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INSIDE POLITICS

Rep. Hill Resigns Amid Allegations of Inappropriate Relations with Staffers; Trump Denies Kelly Warned Him About Impeachment; Biden Defends Fundraising, Keeps Distance from Super Pac Interest; Buttigieg Dismisses Idea His Marriage Is A Barrier to Black Voters; Trump Booed At World Series Game in Washington. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 28, 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: -- two allegations the congresswoman had improper relationships with staff members. The 32-year-old Hill won that seat just last year flipping it after 26 years in Republican hands.

So we have two big stories sort of playing out at once. One is the fall from grace from one of the rising stars in this Democratic freshman class, and then what we're going to get now is a special election in California. Republicans say we can get this district back. Democrats say, oh, no, you can't. But there's going to be a lot of money going into that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And as always with these special elections between regular elections, we will scrutinize the heck out of it and probably read too much into it in terms of what it means for both parties' chances in the House and Senate in the fall. But it actually could be a valuable indicator, right?

Because you have both parties spending a lot of resources trying to mobilize their respective bases for an election that most people will not be paying attention to or know anything about. So it's a real test of is your message successful in getting your partisans motivated to get off the couch and vote on a no-regular election day. It's a test if -- you know, nobody thinks California is a swing state but the demographics and the political division of this district is reflective enough that it ill be -- it's a potential microcosm for a lot of different districts that will be contested.

KING: Yes. And the question is, is that trend continuing? Hillary Clinton won it by six, Katie Hill won it by nine. The question is, is it something that a trend the Republicans can't reverse? Or was it just a couple of bad years and they can pull it back? That'd be fascinating to see.

So if you're a freshman member and now you have an ethics investigation and you're worrying about your future, you would turn to the speaker of the House for advice what should you do? Nancy Pelosi made crystal clear what she thought the best course was the statement last night. "Congresswoman Katie Hill came to Congress with a powerful commitment to her community and a bright vision for the future and has made a great contribution as a leader of the freshman class. She has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a member untenable. We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces."

If that's what the speaker says then you got to go.

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I mean, Speaker Pelosi was in a really tough spot here because, on the one hand, she is taking a really hard line on sexual harassment policies with her own caucus. But on the other hand, Katie Hill was someone who was one of her allies, fellow Californian and one of her so-called majority makers, and she was a member of Nancy Pelosi's leadership team. She was someone who's thought to be sort of taken under Pelosi's wing. She had a lot of respect for her so for Pelosi this was really difficult.

But at the end of the day, you know, she made clear what she thought should have happened, and now there will be a race to replace her in leadership. I'm sure members will be chomping at the bit to get there.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it does answer the question that I think a lot of Democrats are raising which is this is a double standard for Katie Hill, for a woman member of Congress. And if a man had done this, if the president had done something like this, would we be having the same conversation?

And in that statement Pelosi is essentially saying, we're not going down that road. That we are going to try to hold everyone to a higher standard, and I don't want to open the door to this kind of argument being weaponized against not only Katie Hill but other members who are running next year as Pelosi aims to hold onto her majority and even potentially expand it next year.

KING: It's an interesting point. And I'm going to leave it to the women at the table to answer it. In the sense that there was a sympathetic call in the Los Angeles Times today by a columnist who raised this very point. Who says, it wasn't even until last year that the House changed its rules to prohibit relationships between members and their employees. For decades, male lawmakers got away with those sorts of shenanigans. Wouldn't you know it, the first one to fall afoul of the rule is a woman, and a bisexual woman, at that?

Speaker Pelosi making clear she's just caught as she sees it, right. You know, one of the (INAUDIBLE) facts of the case doesn't matter. If you're a male member or female member, it doesn't matter with the facts of the case. But you do have that argument being raised.

ZANONA: Right. And there is some frustration among Democrats, I can tell you that, and some of her allies that are saying it's not fair to double standard. Look at Duncan Hunter, someone else in California. He's indicted currently and is being accused of using campaign cash to pursue affairs with not only with lobbyists but also congressional aides. So there is that little undertone with the Democratic caucus right now that maybe this isn't so fair, but at the end of the day, it was her decision and she did step down. No one called on her to resign.

KING: All right, we'll watch that special election. You're right, we'll probably over-read it but it will be an interesting watch. It's also an interesting challenge for the governor when to schedule it. We'll watch that one play out.

Up next, remember the president's former chief of staff John Kelly? Well, he had a rare public interview, and in it, a message to the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:39:31] KING: Topping our political radar today, a last-minute reprieve from the European Union that lets Britain delay Brexit a few more months if necessary. The E.U. today agreeing to give the Prime Minister Boris Johnson until January 31st to get the divorce deal through parliament since no deal appeared imminent ahead of this week's Halloween deadline. However, Britain could leave the E.U. sooner if British lawmakers agreed on the departure term before that extension expires.

