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INSIDE POLITICS

Democrats to Investigate Pence's Stay At Trump's Ireland Property; Survivors Struggle in Aftermath of Hurricane Dorian; Dramatic Survival Stories Emerging From Bahamas; Manchin, Trump Discuss Gun Policy At White House; Pompeo: I Know What People Think of Administration's Policies; Potential For A Third-Party "Spoiler" In 2020 Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 6, 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] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- to include the vice president's trip and other episodes where they say Trump potentially profited from government business.

Manu, you've been doing some of the reporting on this. This is a quote you have from Democrat Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland saying, you know, the Judiciary Committee's investigation will be broadening out. Not all Russian interference. Here's the (INAUDIBLE), the central sin, the original sin of the Trump administration is the decision to convert the presidency into a money- making operation for the president and his business and his family.

It's a great line. Do they really think they can prove it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a question. I do believe that they think that this is an argument they can make more effectively to the public as they try to convince the public that impeachment is the way to go. Jamie Raskin is one of the Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee who's been pushing for formal impeachment proceedings which Jerry Nadler says they are currently in. We have not heard the speaker necessarily confirm that.

But the Democrats want to try to go into the fall session talking about not just obstruction of justice which they believe are impeachable offenses as laid out in the Mueller report but other things. Potentially the president violating the emoluments clause of the constitution in addition to dangling pardons over -- to officials who may have tried to break immigration law. Those types of matters they want to draw in this broader investigation. The question is do they ultimately decide to go forward, decide to move forward on formal articles of impeachment. That's something they have not decided yet.

KING: It's a gift, the vice president staying in the president's resort on the other side of the country where he has meetings with the prime minister. It's a gift for aggressive congressional oversight, take the political parties out of it. As they go forward, though, why does the impeachment word come into every time the Democrats say we're going to do our jobs and this is their job. It would be the Republicans' job if Obama owned resorts and Joe Biden stayed in them. But why does the impeachment word come up every time?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Because it involves an abuse of power and that's in --

KING: But can you investigate first and then bring the impeachment by saying, we're going to investigate, everybody, calm down. Here's what we found, now we think. It's always in the beginning as opposed to the end.

KING: I think it depends who you're talking to, right? Because there are a lot of Democrats who say exactly what you're saying. We haven't really gone through the investigation yet. Then there's the other argument that is this is part of impeachment proceedings, that this impeachment in any other name which you hear from other Democrats.

So I think we're at the point there are enough Democrats that are publicly on the record supporting impeachment that you can't take that. When we're talking about these investigations, it's hard to separate them.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think what you're getting at is one of the main reasons why some Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi are reluctant. Because by adding all of these things, it can be explained to people who are on the fence, if there are any such humans out there about the president and whether to go out and support him or not, that impeachment is a goal in search of a reason. And so that is really the key, particularly since the whole I word had been talked about until now almost entirely in the context of Russia.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, and clearly the vice president didn't expect by staying at the Trump resort in Ireland that it would lead to the I word but this is just part of a pattern of him trying to prove his loyalty to the president. And even, you know, the vice president's brother who is running for Congress has spent over $45,000 at Trump International. You have the attorney general throwing a holiday party at the Washington, D.C., hotel. And the subtext of all of this is that 2020 is coming up and even though the president has said the vice president is on the ticket, he has some soft poll numbers with working class women and there's going to be some temptations to maybe swap him out. And so the vice president, even with the potential for blowback is trying to show his loyalty to the president.

KING: It was a choice. He had to know it was a choice and he made it. That's an excellent point.

Up next, back to the Bahamas. A dramatic video from one family trying to keep track of where their relatives are.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:38:47] KING: The death toll from Hurricane Dorian is 30 now at the moment, but officials in the Bahamas warn that number could rise dramatically, with hundreds still missing days after the hurricane hit. Officials are bringing in more body bags as the desperate search for survivors continues. But there are many incredible survival stories, including like this one. You can see water here rushing into a house as a man shelters on the kitchen counter. That man, Alexton Russell (ph). For hours, his sister, Alexis Pelecanos feared the worst.

She joins me now from Fort Lauderdale. Alexis, for hours, your biggest challenge was trying to figure out is my family OK. Now you are helping from Fort Lauderdale to organize rescues. Take us through some of these moments.

ALEXIS PELECANOS, FAMILY TRAPPED ON ROOF IN FREEPORT, BAHAMAS: Yes. So on Sunday morning, I received a call from my mother. She said that my little brother, Alex had just called her and told her that the water is rushing into the house which is would be the video. I immediately called him in a panic because his car was already underwater there. There was literally no place for him to go. And so I started to just call everyone I could think of. Just everybody.

