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Israel Bans Omar and Tlaib; Markets Have Whiplash over China Tariffs; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed about Israeli Ban. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: She's a survivor. She has tough races. She's a former governor. She's a survivor. Be another fun one to watch, including that rally tonight.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere, a very busy news day. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the president openly calling on Israel to ban two American Democratic lawmakers he has previously lobbed racist attacks against, and Israel complies.

First, he blinked on tariffs. Now the president appears to be softening his rhetoric toward China as the markets warn a recession could be near.

Plus, what Jeffrey Epstein's autopsy results reveal about his death behind bars.

And police under siege. We're now learning the, quote, outlandish demands the suspect was making as he opened fire on officers.

We start with Israel's move to ban two American congresswomen from their planned visit to the country. Minnesota's Ilhan Omar and Michigan's Rashida Tlaib will not be able to visit the holy land because of their support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and settlement construction in the West Bank. Tlaib has family in the West Bank that she will now not be able to visit.

Here's the timeline of how this went down this morning. At about 9:00 a.m. Eastern, the president's press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told reporters that reports of the president letting the Israeli prime minister know he supported banning these lawmakers were, quote, inaccurate. But then around 10:00 a.m. the president tweeted this. It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel and all Jewish people and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. They are a disgrace. Of course the congresswomen take issue, of course, with that

characterization of their feelings.

Now, less than an hour later, the Israeli government made the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib from entering the country.

Our Kaitlan Collins is in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, this is near Bedminster.

And, Kaitlan, this is highly unusual. So why is the president doing this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's incredibly unusual. And we should point out that just last month the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said that these two lawmakers were going to be allowed to visit and now they have changed their mind after the president has been urging them publicly, urging the prime minister of Israel and Israel overall not to let them come and visit.

And then, of course, now they have officially done that with Netanyahu issuing a statement explaining his reasoning and saying that his change of mind has to do more with their agenda than what the president has been urging him publicly, saying, quote, only a few days ago we received their visit plan and from it, it's clear, they are planning a journey with the sole target of strengthening the boycott movement and negating the legitimacy of Israel.

He says, for example, they've defined their destination of their visit as Palestine and not Israel. And Netanyahu also said that they avoided asking to meet with any Israeli official, whether it be in the government or in the opposition.

But, of course, you cannot ignore, Brianna, here, what the president is saying pretty clearly and publicly on his Twitter feed and just how unusual that is. We talk all the time about all the norms that this president has busted and disrupted since he's been in office, but this is certainly one of the most significant where he's telling another country, recommending to them that not only they not let two U.S. citizens in, but also two sitting members of Congress.

Now, we're getting blowback from people who have even been critical of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in the past, saying they don't think this is the right decision for Israel to make, that they should be allowed to go and visit Israel. So the question is whether or not that blowback is going to change the decision here.

But certainly the president is very close to Netanyahu and they've enjoyed that warm relationship that you've seen on display at the White House over several times. And, of course, the president is facing a re-election. Netanyahu is facing a re-election in just three weeks and that is something that clearly seems to be a factor at play here as the president is making his decision, though his feud with these members of Congress has been clear for several weeks now.

KEILAR: It has been ever since he lobbed that racist tweet at them. All right, Kaitlan Collins, near Bedminster, thank you so much.

Now, before President Trump publicly urged Israel to ban these congresswomen, both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders said that Israel should not. That included House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer, who spoke publicly together from the King David Hotel this week while leading congressional delegations on a trip to Israel.

Then last night, on Fox New, McCarthy criticized the congresswomen for traveling separately instead of with their congressional delegations.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The one thing that should have happened, they should have come with their colleagues. They should have come together where they can have a meeting with Israel, with the Palestinian Authority, with those who were running against Bibi at the same time. You would get every view that you wanted to see. As long as you come with an open mind, open eyes and open ears, I think you have a responsibility to come here to have an understanding.


[13:05:04] KEILAR: Max Boot is a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

So, Max, let's start with the Israel piece of this. And clearly politics are at play.

What is Netanyahu's calculus here?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think Prime Minister Netanyahu's calculus, Brianna, is that, as was mentioned, he has an election coming up in a month and he is counting on Donald Trump's support to be re-elected prime minister. And, of course, Donald Trump's calculation is pretty transparent, which is that he wants to demonize and stigmatize these congresswomen of color, to paint them as being anti-American, anti-Israel.