The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told (INAUDIBLE) this past week he's worried about losing that majority come 2020.

[12:40:02] One source of his angst, Democratic challenges including his own are reeking in big bucks. Some Republican Party allies now beginning to help the cost. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, launched ads last week bolstering the Arizona Senator Martha McSally. And here's a sneak peek at a Chamber ad hitting main airwaves tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Job training in Maine. It's a problem that affects all of us. That's why Susan Collins is working with both political parties to expand critical apprenticeship programs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, that ad from the Chamber of Commerce. Senator Collins, get this, spent $500 million to win re-election back in 2014. Total spending on that race including outside groups was about $20 million. But given the 2020 stakes, one strategist involved in that main race predicts it could be a $50 million to $60 million race this time when all is said and done.

The former White House chief of staff John Kelly drawing his old boss' ire for comments made over the weekend. Kelly, telling a conference in Georgia, Saturday he warned the president before he left to choose his next chief of staff carefully or he'd end up in the very mess he's in right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I said, whatever you do, don't hire a yes man, someone that's going to tell you -- won't tell you the truth. Don't do that. Because if you do, I believe you'll be impeached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president fired back within hours denying Kelly ever said that at the time, and the president saying that if he did, he would have thrown Kelly out of the office. He says adding, quote, Kelly just wants to be back in the action. And then there was this comment this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be surprised if he made those comments in a negative way, but I don't think the response would be if he actually said that, if he actually meant that, I said what I do and that I mean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm confused at the end thereof what was -- of where that was supposed to go. But, look, John Kelly was there when a lot of the ten potential counts of obstruction of justice in the Mueller report happened, so this idea that I saved the president from anything bad happening at the White House is, shall we say revisionist history. However, the idea that on the way out he said, don't hire a yes man, I assume he means he's not a fan of Mick Mulvaney?

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, that's what's been going on for a while.

BALL: Well, it's funny, though, because Trump's response to that criticism basically affirms the criticism, right? By Trump saying well, if anybody had said something mean to me, I would have thrown them out of my office, basically saying, yes, I only want yes men around me. Yes, I only want people around me who won't tell me that I'm in danger of impeachment, who won't tell me that I should stop doing things that are illegal, who won't, you know, try to warn me about what the consequences should be.

PHILLIP: And we know from our reporting that this was John Kelly's calling card trying to narrow the scope of President Trump just doing whatever he wanted in the White House. He was sometimes successful, sometimes not, but it was definitely a dig at Mick Mulvaney who also, based on our reporting in his own words, knocked John Kelly for trying to control the president too much.

So these two men are still back at it, going after it over the same topics. But we also know independently of whatever each of them says that there has been a difference under the Mulvaney era and whether President Trump at least feels like he can do whatever he wants in the White House.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: And either way, whoever is right here, Trump or Kelly, I was -- so serve as a side point in that -- in the response. There were some Republicans close to the White House as this unfolded over the weekend who visibly winced at the press secretary's statement that John Kelly, a four-star retired Marine general, was unequipped to handle President Trump.

PHILLIP: And his genius specifically.

KING: I said genius. There's been a lot of that lately.

Up next, Joe Biden trying to convince his supporters' money will not get in the way of his campaign plans. But first, Senator Cory Booker offering supporters to treat, if you call it. Remember what we (INAUDIBLE) here for hitting hi latest fundraising goal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What do we call me on Halloween? Gory Booker!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:48:43] KING: A little reminder now what is fast approaching for the 2020 Democrat. That would be the first actual votes. We are inside 100 days, 98 days from today, Iowa kicks off the 2020 campaign officially. You'll see 1.1 percent of the Democratic delegated at stake in that first contest.

The state of New Hampshire is a week later, seven days, eight days later, 0.6 percent of the delegates there. That's contest number two. Contest number three, that would be Saturday in Nevada on the 22nd as we make our way through February. Another. And then the first four rounded out on Saturday the 29th of February 2020, South Carolina.

If you've been doing the math at home, that's just over four percent, 4.1 percent of the available delegates will be decided in those first early contests. They're critical, of course, to getting momentum. But then, bam. On March 3rd, Tuesday, 15 contests, 36 percent of the Democratic delegates decide in one day. Four percent in the first four contests, 36 percent of them on one day right here.

To get to March, though, you need momentum and you need money. There been a lot of questions of late about Joe Biden's fundraising. He says, not to worry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know I'm a frontrunner. Fly me a national poll with a notable -- a couple of exceptions. But look, this is a marathon. This is a marathon.

[12:50:02] I'm not worried about being able to fund this campaign. I really am not, truly.

