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INSIDE POLITICS

Military Chiefs have Concern about Celebration; Questions over Cost of July 4th Event; Biden Campaign's Second Quarter Numbers. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 3, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


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[12:00:24] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.

The acting homeland security secretary orders investigations into what he calls disturbing and inexcusable online activity by Border Patrol personnel as more Americans call the situation on the border a crisis.

And seven Democratic presidential candidates are heading to Iowa today despite the fact that it is almost, maybe because of the fact, it is almost a holiday weekend.

And the president is going to speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow at his event, which he is calling the show of a lifetime. Well, another president called it almost the same thing, and he certainly knew what he was talking about. He was a former actor. Here is Ronald Reagan speaking in New York. Not any tanks near him, but he was on a U.S. aircraft carrier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In a few moments, the celebration will begin here in New York Harbor. It's going to be quite a show. I was just looking over the preparations and thinking about a saying that we had back in Hollywood about never doing a scene with kids or animals because they'd steal the scene every time. But you can rest assured, I wouldn't even think about trying to compete with a fireworks display.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And new today, a source tells CNN that military chiefs have some concern about President Trump's July 4th event. CNN has learned some Pentagon leaders are worried the president's salute to America celebration is -- with the military front and center is too political.

I want to get straight to CNN's Jim Sciutto, who joins me now with more on his reporting.

Jim, tell us exactly what you're hearing from your sources about the pushback coming from the Pentagon. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is what I'm told. Senior military commanders, including the service chiefs, had deep concerns, major concerns about this event being politicized. Politicizing the July 4th holiday. That they had deep reservations about, in particular including tanks, armored personnel carriers as part of the event, although, of course, it is the president's prerogative as commander in chief. And ultimately the Pentagon has delivered those tanks you now see on The Mall.

In addition to that, I'm told some of the service chiefs were reluctant to participate in a very public way. Some of them now -- and we see this from the -- from the list of attendance for tomorrow's events -- are sending alternates in their place, though we are told that some of them had previous commitments on that day.

But the bigger picture here is just that concern from within the five- sided building, within the Pentagon that the -- a lot of the trappings around this event make it more political than the military is comfortable with.

BASH: Jim Sciutto, that you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it.

And the president is spending his time this morning on Twitter defending the event that he so meticulously has planned for tomorrow's July 4th celebration. He said, quote, the cost of our great salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door, Andrews, all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!

Here with me at the table to share their information and their reporting, as well as their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," and Paul Kane with "The Washington Post."

Happy almost Fourth of July, everybody.

Admiral, I will start with you.

What do you think about this given the fact that you understand what it is like to not just work on the political side of the Pentagon but also in uniform?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, I am worried about this on a couple of levels. First of all, it's sort of, I think, beneath us as a strong, confident super power to have to demonstrate our military hardware at an Independence Day event. I just think that's ill-placed.

Number two, I do share the concerns that apparently Jim's reporting suggests that the chiefs have over the politicization of this and the politicization of the military at what could be nothing much more than a big political rally. Every time he gets up in front of military members or around military things, he tends to politicize it. I hope he doesn't do that, but that -- but that's a real concern. BASH: So we went back in -- in the INSIDE POLITICS way, way back

machine, to see if there is precedent for this. And there's not an exact precedent. But there are sometimes, in our recent history, where presidents have used the military for parades. Eisenhower in 1957, his inauguration -- inaugural parade, he had a tank there. JFK, 1961, he had a tank and a missile. And George H.W. Bush, that was June of 1991. This is about a war. This is celebrating Desert Storm.

[12:05:15] KIRBY: Right.

BASH: How is this different?

KIRBY: But it's -- because you have to keep it in context. It's -- I've seen all this stuff on Twitter today.

BASH: Yes.

KIRBY: People with all these historical analogies. But we've never had a president like this who has wrapped himself so much in the flag and around the military, calling military leaders his generals. He absconds with, I think, or is trying to abscond with our national story and with the idea with patriotism itself for him and for his party. And that's what makes this different. He's been more vitriolic. He's been more vocal. He's been more aggressive in terms of embracing militaristic virtue in -- in, you know, in turn for patriotism, and that's just not appropriate.

BASH: And, Kaitlan, what are you hearing from your sources. I'm sure -- I know that you've heard, as have I, that this whole idea was born in France.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BASH: When the president went for Bastille Day, which about -- is about as analogous as it gets for July 4th for American, and they did have a big parade. They did have tanks.

COLLINS: And he was essentially blown away by that. He wasn't even supposed to go to that event. And then when he was told that there was going to be this military parade, that's when the president was like, OK, I'm going to go, instead of sending the vice president. And he was enthralled by it. He loved watching those U.S. and French troops march down the streets of Paris and he's wanted one ever since.

