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Tensions Spill over Between Pelosi and Liberals; Trump Focuses on Campaign Issues; Authorities Prepare for Immigration Raids; Warren Unveils Immigration Plan. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump's Rose Garden re-election strategy is in overdrive today. A news conference a bit later to highlight his plan to force a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Before that, a so-called White House social media summit whose guest list includes far-right conspiracy theorists and smear artists.

Plus flip, flop, flip. Amy McGrath was against Brett Kavanaugh's supreme court nomination, then for it, now against it again. A very rough start for the Kentucky Democrat. Party leaders here in Washington say is the best challenger for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And the speaker versus "the squad." Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez says Speaker Pelosi is disrespecting the new liberal women of color in the Democratic House. Just moments ago, the speaker defended her leadership, but chose not to respond directly.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I said what I'm going to say in the caucus, but I'm not going to be discussing it any further.

With all due respect, I don't, maybe you didn't hear what I said. I said what I'm going to say on the subject. What I said in the caucus yesterday got an overwhelming response.

And that's all I'm going to say on the subject. So if you want to waste your question, you can waste your question.



KING: We begin there, the very opposite of puppies and rainbows. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reckoning today with a growing rift within her own party after she gave a big speech, a private speech, to her caucus on Wednesday pleading for unity. It seems that rallying cry has backfired, at least slightly. The group of four freshmen members, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib telling reporters they believe Pelosi was disrespecting them, calling her rebuke, quote, demoralizing, in one case suggesting Pelosi was perhaps being racist by singling them out.

This morning, Speaker Pelosi saying she respects every member of her caucus, but, she says, she's done talking about it in public.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I said what I'm going to say in the caucus. They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the member's offices that referenced our blue dogs and our new Dems essentially as segregationists. Our members took offense at that. I addressed that. How they are interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them. But I'm not going to be discussing it any further.


KING: Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, at least one member of that so-called squad not done talking about it.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): And I really have to get to --


TLAIB: I have to actually go represent my district in here, so --

REP. AYANA PRESSLEY (D-MA): I'm not giving this any more oxygen.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): It's singling out four individuals. And knowing the media environment that we're operating in, knowing the amount of death threats that we get, knowing the amount of concentration and tension, I think it's just -- it's just worth asking why.

RAJU: Do you think she has racial animus? Is she a racist?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No, no, absolutely not. Absolutely not.


KING: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joining us live now from Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, the speaker's non answer was in a way an answer.

What was your take on her press conference and what else are you hearing about the rumbling and grumblings in the caucus?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I really could feel, John, in that room some frustration certainly by the speaker, the fact that this is essentially the elephant in the room among Democrats today and has been for quite some time. And you could sense that Speaker Pelosi today very clearly did not want to breathe any more oxygen into this controversy (ph), did not want to give it any more air time. She has certainly been frustrated that the Democrats' dirty laundry essentially has been aired out in public. And so she wants to kind of squash all of these stories about the infighting.

But, of course, myself and other reporters are pressing her on this today, pressing her on the dissatisfaction of many of the House progressives, those freshmen women, who have been very vocal in recent days, you know, really critical of Speaker Pelosi. And today she said she didn't want to talk about it much, but she did give us a few things. She said, we, of course, respect the values of each member. And specifically on this I find this striking. She said, diversity is our strength, unity is our power. I thought that was something of a veiled response to some of the criticism that came out in a recent "Washington Post" interview of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she said that she that that Speaker Pelosi was singling out and isolating specifically freshmen women of color.

So Speaker Pelosi here trying to diffuse the situation, but we have, as we've been talking about in recent weeks and months, John, seen this rift and this feud really simmering beneath the surface for months. Clear to say it has boiled over completely up here on Capitol Hill this week.


KING: As one of her deputies put it yesterday, it's all rainbows and puppies. No, it's not.

Sunlen, appreciate the live reporting from The Hill.

With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Carl Hulse with "The New York Times," Sahil Kapur with "Bloomberg," and Rachael Bade with "The Washington Post."

[12:05:01] Rachael, I'll start with you, because it's your work, your interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm's distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood, but the persistent singling out, it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful, the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.

You just heard her with Manu Raju in the hall saying, no, no, no, she doesn't think there's any racist element to this. But then why say it that way?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's some frustration with the squad. You know, before Pelosi came in this week and sort of tried to tell the whole caucus, stop fighting, stop tweeting at each other, she made this comment to "The Washington Post" where she basically dismissed the squad as having no power in Congress. Obviously they have a huge Twitter following and a lot of liberal activists love them and invite them to hundreds of events.

