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Former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh Challenging Trump in 2020; Joe Arpaio Running For Re-election In Arizona; Judiciary Committee Expected To Subpoena Rob Porter; GOP Congressman Sean Duffy Resigning For Family Reasons; Justice Ginsburg Speaks Amid News Of Pancreatic Cancer Treatment; Candidates Face Deadline To Qualify For Debates. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 26, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:12] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: Conservative radio host Joe Walsh deciding to take on Goliath in 2020. The one time Republican Congressman announced this weekend, he is joining the 2020 presidential race and challenging his own party's incumbent president. Joe Walsh acknowledges it's definitely a long shot.


JOE WALSH (R), REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: The bet I'm making with this campaign and our slogan is "Be Brave," which is come on out. Say publicly what you believe privately.

They're keeping their mouth shut. They know that Trump at the top of the ticket is going to be a disaster in 2020. They just want him gone, and then they think the party can get back to normal. That's a bunch of bull, by the way, because if we don't challenge Trump now, the Republican Party will never get back to normal.


MATTINGLY: But the odds are not exactly stacked in Walsh's favor. He's known for his own incendiary opinions including calling President Obama a Muslim. He's apologized for many of those comments, but Walsh is also facing a near bulletproof presidential data point.

According to the latest Monmouth University poll, President Trump has an 84 percent approval rating amongst Republicans, and that seems to escalate between 80 percent and 90 percent just about every single day.

So I guess the big question -- first, let's start with this. Who is Mr. Walsh? Who is the former Congressman Walsh? I want to pull up some of his tweets from prior to now Joe Walsh which include in October of 2016. On November 8th, "I'm voting for Trump." On November 9th, "If Trump loses I'm grabbing my musket, are you in?"

On December 31st, 2016, "Obama is a Muslim, Happy New Year." On January 12th, 2018, "To say it's racist to call Haiti a blank-hole is like saying it's racist to say Chicago has a violence problem Haiti is a blank-hole and it's run by blacks. The violence in Chicago is all black on black. Those aren't racist comment, they are just facts.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He's sorry for all of those now, though.

MATTINGLY: Yes, so it's all good.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, he -- I think on the "New Day" interview today, he essentially kind of said he was Trump before Trump, and a lot of his rhetoric was only elevated, you know, and amplified by Trump. Trump obviously much more successful than Joe Walsh is.

You know, I don't know what he's doing. I don't know if this is just a campaign sort of elevate himself and to, you know, bring, you know, himself attention. But yeah, I mean, I don't know.

He knew who Trump was when Trump was campaigning, and he backed him very vehemently and echoed some of his rhetoric. So I don't know now. It's like, "Oh, my bad back then and now he's a different person." I think this is incredible.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: He's starting to make this case that you've heard from a small handful -- declare a small handful of people, including someone like an Anthony Scaramucci, like I thought Trump would be different in office, right? Like I knew who he was, I thought something would change when he got into office, something about being president of the United States would change him.

Obviously that hasn't happened and I think that most people didn't actually expect that much would change. I think the fact that Joe Walsh is jumping into this race shows us very little other than the fact there are not a lot of great credible options to primary Donald Trump. I mean, he has strong standing within the Republican Party. Most of the leaders of the party, the influential leaders of the party are on his side. The RNC has taken steps to try to block out a credible primary challenge.

Could a combination of Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld, and maybe something else ding him a little bit in maybe New Hampshire primary, for example? Sure. But Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. That is what is going to happen next year.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think the question is can he throw Trump off his game. I mean, you know, people who are close to the President worry that this guy is going to get under the President's skin. He's not afraid, you know, to throw bombs as you saw from these controversial tweets that he's now expressing regret about.

