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New Data Complicates Trump 2020 Economy Argument; Warren Unveils Criminal Justice Reform Plan; 2020 Democrats Unveil New Plans; Ten Candidates Qualify for September Debates; Delaney Already Eyeing Fourth Round of Debates; Sanders Goes After Harris' Medicare for All Comments. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Today, JPMorgan Chase says President Trump's China tariffs will cost $600 per American household on average. That number would go up to $1,000 that reports say if the next round of tariffs goes on.

One more big concern today, new layoffs hitting Michigan's steelworkers. U.S. steel announced what it calls temporary layoffs that will put 200 workers at its Michigan mill out of a job for at least six months. Now bringing back steel is a constant Trump refrain including this from last week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Steel. Steel was dead. Your business was dead, OK. I don't want to be overly crude. Your business was dead and I put a little thing called a 25 percent tariff on all of the dumped steel all over the country and now your business is thriving.


KING: It's interesting he specifically mentions the tariffs there. You have the JPMorgan report saying the tariffs are going to hurt consumers. You can look depending on which argument you're trying to make and you can find economic statistics that say it's not so bad. Yes, there are some recession warning signs but overall things are pretty good, calm down.

Or you can find, oh my, consumer sentiments down a little bit, this 200 steelworkers being laid off, those are the industries that tend to get hit first in a recession or something like that. The challenge in the political party of this is the president is trying to shape an argument as are the Democrats.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, the president's main argument heading into the 2020 election is that I'm the only one who can keep the economy going this way. That's what he said at recent rallies which is that you may not want to vote for me but you have to vote for me. And it appear as though the White House is now seeming to be worried about the warnings coming from Wall Street, the warnings coming from economists which is that as soon as next year, the beginnings of a recession could appear even though Trump in public doesn't want to go along with that and is trying to find a fall guy, whether it's the Fed or whether it's the media.

KING: And you don't -- as I said, you don't kick around the idea, should we try to cut payroll taxes unless you're worried -- you don't talk about that unless you're worried there could be a slowdown, let's try to juice the economy.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: And, in fact, that could make people worried if they are talking about that because that is one of those things that you come in to do when there's a problem and the economy needs a rescue. Now, whether they are actually talking about it or whether this was a trial balloon that was floated and delivered to the president via their TV screen isn't a hundred percent clear at this point. But, yes, the economy is critical to the president and the tells about whether he's worried about it or not is all of the tweets badgering Jay Powell and also the move to delay those tariffs on consumer goods coming from China by a couple of months past the Christmas holiday shopping season even though the president publicly claims it would have no effect on Christmas.

KING: And to -- you've made the point both about the Fed. Will Jay Powell cut rates again while the president is constantly calling him clueless and the like and pushing him to do that? This is the president of the Boston Fed who gets a vote saying I'm not so sure we should do that.


ERIC ROSENGREN, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF BOSTON: Economic conditions are still pretty good. My own view was that we have to be careful not to ease too much when we don't have significant problems. I don't see a lot of needs to take action.

So I'm not saying there aren't circumstances in which I would be willing to ease. I just want to see evidence that we are actually going into something that's more of a slowdown. If I'm growing at two percent, I'm not as worried about that.


KING: It is going to be a fascinating few weeks ahead as the president pushes and pushes then you have raising legitimate concerns saying, you know, there are actually -- there's dangers -- you could argue this both ways.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the Fed is fighting on two fronts. They're fighting to make sure the economy stays strong but also fighting for their independence. We saw the president tweet yesterday saying that Jay Powell should reduce rates by a certain number. That is unprecedented in modern -- the modern era for the president to disrespect the independence of the Fed by saying this is exactly what my Fed chairman should do.

So the Fed has to protect their own independence while also making sure that the economy is strong. And if the Fed board chairmen are saying, you know, two percent is OK for us and if the president thinks for re-election two percent GDP growth is not OK because I promised three percent growth, you have a little bit of a disconnect there that could show where President Trump goes in the future.

