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INSIDE POLITICS

British PM and Parliament Battle Over Brexit; Dorian to Move Dangerously Close to Florida Coast; Biden Defends War Story, Iraq War Vote in New Interview. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 3, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL) (via telephone): -- you are responsible not only for your family but you're responsible for any pet. And then take care of anybody around you that you know might need a little bit of help either before or after this storm. I mean, let's all take care of each other.

I mean, I'm really worried about these pets. If we lose power and they're stuck in the heat.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Yes. Senator Rick Scott, as you were saying, everyone has got to take care of each other these next few days. The threat is not over yet. In fact, the threat will grow over the next 24 hours on most of the Florida coast. You can see the storm surge picking up now. The water is definitely getting higher.

Our thank you to Senator Rick Scott of Florida. John, I want to go back to you in Washington.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And John, we will be back to you in a bit. And I think the point about the slow-moving storm, you made it earlier, Senator Scott making it again there, people tend to get complacent. A day passes and it looks the same and they start to think, oh I'm OK. That's the worry, I think, as we go forward.

We'll get back to John Berman a bit later in the program.

Up next for us, the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says, hey, he'd be happy to bring a gun violence bill to the Senate floor, but there's one big caveat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:36:09] KING: Topping our political radar today, another new warning sign for the economy. The Institute Of Supply Management's manufacturing index dipped below 50 in August. That means the U.S. manufacturing sector shrank for the first time in three years. Manufacturing has been hurting because of the trade war and the global economic slowdown. But so far American consumers have kept the U.S. economy growing.

Senator Cory Booker just unveiled a $3 trillion plan to address the climate crisis. The 2020 presidential candidate wants to phase out fossil fuels to achieve a 100 percent carbon-neutral economy in the United States in the next 12 years. Senator Booker says his plan would invest heavily in clean energy and he says it would create millions of new jobs.

The Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says it's up to President Trump, yet again, as to whether Senate Republicans would take up any new gun legislation. That of course in the wake of another mass shooting.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The administration is in the process of studying what they're prepared to support if anything, and I expect to get an answer to that next week. If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I'll put it on the floor.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: And across the Atlantic, battle lines being drawn over Brexit. The British parliament back from its summer break for a showdown with the new prime minister, Boris Johnson. Johnson vowing to take Britain out the E.U. next month with or without a negotiated exit deal. Time is running out to make such a deal and there's the growing talk of a new possible general election.

CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson joins us from 10 Downing. Nic, a tumultuous day. Where are we headed here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: John, you've got that right. Tumultuous, robust conversations I think is probably how Boris Johnson would describe how he was treated when he was at the Dispatch Box in parliament. Yes, we seem to be headed towards a general election. I'd love to tell you how the country is going to get there.

It is impossible at this moment. The machinations inside parliament only grow more complex by the day and the week. Absolutely, Boris Johnson came into parliament today and tried to persuade parliamentarians why they shouldn't block his no-deal Brexit which is the legislation that parliament looks like is going to try to pass this evening that would demand he either get a deal in Brussels or he asks parliament for permission to leave without a deal. And if he fails on either of those, then he must seek a three-month extension, meaning Britain would leave the European Union by the end of January next year.

But that's not the direction that we seem to be headed in. Boris Johnson was defending his negotiating saying that he was making progress. And time after time MPs in parliament, some in his own party, challenged him on the veracity of that statement that he's making progress in negotiations, challenged him to show the evidence, and challenged him to put forward the proposals that he's giving the European Union to unblock the current impasse. He didn't do that.

What he was asked very clearly was if a law is passed demanding you get an extension, will you observe that law? He indicated he would. But what he made very clear was if that law was passed, he could no longer negotiate with the E.U. and that's the signal that a general election is coming soon. Probably before the end of October.

KING: That's fascinating. More questions than answers. Nic Robertson live at 10 Downing, appreciate the reporting. We'll keep in touch. A very important story in the days and weeks ahead.

This special programming note back here in the United States. Join CNN and 10, 10 2020 hopefuls for an unprecedented Democratic presidential town hall event on the climate crisis. All of that playing out tomorrow night starting 5 p.m. Eastern.

Up next, Hurricane Dorian expected to pass dangerously close to the Florida coastline today.

[12:40:04] We'll speak with the Florida sheriff and get his advice for residents who aren't following evacuation orders.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, John Berman in Jensen Beach, Florida. This is CNN's special live coverage of Hurricane Dorian. We're being hit by a wayward ray of sunshine right now.

