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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Frames Foreign Policy Through Economic Lens; Bernie Sanders: Beating Trump in Election is Not Enough; Mayor Pete Buttigieg's Fox News Town Hall; Michigan GOP Rep.: Trump Committed Impeachable Offenses. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 20, 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] MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: The renowned Iran hawk and says, I want to talk to Iran and repeats that message. Then you get these tweets that are hard line and you have people backing him up on that so that just kind of dials up the tension again and that becomes the storyline as a result. So, you get this kind of up and down, and now you have each side saying that the other one doesn't even know what they're doing or where to stand on.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And so at this time of tension with Iran, a U.S. aircraft carrier group in the region, the Iranian foreign minister essentially, you know, saying don't taunt us, try respect. The president was asked in an interview that aired Sunday on Fox News to sort of define, you know, war. How does he view war? I want you -- the answer is interesting I think is a neutral word. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not somebody that wants to go into war because war hurts economies. War kills people most importantly, by far most importantly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would you want to invade?

TRUMP: I want to invade if I have to economically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm not sure of the question where do you want to invade? It's an odd question to ask any president. So I don't want to put President Trump on the spot here, where do you want to invade. But I want to invade if I have to economically. What does that mean?

RET. RDML JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think he's just trying to find his way to an economic answer from pressure and influence which is in this case sanctions. I think that's what he's talking about. But I thought, you know, clearly a Freudian slip on his part when he said, you know, war hurts economies and then he follows up on about people being killed. So, it gives you a mindset of how cavalier I think he considers military action to be.

KOSINSKI: Well, his mind is always in the economic. That's what he has tried to do. He's tried, you know, whether it's a trade war or trying to ultimately effect regime change through sanctions. You see his strategy here.

The question of course is, is it working at all right now, and will it ultimately work? And then what's the next step if it does work on Iran, for example.

KING: Help me see the strategy when it comes to this Middle East peace plan. You're not even talking to the Palestinians and yet you say you're going to start with a big economic conversation -- talk about investment in the Palestinian areas.

KIRBY: Right.

KING: Great. If you could get the Palestinians on board, but if -- help me around the corner here to see around the corner. What is the point is or is there one?

KOSIK: Yes.

KIRBY: I think to me, this is just another piece of evidence that they don't really have any serious commitment to fostering a peace plan and to getting to any kind of measurable peace in the region. I don't think they're taking this very seriously. They have put their thumb so heavily on the scale of Israel and the Gulf States in this initiative that there's absolutely no way you're going to be able to bring the Palestinians on board. And without bringing them onboard you're not going to get there.

And oh, by the way, I'd be interested to know what corporations and businesses would be willing to invest in an area which is still rife with insecurity. You can't have economic stability and investment until there's some sort of security on the ground.

KOSINSKI: They're trying to get something to lure the Palestinians to ultimately accept a plan that everybody kind of already knows they're not going to go for. You know, certain elements of this plan have leaked out so they're -- the administration says and clearly, they are trying to have something economic as a carrot or a sweetener to say look at all you can get if only you go with this plan that by the way, we're not talking about right now.

KIRBY: They're reading the Palestinians' interests wrong. I mean, I don't think that's what the Palestinians are worried about right now is economic vitality. They're concerned about political issues, the status of Jerusalem and statehood.

KOSINSKI: Yes. They're hoping the Palestinians can ultimately be bought. That is the Trump approach to many things and they feel, and some others feel, too, that this is what the Palestinians will be offered, you know, you don't get what you want politically, you get a big chunk of money, take it or leave it. And if it doesn't work, well, we can say we tried.

KING: OK. We'll see. All right, appreciate both of you coming in.

Up next for us, Ford Motor Company announces some big layoffs. We'll talk about who is affected. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:38:12] KING: Topping our political radar today, President Trump taking issue with a New York Times story that says employees at the Deutsche Bank once noticed suspicious transactions involving business entities controlled by the president and by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The paper says anti-money laundering experts at the bank were ignored or fired after recommending the transactions be reported to the government. The president slams the story as, quote, fake news. Deutsche Bank says at no time was any employee prevented from escalating their concerns about suspicious activity.

Seven thousand white-collar workers at Ford Motor Company about to be laid off as part of a major cost-cutting effort. That amounts about 10 percent of the company's salaried staff worldwide. About 2,400 of those jobs being cut are in North America. The automaker says workers affected will be notified as early as tomorrow and that the terminations will be completed by August.

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Michael Bennet unveiling his plan to combat climate change today. Senator Bennet says his administration would set a target to achieve 100 percent net zero emissions by 2050. Among other goals in the plan a so-called climate bank that would dedicate a trillion dollars in federal money for infrastructure to fight climate change. Senator Bennet says if fully implemented, he believes his plan would create 10 million jobs over a decade.