KING: And I said earlier, depending -- you can find the statistics if you want to make an argument, you can look around especially now as there are some signs the economy is slowing. If you're the president, do aides get frustrated sometimes that he won't talk more about the economy, he talks -- he thinks a lot about his 2016 map. If you just look there, this is just growth, we could also show you unemployment numbers in all of the big states the president flipped, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa. In all of those states, growth is up. That might be a confusing graphic if you're trying to follow it all but follow the lines.

Growth is up in the places the president won when he flipped the map. So that's a pretty compelling argument for the president to make. Again, that's now if the economy slows, those numbers could change. But right now, if you look at the map, nationally, some statistics that cause some worry for the president. If you're looking at his electoral map, he has a strong story to tell if he would tell it.

[12:35:03] KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He does have a strong story to tell if he tells it, and if he doesn't end up undermining what the groups that he's trying to tell it to by future moves that they make because they get skittish or worried or legitimately they have to because of a downturn in the economy.

I think that it's interesting that the president -- you know, there's been -- there's a different conversation he has to have for voters that might be swayed by the Democratic message and a different one that he has to have with potential Republican voters. Democrats are trying to make the case that fine, you can talk about all these top- line numbers and growth measures but that's across the economy, we're talking about the middle class, lower-middle-class people who are not necessarily seeing that effect in the same scope in their personal lives.

And, you know -- so that -- that's the argument that they would -- that they would be having if Trump has to take future moves with things like payroll tax et cetera and stimulus measures that are supposed to invigorate that part of the economy. He's going to start to potentially loose other Republicans though when we start talking about things at the other end which is when we get into the stock markets and the bond markets and all of those indicators because you make too many of these moves to try to fix all of those numbers or improve the numbers that you have then you start maybe kicking the GOP into a place where they don't feel comfortable with deficits again and growing debt.

And so there're really no -- it depends on how you impact each of those numbers and different people from different parties are doing that. And any move you make has a potential cost on the other end of the spectrum which then keeps churning that political debate in both parties very differently. KING: And very unlikely with the Democratic House that there's anything the president can do legislatively short of, you know, a serious economic conversation if things went bad but we shall watch.

Up next, a look at some new plans from the 2020 Democratic candidates.


CASEY MCDERMOTT, NEW HAMPSHIRE PUBLIC RADIO: You have more than 160 policy proposals on your website.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad you noticed, thank you.

KEITH: Some of them are kind of random.

MCDERMOTT: There's ones on there to get rid of the penny.

YANG: Yes, the penny, it's terrible.

MCDERMOTT: To repurpose shopping malls.

YANG: We should do that too.



[12:41:17] KING: Live pictures here from Minneapolis. Senator Elizabeth Warren holding a round table to discuss her latest policy proposal, this one on criminal justice. One of the main tenants of the Warren plan, repealing the 1994 crime bill. Yes, that crime bill, the one Joe Biden helped write while in the United States Senate. She also proposes, Warren does, decriminalizing marijuana, reducing mandatory minimum sentences, and ending the death penalty.

Senator Warren has made her mark with the details policy proposal. In this one, that is you're trying to make a point there, right, repeal the 1994 crime bill. That's not in there by accident.

BARRON-LOPEZ: You know, that's signaling that she could potentially -- if they do make the same debate stage and it looks like we may just have one debate stage that she will bring this up and she'll finally be on the same stage with Biden which we haven't seen before. And she also is clearly signaling that she may make some attacks against Harris with the other elements of her plan that said that she wants to pressure states and have the federal government decriminalize truancy. So that's clearly a jab at Harris as well.

KING: And it's fascinating, not all of all the candidates get enough attention as they deserve because there's so many of them. There are -- CNN is having a climate town hall, for example, and eight of the candidates I think are coming through. We should have a thousand of these, have a criminal justice one.

