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INSIDE POLITICS

Pelosi Says House Will Move With Impeachment Articles; White House Signals It Won't Cooperate with Impeachment Process; Warren & Buttigieg Trade Jabs About Transparency. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 8, 2019 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:35]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, CNN HOST (voice-over): End game. Congress is closer than ever to impeaching the president of the United States.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If we allow the president to be above the law, we do so surely at the peril of our republic.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a disgrace to our country that's done by, frankly, losers. You almost question whether or not they love our country.

GREGORY: Plus, how President Trump's fellow leaders treat him behind the scenes.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: I just watched, I watched his team's jaws just drop to the floor.

GREGORY: And Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg square off over transparency and corruption.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who is doing the fundraising for the mayor, what special accesses are they getting? What's happening behind closed doors?

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I certainly think it would be a good idea for her to release as I have to cover her entire career.

GREGORY: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREGORY: And good Sunday morning. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm David Gregory, in this morning for John King. Thanks so much for joining us.

Well, buckle up for a historic December. By the end of this month, it's now all but certain that Donald J. Trump will be the third president in American history to be impeached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections, sadly. But with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our Founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Democrats want a vote by Christmas, and the timeline is tight. The Judiciary Committee will hold a second impeachment hearing tomorrow and then it must vote on the actual articles likely by the end of the week. After that, a vote by the full House before Congress leaves town for the holidays.

Rather than mounting a defense, the White House is sticking to its strategy of trying to delegitimize the process, made clear on a Friday letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler. He writes: As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness. House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.

For his part, the president claims public opinion is on his side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know this, that the impeachment thing is a total hoax. The numbers have totally swung our way. They don't want to see impeachment. Especially in the swing states, I've never seen a swing like this, because people realize it's a total hoax. The people see that it's just a continuation of this three-year witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: In fact, we've seen public opinion polling shows that voters remain more or less split on impeachment.

So, with us now to share their reporting and their insight, Julie Pace with "The Associated Press", CNN's Jeff Zeleny", Vivian Salama at "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post's' Karoun Demirjian.

Welcome to all of you. Good Sunday morning.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

GREGORY: So, Julie, here we go. We've got this big week ahead. Where do we go on this very fast timeline to vote on articles of impeachment?

JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: There are two important tracks right now. One is in the House and one is in the Senate. So, on the House side, certainly what those articles of impeachment

will look like, how does the House potentially pull in some of the Mueller investigation or do they try to stay focused on Ukraine, and how does Pelosi manage the anxiety we're seeing from the House Democrats that were slow to get on board with the idea of an impeachment proceeding?

And I would really watch the Senate. This is where it's going to head after the holidays. That the Republican-controlled Senate will hold a trial and if everything that we are hearing holds up, it will be a pretty robust trial where both the White House and Democrats will be able to call witnesses. The relationship to watch there, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, who are going to have to negotiate over the rules for that process.

GREGORY: So, before we get to the Senate, Karoun, this whole question of how narrow, how broad are these articles going to be, and you do see some Democrats who we can't forget are in more vulnerable districts, districts that were won by President Trump. And they're saying let's be careful about what we do.

We go to the full screen here.

[08:05:00]

Representative Brad Schneider from Illinois saying: I think this is where you're hearing moderates speak up. We want something that's very tightly defined. I don't think we should be throwing the whole kitchen sink and try to overreach.

Another representative from New Jersey: If we impeach the president for everything he's done that's impeachable, it will probably take us to 2025. Let's be smart, disciplined and focused about this and get it done.

Because he charge will be, really, this is impeachment because you never liked him in the first place.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So, they're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. There's a faction that wants to stay focused on Ukraine, just on that fact pattern, and yet, part of the whole argument the Democrats have been making is that this is not an isolated circumstance. We had to move quickly because the president welcomed foreign interference in the last election, and he solicited it for the upcoming one.

So, how you kind of square the circle is their dilemma. Also, the other part of the dilemma is that while it seems pretty certain that they will issue an obstruction of Congress charge, that's been said over and over again, do they decide to go all the way and accuse Trump of bribery as Nancy Pelosi has used that word, Adam Schiff has used that word, several others.

