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CNN to Host Next Democratic Debates in Two Weeks in Detroit; Harris' Mixed Messages on Medicare for All and Private Insurance; Pompeo Still Coy About Possible 2020 Senate Run; Remembering Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:14] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Next Democratic presidential debates right here on CNN, just two weeks away. While 24 Democrats are still in the running, only 20 likely to make the cut. Today, we're getting our first sense of who most likely will be on the stage over the next two nights.

We think it will be these 20. Again, the official certification comes from the Democratic National Committee later today. But these 20 appears to have met the new criteria.

The new face, Steve Bullock, he did not make, the Montana governor, did not make the first round of debates. He was just getting into the race. Eric Swalwell has left the race. So he will be the new face.

Joe Biden has a lot to prove in debates round two. He struggled a bit in debates round one. We don't know the breakdown, which 10 will be on stage the first night, which 10 the second night. That will be done, conducted a draw tomorrow night here on CNN.

But as we look at the 20 here, the race is changing in part because of the first round of debates. Here's more proof. This is the California poll by Quinnipiac. Kamala Harris, the California senator now in the first place, a statistical tie with the former vice president, Joe Biden, but Biden down in yet another poll. Biden down, the former frontrunner now down in the pack, if you will.

You see Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, Mayor Pete, and Andrew Yang among those who got over one percent in the California poll. Harris has an opening here. She was on the attack against Biden in debate number one. Expect healthcare to be a flashpoint in debates number two. Former vice president Biden says I want to preserve ObamaCare. Those like Kamala Harris who are for Medicare for All would do away with it. She says not so.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden says that this is what you were suggesting, an elimination of ObamaCare. Is that accurate?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's absolutely not. On the debate stage, I'm the only one who went to court to fight to keep in place all of the benefits of ObamaCare. But like President Obama himself has said, he used the analogy of it being like a starter home.

LAH: So, it is moving on from ObamaCare?

HARRIS: And making improvements on it.


KING: I want to go back to Senator Harris on healthcare in just a moment. But I want to first talk about the Biden dynamic. Every poll we look at since the first debate, he is down. Not just in the horse race numbers but when you look into the weeds of who's most impressed, who are you looking at, who are you not going to vote for, his numbers are worse in every poll you look at. Why?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's probably a couple of things that that, you know, these other candidates are -- the electorate is starting to get to know them because a lot of them weren't national household names. And Biden's debate performance hurt him. He didn't look as quick on his feet. He didn't have a response to Harris. And, you know, not only that, some of the things he said on the stump. So it's probably a little bit of both.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When he has come under scrutiny a lot by some of his Democratic challengers, he hasn't responded with a lot of like he hasn't been very sharp in his response, as you know, he -- and particularly in the debate. He, you know, cut himself off when he was trying to respond to Kamala Harris, which I don't think was his best moment. He got really testy with Senator Cory Booker when Booker called him to apologize.

And he also took some time, I believe it was 18 or 19 days to actually apologize for his comments on working well with segregationist senators. So when he has put on the defensive, he hasn't been able to respond as kind of with a lot of alacrity that others may have.

KING: I've been around a while. The it's my turn argument doesn't work in Democratic primaries like it used to work and didn't work in 2016 in the Republican primary, mind you. I don't think it works at all anymore. But Joe Biden sometimes seems like he's Bob Dole, saying it's my turn. Ask Hillary Clinton 2007, 2008 and ask Hillary Clinton almost 2016 when Senator Sanders came a lot closer than anybody thought he could. It's not the way the Democratic primary electorate works.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: People didn't like that sense from Hillary Clinton in '08, in '16. And I think when you're in these early states, I've been in Iowa recently, those voters, they want to kick the tires of all these candidates. They don't like the idea of any kind of coronation.

And he -- there has been a gap in his campaigning and his political career. And I think to some voters also they raise that question that he's been out of this for a while doing political styles have changed, campaign styles have changed. And he's competing against people who were doing things in a different way than he's used to, and you're seeing some of his attempts to adjust to that.

KING: So he's hoping in round two. He plans to flag Barack and I passed ObamaCare. We are going to defend it. I want to have a buy-in option. If you want to buy-in to Medicare, you can do that for a public option but not Medicare for All. Let's fix what we've got. Let's not have a sweeping change.

Senator Harris has said some issues on this question. That if you're for Medicare for All, does that mean bye-bye to all private insurance? Does that mean a significant retreat? Her answers over the weeks and months have been a little different.


HARRIS: And the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care. And you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company.

[12:35:00] Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on.

LESTER HOLT, NBC HOST: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor for a government-run plan?


HOLT: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that private insurance should be eliminated in this country?



HARRIS: No, I do not.

LAH: What is the exact role of private insurance?

HARRIS: Well, it's to cover what is not otherwise covered.

LAH: So that includes what?

HARRIS: Very little, because almost everything will be covered.


