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President Trump's Tweets Contradict Commerce Department Policy on Census Questions; President Trump to Speak at Fourth of July Celebration; Democratic Presidential Candidates Senator Kamala Harris and Joe Biden Trade Criticisms over Busing Issue; Rep. Justin Amash Announces He's Leaving the Republican Party; Sen. Angus King (I-ME) is Interviewed About Amash Leaving the GOP, Census Citizenship Question and More. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 4, 2019 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, the great Maggie Haberman. How are you?



AVLON: Maggie, look, the administration's own lawyers seem to have whiplash about the president's tweet yesterday. What are you hearing in your reporting about how this happened? Was the president unaware that his own Department of Justice and Commerce Department were going to make this decision to back off two days ago?

HABERMAN: When I'm speaking to people in the administration, the blame is being laid pretty squarely at the feet of the Commerce Department at the moment. It is not clear whether the White House was fully briefed. It's not clear whether they know that Wilbur Ross was going to say the questionnaires were being printed which made pretty clear that they were not waiting for a justification.

When I spoke to people in the administration two days ago I was told, look, the feeling is that Commerce had messed this up beyond repair and we've just got to move on. The president, I believe, saw some media coverage about that and made pretty clear that he wanted to go ahead. I think the president sees some political advantage in being able to say, look, I'm still fighting for this. This is the type of culture issue that he will seize on and he will use with his base.

However, you do have the legal system at work here, and you have lawyers for the administration who are having to defend what the president is saying, and this is one of those moments in real-time you're seeing the disconnect between the president and his own government.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court felt their argument was so specious, "contrived" was their word, that it just didn't pass muster. And so they gave up. Time was of the essence. They had to start printing the Census. So does this mean bye-bye Wilbur Ross? HABERMAN: I don't know. We've been hearing about bye-bye Wilbur Ross

for a year. I don't know that this is actually -- because the same question with Wilbur Ross as there is with every other potential opening in this government, which is who's next. So I'm sure that this is going to be the end of Wilbur Ross. I do know the president was displeased.

AVLON: Bye-bye Wilbur Ross, one of the least popular musicals of recent decades.


HABERMAN: So true. Missed it in its entirety.

AVLON: But it is stunning because the president just created an even more mission impossible for a legal challenge or to explain -- clear up the questions the Supreme Court just had.

Let's shift to tonight, because this president is finally getting his military muscle at this separate event. The big question of course is which President Trump will show up, teleprompter Trump or Twitter Trump? Will he talk about a celebration of our nation's military and our 243rd birthday, or will he default to a political speech which a lot of military folks are deeply concerned about. You've covered him for years at this point. What's your bet?

HABERMAN: My bet is there is really no distinction anymore between teleprompter president and rally president because he tends to intersperse the teleprompter speeches with what he's actually thinking, he goes off script. I think you will see him stick to the script for part of it, then I think you'll see him throw in all kinds of things that are going to upset his political critics.

CAMEROTA: And so what's going to happen tonight? It's going to be for big donors? Is that who's getting these tickets?

HABERMAN: Not only, but yes, they will be among them. Yes.

CAMEROTA: So there'll be some regular people who want to come and see this parade or event or whatever it is, and then there'll be a VIP section that the RNC has handed out free tickets to Republican donors. And that's part of what makes his critics think it's a political event.

HABERMAN: It's another in a series of lines being blurred by this administration between the president and the political and the institutions and the president personally. And you're seeing all of it play out tonight. I think the big question that I'm hearing from people at the White House is not which donors show up and not which members of the administration show up or the military leadership show up, but do crowds actually show up?

This is not going to be like the typical Fourth of July celebration on the Mall in Washington where people can turn out and watch the fireworks. Security is going to be a lot of heavy given all of these events. And so the fear for people within the administration is does this end up looking like the inauguration again where you have clearly not the crowds the president wanted to see, and he reacts to this.

AVLON: And the president pumping up the promotion this morning via Twitter. This is a president for whom size matters. CNN will be airing the event tonight in the spirit of you decide. Let's see what the president says and whether it is a political event or not.

Any word on what the president's reaction is that Ninth Circuit decision, because they just threw another major roadblock to his attempt to build the wall.

HABERMAN: Haven't heard yet how the president is reacting. This came in pretty late yesterday, as you know. But it is yet another affirmation from a court, the second in a week I believe it is, saying that you cannot bypass Congress on this. The president, we know, is frustrated overall that he has not been able to get more of this wall built. However, the governmental criticism of this is that they continue to try to minimize Congress. And we're going to see that I think continuing over the next 16 months or so.

