Return to Transcripts main page


Biden: I Won't Be "As Polite" In This Week's Debate; Sanders: "We Are Engaged in a Political Revolution"; Democrats Call Trumps Tweets about Cummings Racist; Did Mueller Testimony Change the Impeachment Debate?. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 28, 2019 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:21] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The Democrats debate. Joe Biden promises round two will be different.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was probably overly polite and the way I didn't respond.

KING: Plus --

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Did you actually totally exonerate the president?


KING: The special counsel and the impeachment debate.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a disgrace what the Democrats are doing.

KING: And the president attacks another African-American in Congress.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My generation saw this country elect its first black president and then turn around and elect a racist to the White House.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


KING: And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday. A packed hour ahead, including a big win for President Trump and his plan to build a border wall, and another controversial twitter attack on an African-American member of Congress.

But we begin with a defining week for the Democratic Party and its crowded 2020 presidential field. Twenty candidates on stage over two nights this week in Detroit, a perfect middle-American venue to debate the challenges facing the Democrats, from big ideological divides over health care, to a fierce competition for African-American votes, to the question of who among these might appeal to the white blue collar workers who helped President Trump to his stunning 2016 Michigan win.

The debates could be the last act for many of those struggling at the bottom of the pack. And it is a moment of truth for the man at the top.

Former Vice President Joe Biden began this race as a front-runner but saw his standing decline after a shaky first debate. So, Biden enters round two promising to be less polite and knowing Senator Cory Booker is among those hoping to gain by targeting the leader.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm disappointed that it's taken Joe Biden years and years, until he was running for president to actually say that he made a mistake. He's unrolled, his unveiled his crime bill, for a guy who helped to be an architect of mass incarceration, this is an inadequate solution to what is a raging crisis in our country.


KING: The pre-debate numbers suggest Biden has stabilized some. A Fox News national survey put Biden a top the field at 33 percent. Three senators, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris are next but well back.

In South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg runs a distant fifth. In South Carolina, which votes fourth in the primary calendar next year, the same top five in a Monmouth survey that shows a big overall Biden lead and the commanding Biden advantage at the moment among black voters.

With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's M.J. Lee, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast," Astead Herndon of "The New York Times", and Karoun Demirjian from the "Washington Post".

So, let's start with the debates. Let's start with day two. We're doing reverse order.

The vice president at center stage, former vice president, center stage, after a shaky first performance. How critical is he? He says he's not going to be as polite, he says he's going to push back, if Senator Harris, Senator Booker or anyone else questions his record on race-related issues, on busing issues, on crime issues.

How big is this week for Joe Biden?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's huge. I mean, he has to show he wants this. Last debate, it really didn't -- it seemed like he just thought he could make his case and get out of there. And this time, he knows that Senator Booker is going to be coming at him. He I think expects that Senator Harris also might have something to say if he attacks her.

Joe Biden needs to show why he's in this. And this is an opportunity to do that.

KING: And so, I want you to listen here a little bit, because when candidates in the days before a debate, you hear their briefing books. When they start talking to reporters, and they start saying things, you get a sense of what they are preparing for.

Senator Booker -- Senator Harris in the first debate have the sharp exchanges with Joe Biden to Senator Harris' advantage.

Cory Booker saw that. He is struggling in the polls. He wants to get into the same ground.

Listen to the former vice president saying, Mr. Mayor, or Mr. Senator now, but Cory Booker was the mayor or Newark in his prior life, come at me, be ready.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cory knows it's not true. If you look at the mayor's record in Newark, his police department was stopping and frisking people, mostly African-American men. If he wants to go back and talk about records, I'm happy to do that.


KING: A warning shot back. If you want to go there, I have my talking points, too. Number one, the distance. Number two, the energy. His heart did not seem in that.

And heart is very important. You made the point, Joe Biden calling card is you want me on the stage against Donald Trump. I'm -- close your eyes, I'm the president here (ph). I can take him on.

Where's the passion?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I feel like this Booker/Biden potential battle is going to be so fascinating, because, you know, Booker came in to this campaign with this feel-good politics can be optimistic, let's all unify kind of message.

[08:05:12] A message that really hasn't worked. And I think he knows something has to change for the trajectory of his candidacy to change. And, clearly, he is seeing this opportunity of standing right next to Biden as a big opportunity to make a move.

