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Trump Name-Drops Joe Biden at Pennsylvania Rally; Abortion Laws Trigger Protests; Beto O'Rourke's Evolving 2020 Strategy; Would -Be "Immigration Czar" Kobach Has Big List of Demands. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 21, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: When he launched and was able to get the president to talk about Charlottesville. That helps Biden with the Democratic voters because again, there is that debate going on among some of whether or not they really just want someone who can beat Trump which is what Biden is trying to frame himself as or they want something new.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And if you want proof that Biden is under his skin a little bit or at least on his mind a little bit, one of the insults last night, crowd size.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Joe Biden announced he's running for president, by the way -- by the way -- look at the thousands and thousands of people we have. Now they said he had 600 people. No, not very good.

Foreign countries liked it much better. That's what they want. They want Biden. Sleepy Joe said that he's running to, quote, save the world. Well, he was, he's going to save every country but ours.


KING: There's some humor there and there's some insults there, but there's also -- it's just pretty self-evident, 20 electoral votes absolutely critical to the Trump map in 2016, absolutely central to the Trump map in 2020. It's on his mind.

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Think of Pennsylvania has a big square, not the John King magic wall but, you know, down here in the southeast corner, a nominee is going to win huge there. As Kaitlan was pointing out, Lycoming County where he was, was up in sort of the tea. And Trump turned that from like a 64-40 state to a 71 percent Trump victory. He needs to keep replicating that throughout the small counties. And so that's what he is going to try and do. He is running a base strategy over and over again.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: And he's running against a guy whose biggest asset is that more Democrats identify as Obama Democrats than as any other category, progressive, Democratic socialist, et cetera. And so, if you want to get a flavor also of why he's worried about Biden, go look at Biden's announcement that he wasn't running. Go look at the themes that Biden hits in his announcement that he's not running. He's talking about working class folks being left behind, he's talking about the economy is great, but, go look at those themes. You could see where it would dovetail with the president's own message.

KING: And to that point, the president often gets criticized even by his own advisers for wandering off the script. He did spend some time on the economy last night.


TRUMP: Those debates should be very easy when we meet whoever we're going to meet. When you have the best employment numbers in history, when you have the best unemployment numbers in history, when you have the best economy probably that we've ever had, I don't know how the hell do you lose this election, right?


KING: He's framing, you know, he's framing his own question, if you will, that if you just look at the numbers, if you took the names out of this and just from a historical standpoint looked at an incumbent president with those economic numbers, it would be a no-brainer, but.

BARRON-LOPEZ: But it's difficult for him to stay on message, and then also as Olivier said Biden is out there on the stump talking about stagnant wages, talking about high prescription drug costs and that's something that is very much on the minds of voters right now.

KNOX: And the answer to the president's speech is then why are your approval numbers never above 50 percent?

KING: Even in Pennsylvania. Fifty-four percent disapprove, even though 54 percent say they feel better about how the economy is going. It's an interesting split right there.

When we come back, this outrage over new abortion laws playing out across the country right now. And protests.


[12:37:58] KING: Welcome back. You're seeing live pictures from several protests going on across the country right now. Planned Parenthood organizing these demonstrations in places like Washington, D.C., Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia. The protests are aimed at new laws restricting abortion. Some are passed, some are being debated in several state legislatures. The protesters say these laws are unconstitutional. Some supporters of these laws say they actually would relish a court fight about those laws. One of them banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy is in federal court in Mississippi today.

CNN's Ariane de Vogue joins me live. Ariane, we have -- we're waiting to see how these cases play their way up through the courts. What happened there in Mississippi today? ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, John, this judge seems deeply skeptical of Mississippi's law. It bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected and that can be as early as six weeks. It has an exception for the death of the woman or if there is severe health implications but it goes after the doctors, and it's only set to take place in July. But this judge, Judge Carlton Reeves, he pointed out that just a few months ago he struck down a ban at 15 weeks. And the legislature responded here by passing an even more restrictive law.

So in court, he said, look, this smacks of defiance to this court, to my earlier ruling, and he was particularly worried about the fact that this law has no exception for rape or incest. In court, the supporters -- the critics of the law said, look, this goes against Supreme Court precedent. Many women don't even know whether or not they're pregnant at six weeks. But the state said, look, they have an interest in this kind of regulations and to promote life, and they thought that this law should pass judicial muster.

All of this comes as you said as several states across the country are introducing similar laws. I think there are 15 or so that have to do with the so-called fetal heartbeat.

[12:40:05] In the future, too, all these courts will be looking to the Supreme Court. Will they take up a case like this that is so contradictory to Roe, or would they act may be in a different way to chip away at the rights, John. That's what we're looking at.