For the president politically, his advisers take some heart in the fact voters, at least among his political voters, don't seem to blame him for the fact he has not gotten this done. They blame Congress and dysfunctional D.C. This actually gives him something to point to as a data point on that. So while I think he will be frustrated, he will point to activist judges, quote-unquote, who are stymying him.

[08:05:05] CAMEROTA: He's had many court defeats, many court defeats. So now Congress is stymying him, he would say. These judges are stymying him. And I think it is an open question as to at what point or if ever his supporters start to think maybe doesn't play well with others, maybe not the best negotiator.

HABERMAN: I think that for people who were sort of marginal Trump supporters last time, which are people who didn't want to vote for Hillary Clinton, didn't necessarily think Donald Trump was going to win but where willing to take a bet on him, I think those are the people for whom this is an open question. His hardest supporters, they're not going anywhere. They will blame people who are trying to thwart him and his agenda, and he's fighting for them, and they will get very frustrated.

It's the people who were swing voters, the people who can be persuaded to go for another candidate who do start to see over and over again how this government functions may not be what they signed up for when they voted for him, and those are the voters he needs to be concerned about because the math is what it is, and with his existing political support he cannot win another term. He needs other voters to help supplement.

AVLON: And yet his campaign and the president said that he doesn't need swing voters. Privately are folks telling you that doesn't match up with reality?

HABERMAN: Yes. They hear him say that and he always says things that doesn't makes it sound like he has to rely on anybody else. But his actual political advisers are will aware that the math is just what it is. He won last time, as you know, with a handful of wins in states where there were third party candidates that were able to syphon off votes from Hillary Clinton. Might that happen this time? We don't know. Some of them are hoping that it will. But they do have to figure out other paths forward.

CAMEROTA: About 2020, on the Democratic side, there had been reporting that the president was I guess frustrated that sometimes when they steal the spotlight around the debates. Do we know how he is feeling about Joe Biden and Joe Biden's shifting status? His still frontrunner, of course, but Joe Biden's polls, et cetera?

HABERMAN: Pleases. Look, Kamala Harris represents a different type of challenge to Trump, and his advisers know that because there are all sorts of fault lines if he is attacking her that involve race, that involve and gender, and they are aware of that. They feel like Joe Biden represents an easier caricature, frankly, because they think that they can tie him to the swamp, and they can let Trump run as something of an insider-outsider candidate.

They also know that Joe Biden could have appeal with certain white working class voters. I'm not sold on the fact Joe Biden could, by the way. Nothing in his political past suggests that he actually does do that well with those voters just based on his own presidential runs in the past. But they know that there was a potential for it. So seeing him fade early I think does not make Donald Trump unhappy, especially since he's been criticizing Joe Biden, and he will take credit for it, whether that's right or not.

AVLON: And has he been directing any fire internally or externally to Kamala Harris who's been surging in a lot of the polls?

HABERMAN: The thing with Senator Harris is that when she declared her presidential campaign, Trump's people took note of the fact that she built out this big crowd for her announcement. That was very, very striking to them because that's of course was Trump's calling card in 2016 was that he had these enormous crowds that were bigger than anybody else. They were struck that her folks knew that they needed to do that.

There's not fire being thrown yet, but they are watching her struggle with certain issues. They are watching her uncertain where she stands on certain issues in the last 24 hours. She has backtracked on the issue of busing, which was the key thing she was fighting with Joe Biden about during that debate in the first place. So they're watching all of that with interest, but I don't think they have a clear path yet on how they want to attack her.

CAMEROTA: You know what they should be watching as a blueprint is how she went after Joe Biden in her break out moment, because that's what that debate would look like. She's a prosecutor. She's not afraid to take the case directly to you, stare at you in the face, even when Joe Biden was looking down and not engaging, and that would be, I think, quite instructive if she becomes the nominee.

HABERMAN: It would be. I guess I just think the one thing the Trump folks know is it's very different when you are opposing Trump, no matter what other previous debate experience you have had, it's very disorienting when someone is literally just sitting up there telling you left is right and right is left, and saying all kind of things that are pretty harsh. So even the best debater might not necessarily fare well in that experience.

AVLON: And how are they viewing the fight over busing in the Democratic Party? I imagine that is music to the Trump campaign's ears.

HABERMAN: I think that they like -- any of these discussions they think help them with their base of support. They were very happy after the second Democratic debate in particular, but both of them really, because one was very focused on health care, and the other one was in terms of just moving the party forward and abolishing private insurance, and then there was the discussion of busing, there was the discussion of decriminalizing border crossings. All of this has made the Trump folks very happy. Whether they are right that that is going to help them counterbalance their own problems on some of these issues remains to be seen, but they feel pretty good about it.

