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INSIDE POLITICS

Tlaib Opts Not to Visit Israel; Warren Climbs in Polls; Warren Releases Native American Policy. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Up front to artists who in the end kept it and we got no concert.

But it's all sort of a --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's no (ph) good.

WEIR: I think it's a statement on how -- where we've come, but the hope that we could hang on to.

BOLDUAN: Bill is such a storyteller and he really does it justice this time. It's good stuff.

WEIR: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Please watch, you guys.

Catch CNN's special report, "Woodstock at 50," tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

That's it for us. "INSIDE POLITICS" with the great John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

An Israeli official says Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib must hate Israel more than she loves her grandmother. This after the Democratic congresswoman asked for permission to see family in the Palestinian territories and then says never mind when Israel says yes.

Plus, a new complication in the China challenge. The White House OK's a major arms sale to Taiwan, something sure to anger Beijing in an already tense time because of trade differences.

And just an August 2019 snapshot, but a new poll shows Elizabeth Warren on the rise among Democrats and it shows President Trump running well behind all of the leading Democrats. He insists he's not the least bit worried.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have the best unemployment. You have the most successful state in the history of your state and in the history of our country. And then you're going to vote for somebody else? Oh, great. Let's vote for Elizabeth "Pocahontas" Warren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to 2020 politics in a moment.

But we begin this hour with a 180 from freshman Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, deciding she will not visit Israel. That after the country granted her permission on humanitarian grounds to visit her elderly grandmother. Tlaib tweeting in part, I can't allow the state of Israel to take away my light by humiliating me and use my love for my sity -- that's her grandmother -- to bow down to their oppressive and racist policies.

She goes on to say, I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in, fighting against racism, oppression and injustice.

OK, she explains herself well there, but just last night Congresswoman Tlaib was making the impassioned plea to be allowed to visit and vowing to fight for that right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): You know, my grandmother's in her 90s. Her granddaughter is a United States congresswoman. She should have to be able to see me, to touch me, to hug me. And so I'm going to continue to fight back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the question of just visiting her grandmother came up yesterday after Israel took a dramatic step barring Tlaib and fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from making a broader visit to Israel, citing the congresswomen's support of a boycott movement. President Trump had taken the remarkable step of urging Israel to say no to that planned visit.

Tlaib then asked for permission to visit on humanitarian grounds. And in a letter to the government promised to respect Israeli restrictions on such a visit, including a promise not to promote the boycott movement while visiting her Palestinian grandmother. Israel then granted permission under those terms.

And now the interior minister in Israel not happy, tweeting this, I approved her request as a gesture of good will on a humanitarian basis. But it was just a provocative request aimed at bashing the state of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.

Tough words all around. With me today to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana

Bash, Asma Khalid with NPR, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," and Tarini Parti with "The Wall Street Journal."

Where is this now and where is it going in the sense that it seems everyone has decided to go to their political corner and make the case that they think most helps them. The congresswoman in the end deciding I'm not going and I'm going to blame Israel. Israel saying, hey, wait a minute, we did exactly what you asked and now you won't come. What kind of point were you making?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, you know, look, the sad part here is putting aside the -- you know, her grandmother, who is elderly, this was political from the beginning in every -- on all sides and every step. It was political for the two congresswomen who were clearly wanting to go to Israel to make a political point. That's certainly allowed and it should be allowed.

It was political for our president who, you know, wanted to send -- continue to send the message that he's been sending about casting these two congresswomen as sort of the face of the Democratic Party. It was political for Benjamin Netanyahu, who's got an election that he's running, you know, and is going to come in about a month. And so everybody was acting in political ways.

And I think -- and I think what is so sad about it is that you would think that this would be a moment that all sides could sort of rise above the politics and say whatever -- whatever everybody wants to do in the kind of political sphere, these folks should be able to go to Israel and make their point and everybody can react to it then.

