in 2016. At the same time Donald Trump was carrying that state by 20 points.

He tells CNN that shows he can win over Republican voters and he believes help Democrats reclaim lost ground in places like Montana and the midwest, quote, "If we don't win back some of the places we lost in 2016, it's going to be a tough sled, don't kid yourselves to think we're going to win in 2020. I have a proven ability to do that." CNN's Dan Merica, do this reporting and he's in Helena Montana.

You interviewed the governor. He's late to the race, Dan. Explain how he sees a path?

[12:50:02] DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: In number 22, you're right, they've got a full football team at this point, John. He sees a path -- you know, I asked him that, why did you get in so late? Why did you wait when there's so many other people in the race at this point? And he's answer was simply, "I had a job to do."

The Montana legislature only meets once every two years behind me in the capital back there. And the governor said frankly, "I had to do things for the state, that's what I was elected to do." Now that creates some complications. Obviously, he's in a very crowded field at this point and now he has to hurry up to get his message out there and get his name out there. He's largely unknown to most voters.

So what he's doing, he's going to head to Iowa in a couple of days and basically camp out there for the next few months as the debates start to approach. That's going to be his strategy. He sees Iowa, a state you mentioned the fact that he won here the same year that Donald Trump won here by 20 points.

Donald Trump also won Iowa and the bullock campaign sees Iowa as the path to victory for the governor. They think that he can reach out to voters there and can sell them on his vision, his progressive vision from a red state, similar to the politics in Iowa in some cases, and that's how they see his path to victory, John.

KING: In the short term, Dan, I should know if you see the Governor tell him that Joe Biden just called him a good man at an event in New Hampshire. So they are off to a congenial start.

To the less congenial part, what does Governor Bullock and other people say about the first debates which coming up in just about six weeks? Is going to be able to make the debate stage, or is he already factoring in he might have to wait a bit?

MERICA: It's going to be a rush. I mean, you already have seen there are number of high-profile candidates who have struggled to meet that 65,000 donor base. I'm thinking of, for example, Kirsten Gillibrand, someone who is yet to make that donor threshold.

Now, the Governor, I asked him about this yesterday. He said, "Look, I qualified in two polls." They believe he will qualify in another poll in the next few month as he gets his message out there.

But ability to fund raise on line is going to be something that he's going to have to get better at and he's going to have to push because that is what is going to set him apart from those candidates who have qualified with the polls but haven't qualified with donors. What you'll see is him pushing his record on taking on and expanding Medicare here in the state as well as taking on dark money. All of that, he thinks, will resonate with progressive voters who are likely to donate online to his campaign, John.

KING: Welcome to the race, Governor Bullock. It will be interesting to watch. Very challenging (ph) for America is this day. Find an excuse to stay a day or two, Dan, it's a great place hanging out there. Appreciate the reporting.

So, governors used to be the strength of a presidential field. Oh, we have Governor Hickenlooper, now we have Governor Bullock. Well, is there -- nobody knows what's going to happen here, especially with 22 candidates in the race. So there's a path for everybody, I guess.

But, with Biden so dominant at the top right now, Senator Sanders right below him there with a built in network from 2016, can a guy from the west getting in late who is barely known?

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, to me the bigger issue then, you know, the governor versus senator question is really the crowd middle lane right now. You've got Biden, you've got Buttigieg, you've got even Cory Booker who is positioning himself as sort of like the moderate liberal choice. And now you've got Bullock, you got a couple of other guys that we haven't mentioned to our all kind of competing for the non-Bernie base, non-progressive slice. There's a lot.

KING: Of course and can he capitalize on the, I won a state that Trump won by 20. Democratic voters as we know, first and foremost want to beat Trump. So does that at least get him maybe a, let's take a peek?

PHILLIP: Well, I think that's really important. The idea that he was able to win a state by four points that the President won by a landslide is his own -- that creates his own lane. There's no other person in the race right now who can really say that. And so if he can really use that as leverage in a Democratic primary, he could gain traction, but it's just not clear whether he's going to get the oxygen.

And the field is so crowded just in general that I think just getting a second look from voters is the most difficult thing right now. A lot of candidates in the race are having the very same problem.

KING: One of those candidates having a problem is Beto O'Rourke, and he has a big change in his strategy. The 2020 Democratic candidate focuses campaign at this point going local, town halls, traveling, hop in the car, driving across the country and today, a little national television. he hopes, hopes to reintroduce himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So focusing on people where they are is critically important, but I can't tell you how many times I was asked to find a way to get on "The View" at one of those town hall meetings, because there are people who are unable to come on those town halls or states that we have not visited yet. And I want to make sure that I have a chance to answer your questions here today, so -- that they can see who I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Today's appearance an acknowledgment that what he was doing wasn't working. O'Rourke last hour also with a reminder and a plea, you might say, plenty of time left.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: Last week there was a poll released on CNN, and it had every single Democratic contender in a head-to-head match up with Donald Trump. My margin of victory was 10 percent in that poll, greater than any other candidate running.