And he tried to get one for Veterans Day last year. Of course that got scrapped because there were so many complaints about the cost, the logistics. It was essentially a scramble at the last minute, which is kind of what you're seeing here. The president has been at the center of all of this and he's made some last-minute demands that has contributed to the unknown factor here for the military trying to get all this equipment.

But also his tweet is just wrong. Some of -- a lot of the equipment that's coming in is from California, Missouri, Kentucky. It's not just from right next door. And, of course, the costs are going to be higher than the president and how he's downplaying it. BASH: And, Paul, you -- your colleagues at "The Washington Post"

reported about the cost, about $2.5 million, I believe, just at the beginning to come from the -- from the National Park Service fund. And that's just probably a slice of it

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That just gives an opening for congressional Democrats, for the House Democrats, to start asking questions that -- about the cost of this. They -- you know, they have all power of the purse, Congress does, and we're going to see a lot of letters and information gathering.

I think if there were -- if they weren't giving out tickets to Republican donors in that sort of VIP area, and if it were, you know, rank and file military types, this might get a little bit more of a pass. But to -- I think this is going to -- Congress is going to dig into this.

BASH: I don't know if they have time to dig into this. What hours of the day?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, I just -- I think the admiral is right, that it's the context of this particular president. I mean you think back to the very first days of the administration when he went to the Pentagon to announce James Mattis' confirmation as secretary of defense, and he -- he signed his travel ban while at the Pentagon in front -- you know, in front of this --

KIRBY: The Hall of Heroes.

SHEAR: Hall of Heroes in this hallowed place. And from that moment forward, he has had -- you know, used these opportunities that he could sort of fashion into a kind of more bipartisan support of the armed forces and the military. But, instead, tends to veer into, you know, talking about his supporters, talking about other issues. I mean I, frankly, wouldn't be surprised if -- if we hear something about the Mueller report tomorrow. You know what I mean? It -- I mean who knows, right, and maybe he'll avoid that, but -- but that's the problem is that it's always wrapped in a much more partisan, political kind of patina than -- than you have with other presidents.

KIRBY: And even -- I agree. And even if the speech is pitch perfect, even if he doesn't go political at all, what Mike says is exactly -- that still makes me uncomfortable and I'm sure it still makes many military leaders uncomfortable because he is like no other commander in chief we've ever had before, the way he wraps himself into the flag and the way he sort of wants to own military virtue for himself. That makes him unique. So even if the speech is good, I'm still not crazy about the optic.

BASH: I want to read a quote that our colleagues got from a Pentagon spokesperson about Jim's reporting, and he said, it's -- the spokesperson said, it's not unusual for senior leaders to send a representative to functions that they cannot attend due to competing commitments. It is not in a military leader's DNA to task a subordinate to do something that the leader does not want to do. KIRBY: Right. That's exactly right. Well spoken.

BASH: Yes.

KIRBY: I mean --

BASH: I mean you're a former Pentagon spokesperson.

KIRBY: Yes.

BASH: That was -- every single word there was carefully chosen.

KIRBY: And well-written, whoever -- whoever -- whoever did it.

No, I get the position that they're in. It's putting them in a very difficult spot. He is the commander in chief. He's not asking for something unlawful or unethical or illegal. So you'll want to try to support that, but you also want to -- if you -- you know, if you can, maintain the proper sort of distance.

[12:10:00] I'm not suggesting that they're sending substitutes because they don't want to go. I'm told that they really do have scheduling conflicts. But he's putting them in a very difficult spots.

What I'm hearing is he wants each of the chiefs to approach and stand with him as their aircraft fly over.

SHEAR: As their aircraft --

KIRBY: Again, once again, wrapping his arm around them and sort of making it like it's his military. It's not. It's the American people's.

COLLINS: And it comes as there's been this lack of leadership at the Defense Department too. It's been essentially topsy turvy since James Mattis was -- resigned in protest. And then, of course, Patrick Shanahan took over. And since January, that's -- we've seen how that's changed in recent days. Now we've got Mark Esper taking over as acting defense secretary. So it does come at an interesting time in leadership. And it's interesting to think of what Mattis would have done if he had still been at DOD for something like this.

SHEAR: Can I just --

KIRBY: Well, we know -- we know he actually did slow roll -- he slow rolled the Veteran's Day thing.

COLLINS: Yes, for the Veteran's Day one.

SHEAR: Can I just add really quickly, I do think that this will play differently in large swaths of the country where -- where a lot of his supporters and a lot of other Americans maybe will look --

: One hundred percent.