[12:05:00] KING: And in the context of Congresswoman Tlaib, she says, well, her family pushed back and said, do not accept these circumstances. Do not come if it's just to visit your grandmother, just to see your family. You're essentially not allowed to speak. You're not allowed to say anything political when you're here. Don't do that. That's what she says happened and we've had some interviews with her family from our folks on the ground there.

Critics say, no, what they see here is an effort for her that she said, yes, let me come see my grandmother, expecting Israel to say no again to get a bigger issue. She didn't get it so she decided to walk away. We have to take her at her word, but this is where we are. Nobody trusts anybody.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, nobody trusts anybody at all. And just from a political point of view, this time yesterday there was widespread condemnation of Israel and the Trump administration, the president himself, for denying a duly elected member of Congress, obviously from America, to go into what is supposed to be America's most trusted ally, Israel, in the Middle East. And that was widely condemned.

Now that Israel -- you know, things have changed a little bit and the response that the congresswoman has had saying, no, I'm not going to go because I won't -- I can't speak, that has leveled the political playing field, if you will, rightly or wrongly.

And, look, there is blame to go on both sides. There is also understanding on both sides. It is an incredibly, incredibly difficult situation. But just on a personal level, if she did want to go see her grandmother, it's hard to explain why she didn't just say, yes, and come back and then say what she wanted to say politically about the fact that she thought -- she thought it was absolutely horrible that she was silenced by the Israelis.

KING: Right, and to your -- to your point, this decision, Israel saying yes and then she's saying never mind essentially has changed the topic for a day because the bigger conversation yesterday was, why would the president of the United States --

BASH: Yes.

KING: It's just unprecedented, say, yes, I disagree with these congresswomen, I disagree profoundly with them, but, Israel, if you've ever been to Israel, it has a pretty loud, vibrant democracy. They -- two more voices making a stink in Israel is not going to change a lot actually and it should be viewed as a good thing. If they have issued with Israel, go make them there and have Prime Minister Netanyahu or someone from his government sit down with them and say, here's why we disagree with you and air it out. That -- and so you've had a lot of friends of Israel, a lot of Republicans in Congress, even former Senator Joe Lieberman, who was Al Gore's vice presidential running mate, listen to him here says he believes Netanyahu made a big mistake here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: This is a loss all around. I'm afraid it's really most threatening to Israel's standing in the United States. This decision probably helps the boycott of Israel movement more than the two congresswomen ever could themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's an interesting perspective in the sense that the boycott movement, their views are getting a lot more attention because of this dust-up than if they had just been allowed to go and Israeli officials said, look, sit down at the table, here, we disagree with you.

ASMA KHALID, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: And, you know, we heard there from Joe Lieberman, but we also, I think, heard a fairly unanimous consensus amongst a number of the Democratic 2020 presidential candidates in the immediate aftermath.

And to me what's been really interesting is, you know, if we look at 2016 to where we are in 2020, we've seen a shift actually on the overall Israeli/Palestinian issue amongst the Democratic base. Senator Sanders, I would say, has been a fairly outspoken critic and some of his views were initially seem to be very outside of the mainstream. But I think as he has shifted the conversation around, you know, health care and the economy, one of the things that often goes overlooked is he's actually shifted the conversation on some of these issues as well.

KING: And nothing is clean in this town anymore. Nothing is clear in this town anymore. As this plays out and as Democrats are trying to make the case -- and, again, even some Republicans, Prime Minister Netanyahu, you're wrong. Mr. President, to President Trump, you should not have intervened in something like this. This is a democracy. Let them go make their case.

Democrats on television defending the two congresswomen stirred up even more trouble. This is Congressman Ted Lieu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Well, I wish President Trump would resign. I don't think he's going to do that. But certainly I can call on Ambassador Friedman to resign. His allegiance again is to America, not to a foreign power and it's to the Constitution of the United States, not to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, if you go back in time, one of the controversies about Congresswoman Omar back several weeks ago, a couple months ago, was her raising this dual loyalty, which is viewed as an anti-Semitic trope. And so the ambassador, Ambassador Friedman, then, again, ambassadors normally don't engage in political conversations, they normally try to back off and be diplomatic. But Ambassador Friedman saying, you know, Congress recently passed a resolution condemning BDS movement. The last part of it is, my head is spinning from the hypocrisy, because he calls it a classic anti-Semitic charge. And Congresswoman Lieu had to delete the tweet.

