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Workers Strike Against GM in Biggest Walkout Since 2007; Warren Unveils Proposal for Cleaning Up Politics; 2020 Democrats, Trump Outrages After NYT Report on Kavanaugh; Sources: U.S. Assesses Saudi Oil Attack Originated Inside Iran; O'Rourke, Buttigieg Split Over Strategy on Gun Control. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 16, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: In good faith and with a sense of urgency. That is the company's position.

Take us inside the union calculation here. They could have strike at one or two plants, they could have done something less broad if you will. They decided to go big, and what's the strategy behind that.

KALEA HALL, AUTOMOTIVE REPORTER, THE DETROIT NEWS: Experts are saying the reason for that obviously is to -- we have a lot of frustrated workers here. I'm sure you're aware there are four unallocated U.S. plants, General Motors plants. Those workers have -- a lot of them have been transferred to other places, and there -- they still have jobs but they're very upset that they've had to leave their homes.

I'm from Youngstown, Ohio, I covered the Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant for four years. I talk to those folks all the time. They still have homes back in the Lordstown area and they're paying mortgages and they're renting apartments where they're at, whether that's in Bowling Green, Kentucky, or Lansing, Michigan or Flint, Michigan. These people are upset. They feel like GM has breached a contract with them by unallocating the Lordstown plants specifically. And they want GM to hurt, I think. And I think the union leadership recognized that, recognized how frustrated the workers are over that situation.

But on top of that, John, you have this ongoing UAW federal investigation into corruption, and really, I think the union leaders recognize that they need to show their members that they have gone to fight for them for a contract with this ongoing federal investigation. They want the rank and file to know that they have fought to get them everything they could and going on strike is really a last resort.

KING: Unpredictable when you go to the beginning of these negotiations but certainly the emotions there could complicate them.

Kalea, really appreciate it. You're on the ground reporting. We'll keep in touch in the hours and days ahead if necessary if this continues. Appreciate it very much.

Let's bring it in the room. Again, we just talked about this in the context of the president has to make war and peace decisions about Iran but also has to worry about the economy here at home because of energy prices. Here you have an auto strike including states critical to the Trump map, and workers that he said, I am your voice. Select me and your lives will get better. He's got nothing to do with the negotiations between the union and GM but he has everything to do with the outcome here.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right, there is a fascinating set of politics that are at play here because you have union leaders who typically are more -- tend to trend toward Democrats. Then you have the union workers who over the past few years have become much more Trump supporters. So he really does have to watch his words here because right now the union leaders and the people they lead are in lockstep.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Just to piggyback on that a little bit, Trump did earn more support from union workers in 2016 than Republicans did in 2012. But he's also very close with the leadership of GM. He was --


BENDER: He tweeted about GM keeping in jobs in the country at one point. His security and national economic council advisers is one of the VPs for global public policy at GM. And meanwhile, they're trying to -- he's trying to throw this needle in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin where he won. My colleague Alex Leary was up in Minnesota, he's doing -- was working on a story about this issue and talked to a regional labor president in Minnesota who said that Trump is still a serious problem for him. And he said that he has members who said, quote, I've voted Republican and the world didn't fall in, so maybe I better keep doing that. This is a serious issue for unions right now.

KING: We'll watch it play out. Again, the largest strike against the auto industry in a dozen years. Keep an eye on it. Some things -- sometimes these things are settled pretty quickly. When there's a crisis, sometimes they drag.

Before we go to break, hypothetical question to candidate Pete Buttigieg today. If you win the Democratic nomination, who's your running mate?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are some of them that you would consider? Maybe three in no specific order.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: See the journalists at least in my party of a ticket where you got two people -- and gender are over.



[12:39:00] KING: Topping today's political radar, the issue of Washington corruption front and center for 2020 Democratic hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren. She's set to speak in New York later today where she'll spotlight a nine-point plan for cleaning up politics. Topped Warren's list, making sure intangible benefits are considered things of value under campaign finance law. She also wants lobbyists banned from all fundraising activities. And says senior officials and members of Congress should be barred from serving on boards at for- profit companies.

CNN's MJ Lee is in New York where the senator will unveil this proposal. All right, we're told the speech will be unconventional. How so?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're going to see Elizabeth Warren do something that she doesn't do on the campaign trail, and that is read off of a teleprompter. You know, when she's on the campaign trail, she speaks off the cuff, she doesn't need notes, but tonight the campaign telling us that she is going to read prepared remarks. And in fact, the last time that we saw here do this on the trail was back in February for her campaign's official launch event in Lawrence, Massachusetts. And what's interesting is that there are some parallels between that speech that she gave back in February and the speech that she is going to tonight.

[12:40:07] That speech in February was in Everett Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts. This is, of course, the site of the famous 1912 worker strike, bread and roses strike, one of the country's better-known labor strikes. And then tonight she is going to be speaking in Washington Square Park in Downtown Manhattan.