He gave away the game just a few minutes ago when he sent a tweet saying Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democratic Party and they hate Israel. So that's what he's trying to do is to win his re-election campaign next year.

But the cost of this, Brianna, is going to be high because this is hurting Israel. This is actually helping the anti-Israel BDS movement because it is calling into question Israel's standing as a democracy where people of all different viewpoints are welcome. And it is also undermining the bipartisan basis of American support for Israel. This is unprecedented to not allow these two members of Congress, who have to vote on the annual appropriations, $3.3 billion of U.S. aid to Israel. They're supposed to vote on that money, but they're not allowed to go see for themselves how it's spent? That's something that is very contrary to the long-term interests of Israel and the U.S./Israel alliance. KEILAR: So when you hear Kevin McCarthy making this argument, he says

he's basically saying they should come and inform themselves, but what's -- if you read between the lines, he's saying they aren't. He's saying they didn't come with the congressional delegation. They didn't come with Democrats, right? You had dozens of Democrats who were visiting Israel. He's saying they didn't come. They didn't visit. They didn't have plans to visit with Israeli leaders. And, I mean, what do you make of him making that distinction then?

BOOT: I think this is just another attempt by Republicans to stay on Donald Trump's good side, no matter how awfully he behaves. In fact, this decision has been denounced by all of the major Jewish American organizations, including AIPAC. It's being denounced by Israel's strongest friends in the Democratic caucus, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

And, you know, Kevin McCarthy and these other Republicans know this is wrong. They know there is no excuse for barring sitting members of Congress from visiting one of our closest allies. But you don't hear Kevin McCarthy or others coming out and saying that because they're afraid of Donald Trump. They are cowards. They will not stand up for the American national interests here.

KEILAR: Do you think that Israel would have done this without the president tweeting? Because there had been a lot of talk about they were headed in this direction. Do you think that pushed them over the line or do you think that was just coincidence how it developed?

BOOT: Well, I don't think it was a coincidence because up until a day or two ago, the Israeli government had said they were going to allow these two congresswomen to come. In fact, Steny Hoyer says that he had a commitment from Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, to say that they would be allowed in. And then apparently what happened is, you know, Trump blew a gasket and he -- he thought that this would interfere with his attempts to demonize these congresswomen of color.

These -- it would -- it would undercut this racist campaign he is running against Democrats, claiming they're anti-American. They should go back where they come from and so forth. And so it seems pretty clear that Trump pressured Netanyahu and Netanyahu caved because both of those leaders are putting their short-term electoral calculations ahead of the long-term interests of the state of Israel, which I strongly support.

KEILAR: All right, Max Boot, thank you so much for your perspective.

BOOT: Thank you.

KEILAR: Investors on edge around the globe. Conflicting signals from the U.S. and China are giving people whiplash after initially panicking the market with threats of retaliation for new tariffs on Chinese goods, like cell phones, laptop computers and toys, Beijing stepped back a bit saying that it is still hopeful for a deal with the U.S. on trade.

Let's check in now, the activity there on the big board, up slightly right now, about 86 points. This is after the worst day of the year for U.S. markets on Wednesday.

Myron Brilliant is executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Myron, thanks for being with us.


KEILAR: So the president and his advisers have been giving some mixed messages when it comes to tariffs. For months the president insisted the tariffs were good for Americans, they were great for Americans. Now he's delaying the latest round because, you know, he's essentially saying, "merry Christmas," which is to say that this is good for Americans that there is a delay. These cannot be mutually exclusive. So which is it? Are these good for Americans, are they bad for Americans?

BRILLIANT: Well, tariffs are bad for American business, American farmers and American consumers. The reality is it was a smart political move this week by the president because he's fully aware the impact of higher prices on the American families at Christmas time, when you're talking about toys and cell phones and computers. And so it was a smart move.

[13:10:12] However, he did not make a reversal of policy towards China this week, he made an adjustment. Now the question is where do we go from here. Both sides have something to gain by a deal being reached between the two governments. There's a lot of work to be done and there are a lot of risks here for the global economy and for our economy in the United States, as well as for China.