TARINI PARTI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right. I mean like Michael said, everything about this has been political from the start and it continues to be political as this back and forth continues. I think Democrats right now are in an interesting position. You know, they have -- the views on Israel and Palestine have evolved. Different Democrats are talking about it in a different way and are stumbling, clearly, as we saw with the congressman and using his choice of words. And I think going forward, President Trump is going to try to take advantage of that and point to those, you know, errors or stumbles in the way they're talking as a way of showing that he is the clear ally and friend of Israel and Democrats are not.

[12:10:23] KING: That's an interesting point because the senior leadership, from Speaker Pelosi on down, has tried to either marginalize the views of Omar or Tlaib or what they would say try to educate them or saying you're newer members of Congress. Congresswoman Tlaib, you may have a Palestinian perspective. You know, Congressman Omar, you have the refugee and Muslim perspective. We need to educate you more about the relationship -- and now when Netanyahu does this and when Trump does this, it raises their stature among Democrats because of the politics, everybody needs to go to their corner.

BASH: That's exactly right. And Joe Lieberman said it beautifully, that the whole notion of the BDS movement and these two congresswomen being outcasts was completely helped or maybe even hurt, I should say, by the fact that these two great democracies didn't feel comfortable enough in the democratic institutions and the notions of democracy to have a real discussion with these two members of Congress. And it's still stunning to me.

KING: Right.

BASH: I mean I can't wrap my mind around it.

SHEAR: It -- and it's a -- and it's a big change, right, because just not that many years ago support for Israel was seen as a very bipartisan issue. It wasn't politicized the way it is now. You know, people sort of came and went in -- often did (INAUDIBLE) did trips to Israel from, you know, in bipartisan groups of members of Congress to go sort of express their support for Israel and that seems to have now devolved into a much more partisan situation.

KING: And I -- and we can't answer it at a table in Washington, a fascinating thing to me is here, Netanyahu, like president Trump, Netanyahu's calling card has always been strength. He looked like President Trump's puppet yesterday. He looked weak yesterday.

Does that impact the elections a couple of weeks away in Israel? Does it help him? Does it hurt him? He clearly thinks this is somehow to his benefit. We shall see. Again, you can't answer that here in Washington, but that's something to keep an eye on.

Up next, when we come back, she surged to second place in the Democratic polls, now Elizabeth Warren returning to a very sensitive issue, this time with policy plans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:52] KING: New policy initiatives today from Elizabeth Warren as a new poll confirms her steady rise in the 2020 Democratic nomination chase. The Fox News poll, look here, has the Massachusetts Democrat in command of second place with 20 percent support. That's an eight point increase since the same poll in July and a 16 point rise since March.

Now, team Warren believes her detailed policy positions are a big factor in her gains. But today's revisits what has proven to be tough terrain from the senator. Warren is outlining two policy plans specifically targeted to Native Americans. What's more, for the first time in months she will discuss Native American issues at length in a conference in Iowa.

Next week, Warren, you might recall, had to apologize to Native Americans after releasing a DNA test designed to back up her claim of distant Native American heritage. Now mocking Warren is a Trump rally staple and last night the president added a note about her rising poll numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did the Pocahontas thing. I hit her really hard. And it looked like she was down and out. But that was too long ago. I should have waited. But, don't worry, we will revive it. It can be revived. It can be -- right? It will be revived. And it can be revived very easily and very quickly and we're going to have some fun in the state of New Hampshire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's a mocking tone, many would say racist, but that means the president's paying attention.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us now from New York.

MJ, what do we know about these new Warren policies?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, certainly this is one of the most significant plans that Senator Warren has put out, both policy wise and politically speaking as well. Let me just walk you through this quickly.