[12:40:00] I called friends, I called officers I was familiar with, I posted on Facebook. People started sharing. And then the next thing I knew, like maybe an hour later he said they had to go into the ceiling and stay there. Then I lost communication with him for a while.

KUCINICH: We're all thankful for that good news. You're in Fort Lauderdale, Florida now but my understanding is you're acting as -- I'm going to call it a dispatcher of sorts. You have friends and family back home who have jet skis and you are deploying them for rescues. Tell me about that.

PELECANOS: Well, not me personally, but I will say that Facebook, Bahamians many use Facebook even more than Instagram or anything else. And I'll be honest, the amount of -- the support team was very strong on Facebook with persons that need rescuing. But however, the wind, the storm surge, you know, people were putting out information even like the street addresses but they could not be rescued while this was happening. It was just too strong.

And there was a team of guys, a few that had to make rescues on jet skis. I'm not kidding, like the fact that they went out there. Someone did try to rescue my brother on a jet ski and he was blown off of it. And they had to wait a few hours before they could attempt to go back.

KING: Alexis, we thank you for your insights. And just appreciate your bravery in the middle of all this. And we want to keep in touch as you head home and see what the challenge is as that plays out. Alexis, really appreciate you joining us today.

Up next for us, back to domestic politics. The president of the United States and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin meet at the White House last night. Gun control their conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe, thank you very much. Thank you both for being here. They're busy, they're very busy people and I think we're going to meet on a certain subject, later on, Joe, and that's good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:44] KING: More mixed signals from the White House today as Congress prepares to get back to work and debate debating new gun laws. President Trump met with Senator Joe Manchin last night and he told the West Virginia Democrat he is still interested in getting something done. Manchin is a proponent of expanded background checks, but the president, sources familiar with that meeting say, did not make any specific commitment. Specifics matter, because the Senate majority leader will not schedule difficult votes unless he has a clear White House wish list.

(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: As we wait to see what that answer is and if the leader receives a clear answer from the president, keep this line from today's New York Times in mind. "But White House aides said they had polling data showing that gun control was politically problematic for the president, according to two people briefed on the meeting."

We also have live pictures for you right now. This is House Judiciary Committee Democrats, they're holding a hearing in El Paso. Obviously, that's where the Walmart shooting occurred last month. Many of those Democrats want to come back and talk about gun control. The key to this, the Democrats will have their proposals, the Democrats who want to do many things Republicans won't even consider, but there are -- there is a small list of proposals that could at least get votes if the president said I want them. Will he give us an answer? A final answer?

BASH: I mean, that's the whole crux of what you just played from Mitch McConnell. They don't know and they're not guessing. And they're not taking the first step again. Manu knows this far better than I because he's been chasing all of these players on issue after issue where the president says one thing, they move and then the president pulls the rug out from under them. There is nothing more politically dicey for Republicans than the issue of guns.

The president has political capital. He could use it with his base on issues of gun control. Maybe he's not going to go as far as, you know, a mandatory background check but he could. Could he do, I think you were suggesting, the red flag laws, other things that are less intense? Possibly. But they're not going anywhere near it until and unless the president really starts to take leadership.

KING: Forgive me, but there are Democrats who say ban assault weapons or at least ban high-capacity magazines. I don't see any prospect for those things happening as we head into the election year where the Republicans try to hold the Senate.

But there are -- the more modest things that could be done. And again, the issue here is the president. He has a pattern. Immediately after the shootings, he says let's do something and he endorses something that's more on the Democratic list if you will if you want to make this partisan than from the Republican list and then he tends to back off.

This is the president Sunday. Remember, right after some of the -- right after El Paso he said let's have more background checks. By Sunday, this past Sunday, not so sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've been speaking to a lot of House members, a lot of Republicans, a lot of Democrats, and people want to do something. So we're going to see this really hasn't changed anything.

[12:50:01] I will say that for the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five, going back even five or six or seven years, for the most part as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, there are some people who would dispute the president's facts there and go back to some of the -- and he's right, in some of these cases a background check wouldn't have done anything. In others maybe it would have. The question is do you want to try to do something right now. And if you're a Senate Republican -- the Senate Republican leader, that's not telling you what to do.

RAJU: Exactly. And the reason why is because most of the Senate Republicans voted against Manchin-Toomey the last time it came up in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. Most of them were serving at that time. If they were to simply flip their vote and support this going forward, the only way they could do that is if the president said get behind this and took some heat from the NRA and other critics of that. And he is not showing any willingness to do that right now. He is saying privately sure perhaps he's open to something but what is that? And they're not going to do anything until he clarifies.

