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INSIDE POLITICS

Biden's Support for Hyde Amendment Provokes Dem Backlash; One West Point Cadet Killed, 20-Plus Injured; 2020 Hopefuls Court African- American Voters in Georgia; New Polls Hint at Rust Belt Rebuke of Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 6, 2019 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[12:30:23] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden facing a big test as he doubles down on what you might call his general election always strategy. Biden's campaign says the 2020 frontrunner still supports the Hyde Amendment. That amendment forbids federal money from funding abortion, and the former vice president's support of it means he's today's pinata for every other Democratic candidate.

Women's groups also quickly flogging Biden suggesting he's out of touch. A Planned Parenthood action spokesperson says, quote, supporting Hyde isn't a good policy or good politics. As noted, the former VP under fierce attack from primary rivals who say the Hyde Amendment discriminates against poor and minority women. This is Senator Cory Booker just this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This assault on women's reproductive rights is an assault on women, but it's a particularly an assault on African-American women! And the Hyde Amendment to deny people through Medicaid and Medicare abortion rights, that is an assault on African-American women, too!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: First big test. We've seen some criticism of the crime bill vote. This is -- we have debates in a couple of weeks. This is one issue in where Joe Biden among the other Democrats stands alone. The other candidates say you're out of touch, the country has changed.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, and he's -- and look, he has a long game here. He understands what you need to win the general election, places like Pennsylvania, places like Michigan. He understands that you can't put yourself in such a place to win the primary that you are -- that it's impossible for you to win the general election and that's his whole game.

KING: That's one of the defining debates among the Democrats because Biden is -- I call this old school or traditional, says you can't be for Medicare for All, you'll be viewed as too liberal, you'll be called a socialist. We can't do that. On the Hyde Amendment, he is obsessed like the president support with the state of Pennsylvania. You have a large -- remember Planned Parenthood versus Casey, that was a Democratic governor. The case is now -- now even Senator Bob Casey has become pro-choice, the governor's son has become more pro-choice. But Hillary Clinton lost the white Catholic vote, 61 percent to 37 percent. Joe Biden looks at that and says you can't win Pennsylvania. If you're not winning Pennsylvania you're probably not winning Michigan. He has this old school view which could -- will be right today too that Catholics are swing voters in America, many of them might be pro-choice but they don't like their tax dollars going to this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And, you know what, on the Republican side, I was talking to a Trump source who doesn't disagree with that when this initially came out and it became a thing yesterday, that being that states like Pennsylvania, especially Pennsylvania, this could help Joe Biden against a Donald Trump. No question in doing exactly what he's trying to do, get the working class Democrats back, maybe even disaffected Republicans, you know, in the suburbs who are now sick of the chaos in the Trump administration.

But I keep thinking about Jeb Bush who said he was going to try to win the primary by winning the general. He never got off the ground. I mean, at least Joe Biden is in the catbird seat right now.

The question is whether or not he can stay there and whether this issue is one that's going to, you know, pull him from his perch because people are so -- in such a different place for him on this which is genuine. He has had this position for 40 years. He does not believe taxpayer dollars should be used for abortions.

KING: To that point, let's go back in time and listen to one of the criticisms from Biden from the other Democrats you've been around too long. Some that is just raising his age, some of that is just raising his views that, you know, the party has moved on. They believe the country has moved on. We don't know that.

But if you're Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you think the country is ready for Medicare for All. You think the country is ready for, you know, a more liberal -- get rid of the Hyde Amendment. We don't know that, that's what elections are for.

Listen to Biden, this is way back when he was running for president in 2007 on Meet the Press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still am opposed to public funding to abortion. And the reason I am, is again, it goes to the question of whether or not you're going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He described it in the same interview as the biggest dilemma or the tension between his own Catholic faith and what he said was his political responsibility to support abortion rights. But the polling is change. Our new poll is interesting on this question, a candidate must share my view on abortion.

Look when we asked this question. Liberals in 2004, only 17 percent of liberals said their candidate must share their view. Now it's up to 37 percent. Moderates you see jumping from 10 percent to 21. Conservatives up, too, but not as dramatically.

So, to your point about the primary, running a general election strategy in the primary -- I mean, I assume when we get to the debates in a couple of weeks, this is going to be one of several flashpoints where the newer, younger, fresher-faced Democrats say, sorry, Joe, that party is not around anymore.

[12:35:04] VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: And Biden's campaign is really not kind of committing to this in stone. They say that essentially he would be open to repeal down the line. The country is different. It's not just the Democratic Party, the country is different, and he would be going into a general election now where he's faced with a Supreme Court that has two new conservative judges just over the last two years alone. And suddenly we're talking about, you know, Roe v. Wade and overturning that, and suddenly Biden -- Biden's people are faced with this dilemma of do you stick with this viewpoint if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

A lot of sources close to Biden say, no. He would have to reconsider.

