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Biden Releases Criminal Justice Reform Plan; Nadler and Harris Team Up to Decriminalize Marijuana; Trump Attacks "The Squad"; Trump Makes 61 False Claims In Past Week; Boris Johnson Replacing Theresa May As U.K. Prime Minister. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:03] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Now can he sell it in a way that doesn't make people forget, no one is going to forget the 1990s and the crime bill that are so important in Democratic politics right now but to give it, OK, he gets it now, he's with us.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's the big question. He's going to be challenged on this almost immediately during these debates. You already see Senator Cory Booker coming out with tweets saying, you know, don't show us what you want to do, talk about what you've done the past 40 years. And so his record over 40 years, his record on the crime bill is going to be challenged and he's going to face a lot of scrutiny from other Democrats within his party and also from Republicans who are using this to sort of try to pull off some of the African-American votes saying, you know, President Trump passed the First Step Act. You compare that to maybe Senator Kamala Harris, who as a prosecutor, compare that to Joe Biden who passed -- who helped pass the 1994 crime bill.

So he's going to be facing challenges from both his left and his right, and it'll be very difficult for him to defend himself. But we'll see next week whether or not he's able to.

KING: And he'll be center stage, Wednesday is Biden's night with Booker on one side and Harris on the other. He (INAUDIBLE) on some of these issues with Harris last time more of the race and segregation and busing issues. Now, we'll see if crime comes up. But to your point about Senator Booker who has not been on television interviews, sometimes in Biden's face. We'll see if it plays out on the debate stage.

It's a different dynamic. Some candidates show up, and some don't. But here is the tweet and his campaign says, he's referencing Biden here. "It's not enough to tell us what you're going to do for our communities, show us what you've done for the last 40 years. You created this system. We'll dismantle it."

So no forgiveness there. Biden's point is, and I was here at the time, Biden's point it, that was what mayors were demanding. That is what a lot of community groups were demanding. The country had a crack epidemic. And Biden's point is Washington did what we are asked at the time. Twenty-five years later, yes, you can look back at it and say, we overshot on a number of areas. MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. And one thing Biden does need to do more effectively is not just explaining his past but showing what he's going to do in the future. That's something he hasn't done well, whether it's talking about the Anita Hill hearings or his positions on the Hyde Amendment. He's sort of gone back and forth.

But the matchup I am looking for is with Booker and Biden. I know there's a lot of talk about Kamala Harris and Biden but I think Booker is going to come with guns blazing. He didn't get a chance to take him on in the last debates but he will this time. And I think Kamala Harris has given a green light to the other candidates to go after Biden on issues like this one.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But that's what plays such a factor in this. It's not just these issues, it's that they see that she successfully went after him and it really shot her up nationally. And so they saw that it worked to go on offense against this person who is seen as the frontrunner. The question is if other candidates start to do that or if they try to wait and let someone else try to take the more moderate candidate down and they try to take that space. But that's certainly going to be something you're going to see people try to capitalize on is that Kamala Harris/Joe Biden moment.

KING: And we're going to see, he did not have a good first round and his whole calling card is I'm the guy you want up against Trump. He better prove, has to prove in this debate or else he'll going to keep coming down that he can be a more active and engaging with his rivals. So we'll see. He's put out -- he's planted a flag on healthcare this week, now he's planting the flag on criminal justice reform.

To Booker's point, Booker is essentially saying you did this in the past I'm not going to forgive you. That's a dangerous place to be in politics. Every politician makes mistakes. Every politician has things, times change, things change. But Senator Harris today is introducing with Chairman Nadler on the House side a new bill to decriminalize marijuana. Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, resentence and expunge past and pending convictions, prohibits the denial of federal public benefits based on marijuana use, a whole number of issues there.

This for her is a flip. When she was a prosecutor in San Francisco, she had a much different view. She opposed a California ballot initiative to make more lenient marijuana laws. So a lot of politicians change.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: They do. And one of the things that appeal to voters when candidates go after their support is not just to sort of focus on the substantive issue, whatever it is, in this case, crime, but to call into question the person's judgment, right? I mean, that's ultimately what Cory Booker is saying about Biden is whatever the context of the situation, you applied a set of judgment and set of decisions to a problem and came out on the wrong side. And I would have better judgment. And oftentimes, candidates with less of a kind of record are able to kind of skate across that because they don't have the kind of decades- long record that people can examine. Now like with Kamala Harris, she does have a record in California that people can look at and compare what she did, but nobody's record is as long as Joe Biden's. And he's going to be put in this position not only in the substance of it but ultimately on the question of, you know, you -- this was your judgment. This was -- Joe Biden's best judgment at the time was that this was the direction to go. And we all look back now and say that was wrong.

KING: It'll be interesting to see. Go ahead.

OLORUNNIPA: Just real quickly, one thing that the Biden camp says is, don't forget that Joe Biden was the vice president to Obama for eight years. Don't erase that part of my record.

[12:35:00] That also includes some criminal justice reform issues as well.

KING: All right, we'll see if he's more nimble in defending his past, getting to Obama and then looking to the future. That was what was missing, the nimble on the debate stage but maybe he's a little rusty. We'll see next week.