[08:10:05] CAMEROTA: Maggie, have a wonderful Fourth of July.

HABERMAN: Thank you. You, too.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. Thanks so much.

So as Maggie mentioned, we're seeing some fireworks this morning of the political variety on the campaign trail. Senator Kamala Harris, her campaign is trading barbs with Joe Biden's campaign over the issue of busing and taking the issue from the debate stage to Iowa. So CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Waterloo, Iowa, with more.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, John and Alisyn, it's been one week since the first debate, and the campaigns of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are still going at it when it comes to that issue of busing.

You'll remember last week Kamala Harris in a fiery exchange with the former Vice President Biden went after him for his opposition to busing back in the 1970s. But now the Biden campaign is taking issue with Senator Harris' response when she was asked whether she supports busing in the cases of de facto segregation today. Take a listen to what she had to say here in Iowa yesterday.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Busing is a tool among many that should be considered when we address the issue, which is very current issue as well as a past issue, of desegregation in American schools. So I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating American schools.


SAENZ: Now the Biden campaign is taking issue with that response. The deputy campaign manager tweeting last night, "It's disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden's position on busing, particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posed to him."

And the Harris campaign fired back, a spokesman tweeting, referring to a quote that Biden made decades ago, saying "VP Biden said who the hell do we think we are? The only way a black man or woman could learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child. He called busing an asinine concept. C'mon. Y'all, we are better than this."

Now, we will see in a short while whether the candidates themselves decide to engage in this. Biden and Harris are starting their days here in Iowa about 150 miles apart at different events. They are just one of the many candidates that are descending on Iowa today on this Fourth of July holiday making their pitch to voters. John and Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

AVLON: Thank you.

Breaking political news this morning, a member of Congress and a vocal critic of the president just quit the Republican Party. Details next.


[08:16:35] JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking political news this morning. Michigan Republican congressman and frequent Trump critic, Justin Amash, has just announced he's leaving the GOP.

Amash writes in a "Washington Post" op-ed, quote, modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral but there is an escape. Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well-represented by either of the two parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they're catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers.

Joining me now is the perfect person to discuss this on this Independence Day, Maine independent senator and two-term independent governor, Angus King.

Senator King, thanks for joining us now on NEW DAY.

Let's start with getting your take on the latest person to become independent, Justin Amash.

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, I think my first reaction is hooray, my caucus just grew by 30 percent in Congress.

No, I fully understand the decision the representative made, and I think he's right in terms of we're caught in this duopoly that is controlling our politics and it doesn't really express the views of actually the majority of the American people. I know at least in Maine, about least 40 percent of the American people are un-enrolled, that is they're independent, not a member part of either party.

So, I understand exactly what he's talking about. You go back to the framers, you're an expert on Washington's fair well address. He talked about the dangers of parties. Madison talked about it in the federalist papers, but sure enough that's where we are.

Now, the danger, I've got to caution, though, you look at countries around the world that have multiple parties and all kinds of different affiliations and then you end up with coalition government. So, there is -- you can argue it from both directions but I think the important point he's making is he wants to speak for himself and not for one party or the other.

AVLON: And, of course, you've run four times in Maine I believe as an independent governor or senator.

KING: Right.

AVLON: He's talking about running for Congress and that runs in a buzzsaw of a Supreme Court decision that came down last week regarding the rigged system of redistricting, which they basically said the federal courts can have no role in going forward. Does that decision trouble you as an independent and as a critic of partisanship in politics?

KING: Absolutely. I think that was a terrible decision. It was a real abdication. Basically, Justice Roberts said we can't figure this out and therefore we're just not going to do it. I can't come up with a standard.

I thought about that overnight, woke up the next morning and realized what the standard should be. The standard should be, if a apportionment system results in a grossly partisan swing one way or the other, then the burden should shift to the state to justify it on some grounds other than partisan advantage. I think that's a workable standard. It's the kind of standard in a lot of other areas and important constitutional law.

And to say that partisan gerrymandering is just -- is a free, you know, come on in, fellas, do whatever you want -- I think it's really bad. Gerrymandering is one of the real problems with the country. It's one the things that's polarized Congress because you have these districts where the Democratic primary is, the election or the Republican primary is the election, and there's no real competition in the middle.

AVLON: Speaking of the Supreme Court, the other main decision they had last Thursday was the census decision, which did not go the Trump administration's way.

[08:20:02] Forty-eight hours ago, it looked like the Trump administration was basically saying, fine, we won't push ahead with the citizenship question. Then came the president's tweet, the result seem today be chaos, lawyers scrambling. What's your read on this?

