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Democrats Grapple with Balance on Impeachment Inquiry Message; Bernie Sanders Plan to Participate in Next Debate; Biden to Trump: "You're Not Going To Destroy Me"; Trump Takes Aim At A New Book He Gave An Interview For. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 3, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:53] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Democrats are having some impeachment strategy jitters, too. Speaker Nancy Pelosi defending the Democrat we discussed just a few moments ago, the House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. But there are frustrations among some Democrats who warned the party has to be near-perfect to not play into the president's hand. Most of this is aired in private just like the Republican jitters we just discussed.

But one Democrat who just signed onto the impeachment inquiry today making clear his issues with fellow Democrats he says are not handling this with the calm and the gravity it deserves.


REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): But what's most important here is that we do not jump either to any conclusions. This is a sad, sad day for America. No one should cheer this, no one should applaud it. There were Democrats that signed onto impeachment before they were even sworn in. That's absolutely wrong.

We can't sell impeach the mofo t-shirts any longer, we can't bring chicken to hearings. This has got to be a solemn and serious process.


KING: Impeachment is a political process. It is a political judgment the House Democrats are going to make. There you have a congressman from a tough district in Staten Island who, you know, is worried about his own prospects back home. But he has signed on, this is what he's talking about. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from Detroit, from a safer Democratic district, is selling online t-shirts that impeach the -- you can figure that part out yourself. I'm not going to say it.

And another Democrat Steve Cohen did show up at a May hearing to mock the Attorney General Bill Barr eating chicken. And if -- again, number one, this should be taken seriously by everybody anyway. Number two, because it is a political debate heading into the reelection year, you see Max Rose there and he says if I'm going to do this, I need you liberals to protect me and not mess this up.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And Rose is in Trump plus 10 districts I believe so he's in really the fringes of the Democratic majority which that he is in a really difficult seat. Republicans are going to go after him aggressively. And so yes, there are a number of Democrats like him who are the reason Democrats won the majority that insanely has attempted to go for impeachment. And now we're starting to feel as though that they have to, as though that now that they've seen polling that has also has started to back it up is making them feel a bit more comfortable going there.

KING: All right, and what they don't want is for their constituents or for the president and his team to be able to say this is all a joke to the Democrats. This is just to make money or to raise money or whatever. Speaker -- the speaker is trying to contain this, the question is we've watched Republican speakers when they are in the majority have the same issues, on different issues but on a conference call with Democrats last night she told, as we go forward on this, let's bring as much dignity, as much solemnity, as much prayerfulness that is worthy of the constitution and save some of ours, whatever we feel about Trump, for the election.

She's trying to separate the two. It's a very hard thing to ask.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She wants to make this about the constitution and not about Trump. It's impossible to separate that because ultimately this is a process aimed at impeaching Trump. And they do need to be near perfect though to try to pull this off in part because Trump is just so good. I mean, the Schiff example we were talking about in the last segment is just a perfect example. He is so good at sort of picking one thing from one member and painting the entire party with that and Pelosi knows that. He's successfully done that for months.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And the tools at his disposal, I mean, if you think back to the Clinton administration, you know, during the impeachment -- that impeachment process also, you know, fought back vigorously. But the tools that President Trump's disposal with social media and the skills that he has at amplifying and we've all seen it, you know, how much he amplifies one little thing. That means, you know, as Julie said, they need to be perfect.

KING: And we're getting to see, I just want to show you two examples here. The Democratic base is angry. The Democratic base is motivated for a number of reasons against this president. So the Democratic candidates for president see this at their events and have to deal.



SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to be able to successfully prosecute the case against four more years of Donald Trump, and it's going to take a prosecutor to do it.

[12:35:05] There is a theme to this event. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Dude's got to go at the Harris event there. She's making the prosecutor case. But at the Warren thing was very interesting, the chants were lock him up which, of course, is a reminiscence of lock her up, and Senator Warren saying no, no, no. And she said after, this is too serious, that she does not want to encourage those kinds of -- that kind of behavior, that kind of voices at her rallies.

DAVIS: Right. I mean, it's a hard balance to strike also because not just the president is making this about, you know, one thing and one person in a lot of cases. But, the Democratic base, there is so much pent-up urgency and eagerness to see Donald Trump go among the progressive left. That now that this inquiry is actually on track, they spent so much time complaining that it wasn't and that the Democrats in Congress weren't opening a real impeachment inquiry. But now that they are, there are a lot of people who say, we just want impeachment now.