KING: He starts flip-flopping though then he gets into another dilemma.

SALAMA: Exactly.

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yesterday was remarkable in the sense that the floodgates opened on Biden. This primary contest has not become that antagonistic yet. And yesterday that's begun to change. People started mentioning Biden by name, they started differentiating themselves from him.

Cory Booker this morning continuing and targeting African-American women which is a vital part of this party and a vital part that Biden needs in South Carolina. So I think there's a difference now where people see Biden. They're tired of seeing him at the top of the polls and they realize they have to go after him and he is on an island on this issue. Everybody else is on a different side.

SHEAR: And to your point on the debates, right, his answer when inevitably will brought up, his answer is going to have to be not just, you know, the general election answer but a substantive question. How do you respond to Booker's criticism that this affects African-American women, poor African-American disproportionately? What's the substantive answer to that, Mr. Biden not just kind of brush it aside and say, but have you to win and let's talk about electoral politics, right? Like --

KING: Frontrunners get tested, and this one is starting now and about to get even more so shall we say.

Up next for us, details of a tragic military training accident that killed one West Point cadet and injured many others.

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[12:41:23] KING: A few more details coming in now from West Point, New York, that, of course, the home of the United States Military Academy. An accident there this morning left at least one cadet dead and more than 20 others injured.

CNN's Polo Sandoval was there on the scene. Polo, we're waiting for a briefing. What more have we learned about this terrible accident?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we're told that this terrible accident involved a tactical (INAUDIBLE) -- a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle basically often referred to often as an LMTV. You can see sort of an example of what that looks like way up into this. It's important to point out, that is not the vehicle that was involved. But one military service member here on the scene told me that it's very similar to that, something that uses domestically for (INAUDIBLE) and removed people. The reason because they're very heavy, they're very rugged, and as you can see here.

So there's no telling exactly what took place earlier this morning with that vehicle that left one cadet dead, 20 others injured, and two other soldiers injured as well. Important to point out at this point, we do not know the condition of those 22 people who were injured, but I can tell you the air is certainly heavy here. Hearts are certainly heavy here, John.

A little while ago, President Trump even taking to Twitter expressing his condolences here, the commander-in-chief saying that he was sorry to hear about these accident involving these brave cadets. And it's important to point out that these are young service members in the early part of their career here at -- during the summertime we're told by our military analyst that this particular part of New York is used for these kinds of exercises.

We should point out that the actual West Point Academy still a good drive away from where we are right now. But we're surrounded by government-owned and operated training camps that are used for West Point cadets, and we're told that that's what's happening earlier this morning. So it's going to be interesting to hear exactly what specifically happen, what happens next year. Obviously, there's a very detailed, in-depth investigation as we wait to hear from the superintendent of West Point. Any moment now we'll certainly bring that to you when it happens, John.

KING: Polo Sandoval, appreciate you being on the ground for us. It's a terrible story, we'll continue to update our viewers on it at least today and as the day continues. Polo, again, appreciate that live reporting.

Up next for us here, 2020 hopefuls head south to court African- American voters and jockey for the support of one very key player in the state of Georgia.

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[12:48:14] KING: Democratic presidential contenders are flocking today to an African-American leadership summit in Atlanta. It's their chance to make their case in Georgia and across the country. Cory Booker this morning arguing that record turnout is the key come to the general election to defeating President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER: We are not going to win this election by fighting him on his turf and his terms. If we can make this a movement election that activates the consciousness of a country that brings out everybody from the sidelines on the field, communities like mine, we'll see a nation where justice does roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And in the all politics is local department, remember, Georgia is home to Stacey Abrams who came up just short last year in her run for governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Stacey Abrams is my hero. The fact that she's focusing her attention on voting rights and making sure everybody is counted. When I get to meet with her tomorrow, I'm going to be listening to her. Seeking to learn, to follow the example and the lead that she's offered to me, and really to everyone in this country. So, she is what this country needs right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's just one. Actually, you know what, hang on one second. There's more. Democrats love Stacey Abrams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this country wasn't racist, Stacey Abrams would be governor.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Without voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Stacey Abrams would be governor of Georgia but for voter disenfranchisement.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you don't have the guts to participate in free, fair, and open elections, get the hell out of politics, and I know that Governor Abrams agrees with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [12:50:04] KING: I'm sure it's lost on Stacey Abrams that there are a lot of Democrats who think that maybe her support might be helpful in this race.