And -- but he's sort of telecast exactly what he wants to go after Biden on. And I think that's a risk because that gives Biden the opportunity to study up and prepare to be exactly ready for this punch that Booker is going to throw. And I don't know that it's necessarily a guarantee that Booker's punch is going to land as well as Kamala Harris's did last time.

KAROUN DEMIRJIIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYTS: You brought up the question of energy, and that's something that you can't overplay it, if Booker looks too zealous about going after Biden, that could backfire. But like Jackie was saying before, you were making the point. Biden

needs to show that he is more vivacious than his age and he's more vivacious than relic of the past generation. This is disconnected in a way, but we just went through a week where people were asking similar questions about another figure who is prominent from that generation. That was the Mueller hearings and there's a big debate about what was energetic enough to stand up for Trump. And granted the former FBI director is really different than the 2020 candidate.

But generally speaking, we're asking these questions of, are the statements of that generation, the ones who are ready to come to a fight against the president, we assume they are but they have to, as Jackie was saying, show it?

KING: And so, is his support deep? He has the name recognition. He was Obama's vice president. He has a 30-plus-year career in the Senate. He's very well-known in the party.

He came down and he was coming down fast after the first debate. Those last two polls, I show at the open, the Fox News national poll and more importantly, go state by state and picking presidents, the South Carolina poll shows he has stabilized, and he has that lead among African-American voters, which once you get past Iowa and New Hampshire become critical in the Democratic primaries. The question is, is it real?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that was the power of what Senator Harris did in the first debate, not just on the actual policy point about busing but the general feeling that Joe Biden was out of the moment, that he -- the kind of strategy of being above the fray in the primary was punctured. And I think that is what he is going to have to try to overcome in the second debate.

Just the feeling among -- standing wedged in between two black senators, between Senator Cory Booker and Senator Harris, and that kind of fight for the black vote, as you mentioned. It will not just be about the specifics. Can he project that he is the person for the moment. That goes kind of beyond the one-on-ones, but can he have the energy that we are talking about.

That is the thing that still is kind of unclear and what his own staff coming out of the first debate was shocked by. They were looking for a more energetic Joe Biden.

KING: So, let's flip the coin and talk about Senator Harris. You had a good first debate. You gained in the polls because of it, who I think opened a lot of eyes. OK. She is passionate. She's aggressive. She's a good debate.

If you're Democrat, you're thinking, who can beat Trump? You're thinking about that stage next September and October as you watch the Democrats against each other right now.

She has had issues. Not getting a clear answer on what she would do about. She says she's for Medicare for all, but she's gone back and forth does your private health insurance disagree. Here's how she explains this in an interview that's in "The New York

Times" this weekend.

I'm not trying to restructure society, Ms. Harris said. I'm just trying to take care of the issues that wake people up in the middle of the night. Part of the difficulty, Ms. Harris said, was her impulse to take any given question and start running through, in my head, all the scenarios about how it would actually work. It can be very obviously challenging for me as a candidate, because it can be misinterpreted, I think, as being evasive, or, is she sure, or is she wiffly-waffling? Or whatever, she said, wiffly-waffling, I'm quoting here, Ms. Harris said. But it's just, I really do think through these things.

KUCINICH: So, on the Medicare for All issue, she has been all over the place. She -- I have a hard time believing she is not going to be called on that. So, in terms of what's important to voters -- they're in Michigan. Health care was the number one issue in 2018 why voters were voting for Democrats. That was the number one thing they were concerned about. I think also that reflects in the country.

So that's one of these -- health care is one of these things you have to have kind of nailed. So, it will be really interesting to see what she says on the debate stage and how she tries to square what she has being saying the last couple of weeks.

LEE: And the fact that she had such a strong performance last time means that she now has this good problem of the bar having been set much higher for her this time. I mean, the number of voters I talked to immediately after the first debate at Warren events, not even Harris events, said she made such an impression by taking on Biden the way that she did, and I can really imagine her taking on Donald Trump in the general election.

I think people are eager to see that kind of passion and that kind of fighter in the Democratic nominee. I think the trick for Harris, the tricky position she's in this time is she doesn't want to come off looking like a one trick pony.

