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New Polls for Democratic Candidates; House Ways and Means Sues the IRS and Treasury; Trump's Fourth of July Celebration. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired July 2, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:18] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson. John King is off.

Bernie Sanders releases his fundraising haul as a new poll out of Iowa reinforces the narrative that his campaign is struggling to maintain the buzz of his 2016 run.

Plus, the president is touting his, quote, big Fourth of July event in Washington, complete with military flyovers, two fireworks displays and lots of controversy.

And, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking last hour at the Rainbow Push Coalition in Chicago, addressed whether he understands the racial issues facing his community in South Bend and across the country.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a pain now that reminds us that our community lives around a chasm, a racial gulf in which black residents and white residents experience every fascist of life differently.

We had a very emotional town hall meeting and one woman told me that her seven-year-old grandson has already learned to fear the police. She said that's not what's supposed to happen in America, or in Indiana, or anywhere in 2019. And she's right. And we accept responsibility. I accept responsibility for the work that is left to be done.


HENDERSON: We begin the hour with new fundraising numbers and new polling. Both point to giant problems for the 2016 Democratic runner- up, Senator Bernie Sanders. The Sanders campaign this morning says it raised $18 million in the second quarter and pulled $6 million more from other accounts.

So why did they do that? Presumably because $18 million is $6 million less than what Mayor Pete Buttigieg reported. Make no mistake, $18 million is still a big number, but it's still behind Buttigieg and the Sanders campaign wouldn't attempt to inflate its numbers if this wasn't a big setback for their campaign.

Sanders entered the field with the best fundraising operation and the biggest list of donors to hit up for more cash. He also entered the 2020 cycle with a legion of supporters, some of whom are now looking elsewhere.

A new Iowa poll out last hour shows Sanders firmly in the middle of the pack at 9 percent among likely caucus goers, trailing Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and now Kamala Harris as well.

Today's new numbers out of Iowa follow a CNN national poll that showed a dramatic reordering of the field. Biden's lead has shrunk by 10, Sanders is now at the bottom of the tier, Harris and Warren have both surged. The poll shows voters don't want a Biden coronation and who voters chose in 2016 matters little in 2020.

Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, we've got Eliana Johnson with "Politico," Carl Hulse with "The New York Times," CNN's Maeve Reston and Vivian Salama with "The Wall Street Journal."

What a difference a debate makes, right? You see it showing up in these polls. We get some fundraising numbers now.

Maeve, I'm going to go to you on this. A dramatic reordering of the field, a dramatically different landscape that Bernie is facing than he faced in 2016. This is bad news for his campaign.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean really bad news for his campaign. And we've seen it, you know, out on the campaign trail, just kind of this gradual decline, particularly as Elizabeth Warren, who shares so many of the same views that he has, has, you know, risen up. And, obviously, we saw the two women, the two leading women in the field --


RESTON: Really surging in our poll, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

And, you know, there's just a group of voters out there that's looking for something fresh. And while Bernie did not make it to the nomination last time, so many of the people that I've talked to said, you know, love Bernie, but I'm ready for something else and are really drawn by Warren and Kamala and also Pete Buttigieg.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": One of the biggest differences that we saw between 2016 is that Bernie, at the time, was a bit of a novelty. He was going for these small donations.


SALAMA: And he was, obviously, narrowed down a much smaller field. Now it's a much larger field. And so many others are claiming to be anti- establishment, just as Bernie Sanders does. A couple of them are going for the small donations as well. And so suddenly he has a lot of competition that he just didn't see the last time around.

HENDERSON: And, Biden, the polls tightening for him. We've got this national poll, we've got the (INAUDIBLE) well and Harris. I was talking to her campaign. And I was -- I'm sort of surprised at the sort of size of her bump. And then in Iowa, we see her now at second.

What does this tell you about the debate, about the strength of the Biden lead (ph)?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think people really watched that debate.


HULSE: The numbers were big. And, you know, this is the -- what happened in the debate is being reflected in the polls. I think it's bad for Biden, obviously. He's taken a pretty big hit. People -- his main task in that debate was to show that he was, you know, still with it, up to the task, he could hold people off. He failed to do that. He's been trying to recover ever since. And people are -- it's sort of the same thing they were saying about Bernie, that people are looking for something different. She really surged into this. The two women who did the best at the debates probably have shown real improvement.