SHEAR: Will look at us and say, what are they talking about? He just wants this --

BASH: What are they so upset about?

COLLINS: This is awesome. There are bombers flying overhead. Yes.

SHEAR: He wants to celebrates America and the might of America.

KANE: Absolutely.

SHEAR: And I think that we, in this town, focus on the 2.5 million, which, by the way, is a tiny, tiny, tiny amount of money. And we focus on these other things.

BASH: Yes.

SHEAR: And like I think it's going to play very differently out there.

BASH: I think that is such an important point. You are talking rightly, and we all are, about what is precedent and what was maybe the intent of the founders with regard to how we celebrate these things. But there are a lot of people who are saying, right on, Mr. President.

SHEAR: Absolutely.

BASH: You are doing exactly what we should be doing, which is celebrating and showing the world America's military might.

I just want to say, you have a great piece on cnn.com about this from your experience and you say, maybe if he wants to celebrate the military, he should give them the day off.

KIRBY: Yes.

BASH: Yes. All right, thank you so much, everyone. Stick around.

Up next, several 2020 Democrats are in Iowa today to kick off their July 4th holiday. Stay with us.

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[12:16:30] BASH: This just in from Joe Biden's presidential campaign. CNN has learned the former vice president raised $21.5 million in the second quarter. That's actually not the top number among the 2020 Democrats, but the Biden campaign has a reason.

Let's get straight to Arlette Saenz, who is in Waterloo, Iowa, where Biden is due to have an event tonight.

Arlette, you brought us this news. What are you hearing from the campaign?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Dana, the campaign sent out an e-mail to their supporters revealing that the former vice president raised $21.5 million in the second fundraising quarter. This is a number that actually has him behind South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who earlier this week announced that he had raised $24.8 million.

Now, Biden entered the primary race three weeks into the fundraising quarter. So he wasn't working with an entire three months the other candidates did. But a few other numbers that the campaign is citing is that 97 percent of their fundraising was from grassroots supporters, that's those donating under $200, and that they received a 436,000 donations from 256,000 individual donors.

Now, these numbers are going to be watched very closely going forward. There have been a lot of questions about whether the former vice president would be able to mount a strong fundraising operation and so far he has shown that he has. He's dedicated a lot of time in these first few months into fundraising, holding over two dozen in-person fundraisers across the country. But so far he was not able to match that figure that was posted by Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was a relative unknown mayor just a few months ago.

So, going forward, these numbers that the former vice president is going to post in the coming weeks are going to be crucial, especially right now as you've seen him dropping in the polls after that first debate.

Dana.

BASH: Arlette, thank you so much for that reporting.

Back around the table. And Sahil Kapur with "Bloomberg" joins our conversation as well.

So this is important. These are always important milestones, the fundraising numbers, especially since it's the first time we've seen a report from Joe Biden. His campaign, rightly so, points out that, yes, he's not in -- the top fundraiser, even though he's been the frontrunner, but because he got into the race, you know, not well into the quarter, but as the quarter was -- was already ongoing.

What do you make of these numbers, Paul?

KANE: I think it's a pretty impressionable quarter. He raised $3 million more than I think Bernie Sanders took in, who had previously been the fundraising leader. For a guy who always had pretty easy Senate re-elections, who never really had to raise money himself, he --

SHEAR: He didn't like it.

KANE: He didn't like doing it., It's -- it's better than he probably -- people thought he would have been able to do six months ago.

BASH: Now, the -- one of the differences between Joe Biden and other candidates in the Democratic primary race is that he is doing some of the traditional fundraising that others campaigns have said, you know, we're not going to do, meaning from big donors, from, you know, I'm not sure if it's correct still to use the term bundler, but it's more traditional fundraising. And yet his campaign is saying that 97 percent of donations were from supporters -- grassroots supporters, meaning under $200. The average donation was $49.

What do you -- what does that tell you, Sahil?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": There's an interesting little competition among the Democrats as to who has the smallest average donation, right? It's -- to them it's like kind of a proxy for, I'm more grassroots than you are. I'm getting money from ordinary people, not big money donors. Elizabeth Warren has gone I think more -- most to the extreme on this and saying, I'm going to swear off high-dollar fundraisers entirely, spend my time taking selfies with voters just to kind of show people that I'm going to confront Wall Street, going to confront these big corporations.

[12:20:18] Big picture, money is obviously not going to win candidates the race, but it allows them to stay in it. It allows them to run the kind of campaigns they want. And Pete Buttigieg is raising an enormous amount of money but he's not doing that well in the polls. He slipped to something like 3 percent, 4 percent after the debate, even though some people thought he had a good performance. It's one metric but it's not the only one.