[08:10:03] She probably can't do what she did the last time with Biden. She has to find a different way of setting herself apart from the former vice president.

DEMIRJIAN: The problem for the policy debates like the real, you know, the punch slinging over issues like Medicare for All, the issue is we are still at a split debate stage, I think, though, really. Because as you just said, it's a Warren event that you heard somebody say positive things about Harris. That's the matchup. That you're going to have to see her with these issues and have the same sorts of moments Harris had with Biden over the policy issue that have been defining -- the Democratic Party has to decide what defines (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And we talked about night two. When we come back, we'll talk about night one. We have Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, at two progressives, who want the party to go big and go bold. When we do come back, a deeper dive on the issues. Do Democrats want

to strengthen Obamacare or ditch it for Medicare for all? And do some of what the Democrats like a recipe to reelect the Republican president.


KING: President Trump won a big court victory Friday on an issue that is perhaps his sharpest policy contrast with the Democrats we will see debating in Detroit this week. Supreme Court ruling the White House can begin redirecting Pentagon funds to build sections of a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

Also Friday, the administration signing an agreement with Guatemala that requires those seeking asylum to file paper work, instead of gaining temporary access to the United States by making an asylum claim at the U.S./Mexico border. Democrats say the wall is unnecessary and they label the president's asylum policies cruel.

[08:15:04] But immigration is among the issues that raised a giant issue for the party. Are the views of liberal activists who drive much of the Democratic policy debate too far to the left of voters the Democratic nominee would need to win the White House next November.

Let's walk through some of these. Among the Democratic candidates you will see debating this week, these are among those with at least 2 percent in a recent national poll. These fives, Senators Booker, Harris, Sanders, Warren and businessman Andrew Yang favor Medicare for All. Over here, former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Buttigieg, Mr. Castro, O'Rourke, Senator Klobuchar, and Governor Hickenlooper, they prepare a public option -- you can buy in to Medicare if you want, but you can keep your private insurance if you don't.

There's another issue the Democrats will debate this week. Should it be decriminalized? If you cross the border illegally, should that be a big crime as it is now or should it be more like a traffic ticket? Those who favor decriminalization, you see the seven of them right there including Mayor Buttigieg, Senator Booker, Mr. Castro pushed this issue in the first debate. Over here, opposing decriminalization more candidates should say are more centrists.

This is among the Democrats. The question is, what about when we get to a general election? What will the Democratic nominee be asking the American people to support? Among Democrats, if you say, should Medicare be for who all who want it? Test off the chart. And most registered voters, seven in 10 say Medicare for all who want it, if you describe it that way.

Should the government regulate prescription drug prices? Eighty percent of Democrats say yes. Almost 70 percent of registered voters. So, the party is on safe ground there. But what if Medicare for All would replace your private insurance?

Sixty-four percent of Democrats are open to that, only 40 percent of registered voters if you look at the broader electorate. That's a warning sign for Democrats. Pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, 84 percent of Democrats

support that. More than six in 10 of the broader, Democrats are safe ground there. But allow those who are here illegally to get health insurance from the government, 60 percent of Democrats say so. Only 32 percent of the broader electorate.

This is a problem for Democrats to make that case. They haven't yet made the case for the broader electorate. And decriminalize illegal border crossings, 45 percent of Democrats are open to that, only 27 percent of the full electorate.

So, as the Democrats debate this week, some of the policy ideas might be popular with Democrats, a tougher sell to the country. So, as many Democrats say we can't do this, can't go too far left. Bernie Sanders among those who says, ignore them. Go bold.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So our job as a people is to think outside of the box. Not accept what the media tells you is reality. You know what reality is. You know what we can do as a country.

So, brothers and sisters, what we are engaged in is not just a political campaign. We are engaged in a political revolution.


KING: Michael Shear from "The New York Times" sheriff joins our conversation.

Senator Sanders with Senator Warren will be center stage the first night. These two progressives who say, go big, go bold, they believe you can sell to the country in one national election, Medicare for all, free college tuition, maybe decriminalizing border crossings, giving health care to the undocumented.

They think you can do that in one big election. There's no election in the past that says they can. It doesn't mean they can't. But it's a huge risk.

