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Trump Calls Off Retaliatory Strikes on Iran At Last Minute; Trump Reverses Course on Planned Deportation Sweep; Biden Under Fire for Comments on Working with Segregationists. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired June 23, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:18] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): An order to strike Iran.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They made a very bad mistake.
KING: But the president calls it off at the last minute.
TRUMP: Everybody was saying, I'm a warmonger. Now they say I'm a dove. I think I'm neither.
KING: Plus, the 2020 Democrats make nice, after a flare-up with the front-runner.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's not a racist bone in my body.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is deeply disappointing. He knows better.
KING: And the president's 2020 plan: Rally the base.
TRUMP: Our radical Democrat opponents want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.
To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.
Up, first, a busy hour, high-stakes confrontation that came within minutes to becoming a higher stakes conflict. President Trump gave the go order Thursday for strikes targeting Iranian missile batteries and radar installations, and within minutes to spare, he aborted the mission.
The president decided in the end it was not proportional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Everybody was saying I'm a warmonger and now they say I'm a dove. And I think I'm neither, if you want to know the truth. I'm a man with common sense. That's what we need in this country is common sense.
But I didn't like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone and then we kill 150 people. I didn't like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, we know the president's top national security advisers favored the targeted strikes and those competing views are on public display today. His remarks to reporters yesterday, the president said he was confident sanctions against Iran were working. Even held out hope they would eventually come back to the bargaining table to negotiate a new nuclear deal.
But in Israel today, listen here, the Trump national security adviser John Bolton striking a more hawkish tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness. No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. And as he made clear yesterday, referring to his earlier remarks, the president said, I just stopped the strike from going forward at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis with "The New York Times," CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Toluse Olorunnipa of "The Washington Post", and Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg".
You see right here publicly in John Bolton, a more aggressive, more forward-leaning, more muscular posture a couple days after his boss said, whoa, dial it back. Does the debate continue? Debates internally are all fine and then the president makes a decision. Debates more publicly gets interesting.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And the emphasis there when he said he delayed the strike for now, but not imminently, potentially. So, John Bolton seeming to say that's still an option for them. And, of course, that's going to be the question as we move forward where, as Iran tries to provoke the United States, as they continue to build up nuclear fuel, this isn't going to be completely settled and over. And that's essentially why the president, you see him at Camp David this weekend holding meetings and calls on Iran.
KING: But you share -- that's John Bolton standing next to the Israeli prime minister who is more hawkish than John Bolton, if that's more possible. Just standing outside the White House, the boss, the president of the United States, talked about John Bolton. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I disagreed very much with John Bolton. His attitude on the Middle East and Iraq was going into Iraq. I think that was a big mistake. I think I've been proven right, but I've been against that forever.
John Bolton is doing a very good job but he takes it -- generally a tough posture, but I have other people that don't take that posture. But the only one that matters is me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's right in that the president makes the decision in the end. Any president should want an active debate, get all the options on the table. I don't know if it's completely unique, but what's interesting about this administration is how often it plays out in public.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, this is like so many other things with president Trump is he likes this whole good cop/bad cop thing and he gets to weigh in at some point and figure out, what's the decision going to be? Clearly in this case, John Bolton is bad cop.
I would note, given those comments, he is the one who decided to hire John Bolton. If he disagreed so strongly about his position in Middle East and past positions on the Iraq war and other subjects, maybe he wouldn't have hired him. I think the big difference here is, the president seems to believe or at least he's arguing now this kind of pushing and pulling publicly really helps -- strengthens his hand when it comes to Iran.
[08:05:05] They're off-balance. That somehow, you know, this makes him stronger and have leverage in this situation. I think to a lot of people on the outside, including a lot of Republicans I spoke to at the end of the week after he pulled back on the strike, they think it looks like incoherence and weakness. And that's their big concern, that as this plays out in public, this actually undercuts instead of strengthens the president.
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do think the president has shown pretty clearly he does not have an appetite to start anything that could become a war with Iran. I mean, there's a lot from zero to war, but the problem is, once you begin to escalate, you can quickly lose control of the situation. And the president by his words, by his actions, the fact he keeps trying it get Iran back to the table, the president does not want this engagement.
