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Biden Changes His Mind on Hyde Amendment; Trump Super PAC Struggling, Frustrating GOP Operatives; House Divided: Congressional Dems Debate Impeachment Strategy; Trump Unleashes Flurry of Insults at Pelosi; Marianne Williamson Moves to Des Moines for Iowa Caucuses. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 7, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We have a problem.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And not to mention the debate in the House over there's a pro or anti-abortion rights Democratic member who the DCCC was initially going to fundraise for and now they're not. So, if you are a Democrat that believes in abortion restrictions, you've got a problem right now in this party because of everything you just laid out, and Joe Biden coming into this race should have known that. This looks politically expedient and I think you're going to hear him really be attacked on the debate stage over this.

Can you trust Joe Biden on abortion because of look at his long record? He's going to have to answer that question on what changed his mind and it can't be because oh, everything has changed in the last 24 hours.

KING: And so you have that question. Can you trust Joe Biden on abortion? You just used the term political expediency. I want to bring that back and go back a decade or so in just a moment. Can you trust him on abortion which is an issue for Democratic primary voters, especially at least a majority in most of these states going to be women voters, it should matter to men as well. Then there's the bigger question, his calling card right now is I can beat Trump.

If you start to seem a campaign that doesn't seem ready for primetime, can't anticipate issues, can't execute a flip-flop, all politicians change their mind. Look at Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand in this race, different position on guns now than they had earlier in their careers. It's how you do it that matters a lot.

To your point about political expediency, this is Joe Biden back in 2007 essentially, again, like Cedric Richmond was trying to do in television, planting the flag of conviction and say we know people disagree with us on this issue, but we're going to stand by it. Oh, I'm sorry, I need to read this.

"I'm stuck in the -- I've stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than 30 years. I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding, and I'd like to find ways to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion. I've made life difficult for myself by putting intellectual consistency and personal principle above expediency."

The next version of the book might take that out.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: Right. So this is clearly going to be a problem for Joe Biden. I mean, it's not just political expediency argument, it is -- as you mentioned, this has been not just an issue for years but clearly in the last two weeks on, you know, front and center. And this is something that the campaign should clearly have been prepared for. I think it'll be interesting to see how much Democratic campaigns are willing to attack him by name at this point, whether it's for the political expediency argument or for his position himself.

KING: And it is tough to work for a campaign at one of these moments when you have to go out and try to explain things. This is senior Biden adviser Symone Sanders earlier today on CNN saying no big deal, nothing to worry about.


SYMONE SANDERS, BIDEN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: There's nothing to reconcile. He made a very logical decision.

If the vice president was bending to the whims of a number of my Democratic friends, he would have come out for Medicare for All last night.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Symone is doing her job, and she's very good at her job. I think what's interesting is kind of the window as to what this might mean in going forward. Look, Hyde was the safe harbor for Democrats on this issue for decades. There's a reason why Joe Biden's been there, and there's a reason why Hyde is still in every appropriations bill that moves through Congress for all the nerds out there because I always have to bring it back.

And the party has shifted now. It is no longer that safe harbor -- still on the appropriations bill but it's no longer that safe harbor that you can just say on this issue that's my -- I'm -- that's my out on this. That's how I'm going to address this. The party demands you have a better answer, you have a more fulsome answer, you have more kind of a different view on the issue itself and address it more thoroughly.

What other issues are there on that? And how many times is he going to get caught on this? Maybe this is a one-time thing. Maybe from here on out, he's got it, and he is -- to Symone's point about Medicare for All, he's completely content with where he is. The poll number show why he's there and he's going to stay in that lane. Or is this a harbinger of a lot of things to come where the party has moved in a different place, he realizes based on outside pressure and advocate pressure and competitor pressure that he's got to move as well. And to Eliana's initial point, where does that leave him if he wins or if he -- kind of where he goes in the debate? KING: And he is counting on donors to think this is the guy who's the grown-up adult who can best beat Trump. If that changes, that changes a big dynamic that right now is working very much in his favor. We shall watch.