Like, forget all of these hearings and investigations like let's just go. We have this transcript, we've heard what he said in public. You know, a lot of Democrats I think feel that way and Nancy Pelosi has to factor that in as well and understand which she does, but maybe not all of the members of her caucus do, that if they don't have an ironclad set of articles of impeachment, they're not even going to be able to get to that, much less get to removal if they even get that far.

KING: All right, we'll continue the conversations as we (INAUDIBLE).

But coming up next, there's no place like home unless at the moment you're Senator Kamala Harris.


[12:41:30] KING: Topping our political radar today, some breaking news from the Senator Bernie Sanders campaign. Sanders campaign now confirming to CNN he will indeed participate in the next debate right here on CNN. That debate is in less than two weeks, October 15th. This news coming to us, of course, as Senator Sanders' campaign just yesterday announced he was indefinitely canceling all of his events because he was being treated at a stent -- had a stent put in on artery because of a blockage. So we'll continue to watch that but it sounds like Senator Sanders is doing better.

Trouble for Kamala Harries back home in California. A new poll of likely Democratic voters released today has Senator Harris tumbling from frontrunner to fourth place back home in California, now well behind Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Senator Sanders.

Bring it to the room. That was a question. The Sanders campaign, they announced that he had a stent inserted, that they didn't give us a lot of details about the medical condition, but they indefinitely canceled events. Now, at least we know the plan is to be back on the debate stage which is a signal and a message to his supporters that they were waiting to hear. PACE: Yes. Because they haven't given any timeframe. They said cancel events then we didn't know when he would be back on the trail. I mean, this does come at a difficult time for Sanders because on the one hand, he is highlighting his fundraising prowess, his continued fundraising prowess but his standing in the polls has started to dip. And there's a real feeling in some of these early states that he just doesn't have the same momentum, that his supporters are looking elsewhere. Certainly, his age has been a question, the same way it's been a question for Joe Biden, and a narrative is a powerful thing in politics.

And so when you already have questions about age and you have a health scare like this, those questions are only going to deepen.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And with news of his hospitalization, he -- the campaign also canceled the big ad buy that they had set to start in Iowa. And then that raised some alarms and the campaign had to very quickly say, no, it's just a postponement. So we expect those to go up soon I think as well.

KING: We expect to hear more as well but Senator Sanders plans to be at the debate, that's good news.

When we come back, Joe Biden has a message for the president. He say, sir, you will not destroy me.



[12:48:11] JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump knows there are no truths in the charges against me. None. Zero. Every independent news organization that has reviewed the charges at length has found it to be a flat-out lie, his assertions, every single one of them.


KING: Well, the vice president is right. Almost everything President Trump says about Joe Biden and his son is untrue. But as you see there, Biden sees no choice but to push back.

We have seen this before. Remember the 2016 Republican primaries, and even more so, in the Trump versus Hillary Clinton 2016 general election. The president over and over and over again repeats conspiracy theories or mistruths in an effort to smear his rivals or take them off their game. And guess what, it's reckless but it works. I say that.

Here's a new poll from Monmouth, do you think Joe Biden put pressure on Ukrainian officials to get them not to investigate his son's business dealings as Trump claims. Forty-three percent of Americans say he probably did. This is a documented falsehood. The sequencing of when Hunter Biden joined the board, or when the investigation was happening, it's not true. But 43 percent of Americans think probably he did. I wonder why. DAVIS: I mean, this is -- people do not understand the complexities of this. And it is a very complex situation and they don't know when something like that has been debunked which it has. And that's why this is sort of asymmetric war far when President Trump goes out and he's willing to say these things that have been proven false, that we've all reported are not true, that don't hold any water. But if you're Joe Biden, you're not going to out and saying things that are not true about President Trump because then you're going to be accused of being a liar, right?

KING: So what's the sweet spot? What's the sweet spot for Biden pushing back without this snowballing of actually hurting him?

PACE: I don't know if he has found it or if any Democrat has figured out the sweet spot in this kind of situation.

[12:50:03] We saw the Clinton campaign struggle with that. I mean, this is not something that is unexpected both for Joe Biden specifically because Trump has been pushing this and Giuliani has been pushing this but for Democrats in general that something like this would happen where Trump would find a falsehood to try to promulgate here.