Senator Sanders says it's the media. It is a fact. Only 32 percent of all registered voters support giving health care benefits to the undocumented. Can Democrats make this case or are they playing into the president's hands?

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it depends on the issue. I think, you know, you raise the issue of immigration. I think there is one where the Democrats are treading on dangerous ground in particular parts of the immigration debate. When they focus on the treatment of the migrants in the decrepit conditions at the border, I think they are on stronger ground. They have an issue to push back against the president's kind of demonization of migrants.

I think health care is a tougher thing for them. They have owned the health care debate over the last few years in terms of sort of popularity with the voters. And they risk losing that. I remember covering the early health care Obamacare debate in 2009 and 2010.

You know, the country was barely -- the president abandoned the public option because even that was perceived to be too far left of where the country is. It's unclear to me that the country has moved so dramatically that the voters are going to accept the 34ed care for all kind of proposal.

KING: So, let's stick there for a second, because, again, former Vice President Biden will be with Senator Harris and Senator Booker who are for Medicare-for-All, as we talked in the last lock, Senator Harris hasn't given -- she has given different answers about private insurance.

Listen, you hear the briefing books, and what the candidates say in the days before the debates. Here's the former vice president saying his opponents, he just wants to build and protect and build on Obamacare.

[08:20:05] He says opponents who are more liberal don't get it.


BIDEN: I find the people who say they're for Medicare for all, that they're not going to tax the middle class because you don't need to that -- come on. What is this? Is this a fantasy world here?


KING: Now, that could be at Senator Harris. It could be at Senator Booker. It could be Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders says, yes, you do raise some taxes on the middle class but more than make it up, in his view, under Medicare for All, through lower premiums and other effects like that. That is the debate we're going to have some week.

HERNDON: I think Senator Sanders on the ground, wants this to be Medicare for All.

I think when you think about the progressives in this race, Warren and Sanders, those types of numbers about the general election wouldn't surprise or scare them. Their argument is they are going to convince people and make that kind of case. I think they understand the kind of history of political actions is not in their favor. If they were going to be elected to the White House, grassroots ground well energy that is upending Washington, similar to what we saw president Trump do two or three years ago, they kind of convince people to their rigid, original ideological point, not that folks were there in the first place.

But when we think about the second debate, Senator Harris is going to have pressure to articulate a Medicare for All plan. I think M.J. is right on this. But Democrats definitely have enjoyed her reputation as a fighter and tough. The question is about ideology. The question is about can she have a Democratic progressive boxes checked. That's the biggest box she must overcome.

KING: The boxes in the primary sometimes get you in trouble by the time you get to the general election.

Let's show the first debate night, where you have Senator Sanders and Senator Warren in the middle. Again, these two progressives who have said, they're going to have to have a fight with each other at some point. I'm not going to sure it's going to happen this week, but they capture so much of the Democratic vote right now, at some point, it's going to come to each other.

But you got Senator Sanders and Senator Warren at center stage. You're going to have Governor Bullock, former Congressman Delaney, Governor Hickenlooper, to a degree Beto O'Rourke, absolutely Mayor Buttigieg, Senator Klobuchar, saying, wait a minute. We can't do all this. We can't sell all of this to the country in one national election. They think some of it is too liberal.

You know, this to me is going to be a defining night about how big, how bold, how left do the Democrats think they can do.

LEE: Yes. Medicare for All offers us sort of the perfect snapshot of two big choices facing the Democratic voters this time. Do we want a candidate and nominee offering up big structural change like a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or are we going to be content with somebody who is fighting for improving upon what we already have.

So, Joe Biden saying he wants to improve upon Obamacare, for example. Those are the two big choices facing the Democratic voters. Some recent polling shows people are more excited about the big change and the idea of bigger change and bigger scope change than sort of tweaking around the edges.

But I think the issue for the Democrats who are pushing for bigger change is the narrative sort of changes. And I think the mindset potentially changes once you get closer to a general election. I think plenty of voters will be okay with big change now. But they could look ahead to a potential matchup with President Trump examine think maybe this is too risky. Maybe it is not the time to push for a candidate who wants the bigger picture.

