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CNN TONIGHT

Trump Slams Rep. Tlaib, Who's Refusing To Visit Israel Due To Conditions Imposed By Israeli Government; Fox Poll, Biden, Sanders, Warren And Harris All Beat Trump In Hypothetical 2020 Match-Ups; Buying Greenland. Aired 10:30-11p ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 22:30   ET

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


[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Laura Coates in for Don Lemon and tonight, President Trump's wrapping up his attacks on Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat. She and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar were denied permission yesterday to visit Israel due to their support of a boycott against the country over its policies. And it was President Trump who encouraged Israel to do that.

Tlaib was then given the OK to enter on humanitarian grounds so she can visit her grandmother who lives in the West Bank and happens to be in her 90's. But the congresswoman had had to agree to restrictions imposed by Israel including no talking about the boycott. Now, after initially agreeing to the restriction, Tlaib canceled her trip calling the conditions oppressive and her decision set off President Trump.

In a series of tweets tonight, he accused her of grandstanding and purposely setting up Israel, but then tweeting, quote, the only real winner here is Tlaib's grandmother. She doesn't have to see her now. Shocking, but is this politics a grievance really what Americans want to see with 2020 on the horizon, especially with warning signs flashing on the economy which until now has been the president's ace in the hole?

Joining me now to discuss all this, Harry Enten, Catherine Rampell, and Joseph Pinion, which all of you reacted, by the way, to the idea that the grandmother has now been attacked?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: We all went, I think, everybody went like this.

COATES: You know what, it's funny because that they may actually play into this whole thing about this 2020 elections coming up, Harry. You've heard about it.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: I believe I heard about it. I may have even written about it once or twice.

COATES: You may have once or twice. What we've all been talking up until now about the electability of the Democratic candidates for president thinking who's going to fare the best, but there's actually a new poll out, there's a new Fox poll that has top Democrats beating Donald Trump by significant margins. I mean, he hasn't even reached 40 percent against any of these candidates. So is Trump, Harry, the one who actually has an electability problem?

ENTEN: I mean, look, I've been looking at this numbers since the beginning of his presidency. He cannot get above 45 percent approval among voters. Usually if you go back through history, the incumbence who have run in the polling era, that basically means adios amigos, good-bye, see you later.

So, this Fox News poll is just the latest sign that this president is in deep trouble. It's not just that he is not unpopular, but that's translating to the ballot has and he is down to all those Democrats as that Fox News poll indicates.

COATES: So the approval rating, and we're talking about, I mean, how important is this number right now? We're still many, many months away from 2020. How much weight do we put into this?

[22:35:00] ENTEN: I mean, what I would put into weight to it is that, it's been consistently bad, and it's consistently bad among a number of key groups. I mean, just look at this Fox News poll. Among women, he's running a 39 percent approval rating at this particular time. That is terrible. This is all-time record gender gaps, but more than that, take a look how he's doing among suburban women. Just a 39 percent approval rating. Suburban women tend to decide election elections.

In 2018, Democratic House candidates won so big among suburban women and that helped flip the House. One other group I point out, whites without a college degree, women, that particular group, that should be a strength for him. And he's only running a 50 percent approval rating among them. These numbers are all indicative of a president who's in major trouble at least at this point before his re-election.

COATES: I mean, Catherine, the power of the women vote is undeniable and the president is well aware of this. He did struggle before. I mean, how impactful are these numbers related to women and suburban women in particular, how are they going to impact this election and President Trump's path going forward?

RAMPELL: I think we need to step back and think about, you know, what was the likelihood that a guy who lost the popular vote, whose party got trounced in the recent midterms, who throws babies in baby cages, makes racist and sexist comments, who has been credibly accused of sexual assaults by multiple women, what are the chances that he would have in electability problem?

COATES: A poor hypothetical.

RAMPELL: Exactly. I mean, I would argue that they're relatively high. I think what he is doing, rather than trying to expand his base, obviously, and appeal to women who he has alienated, he is just doubling down on this stuff that has alienated them. Presumably because he thinks, well, to the extent that he is thinking about it at all, well, I guess I got to turn out my base, right, that I'm going to double down on the xenophobic rhetoric, I'm going to double down on the racism and the sexism and the name calling and all of that because I know that that energizes my most loyal people.

COATES: I want to bring you into this, Joseph, this discussion, because "The New York Times" is reporting that before somebody who has been talked about electability, Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States, of course, that he had a conversation prior to running with President Obama where apparently Obama made comments like, Joe, you don't have to do this, Joe, you really don't.

