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Green Wants Vote on Impeachment; The Squad and Nancy Pelosi; Republican Women React to Racist Tweets; Trump Campaign Spending. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:23] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Together yesterday, divided today. House Democrats are unanimous in condemning President Trump's racist attack on four minority women, but there's a big split in the Democratic caucus today as one member forces a vote on an impeachment resolution.

Plus, the president's constant efforts to stoke resentment over race and immigration, were big reasons Republicans got crushed in the 2018 midterms, especially among suburban women. So why does he think it is the recipe for re-election success come 2020?

And that House debate over the president's racist tweets was fiercely partisan and unruly. So much so the congressman presiding over the debate got up and walked away.


REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): Frankly, I was embarrassed to remain as the chair presiding over what should have been a very shameful moment for -- for all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can take a -- can I have the words be taken down? I make a point of order that --

CLEAVER: But unfairness is not enough because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair.

I don't know if anybody can -- can look at what's going on here on Capitol Hill and think that it's OK and think that it's the normal way in which legislatures conduct themselves.


KING: We begin this hour with the day after that debate yesterday and a new push to impeach the president of the United States. A push that divides House Democrats just one day after they unanimously rebuked the president for racist tweets. Democratic Congressman Al Green telling CNN earlier today he expects a vote on the floor today, later today, after he introduced an impeachment resolution last night. Congressman Green saying it's time to, quote, punish the president.


REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): We should go forward as expeditiously as possible. And we should do so because on yesterday we convicted the president. This is a bifurcated process. The condemnation was an eviction. Today we have the opportunity to punish.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of your colleagues say, why not wait until after the Mueller hearing?

GREEN: Well, because you don't delay justice. The Mueller hearing has nothing to do with what we're doing now. The Mueller hearing is all about obstruction. This is about bigotry and racism.


KING: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling CNN today she does not support Green's move, but Congressman Green sees a new opening, hoping the pro-impeachment voices in the Democratic caucus are more willing to defy the speaker a day after that House vote, 240-87 was the tally to condemn racist language from the president.

CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill.

Manu, great conversation with Congressman Green.

The speaker says this -- the condemnation resolution is enough for now. Congressman Green wants more. Who has the votes?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She has the votes, John, and it's only a matter of time before that becomes clear. I had a chance this morning to talk to a number of House Democrats who actually support moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. But they believe that Al Green's move is premature. They want to wait for the Mueller hearing to happen. They believe that any impeachment proceedings need to occur on the basis of obstruction of justice that were laid out in the Mueller report. What Al Green is doing has nothing to do with the Mueller report. He's accusing the president of racism. He says that through his actions shows that he's unfit for office. He believes this fulfills that high crimes and misdemeanor standard that would allow the House to essentially impeach the president. Of course, the Senate would have to convict in order to remove the president from office. But a number of Democrats simply do not agree with these tactics.

But under the rules, John, Al Green can force a vote within two legislative days on this impeachment, articles of impeachment. That means a vote is expected to happen as soon as today. And Democratic leaders have a choice, they can send this back to the House Judiciary Committee for further deliberations, essentially stalling the matter, or kill it all together on the floor. But, either way, that would put Democrats on record and that could put ones in a tricky spot, particularly ones who want to begin impeachment proceedings if they're ultimately forced to vote to kill one right here, John.

KING: I guess we hear from Speaker Pelosi next hour. We'll watch as the strategy plays out.

Manu Raju, doing the reporting live on The Hill, appreciate that.

With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post," Heather Caygle with "Politico," Catherine Lucey with "The Wall Street Journal," and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast."

Just a thought. If you're the Democrats and you thought it was very important to condemn the president's racist tweets, and you're unanimous in doing so, can't you have 24 hours to focus on that? Why do you wake up the next morning and re-litigate impeachment?