KUCINICH: And just really quickly, to Joe Biden's point, speaking to folks that were involved. Some of the members pushing Medicare for all were involved in the fight. People down getting into the nuts and bolts and what had to get through the House are looking at the Medicare for all debate as it was -- with confusion. It was hard to get done what was done with the ACA. That was, you know, nothing short of a miracle, the time that I actually got over the finish line.

That's one of the things you're hearing from Joe Biden's camp. This is hard to do functionally.

KING: Being realistic or being pragmatist which might be correct in the dynamics of Washington, sometimes you get in trouble when you say that in a primary.

KUCINICH: Of course.

King: That's what makes it so fascinating. That's why I think Michigan is such a great state to have the debates this week in the sense of, remember, the map changing win by President Trump there. Democrats got to sort this out. It will be a lot of fun.

Up next, this is becoming a weekend tradition for the presidential tradition, sadly. Watch "Fox and Friends" attacked a Democrat of color and head to the golf course.


[08:27:56] KING: President Trump is again being labeled racist by leading Democrats after attacking an African-American member of the House. Chairman Elijah Cummings is this weekend's Twitter target.

Before golfing yesterday and not long after "Fox & Friends" segment critical of Chairman Cummings, the president launched a series of tweets claiming Cummings Baltimore area district is, quote, more dangerous than the southern border and considered the worst in the USA. The president went on to call the Cummings district a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess, very dangerous and filthy, and said no human being would want to live there.

Cummings, who's committee is clashing with the White House on a number of oversight issues, responded with a tweet of his own that included this: It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch. But it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.

Now, note the pattern in the president's attacks. Two weekends ago, he told four women they should, quote, go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Back in 2017, when the president attacked civil rights legend, Congressman John Lewis, he said the congressman's district was, quote, horrible and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was born in Baltimore, among the many Democrats, reacting to the president's attacks on Chairman Cummings, tweeting this: We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership.

The president is tweeting this morning, how dare you suggest it has anything to do with race.

But it is -- it is, again, part of the pattern. He tweets about a person of color, talks about crime, talks about infestation, talks about filth. And then backtracks and says I'm talking about his competence or I'm talking about whether he's been good for his district or I'm talking about whether there's political corruption.

But it begins with something that speaks for itself.

HERNDON: Yes. I think the president's track record and pattern is clear. I mean, you laid out the case on that before. But I think it's interesting. I think back to 2016, the president himself was someone who campaigned on fixing urban crime, campaigned on stopping carnage, quote, unquote, in these cities. [08:30:02] And that's something he's totally abandoned once he got

into office. He has chosen to use these kind of struggling American cities, Baltimore clearly has some problems I think Cummings and other city leaders would admit forthright.

He has decided to use those as political talking points rather than see his role and kind of responsibility and relationship there. I just think when we look at these tweets it is incredible and it's stark (ph) how the President sees an American city as someone else's responsibility and not as his.

And so it fits of course, that wider pattern of the President using lawmakers of color as the targets. It speaks to what he was saying a couple of weeks ago about criticizing America. He clearly has no problem doing so when it is targets which he finds unworthy. And we have seen that just historically even before his career in office.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I thought those tweets about Baltimore were pretty reminiscent of Trump's comments about s- hole countries when he was frustrated about this idea of immigrants trying to come to the U.S. from countries in Africa, for example.

Except that he is talking about, as Astead pointed out and it's so obvious, an American city and American people living in this American city, right? But he's talking about them as though they are the other. As though they are not a part of us.

And I think This whole thing illustrates yet again that the President, in his heart, has this image of what real America is and what the better America is. And it's clear that for him that better America is white-skinned Americans.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And today -- he is tweeting today. "Someone please explain to Nancy Pelosi who was recently called racist by her own party. She was not." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did raise questions about how she was handling women of color. She didn't call her racist though.

"There is nothing wrong with bringing out the very obvious fact that Chairman Cummings has done a very poor job in his district of Baltimore." I'm going to stop right there.

You want to have that debate -- Mr. President, with any member of Congress. That's fine. That's not what -- this is what he does. This is the trademark. They go back to the original tweet. "Filth, rodents, no human would want to live there in a majority African- American district."