I don't have personally want a super Pac. I don't want any part of that. I didn't change my opinion. I didn't -- look, this -- they're able to go out and do this, period. I cannot stop them if I wanted to stop them. It's their right to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That last part is not true. The last part -- it's just not true and Joe Biden knows that. And so he said repeatedly at the beginning of the campaign he didn't want a super Pac, he wouldn't have a super Pac, that's not where the party is any more. The guy who is building one up for him has been with Joe Biden going back to the 1980s. If Joe Biden said Larry don't do it, Larry would not do it.

So why that? Why not just give an honest answer, I'm not raising as much money as I need, so we're going to go this route?

BALL: Because then he would have to take back what he said before about the influence of money in politics. This is the problem for any candidate who wants to appear pure on this issue but also needs money to run a campaign and that's exactly the crossroads he found himself. And you know, he can say that he's not worried about the ability to raise money but his campaign clearly is. His campaign saw those receipts from the last quarter is seeing the reception that they're getting from donors now, and, you know, he is still the frontrunner in terms of polling, but there is a big concern inside of his orbit about whether he'll be able to keep pace with the other candidates as these contests get closer.

KING: Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, all have more money in the bank than Joe Biden heading into the last quarter. A lot more, it's a great point. Three times in many cases of what he had on hand.

And just -- literally, just 10 minutes ago while we're on the air, Bernie Sanders, he knows what's happening. He's trying to, a, help his own base but get in Biden's face a little bit. "I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can't fix a corrupt system if you're taking its money." Essentially saying don't have a super Pac.

PHILLIP: Yes. And it's not just about this primary that is a problem for Joe Biden. If Biden wants to make the argument that he is the only person who can really go up against Donald Trump, well, he has to contend with the over $100 million that Trump and the RNC have raised in just the last quarter. So it's a problem if even at this stage Joe Biden can't raise -- even with a hybrid fundraising operation, he's raising money online and he's raising money from big donors, can't compete with some of the other candidates like Warren and Biden who have foregone the big-dollar fundraising operations. He has to make the case that that's a huge weakness as you go into a general election.

KING: And a fascinating dynamic in the race is, Biden has brought support if you look at the poll. So he stayed resilient in the polls when a lot of people have said, oh he's going to fall, look here comes Warren. At least -- especially in the national poll, he's ahead in most of them, many of them. He's competitive in the state polls and he has a broad coalition especially as you move on to those later states where you get more of a diverse Democratic electorate.

Mayor Buttigieg, on the other hand, has raised a ton of money. He's moving up in the Iowa polls. He has a problem when you move on beyond there especially in South Carolina where his own campaign's focus group said especially among more conservative African-American Democrats his being gay hurts. He was asked about it over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any concern being gay (INAUDIBLE) in South Carolina with African-American voters particularly older ones?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think at the end of the day people need to know you as a person. That's your job as a candidate, is to make sure people know you well. I think as long as I can convey to voters here and across the country what my presidency would mean to their everyday lives, then a lot of that other stuff will follow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's interesting, a lot of other stuff will follow, meaning he would spend the time face-to-face with these voters and try to win them over.

ZANONA: Right. And that's the challenge here for Mayor Pete is that he does have to broaden his appeal among -- beyond white voters right now, and that's going to be the challenge for him.

PHILLIP: Can I just add? I was with Pete Buttigieg this whole weekend in South Carolina. The biggest issue he's facing is that black voters have absolutely no idea who he is. I talked to many, many of them who said they barely recognized his face or his name so they're having a problem getting black voters to come to him. He has no problem getting white voters to come to him. He had a town hall in Rock Hill, 40 percent black city. He had almost 1,700 people, the vast majority of them were white. So they have an organizing problem in South Carolina in addition to some (INAUDIBLE).

ZANONA: And still a lot of loyalty to Biden as well.

KING: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) and see if they can work at it. The calendar is fast approaching quicker than you think.

Up next in our lightning round, the president goes to the ball game and gets booed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:58:54] KING: A little more than a minute left which allows us to go to the ballpark last night. President Trump going to game five of the World Series. There were some cheers but then there were some boos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Michael Bender, Wall Street Journal baseball correspondent, you were in the press box last night. Lock him up! Lock him up reminiscence of lock her up from the Trump campaign.

BENDER: Absolutely. Yes, I mean, I don't know if there's a Major League ballpark in America that Trump could go to and not get booed at this point. But there's a lot of pent-up frustration last night particularly in this crowd, their team is down, they lost three in a row at home, but aside from that, they've been targeted by this president, right? I mean, the president's criticism of to drain the swamp and his constant critiques of the deep state. There's 3,000 federal workers in Washington and last night they gave him a little of his own medicine.

KING: And the Nats lost.

BENDER: Yes.

KING: All right, to Houston we go.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Don't go anywhere. A busy news day. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.

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