Kirsten Gillibrand putting out a plan today on mental health. Expand community health centers, expand reimbursement for non-traditional treatments, have fund school-based health centers, improve rural healthcare, Medicare for All as part of that as well. Lesser-known candidate having trouble making the traction in the race but it is -- when you have a crowded field, you get a lot of interesting policy ideas.

You had your Andrew Yang interview we played a little bit before that. You know, some of it is a little offbeat, get rid of the penny, repurpose shopping malls. But, air it out.

KEITH: Right. And, you know, Andrew Yang, he has like more than a hundred policy proposals on his website. But he also has -- you know, it's not just the penny, he's also talking about climate change in a fairly interesting way and healthcare and, of course, he has his universal basic income. But I think what all of these candidates are doing with their plans, and there are so many plans, in a way it is signaling to Democratic voters that they care, that they have passion about the same things that these voters have passion about.

And, of course, you know, when they get to the general election, one of them, President Trump is not going to get down into the weeds about an animal welfare plan with Julian Castro, but it signals to primary voters who actually do care about these things.

KING: All right, the Castro plan you mentioned, stop euthanizing domestic cats and dogs, $40 million in local community animal grants, animal cruelty will be a federal crime, pet ownership in federally- supported housing, and strengthen the Endangered Species Act. That is trying to draw a contrast with the Trump administration which is weakening the Endangered Species Act.

DEMIRJIAN: There's plenty of policy proposals that the Democrats are going to put out, that are a direct opposite to what the Trump administration is doing. I think that is just a given, no matter who we see on the final general debate stage against President Trump.

But it's interesting that, you know, we're talking as Tam mentioned, you know, the -- it's trying to show people they care. It's trying to say that, look, I've paid attention to the details. I'm trying to work it out. The problem is right now we have 10 people on a debate stage and it's really hard -- maybe with animal welfare, it's not that hard, but with healthcare, it's extremely hard to actually boil things down into a 30-second, you know, summary and sound bite that you can explain to voters that way. And it takes a lot longer to explain the guts of a lot of these things especially with the new ones of how they differ given that how many candidates have plans on some on some --

KING: We have five months until people vote, so we can do a better job here. I can at this end of the table and in our conversations. Candidates in the debates, voters at home, too, you have a responsibility here too, you can look at up if you're interested.

And to that point, up next, Houston, we have another.

[12:45:02] The September Democratic debate stage just grew by one.


KING: And then there were 10. Julian Castro now qualified for the September Democratic debates. The former housing secretary will join these candidates on stage, that's in Houston for the next round. They have also met both the polling and the donor qualifications. The battle for remaining spots is on particularly for these four candidates who are close, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson.

[12:50:06] They have met the fundraising requirement but not the polling threshold and the clock is ticking. Additional candidates have only eight days left to qualify. And that's the issue.

If you had met the polling and you are just trying to get donors, maybe you can scramble if you're close to get more donors in eight days. You're reluctant, now you're dependent on me or on organizations, are there going to be enough polls. Will there be polls in Iowa and New Hampshire nationally where you might sneak in? So do we think 10 or do we think it's still possible?

OLORUNNIPA: It doesn't look very positive for a lot of these candidates, but they do have a chance because these media organizations are putting out polls almost on a daily basis. So if there is any sign that they're surging or that they can get to that threshold, there will be a couple more opportunities between now and eight days from now. But there is also the October debates and a number of these candidates are thinking about maybe if they don't make September, they can still make it to the stage in October and that would not be the end of their candidacy.

KING: John Delaney among those candidates, one of the first candidates in the race, has worked really hard in Iowa in particular, hasn't been able to gain traction. He says probably not round three, but.


JOHN DELANEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do think there's a way to get on the debate stage either for the third debate or the fourth debate, and that's what we're focused on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, but not necessarily this third debate at this stage. Is that what you're saying that you think it doesn't matter if you don't get qualify in the third stage?