[12:05:27] HENDERSON: Yes, and you see that directly in some of these polls. Biden's loss appears to be Harris' gain. Female voters, he's down 5, she's up 4. Minority voters, no change for Biden there, but she's still up 7 points among (INAUDIBLE) 14 among liberal voters, she is up 10.

ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think what this really shows is that the big numbers right out of the gate in this Democratic contest, both for Joe Biden and for Bernie Sanders, were really a function of name recognition.


JOHNSON: Those were the people who a lot of Democratic primary voters recognize from previous Democratic contests or simply from casually following national politics.

The debate was the first real exposure that primary voters had to the much larger field, and they rewarded the candidates who they may not have known as well previously but who performed well.

I think what we have to keep in mind was there are going to be several more debates --


JOHNSON: In which all the rest of the --

HENDERSON: The end of this month on CNN.

JOHNSON: Group have a chance to shine.


JOHNSON: And so what I think we can take away from this is that this is a really soft contest where -- and fluid contest where past performance or fame is -- doesn't really matter. And candidates are going to have to prove themselves from here on out.

RESTON: And I think there's also, just quickly, there was a real threshold question that Kamala Harris was facing. You heard from voters all over the country that they really liked her, but after watching what happened to Hillary Clinton the last time around, they were worried about a woman going up again against Donald Trump.


RESTON: And what she showed on that stage was that she could demolish Joe Biden. And I think a lot of voters watching that were like, OK, then maybe she can do this. And I think that that is part of the bump that we saw for her, as opposed to Elizabeth Warren, who was rising over a longer period of time.

HENDERSON: Yes. And Warren, of course, gaining as well in poll numbers.

And one of the issues we also see gaining some traction and people trying to figure out what they do on this is health care, right? You saw the question there with Medicare for all. And, interestingly enough, this poll shows that among Democratic voters, 49 percent basically say that they should not replace private plans. And then you see they favor replacing private plans at 30 percent and they oppose a national program that's 13 percent.

Harris, you talked about her, she struggled in this issue. You've had Warren sort of cornering the market on this with Bernie Sanders saying abolish private health care. How difficult is this going to be to navigate.

HULSE: I think this is a dangerous, dangerous territory for Democrats.

RESTON: Totally. Yes.

HULSE: I think -- I look at this and say, wow, in 2018, they beat the Republicans badly by running against Republican resistance to covering pre-existing conditions. You know, people do not -- I've been saying this, people don't want to see the health insurance industry abolished, certainly in a lot of the areas where Democrats are going to need to be competitive. I think that this is a real sorting issue and that something to really pay attention to. They basically ran previously on let's improve the Affordable Care Act. And that's a big difference from eliminating private health insurance.

HENDERSON: And this is where Biden, I think, is going to try to make some gains. You heard him in that debate say he's against really any Democrat. He's going to fight any Democrat who wants to abolish Obamacare.

RESTON: Yes, and I think that the fact that this is such a tricky space for them is why you keep seeing Kamala Harris --


RESTON: Go back and forth, back and forth. I mean this is -- the flip- flopping has been going on since the beginning of this year. And I think that part of that is that they know that they are going to need some running room on this issue in the general election if she becomes the nominee because people don't like the idea of just immediately, you know, getting rid of their private plan and they're not sure what that's going to look like. So I mean I think that, you know, someone like Biden potentially could sort of straddle that middle ground to attack the --


RESTON: Yes, exactly.

HENDERSON: You know, it's still early, as everyone says.

We flashback to a poll in 2007 at this period. Clinton leading by 35 percent. Obama in second with 23 percent. Gore at 16 percent. Edwards, 13 percent. So there's still a lot of shuffling that can happen here, Vivian.

SALAMA: Absolutely. And, I mean, it's like Eliana was saying, it's still so early to say. And when we went into these debates last week, it was actually the front-runners who had the most to lose in a way.


SALAMA: They had that notoriety and their plans were sort of soused (ph) out. A lot of these others like Kamala Harris, like Castro, a number of them, they really had this chance to really like introduce themselves to America. And so, you know, as long as their performance was good, they stuck to sort of the main points that they wanted to stick to. They really only had something to gain in that. And a couple of them really seized on that opportunity. You know, Julian Castro and Kamala Harris being the main ones that come to mind really, really seized on that and, you know, now voters -- they're -- they're household names --


[12:10:25] SALAMA: As far as Democratic candidates for president.