And the reporting that Biden said he couldn't forgive himself if he turned down a second opportunity to take a shot at Trump. What do you make of this? What is the plea to say, please don't do this or just, you know you don't have to. How do you read it?

JOSEPH PINION, CHAIR, CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION: I honestly think that this is a major problem for Joe Biden. People always talk about the gaffes. I've said many times that the American people know who Joe Biden is. He is the gaffe man. And I don't think that the gaffes will hurt him provided voters, particularly African-American voters, still believe he is the best person to go toe to toe with President Trump. I think that is the litmus test for most rank and file Democratic voters.

I think the issue that he has right now is the fact he has basically built this campaign in almost Noah's Arc style. Where he has Clinton acolytes and Obama acolytes walking two by two trying to make him a candidate he has never been and now that Arc is leaking like the hole of the Titanic. And I think that if he doesn't plug the leaks fast, they're actually going to end up hurting him more than any amount of gaffes ever would.

COATES: So, do you see the conversation between President Obama, as indication of that leaking Arc, that he is telling him and signaling to the American people, look, I don't think that you should run based on the gaffes, or otherwise, is he signaling that or is this just a taking out of context conversation?

PINION: I don't believe that. I think that realistically if we were saying Obama saying these things in the present, I would think that that would might have been a sign. I think the fact that we haven't heard from Obama is all the indication you need to know that he is actually with Joe.

I think that the reality is, that we head down further through this process, that all of these leaks seem to be coming from individuals that are kind of really trying to chip away at who Joe Biden is. And I think if you take almost a broader look at it, if he has look at all these polls, Joe Biden is the one person who has consistently been dominating the polls if polls are to be believed against Donald Trump and he is the one person Democrats have been consistently trying to kill.

COATES: You know who else has been very consistent on that poll? Somebody who's actually not in the race, Harry, President Obama. What is that telling us about the fact that there's so support for him and he is not on the ticket, is this a tie to Joe Biden or what does it going to indicate to us? ENTEN: I think it indicates a number of things. First off, Barack

Obama hasn't been in politics for a very long period of time and people haven't been taking shots at him except in the last Democratic debate, were it seems like, they were more than happy to take a shot at him.

I mean look, I think the fact that Obama is still so popular is an indication of why Joe Biden is, in fact, leading the Democratic field at this particular time. You saw that approval rating on the screen, 60 percent among all voters. But if you look among Democrats, it's actually above 90 percent, his favorable rating.

And I think, you know, if you break down the Fox News poll further, what you see is among Democrats who want to build on Obama's legacy, which is 48 percent in that particular poll, among that subgroup, Joe Biden is leading by 26 points in the Democratic primary among the 47 percent actually who want to go in a new direction, Joe Biden is trailing Elizabeth Warren by five points. So, his lead right now is built upon his connection to Barack Obama and so to me, he is going to hug that connection and it's working for him so far.

COATES: How could it be, Catherine, that Obama left office at 57 percent approval rating, he is now at 60 percent. I mean, how is it notching up when he is not even on the ticket?

[22:40:08] RAMAPHOSA: Well, I mean, we don't know what the margin of error -- I don't know what the margin of error off hand --

ENTEN: Wide enough. We have it on this paper. Very small.

RAMPELL: At that point, it may not be that different, to Harry's point, he's been out of office and hasn't been, you know, hasn't had the same target on his back that he had while he was in office. Also, you know, think about what the scandals were. The pseudo scandals were under no drama Obama. It was the tan suit. He ordered spicy mustard one time. And that was like, you know, an uproar on Fox News.

COATES: Well, there was also the dad jeans just to be clear.

RAMPELL: There were so many scandals. I can't keep track of them. But you know, I could imagine that there's a significant portion of the public that kind of misses those days when we didn't have a president besmirching the respectability of the office. And enlisting foreign countries in feuds with political opponents. And, you know, throwing babies in jails and things like that. So there's some -- like warranted nostalgia I guess is how I put it.

PINION: I think the Democrats have to be very careful here. I mean, I talk to my friends across the aisle, I say in the words of the most salient, poignant message from Van Jones' book, they didn't vote, I think the reality is when you sit here looking out what Marianne William has been screaming across America, plans would not be Donald Trump.

