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Biden, Harris Stops Short of Calling Trump A White Supremacist; More Than Half House Democrats Call for Impeachment Inquiry; Equinox Owner Hosts Trump Fundraiser; Biden Campaign: He "Misspoke and He Immediately Corrected Himself". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 9, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: -- base of supporters she's got on the left and that's who's powering her campaign, right?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And also white liberals, right, who are increasingly left on issues of race.

LINSKEY: That's right. They were increasingly left on issues of race and they also -- she doesn't take money from big campaign donors, so she needs to keep activating these smaller donors to say like, oh, wow, I really agree with that. I'm going to donate $10 right now.

HENDERSON: And the person who isn't willing to go this far is Biden. He, of course, has the most African-American support right now. Here he was expressing some annoyance at this question of whether or not the president is a white supremacist.


JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why are you so hooked on that? You just want me to say the words so I sound like everybody else. He is encouraging white supremacy. You can determine what that means.

You can -- I know everybody -- so like everybody wants somebody to call somebody a liar. When you say -- I don't call people liars, I say they don't tell the truth, OK? You want to hear me liar so you can put down say Biden calls someone a liar.

That's not who I am. You got the wrong guy.


HENDERSON: Biden obviously not willing to go as far as Warren on this.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: No. And it's interesting, he's trying to make a somewhat nuanced point there. But he also is -- there was a good story in the Associated Press today about how he's really centering his campaign more on the contrast with Trump and attacking President Trump than on any specific policy proposal. That he is really framing his argument around, you know, what Trump has done for this country, you know, what has happened under his leadership, what kind of leader he is.

And so he's going to -- and as a result, he's going to be pushed on these kinds of questions about just how he's going to lay --

LINSKEY: And his brand is also very different. Let's get to his brand. Joe Biden wants to be the guy who, look, we can all come together as a country. I'm not going to talk about your motivation, I'm not going to be name-calling the way Trump has. And that's -- it's just another example for where -- you know, he can make that --

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it speaks to the broader debate about how exactly to go after Trump. Do you get into the tit-for-tat mudslinging contest with this president who does call people names? And that's what he is (INAUDIBLE) to his strategy. Some Democrats believe that is not the right way to go after him, so it's interesting to see it play out on this level, too.

It's different when you call him a racist, though, because a majority of Americans do believe the president --

HENDERSON: I think it's 51 percent. And Kamala Harris who I believed has called the president a racist, here she is talking about the idea of whether or not he is a white supremacist.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe as Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke have said that he is a white supremacist?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think you should ask him that question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to say that?

HARRIS: I think you should ask him that question. I'd be interested to see what his answer is. He is someone who gives -- who empowers white supremacists and who condones their behavior.


HENDERSON: So she's taking the Biden stance there.

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF, POLITICO: And that goes to Annie's point. He doesn't -- and Harris doesn't -- Biden and Harris, they don't want to be into this name-calling thing. They don't want to, you know, just get into this tit-for-tat with Trump. And it was interesting because Trump went after Biden today, oh so he says I'm not playing with a full deck of cards and be very happy if Biden got the nomination.

But I do think style matters. Style matters in this campaign. And I do think there's -- you know, there is a part of the Democratic base that wants to see their candidate get into the gutter and roll around. And if they -- you know, if Trump hits you below the belt, you hit him back, you know. And I think that Biden and Harris, they're sitting back and saying, well, you know, this is a long campaign. There's a lot of time to, you know, if we're going to call him names, there's a lot of time to do that.

HENDERSON: And we saw Hillary Clinton sort of go up to the ledge in August of 2016 with that alt-right speech and probably I think go over the ledge when she made the speech about deplorables. I think the question for Democrats and Republicans is the whole idea of the white supremacist, is it the new deplorables or could it be.

LINSKEY: I think that's absolutely right because the last thing that a Democrat wants to be doing is also saying Trump is a white supremacist --

HENDERSON: And therefore his voters, right.

LINSKEY: That's right. And I've talk to Trump supporters who go absolutely ballistic at that. You know, now these Democrats are saying we're all racist, we're all white supremacists.

LUCEY: And Trump weaponized the deplorables comment so effectively.

HENDERSON: And people wearing t-shirts.

LUCEY: Wearing t-shirts. They now probably -- if you probably also getting e-mails from people proudly declaring they're deplorables. That this is the kind of -- sort of a rallying cry. And so, I think that's also something you have to look out for.

HENDERSON: I guess the question is can Biden and Harris kind of stick out this position where they're kind of neither here nor there, basically saying he emboldens white supremacist but that he isn't quite one. So we'll see where this goes.

And as we go to break, a quick glimpse of life from the Iowa state fair. Oh boy, I wish I was there.

Former Congressman John Delaney flipping pork burgers, a time-honored tradition for presidential candidates. After all, it wouldn't be the Iowa state fair without candidates gushing about the food. And I know it's delicious.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you how candidates do this? How do you do it? Enjoy the butter cow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't wait for the butter cow.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the turkey leg. You know, I saw the butter cow from afar. But I have not actually tried the fried butter or the fried Oreo.

