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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Lashes Out At Rep. Omar Again; Judiciary CMTE. to Hope Hicks: What Did You Know and When; Dems to Press Mueller on Five Areas of Potential Trump Obstruction; CNN Unveils Lineup for Upcoming Democratic Debates. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 19, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: -- and Madison, Wisconsin. Some of that could be tornadoes.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh geez. Chad, thank you so much. Really important perspective for everybody on this.

Thank you guys, and thank you also much for joining me. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate. And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The lineups are set. Democratic debates round two include a Biden/Harris rematch on one night. And on the other, center stage will feature the two leading progressives, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren whose public talk of being friends and allies is being tested by an intense campaign competition.

Plus, Hope Hicks has some explaining to do. She told Congress under oath she knew nothing about hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. Newly released court documents from the Michael Cohen case paint a very different picture.

And President Trump lashes out again at the media and at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. She did what the president asked, sort of, receiving a very warm welcome back home in Minnesota. Omar and her fellow members of the squad also getting support overseas. Germany's chancellor, forgive me, says the president's racist tweets are wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Yes. I distance myself from this decidedly and stand in solidarity with the women who were attacked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And we begin the hour right there, the controversy that has dominated the past six days. President Trump lashing out again at Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar just a day after the president tried to disavow heated anti-Omar chants at a campaign rally. He's back to criticizing her on Twitter, picking up right where he left off. Even re-tweeting many of his tweets from earlier this week. While drumming up new outrage over how the story is being covered by the news media. President Trump saying, quote, it is amazing how the fake news media became crazed, that's the president's word, over the chant "send her back". He says the media have been, quote, totally common accepting of the most vile and disgusting statements made by the three radical left congresswomen. The media, of course, has covered those statements and analyzed them.

The president then goes on to criticize what he calls a tiny staged crowd as they greeted foul-mouthed Omar in Minnesota, a state which the president says he will win in 2020. Now about that crowd, here's the scene last night, Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport. Congressman Omar arriving home for a town hall on healthcare and here's what she told them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us and we are not deterred. We are not frightened. We are ready. We are in the ring, we are in the people's House, and we are going to continue to keep fighting until we have the America we know we all deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace with the Associated Press, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Rachael Bade with the Washington Post, and Vivian Salama with the Wall Street Journal.

So what today? Why today? The president yesterday pulled back some and said I didn't like the chant. The video suggests otherwise but the president was facing a lot of pressure which we'll tall about a bit later to pull back. Then today goes after the media, goes after Omar. Re-tweets stuff from earlier in the week. Second thoughts about his retreat?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, we've seen versions of this show before. You know, there have been some instances, they're rare, but there are some instances where the president will do something, face some pressure, and pull back a little bit. In most of those situations, he ends up back where he started.

You know, his instincts, he believes in the -- he believes in his instincts above all else, above the advice of his party, above the advice of his advisers. And I would bet also that he probably saw some of the warm reception that Representative Omar got in Minnesota and wanted to pull the attention back to him. I think that, you know, he's -- when he tweeted those words, it appears as though he meant them.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, also there's a lot of pressure mounting within his own party. And even though they're not coming out publicly and denouncing what the president did behind closed doors, there's a lot of pushback within the Republican Party. Folks going to Vice President Mike Pence and to the president himself and saying you really got to tone it down. And that for him is something that he doesn't want to hear.

He believes this is what his base wants to hear, and this is the way that he's going to actually communicate with his voters. He thinks he's doing the right thing by this.

KING: And if you look at some of the re-tweets he puts out there today, the president's strategy is sometimes pretty clear. He knows he's controversial. He knows that people don't like his temperament, a lot of voters, he knows people don't like some of the things he says, especially offensive racist things. So in these tweets, I'm not going to read them all. He's calling the Democrats racist. He's calling the others who are trying to bring them down to his level.

Some of these congresswomen have said controversial things. We have covered them. They're not racist things but the president is trying to create, I guess a, is it a moral equivalency, a political equivalency? What's the game here?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's exactly what he's doing. And he's also probably -- I mean, he likes this fight. He seems to be sort of bored with the idea of the 24 Democrats he may be potentially running against so he's trying to find four other ones.

[12:05:05] KING: Or a 3.9 percent unemployment rate.

ZELENY: He could absolutely be talking about that. If he wants to win in Minnesota perhaps that's something to talk about.

But, look, the reality is he wants to engage, he wants this fight. But, you know, Republicans down-ballot are worried about this of course. Some of his advisers are worried about this. But as Julie said, we've seen this movie before. He thinks it works for him. So his no -- you know, no signs of stopping this at all.