So, how do they match their articles to their rhetoric? And, yes, there are moderate Democrats who are nervous about it, but unless they match the articles to their rhetoric, they kind of undermine what they've been saying. And they have to figure out in the next few days what the sweet spot is on all of that. If they don't include some of reference to things in the past, then they kind of lose --

GREGORY: Well, obstruction of Congress, Jeff. I mean, this is what people can understand, which is when Pelosi says, you can't do whatever you want to do as president. You have to stand up for Congress, which doesn't often stand up for itself.

ZELENY: For sure, and I think one of our guides here, we don't know exactly which route, but one guide is Speaker Pelosi's own words. She's been reluctant from the beginning. She made this change, remember talking to her the night before she made this announcement back in September she said this is going to be a big moment. She has not approached this in a gleeful way.

So that's why I believe it's going to be more of a narrow path here. This is going to be narrow articles and she wants to -- you know, all of her rhetoric has been consistent, so she is controlling -- hoping to control some of her more liberal members. There is a tendency to want to throw everything in, but she is very cognizant of the majority makers and how difficult it is for them.

So I'm keeping an eye on her and I think she'll go in a narrow way. But we'll see how it works.

GREGORY: Vivian, it's interesting, the Vice President Mike Pence on Fox over the weekend. He's still working the house portion of this, warning these vulnerable Democrats about what could happen. Let's watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's more than 31 Democrats in Congress who are in districts that the president carried in 2016. I really believe that if the American people will let their voice be heard, especially -- especially to those Democrats that just arrived a year ago on Capitol Hill, we would still have a chance to set this partisan impeachment aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: See, I think they would love to see as many defections as possible to say, you know, there's not unanimity here.

VIVIAN SALAMA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, and there isn't. That's something important to realize. And going to Karoun's point about the various articles and sort of reconciling which ones they want to pursue and not, for a number of Democrats, it's a really dicey situation, where on the one hand, they do want to show that they're supporting the party and they're supporting impeachment of the president, but on the other hand, they don't want to make it seem like they're going into it blindly without really scrutinizing all the facts in front of them.

And so, with a greater number of articles that will be presented, maybe they could pick and choose to show that they weren't just going for a sweeping impeachment vote. And so, this is something that a lot of them have realized going into 2020, is that they might face a lot of pushback from voters, especially in these swing districts.

GREGORY: Interesting. What I can't seem to get past is this is all kind of set play. We know what's going to happen and how this is going to play out.

And it really plays to Donald Trump, too, who said at the end of the week on Thursday, he said -- this is something he tweeted, of course. If you're going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and so that our country can get back to business. We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi, and many more testify and we'll reveal for the first time how corrupt our system really is.

You know, impeachment, reality show, bring it on. He wants it now, Jeff.

ZELENY: He does want it now. And we don't know what a Senate trial is going to look like in today's age. I mean, it is a lifetime ago, the Clinton impeachment in terms of how media is conducted.

So he can eager to have this show and he's been defining this from the very beginning, and winning in some respects. But there are still voters out there in the middle. Suburban women will hold the key for the 2020 election, who are watching all of this.

So he wants it to go quick. But I don't think that we know exactly how this is going to end up. I think we should just be -- at least my mind is open. A, we don't know what the vote in the House will be exactly. But the Senate, I don't know. What does Susan Collins do? What does Corey Gardner do?

PACE: And when you talk to Republicans privately, they will acknowledge that don't know actually how the politics of this plays. I mean, they are making this argument that this is basically the same as everything else that we've seen come before with Trump, where voters are very hardened, Republicans stand with him, Democrats are opposed him.

[08:10:06]

But in reality, they don't know what this looks like next year after we get through a Senate trial and a Democratic nomine --

GREGORY: And it is a trial in an election year, which we shouldn't underplay.

DEMIRJIAN: Right, and that's part of why he's moving so quickly and why the courts haven't been involved up to this point and why the GOP has been pushing back and saying where is the fire. You're going to have an election anyway.