Up next, some new numbers revealed potential problems for President Trump's flagship super PAC.


[12:38:33] KING: Topping our political radar today, it is British Prime Minister Theresa May's final day as the conservative party leader, but she will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new leader is chosen. May's resignation follows nearly three years trying but failing to deliver Brexit, Britain's withdrawal, of course, from the European Union.

A remarkable reset for billionaire Charles Koch's political advocacy group. It's now launching four new political committees ahead of the 2020 primaries. Those committees will support incumbents including Democrats who side with Koch and his conservative allies on trade, immigration, and other issues. Koch's American for Prosperity network which has distanced itself from the GOP brand in the Trump era says it will back candidates who, quote, lead by uniting with others to pass principled policy and get good things done.

President Trump's flagship super PAC, America First Action is struggling. New numbers show the group has been racking up some big bills, very big bills while failing to deliver for the president politically.

Joining me now, CNN's Michael Warren who's been breaking down these numbers. Michael, what jumps out the most?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, a number of Republican donors and operative, pro-Trump Republican donors and operatives are telling CNN that they are concerned about the direction of America First which started in 2017. Some of these numbers, these spending numbers are one point that these people are concerned about. Let's go through them.

$33,000 for a single event with Vice President Mike Pence at a steakhouse here in Washington. $120,000 delivered to two firms connected to former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke who was associated with America First until the end of last year.

[12:40:08] And more than $460,000 spent over two years at Trump-owned properties, primarily the Trump International Hotel here in Washington for events, meals, those sorts of things.

Now, America First says this is all the cost of raising money on behalf of the president's re-election campaign, but some of these critics of America First say the fundraising numbers have been underwhelming as well. $39,000 -- excuse me, $39 million raised in the last cycle, $75 million combined between America First and its sister organization. That's a lot of money but fell well below the $100 million goal that America First had set for itself.

Republicans are looking at the new leadership at America First, Linda McMahon, the former Small Business Administration chief who's taken over the group. They say they hope that she can help with these fundraising problems.

KING: It'd be interesting to keep an eye on this as the campaign cycle progresses. Michael Warren, appreciate that great detailed reporting.

Let's bring into the room. This is not new, super PACs have existed before this president but this is not the first time just in recent weeks a PAC led by people who say they're helping the president, David Bossie, you see other examples, have been questioned about, well, what is this about? Is this about raising money and spending it to help the president and Republicans? Or is this about raising money to pay some salaries and to have really nice events at big steakhouses and the like?

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, over the past 10, 15 years, we've seen scam PACs just proliferate, particularly on the right during the Tea Party movement, they were an enormous problem and they're very, very difficult to regulate because technically they operate within the bounds of the law. Now Americans -- America First is not a scam PAC but it does raise the question of America First as a super PAC can ask for unlimited contributions from donors and it -- a piece like this will certainly get these donors thinking about how their money is being used I think when they see a number like $33,000 for a dinner at a steakhouse and how effectively that money is being used. Particularly when one fact that jumped out at me from the CNN reporting was that the RNC which does have contribution limits on it out-raised the super PAC which has no limits on what a donor can contribute.

KING: Interesting point also -- go ahead.

PARTI: Problems with America First have just been building. In the 2018 election, I had donors and Republican operatives tell me they were frustrated because America First at the time was sitting on millions of dollars and not spending it to help Republicans. They did end up, you know, spending a little bit of money closer to the election, but these problems have only gotten worse since Tommy Hicks who was helping the super PAC raise money left for the RNC. Now everyone is looking at Linda McMahon to see if she can kind of step up and fill that role.

KUCINICH: Well, the question will be how the president reacts because David Bossie was cast into Siberia.

KING: I was just going to say the issue is when it gets the president's attention, what does he do about it. Great point. Thank you, everybody.