But, in Congress, they -- you know, their power, they've really actually kind of struggled. But this is not the first time Pelosi took this sort of backhanded jab at them. She has been making snide comments about the squad for a while now. And I think that that was just the tipping point for AOC and the group. And, you know, I just went up to The Hill and caught them sort of one

on one and tried to talk to them about their relationship with Pelosi and, like, what is going on here. And the thing I kept hearing was, she's not only disenfranchising us and like sort of minimizing our voices, but the people who we represent and who we brought to the table, women of color, minority groups, and that's what they're sick of.

KING: What do you make of this, Carl? You've covered her for a long time.


KING: And she was once them. I remember a time in Washington more of a -- she was a liberal from San Francisco. There were liberals in the House caucus, but women didn't get much respect back in those days.

HULSE: I think she would have -- she would say she was more of a team player too at that time when she was starting out and had run the Democratic Party in California.

I think there's a lot going on here. And that I think that for them to imply some racist or racial context with the speaker is very dangerous for them. And I think the other members of the Democratic caucus will backlash to that, calling Nancy Pelosi -- suggesting she has some racial motive.

I think that, you know, for the Democrats who are sitting there and seeing attacks on blue dogs as segregationists or somehow also being racist, I mean, this is a big problem in the -- in the party. I'm not surprised that the speaker tried to cut it off today. They've got a lot of things to do and they need to get going.

And one thing to Rachael's point, this happens, that people who are new to Congress should get a big celebrity following and they're important on the outside, but they're not important on the inside.

BADE: Right.

HULSE: And these members marginalize themselves even further by voting against their own -- party's own bill, so they kind of took themselves out of the legislative discussion. And that's how it works in Congress. And, you know, they have to be able to use that celebrity status constructively. And right now it doesn't seem to be going that way.

KING: Right now there's the four of them.

HULSE: Right.

KING: And that's what Pelosi is saying. And it sounds very dismissive to them because they think they're important. They think they're new members. They think they have ideas. They think the party needs both generational and an ideological kick in the you know what. And so they think they're important and she says you're four. You're four. And so -- HULSE: Well, she can counting.

KING: Yes. Until you get -- that she can. And until you get more, essentially, she's saying, you don't matter. You have to be able to come into my office and say, I can block your bill, then I will listen to you.

What -- is it -- it's great Internet theater. It's great personal drama. It is a generational look at the party. Does it matter, to Carl's point, about the big things they have to do? The Defense Department funding. They're trying to raise the minimum wage -- it won't pass the Senate, but Democrats want to pass a bill raising it to $15. An election security bill, budget deal, debt ceiling increases, restrictions on the use of border money. Speaker Pelosi even said today, she had talked to Lindsey Graham in the Senate and there was a possibility of some bipartisan efforts on immigration.

Does it matter when she has four voices who many only be four votes but are very vocal in social media and in television media and on cable television? How much of -- are they a nuisance or are they a problem?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": Well, I think Speaker Pelosi is channeling the irritation that many House Democrats feel toward the squad, the fact that they have this big megaphone, the fact that they have the ability to set the agenda in a certain way.

But Pelosi knows that they're not a threat to her legislatively. I think she's channeling their frustrations. But I think, as we saw today, she recognizes that it was probably a mistake to get into a back-and-forth with them. They have the activism, they have the energy of the party on their side. They have the desire for generational change there. So they're not a threat to her legislatively on the vote card. Why get into a back and forth with them when all it does is just kind of channels frustrations and irritations.

KING: It's an interesting point. But it also generates headlines, mostly in conservative websites, but otherwhere too, that suggest the Democrats are in disarray.

"Newsweek" today, Nancy Pelosi versus the squad inside the civil war threating to fracture the Democrats' House majority. Breitbart, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls Pelosi racist, singling out women of color. Fox News, AOC ups ante in feud with Pelosi, suggests speaker is singling out newly elected women of color.

It does provide a punching bag, if you will, especially in the conservative outlets.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this is exactly what the White House and Republicans want to see, because this is what they want to play out in the presidential primary. They want to see they have some members who are really far to the left and then they don't want that to affect people like Joe Biden, someone who's more moderate who they actually fear could beat the president. [12:10:10] But I think going back to all this legislation they have to

pass, that's why Nancy Pelosi is looking at it like this because just the bill last week, some of these four members were negotiating to get changes and then voted against it. That is not something you can do in the eyes of Nancy Pelosi and still be on her good side.

But I do think that you're going to see Republicans in the White House happy to exploit this division.

KING: I think if it blows up, it gets more dangerous. But if you watch it right now, the Republican strategy has been, Nancy Pelosi is this wild-eyed liberal from San Francisco. So Nancy Pelosi standing up to liberals I think Nancy Pelosi thinks helps her in the national, political narrative, that she's trying to be more pragmatic and manage the caucus.

You were about to jump in. As you do, this helps -- this is another member of the squad, Ilhan Omar. Our job isn't to make sure that we have our colleagues voting a certain way. And I hope that leadership understands their role and understands what our role is.