And he probably also wants to goad them into saying something else. He wants to continue this back and forth. You know, never mind talking about healthcare, never mind talking about the economy. He wants to talk about this.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And yes -- I mean, like Republicans want to focus on these four women too. I mean, they have made a big part of their own re-elections in 2020 trying to connect Democrats and the party with these four liberal women. But they want to talk about socialism. They want to talk about the comments that a lot of people found anti-Semitic comments that Omar made. And -- so they want to keep the focus on that.

But they feel like he came in with this hammer, baam, and just totally upended that strategy because then it became about race. And that undercuts them, and that is not the message they want to be sending.

KING: To your point, as some Republicans tell the president, at least dial back the rhetoric, focus on the policy, talk about the Green New Deal, talk about socialism, and talk about what Omar has said, offensive words about Israel. Rush Limbaugh telling the president you're on to something. Keep going.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW": So I think what happened at that rally is a combination of people having fun. They're with a president they love. It's a take-off on lock her up Hillary Clinton. I hope they continue to illustrate how wacko, how morally bankrupt and substantively bankrupt they are.

That's why I hope Omar keeps talking. I hope Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, I hope they keep talking. I hope that Trump continues to succeed in making all of these people the face of the Democrat party. That'd be great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Republicans hope an old white guy keeps mocking the accent of a Latino member of Congress?

BADE: No.

PACE: I mean, if they want him to stop, they could say so, right?

(CROSSTALK)

PACE: Privately, we hear so much about things that Republicans and Trump advisers say privately, right? And they wanted to know --

ZELENY: Or after they leave office.

PACE: Or after they leave office. They're willing to talk publicly. Paul Ryan is an example. Like, your moment is now. If you disagree with this, if you think that this is pushing the country in the wrong direction, this is the time to say it. If you think it's OK, then it's OK to be silent.

KING: But most of the calculations especially on the House side in their districts, they're not terribly diverse. And Trump is more of a risk to them. If you cross the president, you're at more of a risk.

BADE: Yes. And that is why the House Republican leadership sat down with Pence in his residence the day after that and said, look, you've got to deliver the message to the president that this is not working for us. I mean, Mark Walker who is a North Carolina Republican, as conservative as you can get, he was there and he sent out a tweet that night saying this is really disturbing. He says he has a lot of constituents that are minorities and they're telling him this is offensive.

And so, you know, it's going to be a question of who does the president listen to. You know, he often will listen to people like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. And so, do the more establishment types actually convince him to his side and for how long?

SALAMA: And I think after two and a half years they realize that he is so unpredictable at this point that their best bet is actually to just try to turn a blind eye when they have to, focus on the policy like Julie was saying, and just kind of weather the storm as much as they can, not to denounce him because he will come out swinging.

KING: And you saw Omar last night back home. Hero's welcome. Sure, the president said a staged crowd. No. Unions, other supporters, sure, they showed up. It was organized just like his rallies are organized.

Your supporters show up, you reach out to them, you get in the show. She, I'm going to stay in the arena, I'm going to keep going. Before she left town she said she thought the president was a fascist.

What do we make of this from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? The New York congresswoman, member of the squad. I think this is almost taunting the president to see if he will respond. "This land is your land. This land is my land. This land was made for you and me."

The president says they're un-American, they don't love their country. They say no, we just disagree with you a lot and sometimes we disagree with our own party. And yes, the gift of America is we get to say so.

ZELENY: And the question for some of these Democrats though who were the majority makers in the House, they're very uncomfortable about this as well. I've talked to several members of Congress and senior advisers to some of these members who don't necessarily want them to be the face of the party. You know, of course, they stand against racism and hate, but this is not helpful probably to the movement of the party. But that's why the president is doing this.

And in a state like Minnesota, we'll have to watch in November 2020 to see what that does. There are people with whom this resonates. The president knows exactly what he's doing. My issue or I guess a concern and you hear it talking to people, this is different than lock her up.

She was an equal. She was a -- Hillary Clinton was an official. Lock her up is a political taunt. This is something far different. And it's inciting hate and violence.

KING: Go back is racist. Go back -- you can question, you know, is it right, is it appropriate, is it off-color, is it bad taste about lock her up. But go back is racist.

To your point about Minnesota before we go to break. I just want to show you this 2016 election results.

[12:10:00] Hillary Clinton won the state, 47 percent of the vote. President Trump not that far behind, 45.3 percent of the vote. The third-party candidates, again in 2016 as you go to 27, hard to see the president getting over 50 in Minnesota, hard to see the president get over 50 in a lot of those midwestern states but he can get to 47. He can get to 46 and get to 47.