[12:05:01] JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it didn't even -- I don't think it was 24 seconds after the vote was over yesterday when Al Green was on The Hill -- or, I'm sorry, excuse me, on the floor introducing the articles of impeachment, or saying that he was going to do this.

So I think a lot of Democratic leaders are asking this because immediately it gave Republicans something else to talk about, to direct the conversation elsewhere, not from what the president tweeted and not from his racist remarks, but now onto this impeachment push, which has been working, frankly, politically, for Republicans.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": In some ways this is a win for Democratic leadership. If Al Green was going to do this, they would rather he do this, this week than next week after Mueller testifies, if Mueller has some bombshell that makes a bunch of Democrats come out for impeachment. And so yesterday after he told everyone his plans, I happened to -- we were in a gaggle with him and he took a phone call and we looked down and it was a senior leadership staffer. So I think they were basically like, if you're going to do this, let's try to get the painful vote over this week.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Pull the band aide all at once.


KING: That's assuming that nobody else tries it after Mueller, I guess.

CAYGLE: Sure. Sure. Absolutely.

KING: And so here's -- here's the issue. You know, the president's tweets against the four members of the so-called squad were racist. The back home part is a racist siren and anyone who wants to think otherwise, sorry, look at your history books. And now they move on to impeachment.

This from "The Washington Post" on a piece written by Rachael Bade. Jamie Raskin, who's for impeachment, I'm enough of a political pragmatist to believe that you call votes when you think can you win them, not when you think you can lose them. Jeff Drew of New Jersey, a freshman from a swing district, I don't think we're there yet. I don't think it's healthy. Cheri Bustos from Illinois, I can't control what another member does, so it looks like it's going to happen. We're just going to have to deal with that.

Again, I guess it's a -- number one, it's lower case "d" democratic, right? Any -- members get to do -- we focus all the time, people are trying to elevate the four members of the squad as sort of the, you know, the tail pulling the dog of the Democratic Party. Any member can do this. But it's just a question for me is, is there no discipline on a strategy of let's stay where we want to stay?

KIM: Remember, you're giving this -- you're having the specter of this vote and this, again, sorry to say, but the Democrats in disarray narrative right as the president is about to go to North Carolina. He has a big, political rally scheduled for tonight. Today was supposed to be the day that Mueller was going to testify. We assumed he would have talked about that (INAUDIBLE).

But now the president has this to kind of latch onto, which has been the problem -- one of the parts of the political problem for Democrats for some time. I mean Nancy Pelosi has acknowledged privately that she does -- she -- she and other Democrats acknowledge that this could be handing President Trump a political gift. And that's why -- it's part of the reason why it has been difficult for Democratic leaders for so long.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": And this plays into I mean one of the president's strategies, looking to 2020, is to paint the Democrats as extreme, as out of touch. And that's been true with this and with these tweets about the four congresswomen. And part of that is based on this idea that in -- in these more moderate -- in these states that are more moderate, they're going to be closely fought in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, that this message could resonate, that he might keep his message very much the same and really work -- as 2016 and really work on casting this as an out of touch extremist part.

KING: So let's play the contrarian role. This comes to the floor. They either table it or they send it to committee and it doesn't pass. The president runs around the country saying the Democrats are hell bent on impeaching me. Can't the Democrats say, no, actually, we had a vote and we didn't impeach you. And we're just -- we're letting our members have their say. If somebody has a voice in the Democratic Party, we let them speak up. We don't tweet them into being afraid to speaking, as we see in the Republican side of it.

To that point, the so-called members of the squad, Congresswoman Omar, Congresswoman Pressley, Congresswoman Tlaib and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did an interview this morning on CBS and they say, look, we're new here. We're not going to sit if someone tells us wait, learn Washington, study the rule book. No.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The entire freshman class, I would argue, regardless of ideology, was sent here because Americans are sick of how Washington works. So why would I learn a broken playbook?