But the president has also taken this posture of toughness. He's pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. And he can't look like he's blinking especially after he gave Obama such a hard time about him blinking.
I think you see the president's political instincts and the president's personal appetite for this running up against how is Iran going to behave? June 27th, just a few days away, is the date around which Iran has suggested they may rethink their position on uranium enrichment and pull out of their part of the commitment with the Iran deal. That's a lot of the time for this.
KING: So, we talk about the reaction here. I want to get to Republican reactions. If you're sitting, if you're the supreme leader, if you're President Rouhani, if you're the head of the Iraqi Revolutionary Guard? They pulled out. They are playing on Iranian TV that they could have shot down a plane with U.S. personnel on that and they're thankful.
If you pick up a Sunday newspaper, read them all. Go to CNN.com as well.
This from "The Wall Street Journal." In private conversations Friday, Mr. Trump reveled in his judgment. Certain about his decision to call off the attacks while speaking of his administration as if removed from the center of it.
Quote: These people want to push us into a war and it's so disgusting, Mr. Trump told one confidante about his own inner circle of advisers. We don't need any more wars.
So, again, that's a view he articulated going back to the campaign. Going back to when he was in the business community. The question is, in the here and now, if you're Iran, where's the line?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, if you're Iran you're looking at the Trump administration and many so of the comments that come out of president Trump's closest advisers about being tough and wanting to take action and sending hundreds of troops to the region. Then you hear from President Trump he's thankful Iran didn't shoot down a different plane and he wants to have discussions and he thinks the Iranian people in New York and else where are great people, they may be wealthy.
It seems like it may be some sort of a replay of what we saw with North Korea where the president and his advisers were talking about getting closer to war in 2017. Then when there was an opening for dialogue, an opening to pull back from the brink, the president jumped at it. He also reveled in the fact there were a lot of news cameras. He said it was like the Academy Awards and he likes the ratings with something unprecedented.
The president may be trying to do that again with Iran. We're not seeing Iran taking the bait, if you will, or taking the opportunity to have dialogue with the president. But it seems like a lot of incoherence from the president and his administration.
KING: And so, you watch this play out, especially, it's a known fact that the secretary much state, national security adviser, told the president this was a good plan, targeted strikes. They say, go for it. The president pulls back.
You have a Republican Party. Imagine if President Obama had done this, well, President Obama did not enforce his red line in Syria, for example, and the Republicans were harshly critical, saying, you make America look weak.
Listen to one Republican here, we know how hawkish she is in her heart, Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, saying the United States might be making a mistake and then pulling it back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): If Iran thinks it can demonstrate to the world that somehow it's able to take advantage of the United States, that it's able to attack and destroy one of our drones, without any consequence or with the only consequence being we now have to speak to them, I think that's very dangerous.
President Trump has shown he's going to stand up and do what's right when it comes to defending the United States of America. No country around the world should have any question that we will defend our own interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's within a couple of hours. That's the same congresswoman. My money is on she believes the first part more than the second part, but realized we're heading into an election year, we're in the middle of this potential crisis, we better stay on the same page.
TALEV: Someone's phone rang.
The president was asked yesterday as he was boarding the helicopter for Camp David if the threat to civilian life had been less to 150, if it had been 10 or 15 people, would you then have been more comfortable with the strike? He sort of paused and said, not necessarily.
He suggested that unless there's human casualties, unless there's U.S. or allied human life on the line, he just doesn't have the appetite for this.
COLLINS: And what's interesting about all this is the lack of leadership at the Pentagon which allows people like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton to have outsized influence here.
[08:10:02] Not that Pompeo doesn't already have a lot of -- carry a lot of weight with the president, but he's able to use that void to his advantage to push for things like this. But what we saw this week was really the limit of that when it came to Iran this time. The question, and John Bolton seems to be implying they can get their way next time, is what happens if Iran does something else to provoke the U.S.?
KING: It's fascinating time. We'll keep our eye on a busy week ahead.