The bottom line is China needs to make some adjustments in its trade practices. It has an unfair trade relationship with the United States and, frankly, with the world. It does need to address intellectual property violations. It needs to address force technology issues. It needs to eliminate its subsidy practices. There's a whole range of areas that the administration is rightly focused on in trying to address in the trade talks with China.

KEILAR: So how do they -- for instance, intellectual property rights, how should the administration address that?

BRILLIANT: Well, I think we have to be tough. The business community very much supports the administration being tough with China on these issues. Do we want tariffs? Absolutely not. That's not the answer. But at the same time we have to bring in the multilateral community.

We're not alone in having these concerns about China's behavior. The Europeans agree with us. The Japanese agree with us. Frankly, the world agrees with us. So we need to bring a multilateral approach to China, one.

Two, we need to recognize that we have rights within our own laws to adjust our practices when it comes to national security considerations. And we should address those issues in the relationship which touch on national security considerations, and we're doing that. And we've seen reform in our export control laws and we're seeing reform also in how we increase investment in the United States.

But this is hurting us. The trade war is hurting our economy, it's hurting China, and it's certainly changing the outlook for the global economy. So we've got to get both sides back to the table looking at a big deal that will address the range of unfair trade practices that the administration has laid out and that the business community largely supports.

What we don't want to see is an escalation. And that's what we are seeing right now. So both sides have got to resume these trade talks. I'm encouraged that they are talking to each other. I'm encouraged that they're talking about coming together in September. That's positive. But we've got to get something more tangible out of these talks.

We're taking a delegation of CEOs to Beijing in September, and we're going to have a very strong message for the Chinese leadership at that time. But both sides need to make compromise. Both sides need to have a political willingness to get a deal done.

KEILAR: All right, Myron Brilliant, thank you so much.

And next, a Democratic lawmaker responding to Israel banning two of his colleagues after the president urged them to.

Plus, just in, the 2020 field shrinking again as another Democratic candidate drops from the race. Hear John Hickenlooper in his own words.

And police under siege. New information on how this stand-off unfolded and who the suspect called during it.


[13:18:02] KEILAR: It's the end of the road for John Hickenlooper. The former Colorado governor has officially ended his campaign for president, and here's part of his announcement of that.


JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was six months ago I announced by run for president. In almost every regard, this journey has been more exciting and more rewarding than I ever imagined. Although, of course, I did imagine a very different conclusion.

And today I'm ending my campaign for president, but I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together.

People want to know what comes next for me. I've heard from so many Coloradoans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country and our state. I intend to give that some serious thought.


KEILAR: Now party leaders are urging Hickenlooper to launch that Senate bid. And I'll be getting some reaction from one of his former 2020 rivals still in the race ahead.

Back to our other breaking news, Israel banning two American Democratic congresswomen from visiting the country after President Trump publically urged the Israeli government to keep them out.

We have California Democrat Ro Khanna here with us in studio to talk about this.

What's your reaction to this?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): It's an insult to the American people. Representative Tlaib and Representative Omar are equal members of the United States Congress, the people's body for the greatest and most powerful nation in the world. No nation should deny any member of Congress access to their country, especially after all that we have done for the world and the billions of dollars we give to other countries.

KEILAR: Kevin McCarthy was among leaders, Democratic and Republican, who said they should be allowed into Israel. But also last night he said they should have gone with their congressional delegations. That they should be there with an open mind. That they should be meeting with Israeli leaders and opposition leaders because they weren't planning to. So that in itself is a criticism of the congresswomen, even as he says Israel should allow them in.

[13:20:03] What do you say to that?

KHANNA: Brianna, that's ridiculous and Leader McCarthy knows better. He knows that there are numerous different delegations that go to Israel. Not everyone goes on Steny Hoyer or Kevin McCarthy's trip. We have many delegations. And Representative Tlaib and Representative Omar should be allowed to go in the way they want to go, not prescribed what views they should have.

And I would defend any Republican, any conservative's ability to go as well.

KEILAR: Does it set a precedent?

KHANNA: I think what it does is it really sets a horrible precedent for Israel in making this decision. I mean who -- why would any country make a decision to deny a United States congressman access to their country? Do they not believe the United States has done a tremendous amount for Israel? Do they not recognize that we are the most powerful nation in the world? Do they not believe that we have made the world safer and stronger?