Up next, relief for the Bernie Sanders' campaign after a big internal dispute over money.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Tlaib, Tlaib -- I believe honestly, I believe they hate our country, OK? I believe they hate our country. Cortez, you know, I said I'm not going three names. These four people, the squad.

[12:40:04] By calling them out, because we don't like when they talk about evil Jews.


KING: That's the president last hour. A summit of teenagers, teenagers here in Washington. Members of the squad did not use the term, Ilhan Omar, (INAUDIBLE) did not use the term evil Jews. She talked about evil actions by the Israeli government. But the president has decided a week ago, Sunday, a racist tweet, escalated this fight with the squad. He clearly thinks he's going to keep going.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, you rarely see an issue with this president that he holds onto for more than a week because he's so impulsive and he bounces from issue to issue but he's grabbed onto this issue. He saw that his tweet which, you know, his past tweets haven't been getting as much traction. He even said that at a social media summit a couple of weeks ago. He saw that this tweet last Sunday did get a lot of traction and did allow him to dominate the news cycle so that's part of the reason he's really leaning into this, spending time as much time at these various rallies and rally-like events talking about the squad, even though they're just four freshmen members of Congress with limited amounts of power.

The president sees them as a foil. And the fact that he's still talking about them a week-plus after the initial tweet shows that he's going to continue to dig in on this.

COLLINS: And he's making the political strategy here plainly obvious as he jested in that speech pointing out that Ilhan Omar is from Minnesota, a state that he lost by about 45,000 points in 2016, a state he's told people he wants to win in 2020. And of course, Rashida Tlaib is from Michigan. So the president is making it obvious, he's going to go after this as a political strategy because he thinks he can tap into the fact that maybe they're not as popular outside of the cities or the districts that they're from and that is something he wants to be able to capitalize on in the coming election.

KING: It would be interesting if he would debate them on policy in that session. We didn't play this part of it. He suggested that --

COLLINS: What just his advisers tell him to focus on.

KING: Yes. He suggested that Tlaib was not sane. I don't think that's a policy fight. Just saying.

Up next, keeping count of the president's latest false statements.


[12:46:31] KING: Welcome back.

Some important news just in off Capitol Hill. The Senate voting 90-8 to confirm Mark Esper as the new Defense secretary, new chief of the Pentagon. That news just in.

Now moving onto a very important number, 61. Keep that number in mind, 61. That's how many false claims President Trump made last week through Sunday. Twenty-two at a campaign rally in North Carolina, 15 in a meeting with his cabinet, six on Twitter, and five while speaking to reporters on the White House grounds. Here is just a small sample.


TRUMP: Why would Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador, why would they keep their criminals when you can put them into the caravan, lose them in a caravan, and send them up to the United States.

Unemployment among Hispanic-Americans where we're doing really well. You know why? Because they want a strong border. They want it because they understand the border better than anybody. They want that strong border. They want that wall.


KING: CNN's Daniel Dale and his team compiled all those false claims as he has throughout the Trump presidency. Daniel is with me now.

Let's go through some of these. You rank them in this piece you write on I urge everybody to read the full piece. It gives you a much better perspective of the problem. Let's call it a problem.

Most egregious claim last week, the president talking about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.


TRUMP: She said you can hold your chest out. You can -- when I think of America, huh. When I think of Al Qaeda, I can hold my chest out.

They can't call our country and our people garbage. They can't be anti-Semitic. They can't talk about evil Jews which is what they say, evil Jews.


KING: Why do you rank that as most egregious?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, the president was making false claims to baselessly smear members of Congress as people who call Jews evil which Ilhan Omar never did. And someone who sympathized or even praised a terrorist group which she never did. And so there's some false claims Trump makes that are little exaggerations that really don't hurt anyone except for the truth, but in this case, he was essentially slandering a fellow elected official.

KING: He certainly was. Embellishment of the week, you talked about Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. The president tweeting this on July 17th last week. "After a 10-year search, the so-called mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the past two years to find him."

Why is that an embellishment?

DALE: So this was Trump playing, you know, the conquerer and commander-in-chief. This was his Bin Laden moment. We found the terrorist. This was funny to Pakistanis because Saeed has been living openly in Pakistan for years. He's been repeatedly arrested and released. He founded a political party, he gives interviews, sermons, press conferences. So there was no Bin Laden-style hunt for this man who was living quite happily in Pakistan.

KING: Uh-huh. All right, well, we call that an embellishment.

Another big issue is the president, first, he signaled these dramatic ICE raids were going to begin. They were supposed to happen on Sunday. Then last week the president said they happened and they were hugely successful.


TRUMP: The ICE raids were very successful. I went to -- I spoke to the head of ICE, I spoke to a couple of people. We had many people -- it was a very successful day.


KING: Very successful. ICE says 35 people have been arrested in an operation that was to target, I think, about 2,000.

DALE: That's right, John. So I don't fact check claims like very successful because that's pretty subjective.

[12:50:00] But I think it's important to provide the context about what happened here. This was framed as a massive operation. A couple, few dozen people got arrested.

KING: Thirty-five. Thirty-five. Very successful. Keep up the good work.

