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Pelosi Comments about Impeachment; Trump's Threat of Mexican Tariffs; Trump's New China Tariffs. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 6, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is something of a kingmaker. What are you hearing?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, OK, you have seen a lot of these Democratic candidates try to sit down with her. She's a very influential voice right now, especially when it comes to voting rights and voter suppression. We're going to see Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke also meeting with her today in Atlanta.

BOLDUAN: Much to come. Thanks, Arlette. Really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Remarkably blunt words from the House speaker. Nancy Pelosi says she wants to see President Trump in prison. The tough talk is part of the speaker's effort to focus House Democrats on investigating but not impeaching.

Plus, Mexican officials here in Washington today trying to get the White House to step back from a big, new tariff threat, but the president says so far Mexico is not promising enough of a crackdown to stop illegal immigration.

And D-Day 75 years later. Western leaders gather at Normandy and pay tribute to the heroes who changed history.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.


KING: We'll have more from today's very moving D-Day commemoration a bit later in the program. But we begin the hour with a dramatic and remarkable escalation in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's anti-Trump rhetoric and the still breaking fallout from those words. Here are those words as reported first by "Politico," spoken in a private meeting of House Democrats. Quote, I don't want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.

It is extraordinary language for any political leader to suggest a sitting president belongs in prison. Even more so because Pelosi, as speaker, is third in line to the presidency, and she is the nation's top elected Democrat.

Speaker Pelosi is known to choose her words quite carefully. This escalation comes as she tries to hold back calls for an immediate impeachment inquiry. And as the pressure comes not just from Democratic back benchers, but from members of her own leadership team. New York's Jerry Nadler, for example, is a longtime Pelosi loyalist. But listen closely to Nadler, who is chairman of the committee that would be responsible for any impeachment proceeding.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you on the same page with the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, when it comes to impeachment?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): As I said, we are launching an inquiry now. And whether we'll launch an impeachment inquiry, it may come to that. It may come to that.

When that decision has to be made, it will be made not by any one individual, it will be made by the -- probably by the court because, as a whole, certainly Nancy will have the largest single voice in it, various committee chairmen and rank and file members.


KING: CNN's Manu Raju joins us now live from Capitol Hill.

Manu, for the speaker of the House to say I want to see him in prison, wow.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a remarkable statement, and it also goes to the -- what she's trying to do in convincing her members to back off of impeachment. She's saying she does not want to go down that route. She has been consistent in that. She has had an uptick in her comments about what she views as the president's actions, including the line that she said in recent weeks about what she sees as a cover-up from this administration, now saying once he's removed from office, she would like to see him go to jail. But what's that message that she's trying to send to her colleagues is that it doesn't make much sense to go this route of impeaching this president because the Senate would ultimately acquit this president. The president, she believes, would then use that to campaign, could help him get re-elected. That's her political argument she's been making to her members.

The challenge is making sure that her members agree with her. You heard -- you played that committee from Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, who would be in charge of launching impeachment proceedings. He is getting his own pressure from his own members on that very committee to open up formal impeachment proceedings. And Nadler himself is sympathetic to those concerns, has urged Pelosi to consider opening up an impeachment inquiry, believing this would help their case in court and believing that's the route that they should ultimately go. Pelosi has backed down, has rejected those requests, but making those rather dramatic remarks behind closed doors, saying that's where she ultimately will see -- wants to see where the president goes. The question is, John, how much longer can she hold off her caucus from saying, well, if he has committed crimes, why don't we take every step necessary to potentially impeach him, remove him from office. At the moment she's saying no. And she's got the numbers at the moment. Will that change is a question for the weeks ahead, John.

KING: A big question. A big question. Manu Raju live on The Hill. Appreciate the live reporting.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," Matt Viser with "The Washington Post," and Vivian Salama with "The Wall Street Journal."

[12:05:04] You've covered the speaker a long time. She does not fly off the handle. He -- I want to see him in prison. Why, and why now?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She is, as Manu just reported so accurately, she is being squeezed further and further into the corner by her own membership. And the fact that you showed what Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary chairman said after an uncomfortably pregnant pause with Wolf Blitzer --

KING: Right. That's the biggest -- the biggest news in that was the pause.

BASH: Was -- was the not -- was in the -- right, exactly, him -- him trying to figure out what to say. According to the political report, which said that she wants to see him, him the president, in prison, that was a direct response to Jerry Nadler and other members of her leadership team saying, come on, we've got to do this. We've got to start the impeachment inquiry.