Part of this plan is a draft legislation that she's put out with Congresswoman Deb Holland -- she is, of course, one of the first two Native Americans elected to Congress -- that would boost funding for critical Native American programs. And then she's also putting out -- proposing an Oliphant fix. This has to do with the Supreme Court ruling that said that tribal governments had no criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans on tribal lands. So allowing Native Americans, according to Warren, to seek justice in cases like rape and other kinds of crimes.

And then a lot of the plan has to do with tribal lands and resources, including revoking some of these permits that have been given as a part of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

Now, John, what I think is interesting is that Senator Warren put out a lengthy "Medium" post to go over these proposals. And she -- there's no mention in that "Medium" post about her own family ancestry. That issue is, of course, the reason that there was so much political controversy around her campaign earlier this year. It's the reason that she decided to put out this DNA test showing that she had distant Native American heritage.

This is an issue that she's going to have to work through and I think the campaign knows that she will have to continue to confront, especially now that we know she's going to be participating in this conference in Iowa next week where she is going to be onstage with tribal leaders and will certainly face questions about substance and perhaps about her family history as well.

John.

[12:20:06] KING: Fair to say, MJ, that they think the timing works for them here in the sense that she is ascendant in the polls, she is in a stronger place. And so if you need to deal with something, the earlier, the better, but from a position of somewhat strength?

LEE: Yes, no, that's a good point. You know, I do think that her approach and the campaign's approach really has been to try to continue talking about substance. They don't want to revisit the family issue. They feel like she has, of course, apologized and that she wants that apology to stand. But that what they would like to refocus the focus on really is about these substance proposals and really let people know that these are issues that she cares about and I think particularly with the endorsement from somebody like Congresswoman Deb Holland, that gives the campaign an opportunity to get out there with somebody from the community and say, I'm focused on the policy and I'm focused on making lives better for the Native American community in this country.

KING: MJ Lee, live in New York, appreciate the reporting there.

Let's bring it around the table.

And this is a dicey area for her because she has had missteps in it in the past.

But I want to start with the president, because he doesn't come after you without a reason. Now, the way he does it, the Pocahontas label, it's offensive, some say racist. It's certainly not presidential. But it's the way he does this.

But he did go after her early. And she was struggling early on. And he used to boast that he was responsible for that. The fact that he's coming back and cognizant of her polling, he watches this race, the Democratic race, as closely as anybody. That tells me -- you know that he -- he knows. He knows that she has ascended in this race.

PARTI: It's pretty clear that she has been on the rise consistently for the last few months. I spent a week in Iowa, and everywhere you go, I mean the reception that she's getting has been pretty stunning. I spoke with several county Democratic chairman who said they've just never seen this level of organization at this stage in the caucus process. They're -- you know, they said that even voters said that they're hearing from her staff. They're getting phone calls to discuss the issues with them.

One thing that voters pointed out is the Pocahontas thing has been, you know, mostly forgotten and the fact that she did do that DNA test, but they do bring it up sometimes when they're talking about, you know, defeating Donald Trump and someone who can be on the same debate stage as Donald Trump. They bring that up as a potential concern, but at least most of the voters I talked to said that they feel like the substance of Elizabeth Warren, the policy proposals that she's come up with, and her performances in the debates so far does lead them to believe that she will be able to somewhat stand up against the president.

KING: And part of the solution to that is to start winning --

BASH: Right.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: Which would help if you -- if you could start winning, that answers some of the doubts already.

BASH: Yes, and this is not just about, you know, righting a political wrong or a potential misstep early in the campaign with that DNA test, it's about getting voters. I mean, you know, I haven't looked at the specifics about the Native American vote in key primary states, but if she does start winning, she has to right any potential wrong that the Native American community sees in her candidacy and her -- you know, her history here. And that's obviously poked at by President Trump.

But what better way to try to bring everybody together and bring herself more into that community than bringing her calling card, which is a policy proposal.

KING: Right, bring a policy proposal.

KHALID: I mean part of what --

KING: Crowded field. Crowded field.

KHALID: Yes, I was going to say --

KING: Every vote counts too.

