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Buttigieg Tops New Iowa Poll; Michael Bloomberg & Deval Patrick Look At Entering 2020 Race; Meticulous Notetaker Bill Taylor First Up In Public Impeaching Hearings; Condoleezza Rice Gives Trump Rare Rebuke As Nikki Haley Triples Down On Trump's Truthfulness. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 12, 2019 - 14:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is tighter each day in Iowa. New poll out from Monmouth University. Look at this. Mayor Pete Buttigieg joining rivals, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, at the top of the leaderboard among likely Democratic caucus-goers.

Let's go straight to CNN Political Director, David Chalian.

David, this is big news for the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Why do you think he is surging?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We saw a couple weeks ago, "New York Times"/CNN put out a poll in Iowa showing Buttigieg up there in that top tier. What I think we're seeing in the early states and nationally is that Buttigieg has sort of joined that top four across the board.


Look at all of those four early states and nationally, this is a race right now between Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. They are sort of a tier unto themselves and Buttigieg has been the one making the most positive movement in the last couple of months.

So he clearly is the candidate right now with that kind of momentum. And I think this poll out of Iowa means that as well. Went from 8 percent to 22 percent. Substantial movement.

BALDWIN: Whose support is he getting now? Who's now joining the Pete Buttigieg tent?

CHALIAN: It's really interesting. Look here, moderates, liberals, very liberal. You see between the moderates and somewhat liberal, equal shares. Not a very liberal crowd. That's more the Warren/Sanders wing of the party. He's trying a bit more for the centrist lean.

Look by age. Joining Joe Biden in the poll among people, older folks. Senior citizens. Even though he's the young guy, 37 years old, making real in-roads with older voters but not completely ceding the younger voters entirely to Sanders and Warren, either.

He's getting a broader kind of support, which is what he's going to want to keep extending if he's going to cement himself at the top of the field.

BALDWIN: So you have these three really toward the top of the field vying for the top spot. What does it mean for the race going forward?

CHALIAN: I think we're seeing some now. We see between Warren and Biden, ratcheting up of tension, no doubt.

BALDWIN: A little bit.

CHALIAN: Yes. A little bit.

By the way, Buttigieg also -- remember, one of the reasons I think we're seeing this movement is because of his performance in the last debate that CNN hosted last month in Columbus, Ohio, where he really is sharpened his differences with Elizabeth Warren.

I do think that's part of what you're seeing here now. The Biden/Buttigieg side of the field and the Warren/Sanders side of the field and whichever candidate will be able to stitch together enough from each piece of that pie is going to have success.

I just warn you, Brooke, though, this race is fluid. Look at these numbers. It shows you that fewer than three in 10 Iowa Democratic caucus-goers, 28 percent, say they're firmly decided, 61 percent say they are at least somewhat open to the possibility of changing who they, caucus-goer, in February.

This shows there's a lot of fluidity in this race that is still to play out.

BALDWIN: And on the fluidity note, you have two more names who are thinking about it, Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg. How may this just change things especially given the numbers you just ran through?

CHALIAN: Michael Bloomberg made is clear if he takes the leap, he's likely to skip the four early states. Do it in a completely unconventional way and probably not too bothered by that Iowa poll.

The ideal scenario for Bloomberg, different candidates split up the early contests. Buttigieg wins Iowa, Warren New Hampshire, Biden South Carolina. Something like that. He could come in and use his money to run a national campaign and make a play for the delegates.

Deval Patrick has not sworn off the early players. If he gets into the race, probably by the end of this week we'll know the answer.

BALDWIN: Quick follow-up. You hear people saying, what are they thinking, it's too late. You say what?

CHALIAN: I say it is late to build a true grassroots-oriented campaign door to door in those four early states.

But what is also clear, there's no candidate in this race that is galvanized an overwhelming majority of support of Democrats. While Democratic voters are happy with the field, they don't want it to grow.

Also haven't coalesced someone in massive numbers to scare off these kinds of candidates like Bloomberg and Patrick.

BALDWIN: David Chalian, you're the best. Thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: On the eve of these historic public impeachment hearings, Taylor up first, the man known for taking meticulous notes. Are they similar to Nixon tapes? We explore that.