And so she is certainly a master tactician. She understands her caucus. She has a reservoir of goodwill with her caucus. But it's becoming harder and heard and harder. And the context, of course, of saying prison is that she believes that the best way to address this is at the ballot box. He's a first-term president about to face the voters. Let voters vote him out and there will be -- she believes politically it will be easier to do that without impeachment proceedings and then the Constitution, or at least maybe the Department of Justice, will be more apt to prosecute him for crimes that she clearly believes that he commit that she can't go after him for as president.

KING: Now, underestimate her at your peril given that she can't be speaker again. Remember, she's speaker again.

However, there are some who think that this actually is a tactical mistake on her part. Among them, Brian Fallon, a longtime Democratic strategist, most recently in the Clinton campaign, but now he's working for a group of Democrats who are pushing, if you genuinely think Trump belongs in prison, opening an impeachment inquiry is the absolute least you could do.

He's making the argument, well, if you think -- if you think you've got him, then you need to impeach him.

George Conway, of course the husband of Kellyanne Conway, the Trump adviser, but a veteran Washington attorney, given DOJ's policy of not indicting presidents until they leave office, this provision counsels strongly in favor of impeachment. Because if you think Trump should be in jail for his crimes, he's likely to get there sooner the sooner he leaves office.


MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I mean that's the fine line that I think Nancy Pelosi is walking here where she's trying to throw some red meat there in an ironic way to sort of tamp down the calls for impeachment.

The other potential area in this is, 2016, the most common chant at Donald Trump rallies was lock her up. And this is kind of resurrecting that in a way that Democrats criticized that as being, you know, sort of out of line for calling on somebody to go to jail for political purposes. Democrats will argue that this is beyond political purposes, but it introduces that sort of element of, we need to win this election so we can put this current president in jail, which is quite striking.

KING: Right. To that point, Democrats said, hey, wait a minute, that's beyond the pale. Mark Levin, the radio host, he's on Fox News as well, a supporter of the president, has already tweeted that he thinks that, you know, now Nancy Pelosi should be expelled. That's not going to happen. But you do now get into the base politics of all of this.

And one of the things we don't know, the president's traveling overseas. We don't know how closely he's following the news. So we're not -- we don't know whether he was aware of her statement that she thinks he belongs in prison or not. But he did sit down for an interview with Fox's Laura Ingraham and he has a new nickname for now his arch rival.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But Nancy Pelosi, I call her nervous Nancy. Nancy Pelosi is a disaster, OK, she's a disaster. And let her do what she wants. You know what, I think they're in big trouble.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: It has been interesting to watch this escalation. He calls her crazy sometimes. Now he has nervous Nancy. She has said he's covering up crimes. And now she says he belongs in prison.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Sure. And the president is going to go out there, like he does, and he's going to call names and he's going to call this whole thing part of the broader witch hunt. But, at the end of the day, Nancy Pelosi is so vital to him for getting his agenda across. He is about to announce the re-launch of his election campaign and all of a sudden he has no trade deals because he can't get along with the Democrats in the House. He has -- his foreign policy is the sort of teetering all over the place. He hasn't really come to the table with the -- with the Democrats in Congress. Even some Republicans are now siding with the Democrats with regard to his trade deals. And so he's in -- he's between a rock and a hard spot.

And so, while this name-calling, you know, is sort of the president's M.O. in these situations, it's not going to get him very far because, at the end of the day, he's going to have to cooperate with them somehow.

KING: Right. And they were not -- the Republicans were not as successful as they hoped in the midterms of making Pelosi such a rallying cry. I suspect, having the speaker of the House say she believes the president -- or she'd like to see the president in prison will help.

It is -- as you try to dissect, you know, again, she's very complicated, she is very strategic, and, again, you underestimate her at her peril, why she would take it up further. She has -- every week it seems she has gone up in her escalation of the rhetoric and yet, listen to her here, she says, no, it's not really pressure.

[12:10:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, I'm not feeling any pressure. And let me just address that. I see in some metropolitan journals and on some TV that we are trying to find our way or unsure about -- make no mistake, we know exactly what path we're on. We know exactly what actions we need to take. And while that may take more time than some people want it to take, I respect their impatience.


KING: I would love to know her definition of pressure.

SHEAR: Well, look, I mean, I think one of the things that -- that -- to know about Nancy Pelosi is that even though these moments, these episodes of her ratcheting this up look like individual kind of moments in time, and so we're apt to think about them as kind of like these incidents of pressure being -- and then her reacting quickly. This is not a person who sort of reacts off the cuff like that. She's got a strategy.