But he is going to go after the President. He's going to attack him, and what that can do is both -- two things, it throws Trump off his message, whatever it is, potentially if Trump responds, it could throw him off his message and what he should be focusing on, and his advisers want him focus on economy, et cetera. And it takes Trump away from his other top target which is, you know, the Democrats and going after the opponents that he's eventually going to face. It also gives a lot of independent voters who typically vote Republican. It reminds them why they don't like the President. They have someone out there on TV saying, "Oh, we can't re-elect somebody who has no morals and who talks, you know, like this. It reminds Republicans who actually voted for Democrats and helped Democrats flip the House and gave it to Nancy Pelosi, why they don't want to support him again.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's interesting. If the President engages with Joe Walsh, like his advisers will, I assume, jump off a building, because there's no reason to do it. But yet that's kind of the pitch, right? He's the guy who can pull him into the morass to some degree.



PACE: Right, yes.

HENDERSON: Yes, I think that's right. With SNL and -- yes.

KNOX: News flash, he's going to engage with Joe Walsh.

[12:35:00] I mean, I may say, I will hunt down any news outlet that spends a news cycle reporting on the President's nickname for Joe Walsh, but I think that's where we're heading, right? We're heading for some of a high profile, you know, sad little Joe Walsh or whatever.

I think your point is about reminding people about why they don't -- why they might not like Donald Trump is really good. And I keep forgetting your point that the RNC has taken so many steps to block a challenge, which is based on the data is kind of a curious thing to do.

So the question is, after Joe Walsh, I mean, right now it's sort of a veritable who is that of Republican politics challenging the President. But what if someone with a compelling story, I mean, (inaudible) get Justin Amash in this race, see what happens there.

You got a real complete --

PACE: I mean, what is the reason -- yes.

BADE: Yes, yes.


KNOX: Not a Trump thing that competing with the vision of government.

PACE: One of the reasons that the RNC and some states as well have taken these steps is because there has been this concern. Look, we all know, everyone in Washington knows that Republicans privately worry about what happens to their party if Trump gets a second term. That is a real conversation that happens.

So there's always been the possibility that a John Kasich, Justin Amash, there's a lot of talk about maybe Mitt Romney jumping in and launching a really credible challenge. But we've seen no actual action, I mean, that is largely a suicide mission for one of these people to try to take that on and so far no one has shown a willingness to want to do it.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, one of the things I've been struck -- there goes my pen. One of the things I've been struck with, I'm so struck I threw my pen is that, the people who have gotten behind Joe Walsh, the Never Trump folks, and that's not all of them but some of them who have and have gotten behind him in a major way.

Like if this is the best you think you can do, and all due respect to Joe Walsh, this is not a player. This is not the name. If you're willing to commit to him, then you don't think anything else is coming, President Trump is in pretty good shape I think in the Republican Party, all right.

Up next, the former Arizona sheriff who made inmates wear pink underwear, guess what, he wants his old job back.


[12:41:16] MATTINGLY: Topping our political radar today, Joe Arpaio wants his old job back. The former Arizona sheriff and ardent Trump supporter says he's running to "Make Maricopa County safe again."

Arpaio known for cracking down on illegal immigrations served 24 years before being voted out in 2016. And this, he was convicted of criminal contempt for making immigration arrests after a court ordered him to stop, but President Trump pardoned him before he was sentenced.

And a source says the House Judiciary Committee is subpoenaing former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Porter was a key witness in Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction by the President. He would be the sixth Trump aide subpoenaed by the Democrat-run committee. The White House would almost certainly try to block him from testifying.

And Republican Congressman Sean Duffy just announced he's resigning effective September 23rd. The Wisconsin lawmaker says he loves serving in Congress but he and his wife are expecting a child that will need extra love and attention due to medical complications. Our thoughts and prayers with the Duffy family on that one.

And Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is speaking publicly for the first time since being treated for pancreatic cancer earlier this month. The 86-year-old spoke last hour after receiving an honorary degree at the University of Buffalo-School of Law.

She acknowledged the elephant in the room, her health, which is a subject of keen public interest. Justice Ginsburg is now had four bouts of cancer and she told the audience that her health problems didn't stop her from appearing. And up next, the scramble to make the Democratic debate, remember, you can tweet us your questions using #insidepolitics. We are going to answer them. We'll be right back.