But the point you're making, like there is a way for the GOP and the Senate to kind of thread the needle and say, we want to have a legitimate trial, so, yes, we'll become in any of the witnesses. Maybe you'll have votes for like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins of this world to have the impeachment trial, to hear from John Bolton and for things like that. But they still don't have to go all the way home at the end of the day and say this was an impeachable offense.

If you look at the precedent of the members of the House that we thought were going to do that, the Will Hurds of this world, who did the opposite thing, right? If you look at just going back and the concerns everybody raised about Brett Kavanaugh. It's a totally different situation, but how many people actually voted against him in the end?

It's really easy for the GOP to do everything preliminary and look like they might be on the fence and then side with the president.

GREGORY: Well, I mean, the question is whether any Republicans want to make a statement about the president's conduct, in the course of the trial, short of impeaching him. We haven't seen whether they want room to make that statement.

We'll still with this. We'll take a break here, and come right back. And when we come back, we'll talk about house speaker Pelosi who was the reluctant impeacher, got to yes after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:20]

GREGORY: Well, as you know, Nancy Pelosi did not want it to come to this, despite what president Trump and his allies say, she has long resisted the idea of letting an impeachment fight consume her speakership. In March, you'll remember, she told "The Washington Post", I'm not for impeachment. Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country and he's just not worth it.

Maybe he's worth it now.

Nine months later, she's poised to he preside over the third presidential impeachment in American history, that's it, and cement it as a major part of her legacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: The facts of the Ukraine situation just changed everything. An impeachment is not a pleasant experience. It can be divisive.

We don't take any glee in this at all. It's heartbreaking. But the president gave us no choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: You know, there's obviously a sense of duty, I believe, in terms of what her constitutional duty is. She also has faced a lot of pressure from within her caucus to do this for a long time. SALAMA: Yes, I mean, it's been a long road basically this year for

Nancy Pelosi. And she more than anyone, has been warning about the detrimental effect that an impeachment proceeding could have on the country, especially as we go into an election year, and the impact it could have on Democrats that are running for election in 2020.

And so, obviously, this is something that has been a very hard decision for her, but again, mounting pressure when the Ukraine details came out, when the whistle-blower reports came out, it just seemed like at that point she had no real choice but to proceed.

GREGORY: You know, the Republican argument all along has been this is an effort to delegitimize this president, that Democrats wanted him impeached from day one, and that was all distilled into a question by James Rosen, now with Sinclair, formerly with Fox who I covered the White House with, very good reporter, who on the speaker's way out of her press conference, asked whether the speaker hated the president.

Watch this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES ROSEN, REPORTER, SINCLAIR: Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?

PELOSI: I don't hate anybody.

ROSEN: Because Representative Collins --

(CROSSTALK)

PELOSI: I was raised in a Catholic House, we don't hate anybody. Not anybody in the world. So don't accuse me --

REPORTER: I did not accuse you.

PELOSI: You did. You did.

I resent you using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I don't hate anyone. I pray for the president a time. So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Julie, we can deconstruct, we can talk about James and talk about the provocative nature of that question, but that was a moment that really got at something here, which is we know impeachment is a political process. But as it becomes so personal and so much about delegitimizing public figures, that that overtakes the constitutional question.

PACE: It was a striking moment and it's clear what Pelosi is trying to do. She's trying to separate personal feelings that Democrats have about the president from what she views as a violation of the Constitution, basically saying we don't like all of these things he's done, a lot of Democrats don't like him personally, but that's not about that. This is about a violation of the Constitution and we have no choice.

And I do think one of the problems for Democrats as we go into the election year is the many moments where Nancy Pelosi has gotten up and said, I don't want to do this unless it is bipartisan. I don't want to do this unless we can get Republican votes are going to be played over and over again in a reality where we don't have Republican votes.

She again will say that they had no choice and that Republicans are overlooking constitutional violations. But I do think that's a real obstacle politically that they have to overcome.

GREGORY: Well, and the reality is, look, we saw it in the constitutional scholars the other day. One of the scholars talking about the president's son, bringing it into personal terms. There are a lot of Democrats who just plain hate the president. So, she does have a job to deal with that criticism.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, there's been an animus against the president since before he came into office. I mean, that's pretty clear. It was a very, very contentious election the election, and the president didn't win the popular, and a lot of people are still really sore about that.