Up next for us, the House divided. New details about the Democrats' internal battle over whether to pursue impeachment.


[12:47:51] KING: Some new tweets from the president as he flies home aiming at Nancy Pelosi. And we're also learning some new details today about one House Democratic chairman's push to open an impeachment inquiry into the president. Speaker Pelosi remains steadfastly opposed, but new CNN reporting details efforts by the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to change her mind and to win other Democrats over to his point of view.

But Nadler's way could take some of the investigative thunder from their other committee chairmen and centralize the inquiry in the judiciary. He argues that allows the other committees to focus on the party's legislative agenda. And Nadler says an official impeachment inquiry would also make it easier for Democrats to make a public case against the president because the proceedings would not be bound by strict House rules that forbid members from disparaging individuals.

What is he up to here? You have just today the chairman of the Oversight Committee saying I'm going to go forward with contempt probably against the commerce secretary and the attorney general over a census issue. Jerry Nadler wants it all?

MATTINGLY: So there's a couple of things to point out. First and foremost, he is reflecting the members of his committee right now, the Judiciary Committee, there are more Democrats on the committee that -- or there are sizable number of senior Democrats on that committee that are at this place right now. And often that's what moves the chairman or what's move a leader towards his position, but the other is there's real turf battles going on behind the scenes here.

When you have multiple committees launching multiple investigations, each trying for the headlines, each trying for the administration's attention, each trying to kind of prove their own case, I think there's been a lot of frustration not just from Chairman Nadler but also from the House Oversight Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the House Financial Services Committee that perhaps some of their thunder is being stolen, perhaps some of their bandwidth and ability to actually complete their investigations has been removed, moved out of the limelight or blocked to some degree. And I think that's why you see the idea of if we centralize all these in my committee we will be able to actually move forward in a more fulsome manner.

This is a reality on Capitol Hill. I think we saw this before they took the majority that there were already some turf wars breaking out. And I think it's bolstered or it's exacerbated by the fact that there are rank and file members in the party who are at that place, turf aside, and he can utilize that now to try to make this case.

KING: Outside of the capital building where it sounds like there's egos at play, I'm shocked at that in politics. Speaker Pelosi is trying to manage this and it's a difficult thing to manage.

[12:50:02] NBC and PBS NewsHour/Marist poll is interesting, this is just among Democrats. What should we do on the question of impeachment? Start proceedings, 36 percent of Democrats. Continue investigation, short of impeaching, 37 percent of Democrats. Censor the president is six, end the investigations is 15. So this -- that's the Democratic Party, it's not the country. You've got a divided Democratic Party. That's what she's trying to manage.

As she tries to manage, as I mentioned, the president is tweeting on the way home. I'll get to those in a second. While he was in Europe, sitting for an interview in the sacred American war cemetery, Nancy Pelosi, a frequent target.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People like Nancy Pelosi that honestly, they don't know what the hell they're talking about. I think she's a disgrace. She's incapable of doing deals. She's a nasty, vindictive horrible person because she's a disaster.

Angry people like Nancy Pelosi who doesn't have what it takes. They don't know what's going on. They get angry.

She is a terrible person, and I'll tell you, her name, it's nervous Nancy because she's a nervous wreck.


KING: Now, they disagree a lot, to begin with, but what offended the president there is Nancy Pelosi, Politico reporting this first behind closed doors saying, I don't want to see the president impeached, I want to see him in prison. And again we can put the tweets up on the screen as we talked about them in the same theme. You just hear in that Fox interview and the president's Twitter feed as he's on in Air Force One flying home.

"Nervous Nancy is a disgrace to herself and her family for having made such a disgusting statement especially since I was with foreign leaders overseas."

JOHNSON: Yes. The irony is rich, you know.

KUCINICH: He's really concerned about appearances.