For Vice President Joe Biden officially kicking off his campaign, Saturday in Philadelphia. Biden painting the 2020 contest as a battle for the soul of the country. He says Democrats should focus on a singular task, removing President Trump. But the man behind him in the polls, number two in the field, says 2020 cannot be about Trump alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Beating Trump is not good enough. You've got to beat the fossil fuel industry. You have to take on all of those forces of the status quo who do not want to move this country to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:40:01] KING: Now Biden also mentions climate and the like but there's a difference in emphasis there. What's the right way to put that?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this is the debate within the party right now, exactly how to go after Trump. You'll see it on the campaign trail. You'll see it on Capitol Hill. You'll see people calling for impeachment. You see people like Nancy Pelosi saying we're focused on our agenda, we don't want to necessarily go down the road of impeachment.

That's the strategy of how to take on this president that some of the Democrats have not quite figured out yet. They think -- they point to 2018 and say, look, we ran on healthcare and that was the winning issue. Not necessarily all the scandals of this administration, but others want to take a tougher approach to this president. How do the voters react?

KING: And also a debate about how to take on Biden isn't there if you're behind Biden in the polls.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right, in terms of going right at him or in terms of -- I mean, or, you know, in terms of, you know, tuning him out. But I think with Trump one of the challenges is, it's tough to take down an incumbent, particularly if you don't give something voters to vote for rather than just against. In terms of Biden, you do see some friction starting to build, but he's talking about everyone uniting and not going after each other.

We're -- it's early. It's going to happen. It's just who is going to go after Biden, go after the king the hardest first.

KING: And you heard the word establishment from Senator Sanders. I think that's one of the labels he'll try even though he's been around a while, not new. He'll try to put on the former vice president. We'll see.

Up next, Mayor Pete makes his pitch to conservative media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I get that a millennial Midwestern mayor is not what leaps to mind when you think about a prototypical candidate for president. It's hard to figure out what's going on right now, it's because we are living on one of those blank pages in between chapters in American history. And what comes next could be ugly or it could be amazing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:27] KING: Pete Buttigieg is taking aim. Last night in his Fox News town hall debut, he directly called out President Trump, the network, and even some of his fellow Democratic candidates. To Fox or not to Fox, it's a lightning rod issue in the Democratic primary. First, what the Democratic National Committee's decision to not allow the Fox News channel to moderate a primary debate.

Then following Bernie Sanders' high rating town hall with the network, these candidates signed on for theirs including Mayor Buttigieg, Senators Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand. But sharply declining invitations from Fox in recent days, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Which brings us to last night when the South Bend, Indiana mayor explained why he was there and had this message for his party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: Even though some of those hosts are not always there in good faith, I think a lot of people tune into this network who do it in good faith. And there are a lot of Americans who my party can't blame if they are ignoring our message because they will never hear it. If we don't go on and talk about it, and so it's why whether it's going into the viewership of Fox News or whether geographically it's going into places where Democrats haven't been seen much, I think we got to find people where they are, not change our values but update our vocabulary so that we're truly connecting with Americans from coast to coast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins our conversation. We've been talking about this all day. The mayor has used these town halls, he had one on CNN who catapulted him the first and now this one here. This has been part of his rise. The question is how he -- does -- can he keep building?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We'll see about that but look, it's very much on brand for him. He's the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a red state. He's saying, look, I'm a candidate from the middle of the country. I'm not from California like some others. I'm not from Massachusetts like some others.

I'm from the middle of the country so going on a Fox town hall I think is very much on a brand like this. And let's face it, Fox has a very large audience. Some of that audience are political junkies. Some of those junkies are Democrats or independents open to this. So I think it makes perfect sense for him to go on there.

I think he's doing it to great effect. He's already released a lot more issues on his website that had been kind of a bulletin before so I think it's a win-win for him on this. Who knows how far his rise will actually go. No one has tried to sort of swat him down yet, one of his fellow Democrats. That's coming I think because he is, you know, replacing some of those people in a lane like, oh I don't know, Beto O'Rourke maybe.

KING: Beto O'Rourke maybe. We'll see on a debate stage. You mentioned political junkies that watch Fox News including the president of the United States who's a political junkie and an avid viewer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't sound --

KING: This just in. "Hard to believe that at Fox News is wasting air time on Mayor Pete as Chris Wallace likes to call him. Fox is moving more and more to the losing, wrong side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats' boring debate and they just want in. They forgot the people."

He's not happy.

KUCINICH: He takes that as a personal affront. Well, I think he says Fox as being on his team, and there are people who work for Fox that are on his team. So -- I mean, we saw this during the Bernie town hall, he was very upset about the fact that Bernie Sanders was on his stories, and -- and that -- that's something that you Fox really has to figure out because -- but it definitely upsets the president. It's probably one of the reasons he's hitting the road again.

RAJU: But I think that's why I think it's also a strategic mistake for some of these candidates to not do a Fox town hall. Here is a nationally televised audience, you can get a different audience of viewers. And the questions are coming from voters who are -- may vote for you. Those are the people that are in these town halls who actually have questions that are pressing. And if you do well, then you get a lot out of it like we saw with Buttigieg and also earlier with Bernie Sanders.

[12:50:01] MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was just going to say, and there's -- if what you need especially in the early stage of the campaign is oxygen, political oxygen. What better way to get political oxygen than to have the president of the United States who you're challenging tweet about you and tweet about what you're doing and kind of raise your profile.