But I think there -- I mean, there's always a challenge, right, when you're dealing with anything that comes to a constitutional question. Can you separate the emotions from the laws? And when you do, it results in more boring hearings. But seriously, right, and think about how that was just four legal experts. How many they had during the Clinton impeachment era.

[08:20:02]

But, yes, you saw that the Republican legal scholar was trying to make that case, too.

GREGORY: Yes.

DEMIRJIAN: He didn't vote for Trump, but he thinks this doesn't meet the bar because they haven't gone to the courts yet.

There are -- this is the problem. You're not arguing about the facts here. You're not arguing about the people here.

The characters are set. The fact pattern is set. You're arguing about the intent and you're arguing about the feelings.

That comes back down to emotional phase, even when you splinter it away.

GREGORY: For sure.

And, Jeff, there's no question that the president wants to keep Nancy Pelosi as a villain in 2020, no matter who he's running against. She's got to be part of that play.

ZELENY: Without a doubt. And I think that is one thing that is outside of the speaker's control, how the president and Republicans have defined this. I mean, she was hoping to get some bipartisan support, even a Will Hurd or other skeptical Republicans here. But that has been very elusive.

Now, the question is will she get all Democrats on her side? So, it's wrong to say there's no politics involved in this at all. Of course there is. I mean, impeachment is a political movement or act.

But I think the degree to which this proceeds over the next week, I think most Democrats are unified in this because they also have to answer to their Democratic voters, but the president is defining all of this and he has the bully pulpit here. So, that's the challenge for Speaker Pelosi

GREGORY: She's also very quickly is going to be -- this will also cement her status on the left as well, no?

SALAMA: Oh, absolutely. And I think a lot of people are sort of wondering what took her so long to get to this point. But at this point, she is answering to a vast majority of Democrats and what they call for.

GREGORY: All right. We're going to take a break here. When we come back, we're going to turn to the 2020 presidential race. For the Democrats, it's turning into a purity test, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:25:35]

GREGORY: There's actually an election coming in only 57 days. That's when the Iowa caucuses start. The race for the Democratic nomination is turning into a purity test on the left. Candidates from both the left and the moderate wings of the party are villainizing anyone with ties to big money and corporate America.

Here is one example. Senator Elizabeth Warren slamming Mayor Pete Buttigieg for his private, high-dollar fundraisers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: Americans are just sick of the typical politician who says one thing out in public and then goes behind closed doors and doesn't want anyone to know what they're saying to the millionaires and billionaires that are funding this campaign.

He should release who is bundling for him. He should make clear who is on his finance team. This is about the conflicts that he's creating every single day right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Obviously, Buttigieg is doing a little bit better, he's getting more attention. He says he will think about opening his fundraisers and he had a tart response on Friday to reporters who asked when he'll make that decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: Again, I don't have a timeline for you.

REPORTER: But, Mayor, as the candidate, can't you just direct your campaign to open those fundraisers?

BUTTIGIEG: What's that?

REPORTER: As the candidate, can't you just direct your campaign to open those fundraisers?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes.

REPORTER: And why haven't you done so?

BUTTIGIEG: What's that?

REPORTER: Why haven't you done so yet?

BUTTIGIEG: There are a lot of considerations and I'm thinking about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next question?

REPORTER: Can you give us an example of those considerations?

BUTTIGIEG: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

GREGORY: Love for the traveling press corps.

Buttigieg has his own purity test for Warren, demanding she release more information about the money she made doing legal work for big companies in the 1990s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: I certainly think it would be a good idea for her to release tax returns, as I have, covering her entire career in the private sector. I think that's one way to show your transparency.

WARREN: I've already put out 11 years of my tax returns. That's exactly 11 years more than Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: So, Jeff Zeleny, you've been out in Iowa and I think this is such a big issue, which is the future of the Democratic Party and this purity test on the left, versus the electability argument. You spoke on Wednesday with a voter -- let me show you that exchange and we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree with nearly everything that Warren has to say. I would identify as a Democratic socialist. But I also understand that I am not representative of the whole electorate and we need to be sure to select a candidate that can defeat Donald Trump. As I was watching Mayor Pete speak actually, I thought this guy is going to appeal to someone in a deer stand that is out with his family or friends hunting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Purity, can they beat Trump?