Obviously, up next, the president calls off plans for big immigration raids that were supposed to be playing out right now. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: To another dramatic last-minute change of plans now, this one on the president's political issue, immigration. Outside the White House yesterday, the president strongly defended his call for enforcement rate scheduled to start today in ten cities targeting about 2,000 families who are ignoring deportation orders.
But shortly after arriving at Camp David, the president tweeted he was delaying the raids, he says at the request of Democrats for two weeks. To, quote, see if Republicans and Democrats can get together and work out a solution to the asylum and loophole problems at the southern border. If not, the president said, deportations start.
The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who called the president Friday night to appeal for a delay defeated the move was welcome, and added this: Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.
So, the pause button hit. If you look at what the president said the Democrats and Republicans need to do in the next two weeks, and if you look at what the speaker said they should do in the next two weeks, there's your grand canyon on immigration we've lived through for the last 20 years, let alone the last 2 1/2 years.
[08:15:02] A, will anything get done? B, was it really the Democratic request that got the president to stop or in-fighting in his own administration?
DAVIS: Well, not to be too cynical, I can't imagine either one of those -- either limited asylum or loophole bills or comprehensive immigration reform is going to take off in the next two weeks, when it hasn't, as you pointed out, been able to get off the ground in years, predating President Trump.
But the other issue is if there were asylum reform right now, if there were legislation to change the rules, that wouldn't affect the people who these raids this were to affect. These are people who already have deportation orders, some of them because they committed crimes, but many of them because they overstayed visas or some other reason, they're basically -- you know, their only offense is having violated immigration laws.
And I think the president was -- he really, as tough as he is on this issue, he does not like to be seen as the bad guy in particularly to children and families, and I think that is the button Nancy Pelosi pushed. There's also a supplemental bill coming up on the House floor next week. There's enough risk that Democrats are saying, we're voting against this to protest the president's measures on immigration. That he didn't want that to go down.
That humanitarian aid is needed. His own people are telling him that.
KING: The president tweeting moments ago, I want to give the Democrats every last chance to quickly negotiate simple changes to asylum loopholes. This will fix the southern border, together with the help that Mexico is now giving us. Probably won't happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big deportation begins.
So, there you see -- again, we just talked about the conflict on Iran. You brought up the president's conflict on immigration. He made his campaign official with a big rally, mocking the Democrats open border, which is part of his calling card.
Here we are in the governing part of this president, who had an immigration deal on the table in his first term -- first years when Republicans controlled everything, walked away from it. What is he --
KING: Well, yes, yes. What is he doing? Is there a strategy to actually get the Democrats at the table every second we're having this conversation we're closer to an election in which they vehemently disagree on just about everything. Where are we going?
OLORUNNIPA: There used to be a time when Republicans said Democrats would not fix the immigration issue because they like it adds an election issue. It seems like the shoe is on the other foot with the president having multiple opportunities to do something on immigration, to sort of fix the problem but instead flailing about with different policies, saying I'm going to shut down the border, I'm going to do tariffs. Now, I'm going to have a deportation force in two weeks.
He likes the issue as a political issue that he can talk about. Even though there's a problem on the southern border with record numbers of families coming through, the president can say, I'm pulling out all stops. I'm doing what no one else is doing before. He can take it to his base and say, even though I haven't fixed the problem, I'm doing a lot.
KING: He's the president. He's ultimately accountable. He's right, there's a partisan divide that way predates President Trump. He has put the immigration though on steroids.
Shame in all of them if they can't figure something. I'm just look again, "The New York Times" on Friday. Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with knot and tears are caring for infants they just met, lawyers said. Most of the young detainees haven't been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived at the facility, those who visited said. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap.
Whatever your views on immigration, this is America. You don't treat a fellow human being like that. That's on all of them, is it not?
TALEV: These stories are an outrage. And you don't have to be a Democrat or Republican or any partisan affiliation to feel very concerned and outraged by these things. The president is aware of that.
If you take the morality out of the equation for a minute and purely look at the politics, there aren't a lot of cameras able to get into these facilities. If there were, this would be a potentially even bigger political crisis. You are able to train a camera on a deportation, a forced deportation that takes place essentially in the open component of it on a street corner.