This is just right around the corner from the former Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. This was where a big fire took place and dozens of workers ended up dying. And that fire ultimately led to workplace safety regulation, so significant in its symbolism as well.

And the backdrop of course for this anti-corruption plan that you just talked about that Elizabeth Warren released just this morning, which of course has been a big overarching them of her campaign. And I will just quickly note before I go that she has -- the Working Families Party just announced that it is going to be endorsing Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic primary.


KING: A little boost there for her as she unveils this plan. An important issue, remember how much corruption played for President Trump in his campaign making the case that on all the issues you're frustrated, there is some sort of a rigged system or corrupt in Washington behind it. We'll see how that plays out.

MJ Lee, appreciate the reporting.

Up next for us, a report about the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that has set off both the president and the 2020 Democrats, among them Senator Kamala Harris today said new allegations at a minimum call for a new investigation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Someone should investigate this. Because of the fact that something has not been proven, it doesn't mean it didn't occur. Right? I don't think that in the United States Senate, that the leader of the Senate would allow that there would be a vote if the House returned articles of impeachment to actually convict. But that doesn't mean the process shouldn't take hold.



[12:46:32] KING: The ugly partisan clash over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is back. Several 2020 Democrats are calling for Kavanaugh to be impeached. President Trump, on the other hand, says it is Kavanaugh who is being assaulted and that the Justice Department should come to his rescue. Whatever that means.

At issue, an essay in the Sunday New York Times that is based on a new book by two Times reporters. The article sheared a new sexual misconduct allegation made by a Kavanaugh classmate at Yale who says he witnessed the concerning incident between Kavanaugh and a female student. The reaction by some of the Democratic presidential candidates was immediate. Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren among those calling for impeachment proceedings.

The Times added this editor's note later Sunday. "The book reports the female student declined to be interviewed, and friends say that she does not recall the incident." Kavanaugh supporters, including the president, are attacking the reporting.

"The one who is actually being assaulted is Justice Kavanaugh", the president tweeted. He went on to say, "Do you believe what these horrible people will do or say? They should be sued."

Back into the room, the addition of the editor's note opened up to those, the president included on Kavanaugh's side and on the right who think the New York Times is biased here. That's what they did. They just came right out of the box, why wasn't that in the original piece to try to steer you away from the substance.

If you look at the substance, you have another allegation, this one, I'll bring you in first, this one apparently reported to Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, who advanced it to the FBI, copied Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee chairman, on a note, and then it went nowhere.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're told that he had -- we saw this letter that he sent to the FBI cc-ing the leaders of the Judiciary Committee saying that there's this additional witness who should interview. He urged Christopher Wray, the FBI director about this incident. According to Coons' office, there was no conversation with the FBI afterward, they simply acknowledged receipt of this letter.

You will recall at the time there were a flurry of allegations that were coming out against Brett Kavanaugh. It was unclear what was real, what was not real. This reopened this vicious partisan debate that led to the second hearing with Christine Blasey Ford who initially made those allegations against what Brett Kavanaugh apparently did that he denied at a party in high school. And then that led to the supplemental background check investigation, a second FBI investigation.

But, the question now is, was that a limited investigation? How limited it was that -- we know it was limited. Was it too limited, is the ultimate question that Democrats have been raising since then and continue to raise? And now you're saying you're hearing those presidential candidates saying, it's time to impeach the justice before there's any additional investigation. But that's something the Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler is not showing much appetite to do to have an impeachment investigation against Brett Kavanaugh when doing (INAUDIBLE) against the president.

KING: That would have to start in the House. Among the 2020 Democrats, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg, Booker, O'Rourke, and Castro say impeach. Have additional investigation say, Senator Klobuchar, former vice president Biden, Senator Sanders, Senator Bennet, and Tom Steyer.

So you get this here we go again, I guess, in the story that won't go away. Where do we go here? Is this just going to be both bases continue their sniping at each other with a man on the Supreme Court, or will we get something out of Congress?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well -- I mean, Congress has jurisdiction over the DOJ and the FBI, so of course they're going to be writing to the FBI and asking why did you not follow up on this? But, you know, as Manu just mentioned, I mean, the Judiciary Committee, they got their hands full now. They are trying to lay out a case to impeach the president by the end of the year.

[12:50:02] They're feeling the clock on them right now, 2020 is about to kick into high gear. And if they're going to impeach the president, they need to move public sentiment and do it now in the next couple of months. And so privately, I'm hearing from Democrats on the Hill that yes, this looks bad and they're going to be asking the FBI about it, but when it comes to actually impeaching Kavanaugh and sort of jumping on this train that we're hearing a lot of 2020 Dems riding on right now, I mean, there's a lot of skepticism that they're going there because they just don't have --

I mean, just speaking purely politically, it's unclear if this is even good politics for Democrats. Let's not forget, in 2015, the whole Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process really enlivened the Republican base in a way that we don't know would have had that not all happened.