ZELENY: Absolutely, that's Maggie Willem, a social studies teacher who I met earlier this summer and she was leaning toward Elizabeth Warren. She said this is the moment for progressive politics. Now she is not sure about that. So, leaning Pete Buttigieg.

But, look, what is happening here, this really extraordinary change. Senator Warren is trying to make some shine off of Pete Buttigieg. Why? Because he's rising, particularly in Iowa. And they didn't do it at the debate stage a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta.

This is a preview to the debate likely next week in Los Angeles. But she's trying to, A, define him, slow his rise a little bit.

But it's also saying a lot about Pete Buttigieg. We are about to find out if he can take a punch. So far, he's been able to skillfully, disarmingly go through all of this.

I was at an event with him on Friday and a group of protesters were standing up and called him Wall Street Pete, and he had a smile on his face and said that's what they used to call President Obama and then he went to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau headed by Elizabeth Warren.

So, he is -- we'll see how he handles the punch here. We don't know. He's an undefined candidate. She's trying to define him.

GREGORY: But it's also the orthodoxy, Vivian. I mean, that's what you see, the orthodoxy on the left, that only certain people are pure enough to stand, to stand up. And that's going to be the question, is whether that's where most of the electorate is?

SALAMA: Yes. I mean, this is what we see playing out in the primaries a lot, and once we get into the general election, the candidate typically tends to drift more toward the middle so that we can only win over Democrats but some independents and some people in the middle in general. So, even some moderate Republicans.

And so, you are seeing this play out because the party generally is shifting more to the left and so, this is one thing that you have the Elizabeth Warrens and the Bernie Sanders versus some of the others. You have this battle of the big money versus small donor candidates who really push back on those and still do the big fundraisers.

And that's one of the debates right now within the Democratic Party is which approach is truer to the Democratic Party. And so it's interesting to see this playing out, especially between these two candidates.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I don't know that it would be that much of -- like this central of a thing though if we weren't in the era of a Democrat that has to beat (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump. I mean like Donald Trump is a guy who has a lot of questionable, you know, money -- money questions. He is a guy who appeals -- who boasts about his wealth and his rich friends and everything else like that.

He is somebody who refused to release his tax returns. I mean there is an element of the party hating that so much, the voters hating everything about that. So are you hypocritical if you put up a presidential candidate who isn't the antithesis of all of --

DAVID GREGORY, CNN HOST: Yes. But his populism is also what they're speaking to. You know, Elizabeth Warren sounds a lot like Donald Trump in a lot of areas. Especially with regard -- and so if you think about where the economic pain is in the country, those are the voters that they want to reach and that is what is smart about the orthodoxy of Warren.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And this is the argument that Warren and Sanders campaigns are making where they say actually you're misreading the general election electorate where you think we are too far left but actually we could win over some of these voters because of this populism argument.

I do think there's still a real question though about the ideology of the majority of Democrats. If you talk to Biden advisers, Klobuchar advisers, Buttigieg advisers -- they make points that the liberal voices in the party are loud, they are aggressive, and yet if you look at who votes in Democratic primaries, it tends to be a lot of older voters who tend to be more moderate.

So I do think that we are still very much working through what the actual ideology of the majority of the Democratic votes are.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And as we're ending the year much more of a moderate pushback in the beginning.

PACE: Absolutely.

ZELENY: It was defined by the Green New Deal and Medicare for all. Now that is not viewed as a (INAUDIBLE). That was his ticket to admission, basically, you must support, you know, some of these policies.

Now that's not the case. I'm hearing a lot of moderate pushback. All about, as you said David, electability -- that's what Democrats care about. Of course, there's no easy answer to what electability actually means. It means different things to different people.

GREGORY: Right. And people will make the argument that at some point the path to electability is about reframing what, you know, the progressive values are in the country that will propel voters to come back to the Democratic Party and not just to beat Trump. You know, the idea that you have to be for something as a Democrat.