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): And we are a destruction to the business as usual that's been Washington, right? We were elected for that purpose.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): There is no insurgency, and there's nothing conspiratorial.


KING: Nothing conspiratorial is what they're saying.

They will recoil at my saying this, but to some idea, we were elected to come kick Washington in the you know what, that's what President Trump says.

KUCINICH: And the Tea Party, frankly.

KING: Right. And the Tea Party before him, right.

KUCINICH: Right. And, I mean, I watch that and I think of, you know, when Tea Party congressmen came in and they were going to, you know, break the system. And for a while there, they did. They -- when John Boehner was speaker, they were able to push him out. They kind of took over the party from the bottom up. And it remains to be seen if that's what's happening here. I'm sure Republicans want you to believe that, that this -- the more liberal members are going to take over. But -- but this -- but we've heard this before.

[12:10:00] LUCEY: And this is attention, right? The squad saying, you know, we -- we are new. We've been brought in to do things differently. We don't want to play by the old rule book. But Nancy Pelosi and "The New York Times" column that kind of kicked some of this off talking about, they're still four votes.

KING: Right.

LUCEY: And so you're going to keep dealing with that if -- how there is a traditional way to do things and it's hard to completely ignore this (ph).

KING: In the old days, Democrats and Republicans, nothing came to the floor unless you knew what was going to happen. Things were cooked in committee. Things were cooked in private negotiations. Their point is -- and you see it with Congressman Green today on the floor, why can't we just have votes, right? If we have ideas, let's have votes.

And listen to -- this is, again, more of the conversation. A week ago we were talking about the tension between Speaker Pelosi and these four new members. They say, yes, sure, there's tension, but, so what? It's no big deal.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): I don't feel a fracture.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Yes, I don't. I don't. Just as there are members who challenge her conclusions, who disagree with her, so do we from time to time.

GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS: Are you peaking to Nancy Pelosi?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Our teams are -- are in communication.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): He has every right to sit down with her at any moment, any time, with any of us.


TLAIB: She is speaker of the House. She can ask for a meeting to sit down with us for clarification.


KING: Word today there actually are plans in the works to schedule a Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Ocasio-Cortez one-on-one.

She's the speaker. She has a lot to do. So some people at home might be saying, doesn't she meet with them all the time? That doesn't work that way. They meet -- they tend to meet around big legislation, around big issues. If there's an issue at the moment.

But their bigger point is, yes, we're vocal, yes, we have opinions, yes, we're not going to be silenced, but that doesn't mean the Democratic Party's falling apart. If you listen to the Republican narrative, these four women have taken the party hostage and they're in charge. What's the truth?

CAYGLE: Right. I mean I think for Pelosi and her allies what happened and what they said last week was a big deal and that's why we saw such a forceful response. Her allies coming out, the CBC coming out taking on AOC's chief of staff and taking on AOC's comments that Pelosi was singling out women of color.

Pelosi has been the Democratic leader for almost 20 years now. She is not used to people within her caucus criticizing her so vocally, and especially ones with like such a big social media following. And I don't think she knows what to do with that. And that's a continuing theme that we're going to see playing out.

KIM: Your point about Republicans is actually really interesting as well because after you get over the initial kind of stunner of the racist comments on Sunday, you've seen his campaign, his ally allies on Capitol Hill, trying to shift the conversation back to what they said the president meant to say, which is that these women are the faces of socialism. That is the campaign that we're going to run on. Because that is what the Republican campaign committee for the Senate side, for the House side and for the president's re-elect have been trying to focus on.

Just having some conversations with Republican senators yesterday, they say, OK, look, we've learned kind of not to take him literally. And this is what he was trying to do. He was trying to say -- he was trying to unify the Democratic Party behind these four women who they believe does not represent what the country stands for.

KING: Now, when the president tells four minority women to go back, we need to take him literally.

KIM: I agree.