So, you're posed here with a situation where the president has given days worth of warning to people who are supposedly going to be forcibly removed, thus warning the media. You have TV cameras poised all over every city, San Francisco, fill in the blank, to watch this play out. You can imagine the optics of it.
The president has most likely calculated he gets points with his base for saying he's going to do it but carrying it out is much more complicated.
KING: I guess that's true. By the time people vote, he'll be president two months shy of four years. There's not much wall built. We'll see where they are by then.
The situation -- he's in charge. He's in charge. And again, the Democrats have responsibility. This predates him.
My issue is the mixed message. Just in the last block, the president pulls back, says, let's try to negotiate, let's see if the sanctions work. John Bolton says, you don't have a hunting license in the Middle East.
The president pulls back yesterday, says, let's give it two weeks to work out. Listen to this, one of his top deputies on this issue, goes on Fox News and says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MORGAN, ACTING ICE DIRECTOR: The president is absolutely committed to enforcing the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the system.
[08:20:00] I assure you, I've got the green light to anyone here, that's here in violation of federal immigration law, I have the authority and the support to go after them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This is as difficult an issue we've seen in this town for many, many years. When policy and politics gets intertwined, it makes it difficult.
COLLINS: And this is what's going to be interesting to see over the next two weeks, on whether or not they go forward with these raids is you're hearing conflicting voices advising the president. You have Mark Morgan there and then you've got the acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who is not on board with these raids and does not want them to go forward in the aggressive manner the president was threatening.
I mean, just remember, last week, the president said millions of people were going to be deported starting last week. That's the question. Who appeals to the president over the next few weeks? Is he able to be swayed by people like Nancy Pelosi calling him? I'm not sure because the comments he made leaving the White House were after he spoke to her and on the drive over to Camp David the president tweeted there would be this two-week delay.
The question is, do Morgan get to president over the next two weeks and Steve Millers and those advisers that the president is listening, or is he going the way of Kevin McAleenan.
KING: And is he, heading into an election, willing to give Democrats anything? To get more of what he wants, he has to give them some of what they want, which the answer has been no, up to this point. We'll see, right?
Follow Toluse's Twitter feed if you want a little history on two weeks.
Up next, trying week for Joe Biden as the 2020 Democrats get ready for their first debates.
And politicians say the darnedest things. This week, the stress- eating edition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOOKER: When you're a vegan, that means lots of veggies on the go.
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any kind of fast food.
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love a good hamburger.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, you can't beat a burger for a quick classic American meal.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A baked potato.
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Kind bars are my comfort food.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So much comfort food.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no comfort food.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Word got out I like beef jerky.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm an ice cream guy.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Glass of whisky at the end of the night.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably chips and guacamole.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love a good French fry, or a few, or many.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:25:25] BIDEN: Our children are watching. They're watching, and that matters what presidents say and do. Barack Obama they watched, and they emulated. They wanted to be like him.
Four more years of Donald Trump will permanently change the character of this country. We can't let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's Joe Biden speaking yesterday at the South Carolina Democratic convention, ending the week among friends and ending it with no mention of how contentious a week it was. The Democratic front-runner came under fire for telling a fund-raiser audience his record of getting things done included working with racist, segregationist Senate colleagues.
Of one James Eastland, Biden said, quote, he never called me boy. He always called me son.
Senator Cory Booker was among the Biden rivals who say the former vice president should know better than to cite such an example and he should know better, Cory Booker says, to use loaded words like "boy".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOOKER: We need to have the difficult conversations in our country, even with those people we respect, especially if they might have a chance to go on and leading. I hope this has been a learning moment for him. I hope he does not tread upon those tired, racist tropes that so hurt people in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Biden insist he was not speaking kindly of the segregationist and his critics are twisting his words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I do understand the consequence of the word "boy", but it wasn't said in any of that context at all. To the extent that anybody thought I meant something different, that is not what I intended. And it would be wrong for anybody to intend that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, where are we as we look at the past week and now enter the new week? Biden will be on a debate stage by the end of the week. The question is whether his rivals bring this up.
They think that at least at a minimum, at a minimum, his language, use of words is from a different era and doesn't fit today.