SALAMA: Right. And so this is the case where we have right now where a lot of the newer candidates in a state (ph) like someone like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, is trying to bring something fresh to the party, while at the same time staying to the moderate orthodoxy of the Democratic Party versus people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are trying to stay true to their left-leaning ideologies. And we're going to see which one the Democrats ultimately go for.

GREGORY: Quickly Jeff -- on this on the McKinsey business and its nondisclosure for Buttigieg, is this going to be a bigger issue for him?

ZELENY: We'll see. I mean I think we'll see how he handles it. It is about transparency. The reality is he worked there a very short period of time as a junior staffer, so I don't think in and of itself voters who like him will be concerned about that.

But if it leads into a larger is he hiding anything, is he really experienced, it's really going into his resume in a way that we haven't seen. But the reality is people are not electing him or not because of his very early time at McKinsey.

They're liking him for his promise for the future. So I'm skeptical that a lot of voters will be sort of, you know, troubled by McKinsey but some liberals are and it's one more reason that they don't like him.

GREGORY: Yes. All right. Let's get another break in here.

Coming up next, Elizabeth Warren brings her anti-billionaire message to enemy territory, Mike Bloomberg's own television network after this.

[08:33:51]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY: Let's turn now to some "Sunday Trail Mix" for a taste of the 2020 campaign, starting with one person not on the trail this weekend. That's Senator Kamala Harris. She ended her campaign last week after running out of money and failing to catch fire in any early state.

With her out of the picture, just six candidates have qualified for the next debate -- all of them white. Senator Cory Booker is one of the candidates struggling to qualify. But his calls for a more diverse field did help him raise much needed cash. His campaign says he's raised more than $1 million since Harris dropped out of the race.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says billionaire presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg shouldn't be able to buy an election. Nothing new there except for where she made those comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on Bloomberg TV. Our boss is running against you.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I heard that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've heard that? So have we.

WARREN: We've got a country that is working great for those at the top. It's just not working for much of anyone else. And that's why I'm so concerned about Michael Bloomberg jumping into this race, dropping $37 million in one week on ad buys. I don't believe that elections ought to be for sale.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: And the former vice president Joe Biden finished his eight- day bus tour through the state of Iowa yesterday, visiting 18 counties during the campaign blitz in mostly rural areas.

One moment that stood out, his response to an Iowa voter comparing Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine to the ethics of the current president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're selling access to the President just like he is.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're a damn liar, man. That's not true and no one has ever said that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't say you were doing anything wrong. I said --

BIDEN: You said I set up my son to work in an oil company. Isn't that what you said? Get your words straight, Jack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: No more malarkey -- get your words straight, Jack.

Julie -- was this a strong moment for Biden or was this get off my lawn moment of instability.

PACE: I think it's a little bit of a Rorschach test. If you think that, you know, Joe Biden is a straight talker and that's one of the real benefits that he would bring to the White House, you look at that and you say, yes that guy was saying something that wasn't true and he pushed back.

If you look at Joe Biden and you say, hey maybe he's a little past his prime and I'm a little worried about how he can handle tough moments, particularly on a debate stage with Donald Trump who is going to throw the whole kitchen sink at him this was a sign.

GREGORY: It seems to me that he's a little bit more prepared to handle Trump than maybe some of his primary challengers because I do think this issue with his son, he has not been prepared for. And this idea that just like get your facts straight, Jack -- that's not good enough.

PACE: Yes. And I do think that's what every -- to our point that we were having earlier -- I think that's what every voter is looking for. How will you stand up against Donald Trump in a debate stage --

GREGORY: Right.

PACE: -- who is going to throw things at you that are true, inaccurate and somewhere in between and how are you going to deftly and quickly be able to handle those.

SALAMA: And deeply (ph) personal, too. I think we saw that in 2016 and it just depends on how Joe Biden is going to be able to handle that.

ZELENY: It shows how to get under his skin though. That's what he was --

SALAMA: Right.

GREGORY: Yes.