It's how you combat it because, you know, to Julie's point, they're not going to do the equivalent in throwing a lie at him. But there is a huge risk. What's Joe Biden going to do, give an hour-long speech point-by-point debunking what his son did? That only gives more oxygen to it as well.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And I think a big piece of this which Democrats are still figuring out is the social media aspect. So Republicans are increasingly and there has been evidence of other Republican firms putting out disinformation, so putting out these falsehoods across Facebook, across Twitter, across all these platforms, and that really does permeate the American electorate, and it's something that Democrats don't know how to respond to quite yet, and they almost have to build it in house. So whether or not Biden's campaign is figuring out ways to really push back on this permeation as they head towards the general.

KING: We'll watch as it plays out.

Up next for us, the book the president slams as inaccurate, obviously fake he says, a lie. You won't believe who was interviewed for that very same book.



[12:55:51] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My comms people came to me and they said, sir, there is a book or something being written and it's written by Washington Post people, so you know it's inaccurate. So these two reporters wrote this book and they said I want a moat with alligators, snakes, electrified fences so people get electrocuted if they so much have touched the fences and spikes on top. Never said it, never thought of it, and I actually put out something on social media today, I said I'm tough on the border but I'm not that tough. OK, it was a lie.


KING: With me now, our two favorites, not Washington Post reporters, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear of the New York Times. It's a fascinating book, there's too much to cover, "Border Wars", you see it there, "Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration". There's too much to do and we don't have the time for it, I could spend a month on this. But I want to start with his treatment of Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security who trying always to find a way to please him and then stay within the law or stay within the rules.

You have this one anecdote, Nielsen paused perplexed, let me explain it a different way she began, trying again. We legally can't so that's why we need this law. We need your support because Kirstjen, you didn't hear me the first time, honey, Trump interrupted. Shoot them down, sweetheart. Just shoot them out of the sky, OK? You've got my permission.


DAVIS: So this was actually during a conversation that didn't have to do with immigration. This was an instance where there was an effort to get legislation moving to allow the government to bring down drones that could pose a national security threat. The fear was a terrorist could, you know, have a biological agent or a bomb or something on a drone and the United States Government as it stood then did not have the authority because you need to use sort of wiretapping and technology that they were not allowed to use under the law at that point to bring it down. So the Homeland Security Department decides they need the president to sign off, the president's really strong support to get this through Congress, and it's up to Kirstjen Nielsen to go and get his blessing on this and maybe even have tweeted about it. And during the briefing, he has no patience for what it is that she wants to tell him. He just hears drone and I need your permission, and --

KING: Honey, sweetheart.

DAVIS: Honey and sweetheart, right. This is a cabinet secretary.

KING: A cabinet secretary.

SHEAR: And in addition to the sort of the language, the sexist language and the condescending language that he used, he also wasn't focused on the idea that what they wanted legislation. He -- if -- it was as if he thought there was a drone heading their way and he said to her, go ahead and shoot it down which suggests a level of kind of lack of focus on what actually is in front of him that I think you see repeated in --

KING: That we have seen throughout the administration. You guys documented brilliantly that the president wants something, says something and then his aides scramble around to tell people no, no, we can't do that.

Here's one here. "Once inside, Trump walks the room, greeting Border Patrol agents with attaboys for the great job they were doing, and repeating to them what he had told McAleenan on the plane. They should start turning away migrants at the border. My message to you is, keep them out, the president said. OK? Every single one of them. Turn them around. Can't come."

"Once the president left the room, McAleenan and other top DHS officials did a frantic round of cleanup. All that stuff he said about-turn, everyone, away? That was not a direct order, they told the agents. Don't do it. You absolutely do not have the authority to simply stop processing migrants altogether."

That's one example of the staff going to extraordinary length saying don't listen to the president of the United States. You have another, a different example where Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security secretary, brought him a mock-up of the wall to please him. She didn't really mean it, right? And then Trump tweeted out, "A design of our steel slat barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful." With spikes on top.

DAVIS: Right, the spikes that he now says he never talked about and never really want it. I mean, this is a recurring theme throughout the book that the president is so frustrated that he just doesn't have the authority, the power that he would like to have to get his hands around this problem. And so he kind of cast about for all of the possible solutions to this like directing border agents to say no to people.

Now there are laws obviously --

KING: Or shoot them in the legs.

DAVIS: Or shoot them in the legs. I mean, this was something that he actually said out loud, that he wanted people to be shot on-site if they throw rocks. And then was told privately by his staff you cannot do that. That, you know, there are laws about that. You can't use lethal force unless you're facing lethal force.

And so, you know, well, let's try it another way? Could we just shoot them to wound them? So these are just ways that he was trying to get his hands around the problem and they kept telling him no.