OLORUNNIPA: Yes, even before he made these comments, he had a big target on his back and Democrats were much more willing to criticize him, criticize his record, talk about how he's representation of the past, not the future. And now, these comments are out there, how he's responded has almost been Trumpian in a way.
He said, I'm not going to apologize. You apologize. He said, my words are taken out of context. They didn't play the whole trip.
It's interesting to see the parallel to how he responds and how Trump responds to various scandals. And that could be a potential for downplaying and depressing for the enthusiasm if they see Biden, who's a 70-something-year-old and Trump who's 70-something-year-old handling issues of race and other issue of scandal in similar ways could depress enthusiasm on the Democratic side.
KING: It's an interesting question, and we'll see, by the week, Joe Biden will be on the debate stage. We can show the lineup for his debate stage. Cory Booker is not on the debate stage with Vice President Biden. He's in the first night's debate.
Biden is in the middle. You have Mayor Buttigieg, you have Bernie Sanders, you have Kamala Harris, you have other candidates here.
It's interesting, Cory Booker, several other candidates on television or when asked questions by reporters were willing to criticize the vice president. They all went to the South Carolina Democratic convention yesterday, an opportunity to speak directly to a largely African-American audience. None of them brought it up. None of them brought up when they were talking to actual voters.
Will somebody bring it up on this stage?
DAVIS: Well, I mean, it was fascinating to see that sort of contrast because I think you had a real concern when these comments first came out that, you know, today's United States Senate, today's Congress, today's political realm is a lot different than the one Joe Biden was talking about when he made those comments. There were segregationists in the United States Senate, they were Democrats, the one that he referenced. And that was seen as OK, that was acceptable, they were members of the Senate.
Now if you have someone espousing those views in the Senate, it would be an immediate scandalous. And to say that were willing to work them would be scandalous, it fact that he's from a different political time.
On the other hand, I spoke to a lot of Democrats this week who were angry about the controversy this generated on the presidential campaign trail and said, listen, we're dealing with a president who's been openly racist. If we're going to run against him successfully, we can't eat our own about a comment that wasn't really what people are making it out to be.
So, I think that's the reason you're seeing this potential pullback. It will be interesting to see if you that continues into the debate.
KING: And that's a great valid point, and again, you see from a lot of Democratic voters quoted saying, people -- the media -- it's a Washington conversation more than an American conversation. However, if Joe Biden hadn't said it, there's no reason to say it. If he hadn't said it, you know, we don't know if it has impact or not, but it doesn't have to be an issue.
Listen here, you often have to translate politicians but the Democratic establishment, those who understand politics, they have no idea how this is going to turn out. We have 23 candidates in the early process. There's a possibility Joe Biden could be the Democratic nominee.
The Speaker of the House, the current top elected Democrat in the country, a little advice this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. I think that authenticity is the most important characteristic that candidates have to convey to the American people.
And Joe Biden is authentic. He has lived his life. He considers certain things a resource that he has worked across the aisle. That's what he was saying. That's not what this election is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Take the head shake, take knowing Nancy Pelosi. She's saying, change the subject. Stop saying things. Talk about the economy and think before you speak.
KING: That's what that was.
MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: She's like -- she's like the Yoda of the Democratic Party, you know, but dressed better. But, you know, like it's interesting because to some extent you see what's playing out now is a potential of a replay of Clinton versus Trump where you have someone who is the greatest strength, their greatest calling card is their experience and their relationships. So that's also their biggest liability because they have an entire record to get picked apart.
There is a difference. Clinton had more of sort of an awkward public persona. Biden has very affable public persona but he's not as affable when talking about this stuff, he's defensive and you could see his defensiveness come through.
And I think, you know, that's going to be one of the real tests is if you're in your 70s, how do you know when to cut off history? Do you want to be talking about stuff in the 70s or in the and 80s or do you want to just like start talking about politics in the 90s at some point?
KING: Answer question when asked about it otherwise talk about tomorrow because elections are about tomorrow. And unlike Clinton, Joe Biden is much more comfortable with people who work with their hands, in blue-collar settings, with factory workers, which is his way to try to get at Trump's butt.
We shall see.