ZELENY: There are many ways to disarm things and I think Democrats do want to see him standing up. But boy, it shows that he is certainly angered by that. So humor would have been one way to --

[08:40:03]

SALAMA: Yes.

ZELENY: -- deflect (ph) it. But at the end of the day that voter said I'll vote for Joe Biden if he's the nominee.

GREGORY: Yes. Well, you show a little fire, that's going to be a good thing too on the trail.

All right. We'll take another break here.

When we come back, what President Trump's fellow world leaders say about him when they think the cameras are off -- after a break.

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GREGORY: President Trump is facing new questions in the wake of Friday's shootings that left three dead and several others wounded at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. The gunman who also was killed belonged to Saudi Arabia's military and was training in the U.S. Incredibly, the President repeatedly has emphasized how badly the Saudis feel about the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are devastated in Saudi Arabia. We're finding out what took place, whether it's one person or a number of people. And the king will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones. He feels very strongly. He's very, very devastated by what happened and what took place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: The compassion for the Saudis is just striking on the part of the President. His long time Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller tells the "New York Times" David Sanger this morning when it comes to Saudi Arabia the President's default position is to defend.

[08:44:57]

Quoting Miller from "The Times", "Had an attack been carried out by any country on his Muslim ban, his reaction would have been very different." Miller goes on, "Driven by oil, money, weapons sales, a good deal of Saudi setting and flattery, Trump has created a virtually impenetrable zone of immunity for Saudi Arabia."

Vivian -- it is just -- it is striking that again Saudi Arabia, an ally in opposing Iran will get such gentle treatment by the President.

SALAMA: President Trump has touted himself as being the toughest president on terrorists, so the caveat is except when it comes to Saudi Arabia because he's made no secret of the fact that the Saudis pay cash, in his words, for weapons, deals and other economic cooperation in general. And so he does not see a benefit to making them an enemy, essentially.

And so we see that playing out even when there's something blatant as this where, as David Aaron Miller says, he would go after probably any other country and crack down on them if this were the case. If the shooter were from anywhere else. And so it's interesting to see.

GREGORY: The handling of the murder of Khashoggi as well by this administration stands out and those kid gloves.

The President on the world stage, Karoun -- this week, meeting with members of NATO at the 70th anniversary of the alliance -- was striking in that here was a president who didn't look so good and was isolated by his leaders.

There was this moment that was caught on tape of Justin Trudeau of Canada and others seeming to mock the President. We can show a bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Is that why you were late?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: He was late because he takes a 40 minute press conference off the top.

I just watched -- I watched his team's jaws just hit the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGOR4Y: We have to be careful. We love that the President takes so many questions, of course, in the media. But his fellow leaders, including Emmanuel Macron, who went from holding the President's hands during all of his summit meetings to now criticizing him -- they made some fun.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. they're making jabs. I mean they're not jabs about policy so much as they are jabs about his persona and how he operates. And I think that that is just -- you know, we report on these sorts of things all the time about various people domestically and abroad that have these impressions of the President.

And to see it playing out on tape in real time where you're talking about a little gaggle of the leaders of some pretty significant countries there that the President has had good relationships with in the past, that's significant. It brings it down to almost a high school type of a level but human interactions matter over there (ph).

GREGORY: And you know, it's also important to point out to our viewers that so much of these relationships between leaders is like home room. It's very personal.

I do want to address this -- Julie and Jeff. Look at the numbers in the November jobs report that we shouldn't forget. Best month of job creation since January. Unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent, the lowest since 1959. Wages climb 3 percent, stocks jumped, the Dow index up 20 percent for the year. This is a great economy in an election year.

PACE: It's a really strong economy. for any other president running for re-election, this is a ticket to victory.

GREGORY: Right.

PACE: The problem here, the President can't seem to just focus on this.

GREGORY: Right.

PACE: If he were only campaigning on this, I think you would see him going into this year in a much stronger position. Republicans are certainly hoping, his campaign advisers are certainly hoping he can focus.

GREGORY: But voters still feel it -- Jeff. Even if they're not talking about it.

ZELENY: And the economy does not feel as strong to every voter, but boy, if President Trump is reelected as most sitting presidents are, it will be driven by the economy, driven by these numbers, no question.