Now, she may shift, right, if -- if the -- if the pressures around her do, you know, kind of force her to adjust her strategy. But make no doubt, this is, I am certain, you know, a kind of thought out, well thought out strategy of how she's going to kind of get from a to z. And that -- and -- right?

BASH: Yes, I agree with you. The only quickly thing that I will add is that she has been ratcheting up her rhetoric in public. This was a private meeting. Unless this was incredibly strategic and it was a leak to get this out there, which I find hard to believe on her part, others maybe, this was not part of that, I'm going to ratchet up my rhetoric in public. This was something that -- there's no -- there's no sound bite that they can make an ad about.

KING: Yes.

BASH: Unlike the Republican side, where, you know, they had chants at every single rally.

SALAMA: But Nancy Pelosi also has danced this dance before. She knows how divisive impeachment proceedings can be. And this is something that could be very detrimental to the country as a whole. A lot of Democrats very afraid of that. But, at the end of the day, just talking about the impeachment could real rally the Democratic base ahead of the elections to say, yes, like, we're -- we're going to take over. We're going to -- this -- we're going to do this. And it's something that I think she's probably very hesitant about, but sneaking into it gradually.

KING: And some of those public comments have been designed to set the president off. She does know how to get under his skin.

BASH: Exactly.


KING: We will -- we will test -- we will see his reaction.

BASH: Right.

KING: We'll see his reactions as we get a better sense of -- that he's aware of this and how he processes it. We'll stay on top of that story.

As we go to break, some of the more poignant moments today at the D- Day ceremonies in Normandy honoring America's greatest generation. One hundred and seventy-three American World War II veterans were in attendance, 65 of them survivors of the D-Day invasion 75 years ago today.


GROUP (singing): You led the way. I know (INAUDIBLE) you were ready to die for (INAUDIBLE).

PRES. EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE: We know what we owe to you, veterans, our freedom. On behalf of my nation, I just want to say thank you. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Army medic Ray Lambert.

Again and again, Ray ran back into the water. He dragged out one man after another.

Ray, the free world salutes you. Thank you, Ray.



[12:18:11] KING: Mexican officials are back in urgent meetings with the Trump administration today. And there is some talk of progress. But the president says not enough progress. And his word make clear the president believes a new 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods will take effect Monday as punishment. Punishment for what the president sees as a weak Mexican effort to fight the flow of migrants toward the U.S. border.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it too. And I'm very happy with it. And a lot of people, senators included, they have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to tariffs. They have no -- absolutely no idea. We're the piggy bank. The United States is the piggy bank. It has all the money that others want to take from us, but they're not taking it so easy anymore. It's a lot different.


KING: Investors holding steady so far. You see the Dow there up 68 point. That's a modest gain. Senate Republicans trying to get the president to back down, or at least to slow down. They want to hear from him directly about the tariff plan, but the president not due back from Europe until Friday and the Senate scheduled to be out of session then, although I'm sure they could arrange a meeting if they wanted one.

If you listen to the president there, number one, he says senators don't know anything. The president often describes how tariffs work in a parallel universe to how they actually work.

But, if you listen to the president there, if you listen to him the other day, his words on this trip, he seems determined almost if Mexico came to the table with a pretty good table to say, no, we're going to do this first and then we'll talk. That and from every time he says it, he's seems determine that this is going to happen Monday.

SALAMA: Some -- yes, go ahead.

VISER: And he -- and he looks at -- you know, when he's talking about senators there, he's talking about Senate Republicans, too. I mean like this is an intra-party fight. And if you look at some of the states that this impacts, Texas, you know, is impacted in a major way by -- by tariffs. Michigan also impacted quite heavily. So these are important political states, you know, for the president's re-election campaign. So I think until that argument is made to him, I think he's -- he's making this base play, like he usually does, to try and drive up his base. So, in that sense, he wants to be hard on Mexico regardless of if the deal is actually a good one or not.

[12:20:20] SHEAR: Well, and -- and --

SALAMA: Well, this --

SHEAR: Go ahead. Sorry.

SALAMA: I mean it's also no surprise that the president loves tariffs. He thinks they're a very effective tool to getting people to comply to what his demands are. But, obviously, even the closest advisers around him, from trade Representative Lighthizer, to some of his -- some of his White House staff, are not seeing this as the right path forward. And so, since day one, since the tweet came out, a number of his advisers saying, you know what, this may not even go through. It's essential lit president's way of maybe sucker punching Mexico into complying with his demands quickly. But, ultimately, the president is still holding firm because he does see this as an effective tool to get them to listen to his demands.