What is she trying to say there? That we want to be disruptive, we want to be insurgencies and it's Nancy Pelosi's job to count votes. We're going to do what we think is right?

BADE: It seems a little contradictory. I think that the squad right now is struggling to try to figure out what kind of group they want to be. Do they want to be another Freedom Caucus, where they try to whip votes against the leadership bill and try to tank a Democratic bill to show muscle and to actually influence change? It seems like they are really hesitating on that. They haven't even tried.

And so, you know, her saying right there, we're not trying to convince members to vote a certain way, I think that just speaks to how much, you know, inside the Capitol Pelosi really is still queen here. I mean she doesn't have a group who's trying to do that, at least not these four.

At the same time, I will say, you know, all these policy issues you just laid out, whether it was the defense authorization, immigration, there are progressives who are irritating right now and who are agitating and who want changes and want bills to be more democratic. But interestingly enough, the ones that actually have influence are the ones who are closest with Pelosi who are not making the headlines, not the squad.

KING: Right.

BADE: And so there's like an interesting dynamic behind the scenes.

KING: The ones who for all their frustrations try to work the inside game --

BADE: Right.

KING: Which is what Pelosi wants, not the outside Twitter whatever, as she likes to call it.

Up next, what the president's agenda and his morning tells us about his focus.


[12:16:54] KING: Today the president merging his re-election campaign and his White House in very big ways. This morning the president teased a Rose Garden press conference this afternoon. And he says they'll -- on the census and the citizenship question, his administration wants to put on the 2020 census. That will come minutes after a White House social media summit with a roster of attendees that doesn't include social media companies. Instead, it features presidential boosters, includes conspiracy theorists, who shape the online universe, to confine to the president's MAGA narrative.

He spent much of his morning on Twitter. Nineteen tweets so far. Attacks on Robert Mueller and Democrats running for president. A familiar mix of bragging, themes, painting as fake any fact he doesn't like.

He's going to come into the press conference this afternoon. He's going to say, we're putting census -- the citizenship question on the census. That's going to go back into the courts. But it's an immigration focus there.

We're told that these ICE -- promised ICE raids to throw out people who have gone to court, been told they have to leave the country and that are staying here in violation of deportation orders, this is Rose Garden strategy meets Trump. Use the White House, use your events, use your platform, advance your campaign themes.

COLLINS: Yes, I think it's like an 80 percent chance of rain, so I'm not sure they'll be in the Rose Garden. But they may be inside. But you're going to have to picture what the president is going to have just done, sat through, met with and talked with before he comes out to do this -- make this announcement about the census, this executive action that we're expecting him to take, not necessarily an executive order, it's likely to be more of an executive memorandum which doesn't carry the same weight.

But the president is going to have just met with people who on social media say that they've been essentially censored because of their politics, that they're right-wing supporters of the president. And that's something that the president himself has said that he feels. But he's going to come out and he's going to make this action on the census, something that he's been frustrated by for the past two weeks because they haven't been able to make any action on that. It's been a completely chaotic strategy on behalf of the administration. They use words inside the West Wing that you can't really say on TV to describe how this has been going on, either trying to change the legal team, being denied that change because of their reasoning, being denied able to add this.

And then, on the other hand, the president is balancing these raids that are going to be carried out, that they've essentially -- are facing some issues with, not only because there are divisions within DHS, but also because the president has been telegraphing them, which could create logistical problems for the people who even do want to carry them out.

KING: Right. And so as this plays out -- you mentioned this so-called social media summit. The president has issues with Twitter. He has issues with Google. He has issues with some of these companies, including FaceBook. Invite them in. If you have differences, invite them in. That's not the case.

Instead, our Oliver Darcy doing some great reporting on this. Among those invited to this are Bill Mitchell, a radio host who's promoted the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter, Carpe Donktum, an anonymous troll who won a contest put on by the fringe media organization InfoWars for an anti-media meme, and Ali Alexander, an activist who attempted to smear Senator Kamala Harris by saying she's not an American black following the first presidential debate.

It's a much longer list. We're not going to give them time.

What is the purpose here? Because these are people who, on the Internet, who say the president is right and that up is down and that east is north, even when the facts are not such?

[12:20:00] KAPUR: I think there's a lot of political power in the conservative movement and playing out the feelings of persecution and playing out the feelings of bias. And I think social media is just the latest flash point for that debate. And I think President Trump has been very happy to engage in that. There are other prominent Republicans, like Senator Ted Cruz, who frequently engages in that debate as well. I think it's a political rallying cry more than anything else.

KING: Political rallying cry more than anything else.

HULSE: And we know -- we know about this because they're on social media. So we're not -- the censorship isn't all that extensive because they're extremely active.

KAPUR: Right.

HULSE: And there are complaints today from some of the people who are censored, some of the even more extreme elements that they're not invited. So, you know, he's -- it's confused a thing. I totally agree with you. This is just one more area, like the census, that he sees this as a -- as a way to rally people.