JOHNSON: Yes. So the president obviously I think still over international waters when he's tweeting this but he obviously called Nancy, said all of those things about Speaker Pelosi while he was overseas and, you know, on a ground that is very sacred for Americans. He said that I think right before the ceremony to commemorate D-Day, and Speaker Pelosi's comments were technically private. She didn't go out and say those things publicly about the president, so -- but this is an interesting moment I think because President Trump has been relatively reserved in his criticism of Pelosi.

And I think this does mark something of a turning point where these two are going to go at each other pretty aggressively. And I think it's because he sees that we're at something of an inflection point about impeachment. And if she does decide to go forward with investigations, this is going to be a nasty brawl.

KING: Nasty and this is -- I guess his nickname, finally after a long time because he didn't have one. We'll see if this one sticks.

Up next for us, you know, how crowded is the 2020 campaign trail? Well, candidates are bumping into each other everywhere including the airport. Look at this one, taken overnight in Atlanta, Beto O'Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.


[12:57:16] KING: A little Friday fun to end the program. A quick look at some 2020 trail moments this week. One, Mayor Pete Buttigieg doing enough -- is Pete Buttigieg doing enough to attract a racially diverse voter base?


ROHIT MALHOTRA, MODERATOR: I mean, you're in Atlanta. There should be -- we should have a lot of black people in this room, right? That's --


KING: Buttigieg acknowledged the issue and says his challenge is to build trust at, quote, lightning speed. Well, here's one orthodox way to try. It aired last night on show time's "Desus and Mero", the two comedians from the Bronx say they want to show the real side of the 2020 candidates.


DESUS NICE, COMEDIAN: You're hood certified, you're uptown certified. That's what will dig boys. You know, they say in New York that you're not allowed to have a thing called open containers. But apparently, if you put an alcoholic beverage inside a brown bag, the cops won't see it. And it's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you almost forgot it's the fog of war.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What if we want to sip around here.

NICE: All right, you need to come here more often.

BUTTIGIEG: Don't let the kids see.







UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe (INAUDIBLE) in a month, bro.



KING: He pulled it off, sort of.

MATTINGLY: It was -- look, having watched the whole thing, I was a little worried when they came to the end that the guy wearing the suit without the jacket maybe wasn't quite prepared for what he was getting himself into, but I thought it worked. His face was priceless after he took a sip.

KUCINICH: And whenever you can laugh at yourself as a candidate, I feel like it -- that that's a plus in your favor, particularly when you have such a wide variety of candidates. To be able to put that on yourself and laugh at it is usually benefits.

JOHNSON: It's also something the president doesn't do.


JOHNSON: He is funny, but he is not funny in a self-deprecating manner, and he is certainly not somebody who I could see laughing at it.

KING: So one of the longer shots in the Democratic field, Marianne Williamson, spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey, is moving to Iowa. This been done before, Chris Dodd did it back in the 2007-2008 cycle. Sorry, Ms. Williamson, it didn't work for Chris Dodd. Her campaign chair says, "Marianne has moved to Des Moines and our campaign is fully committed to the Iowa process as well as the other early states including New Hampshire." Then add a little humor in politics, "Of course after the caucuses, we'll be planning on moving to Washington D.C."

PARTI: I like the smiley face at the end of that statement. But, yes, I mean, a lot of candidates are practically going to be moving there and she's going all the way.

KING: A few days left. Three Democrats have yet to qualify for the debates, Governor Bullock, Mayor Messam, and Congressman Moulton. By Wednesday, right, they have to meet the deadline.

PARTI: June 14th.

KUCINICH: Yes. I'm like, what date is that?

KING: Yes, that's been --

KUCINICH: But, yes, I mean, either way, we're going to have such a massive field to be looking at. And there is some frustration among those lower-tier candidates as to what the polling. You're going to see a lot of like hot fire at the DNC in the last couple of days. We'll see if they make it. They might.

KING: They might. They might. Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back -- get up early Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Eastern. I'll be right here.