[12:45:03] It will be brief, as the outer bands of Hurricane Dorian continue to know pass by here. The winds will slowly pick up into the night and tomorrow morning and storm surge, especially where I'm standing right here, will be an area of bigger concern.

Parts of this county still under a hurricane warning. They can expect hurricane-like conditions and parts of this county under a mandatory evacuation order still.

Joining me now by phone is the Martin County Sheriff William Snyder. Sheriff, thank you so much for being with us and thank you for everything you and your people are doing here. We've seen so many of your officers out here working, trying to keep things safe, and trying to keep people from going where they shouldn't.

What are you finding in terms of people following your orders, continuing to follow the orders this many days into the warning?

SHERIFF WILLIAM SNYDER, MARTIN COUNTY, FLORIDA (via telephone): Yes, and good afternoon, John. We have been thrilled from a public safety standpoint with just how cooperative the Martin County residents have been. Without their cooperation, without them following the evacuation orders and doing what we've asked, we could get in trouble fast. But right now we feel extremely comfortable with what we're seeing.

BERMAN: Yes, comfortable but not complacent which is I think the message that you're sending. I can see Hutchinson Island which parts of it are under a mandatory evacuation order now. I know the water has been shut off to encourage people to leave. What's your message to the people who have chosen to stay in the places where they have been told frankly not to? SNYDER (via telephone): Well, I think that it's a two-edged sword. They gamble and it looks like they won. It looks like the majority of that storm's wrath will spare us. But what they've done is they have a new paradigm in their head that they don't have to listen to us. And this storm, I feel like for the last few days it's been the grim reaper, it's been in my driveway and is just now getting ready to leave. So I would tell them this you won this time but (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: And the bridges I know and we're standing right next to a bridge at this moment. These bridges will not remain open if the wind speeds get to a certain point and I think they're expected frankly through the night to reach a point where you won't want people on them. What do you want drivers to know?

SNYDER (via telephone): Well, we have -- you probably saw them, John, we have sheriff's deputies at the entranceways from the mainland onto those barrier islands and we're only allowing residents who have to go over there to go. The water has been turned on so some of the residents will probably risk going back over, but we have to be careful and make sure that people feel like they still have their rights and we're instituting martial law.

BERMAN: All right, Sheriff William Snyder of Martin County, thank you very much for being with us. Again, thank you for the work that you've been doing here, we really appreciate it.

SNYDER (via telephone): You're welcome. God bless, bye-bye.

BERMAN: All right. And John, it's interesting, the message there, confident but not complacent. So many officials we've spoken to at the city, state, and federal level, they don't want people to take things easy at this point because the worst is still to come. It may not be as bad as they thought it would be, but it will be bad enough here to be dangerous.

KING: Also that was very interesting point the sheriff made there in the sense that he's worried. Yes, there is this sometimes the boy who cried wolf mentality where people think they warned me to get out and no, it wasn't so bad. And maybe you got lucky this time but there will be an again.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, we heard from senator -- former governor Rick Scott a short time ago. And he knows that you risk telling people that they need to leave just so many times before they'll stop listening to you but he also knows that if you don't send that message, there will be people who will die from these storms who don't leave the areas where they should. And so the public officials there out here every time telling people, please, please listen to us.

KING: And that's excellent advice. You'd much better to be safe in situations like this. John Berman, appreciate it. We'll see you later in the program as well.

Up next for us here, some politics. The Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden struggling with revisionist history, again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:53:41] KING: Joe Biden's campaign announcing today it will return donations it accepted from federally registered lobbyists. The former vice president had promised at his 2020 kickoff to reject donations by lobbyists, but records show his campaign accepted thousands in lobbyist contributions.

Also today, a remarkable line from Biden as he insists it's not a big deal that he told an Afghanistan war story that was full of errors, conflating multiple events and mixing up facts. First, the defense of the mangled war story. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The whole purpose of what I was saying did not in any way affect my point. They're incredibly brave, decent, honorable men and women in the military, who in fact are like any other generation, only even have done more.

The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making if, in fact, I forget that it was Rodriguez of all the times. I've been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq and Bosnia, Kosovo, as much as anybody except maybe my deceased friend John McCain and maybe Lindsey Graham.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Arlette Saenz joins our conversation. The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making. How do you defend a statement like that? Why not say I messed up and I mixed up a few different stories during my many trips to Afghanistan where I thought it was important to go see these heroes and I'm sorry I got the details wrong.