KING: Now it's you have it but it covers very little. If you go back to January with Jake Tapper, it was let's eliminate all of that. What is it?

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think with her, we see her fighting on two fronts. She's fighting Biden. And she continues to rise in the polls and had this moment against him. And does she want to be not as moderate as he is, but somewhere in that area. But she's also fighting Bernie Sanders.

And in some ways, they keep trying to out purify each other for the left. And so we see these mixed, muddled answers. And what do the voters take away from that is the question, do they know what her plan is on healthcare.

KING: And is it on purpose? Is it a strategic decision to try to stay in the muddle so that if you win the primary you have more room to get back to the middle or is it she just doesn't have an answer? Because it's incredibly complicated, you know, and she did say in the interview with our CNN's Kyung Lah that she thinks the transition period might be a little longer than say Bernie Sanders envisions in his because it's complicated.

KIM: Well, I think that's the constant struggle for a lot of these Democratic candidates, particularly the ones who are trying to hue to the left to win the support of the primary voters. It's unclear whether it's a deliberate campaign strategy on the part of Kamala Harris on the healthcare question when there's clearly such a divide within the Democratic Party over what parts to pursue.

But I think there is a, you know, Senator Harris, I think, has definitely shown her talent in the debates when she's asking questions of Trump nominees. But you've seen with the healthcare question how she struggles to answer some of them sometimes.

KING: And just one more point I want to make as we get ready for debates round two, Senator Sanders also has a lot to prove. If you're Senator Biden and Senator Sanders, the more familiar faces, the polling has not been good for you in recent weeks.

If you go to the Sanders' website, who said it quiz? Joe Biden attacking Medicare for All with lies straight out of the playbook of Donald Trump. He has -- who said it, did Donald Trump did say it? Did others say it? Getting aggressive, shall we say?

LUCEY: Yes, it's a little bit of remember me, guys. Sanders is struggling I think a little bit because last time around, he was sort of a breakout star in a tiny primary field. And this time around, he's in a huge primary field. And there are other people, a lot of other people and they perhaps should credit him some. But they're treading the same water.

There's -- if you are a progressive, you know, early state voter, you have a lot of options this time. And that makes it more complicated for him.

KING: Both from a policy and a personality perspective, it's fascinating. And again, two weeks from today, we get to have the debates play out yet again.

And before we go to break, an actual bipartisan moment here in Washington today. Senators working on a milestone on Capitol Hill, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, casting his 16,000th vote in the United States Senate today. He's only the fourth senator in history to achieve that feat. The Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell congratulating his colleague just a few moments ago.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think I'll speak for all of us when I offer congratulations to our good friend from Vermont on this historic milestone.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): It is a privilege to be in this body, a body which has been at times it can be and should be the conscience of the nation. I would urge my friends on both sides of the aisle to continue to work together.



[12:42:58] KING: Topping our political radar today, Puerto Rico's governor refusing calls that he stepped down over a text messaging scandal that set off angry street protest earlier in the week.

An investigative journalism group released nearly a thousand group text messages in which Governor Ricardo Rossello and 12 other men in his administration slander and make jokes about other people including a homophobic reference to the pop star Ricky Martin. Governor Rossello not denying it says, let's move on.


GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO (through translator): My responsibility is to continue working and provide you with these results. One will always face different challenges. This is a big challenge. But at the same time, we must fulfill our objectives.


KING: The federal investigation into the Trump organizations role in hush-money payments to keep women quiet about alleged affairs with the president is over. And a judge has ordered federal prosecutors to release information on the investigation at the former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. No Trump organization executives are expected to be charged in that review.

A Republican immigrant from Jamaica running for the New York congressional seat now held by Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Scherie Murray is a businesswoman from Queens. He moved to the United States when she was nine. She's one of four Republicans in the district who've entered the race. She says the Democratic incumbent has become a distraction, neglecting her home community.


SCHERIE MURRAY (R), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Your representative in Washington chooses self-promotion over service, conflict over constituent, resistance over assistance. Queens and the Bronx need someone who will create jobs instead of turning them away. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making more time for local media outlets back home in Kansas, amidst speculation he might run for Senate there in 2020. This morning, he told a radio show in Kansas City, he's not actively pursuing that possibility but won't rule it out either.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing can sway you then either way, huh? Nothing at all?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, I -- you know, the -- I would have never dreamed that I'd be the secretary of state even a year before I became the director of the CIA a year before that. And so, I always leave open the possibility that something will change and my path in life will change too, but my mission set is really very clear.


[12:45:08] KING: He's a smart enough man to know what that does. You either say no, no, no or you say, well, who knows. And who knows means maybe.

KIM: Well, he is cracking open the door a little bit, and you see -- you can just see Mitch McConnell and the rest of Senate Republicans try to yank it open to try to get him to run because Kris Kobach is now in the race. And remember, one of the reasons that Kansas now has a Democratic governor is because Kris Kobach was the Republican nominee. Republicans are concerned about that race privately even though Pompeo seemed to rule it out earlier this year, was a little bit more definitive than he was in that interview just now. They still think they have a shot so hopefully, they're going to continue to work that on their end.