BASH: And I want to get to that. I'm not sure if we have -- just to put up the context of where we are in the fundraising. You mentioned Pete Buttigieg's fundraising and Bernie Sanders. There you see it, Pete Buttigieg, as far as we know right now, raised the most, what's been reported in the second quarter, $24.8 million. Biden, as we just reported first a few minutes ago, $21.5 million, and Bernie Sanders, $18 million.

So, again, money doesn't always equal support but it certainly gives you a lifeline. And you mentioned Pete Buttigieg. The fact is, he has a lot of money in the bank. He is only at 4 percent in the polls. Across the board, in the slew of polls that we've seen recently, 4 percent of the polls, what's up with that? What's up with the difference between the grassroots support, maybe some of the even elite support, people who are giving him money, and people who are telling pollsters that they'll support him?

COLLINS: Well, he also doesn't have the name recognition that Bernie Sanders and, of course, a former vice president and senator have. So I think that is a lot of it. A lot of people may not know who he is. He has, of course, you know, shot up in recent months now. He is becoming more of a nationwide figure. But he's still an unknown for a lot of people. And I think they're still watching him to see what he is doing. And, of course, now he's facing this huge test back home over the use of police force and how he's going to handles that I think is going to make a big difference. And, of course, debate performance is a massive part of this.

SHEAR: Well, and, you know, I mean, look, we remember being on these campaign trails where, you know, the kind of investment that you need to make as a candidate in June, July, August, September, October so that by the time you get to January and February of next year, you have an operation that can compete in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and the other states. I mean, all of that is money that you invest now, but you don't necessarily see the impact of all of that money.

So by Pete Buttigieg having $25 million, that may not immediately be reflected in national polls, certainly, because that money is going to staff and infrastructure and all sorts of stuff.

BASH: And it will keep him in the race longer than others.

SHEAR: And it will keep him in the race, right?

BASH: Yes.

SHEAR: The people that have to worry on that stage -- those stages, the two debates, are the people who are in 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent and they didn't raise much money --

BASH: Yes.

SHEAR: Because those people will face a situation very quickly where they just don't have the money. You know, I mean as John McCain proved, you can win the race when you sort of end up in, you know, a pickup truck or whatever with one or two staffers, but, you know, that's a -- you know, it's a hard thing to do. And when you have the money to compete, that's important.

BASH: Yes. And speaking -- and I just want to divert here, speaking about having money in the bank and the race for small donor dollars, I still think it's fascinating that on the Republican side, the Trump campaign, in, you know, working with the RNC, they've raised, you know, record numbers of --

KANE: $105 million.

SHEAR: $105 million.

BASH: Well, yes, it may be the most comparable is 54 when you're just talking about the Trump campaign, his committees.

SHEAR: Yes.

BASH: Regardless, the focus that they are putting on the small donors because small donors, at this point, equals a grassroots network that they're building across the board, Republicans and Democrats. But it's interesting for the Republicans as well.

KANE: And he's doing this really for the first time.

BASH: That's right.

KANE: His campaign four years ago was really bare bones. They hardly raised any money. They really didn't do a national advertising campaign until the final four weeks of the campaign. So, they're doing something different this time around. And they're having some success.

I think you want to measure by taking all of the Democratic candidates versus Trump and maybe the RNC and the DNC. We'll have to wait another week or so to get all of that data. BASH: And then the question is, who is he going to go up against? And

we, obviously, still don't know that.

And one of the -- one of the other things I want to get to is the latest polls. We've seen a slew of polls post-debate, CNN included, that shows Joe Biden's lead is shrinking, Kamala Harris is coming up and now we have a "Washington Post" poll out this morning which shows a similar trend. This poll has Biden at 30, Sanders at 19, Harris at 13, Warren at 12.

I should say that according to our pollster part of the discrepancy between theirs and the others is that they first asked an open ended, who would you support? And because Biden and Sanders have more name recognition, those names were called out first. But the trend is still the same in all of the polls.

KAPUR: Yes, the latest polls I think show that the debate really scrambled the race. We've seen Joe Biden lose some momentum as voters get to know the other candidates. We've seen Kamala Harris after that -- that stand-out performance vault into second place. Elizabeth Warren had been rising before the first debate. She continues to rise. And Bernie Sanders has slipped. I think there are some troubling signs for him given how well-known he is, given how comparably high his unfavorable ratings are among Democrats and voters. Can he win that support back that he had, you know, in 2016?

[12:25:24] BASH: Well, I'll tell you one thing he's going to do, he's going to do an interview right here on CNN. We have a programming note on that. An exclusive, Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will sit down with my colleague, Chris Cuomo. That interview airs beginning Friday morning right here on CNN. We'll be right back.

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