MICHAEL SHEWAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I mean you would call it a dog whistle to, you know -- except that we can all hear it. You know, dog whistles you cannot hear. I mean it's -- this is, as M.J. said, he's not calling, you know, kind of a rural community in Michigan or, you know, working-class mostly white community in Pennsylvania rat infested or -- you know.

I mean he's -- and this morning when he shifts the focus to Pelosi's district, you know, he's doing so in part to be able to, like, you know, prove that well, I'm not only talking about majority African- American cities like Baltimore. But it is still a liberal city. It is still not part of his base, right.

He only launches these attacks as a way of kind of signaling to his base these are the kind of people that we don't really want in this country. And I'm going to be the President for you, not for them.

KING: Right. And he spent much of -- two weekends ago that he had to go back. I'm sorry, go back to it's just racist. You can back away from that but that's just -- always start with the first tweet.

The President, you know, he starts to retreat or try to move it to a different place after but go back to the beginning. His campaign putting out a video this week, doubling down with unfavorable images of the four members, the liberal Democratic members of the so-called squad. You see that there.

The President clearly thinks that -- and his campaign clearly things -- I don't know what the right word is -- gain for them. Gain for them politically there, I hate to say that.

If you do look at the Fox News poll that came out this week, Trump's attacks on minority congresswomen were acceptable political attacks, 27 percent. Crossed the line, 63 percent. Don't know 10 percent.

So more than six in ten Americans, which means a lot of Republicans think "Mr. President dial it back."

SHEAR: And you saw just really clearly, you saw that he attacked Fox News --

KING: Right.

SHEAR: -- over this because he wasn't -- you know, for all that Fox News is supportive of his agenda, once they read a poll like that he was --

KING: And his campaign, his campaign is trying, understandably -- they look at the unemployment rate. African-American unemployment is down. Latino unemployment is down. They're trying to on the margins to improve the President's numbers there.

He's not going to win the black vote. He's not going to win the Hispanic vote. They're trying on the margins to improve his standing there which would help him in key battleground states.

And then he does things like this time after time after time which the 2020 Democratic field jumped in on this. Elizabeth Warren not the only one, but she's speaking for the rest of the candidates.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He says to the people of America if your life isn't going well, if you feel stretched financially, if you're anxious answer about your future, blame them.

Blame people who don't look like you. Blame people who aren't the same color as you. Blame people who weren't born where you were born. Blame them, blame them, blame them.


[08:35:00] KING: I'm sorry. You were going to say something?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": No. I was just going to say that there's always been this phenomenon though, that Trump pushes the envelop on things that we find reprehensible.

KING: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: I've (INAUDIBLE) at the opening comments about Mexicans, the way that he was treating them and lots of people thought that crossed the line too, and still voted for him.

There seems to be this ability to form a disconnect if you want to support Republicans or want to support Trump to tune out the stuff that is offensive, to tune out the stuff that actually you would never endorse or condone yourself.

And I know that a lot of people just kind of brush it aside. It's like the President just has this brusque meanness that he approaches everybody with. His approach just kind of goes back to the original conversation we had about the tweets.

His approach to districts that are beset by opioid issues. That's actually fairly sympathetic. So it belies the argument that this is just the way he is, how he chooses to mete out that treatment.

LEE: And the racial undertones aside, could we also just recognize that this is the President talking about an American city and American people with such contempt when he could be showing compassion that there are places across America that are really struggling, you know.

He's the President of the United States representing every single district, every single congressional district in city. But he talks about it with such a tone of contempt that I think is just baffling and disheartening.

KING: Baffling a great word. Disheartening a better one.

When we come back, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand previews what could be a big debate attack line.


[08:40:02] KING: A little Sunday trail mix now to get a little taste of the 2020 campaign.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand taking a big swing at her male 2020 rivals. During a campaign stop in Iowa, without naming names, she claims some of the Democrats in the race don't have proper respect for women. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have Democratic candidates running for president right now who do not believe necessarily that it is a good idea that women work outside the home. No joke. We have presidential candidates running right now who thinks the MeToo Movement has gone too far.


KING: CNN asked the Gillibrand campaign who she is talking about. They wouldn't give us an answer.

Also, a startling comparison last night from Senator Bernie Sanders. At a fund-raiser in Detroit he brought up skyrocketing prices of some prescription drugs. And then they said this.