[12:55:04] The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making. Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. That's why we had a war. Well, how can the details be irrelevant?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, what Biden is trying to argue here is that he doesn't believe that he was intentionally misleading anyone with these details of the war story. And his argument is that though he may mangle some of the details that that's not going to affect the way or his ability to serve as president. And what his campaign right now is banking on is the fact that so far these mistakes or so-called gaffes haven't really stuck with voters and they think that's because people know who Joe Biden is and that they know his long history. But I think it's going to -- we're going to see over the course of time how exactly this is going to play out and whether voters are going to be impacted by a lot of those.

KING: And it's a key point you make because, again, we live in the age of Trump where many of us in our business need to realize, a lot of the old rules don't apply. At least they did not apply in 2016. So here's another example, the same NPR interview where Joe Biden is explaining, yes, back in the day as a United States senator he voted in favor of authorizing military force in Iraq. This is now how he explains it. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BIDNE: I got a commitment from President Bush he was not going to go to war in Iraq. He looked me in the eye in the Oval Office and said he needed the vote to be able to get inspectors in, into Iraq to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein was engaged in dealing with a nuclear program. He got them in and before you know it, we had shock and awe. Immediately, the moment it started, I came out against the war at that moment.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Immediately at the moment that it started, I came out against the war. No, he did not. No, he did not, and not for some time. In 2005, he acknowledged his vote was a mistake, so a lot quicker than a lot of other Democrats, but not immediately, not even close.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's some revisionist history for sure there. You know, the question about Joe Biden is what do voters decide is most important to them in this election. And Joe Biden has a deep reservoir of goodwill in the Democratic Party that's mostly built up during the eight years that he was vice president, that really did change the public's perception of Joe Biden. Do they care about that? Do they care about a lot of experience, a long record, even if some of the details within that record maybe are being revised to this point? Or do they look at him and say as a lot of voters I think we've talked to or are examining right now, what would he be like against Donald Trump?

And one of the things I have started to hear quietly and it'll be interesting to see if other Democratic candidates start making this point is that Democrats want to be able to go after Trump and say you use your words irresponsibly. You know, you are misstating facts. You are lying in a lot of cases. Can Joe Biden, even if the things he is saying are on a different plane than what Trump often says, can he credibly make that argument if there are so many questions about his own rhetoric?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I think this is the thing you hear from campaigns competing against him is just wait. People haven't fully tuned in yet. At some point, people are going to tune in. And it's one of those things where the Biden campaign is right, it hasn't had an impact right now and we've all been on the ground and talked to voters. And I haven't talked to a lot of people that have been raising a major concern about it. And that's the case until it isn't anymore.

And I think what you hear from other campaigns is once people start tuning in and once there's any type of small puncture into the inevitability, the electability, all of the cases that he continually makes which based on the numbers are 100 percent true at this point in time, that's when everything will change, that's when the bottom will fall out and that's where other people will rise. That is a calculation they're making. It may not be true at all, perhaps Biden continues to maintain this lead throughout the course of the caucuses and primaries and so on and so forth. But that's what campaigns are waiting for right now and the big question is will it ever happen.

KING: Will it ever happens because you could look at this and we could run together a list of things that are perceived gaffes. The campaign complains about this. They say it's a media narrative, not a voter narrative. But he still is if you look at it, national polling especially, not so much of the state polling, but he is in the driver's seat or at least he's in a strong position in the race.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: He is in a strong position but at the same time it's still early on and a lot of his Democratic competitors are going to use a lot of these gaffes to show, you know, basically make comparisons between him and Trump a kind of like Julie was saying. Where it's, you know, how can you trust him. Is he fit to be president? These are a lot of things that a lot of people are going to go after him and say, you know, he just doesn't have a clear understanding of certain issues and so we'll be a better fit.

Maybe go with someone younger, something like that. And a lot of his competitors will use that to their advantage.

KING: And you were on a call today, quickly, where almost out of time but you are on a call today where his campaign officials were saying we expect this to be a long march. That doesn't sound like a confident frontrunner.

SAENZ: Well, the campaign, senior campaign aides were saying that they don't see Iowa as a must-win state. That they acknowledge it's going to be a dogfight as well as Iowa and New Hampshire. Just a few days ago, Joe Biden was saying that Iowa and New Hampshire if you don't win that could change the dynamics of the race.

But the campaign said, bottom line, they are preparing for a long call. That they see that this could extend beyond super Tuesday. That they don't think it should necessarily be decided by those first four states. And that they don't see the other competitors, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren dropping out and neither should Biden is what they argue.

KING: Five months to Iowa, here we go.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Our coverage continues with Brianna.

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