So, I just come back to there's a lot of time. Those polls will change.

[12:55:00] There are ups. There are going to be downs. And there are a lot of people to meet who should have the opportunity to ask questions of me, just as you are doing today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's right. There's a lot of time. He also has the problem that Governor Bullock has and that Senator Gillibrand has and that even Senator Harris who is doing better, Senator Warren is doing better here.

And that right now, you got a guy at the top, and Joe Bide, let's just look, this is Iowa caucus scores, if you look at the pool here, you got a guy, Joe Biden, at the top with 27 percent, Bernie Sanders tends to poll in the 15 and 16 range, and if you're Beto O'Rourke you're down here. Is the key here just to stay part of the conversation and get to the debates? What is it? What does he need if -- I use the term reboot which makes me roll my eyes, but if he needs to do something different, what is it?

SHEAR: Well, you know, I'm somewhat sympathetic in that if it had gone the other way and he had ignored the small gatherings in Iowa and New Hampshire and had only done national press, everybody would be on him for, you know, going national and not like staying true to his roots. And so in some ways you try something, and if it doesn't seem to work you try the other thing.

But I think, you know, I think Abe was right. Like the issue is going is going to be the, you know, can he continue to capture some of the attention of conversations like this and of the sort of national media, and if he starts getting crowded out and, you know, on that list that you put up, dropping off the bottom of the list because he doesn't -- he doesn't rank high enough to sort of even merit part of the conversation, then it's a self-fulfilling prophecy and you can't get any better. And that, you know, until the debates start and, you know, we start all getting a different view of these people, that's the problem.

BADE: Yes. I mean, he seemed to be downplaying in his interviews. It's early, you know, these polls will change, but clearly he's worried enough that he's totally changing up his strategy doing more national T.V., so, you know, that definitely signifies some worry.

KING: And part of it was if you're the candidate and you end up on the cover of "Vanity Fair" you think I'm having a good day. And he even talked about how wonderful it was to be photographed by the great Annie Leibovitz. But, he said something and that you've said couple of things there, if you've been on the cover they had "I was born to do this" and a lot of people thinking a tad pretentious, a newcomer to the national stage and he talked about that last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: Yes, we have our work cut out for us in this country, I have my work cut out for me to be a better person and ensure that I'm more mindful to the experiences that others have had, different than the experiences that I have.

JOY BEHAR, THE VIEW CO-HOST: So with those things --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the "Vanity Fair" cover --

BEHAR: Are those mistakes? Would you say those are mistakes being on the cover of "Vanity Fair"?

O'ROURKE: Yes. So make it --

BEHAR: That looks elitist, what?

O'ROURKE: Yes, yes, I think it reinforced that perception of privilege and that headline that said I was born to be in this, in the article attempting to say that I felt that my calling was in public service. No one is born to be president of the United States of America, least of all me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One of the tests for any candidate is, do you learn as you go?

SCHOR: Right. It's also important to remember that Beto O'Rourke lost a Senate race. He came very close, closer than anyone probably could have come against Ted Cruz, but he's not as much of a new commodity as he was to the Democratic base. So, in the way he's reintroducing himself to people after a not great showing in 2018, he fell short and that shows here.

PHILLIP: And I think what the "Vanity Fair" thing showed is he hadn't figured out how to explain to people why he was running for president and the idea that he kind of gave this line oh, I feel like I was born to do this, it seemed to reinforce this idea that he felt that there was an inevitability there and that kind of might have rubbed voters the wrong way or at least rubbed the press the wrong way so he's trying to recalibrate by basically trying to figure out what his core message to voters are and trying to get that out as widely as possible. He can't just ride on the idea that he almost beat Ted Cruz. That is not going to cut it if he's trying to win a race for president.

KING: Although he did in that campaign build an impressive fund- raising list. The question is can they sustain himself to get through the debates and again, they're all going to get scarred up a little bit. The question is do they learn and grow?

BADE: Yes. That's not going to be the last re-calibration, you know, I mean, this is early, and there's 22 Democrats in this field, so, they're --

KING: All of whom will recalibrate and recalibrate.

BADE: Right. Multiple teams.

KING: But, it's fun to watch.

And a quick programming note for us, the former Congressman Beto O'Rourke will join Dana Bash for a live scene on town hall up close and personal from Des Moines to talk with Iowa voters. This is the fun part about his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Tuesday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN, you don't want to miss that.

And before we say good-bye, a light hearted moment from the campaign trail, Mayor Pete Buttigieg hitting the late night circuit or he embraced being the butt of the joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a second, have you said the Buttigieg bus is cutting (ph) all around the country, then I guess that means, butty- butty rocky everywhere.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rocking everywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There you go. There you go. Thanks for joining us for "Inside Politics." We do try to have a little fun here. See you back here at this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great day.