KHALID: Yes, and I was going to say, part of why she's just been so ascendant in the polls is, to your point, I mean she has been extremely, extremely well organized. And you'll talk to her campaign staff. They believe that you're now beginning to see the fruits of what they laid very early on. And that part of why she was just not as ascendant was people weren't paying attention to the sort of grassroots operation that she was building, not only in Iowa, but also in New Hampshire.

KING: Right. And to the -- to the -- yes, when the president brings it up, a lot of Democrats recoil. Senator Warren herself. And, again, the use of the term "Pocahontas" is offensive. But the issue does come up to the point about electability that you were raising, and not just in Republican circles. This is Senator Warren doing what many of the Democratic candidates have done, gone on "The Breakfast Club" radio program to try to make your case. Here's the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did you find out you weren't?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, no, it's -- I'm not a person of color.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there any benefits to that?

WARREN: No. "Boston Globe" did a full investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're kind of like the original Rachel Dozier (ph) a little bit. Rachel Dozier (ph) was a white woman pretending to be black.

WARREN: No, this is what I learned from my family. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now they -- they try to be provocative on the show. That's the point of the show.

KHALID: But that's a topic she's still not totally comfortable with.

SHEAR: Right.

KHALID: And we sat down with the NPR politics podcast last week. I spent a half an hour on a really wide-ranging interview with her and I did ask her this question about some folks, even some Democrats, do question whether your judgment on race may be off. I will say the entire rest of the interview I felt like she was completely comfortable moving to policy positions and what not. In her response to that question, she shifted again to a policy position. You know, I think that that's where she's comfortable and I don't know that she feels fully comfortable yet in terms of how to answer these questions that even Democrats have about whether her judgment on race might be off based on how she (INAUDIBLE).

[12:25:09] KING: And it's a great observation because the test of all candidates, but especially one that is growing, is to learn the lesson so you can keep growing. Learn how to get comfortable in the areas where you may have a weakness or a blind spot or where you've stepped in it before, had a -- had a misstep before. Because if you look at the numbers, look at the Fox poll numbers, 4 percent in March, 20 percent in August. That's a nice line. You like that line. You want your 401(k) to look like that. If you're a candidate, you want to look like -- you know, you want to look like a great stock on Wall Street. And if you compare it, if you view her as one of the leading progressives in the race, the downtrend is Bernie Sanders. The uptrend is Elizabeth Warren.

SHEAR: Which --

KING: Not exactly the same pool of voters, but the same kind of voters.

SHEAR: Which I guess, just to put a little bit of skepticism here in, it does make me wonder whether, when you're on that kind of trend and you're having the kind of success that you're having, whether it makes -- I mean, you know, the issues of Native Americans in the country are, I'm sure, very important, but I don't know that the Democratic Party is the Democratic primary, folks are clamoring for a massive policy position on it and she could well have decided, this is -- why poke the bear, right? Like, why be -- why put this so out front that President Trump can come in and, you know, and raise this again and she's going to have more interviews like the one where she wasn't very comfortable. I just -- I mean, look, maybe they've got a strategy. Maybe they, as you say, want to kind of get past this as soon as they can. But the question of like sort of right when you're -- right when you're, you know, having people talk about how successful you are, you --

BASH: Except it's not necessarily a bad thing if you're a -- one of 20 people running for the Democratic nomination for the president to single you out.

SHEAR: And being attacked by Trump. Yes.

BASH: Not necessarily (INAUDIBLE).

SHEAR: Well, that's true.

KING: It's a little risky --

SHEAR: Yes.

KING: But it's interesting to watch a candidate -- and, you're right, you could just say, hey, we're doing great, don't touch anything.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: Or, we're doing great, let's clean some things up. Let's try -- let's try to do some things. It's a risk and we'll watch. That's what make campaigns fun.

SHEAR: It's interesting.

KING: Up next for us, what doom and gloom? President Trump says the economy, humming along. So well, you have no choice, he says, but to vote for him in 2020.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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