DALE: Thank you, John.

KING: It's an important work.

Up next for us, a new British prime minister taking the helm, and he's interesting.



BORIS JOHNSON, INCOMING BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I want to thank our outgoing leader, Theresa May, for her extraordinary service to this party and to this country. It was a privilege.


[12:55:00] KING: Changing in the guard, an important one in Great Britain today. That's Boris Johnson right there, the newly elected Conservative Party leader, praising the predecessor he often criticized. Johnson takes over tomorrow as the prime minister. Theresa May making her exit after failing to break the deadlock over Brexit, the U.K's departure from the European Union.

Johnson getting plenty of cheers and laughs in that victory speech today. He's often compared to President Trump because of his brash style, controversial comments, not to mention, an interesting hair, we'll call that.

President Trump tweeting today Johnson will, quote, be great. That's shortly after Johnson's lopsided win over his last rival, Jeremy Hunt. Like President Trump, Johnson also has critics within his own party. Several cabinet ministers have already vowed to resign once he becomes prime minister. As foreign secretary under May, Johnson was a hard- line Brexiter, helping sway public opinion ahead of the Brexit referendum three years ago today. He said he's prepared to leave the E.U., deal or no deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHNSON: I renew the mantra of the campaign that has just gone by. In case you've forgotten it -- you probably have, it was a couple -- it is deliver Brexit, unite the country, and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.

Deliver, unite, and defeat was not the perfect acronym for an election campaign since unfortunately, it spells dud. But they forgot the final E, my friends, E for energized. And I say to all the doubters, dude, we are going to energize the country. We're going to get Brexit done on October 31st.


KING: CNN Diplomatic Analyst Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins me. You met him several times during your work at the State Department.


KING: He's entertaining, he is colorful, he is brash, and he's different. Can he get this done? Brexit undermined the last two Conservative prime ministers of the U.K.

KIRBY: He's going to have a very difficult time getting much of anything done, John, because he has a razor-thin majority in Parliament and he knows that. And most of even the conservative MPs are against a no-deal Brexit so he's got a really tough way to go here on this. Now, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he takes the opposition's call for a general election up and calls their bluff on it because to try to maybe expand that majority.

KING: Take it to -- the opposition today for those who are not following this closely, they don't like Boris Johnson. They said let's have new general elections because, you know, Theresa May is gone, we don't like this. Let's have a new general election. You think that he's brash enough to say let's do it.

KIRBY: I absolutely think he's willing to take that gamble. He is not afraid of those kinds of risks. He knows he doesn't have the majority that he needs really to get anything done. And he thinks that -- you know, look, that Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party polled at like 20 percent recently. That's almost an -- that's incredible. And if he can partner with them he could maybe build out a bigger majority going into the end of the year.

KING: Now, obviously he was a leading voice for Brexit which President Trump leaned into several times, so a lot of people say his style if you look at him on that issue that he's a Trumpie. Is he?

KIRBY: He's not. He is a much more complicated figure than Donald Trump. Look, he and Donald Trump are aligned on Brexit but not much else. I mean, Johnson was against the United States pulling out of the Iran deal. He is in favor of the two-state solution in the Middle East. He was aghast when Donald Trump announced the Muslim travel ban.

I mean, this is not a man who is aligned with Donald Trump on all foreign policy issues. And so if Trump thinks it's just going to be an easy go with Boris Johnson on these kinds of things, I think he's got something coming.

KING: I want to ask you a separate question on a different issue. The president was sitting in the Oval Office yesterday with the prime minister of Pakistan. He said he was willing to mediate Kashmir, a long-running dispute between India and Pakistan. And he says that the Indian prime minister, Mr. Modi, asked him to do that. The Indian government came out with a slap back saying, no, we did not. What's that about?

KIRBY: It's been a long-standing policy between those two countries that they want it resolved bilaterally. And it's been American policy for a long time to let them -- to help them solve it but not to mediate it. Not to be in the middle of it. So I found it amazing that he would suggest such a thing. And I'm glad to see that the Indians came out to denounce it right away. It's been a long-standing policy and we have long believed that they should solve this bilaterally. Kashmir is such a sensitive issue, and India and Pakistan need to be the ones solving.

KING: Another thing that jumped off the tail at me today was reports that Russian and Chinese bombers were flying joint missions in Asia, and the South Koreans were alarmed, the Japanese were alarmed. What's this about?

KIRBY: Well, look, and shots were fired from these aircraft. That is very rare on air-to-air intercepts. I think it's about two things. I think the Russians were simply -- or trying to pull out and get some intel on the South Korean air defense systems because one of the Russian aircraft wasn't a bomber, it was a reconnaissance aircraft, a surveillance aircraft. Number two, I think Putin and Xi are trying to draw out tensions between Japan and South Korea, economic tensions and some social-political -- these islands they flew over are claimed by both countries so they're trying to extrapolate I think and to play on some of those tensions.

KING: I was going to say more than a little interesting. Alarming.

KIRBY: It was very dangerous.

KING: Alarming.

Admiral Kirby, appreciate you coming in.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you back here tomorrow. Busy day in the news, stay with us. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.