And the gun industry suffers a big blow. The Supreme Court allowing a lawsuit by Sandy Hook families against a gunmaker to go forward.


We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Tomorrow, first witness in this public impeachment hearing, Democrats banking Bill Taylor will be a strong opening act with nearly an hour-by-hour account of developments in the Ukraine scandal.

A question. Are Bill Taylor's notebooks akin to Nixon's tapes?

That's the headline of the column written by Dana Milbank at the "Washington Post." He's with me now.


Dana Milbank, this piece grabbed my attention. I wonder why you see them as equivalent.

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Brooke, they're obviously not equivalent in the sense that if the notebooks don't have the explosive value of the tapes.

But I think they play a similar roll in that you see this White House like the Nixon White House was essentially attempting a stonewall here saying, telling its officials not to cooperate, not turning over documents essentially hoping it would be he said/she said.

Vietnam service from West Point and under Republican and Democratic presidents alike.

BALDWIN: But he keeps in a very diligent way all of these tiny notebooks. Keeps them at home when having phone calls at hole. Travels with his notebooks at the desk in his office. Almost a minute-by-minute account of what happened over these crucial several months earlier this year.

MILBANK: So you have the combination of this very reputable source contemporaneous accounts. Breaking down the president's defenses the way the tapes did, albeit without the stunning absence of the gap in the tapes.

BALDWIN: Certainly, has the notebooks, plural. Proverbial receipts. Maybe not as explosive. But, Taylor may have records of talks with Sondland and Volker but the one person he doesn't have direct notes on is President Trump.

You know the tapes were Nixon's own voice but Taylor never spoke directly to the president. So where is the directive?

MILBANK: Well, basically, he provides, Taylor provides the road map that the investigators have used to bring in all of the others. That helped to bring out Sondland, for example, changed his testimony, in part, because of what Bill Taylor had said and because what Bill Taylor had said with the notes is fairly irrefutable.

It had a lot to do with refreshing the memory of Sondland and of making Volker certainly be more clear and credible and honest in his testimony as well.

So essentially used that contemporaneous evidence to bring more evidence from people who have had direct contact with the president even in the absence of people like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, who had more of those conversations directly with the president.

BALDWIN: Go back to your point on his resume. Right?

So let's back up even more. He was a West Point grad. You pointed out. Vietnam vet. Received a Bronze Star for heroism. I like to remind people he came out of retirement to take this job actually recruited by Mike Pompeo. How does his resume speak to his credibility here?

MILBANK: He started serving during the Reagan administration. Appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. And as you pointed out, this was essentially President Trump's hand-pick for this job after forcing out Marie Yovanovitch, handpicked in the sense of Pompeo bringing him out of retirement.

If you read the depositions, you don't see Republicans really trying to discredit him. You hear the White House saying, yes, unelected bureaucrat. Doesn't seem it will stick to him because he presents himself as so credible.

And as he himself has pointed out, he's served in combat in Vietnam, he's not going to be afraid of what lawmakers questions being thrown at him tomorrow.

BALDWIN: And of course, tune in for him tomorrow.

But you brought up a second ago John Bolton. You wrote about Bolton today in your lead line. It's John Bolton witnessed a drug deal. Why won't he tell the cops? It's the perfect question, because, as you point out, he's been this man of principle. He's been this unwavering ideologue.

MILBANK: That's the question.

BALDWIN: What's the answer?

MILBANK: If we could get into John Bolton's head, he probably wants to. You see him speaking out in other areas quite critical of the president, left on unfriendly terms with the president.

You can see that what Donald Trump has been doing really threatens the conservative, hardline muscular foreign policy John Bolton has been all about.

You know, he joined him with his deputy, Kupperman, in this lawsuit.


MILBANK: You have to wonder if he actually intended this in a different way from where it's going, when Mulvaney tried and pulled back from joining it, it became clear this was a delay tactic.

I suspect now that John Bolton is realizing it's a delay tactic, he's going to feel a lot of pressure to come out and say something. Already signed a $2 million advance for a book in which he'll tell all anyway.

BALDWIN: A book deal.