Our "Sunday Trail Mix" is next including why Bernie Sanders thinks Elizabeth Warren is suddenly on the rise.
[08:31:49] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: "Sunday Trail Mix" now for a taste of the 2020 campaign, President Trump made his 2020 reelection run official this past weekend. It was a flash back to an issue immediately that dogged candidate Trump back in 2016.
This on the cover of "New York Magazine", a prominent writer alleges in a new book that then-businessman Trump followed her into a dressing room 23 years ago and sexually assaulted her. The President says she's lying.
E. JEAN CARROLL, TRUMP ACCUSER: The next thing he did was put his shoulder against me. And it was a work of a second to reach in under my (INAUDIBLE) -- it opened in the front, it was Donna Karan dress and pulled down my tights.
That's when the adrenaline started. And it became -- it became a fight.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who's also accused other men of things, as you know. It is a totally false accusation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN spoke this weekend with two Carroll friends who say she told them of the assault at the time.
Eight 2020 candidates in Miami with an appeal to Latino voters. This at a summit for Latino elected officials. One big issue -- the Trump administration's effort to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Some fearing that would lead to a big undercount of Latinos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will make sure that if there has been an undercount in 2020, that we get back out there and count every single American whose voice and whose story needs to be part of the national conversation.
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It matters for voting. It matters for benefits. And the whole thing they always say in Washington is if you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu. And that is exactly what's going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And Elizabeth Warren celebrating her 70th birthday on the campaign trail with her husband plus look there a giant slice of chocolate cake.
Warren is moving up in the polls, now neck and neck with Bernie Sanders in most. They are long-time allies who appeal to the same liberal voters.
Here is how Senator Sanders explained Warren's rise to CNN's Chris Cuomo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that there are a certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected. And I understand that. There are people who would like to see somebody who is younger. And I understand that also. What I believe is that, in fact, I am the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is that why Elizabeth Warren is moving up?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD-DAVIS: A lot of people would like to see a woman elected, I think. But I think it would be -- having watched the campaign unfold thus far, it's deeply unfair to her to suggest that the one reason that she's rising is because of that.
I think it's pretty clear that a lot of Democratic voters like that she has very specific policy plans that speak to the issues that they care about like health care and child care and all the rest -- income inequality.
And I think actually Bernie Sanders knows that. So this may have been sort of an attempt to kind of simplify what the reasons are that he's not actually --
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think he might have some leftover hurt feelings from the last election when he was against Hillary Clinton. But of course Elizabeth Warren has had the most detailed policy proposals out of all of the field so far. So --
KING: Leftover feelings from the last election.
COLLINS: Remember that?
KING: No. No way.
TALEV: Nobody has those.
KING: Next, 22 of the 23 Democratic presidential candidates visited South Carolina this weekend. Think of it as a traveling job fair. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a lot of great candidates in this race. Great talent. Great talent. I've already identified 18 potential vice presidents. It's awesome -- so.
[08:38:52] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: 22 of the 23 Democratic presidential candidates are in South Carolina this weekend. Making an impression on African-American voters is priority one because of their importance not just in the Palmetto State's big primary but beyond.
Let's take a look. Think about the Democrats and the African-American vote. This is the general election 2016. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Donald Trump obviously won the election.
But look black women, 94 percent for Hillary Clinton. Black men, 82 percent. Latino women, 69 percent. Latino men, 63 percent. Voters of color a huge part of the Democratic base in the general and here and now as the Democrats go into primary season.
Look closer, look here -- this is the calendar map. Iowa goes first, then New Hampshire, then Nevada. Then South Carolina -- for Democratic candidates, a largely white population, a largely white population, a more diverse population 13 percent black plus the Latino vote out in Nevada.
But look at this 61 percent of the Democratic voters in last South Carolina primary were African-American. That's why the voters there this weekend have a direct appeal to those voters who will decide who comes out of South Carolina with juice and momentum.
It's also interesting to remember who identifies as liberals. 55 percent of whites in America say they are liberals. 41 percent of Hispanics in America say they are liberals. Only 28 percent of black voters describe themselves as liberals.