[12:35:02] JULIAN CASTRO (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Carina and Cristian are looking forward to the bumper cars and maybe the sky ride and to that bacon they all sell on a stick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When can I buy you an ice cream?

BIDEN: Yes, you can buy me another ice cream. I already had one.



HENDERSON: Topping our political radar, Joseph Maguire, the National Counterterrorism Center chief is President Trump's new pick for acting director of national intelligence. He'll be taking over for DNI Chief Dan Coats. Sue Gordon, the number two Intel official behind Coats resigned after being passed over for the top job.

[12:40:01] The president, he says he's in no rush to name a permanent replacement, and a number of people are in the running.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to get somebody that everybody can really come together with. So well, I like Pete (INAUDIBLE) a lot, he's great. I will tell you.

That's a job that everybody wants. DNI.


HENDERSON: President Trump, he's defending the large-scale ICE raids in Mississippi where nearly 700 undocumented immigrants were detained. The administration was criticized for not having a plan in place for the children of those who were rounded up. But the president said they couldn't let people know in advance or the raid wouldn't have been effective and added that people will see these raids for a long, long time.


TRUMP: I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they're getting out. They're going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent. When people see what they saw yesterday and -- like they will see for a long time, they know that they're not staying here.


HENDERSON: And call this Nancy Pelosi's line chart problem. As you can see here, more than half of House Democrats now support an impeachment inquiry. That number has grown steadily since about March and rose sharply after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's testimony to Congress. But listen to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, and he says the number actually doesn't matter because impeachment proceedings are already under way.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): This is formal impeachment proceedings. We are investigating all the evidence. We're gathering the evidence and we will at the conclusion of this, hopefully by the end of the year, vote to articles of impeachment to the House floor or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now.


HENDERSON: Nadler's committee plans to hold a set of hearings with key witnesses in the fall, a move that's being endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Manu, I want to go to you on this. You had Nadler essentially say impeachment proceedings are already under way. Help us make sense of what he's saying.

RAJU: There's been this semantics thing going on for some time about whether they're actually in an impeachment inquiry because they don't technically need to be in an impeachment inquiry to recommend articles of impeachment from the House Judiciary Committee to the full House. And that's essentially what Jerry Nadler is saying.

What they are doing right now is undergoing on a process, a legal fight and have hearings, an investigation to determine whether or not to ultimately recommend articles of impeachment. So that's why he's saying impeachment proceedings are under way. They have cited this in two court filings so far, saying that the House Judiciary Committee is actively considering articles of impeachment. One, to make the case to the courts that there -- that they need this information because in their view it's of the utmost constitutional importance. And, two, because they actually might go forward with this.

And what's been interesting to see since the Mueller hearing, Pelosi's language has changed, her tone has changed a bit. She's not been throwing cold water on this as much as possible, perhaps because of rising support within the ranks, but also because this is where it seems to be going. Ultimately, they may decide to go this route. And we'll know -- we'll see how it ends up.

HENDERSON: Yes, John, do you want to add anything on this?

BRESNAHAN: I mean, we'll have to see how August goes for these Democrats. And I think that we were talking about town halls before, and I think members are going to come back and they're going to tell Pelosi what they want. And Pelosi is going to do what she needs to do to defend her majority.

And, you know, McConnell gets criticized for doing this on the Senate side but Pelosi is doing the same thing here. She is defending her majority.

HENDERSON: Yes. And thinking about those Dems who won in those red districts.

BRESNAHAN: The moderates are the one who got her back into the speaker's chair, winning those races. And if she thinks they need to -- you know, moving forward with impeachment will help them, she'll do it. If she doesn't, she won't. And that's, you know -- that hasn't changed for her. HENDERSON: All right, we'll see where this goes.

And coming up, President Trump says Equinox Owner Steve Ross will be hotter because of the controversy over hosting a Trump fundraiser.


[12:48:40] HENDERSON: And right now, there's a high dollar fundraiser going on in the Hamptons for President Trump. The host, owner of Equinox and SoulCycle and he's under fire for backing the president. But President Trump on his way to the event said the controversy is actually good for Stephen Ross. Take a listen.


TRUMP: And I understand the fundraiser was totally sold out and it's very successful. The controversy makes Steve Ross hotter. He'll figure that out in about a week.


HENDERSON: Joining me now, we got CNN's Vicky ward. And Vicky, you spoke with people who are close to Stephen Ross, and he has a very different point of view. What are you hearing about how -- what he's thinking about this?

VICKY WARD, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Right, Nia. I think that the people around Steve Ross who I know pretty well, I've interviewed him many times, are very frustrated because the story that's being played out over the last 48 hours doesn't really reflect who Steve Ross really is. This is a man who has spent a great many years and a great many dollars, millions and millions of dollars dedicated to his chief passion which is race and racial inequality. And, you know, he has known Donald Trump for a very long time. He does not agree with him. He's talked with me often about where he doesn't agree with the president.