KING: We need to take -- there may be -- there may be times where the president speaks a different language, but there's some pieces of language that, sorry, and the Republicans trying to hide from that. Run and hide all you want, the president said go back to four women of color. It was pretty clear what he was saying.

Up next for us here, will this week's controversy about the president's racist tweets matter to female voters come election 2020?


[12:17:556] KING: That only four House Republicans voted to condemn the president's racist tweets and words leaves no doubt about the totality of the Trump Republican Party takeover. But not having the courage to challenge the president's behavior does not mean Republicans aren't worried about it. The party chairwoman here displaying a familiar strategy, forget the tweets, remember the unemployment rate or maybe your 401(k) balance.


RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: Well, the president has delivered. I mean he made promises on the campaign trail and now he can go back to women voters, male voters, voters of every ethnicity and say, I ran on these things and, guess what, your unemployment for women is at a 60- year low. For Hispanics and African-Americans, it's at an all-time low.

But American voters across the country, they're interested on the policy and how it's affecting their lives.


KING: In 2018, they weren't. The unemployment rate was low in 2018 and suburban women especially, if you look at the Democratic takeover of the House, said, sorry, Mr. President, I can't take this. I don't like the tweets. I don't like the tone. I don't like the us against them.

The president is convinced -- he has a big rally tonight, we'll see him on the stage in North Carolina, right? He is convinced with him on the ticket, that makes it different.

Is there reason to believe that?

LUCEY: I mean that's certainly his argument and what you're hearing from people around him that in the midterms there wasn't that motivating force, which is the president. And we've seen, he does motivate in ways that are unique and I would argue that would have been the same with President Obama as well. There's a specific coalition showed up just for them.

I was at a Trump campaign event for women yesterday. They sort of kicked off a women's coalition in the Philadelphia suburbs. And there was a lot of enthusiasm there. Obviously these were sort of, you know, die-hard supporters. And the message was very much what we just heard from the party chairwoman, which was like, think about your pocketbook. Think about your family. Think about your economic situation. Sure, we'd all maybe like him to tweet less sometimes. But that's not what we should focus on.

And I then actually went and talked to voters sort of around the area, not just at the event, and I did -- I have to say, as I think we've seen a lot with this president, a lot of the people I talked to seemed fairly locked in on one side or the other. If you were -- if you were supportive of him, you were going to look past all of this stuff. People talked about 401(k)s, they talked about being able to retire. If you disliked him, this was just another sort of piece of kindling.

[12:20:13] I did not -- I mean I think -- I'm going to keep talking, I'll keep reporting back, but I didn't find tons of people saying this -- to this -- this moment was a turning point.

KING: To that point, and that's what the Trump campaign firmly believes --


KING: That there aren't that many persuadables out there.


KING: If you put 100 American voters in a room, 90 of them, if not 95 of them have already decided and they're either for or against and there's not much leeway.

And we've seen that pretty consistently in how the poll numbers -- this is, to your point, this is CNN's Randi Kaye, spent some time with some female Trump voters who say, still with him.


DENA MILLER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He was saying that if they hate America so much because of what we're seeing out of them and hearing out of them, they hate America. If it's so bad, there's a lot of places they can go.

SHARON BOLA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I'm a brown-skinned woman. I am a legal immigrant. I agree with him.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You don't think that's racist to say that, to go back where you came from?

BOLA: No, not at all. No.

KATHLEEN LIEBERMAN, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Actually, I think it's just -- it's a demonstration of how their ideology spills over, even though they're American now, so to speak, they're not acting American.


KING: Proof there, his base is loyal. His base is loyal.

I just want to show some numbers, though. If you look at the 2016 vote for Trump, and then the 2018 vote for Congress, these are women voters, there's not huge drops, but the president just won. You have to remember, the president narrowly won. He lost the popular vote. He narrowly won an Electoral College victory.

Down among women overall. Down a little bit among white women. Down a significant -- five points is a lot in a close election -- among white, non-college women. Down 5 points there among white college women. Down among independent women. If you look at the trend lines there.