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What happens -- what happens if somebody runs a pharmaceutical industry and artificially jacks up the price?


KING: And you can find candidates almost every day in Iowa, in New Hampshire and on late night TV. A half dozen of the Democrats staying up late after debate prep this past week.


SANDERS: Jimmy -- what our campaign is about really is saying that we need a political revolution in this country.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This campaign at its best has a do it yourself ethic and spirit.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a leader that is not going to call us to the worst of who we are but call us to the best of who we are.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Amazon is closing 30 percent of America's stores and malls and paying zero in taxes.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A political qualification today should include political vision.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But you get rid of the law that allows the administration to separate parents and children. That's what I want to do. That's my vision.


KING: Up next, the impeachment debate and the impeachment math after Mueller day.


[08:45:07] KING: Robert Mueller delivered his long-awaited congressional testimony this past week. The substance if you took in all or most of the seven hours was beyond damning to the President and those around him.

The Democrats looking for a magic made-for-TV to crystallize their case for impeachment were disappointed.



I'm not going to answer that.

I can't answer that question.

I'm going to pass on that.


KING: Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democratic investigations and court fights for witnesses and documents will continue. But with the House now gone for six weeks and lawmakers looking to shape the 2020 campaign terrain, while back home the speaker is happy to change the subject to health care and more.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Democrats intend to own august to make some many of the bills that we passed too hot to handle for the Republicans in the Senate -- not to raise the minimum wage, and gun violence by common sense gun violence prevention measures, equal pay for equal work. The list goes on and on.


KING: The President though just can't seem to let Mueller go.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was treason, this was high crimes, this was everything, as bad a definition as you want to come up with. This should never be allowed to happen to our country again.

This was an illegal takeover as you would say in the business world. I mean this was a coup attempt, in my opinion.


KING: That just breaks the fact-check machine. But the President likes to have a foil. He likes that. An enemy, he likes that. A pinata, if you will. Is the President going to miss Robert Mueller? DEMIRJIAN: In a way. I think that, you know, the numbers have shown

this goes both ways. Sometimes the President pivots to the rest of the issues so he actually gets a boost out of it.

Sometimes when the Democrats seem like they haven't (INAUDIBLE) behind, he doesn't. But in this case, he feels like he can control the conversation because it was not the bombastic moment that we have been waiting for two years for.

And it's just interesting listening to the words he chooses. He uses some of the words -- or repeat the words of impeachment, right -- high crimes is in there. And then escalates it to a coup, of course.

But he's basically just trying to bury this as much as it can be buried at this point. And it does seem like Democrats are in a spot where they can't really run impeachment any harder after this new -- whatever it's considered to be.

KING: You say they can't run an impeachment any harder. The Speaker had made clear months ago -- she thinks it's a bad idea especially if the Senate Republicans don't touch. She thinks it just plays into the President's hands.

Let's just look at the Democrats supporting impeachment hearings. If you go back to May back when the Mueller report first came out, we were at 38 Democrats. Now as the Democrats go in to a six-week recess, we're at 101 Democrats.

My question is when they come back. Is that number still around 101? There are 235 House Democrats. Or does it keep going up? In other words can Speaker Pelosi -- has she successfully put the genie back in the bottle? Or is this going to come back?

LEE: I think Democrats are going to continue to be very wary of the potential for starting impeachment proceedings. I think the clear sign of that we have seen out on the trail with the 2020 candidates even though some of them have definitely called on and support impeachment proceedings beginning in the House unless they are asked about it or explicitly provoked by a question from a voter, it is not a topic that they talk about.

And I think this whole time sort of the political risk that they did not want to take was putting all of their chips on Robert Mueller. And I think particularly after his testimony last week, there is growing sort of weariness even though the numbers have ticked up about not making that political bed because they feel like they don't really have something to pin that on from Mueller's testimony.

KING: And if you look at the Democrats who have called for impeachment -- 59 of them come from Democrats Hillary Clinton won by 30 points or more; 29 from districts she won by 10 to 29 points; 12 from districts she won by less than 10. Only one from a district carried by President Trump. So you get a sense if you're a centrist Democrat or moderate Democrat, you don't want to touch this.

HEMDON: You would have to see over this next six weeks a ground swell of Democratic voters pressuring the lawmakers so when they come back being able to be more vocal and feeling like they have political cover to be more vocal.