DELANEY: Maybe not the third debate, but we feel very confident we'll get on the fourth debate stage.


KING: The issue is if you've qualified for the third, you're guaranteed into the fourth, the DNC says. But if you haven't made the third, you can still get in. The question is if you're not in the third, you know, I guess you have to see it in the ground in the individual states because you're not getting national television exposure. BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And the question for those candidates whose don't make it into the third do you stick around. If you're not seeing any movement in the polls, why are you staying in this race? But, again, people like Delaney may decide, well, I can make it into the fourth debate so I'm going to drag this out. And I think that candidates like Steyer and Gabbard are definitely going to be in the fourth debate so they're likely to stick in it.

KING: So the winnowing of the field will come a little bit later not as soon as many people thought. Maybe by the end of October or by the fifth as we head into the Thanksgiving season.

When we come back, a healthcare flashpoint between Senator Sanders and Senator Harris.


[12:56:53] KING: Healthcare and the Hamptons are flashpoints today in the Democratic campaign. Bernie Sanders seizing as what he sees as a retreat from Kamala Harris and adding where she did it as an additional tweak, quote, I don't go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires, Sanders says. In a pointed tweet, he adds that if he did go, he would say, quote, we must pass a Medicare for All system to guarantee affordable healthcare for all not just for those who can afford it.

The Vermont senator reacting to this, a Daily Beast account noting that Senator Harris at a Hamptons fundraiser this past weekend told donors she decided to modify her healthcare proposal because, quote, I have not been comfortable with Bernie's plan.

We started the show saying primaries are usually about ideology. There you have it.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. And Harris -- the shot that Bernie's camp had and threw at her was that, well, then why did you sign on to his plan, they've been in the Senate together. And Harris' retort is we've seen these advisers go And I'm not sure that it's actually helping either of the campaigns but Harris' retort is that that's what you do when you're in the senate, you sign on to multiple plans.

So, I think that Sanders right now is whether it's with his back and forth with Harris and then some veiled shots potentially at Warren and against the media is that he's very much trying to, in this crowded field, again establish himself as the anti-establishment candidate.

KING: And as a purist on the issue as people start -- as people do start to question Medicare for All and look for variations and try to get more in the middle. One of the interesting things he has, one of his favorite targets, actress Susan Sarandon on the trail with him in Iowa and this came up.


SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS AND BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: He is not someone who used to be Republican. He is not someone who used to take money or still takes money from Wall Street. He is the real deal.


KING: No names named. But among the candidates in the race who happens to be competing with Senator Sanders for progressive voters is Elizabeth Warren who at one point was a registered Republican.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. She's been pretty open about that (INAUDIBLE) wasn't always from Massachusetts. But look, it's -- all of the candidates right now are having to take digs at the other ones in subtle ways. If you go really, really open and start to attack a fellow Democrat the way you attack Trump, that's not going to work well for you or for the party, right? But they need to beat up their numbers and especially Sanders who's also a known figure hasn't been able to make a breakup and out. And so you can't always just attack Biden because he's the leader, right?

There's votes to begin from other places and frankly, a Warren voter probably looks most similar to a Bernie voter. And so --

KING: Look at our national poll. You add up Warren and Sanders, you get Biden. That's' what the two numbers right there.

But Susan Sarandon making the point about Republican, you were talking earlier, Bernie Sanders is an independent. A lot of Democrats don't like that. And Susan Sarandon in 2016 said there's no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, so an actress, a celebrity helps you in some ways, it can be risky.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. And Democrats do not want a repeat of 2016 where some candidates and some voters were not on board with the ultimate nominee. At this point, they want everyone to be unified around the idea of beating Trump. So these purity tests are OK during the primary, but very quickly Democrats want to be on the same page.

KING: At this point, they feel that way. We're getting close to the voting, things will change a little bit.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Busy news day. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.