KING: Well, I think it indicates certainly a level of confusion and chaos as you said.

But a friend of mine called me a while ago and said, he said, did Donald Trump have a board of directors for his company in New York, and I said I don't think so because it's a family owned company and my friend said, that explains it. He's literally had no one in his life to say no to him and he can't stand it.

And here's a case where the United States Supreme Court said no to him and he can't -- he can't accept that, and he thinks he can do things -- the wall, he got a decision on building the wall today he's not going to like. But that's the way our whole system is designed. I mean, the whole system is designed that no one has all the power. And he just doesn't want to accept that.

And I remember, John, a moment when I was governor and I had an initiative. The legislature wasn't cooperating and I was mad as hell and said, you know, why don't they do this in the legislator and all that, and then I suddenly stopped and had an insight.

AVLON: You know --

KING: And the insight was I've got to persuade them. They have the power, and if I can't get them to do what I think is right, that's on me, not on them. And I think he's got to come to that realization.

He's got to learn to work with Congress and the courts and all the other constituencies that have a part of this power-sharing system that defines the United States government.

AVLON: The opposite of that insight would be what "Axios" is just reporting right now that the president of the United States is considering an executive order to try to add the citizenship question back to the census.

Basic civic question, does he have the power to do that under the Constitution?

KING: I don't think so. And the Constitution, by the way, is really clear that the count is of persons. It uses the word "persons." It's even capitalized.

And in the prior paragraph, in Article 1 Section 2 uses the word "citizens" as people who can vote. So, the Framers understood the difference between citizens and persons. The whole purpose of the census is how many warm bodies are there in the United States, not whether they're citizens or not citizens.

I don't think he's going to be able to do it by executive order. My understanding is, the forms have already started being printed, and his administration told the courts you've got to give us a quick decision on this because we have to start printing on July 1st. And, you know, I just, again, our system -- I hate to be the messenger for the president is that its checks and balances and nobody has all the power and that's the way it works.

And if you don't like it, you've got to learn to work with all those people who have the checks and balances.

AVLON: Speaking of a different system, this past weekend, Vladimir Putin said the liberal democracy had outlived its purpose. You're a member of the Intel Committee, the Armed Services Committee. Also this morning reports that Vladimir Putin telling an Italian newspaper that President Trump spoke with him in Japan about nuclear de- escalation and that kind of strategic stability.

Does that surprise you and how concerned are you about this rising tide of authoritarian illiberal democracy, the growing connections between Putin and Xi and China, for example?

KING: Well, I think it's first important to make a distinction. Putin wasn't talking about liberal in the sense of our American politics, about, you know, liberals and conservatives. He was talking about the whole idea, the whole structure of democracy and that the people are free and, you know, this is the Fourth of July. Thomas Jefferson, he meant to say all men and women are created equal.

That's what Putin is disputing, the underlying principles of what we've developed in the world over the past 200 years. Yes, he's talking about dictatorship as being the best way to go. My father used to say dictatorship is a great form of government if either you or a dear friend is the dictator. Other than that, it's not really what we want to do.

So, now, you mentioned nuclear, you know, de-escalation of nuclear tensions. I'm all for that. If that's something they talked about, that's a good thing. A good start, by the way, would be to begin discussions and negotiations over the renewal of the new START treaty which is basically the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. If that would start soon, that would be very good thing for the world.

AVLON: Final quick question, Senate Intel Committee waiting on that full Russia interference report. Can you tell us when that might be released?

KING: I wish I could. We're not delayed for any particular reason, but we're trying to do a thorough job, John.

[08:25:02] And there were loose ends. There were loose ends left in the Mueller report, I believe, and we're trying to work through those.

We're going to be issuing our report in sections. And I think the first section about election interference, that is the electoral system of states will come out in the next couple of weeks. We're working on declassifying that right now.

So, I guess I would say we want to be right rather than fast. So, we're doing our best to cover all the bases.

AVLON: There you go.

Senator King, independent of Maine, happy Independence Day, and thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.

KING: Same to you, John. Happy Fourth of July.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. What is the single question that looms largest for the six women running for president? That's next.


CAMEROTA: Is America ready to elect a woman to be president?

You hear that question a lot in the media, but if you look at the latest polling, perhaps voters are ahead of the media when it comes to feeling comfortable. Still, this is the question is six women seeking the nomination for 2020 are trying to answer.

Joining us now is Amy Chozick. She's writer at large for "The New York Times", and author of "Chasing Hillary". And she profiles five of the female members of Congress.