[12:47:] MATTINGLY: Welcome to deadline week for 2020 Democrats. Wednesday is the final day candidates can qualify for the next debate in September. And as of now, these 10 will be in Houston, having met both the fundraising and polling DNC criteria. While at least three other candidates still have at least some shot of qualifying, one thing is guaranteed, this debate stage will be the smallest we've seen this cycle.

Over the weekend, Amy Klobuchar told her supporters why she sees real opportunity in just that fact.

Obviously that was not Amy Klobuchar. But I think the idea here is slimming down the field. You were with in Iowa, you're talking to Democratic strategist and we're all talking to Democrats. Many of whom, at least on the national level, have been freaking out about the fact that there's 23 people there, there's two nights of debates, that there are a lot of people on the debate state that frankly they don't really want to hear from.

Is this really finally the winnowing down of the field that everybody wants?

PACE: Yes. I mean, we're starting to see that happen both because some candidates have actually dropped out of the race and then not making the stage for some who are still in that will be a real decision point for I think people like Kirsten Gillibrand for example or Steve Bullock.

I think that, you know, for voters having a smaller stage, 10 people, could be really clarifying. One, there are some frontrunners we haven't seen have to face off against each other.

I mean, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are the two candidates that everybody is talking about right now. They have not been on a debate stage together. How will they fare when they have very different philosophies? How will they fare when they are in sort of head-to- head competition?

And then it does give Beto O'Rourke or an Amy Klobuchar an opportunity to get a little more time to be seen as, you know, in this final pack. It will be challenging, I think, still for them to break out but it does give them the opportunity.

HENDERSON: Yes. In some ways it's a relief for voters too, right? I mean, voters didn't necessarily like this unwieldy field as well and you see it in some ways reflected in the polls that they kind of settled on a top five. Some of the numbers sort of change in terms of who has what, but that core top five has remained, perhaps that will change. We're going to, you know, have a slimmed-down debate stage. So, yes, if you're Cory Booker, can you jump into the top five? If you're Andrew Yang, you know, the Yang Gang that Van Jones is so excited about those folks, we'll see what he does on the debate stage. And we'll see who else qualifies, right?

[12:50:00] It's 10 now, is it going to grow to 11? Is it going to grow to 12? And then do they have to break it up into two nights of six people or do they do 12 altogether. It's ABC's debate. We'll see what they do.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Every print reporter on deadline hopes there's not.

HENDERSON: Right, yes.

MATTINGLY: I show it to my print colleagues. The other three that could qualify right now, or at least the closest, is Tom Steyer, the billionaire, Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand. Obviously her team is really pushing for on that.

Rachael, I'm interested -- I mean, you're tied closer to Democrats in terms of your reporting are totally plugged in on where they are on things. What's your sense right now? There's five and a half months until the clock -- there's time, but is it the sense of like we need decisions now or they really know how this play out?

BADE: Yes. I mean, Democrats, they want a smaller field because of these reasons that we're talking about so that each candidate can sort of stand out and sort of make their case and they can really discern who is going to be the best candidate to stand up to Trump.

I mean, when someone like Steyer, you know, he just jumped into the race a few weeks ago, but he's put a lot of money up already and this guy has endless amounts of cash. So if he can't sort of make this next debate stage then, you know, a lot of Democrats I think would like to see him and some of these other folks drop out to just narrow that field.

MATTINGLY: Yes. One interesting thing over the weekend, and Julie, you hit on this and I know we were both in Iowa together last week. We probably both heard the same exact things. Take a look at Elizabeth Warren's crowds this weekend, one in Seattle, one in Minnesota.

If we're going to show the video of this, this is just Seattle. There are 15,000 people here. And I think the immediate contrast that comes to mind, at least base on what I was hearing from people in county chairs in Iowa is Joe Biden is holding events with 100 people, 150 people.