MILBANK: It looks pretty bad for the country if doing it for his personal profit but not actually going to come out and speak about it under oath in an impeachment hearing.

BALDWIN: What was the last line of your column? For fun.

MILBANK: You think I remember these things?

BALDWIN: Oh, please. I do. About "Dancing with the Stars?"

MILBANK: Well, that was before Sean Spicer was eliminated.


BALDWIN: Tease everyone.

MILBANK: If Bolton doesn't want to testify, already got the book deal. I hear he does a terrific cha-cha.

BALDWIN: Not even funny.


BALDWIN: Not even funny. Let's see what he does.

A great column. Dana Milbank, thank you very much.

MILBANK: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up here, Condoleezza Rice with a rare rebuke of the president as Nikki Haley triples down on her defense with a new claim about his truthfulness.

Plus, President Trump claims he doesn't know the indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani, but we found pictures that indicate otherwise.

And two legendary game show hosts both battling health issues at the very same time. We'll talk about Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak, coming up.



BALDWIN: While detailing claims top officials tried to undermine President Trump, former ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, doubles down on her defense of the president, telling NBC, on the "Today Show," President Trump is truthful and she has never doubted his fitness for office.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC ANCHOR: Any question about his truthfulness, his ability to tell the truth?

NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. & FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR; Savannah, I talked to him multiple times. When I had issues, he always heard me out. I never had any concern on whether he could handle the job, ever.

GUTHRIE: What about his truthfulness? Did you think he was a truthful person?

HALEY: Yes. In every instance that I dealt with him, he was truthful, he listened, and he was great to work with.


BALDWIN: That was this morning.

This was 2016.


HALEY: Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.


HALEY: I taught my two little ones, you don't lie and make things up.


HALEY: I taught my two little ones, that you don't push people around and just tell them what you think should happen. And I told my two little ones to do exactly what Marco Rubio did in the last debate. When a bully hits you, you hit that bully right back.



BALDWIN: CNN National Political Reporter, Maeve Reston, joins me.

Incredible to look back where beam just a few short years ago.


BALDWIN: Sure you were.

You think about what she said to Savannah, of all the things to defend the president on right now. Truthfulness? Really?

RESTON: Well, I mean, it's just so fascinating. The reason why her book and these interviews have gotten so much attention is because, for the last three years, she was pretty much the best tightrope walker there was in the Trump administration.

In the sense she would occasionally distance herself a little from the president or offer something that sounded like mild criticism, but never these departures we've seen, know, from other officials.

She's always had very smart people around her. Clearly, you know, she's playing the long game potentially and most likely for a run in 2024. And clearly decided that right now the smart political play is to embrace Trump as closely as possible.

And it's just fascinating, especially in the days leading up to these impeachment hearings we're all going to be watching.

BALDWIN: You mentioned 2024. Part of the broader conversation. Right? With each of she's these interviews on the book tour, the flattery of this president continues to grow. So is it 2024? Is it 2020 ticket, secretary of state? What do you think her play is?

RESTON: I think that -- I'm not ruling out that Donald Trump could throw a Hail Mary, you know, in the middle of the 2020 race. Clearly, she's had an appeal to women beyond the Republican base.

But really kind of playing a dangerous game in that sense here, you know, doing so much to praise him and praise these questionable decisions that he's made.

And just when you played that back-to-back tape, there's going to be a lot of voters that look at that and say, is this someone who really changed her opinion or just had different convictions back then? And I think that that could in ways tarnish her more centrist appeal in the long run.

It's such a contrast to Condoleezza Rice, obviously. And her comments, where she came out and really quite strongly criticized the president here. So --


BALDWIN: Is this the first time we've really seen her come out and criticize this president? And how significant has that been?

RESTON: Well, I think that, you know, it's really an attention- grabbing thing in the sense that it probably will make a lot of Republicans sit up and pay attention, because she has not been a frequent critic.

It raises the question how much these hearings over the next couple of days are going to tarnish him. And clearly, right now, the Republican Party is not the party of Condoleezza Rice, but it could be in 2024 and beyond if he really is damaged by this -- Brooke?


BALDWIN: All right. Maeve Reston, thank you.

RESTON: Thank you.