VISER: Or meeting with her. All these guys are also, you know, trying to schedule meetings, do anything they can. Remember, she is not totally ruled out jumping into this race, so I think that is one of the dynamics at play. It's kind of worry I think among some candidates that she could get in, and kind of change the dynamics a little bit. She's also a potential vice presidential nominee, but her popularity in the party is strong and not just because of her strong Georgia gubernatorial bid but sort of what she represents in the party about voter disenfranchisement. Black women are a powerful force, so I think that she represents a lot of things that this party is currently about.

KING: And to that point, just in Georgia in the 2016 Democratic primary, just in Georgia Democratic primary, 51 percent of the voters in 2016 were African-American, 62 percent of them were women, 33 percent, one-third of the electorate in the Democratic primary last time around, African-American women. So, kudos to all the candidates for realizing we should probably go to this summit.

BASH: Yes. I mean, no question, but it also as I'm hearing all of those candidates talk about how spectacular Stacey Abrams is, and not to take anything away from her especially Beto O'Rourke, it's -- I'm sort of -- you're reminded of what happened in the last election where the two of them caught major fire on a national stage. She is still kind of in the, I'm not running bubble which protects her. (INAUDIBLE) -- it's a whole different ball game.

SALAMA: It's interesting like also to Matt's point, the two of them also represent -- Beto and Stacey Abrams, represent the sort of defying the odds in a very heavily red states where they were kind of coming up and really challenging incumbents and -- you know, in Stacey Abrams' case, you know, just putting a very, very reasonable challenge there where she came so close. A lot of -- their critics though will say they didn't end up making cuts and so why are we putting our bets on someone who lost a race. But in Stacey Abrams' case, again, you have these other factors playing into it where its, she may have won if.

And so, she's still kind of this questionable candidate in terms of a lot of people wanting to put their hope in her for something bigger.

KING: Joe Biden among those at the event. I'm suspecting from him. We'll get a little bit of Barack that always helps him with the African-American audience. We have Stacey Abrams reference as well.

Up next for us, a new poll out of Michigan and a poll out of Texas suggests President Trump enters the re-election campaign with a few big red flashing warning lights.

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[12:57:17] KING: It is foolish, actually beyond foolish, to think the polls you see now tell you a whole lot about what the 2020 general election climate will really look like a year from now. But they do tell you some things and one of them is that President Trump has what you might call a 40's problem. A new poll in Texas shows the president has just 44 percent, and he's losing to Joe Biden.

That Quinnipiac survey shows the president running ahead of the other Democratic candidates in Texas, but 48 percent is as high as his share of the vote gets. A new Michigan survey, even more, telling and troubling if you support the president. He is as of today losing to a handful of Democrats. He gets just 41 percent support when matched against Biden, Bernie Sanders, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Now, again -- but you're an incumbent president with unemployment below four percent in two states you won in 2016 and you're having trouble in Michigan getting above 41, 42, 43, and in Texas getting closer to 50. What does that tell you?

VISER: Part of this is those soft numbers on independents, you know. In some of those polls where people took a risk on Trump, I mean, they supported Obama and then they went to Donald Trump. And those people are having some second thoughts, and I think that's leading to some of the softening here.

We talked about this earlier in the show, but Michigan and Texas are those states that are impacted by these tariffs. So -- to the extent that Trump heads down this path, there is some, you know, political peril for him.

KING: And the today -- sorry.

SALAMA: And don't forget, with Michigan we also still have the issue of auto tariffs looming which is about six months out. We don't know what's going to happen with that.

KING: And again, just don't. Don't listen to anyone who tells you these polls tell you what it's going to look like next year but it does. You have two choices right now. Do we want to keep the incumbent or are we open to change?

They tell -- those numbers tell that you that they're open to change. That doesn't mean they will vote for change but they're open to it.

BASH: And that is why to say -- just to be complete captain obvious here, the change really is dependent on who it is. Joe Biden, in Michigan, you know, yes, OK. A lot of those voters can see that and check that box. Texas, maybe. But if it's Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, it will be difficult for even a lot of Democrats, never mind independents or soft Republicans to do that. People have defied the odds before, but it really, really does matter on the ballot.

KING: And the polarization is not unique to Trump, but everything is exasperated under President Trump. Look at these numbers. Seventy- one percent of Americans say the U.S. economic conditions are good. Seven in 10 Americans say the economy is good but only 53 percent approve of his handling of the economy which is his best issue. But, again, it's his personal characteristics, other thing about him that are keeping him from normally -- you would think maybe people would be saying I'm inclined to keep the incumbent right now. Right now, enough Americans are inclined to at least think about changing.

SHEAR: But cautionary tale for Democrats who -- or you know, this isn't going to necessarily lasts.

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