I think you look at this, you look at those margin of error, what people are polling on in 2019 is not what people are going to be voting on in 2020. We are not talking about is that these polls come out of the back side of El Paso which realistically, I think, horrified a great deal of people across the political spectrum.

So, I think ultimately when we get past this, two months from now, three months from now, is the economy still going strong, do those 6 million people who got jobs under Donald Trump still have jobs five months from now? I think those are the things that we are going to need to talk about.

COATES: Well, you know, the biggest poll is the one on Election Day. Thank you, all, for your time. I appreciate it. You've heard that President Trump has been mulling buying Greenland, the world's largest island. Well, the people of Greenland have a thing or two to say about that. We'll tell you what they think, next.

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COATES: So President Trump has been asking about buying Greenland. The world's largest island which is owned by Denmark, but Greenlanders have a counteroffer. Greenland is not for sale. More tonight from CNN's Fred Pleitgen who's there.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Seems like a lot of folks here in Greenland seem to almost be mocking President Trump's alleged idea to acquire this territory or possibly somehow purchase it. The government of Greenland has come out and said, quote, Greenland is not for sale.

And local folks here in the southeast of the country that we've been speaking to said, look, this is something that America has tried in the past, they talk about, 1867 when there apparently was a push and the time shortly after World War II and one resident said it simply isn't going to happen.

Now on the face of it, it might not be such a crazy idea for America to want to do this. Greenland apparently does have very vast natural resources that the Chinese have been trying to get their hands on through some Chinese companies. It's obviously not something that America is very fond of.

And it's also a pretty strategic place for America as well. There's a big air base that the U.S. has here in the northwest of Greenland. However, if the Greenlanders really do have all these natural resources, they can get to them and exploit them. The first thing they'll want is their own independence from Denmark.

Right now, they're semiautonomous. And if President Trump really wants to have Greenland, one thing he'll probably have to do is really acknowledge that the global climate crisis is real. You can see behind me there's a lot of icebergs that you see here. This has been one of the warmest summers that Greenland has had on record. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, in southeastern Greenland.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Well, I want to talk about President Trump's interest in

buying Greenland with Samantha Vinograd, Philip Bump and Michael D'Antonio who's also the author of "The truth about Trump" and before we're even beginning, all their heads are shaking as we contemplate, we're going to talk this Friday night about possibly buying Greenland. And Michael, you know, it's shocking, it's shocking right now, apparently the people of Greenland have an issue with this. What could possibly be the issue?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you think there's one thing or one person not for sale on this entire planet, well, it turns out to be Greenland and all the people who live there. The president once told me that he has a genetic gift for land. You tell me how a person can have a genetic gift for land.

I think it means that he sees everything as transactional, as something he can acquire, but he also has no sense of history, of the fact that, you know, the era of the United States going all over the world, buying the Philippines, you know, this is over.

We are not a colonial power. We're -- we're actually a member of a community of nations, and this is a challenge for a man who sees himself in singular terms. He is the one who wants to go around the globe and tell everybody what it is. He admired the real estate in North Korea.

COATES: I think it was beachfront property he talked about.

D'ANTONIO: Right.

COATES: Sam, I got to tell you, Greenland's ministry of foreign affairs tweeted today, "we're open for business, not for sale." and Soren Espersen (ph), who is the foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish People's Party had this to say. "If it is true that he works with those thoughts, then it is definitive proof that he has gone crazy.

I must say it as it is, the idea that Denmark should sell 50,000 citizens to the United States is completely insane." So, there's the property aspect, Sam, then there's the notion of people actually inhabit Greenland. What do you think?

[22:50:06] SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, let's keep in mind also that Denmark is an ally of the United States. They're a NATO ally. And we're wasting time with our NATO ally talking about the sale of tens of thousands of people, but let's be clear. Territorial integrity has never been Donald Trump's hill to die on, right?

I mean, he is a cheap date when it comes to selling out American democracy to the Russians in exchange for some campaign support, he's even outsourcing his politics to American democracy to Bibi Netanyahu, when he up -- Bibi Netanyahu to ban the entry of Muslim Congresswomen from entering Israel. So at this point, if Donald Trump is operating from personal experience here, everyone's for sale and not for that high price. COATES: Is this seems to say territorial integrity with the man

talking about the border at a moment, but you're thinking about that. Phillip, I have to ask you, there's been this record, obviously a record ice melt in Greenland just this year alone, and yet the president doesn't truly acknowledge the notion of climate change, that it's some kind of a hoax. Is he going to have to acknowledge it in some way if he is now trying to capitalize by purchasing Greenland or is this something that's a bit of red herring?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, I mean, this is really the subtext to this entire thing. We're talking about Greenland in part because Greenland is home to all this natural resources and those natural resources and shipping lanes, those natural resources, those were things are going to open up as the climate continues to warm. There is a comment was made by a general, about five or six years ago in which he started to refer to the arctic as the new north coast of the United States.