I'm really curious to see how far they want to go today in defying the courts. But the president has -- he wants this fight, even if he doesn't get his way, because it keeps everyone ginned up.

KING: And his attorney general is going to be there with him for this. So we know internally, normally -- normally an attorney general will say, Mr. President, we tried. We went to the Supreme Court. We lost. So now they're going to do something --

HULSE: Well, they did try that route for a while.

KING: Yes. Right. So they're going to go the -- now they're going to go the executive route to try to press this question, which there are other ways to ask this question. In fact, the government does ask this question in other settings, but they want it as a signature issue on the census. They say they need that information. Others say they're trying to depress the Latino count.

BADE: Yes, and Barr's apparent presence, I mean this is just another example of, you know, the attorney general, who has become Trump's, you know, best friend. Somebody he didn't know and didn't have any relationship with who has turned out much better in terms of helping him politically than he could have expected. Not only the census, but this week Barr was talking about how, you know, if Robert Mueller didn't want to show up to Congress because it was going to be a spectacle, he would support him in doing that. But you're going to see, you know -- it will be interesting to see if Barr talks and, you know, what he says and how he can justify this in terms of, you know, going around what the Supreme Court had said.

HULSE: He's already said that he considered the decision to be wrongly decided. So what form is this going to take?

KAPUR: The Supreme Court has left some -- a door open to an extent, right? They didn't say this entire thing is invalid, this is unconstitutional to ask this question, or anything like that. They said in the pretext, the reason that the administration gave was contrived and invalid.

Now, it sounded to me like Chief Justice Roberts was sending the administration on a fool's errand, knowing that there's a deadline here and knowing that they can't really get around it. Kind of like he did to Congress on the Voting Rights Act when he lopped off that piece knowing that they wouldn't repair it.

But now it seems like the administration is going to try. I don't know how they get around this legal box.

COLLINS: Well, you also have to keep in mind, it's not just the Supreme Court. They're also facing issues in New York courts, Maryland courts. And some people inside the West Wing think they've actually already achieved what they needed to because the president -- they've talked about adding this question so much that people who are undocumented are going to be more hesitant about answering the census. So they may have already gotten in a sense what they wanted to get before -- by adding this question.

KING: Right. And so a bit earlier today, Speaker Pelosi, in the middle of all of this, the president's going to come out and say he's going to use executive action to put this census -- citizenship question on the census. Democrats oppose that. They're going to fight him in court. They've had disagreements with the president. They don't like these ICE raids that are coming out on Sunday. And yet Nancy Pelosi today said she had met with Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to talk about immigration issues and she thinks it's possible, possible, for some bipartisan progress. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): And there may be some possibilities of some things that we can do. It may not be the total comprehensive, but it would address some of the points.

We have to -- we have to do that.


KING: What does she mean? At a time when they disagree with just about everything, are there some small things that they might be able to agree on, Democrats and Republicans sending to the president something on immigration that he will sign?

BADE: I think that the Democratic leadership thinks there are some things in their bill that they passed, the emergency bill a few weeks ago, that they could potentially get the Senate to agree to, including say requiring the administration to tell Congress right away when a child dies in custody, requiring children to only be held for 90 days in these detention facilities that have been proven to be overcrowded and potentially dangerous. And so she was able to talk to Mike Pence, who agreed to some of these things. And so I think that they think maybe there's a couple of things they can do around the edges to get some Democratic wins in the future.

KAPUR: That and Lindsey Graham is an eternal optimist I think on the issue of immigration. You know, he has a long history of a moderate record. But I'd be very skeptical of any kind of a big deal on immigration.

BADE: Yes, definitely not (Ph).

KING: Have a big deal, especially given what the president -- well, we'll see. We'll see. That's off -- he's Mr. Unpredictable, I guess.

As we go to break, Cory Booker is running for president. Guess what, that doesn't mean you get excused from normal civic duties, like jury duty.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We're in jury duty tie (ph) and today's your birthday.


BOOKER: And a whole bunch of people here on jury duty want to say what?

CROWD: Happy birthday!


BOOKER: This is the best jury room in all of America.


[12:24:50] BOOKER: Yes!



KING: 2020 candidate who seemingly has a plan for everything just today debuting her immigration plan. This hour, Senator Elizabeth Warren is far from first to chime in on what should be considered or could be considered a defining issue of the Trump presidency. Five 2020 candidates have introduced a comprehensive immigration plan. Eight others have dedicated positions within their campaign. But, as we come to expect with any Warren plan, the details are specific.

CNN's MJ Lee, following Warren's campaign, joining us now from New York.

What sets this plan apart, if anything, MJ?

[12:30:01] MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the timing is certainly notable that she is putting out an immigration plan now given that what is happening at the border, the treatment of migrants.