KING: You know, and Manchin has actually said because President Obama was in the White House is one of the reasons that Manchin-Toomey couldn't get over the line. And now that there is President Trump in the White House, it is possible because of the cover. Because they're not -- he will lessen the concerns from Republicans who think that and the Democrats will take that bill and run with it, because they know that President Trump is with them on these issues.

But, you know, for a president that likes to compare himself and his powerfulness to President Obama, this is one issue he does. He is more powerful than President Obama could have been. He can move votes on this issue. But to your point, we just don't know if he'll do it.

KING: If he so chooses to and if he chooses to look at those political advisers who brought him that polling and says too bad, I'm going to take the risk.

THOMPSON: Yes, exactly. And the path of least resistance at this moment is to just do nothing. And then you have the Democrats out there on the 2020 trail that are becoming more and more further to the left. You have Representative Beto O'Rourke talking about mandatory buybacks of all assault rifles. And it's just easier to sit back and say I'm the guy that's not going to let the Democrats take your guns away. And I think, you know, in politics, the path of least resistance is what happens.

KING: That's what happens. That's right. We'll take a quick break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:54] KING: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo back home in Kansas again today. Again saying he loves his job. Again, though not ruling out maybe he'll change his mind and run for Senate in 2020. To Secretary Pompeo's credit, he's taking some questions at Kansas state university and he says, guess what, I get it, no, I don't live in a bubble.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have not been sheltered from protests. I'm pretty sure I know exactly what people think about our policies. By the way, my team told me if I took questions from the audience, I was a fool today.

They may have been right about the fool part. I'll leave that to you all. But this is -- from my perspective -- secretary of states don't often do this but from my perspective, I want to hear it. If you don't like what we're doing, I want to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Good for him. Good reviews about Secretary Pompeo, good for any politician who goes out there and takes the questions and takes the heat. But I see that as a guy who's not sure he's thinking about maybe running for Senate. Let's test and get the rust off the wheels, yes?

BASH: I mean, I think Hillary Clinton would call that a listening tour.

THOMPSON: There's a reason he was selected to Congress in the first place, right? And, you know, he's not just looking at 2020 either. I think he's looking to four years later in 2024 when there's not going to be a Trump in the White House.

RAJU: And that's why there's a lot of expectation that he is ultimately going to jump into this race, because the platform of being a senator, presumably he gets out at the right time as secretary of state, he could use that to catapult himself to run for president. We'll see what happens with the president in 2020 but Mitch McConnell wants him to run and there's expectation that ultimately will. BASH: Yes, I was going to say, Mitch McConnell is looking at that video and saying, yes.

KING: He'll send him a note, looking great, Mike, keep it up.

KING: I want to -- Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO announced today never mind. He was planning to run as an independent. He said never mind today. He said he doesn't want to be on the ballot as a spoiler to help President Trump. We could digest that statement but I'm going to let it go.

There is still a huge question though, who will be the third-party candidates. I asked in this context if you look at 2016, yes, the president won the presidency by flipping Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He was below 50 in all three of those states. He was just over 50 in Ohio, North Carolina, and several other battlegrounds. The big unanswered question, number one, who will the Democrats nominate. But number two, three and maybe four, who will be the third-party candidates because it changed the math in 2016 and it could well, it won't be Howard Schultz, change it in 2020.

BASH: But that question is based on the premise that you think there will be. You're convinced there will be somebody significant?

KING: The Green party has a convention next year. The Libertarian party has a convention next year. Well, if Justin Amash were the Libertarian candidate just in Michigan, that would factor into Trump's math.

KUCINICH: And he's definitely getting some pressure. He hasn't, you know, indicate he's doing anything but running for his congressional seat. But certainly, you're hearing from the Libertarian side of things that that would be -- I mean, he is someone that could do well there.

RAJU: And that could help Trump. Presumably, that could also help Trump because the people who -- Republicans who don't like Trump that the Democrats need particularly in those suburban areas. And if someone like a Justin Amash were to run that could help -- ultimately help Trump get the White House again.

KING: Maybe.

THOMPSON: Oh, is that -- this does look like the end though of a billionaire coming in and buying ballot access (INAUDIBLE). You'd have to have someone like Justin Amash who would get a lot of national attention but (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And need the infrastructure of an existing -- maybe a lower party. That's an excellent point.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Have a great weekend. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

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