Is there any evidence before us that the president can improve those numbers going into 2020 where we expect another very competitive contest?

KUCINICH: I think it's an open question, but I would like to point out who -- which Republicans voted for the Democratic resolution yesterday. Will Hurd, who is from a marginal district in Texas, Fred Upton, who had a really strong challenge this last -- this -- in 2018, Congressman Fitzpatrick, who is in Pennsylvania, and there aren't a lot of moderates anymore, because they're all gone. They're all replaced by Democrats. And Susan Brooks, who is retiring. She's from Indiana. Who -- who was a surprise that she -- that she was stepping aside.

So I -- if you have moderates that are that careful, that are -- that are going to, you know, put -- their lot with the Democrats, there's something out there and it's going to be in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. It's going to be an uphill battle for him.

KING: Right.

Here's an interesting data point for me, and I want your perspective, especially those of you who get out of Washington more than me, in the sense that Trump has an enormous advantage. Even if you're a Trump ally and you don't like these racist tweets, he does not have a serious primary challenge right now. So while the Democrats are fighting over every nuance and semi colon and Democratic policy, the president's campaign can test and research and test and try to identify their base voters.

This is their FaceBook ad spending and where they've spent their money. And 31 percent of their money on immigration, 17 percent of it talking about fake news, zero on health care, 7 percent on the economy, 6 percent on Mueller. The 31 percent on immigration tells you they believe the ground on which he ran in 2016 is the ground on which he's going to run in 2020.

And it's not just that they're spending the money now. They can watch the interaction, they can watch the commentary, they can watch what people on their list and people on their potential list are doing so they can, every day, test the 2020 general election out there in the digital space while the Democrats are at war with each other. That is an enormous advantage.

KIM: And combined with just the massive fundraising numbers that the campaign and the RNC have been able to raise because they don't have the distractions of a primary challenge or whatnot. The immigration message is really interesting because clearly it's one of the messages that propelled them in 2016, but it was something that hurt Republicans in 2018.

If you talk to Republican House strategists, every time after the president talked about the caravan or other issues, you look at the numbers in these suburban districts like Texas, outside the Houston suburbs or whatnot, they dropped precipitously, and that hurt Republican strategists. So the campaign -- but the Trump campaign better hope that the immigration message is more 2016 than 2018. But the overall point as well, I mean that's why when you hear chatter from the campaign saying we might expand to Oregon, New Mexico, other bluer states, you know that they are really doubling down on their base strategy that worked for them in 2016.

LUCEY: And also the --

CAYGLE: And that was --

LUCEY: Oh, sorry. With the numbers with women, I think part of the issue is they are going to focus really heavily on getting their base out. But given that it could be a very tight election, they are going to try and juice the margins with these --

KING: Right.

LUCEY: So with women, they're -- they've rolled out a Latino coalition. They'll likely sort of do other pushes. Because they know even they can edge those numbers a little bit back --

KING: Margins -- margins being the --

LUCEY: Margins really matter.

KING: Margins being the key word.


KING: If you can inch your numbers up a little bit among Latinos --

LUCEY: Exactly.

KING: A little bit among suburban women, or inch yours up a little bit or drive down turnout on the other side on the margins, that can make the difference in a close state.

[12:25:00] CAYGLE: Yes, and I think getting back to what Seung Min said, Republicans on The Hill are like, sure, this may help you in the presidential -- on the ticket, but does this help us down ballot? I mean there's a lot of concern. There's only 13 women in the House Republican conference. One of them, Susan Brooks, is retiring. She is their head of recruitment. She looked around and said, I don't know what we're going to do. I'm leaving. I mean I think that says it all.

KING: If they haven't figured out yet that he doesn't care about them, they're not paying attention.

Up next, the other side of the 2020 race and the major issue dividing Democrats ahead in the next debates.