So as the candidate -- as everyone says the Democratic Party is moving left -- try to sell themselves in a state that is critical in the primary process, they need to be aware of that. African-American voters not as liberal always as other voters the Democrats will encounter on the trail.
This weekend Joe Biden is, of course, the favorite. Other candidates trying to tell the African-American voters, give me a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants to make America great again. Well, what does that mean?
Does that mean he wants to take us back to before schools were integrated? Does that mean he wants to take us back before the Voting Rights Act was enacted?
Because we're not going back. We're not going back.
SENATOR CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Will you stand and dream with me again? If we dream together and work together and love together, we won't just beat Donald Trump, but we will make it to the mountain top and we will get to the promised land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The last week of February is a long ways off. As you sit here near the end of June, Joe Biden is the overwhelming favorite.
But the big question is does he fade, does he fail, does he falter as a front-runner or does he stay in? If he stays in, does he keep the bulk of it or does the African-American vote because of the quality and diversity of these candidates, fracture?
[08:44:59] TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I think it's early. And I think it's part of the reason there's so much support for Joe Biden. He has a long track record of civil rights issues, being the vice president of the first African-American president.
But all of these other candidates have an opportunity on the debate stage this week and throughout the next several months to introduce themselves to black voters, to introduce the type of policy prescriptions they have for issues that are facing the African- American community.
And it would be very interesting to see if Joe Biden, especially when he's being seen as more and more of a gaffe machine and sort of making some unforced errors with some of the comments that he's making that he does start to lose some of that support. And if other candidates like a Cory Booker or Senator Kamala Harris or even the mayor Pete Buttigieg who has been trying to reach to African-American voters as well.
If any of them start to break into Biden's support, it will be very interesting to see if that happens.
KING: You mentioned Mayor Buttigieg who has himself several times said that he understands he has a problem. That he is not, as he travels the country, he's not well-known nationally. You look at his audience even in South Carolina, his crowds are largely white.
And he says I know I need to work on this. He has been off the trail for much of the past week. He came to South Carolina briefly, but he's back home again because of a police-involved shooting of an African-American in South Bend, Indiana. As the mayor tries to deal with it black male. A very contentious community, including the victim's family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIRLEY NEWBILL, SON WAS SHOT AND KILLED BY POLICE: Can you say it to us today in front of all these cameras that black lives matter.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you just ask me if black lives matter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to hear you say it.
BUTTIGIEG: Of course, black lives matter.
NEWBILL: You all didn't do a damn thing about me or my son or none of these people. It's time for you to do something. You can't do anything -- I'm tired of talking now. And I'm tired of hearing your lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The woman at the end there and whatever your position, you can understand her grief, that's there's (INAUDIBLE) mother, the victim's mother waving her hand at the mayor, turning her back and walking away.
How much does this real-time challenge at home affect his candidacy and the subset of him trying to reach out to the African-American community, which of course the incident in South Bend and then globally deeply concerned about police behavior?
TALEV: Yes. I mean you have to do your job at home. And that's the number one barometer. I mean if you're asking people to judge you on the basis of your experience and that's not only your past experience, it's your current experience.
So this is a real issue for him. It's an opportunity but it's also a test and it's also his primary responsibility. And I think it is a little bit separate.
I mean this moves as a separate issue from whether black voters in South Carolina or the south or Super Tuesday states are going to galvanize around Biden because of what he's done in the past, or Booker or Harris because they want to embrace the future.
For Pete Buttigieg, it's kind of the worst of both problems encapsulated in one piece. You neither has the long record of civil rights work, you know, the goodwill of decades, nor does he have the personal experience of a person of color. And he's trying to make his case.
KING: And he has a crisis at home here and now, which could either be very troublesome because of the spotlight at the debates or if he handles it correctly, it could be an opportunity. The question is what?
COLLINS: Yes. It's thrusting his leadership into a national spotlight. And like you said, he's someone who's not nationally well known. So how he does here, is really going to be -- for some people the only thing that they know about him.
So that's going to be the question here. And of course, it's going to be at the forefront.
KING: Interesting times.
Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including a look at the historic diversity you'll be seeing if you tune in for the debates this week.
[08:48:23] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Let's head one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.