KING: Giant question as we get closer and closer to what happens to also be a presidential campaign. Ariane de Vogue, live in Mississippi. Appreciate that update.

Let's return to those dramatic pictures of the protests. You see demonstrations across the country today, and at least three Democratic presidential candidates attended the protests here in Washington, D.C. outside of the Supreme Court. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Here's Senator Klobuchar.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not just a coincidence that one state did it and then another state. No, this was a plan. You go back to 2016 when the president was running for office and had a town hall meeting. He was asked, well, what should happen if a woman has an abortion, and he said she should be punished.


KING: It is a giant legal question now, and we'll see. Ariane makes an important point. There's no question some of these cases are going to be at the Supreme Court. They're going to have to. Just which case do they decide, what part of the law do they want to look at.

But as we wait for that which will take months to learn the new cases anyway, there are some others in the pipeline, an immediate political debate that the Democrats seem to believe, it's a hard word because of the issue, but it's good ground for them.

KNOX: Sure, they need women voters, they need black women voters. They need the liberal base. Caucuses and primaries involve a lot more of the base than they do undecided or semi-independent. So, yes, obviously the politics of this.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And it's a way to get the voters to pay attention to the Supreme Court which is -- then it's been a winning issue for Republicans in the past. You know, McConnell says that they won the presidency because they made the Supreme Court an issue. But also, you know, Republicans wanted to make abortion a big issue in 2020, to begin with, and now Democrats feel as though they have stronger footing to push back against them with these challenges by these southern states.

KING: We heard Senator Klobuchar, let's also bring in Senator Gillibrand with there as well, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg making this point.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think it's a coincidence that those are the same states where you see a lot of voter suppression and where it is among the hardest places to establish a living wage. All of these things are connected, and I'm trying to bridge together the American majority that believes in higher wages, that believes in making it easier for U.S. citizens to vote and that believes in protecting women's reproductive freedom.


KING: That's an interesting sort of trying to broader connect the dots approach.

KANE: Four months ago, Democrats were on the defensive with Virginia and some of the comments of the governor down there and talking about when life begins and potentially aborting born babies. Now it's on completely the opposite foot. Republicans are completely on the defensive.

KING: That's why you did see the president over the weekend making clear that he supports the rape, incest, life of mother exception. He didn't specifically criticize any of these new state laws. My question then was, if the Republicans saw this coming and some of them did, why did either leaders of the pro-life movement or the National Christian Organization, Christian conservative organizations who get politics, why didn't the White House political shop pick up the phone and call the governor of Alabama, a Republican, governor of Mississippi, Republican, governor of Missouri, Republican, and say please. And then somebody step up in the legislature said President Trump asked me to do this and amend the bill.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's not really how it works between the White House and these states. I'm from Alabama, I was there over the weekend, and this is something that is popular in parts of the state. Now, the -- in some parts they do believe it should include the exceptions for it, but you can see how this is playing out and how this is becoming a national issue. And you've seen a lot of national Republicans break with this, not only including Ronna McDaniel but also Kevin McCarthy. You see so many Republicans and the president, of course, even though he wasn't very specific and didn't name Alabama, and when he was given a chance to follow up on it yesterday he did not take that opportunity, essentially just saying my position is no. But you're seeing the divide between them and you're also seeing the divide between Washington and the nation.

Well, people like Nancy Pelosi are trying to keep issues like impeachment off the table, that's because voters are talking about things like abortion, immigration, and general healthcare.

KING: Well, we'll continue to watch as it plays its way through the courts.

Up next, Beto O'Rourke tweaking his 2020 strategy. That means taking his message from the road to your TV set.


[12:49:00] KING: Live look here tipped in Iowa. 2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke holding what his campaign counts as his 63rd Iowa town hall. And that goes a familiar strategy from his 2016 Senate campaign, talk to as many voters as you can wherever you can. But so far the former Texas congressman struggling to catch on in the presidential race. You can see the decline right here. Double digits back when O'Rourke first jumped back into the race, just four percent in the latest Fox poll. The candidate and his team acknowledge they need to change things up a bit, including a national town hall tonight right here on CNN.


BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If anything worth complimenting the strategy that we've employed from the outset with a little bit more national presence. For those who can't come to the town hall in Davenport tonight, they're going to be able to watch on TV tomorrow and so, just including more people into the conversation.


KING: Is that all he needs to do? It's a crowded Democratic field. It's not a 2018 Senate race, one-on-one against Ted Cruz.