HENDERSON: And we'll see what kind of scrutiny goes forward with them and whether or not they can sustain the momentum.

And we've got some breaking news now from Capitol Hill. A congressional committee has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS as part of Democrats' ongoing efforts to get access to President Trump's tax returns.

We've got CNN's Lauren Fox. She joins me live from Capitol Hill.

Lauren, what do we know about this lawsuit? LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been months in the

making, Nia. You know, back in April, the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal actually requested the president's tax returns. Then he heard from the Treasury Department that they would not turn them over. So this is that filing in federal court asking for the president's tax returns. And they are relying on a statute, 6103, an IRS statute, little known, from the 1920s-era law that essentially says that the House Ways and Means Committee chairman and the Senate Finance Chairman can request anyone' tax information and that the Treasury secretary shall furnish it. The fact that the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, hasn't done so is the reason for this court filing.

So a couple interesting points. In the court filing, it says, quote, in refusing to comply with the statute, the defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of the Treasury, the IRS and tax laws on behalf of the American people.

And another interesting point that this court case makes is that, you know, the president has been arguing long that he basically is constantly under IRS audit. They are arguing here that they need to look at the president's tax returns to basically understand whether or not there's a good reason for that. And I think that that's sort of an interesting point within the context of this lawsuit. They're saying, you know, Trump, if you're concerned about the IRS constantly auditing you, then we need to take a look at your tax returns.

So a couple of very interesting points in there. We're continuing to look through this lawsuit. It was filed just a few minutes ago. But, you know, just giving you a sense, this has been months in the making. Richard Neal told me back in November that he thought this is eventually where the fight for the president's tax returns would go. But here we are seeing it. They are going to court to get the president's tax returns.


HENDERSON: And as you said, this is sort of what we expected, always to ending up in court.

Lauren, thank you for that report.

We'll talk more about this after the break.


[12:17:22] HENDERSON: A quick update.

Vice President Mike Pence has just cancelled a trip to New Hampshire today. The vice president's press secretary tweeted that something came up that required the VP to remain in Washington, but it's no cause for alarm. A senior official says it's not health-related, related to the president or the vice president, it's not related to national security. The vice president was planning to participate in a roundtable on the opioid crisis in Manchester. His spokeswoman said the event will be rescheduled.

Returning now to the breaking news this hour on the congressional committee lawsuit filed against the Treasury Department and the IRS to pursue the president's tax returns.

Carl, this is something that, of course, was big on the campaign trail for Donald Trump in 2016. He sort of defied all of the norms in not releasing his tax returns. And now you have Democrats really making a play to get those tax returns.

HULSE: Yes. I think the reaction from a lot of Democratic voters out there, and even Democrats on Capitol Hill is, it's about time. They think that this has taken way too long, should have been done earlier, but they are now moving forward with it. And the law is pretty clear that Congress has this power. And this is going to be a real test. I mean, you know, it's one of those situations where it's going to take some time to fight its way through the court. The administration doesn't want to give these up and so it's going to take some time. It's also one of these situations where it depends on who the judges are who are hearing this and whether they're going to be sympathetic to an argument that this is all politics. But, finally, in the eyes of Democrats, getting the ball rolling on this issue.

HENDERSON: And, Vivian, the president has liked this fight in some ways, right? I mean he talks about the whole idea of like presidential harassment and the Democrats going too far in crossing this red line in terms of getting into his personal finances.

SALAMA: Yes, very much so. In fact he's actually said that he believes he actually won the election based in part on the fact that he decided to withhold his taxes. He insists that voters don't care about the issue. And he's not completely wrong, a lot of voters don't actually care about it. But many, many people do and want to see that.

This is also a president, keep in mind, just based on his history, who has dictated so many of his business dealings with nondisclosure agreements. He's been very private. And so the notion that this becomes public for him is something that has really, really distressed him over the time that he's been in office and so he's really fought back and had his administration fight back as a result as well.

HENDERSON: And I expect we'll hear more from the president on this in the way that we've already heard from this president on the idea of releasing his tax returns.