The arctic is going to play an increasing role in geopolitics as ice starts to melt. And that's happening in a faster phase. I think this year is actually on track to be the fastest melt that we've seen so far. Greenland becomes much more strategically important in that case. So there is a reason why Greenland is important and that these resources will become more available and that it is more strategically important as the climate warms, all of those factors make Greenland more tempting to people like Donald Trump, yet at the same time, Trump doesn't acknowledge a climate change is even happening.

VINOGRAD: They don't have to buy it, right?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, sure, of course, right.

VINOGRAD: Greenland -- to all of your points, Greenland is really important, but you don't have to purchase Greenland to make it a strategic asset. We have a military base there, not only because Russian missiles can be detected from our military base in Greenland. As you mentioned, Russia, China, and the United States are all vying for superiority in the arctic region, but you don't have to buy the place. Why don't you just sit down and talk to the authorities in Greenland. Even talk to Denmark and think about how to use it most wisely.

COATES: Well, you know him very well, Michael. So why wouldn't the president just simply talk and actually exert that level of effort to have the logical connection made, you can maybe exploit or capitalize or even have a diplomacy relationship, why not do that?

D'ANTONIO: Well, you said a few things that, you said, he'd have to talk with them. So, he doesn't talk with people. He barks at them, he threatens them, he (inaudible), but doesn't talk or negotiate. And the other word you used was diplomatic. He would have to have a diplomatic exchange and he might even have to listen to his advisers. And this is a person who is very impulsive.

He gets on an idea in his head and even if on, you know, Monday he says, and then Tuesday, he says I was wrong about a, it was really b and on Wednesday he'll go back to a. So, he's not a stable person who actually negotiate. If he can't bully his way or somehow bluster his way to a result, he doesn't know how to get there.

COATES: So, is a purchase like this, Phil Bump, all about the president's legacy? I mean, there's reasons why this is absurd? Reasons why this may be advantageous, but is it really something that's about self-absorption?

BUMP: I mean, it's quite possible. I mean, it certainly as always something that when ask to consider (inaudible) our President Trump, but I mean, I think it also is simply also -- he doesn't understand the mechanics of international power either. He says there's land, what do you do with land, you buy land, right?

I mean, I think, one of the things that Greenland should be happy about is, you know, they run the risk of going bankrupt if Donald Trump would have buy us. You know, you got to (inaudible) for having to do that. But I mean, this is just sort of how he looks at -- he's look at this North Korea the same way China, look at everything from China is transactional, everything is looking at it through the lens of his 40 years of experience in the real estate industry. And I think that's the safest base assumption here.

COATES: You know people have a little bit of thumb at this, Sam, for example the former presidential candidate and Montana governor, by the way, Steve Bullock, he is still running for president is having a little bit of fun.

His campaign actually launched a web site, and here it is, it's called, isGreenlandforsale.com. And what that does actually opposes the question and then immediately response, no but then it also encourages visitors to then, of course, donate to Bullock's campaign. So are Democrats right here to kind of pounce on this as outlandish?

VINOGRAD: There are so many things to pounce on as outlandish. I mean, like, really where does one really start today? But sure, there's actually a real foreign policy point to be made here. And I do want to bring this back to that which is the president of the United States is sitting around asking members of his team to look into the legalities of buying Greenland.

[22:55:01] We cannot even secure our own country right now. The territory that Donald Trump controls. And he is talking about purchasing more territory. Like let's focus on controlling what we have.

And the presidential candidates should point out that President Trump is making foreign policy blunders across the board and spending his time talking about buying Greenland rather than, I don't know, sitting down with his advisers and talking about the arctic competition that is under way, what Russia and China are doing. Let's devote more attention to that and less attention to this folly that is occupying some of his time and a lot of ours.

COATES: A case for presidential priorities. Thank you to all of you, your time. I appreciate it. You know, President Trump is using the power of his office to attack Democratic Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. And by the way, they aren't the only ones, but will his strategy of governing by grievance still work with 2020 looming?

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