[12:50:03] He was asked to give this fundraiser. He was given the guest list. And I think they didn't anticipate that it would blow up like this. I mean, the people around him have pointed out to me that his number two, Jeff Blau at Related gave a fundraiser both for Hillary Clinton and for President Obama. And Steve Ross went to both of those.

Last week he was in Washington on a bipartisan initiative for climate change. So I think that, you know, yes, he is doing this. He knows the president, and, you know, he's a big businessman. Typically people like him have to play both sides of the political aisle. But this is, I think, frustrating.

HENDERSON: Vicky Ward, thanks for that reporting.

And coming up, President Trump makes a big deal out of Joe Biden's latest verbal slip-up on the campaign trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:55:36] HENDERSON: Critics are pouncing on Joe Biden after an apparent slip-up last night. The former vice president was speaking about education to voters in Iowa when he said this.


BIDEN: We have this notion that somehow if you're poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids, wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids. I really mean it. But think how we think about it. We think now we're going to dumb it down. They can do anything anybody else can do given a shot.


HENDERSON: Critics, including the Trump campaign are seizing that slight pause there before Biden edits himself. And the Biden campaign working to clear this whole thing up today. And they released this statement, quote, Donald Trump is desperate to change the subject from his atrocious record of using racism to divide this country. Vice president Biden misspoke and immediately corrected himself during a refrain he often uses to make the point that all children deserve a fair shot, and children born into lower-income circumstances are just as smart as those born to wealthy parents.

Despite the explanation, President Trump, he was still eager to pile on.


TRUMP: He made that comment. I said, whoa, I saw it because I was on something. I had a television. I saw his comment. Joe Biden is not playing with a full deck. This is not somebody you can have as your president. But if he got the nomination, I'd be thrilled.


HENDERSON: And Annie, Joe Biden known for his gaffes. Was it a gaffe? Was it a misstatement? He obviously corrected right away but this is kind of the Joe Biden you're going to get.

LINSKEY: It's the Joe Biden you're going to get. We're going to -- he's going to just get more tired, he's going to have more appearances. And -- I mean, the -- one of the issues here is that this is getting to race, and Joe Biden has a huge support with African-Americans right now. You know, we've done interviews with a number of black voters in early states and that support is wide but it's not that deep.

And I think the more and more -- you know, this kind of comment, comments he made earlier where he was start talking about his working relationship with segregationists, that they're going to start piling up and I think that this is a very difficult issue for him and absolutely is a gaffe.

HENDERSON: Yes. Catherine, you had the Trump re-election campaign seize on this. Andrew Clark who's the Rapid Response director, he tweeted an edited video of Biden's comments and with a -- with the line, yikes, have fun mitigating that one. So they see some sort of opportunity.

LUCEY: Yes, they're going to jump on any examples like this to drive this narrative that he's gaffe-prone, that he's not prepared. And, of course -- I mean, to Annie's point, the campaign is only accelerating. We're going to see him -- I mean, he's doing multiple events in Iowa. He's going to be very busy in the coming weeks.

And this comes at a moment when -- I mean, he continues to be the leader in the polls, but other candidates are really moving up as we see polls in these early states and that lead is not, you know, -- it's not unchangeable. So he's under pressure here.

RAJU: The president has the benefit of being graded too on a curve because he makes misstatements and false statements, he lies at a fairly regular basis. I mean, look, he's called Dayton Toledo this week and while he was trying to comfort the nation after these massacres this weekend. So that is -- you know, how this plays out in a general election remains to be seen. But, of course, Biden's rivals will make the point that he could say something at any given time that could change the narrative and you need someone who's going to prosecute an effective argument against the president and that's the argument they're filling.

LINSKEY: To your point, you know, Biden did call, you know, Ohio Michigan too.

RAJU: That's right.


LUCEY: Which the Trump campaign also made note of.

BRESNAHAN: And the other point is this, if you've covered Biden for a long time, and I have, he always said stupid things. I mean, he's got a history but, you know -- because he likes to talk. And he thinks as he's talking and that's where you get in trouble and then regret.

HENDERSON: You know, for the next months here he's got this very busy schedule in September, so we'll see where this goes. We'll see if some of his support ends up kind of crumbling. We've seen him steady in the polls so far, Annie.

LINSKEY: That's right. Well, I just -- this gaffe, again, I say it goes to race. And that's what makes it particularly dangerous for him. It's one thing for him to be Uncle Joe and sort of misspeak, but when he's talking about race -- I mean, that is where a lot of his support comes from is black voters. And if they begin to question him, I think that lead that he's been able to hold --

HENDERSON: And that's the question, do they care. And we'll have to end it there.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Pamela Brown is in for Brianna Keilar. She starts right now. [13:00:00]