KING: Well, the arc went from no to, well, who knows? Well, that's if you're Mitch McConnell, that's going in your direction, right?

KUCINICH: Well, yes, because -- and Kobach is now officially in the race, right, so that also has changed since Pompeo's last maybe interview.

LUCEY: The question is, can Pompeo give up everything he has right now?

KUCINICH: Exactly.

LUCEY: He has this big international job and running a Senate campaign, it's a lot of work to go back to Kansas and do a lot of chicken dinners and do a lot of things. And it's just --

KIM: And most of the time, Senators go from the Senate to the secretary of state, not the other way around. So that's another interesting dynamic.

KING: You want to go back to Capitol Hill. How CIA to state to Senate? We shall see.

Up next, the legacy of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens remembered today for his life of service, his dissents, and his love of bow ties.


JOHN PAUL STEVENS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Well, you want me to tell you the truth? The truth is that I can't tie a four-in-hand because when I tie a four-in-hand, the small part gets around in front all the time. I never had any trouble with the bow tie. I tied a bow tie ever since my dad taught me how when I was a kid.

And of course, I've heard people say you can't spill things on it. But instead of spilling it on the tie, you spill it on your shirt. So that's not an advantage either.



[12:51:41] KING: Tributes are pouring in today for the retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who passed away yesterday at the age of 99. Nominated by a Republican, President Gerald Ford back in 1965, Stevens served until stepping down from the bench in 2010. He was endeared for always sporting a bow tie and well-known for his powerful dissents. And though he often denied his ideology change on the bench, by the time he retired at the age of 90, Stevens had become a leader of the liberal side of the bench.

Here to discuss his legacy, CNN's Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic, and CNN Presidential Historian Tim Naftali. Let me get to two of those dissents because we all think, you know, which opinion did he write, which leading opinion -- on the leaning side, the winning side if you will. The dissent 2010 Citizens United, the campaign finance case, "A rejection of the common sense of the American people who have recognized the need to prevent corporations from undermining the self- government." Citizens United ruling, of course, allowed almost unlimited money into the system.

Bush v. Gore 2000, "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Strong words when he wanted to.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Definitely strong words. He was always direct but as I've always said he not cheeky about it. He was just straightforward, he had that midwestern unassuming demeanor right into the very end. He was just on a book tour for his third book and he felt like it was important to constantly be reiterating his dissenting opinions so that they would get out into the public atmosphere and perhaps be picked up.

You know, John, he really does envision the notion that Supreme Court justices don't hue to the interest of the men who appoint them, you know, which is sort of a quaint notion today. But here he was, a Republican appointee who becomes the leader of the left and very outspoken to the end, even about President Trump.

KING: And to that point, Tim, Anthony Kennedy gets most of the media attention or did get most of the media attention because appointed by Reagan and he was the leading voice on abortion rights, on gay rights, and the like but John Paul Stevens right there with him.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, John Paul Stevens to the end of his days, wrote that he didn't think his judicial philosophy had changed. The facts of the cases changed and the country changed. More importantly, the court changed. He didn't feel -- he didn't actually like to be called a liberal member of the court. He just felt that the court had gone far to the right.

He was pretty consistent in the way he viewed many, many issues. Where he did change, he was quite straightforward. He said, look, his views on capital punishment changed. When he entered the court, he was for capital punishment. By the end of his time on the court, he felt that was a mistake that it was wrong to be in favor of capital punishment.

But for the most part, he focused on issues the same way. He was very interested in the 14th Amendment and due process. He viewed the concept of liberty as providing many of the guarantees that Americans have come to enjoy. He believed, for example -- his reasoning behind believing that abortion should be legal, though he didn't actually -- wasn't on the court for Roe v. Wade but he was on the court for Casey, was that it was a matter of liberty.

He was a pioneer in thinking about same-sex marriage. He wasn't there for those cases but he laid the groundwork for Windsor and Obergefell by saying, look, the issue here is just because the country at one point thought something was immoral, as the country changes, the court must change with it.

[12:55:11] He said otherwise miscegenation would remain a law of the land in this country and there's no reason it's immoral.

So he was -- he felt he was true to his philosophy throughout his career, though he changed his mind on certain issues. And, by the way, isn't that what you want from a judge? You want someone to have the judicial temperament but also the mind and ability to absorb new data and think in new ways.

KING: That's what I think we want. I'm not sure that's what in the modern day we're going to get. But we shall see. Wish we had more time. Tim and Joan, thanks for coming in.

And thank you for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. We're awaiting we shall let you know Speaker Pelosi's press conference about to begin shortly. Brianna Keilar will be here to bring you that. She's up live after a quick break.