BENDER: They only other place can go is the administration as you pointed out before. The rescue -- have the DOJ rescue Kavanaugh, and you kind of ask (INAUDIBLE), what does that mean. Inside the White House, they're asking the same thing. It doesn't sound like it means much of anything other than just Trump just venting on Twitter at this point.

KING: We'll see where it goes. It's an -- sometimes an impossible story to go through.

I want to return now to the top story that we had at the beginning of the program. This weekend's attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and the U.S. reaction to those attacks. Let's get straight to CNN's Kylie Atwood.

Kylie, I understand you have some new reporting. Your sources telling you about what the administration is coming to conclude.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, that's right. So we are now learning that the U.S. has told at least one ally in the Middle East that the U.S. does have intelligence that backs up what Secretary Pompeo has now publicly said, that Iran is to blame for these attacks on the Saudi oil fields and that the attacks were staged from Iran. The diplomat who I spoke to about this did point out, however, that the U.S. has not shown their allies this intelligence yet. There are still internal conversations going on within the U.S. Government, within the U.S. intelligence to determine when and if they can share that information.

But separately, a U.S. official is telling my colleague that the U.S. has made the determination that the attack was originated in Iran. So now, we are waiting to see when and if they are going to share that intelligence with allies in the region and with the public as they determine how to move forward here.


KING: Important information, and that if is a big if. We'll continue to stay on top of this, Kylie. I would appreciate the important update there.

And before we go to break, some somber news from Afghanistan. The U.S. Military announcing a U.S. service member was killed in action today. That serviceman, the 17th American killed in combat in Afghanistan this year.

We'll be right back.


[12:57:09] Beto O'Rourke is sticking his guns, or perhaps better put, his position to confiscate certain guns he believes Americans should not own. 2020 primary rival Pete Buttigieg though argues O'Rourke's idea goes too far and there could undermine efforts to pass more modest steps to help with gun violence. O'Rourke calls that a copout.


BUTTIGIEG: This is the golden moment to finally do something because we've been arguing about this as long as I've been alive. When even this president and even Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms, we know that we have a moment on our hands, let's make the most of it and get these things done.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell pretending to be interested in something that is literally a life and death issue for 44 million Americans. That's how many are killed every year through gun violence. It's simply not enough.


KING: It is an interesting sub fight if you will that the Senate is -- the Congress debating on whether to do anything. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer spoke to the president yesterday to try to nudge him forward on that. And you have this now fight against two of the Democratic presidential candidates over how big, how bold, what to do.

BENDER: Which is basically the argument of the Democratic primary right now. Not necessarily on the gun debate but do you want someone who inspires all of the passion, who shows that passion like O'Rourke is doing? Or do you want someone that like Buttigieg who is talking about getting a deal done and, you know, finding a middle ground?

KUCINICH: (INAUDIBLE) wrote a piece last week for the Daily Beast about how after Beto came out with this proposal, how there were a lot of Democrats who actually really nervous about that because they were afraid that they are going to -- that this is going to end up a talking point for the NRA, an add for Republicans and take off -- take the debate away from something that's possible and said allowing Republicans to use it as a scare tactic.

RAJU: But that's the challenge of being a candidate because nuance rarely wins you voters because they want you to talk about big and bold, and talk about you could do anything under the sun without the realities of how you govern in Washington which is -- particularly in a divided government, particularly in Senate, particularly when the filibuster rules still exist. You need to cut a deal especially on something like this. Guns that absolutely divide both parties right now and you're seeing how hard it is right now to even just do something very modest after two massacres this summer.

KING: Buttigieg just short time ago trying to make that point. And it's the point of Speaker Pelosi with Leader Chuck Schumer. It's just harder for Buttigieg as you mentioned in a primary, an ideological primary campaign. He just said I'm not here to tell anybody else what to do, meaning he's not trying to lecture Beto. But then he went on to say I'm talking not just about politics but the government. Essentially in the sense, you got to trim your sails.

BADE: Yes, even Beto's colleagues in the House, former colleagues in the House all agree. Speaker Pelosi -- I mean, they -- there is a sense that the moment you start talking, Democrats are talking about taking away guns is the moment they lose any potential for progress. I mean, background checks, expanded background checks, 90 percent of Americans including, you know, way over the majority of Republicans support universal background checks.

Keep the focus they say on something that they can actually win. You got to walk before you start running. And if you do this, you freak out the Republicans and they run the other way.

KING: Sometimes Washington impacts the race out there. Sometimes the race out there impacts Washington.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, a busy day. Brianna Keilar starts right now.