DAVIS: Well, this week is going to be an important one to watch in terms of the direction and really the pace of how House Democrats are going to go forward on their investigations of President Trump. And now it looks like they're not going to hear in person from Annie Donaldson the top White House counsel aide who they are looking to talk to, to sort of amplify their understanding of what Don McGahn said and did and what the President said and did with regard to potential obstruction of justice.
But they're going to have to decide soon whether they're going to go to court to try to compel Don McGahn to appear, whether they're going to go forward with the subpoena of -- or with the court action against the Attorney General, Mr. Barr.
And also how they're going to comport themselves with regard to Mueller because they still don't have the response to their subpoena of Mr. Mueller. Meanwhile the impeachment calls just continue to mount on the Democratic side. Now you have a third of House Democrats calling for President Trump's impeachment and so how those investigations proceed is going to potentially really affect that number in the week to come.
KING: Interesting math to keep an eye on. Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Just when you thought he was gone, Roy Moore is back and is now running for a senate seat again in Alabama but this time what's different is he doesn't have the President's support because President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. both encouraged him not to run.
But essentially Roy Moore is back where he's comfortable, being on the outside and not having a lot of support. This is something he'd had for decades in Alabama and it's never stopped him before. And it is going to be a crowded primary field so he certainly could get this nomination.
That is what is going to make things interesting here and of course, the President not supporting someone else in the primary last time, Luther Strange did not stop Roy Moore from winning. The question and what's going to make all this this interesting is Jeff Sessions gets in the race because, of course, the other Senator from Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby, is encouraging him to run.
So if it comes down to whether the President has to a endorse Roy Moore or Jeff Sessions, it is going to be pretty interesting to watch.
KING: I'm just going to keep my mouth shut on that one.
OLORUNNIPA: So obviously the debates are taking place this week. We've talked a lot about how this is the biggest field of Democratic candidates, also the most diverse field it will be in stark relief as we actually see all of these candidates on the stage together on Thursday and Wednesday and we're going to have six women on the stage. We'll have a historic number of minorities. We'll have veterans and people born in the 1940s all the way through the 1980s.
It will be a really historic moment just to see that on the stage together. And one other thing that will be a history-making moment is that on the first night we'll have Elizabeth Warren front and center in the center stage position, the first time a woman has been in that position in U.S. History. So it will be a history-making set of nights and it will be very interesting to see it on stage.
KING: Can't wait. It is going to be a big week. Margaret?
TALEV: I'll be watching two things in the coming week. The President is heading to Asia for the G-20 and then on to Korea.
And this visit, the G-20 in Japan was really supposed to be the main event is his meeting with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, its implications on trade. Can he get the U.S./China relationship back on track.
But there are a couple of other things that really threaten to overshadow it. One is Iran, the latest events in Iran. And there really is some lingering resentment among the European allies about the fact that the President pulled out of the Iran deal and helped created the underlying tensions.
[08:55:07] But there's also a lot of agreement that Iran is a bad actor and something needs to be done. So that is going to be kind of one big distraction.
And the other is going to be the Democratic debates back at home and how the President tries to get the attention back on him and away from them.
And then finally one more thing I'll be watching this week is we are coming up on the anniversary of the fatal attacks at the Annapolis Capital newspaper and I think in the last year that is brought to attention the importance of local news and the vulnerability of those journalists. We'll be thinking about them this week.
KING: I'll close with this. Supporters of the new U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement ended upbeat even though the woman who controls its fate is still probably demanding changes. That is Speaker Nancy Pelosi who after a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say Democrats still have issues with labor and environmental rules and provisions related to drug prices.
But there are about 30 Democrats behind the scenes ready to back that deal. And USMCA supporters say another dozen or so Democrats are close to yes. Most of those Democrats are from competitive districts meaning they are critical to the Democratic majority and because of that those backing USMCA are betting Speaker Pelosi somehow finds a way to get enough concessions in the next few weeks to green light bringing a signature Trump administration initiative to the House floor.
Keep an eye on that.
That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you can catch us week days as well. We'll be here at noon eastern.
Up next, don't go anywhere. A very important "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. His guest -- the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.
Thanks again for sharing your Sunday. Have a great day.
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