KING: He was asked, Mayor Buttigieg was, about the president's tweets and he says he doesn't care, but listen and he kind of does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: The tweets are -- I don't care.

That's a very effective way to command the attention of the media. And I think, that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well --

BUTTIGIEG: -- you know, we need to make sure that we're changing the channel from this show that he's created. It is the nature of grotesque things that you can't look away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just to add to the conversation that we'll talk a little. Here's the president describing, and listen closely, why he loves Twitter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've destroyed bills that were going to be voted on that were bad, and I've gotten bills passed that were good by using Twitter, and Twitter is really a typewriter for me. It's really not Twitter, it's Twitter goes on television.

They have breaking news. I'll tweet, I'll say, watch this, boom. I did the Golan Heights to Israel and I put it out on Twitter. If I put out a news release, nobody is ever going to see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Boom!

ZELENY: I mean, truer words have not been spoken because he does program the debate and the narrative every bit. He changes the subject by Twitter. He amplifies his own position there.

But I thought Mayor Buttigieg was actually -- he packed quite a bit in there. He called him grotesque, he, you know, said we shouldn't turn away. But, of course, he admits that everyone is watching and at the same time he managed to draw the president in as well.

So I'm fascinated actually by this sort of back and forth between the White House and the president and Mayor Buttigieg. It's very interesting sort of in this dynamic because the president is taking a soft approach to him. He said he does not mind seeing him holding hands with his husband. It's a fascinating dynamic I think (INAUDIBLE).

SHEAR: I thought the dynamic was also interesting that the crowds' response to his critique of Twitter. I mean, there is, even among conservatives, even among people who are fans of Trump, I think are tired of the tweets.

KUCINICH: A lot of them are in Congress.

SHEAR: A lot of them are in Congress. A lot of them just live in the country and I think that people are just sick of it.

ZELENY: Also Democratic voters or independent voters in New Hampshire where that town was last night. So that's -- I mean, to your point, why not go where the voters are.

KING: You're right there. A lot of them are in Congress.

Quick update for all of you about the president's upcoming state visit to the U.K. We have learned that Prince Charles has agreed to meet with President Trump during that visit. We don't know what they'll talk about just yet. Well, Charles is a staunch environmentalist and President Trump skeptical about what causes climate change. It's one of the issues they might talk about. We look forward to covering it when we get there.

Up next, a Republican congressman says President Trump crossed the impeachment line, but will anyone join Justin Amash?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:57:31] KING: Today, Republican Congressman Justin Amash has a Republican primary challenger, and two, not so nice Trump Twitter nicknames. That the quick reaction after Amash became the first and still only Republican member of Congress to say the Mueller report documents impeachable offenses by the president. The Michigan congressman detailed his take on the Mueller report in a long Twitter series he posted Saturday. The president responded with trademark scorn, lightweight and loser, his labels for the congressman.

He's always been an outlier, but Democrats are thrilled now that they have one Republican -- one Republican saying the Mueller report shows impeachable offenses. Is this just going to be a one-day, 24 or maybe 72-hour story or is this going to matter? HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: You know, you've got one out of what, 250ish in Congress total, you know. I think the big question for Democrats over the weekend, the rank and file was, does this change Speaker Pelosi's calculus at all. She's always said she needs bipartisan buy-in and public support to pursue impeachment and I don't think one outlier Republican is going to do that.

RAJU: And look, she -- you know, he went -- he's gone farther than Pelosi has in his comments over the weekend. In some ways it puts her in a little bit of an awkward spot because there's a Republican saying that he's engaged in impeachable conduct, why can't you go as far as this conservative.

What's interesting to see the blowback that Amash is getting. I mean, to hear Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, just tear apart his own member of his conference makes it very clear where their allegiances lie in this party. And then the fact that even though he's one member, they want to make sure that the party does not accept this kind of -- these kinds of comments. And it'll be interesting to see if the Republican establishment, the White House gets behind a primary challenge.

KUCINICH: But they never like --

KING: He's been primaried --

KUCINICH: I was just going to say, Amash is known -- they haven't liked Amash anyway.

RAJU: Sure.

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: And so I think it what the interesting thing what I'm going to be watching if Amash can hang on. We've seen other Republicans who've dared to speak up against Trump either resign or lose. And will he -- he's someone who has been marching to his own drummer since he walked through those doors. Is he the one that can hang on and can weather this -- the onslaught of criticism in.

KING: He's been primaried before. He's always primaried, the state legislator who was going to primary him moved up his announcement, we now know he's going to get, you know, if he's the only one a presidential endorsement, he's going to money, can he hold on, can he make a point by holding on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

SHEAR: Right.

RAJU: Right.

SHEAR: And, you know, and part of the issue is going to be, you know, what happens, that will be an indication of where the electorate is in the election. This is a presidential election year, it's going to be different. KING: And in Michigan, in a part of Michigan the president very much needs. So we'll see how this one plays out. Interesting if nothing else.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Phil Mattingly is in for Brianna Keilar today, and he starts right now.

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