KING: And if you listen to him, it's almost as if he wants it to be in place. And then if Mexico comes to the table, he wants to say, see, it worked.

SALAMA: Exactly right.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: He wants to say, I got them to come to the table. I got them to come to the table with a stronger plan. And, again, he's mixing trade and immigration here. If you are -- you mentioned some of the states. If you're a Republican senator, if you're any member of Congress, Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, just said the president is commandeering U.S. trade policy to influence border security. And Chairman Neal calls that an abuse of power. That's a Democrat there.

A leading Republican, John Cornyn, who often says things, you know, questions the president, I'm not sure why he's doing this, you'd have to ask him, but he's been a pretty loyal Republican. But he sees numbers. This is from the Perryman Group, 406,000 U.S. jobs lost if 5 percent tariffs went into effect is the estimate of this analyst group. And 117,000 of those, more than 117,000 of those in Texas alone. That is why John Cornyn, again, who often is muted in his criticism of the president says, please, no.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Tariffs, on the other hand, would be a massive tax. The U.S. Chamber estimates that Texas alone would face $5.35 billion in increased costs as a result of a 5 percent tariffs that could take effect as early as Monday. This translates into about $1,000 more on a car.


KING: He's on the ballot, us a noted.

BASH: Yes.

KING: Which is part of it. It's also what the president has done. The president has twisted his party like a pretzel on many issues, trade significantly. And if you're a Texas Republican, immigration as well.

BASH: And this is on the backdrop of pain, severe pain, that so many of these senators, and House members, in Trump-won states are feeling and are hearing about from their constituents. Farmers in Iowa, you know, farmers all over, you know, red state and blue state America. So that is already going on. And this threat is just -- it's like, from their perspective, kicking them when they're down. And so that is why you -- this is going to be such a fascinating test to see if the insurrection that is going on right now on Capitol Hill among the president's fellow Republicans that we have not seen on a policy issue is going to actually see fruition and they're going to act on this if, in fact, the president goes through with this 5 percent tariff.

KING: But it's fascinating. I don't know if credit is the right word. You mentioned Senator Cornyn's on the ballot. So is President Trump. And you mentioned, and you're right, this is -- tariffs, trade, the issue on which he's been most consistent dating way back to before he got involved in politics. But he's on the ballot too. Some of his own advisers, and a lot of the private analysts worry global growth anyway is slowing. There's a threat of a recession in 2020 anyway, even without imposing tariffs against Mexico.

And listen to the president again today. He says, he may, depending on his meeting with President Xi coming up in a couple of weeks, he may impose even more tariffs on China.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you mean, when am I going to put the extra $325 billion worth of tariffs? I will make that decision, I would say, over the next two weeks, probably right after the G-20.


KING: Again, there are a lot of economists who question, hey, wait a minute, how he's doing it. Standing up to China is something long overdue. The president's certainly right about that.

But it is a political risk a lot of politicians would not take such a risk heading into their own election campaign that he could tip the economy into a slowdown and some even think a recession.

SHEAR: Here's the problem. With China, at least there are a series of specific things on the table that they are negotiating. And if they get there, then he can back off.

On Mexico, you know, the Mexicans, I talked to a senior administration officials who was familiar with those negotiations in the discussions yesterday at the White House that what the Mexicans came with were a lot of things that said, we'll do this, this, and this. But the problem is nothing that they can do, nothing that the government of Mexican can do, substantively on the ground, is going to achieve what the president has said again and again and again over the last week, which is 100 percent end to illegal immigration into the United States. It's just impossible.

And so the question is, how can the president find a way to back off, you know, to maybe, you know, with the urging of his aides, because it's -- it's an all-or-nothing kind of thing, as he's described it, which is, which is, you know, concerning if you're a Senate Republican.

[12:25:05] SALAMA: Well, and the administration has already had to provide assistance for farmers who are hurting from the China tariffs. And now you these Mexico tariffs coming on the heels of that. It's already -- the White House concedes that it is already having an economic impact, but the president believes in the long game and ultimately he is insisting that the long game will pay off for Americans. We shall wait and see. A lot of economists don't agree.

KING: We shall wait and see.

And, again, that's where a lot of Republicans say, yes, help the farmers, but that's not exactly conservative marked-based economics.

SALAMA: Exactly.

KING: Up next for us, Joe Biden facing a big hurdle. Could his stand on abortion hurt him in the Democratic primary?