[12:50:01] A lot of Democratic candidates are trying to figure out what to do in this environment where early on you have a big frontrunner in Joe Biden, an established candidate like Bernie Sanders. Is that just what he needs, a little more national TV mix.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, we know that Beto has had some difficulty with trying to build up his campaign. He ran a very unconventional one when he ran his Senate race. He didn't want to use consultants, he didn't really take any advice from other members about how you would run a more conventional race. He wanted to do it on his own, very social media, and I think he's realizing that when you run for the presidency it can't be like that. That's why he's brought in Jen O'Malley Dillon who was an Obama veteran and he is hoping -- there was a lot of talks that when she fully came on I think a few weeks ago that she would help right the ship.

KANE: And also he's been losing ground to Mayor Buttigieg.

KING: Right.

KANE: They have been sort of swimming in the same lane.

KING: Well, the interesting new face lane.

KANE: Yes, it's Mayor Pete. Mayor Pete is new, and he's had a smashing debut on your town hall a couple of months ago. He was just on Fox doing a town hall. He's getting a lot more attention and Beto needs to get further into that lane.

KING: Well one way is how do you draw a contrast with other candidates? I'm not sure this is it yet, but this appears to be the beginning. Listen to Beto O'Rourke saying Democrats cannot play nice.


O'ROURKE: I'm not naive about the forces that we face. It is not just Donald Trump. There's no more, I'm trying to use polite language here but you know what I'm talking about when I talk about Mitch McConnell. If we play nicely by the set rules, we're going to end up with the same results.


KING: Now if you listen to the frontrunner Joe Biden he says, no, actually if I'm president, I'll get Mitch McConnell back to the table, I'll get the Republicans to shake, you know, their Trump hypnosis, if you will. That to me is -- is that a shot at Biden, or is it just him trying to figure it out?

KNOX: It could be, it's also a step away from the message that carried him through his Senate race versus this come with me, we are building this thing. And that's just not enough in this field, both because it's very crowded but because you've got people who are dropping either detailed policy files like Elizabeth Warren or who are promising to fight this president in the general and to make, you know, big sweeping changes to the country. I think it's more re- calibration than a direct shot at Joe Biden.

BARRON-LOPEZ: He used to highlight -- I worked with John Cornyn, another Texas senator all the time, he would say we co-sponsor bills. So that's a shift.

KING: That's a shift there. And again, there's plenty of time. We shall see. And if you want to see how the reset is going, you can watch tonight right here only on CNN. The former congressman joining CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Live CNN town hall form Des Moines, 10 Eastern tonight right here on CNN.

Up next, a private jet, a security detail, guaranteed weekends at home. Just how much does one want when demanded to come to Washington?


[12:57:20] KING: Today we have word Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general is about to take a top job at the Department of Homeland Security. Cuccinelli you might recall was a CNN contributor, he no longer is in that role. His role in the Trump administration, TBD but sources say he likely will not be the White House new immigration czar.

That news coming after new reporting, listen to this, about a Trump accolade (INAUDIBLE) negotiations. And the Bryce Harper-like deal, he wants to come to Washington. Now government jobs don't pay baseball money so Kris Kobach wants a slew of perks in exchange for his services as the president's immigration czar.

Here's the list according to Maggie Hagerman and Annie Karni of the New York Times. Take a seat, 24/7 access to a government jet, a West Wing office, a presidential order to other cabinet officials to follow Kobach's directives, a promotion to Homeland Security chief by November, no working weekends, Kobach wants to be home in Kansas. We all know there's no place like home.

Bear with me. That's only halfway through. To serve as the main spokesman for the White House on immigration, walk-in privileges to the Oval Office, a staff of seven including his own personal media handler, an assistant to the president title so he can get the top tier payday at the White House, and finally a security detail if he needs it.

KNOX: Number three is amazing. He wants every other cabinet official, people who have a secretary in their title, to defer to him on all matters of immigration. You know, I don't know who provided this list to the Times but one wonders whether it was not --

KING: Not a fan.

COLLINS: It's also just divorced from reality. The idea that he's going to be the face of the immigration policy is not going to work in a White House where Donald Trump is president and Stephen Miller is his senior immigration adviser. But, of course, the most outrageous might have been the private jet access 24/7 for someone who is just in charge of coordinating immigration policy with the White House. Because you'll recall Health and Human Services secretary, former, Tom Price, was forced out of the administration over his use of private jets. So I think people are tired of people seeing in the Trump administration, in the cabinet, and that's even something the president himself did not like when Tom Price was accused of that.

So, the idea that he can make these demands and get this job was so laughable, and I think this was one of the most enjoyed stories in the West Wing yesterday. KING: Literally.

Everybody click your heels. There's no place like home and maybe he should just stay there.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Phil Mattingly is in for Brianna Keilar. He starts right now. Have a great afternoon.