Elizabeth Warren is having thousands of people show up on an August Saturday and Sunday. Are we -- do we read too much into crowds? I feel like we did this in 2016.

PACE: Yes, we did, right?

KNOX: Yes, I think we do. I think we do read a little bit with the crowds. But we also give them -- we also shortchange them because what we don't do is we don't explain why a crowd matters.

We don't sit down and say, look, yes, yes, yes, it's the internet age. It's a very important -- it's a vital organizing tool and fundraising tool, but these are people who are going to leave that really and tell family and co-workers and other people about the rally that they went to, what the experience was, what the message was.

And so they do act very traditional amplifiers in the internet age, but I think -- and so I think on the one hand we over read, on the other hand we're not explaining why matter, why they're important.

HENDERSON: And they're going to donate money, right, because that was the big question. Could anybody kind of match not only Sanders the crowd, the crowds that he had last go-around, but that grassroots army of people who donated money. We saw last time with Warren's big numbers, she's been able to do that.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it. And look, Bernie Sanders has huge crowds too. Biden's team makes clear, their locations are strategic. They worried about caucuses and primaries. So, we'll all see what a play out. We've got some time.

All right, up next, we answer your questions. I'm not kidding. Tweet them now. Stay with us.


[12:57:26] MATTINGLY: So, I wasn't actually kidding. We are quite literally answering your questions that you submitted on the Twitters. I'm going to start, Olivier, with you. This is tweet is from @cuishacurry (ph). Do you think we can expect to see Putin next year's G7 or G8? If so, how do you think it will affect Trump in the election?

KNOX: Great questions. I'm not sure at this point whether Vladimir Putin will be at the G7, whether he will be at the G8. We haven't seen yet a clear statement from the Russians, whether they think this will be in their interest. And I think we forget about that as we have this conversation. Is Trump going to invite him or not? What does Vladimir Putin gain from being at the G8 if anything? So we've got to answer that question first.

The impact on the election negligible I think just because a lot of this stuff is baked in. Maybe it will remind people about all the questions about the President's approach to Russia. But I don't -- I think at that point all the stuff is basically baked in.

HOST: Julie Pace, Mike Jones, Chelsea2167, at CNN with this seeming diplomatic thawing with Iran, should we assume the era of influence of Ambassador John Bolton in the White House is over?

PACE: That's another really good question. I think we've got to wait to see what the terms of a deal might be. But certainly, you know, John Bolton was brought in, in part because he appealed to Trump as an Iran hard-liner. He's been one of the chief opponents of the JCPOA, the deal struck under Obama, and he has really been pushing Trump to take an even harder line against Iran than maybe he even wanted to. So if Trump is softening on this, I do think we'll have to look to see if John Bolton stays or wants to still be in an administration that's willing to do that.

HOST: Nia, this one I think will be a quick answer. Janet Vita @aquatchbelieves, will the RNC hold primary debates with Trump, Weld and Walsh?


HOST: That will do. Rachael, @cravingunity (ph), Mickey Stats, where will the Democratic congressional efforts be upon the end of recess?

BADE: Three things, I would say. The first one, they're going to have to over the government shutdown. They have three weeks to do that before the government runs out of money. They got to figure out, you know, how to keep the government going.

They need -- they're going to talk about gun legislation, unclear if the President will actually back something. He's flip-flop so many times on whether he would do background checks.

And then the third thing, of course, is trying to get momentum for impeachment. A lot of the impeachment cheerleaders, the numbers have now passed 130 Democrats who want to impeach the President. They're going to try to have a bunch of high-profile hearings to move the public sentiment through supporting it. We'll see if it works.

HOST: We'll see if it works. (Inaudible) that's going to be interesting. Apologies to youngrippersnapper (ph), Steve Holland, who asked about Ohio state football, I need at least an hour to walk you through, all right, all of that.

Thanks for participating in that, and more importantly, thanks for joining us on "Inside Politics." Alex Marquardt is in for Brianna Keilar today, and he starts right about now.