JOHNSON: That's absolutely right. And this -- this is a conscious strategy on the part of the president and now the White House Counsel's Office, which the tax returns are far from the only document that the White House has refused to release to Congress in response to subpoenas. And their goal is to go to court over these things because court proceedings take a long time. And I think they would consider it a success to litigate these things in court for -- until the 2020 election. It doesn't get Democrats very much because it takes a long time to go through the court process --

HENDERSON: Their -- their -- yes.

[12:20:24] JOHNSON: And -- and they'd be lucky to get these tax returns before the 2020 election.

HENDERSON: There was a CNN poll from April that shows that 66 percent of Americans think that Trump should release his tax returns.

RESTON: Right.

HENDERSON: So you can imagine in 2020 he's going to be fighting this battle to keep his tax returns private.

RESTON: Right. Well, I mean, you think about the careful hand that Nancy Pelosi is trying to play on something like impeachment. These smaller fights are important in terms -- for the Democrats in terms of keeping that activated, energized base happy and feeling like Democrats in Congress are really holding the president accountable, because, to Carl's point, for a long time, you know, a lot of the people out there who feel very strongly that they don't like Trump are just throwing their hands in the air saying, what's happening here? How can he just, you know, have his people defy subpoenas over and over again.

HENDERSON: Is there ever going to be any accountability?

RESTON: Yes, is there ever going to be any accountability for this president. And they also want to know what's in those tax returns because there could be some good, you know, campaign issue fodder in there.

HENDERSON: Yes, we'll see where this goes. It's going to be a long fight.

Up next, it may not be the parades he dreamed of, but President Trump is previewing a one-of-a-kind July 4th celebration.


[12:26:23] HENDERSON: President Trump is tweeting today about some of his parade dreams coming true. Quote, big Fourth of July in D.C. The Pentagon and our great military leaders are thrilled to be doing this and showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced military. A small number of M-1 Abram tanks and other armored vehicles will be on display on the National Mall and fighter jets will fly overhead. But the president conceded yesterday that the plans are a little different than his original parade vision.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas. But we have the brand new Sherman tanks. So we have the brand new Abram tanks. And we have some incredible equipment, military equipment, on display. Brand new. And we're very proud of it.


HENDERSON: The president's mention of Sherman tanks has caused some confusion since those haven't been used since around the 1950s.

CNN's Barbara Starr, she joins us now from the Pentagon.

Barbara, two questions for you. One of which is, what are we actually going to see on Thursday? And is the Pentagon and military leaders really thrilled to be doing this show that we'll see on Thursday as the president talked about in his tweet?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you're going to be seeing a lot of there are aircraft flying overhead. And, look, the general public likes to see military flyovers. You're going to see, according to our sources, the B-2 bomber. You're going to see the airplane that functions as Air Force One when the president is aboard. F-22s, F-35s, the Air Force's most capable, new fighter jets. The Navy flying its F-18 Blue Angel demonstration team. These are things that people like to see that we have not seen on July 4th in the past.

As for armored vehicles, there are at least two M-1 tanks and two personnel carriers in the Washington, D.C., area. I am hearing they're still trying to figure out how to get these very heavy vehicles down city streets and onto The Mall and whether all of that can really be done safely without causing damage to The Mall. So that is still to come.

The question -- perhaps the broader question is whether or not involving Republican -- the Republican National Committee inviting ticketed guests that the president wants to be there changes the fundamental tone of the July 4th celebration here in the nation's capital. A lot of people watch it all over the country. Tens of thousands of people come to see it in person. It is traditionally a real "we the people" event. And the question is, is this now becoming a political event.


HENDERSON: Thank you so much, Barbara Starr, for that report.

Vivian, you were there when the president was sort of inspired to do this during Bastille Day.

SALAMA: Right. The idea was planted in his head in 2017. I was in the pool with the president for the Bastille Day celebration. And I can tell you from firsthand of my view is that he was totally -- he was completely giddy. He talked about it for weeks afterwards. I mean, you know, every time there was a spray at the White House when we would go and meet him, he would talk about how amazing it was and the soldiers and the tanks and everything.

But then sources I talked to at the Pentagon, within months after that, were saying that he really was starting to form an inquiry into how much it would cost and what the logistics would be. And so this was something that was very serious and conceived very early on in his presidency. [12:29:59] But, obviously, we've gone through many iterations to get

to this point. And the one that we're going to have this Thursday, maybe not the grand scale that he wanted, but at least something. And so he's.