The question is who else is on the ballot. Is that enough? We'll keep watching it. Up next, the House Judiciary Committee wants to talk to Hope Hicks again after new documents raise questions about whether she misled the Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:05] KING: Welcome back.

Hope Hicks' attorney last hour taking issue with new suggestions she may have lied to Congress. But the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler says the Trump confidante and the former White House communications director needs to clear up what she knew and when she knew it related to the hush-money scheme to silence Stormy Daniels. This is what Hicks told Congress back in June, quote, I wasn't aware of anything. I wasn't aware of a hush payment agreement.

Hicks also told the committee she was never, quote, present for discussions between Cohen and Trump when the two discussed Daniels. But according to newly unsealed documents from the Michael Cohen case, Hicks' defense could hinge on the meaning of the word present. FBI investigators amassed telephone records, text messages, and e-mails showing a flurry of communications between the president, Hicks, Cohen, and the tabloid executives who helped bury the Daniels' story. All of this in October of 2016, hours after the Access Hollywood tape came out.

That includes the evidence in an alleged three-way call between the president, his fixer Cohen, and campaign aide Hicks right as the plan to keep Daniels quiet was said in motion.

CNN's Evan Perez joins our conversation. Her attorney last hour issuing an adamant statement saying she did not mislead anybody and she will respond to Chairman Nadler's request. The documents in the Cohen case raise a lot of questions about the veracity of her statements.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think at least it raises questions about whether she was, you know, abiding by the spirit of being forthcoming with the committee. And they asked her multiple times about her involvement in this. And again, as you pointed out, she said she wasn't present for any of these discussions. Clearly, there were some -- a lot of phone calls, a lot of text messages, and some of them obviously were in the hands of prosecutors. And they clearly -- obviously, no charges have been brought in this case, we don't expect any, so they -- you would assume prosecutors examined this idea of whether or not she was truthful or whether or not there was any place to charge her with anything and they have decided that they cannot.

So -- but I do think, John, you're pointing to the right thing which is that at a minimum it appears that she was not being fully forthcoming.

KING: Here's some of the exchange in her testimony. Sheila Jackson Lee doing the questioning here. Were you ever present when Trump and Cohen discussed Stormy Daniels? No, ma'am.

Were you -- you were never present when they discussed Stormy Daniels?

No.

I'm going to say it again, were you ever presenting when Trump and Mr. Cohen discussed Stormy Daniels since it was all over the news that that occurred.

So no is my answer.

That is her June 19th to the Congress. This is from the search warrant. On October 6, 2016, in an approximately 7:20 p.m., Cohen received a call from Hicks. Sixteen seconds into the call, Trump joined the call and the call continued for over four minutes.

So on a call but not present for the communication, is that the out here?

BADE: That could be the technicality she was speaking to right there. Yes, the semantics there. But look, I mean, there's a question here, Democrats have so much they want to investigate right now. They still want to pull out pieces of the Mueller report and have witnesses of the Mueller report come forward and testify, whether it's like Corey Lewandowski or the people in the White House.

You have to wonder if this is a rabbit hole because, you know, they're never going to find out the content of those calls. And they can bring her up and, you know, she can explain herself, but they have so much in front of them. And, you know, we are seven months into the new Congress and they've yet to really turn over a new leaf in terms of findings. And so you have to wonder is that the best angle to go to.

KING: To that point, it's a great question to get to the next part of the conversation, whether the committee can get Hicks to come back. Just one agenda item, the Judiciary Committee Democrats currently more than a little preoccupied with urgent preparations for that big date next week with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is scheduled to testify, Wednesday. Democrats say they are narrowing the scope of what they want to ask the special counsel when he's in the witness chair.

CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill. Manu, take us through the Democratic approach here.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the deliberations have been intense for us for any -- more than any congressional hearing in recent memory given the stakes of this hearing for next week. There have been mock hearings that Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have had with a top aide playing Robert Mueller we're told. Also, the House Intelligence Committee Democrats had an aide standing in as Robert Mueller in their version of a mock hearing. That typically does not happen. And we're also learning about the specific areas that they want to probe. First, when the House Judiciary Committee Democrats go, they're going to focus mostly about obstruction of justice. And we're told about five areas, in particular, they want to hone in on. That includes the president allegedly telling the former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel, telling McGahn then to publicly deny reports that Trump told him to fire Robert Mueller. Also telling Corey Lewandowski apparently, the former campaign manager, to tell the then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to essentially limit the scope of the investigation to exclude the president and instead focus on future campaigns, and then telling Lewandowski that if Sessions didn't meet with Lewandowski that Trump would actually fire Sessions.

And also, the allegations laid out in the report of potential witness tampering involving Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and others.