It's not about Representative Tlaib. It's not about Representative Omar. It's about respecting the American people. You know, Mikhail Gorbachev, when someone was making fun of Ronald Reagan, said to the people on his staff, knock it off. He is the president of the United States. He's the representative of the American people. These people, Representative Tlaib, Representative Omar, were elected by 700,000 people, just like I was. They deserve that basic respect.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about Bernie Sanders now.

You are a co-chair of his presidential campaign. And he has been attacking the media as he is slipping in some state polls. And I wonder, though, it seems like he's critical of the media, but why should he be critical of the media just for reporting how he's doing in the polls?

KHANNA: Well, Brianna, he's -- first of all, there's a good poll in New Hampshire where he's number one.

KEILAR: There is a good poll in New Hampshire.

KHANNA: So the polls have been all over the place. And I still think his campaign has tremendous momentum.

But I think we -- all the Democrats should focus on Donald Trump. When you run for president of the United States, it's an extraordinary privilege. Being in Congress is an extraordinary privilege and --

KEILAR: Focus on Donald Trump over the media?

KHANNA: In terms of the attacks, yes. I think the media is right to be critical of all of us. I don't --

KEILAR: But is he -- so is he -- he's putting his criticism in the wrong place, you think?

KHANNA: I don't -- I don't think there is any value in critiquing the media for being critical. That's their job. That's your job. That's the job of any journalist. What I do think is a fair critique is a systematic critique of democracy that we have to find ways to get more substantive issues discussed. And that goes to campaign finance reform. That goes to creating more public forums for getting -- discussing the issues. But I don't think that you lay the blame on any particular journalist or any particular media outlet.

KEILAR: So why -- why do you think he's doing that?

KHANNA: I think he's frustrated that the issues aren't being discussed. That so much of presidential politics is a personality contest or a horse race or a process race and that we aren't talking about poverty, that we aren't talking about wage stagnation, that we aren't talking about job creation. And that's a fair critique of the Democratic process. But all of us are part of it and let's work to reform the system, let's not single out a particular outlet or a particular journalist.

KEILAR: It also seems like the outlet he's singling out is "The Washington Post" and it doesn't necessarily seem like he's singling them out because they're not talking about policy. I mean they are. If you read "The Post" you'll see that they have tremendous coverage of what these candidates are talking about and there's so much to differentiate all of them, right, or to lump them into the same category.

But one of the articles that was written here in recent weeks, here's the headline, labor fight roils Bernie Sanders' campaign as workers demand the $15 hourly pay the candidate has proposed for employees nationwide. That was a tough story and a fair story about Bernie Sanders, but it seems like he has taken aim at them for coverage like this, which is fair, but it's tough.

KHANNA: Well, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the entire field who has unionized his campaign workers. So he is leading by example. And he has clarified that he doesn't think that "The Post" has singled him out. And I think "The Post" is a very fair publication.

KEILAR: But he fund raised off this last night. He put out -- he talked -- attacked the media and he send out an e-mail, I know it was in my inbox --

KHANNA: Right.

KEILAR: Requesting people to sign up and get in touch with his campaign, which is a fundraising tactic, as part of this. So he may be backing off, but he's -- it's like putting your foot on the gas and on the -- and on the brake.

KHANNA: Well, I think the point he's making is that the issues he cares about, issues of poverty, issues of wage stagnation, issues of income inequality aren't getting enough attention in this debate, just like people feel like climate change isn't getting enough attention and that the only way he's going to be able to get that out is through social media, is through grass roots organizing and he needs the resources to do that. That's very different than saying that particular journalists are unfair. Journalists should be critical. That's their job. They should -- I'd rather that they be critical of politicians than sympathetic to politicians. That's the difference between the Democrats and the president. The president expects them to have fawning cover stories after him and that's not democracy.

[13:25:06] KEILAR: Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you so much for coming into the studio.

KHANNA: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: We appreciate it.

KHANNA: Appreciate it.

KEILAR: An hours-long gun fight in Philadelphia coming to an end remarkably with no one dead. The mayor now issuing a call for stronger gun laws.

Plus, a major moment in the 2020 race. One candidate says she's open to making buybacks of assault weapons mandatory, but her rivals say, some of them, that it goes too far.