That has not happened yet on the trail. Even the candidates are asked very rarely by voters about this. They want to see Democrats put on their own affirmative vision to take on Trump and not necessarily just be responding to President Trump's attacks.

But I don't know if this is a strategy from President Trump. I think he feels aggrieves. He feels upset. And we have seen him use those moments to just kind of air his frustrations. I don't know if it's calculated.

KING: Right. And we're still waiting to hear from the Justice Department inspector general and the Attorney General's own investigation into the origins. We shall see if the President gets more material or less.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next including what President Trump plans to do on his summer vacation.


KING: Let's head one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.


LEE; So I'm already looking ahead to the third quarter fundraising. Obviously we just had the second quarter fundraising which was revealing, but I think the third quarter could be revealing in a different way.

You know, for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren -- they obviously were able to show that they can raise serious money even without holding fundraisers in sort of the traditional ways that a lot of presidential candidates have always raised money. So we'll see whether they can sort of keep up that kind of momentum.

And then for Biden, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, we're going to see in the third quarter whether they can keep building out their war chest, even when some of their biggest donors have already maxed out to their campaigns.

So this is going to be a real test that we see in about two months from now.

KING: Summer fun. Summer fun.


SHEAR: Speaking of summer fun, all presidents like -- are sensitive about taking vacations. This president, President Trump, is no exception. When he was asked recently whether he was going to take a vacation, he was defensive and made it clear that he wasn't just going to play golf. He said in the oval office that asked whether he would be gone for an extended period he said "I hope not because I like working, I'd rather be right here, you know, but probably over a short period of time."

The White House has not actually said when he's going to leave for his summer vacation but one thing I think is very clear given the President's propensity to tweet anywhere and everywhere, being on vacation is not actually that different from executive time at the White House.

KING: He's different. Different -- that is the word.


[08:54:59] HEMDON: I just came from the NAACP national convention and also Urban League, two big collections of black voters, last week. And I was thinking about how there is kind of universal calls for impeachment in both of the places and it made me think about how when the house is making those calculations, Nancy Pelosi is thinking about those moderate districts or places in which they won the majority but the base, the kind of more liberal side, those urban districts they've been universally there for a while and are kind of looking for Democrats, especially in the wake of the Robert Mueller testimony to kind of ramp up those accountability measures against the President.

KING: The Speaker is hoping that fades over the summer. We shall see.


DEMIRJIAN: I'm going to be watching this case that's coming up before the Senate on Tuesday. There is going to be a confirmation hearing for the person who's about to be the second highest military officer. It's also going to be a reckoning point for lawmakers about sexual assault. Both in terms of how they adjudicate accusations that are made against nominees and what it means for how the military handles it.

A person that we may not otherwise be watching that closely has been accused of sexual assaulting somebody who is under his command when he was there. It's the first we've seen this come up again in Congress since Kavanaugh in a way that is not as, you know, bombastically political as that was but addresses the same issues of how do lawmakers actually decide how they're going to assess these sort of cases and also are they going to revisit whether you should take these sort of cases out of the chain of command when the military looks at it. We've not addressed that for a while but it's going to come back full force on Tuesday.

KING: Keep an eye on that in the week ahead.

I'll close with three numbers from the House this past week and what those numbers tell us about the real state of play in the House. Here they are -- 219, 65 and 3.

Let me walk through -- 219 equals the number of House Democrats who voted for the spending and debt ceiling deal. That is 219 of 235. 65 is the number of House Republicans who voted yes. 65 out of 197.

So let's break down that math. Two-thirds of House Republicans went against their president on the spending compromise while more than 90 percent of House Democrats stuck with their speaker. So much for those Presidential tweets suggesting Nancy Pelosi has lost control of her caucus.

Now the final number, three. As in three more House Republicans announcing they will not run for re-election in 2020. We're now up to five GOP retirements and it is early in the cycle. Track that number. Watch it in the months ahead. The more it climbs the more you'll know about Republican frustration and whether GOPers really see a path to retake the House next year.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Up next on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER", 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, and the Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

And make sure you tune in to CNN Tuesday and Wednesday night for the big Democratic debates.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday. Have a great day.