[12:20:06] The idea of dangling pardons. Those are areas that Democrats will focus on their line of questioning.

Then the House Intelligence Committee, Democrats will focus on the Russian interference aspect of the report, the context with the Russians and the like. But Republicans, John, of course, are going to pursue a different narrative. They're going to raise questions about the team that Mueller formed, alleged biases of that team, the origins of the investigation. So you're going to see two lines -- two narratives being pushed on both sides.

Democrats just want Mueller to reiterate what's in the report. The question is will they achieve the results they're hoping for.

John?

KING: That's an excellent question. Manu Raju in the Hill. Appreciate the live reporting.

And that is the issue. A lot of Democrats are already saying don't expect a lot new. Mueller has said I'm not going beyond the parameters of my report. The bet of the Democrats is that having the special counsel in the chair saying these things on camera, a guy with years of credibility in the law enforcement community will deliver some sort of a power to it that you don't get when you read it.

SALAMA: And also an explanation as to what his thinking was because he decided that he did not find enough evidence to recommend charges. And so a lot of the Democrats especially are going to be wondering why, why did you hold back. And this is something that's been going on for a long time because as Manu just listed, there were a lot of very damning elements to the report that a lot of Democrats felt it was enough to sort of proceed with some sort of charge.

And so, that's going to be one of the elements also. Democrats really holding out hope that they can have something sort of that -- something to push this further a little bit. And we saw that this week with the House deliberations over his racist remarks. His, you know -- a lot of them saying, wait, let's hold off and see what we can get from the special counsel first.

KING: But if the answer is the report speaks for itself, the Justice Department guidelines say I can't indict the president so I gave you a stack of evidence, now it's your decision. Does that --

PACE: There is a risk for Democrats in that it does put the ball in their court again. And we all know where Nancy Pelosi comes down on this. You know, she is just not there on impeachment and it would certainly fire up the members of her caucus who want her to go there I think even more

KING: You're not expecting (INAUDIBLE), right?

PEREZ: What I'd be shocked about next week is whether or not the Democrats can be as disciplined as clearly, they're trying to telegraph through, you know, some of the stories Manu and others doing some great reporting on the Hill. I don't know whether they will be or not. And if they are, it'll be -- frankly, it will be historic.

BADE: So I've heard from sources that they have had multiple practice sessions to specifically make sure members don't pontificate and they focus on Mueller.

KING: History -- the history of House hearings tells you all you need to (INAUDIBLE) about what to expect.

Before we go to break, it can be tough whatever your politics for candidates of any party being away from the family out on the campaign trail. But it does make for some great homecomings. Today, candidate Tim Ryan had one of the best.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:27:46] KING: The lineups are now set. 20 Democrats split into groups of 10 for the second debates of the primary seasons. The candidates have 10 more days now to prepare. And now, they have a better sense of the competition. Let's start reverse order.

This is night two. If you watched the first round of debates, a lot of fireworks between Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. They are there for a rematch in round two. And Cory Booker on the other side of the vice president. He said, he too, like Harris in debate one wants to talk more about comments from the vice president that some viewed as talking favorably about segregationist senators. She raised his record on busing in the last issue. So look for the fireworks.

In the middle here, the challenge for the other candidates, how do you break through? Another plot of this one here, the New Yorkers, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, watch for a little bit maybe there. The challenge here, though, for the other candidates, they know the action is going to be in the middle. How do they break in? One interesting footnote in this diverse Democratic field, on this night you have the diversity. You go to the first night and you have all white candidates here, but this is still a fascinating night. Let me do this a bit in reverse order.

Pete Buttigieg, the early surprise of the Democratic field, he took the new next generational face lane that Beto O'Rourke wanted. They are on the same debate stage here. Watch to see how that one plays out. Team O'Rourke saying they like that. That they want to have a conversation or at least a contrast with Mayor Buttigieg.

In the middle, the two leading progressives, the two candidates who say forget being pragmatic, forget being in the middle, be big and be bold. They will come under attack. Moderate governor here, moderate former governor here, moderate senator there. They will come under attack not so much personally but just you're trying to do too much. It's too liberal, it's too much spending.

Here is my big question. She has emerged as a serious threat to him. They say they're friends. They are allies on many of the issues. Will they end up clashing? Elizabeth Warren suggesting it's not her plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I am delighted. Bernie and I have been friends for a long, long time. We've worked on a lot of issues together. I'm here because I believe we have a country that is working great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. And 2020 is all about making this country work for everyone else, making democracy work for everyone else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So let's start there. They say they're friends. They are friends to a degree. But friends become rivals in a campaign, as we saw with Kamala --

[12:30:00]