GREGORY: Yes. I think there will be some element of discipline whether the President understands that the economy can propel him to a second term.

Thank you all very much. We'll take a break here. Our reporters share from their notebooks, coming up next; including a big Supreme Court on capital punishment.

[08:48:57]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY: All right. Time now for our reporters to share a page from their notebooks to help get you out in front of the week ahead.

Julie -- start us off.

PCE: On Monday, the federal government was supposed to resume executions for the first time in 16 years. That's now on hold because the Supreme Court has block both the first execution and several others that were planned after this.

This is just one of several instances that we have seen where the courts are stepping in to block administration priorities. We've seen this numerous times on immigration for example.

This one is going to be interesting though to see how aggressively Trump starts trying to fight back at least verbally against the Supreme Court. In large part, because restarting federal executions is not something that he had really prioritized nor is this something that there is much of a national constituency for.

GREGORY: Right. But it's interesting that conservatives have put so much faith in the judiciary --

PACE: Absolutely.

GREGORY: -- as the way to advance their agenda that if the courts are stymying that, it's a big deal.

Jeff.

ZELENY: Well he's not on the ballot but he is hanging over the 2020 race. And that is President Trump. After spending several days in Iowa this week, it's clear that Donald Trump is hanging over the race. Impeachment, of course, is drowning so many things out. The voters are being driven by President Trump

I was surprised this week, talking to some liberal voters who said they are so worried about President Trump it is driving their decisions. One woman said she wanted to support Elizabeth Warren, can't do it. She doesn't think she's as electable.

So I was struck by the degree to which Donald Trump dominates so many things in Washington. He is on the campaign trail on the Democratic side as well.

But the issue here going forward is what does electability mean. We talked a lot about, you know, how this is sort of like say 2008, a lot of comparisons to the Obama campaign. This race is like 2004 when George W. Bush was in office so the sitting President is at the center of so many conversations.

GREGORY: Yes. And you have the Senate purity test as we've talked about on the left -- really a lot of voters were thinking, priority is how do we get this guy out of there. It is interesting.

Vivian -- what are you -- what are you looking at?

SALAMA: I've got a little Wall Street Journal type story. So the World Trade Organization was formed to basically to resolve international disputes through multilateral rules. And starting on December 11th the trade court of the World Trade Organization is not going to have enough judges to issue binding resolutions.

So what does that mean? Someone raises a claim, a country raises a claim against another claim and it essentially could go unresolved. So that basically renders the court crippled.

And why did it happen? Because for the last two years in part the Trump administration has been essentially blocking the court from bringing in new judges. It is part of the Trump administration's broader war against a lot of multi-lateral organizations including the World Trade Organization.

So in the words of Bush 41's trade representative Carla Hill, you'll replace the rule of law with the rule of the jungle.

[08:55:04]

GREGORY: Wow. All right. Karoun.

DEMIRJIAN: Enjoy your breakfast.

Well, over the weekend we saw come into focus the outlines of what the National Defense Authorization Act is going to be for this year -- the annual Military Authorization Bill. And it seems that there is a trade that's been made for paid family leave for government workers across the government for the space force.

Now we knew that if Trump was going to get his space force, there had to be a big trade off. But I'm really looking at what people are saying about this as it comes into focus.

If this deal gets locked down, this is a really significant step in the paid family leave issues. It tends to be that whatever the military does sets the tone for the government. Whatever the government does sets the tone for the nation.

There have been idle discussions about having a national paid family leave policy, certainly the President's daughter have promoted that sort of a (ph) thing. But we haven't seen that come in to focus.

So what people about this deal especially on the GOP side and especially about that piece of it could set a standard for where this goes in the future that has a chance of expanding beyond that. GREGORY: Imagine that Washington could actually be focused on real

policy considerations like this that impact so many people.

Thank you all very much.

That is it for INSIDE POLITICS for this Sunday.

Coming up next is "STATE OF THE UNION" with Dana Bash. Her guests include House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler and Republican Congressman Mark Meadows.

Thanks again for sharing part of your Sunday morning.

[08:56:19]

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