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INSIDE POLITICS

Klobuchar: Trump Doesn't Have A Monopoly On Rural America; Democrats Draw Battle Lines With Six Weeks Until Iowa Caucus; Axios: Bolton Says White House Would Take "A Different Course" If Serious About North Korea Denuclearization; Taliban Claims Responsibility For Killing U.S. Service Member; Warren's New Ad: I'm Not Doing Big-Dollar Fundraisers; Warren Pressed About Her Past Fundraising Tactics; Buttigieg Not Worried About Wine Cave "Optics"; Trump Spends Holidays At Mar-A-Lago As WH Preps For Senate Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 23, 2019 - 12:30   ET

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


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They voted for Democrats, including independents and moderate Republicans. So the evidence is there, the people want to check on this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the check being not just from the base, Manu, but that you have got to energize the base plus open up the tent, win in Trump country and she's a candidate who's proven she can do that in Minnesota and she believe she can do that throughout the Midwest, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Kyung Lah in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Thank you for that report. In the last Iowa poll from The Des Moines Register- CNN poll, it showed Klobuchar at about the fifth place. There's still time, of course, but she's made some inroads, but still behind.

Olivier, how does she make the - she's trying to appeal to them and the moderate plain, of course, Biden is trying to do it similarly. How does she distinguish herself from Biden and she appeals to those voters?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: Well, that's a really good question. But the first part of the answer is she's a woman and she's younger. She is not - Joe Biden has been in politics for decades, and decades, and decades and decades. Clearly going after a lot of earned media in Iowa.

She did have a good debate. She did. She punctuate a lot of ranchers with a good one liner. It was a memorable debate. It was a better debate overall, because we no longer had 3,500 candidates on stage.

But to capitalize on all of that, I mean, you can hear it when she's campaigning, she asked people did you see the debate, do you remember the debate, but how she distinguishes itself from Biden, I think, is youth and gender.

RAJU: Yes. And speaking of Biden, yesterday he was in rural Iowa. He was talking to voters. He's trying to make the case for his candidacy. This is what he said in Perry, Iowa yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I put forward an ambitious plan to revitalize rural economies. And by the way, mine is a rural state. Everybody thinks I come from Delaware, it's an eastern state, it's a big corporate entity.

Well, the truth of the matter is the largest city in my state is 86,000 people, but it represents like you do. The heart and soul of the country. My plan is to restore the promise to the middle class for rural America in rural America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: But look, Biden started off with this formidable lead. It shrunk. That poll that we just referenced, he's in third place. It tied with Bernie Sanders in that poll. If he loses Iowa and then he heads into New Hampshire, this is a game of momentum. You win, you get momentum, you get a head of steam heading into the next race.

This could be devastating for Joe Biden losing the first two states, it seems possible.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That absolutely would be devastating. I think the thing for Joe Biden that obviously set him apart from these other candidates at the outset was people pretty much knew who he was. And so in a lot of cases, people had a much more favorable view of him before you go out. You start talking to people. You're on TV every day. This happens for every candidate that's a known quantity.

And certainly in these early voting states used everyone at the table, I've seen it in Iowa and New Hampshire. They like to kick the tires on these candidates. They want to know what these other folks are about. They jump around a lot. A lot of people don't make up their mind until the very last minute.

So I think that the race is very fluid. If you're someone like Joe Biden, that also means it's very scary.

RAJU: Yes, no question. And it's interesting, you mentioned people make their minds at the last second. That's the argument that Cory Booker didn't make the last debate is making because he's been registering as high in the polls. He said that this has happened in the past, voters don't decide till the end and the way that the system is set up is not fair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody who's campaigning in places like Iowa sees how strong our campaign is on the ground. And remember John Kerry, John Edwards were polling at 4% and 2%, 6th and 7th in the field. And one month later, they went on to finish one and two in the caucuses. The polls have never been predictive of what happens in Iowa. It's

the kind of things that we're thriving on, on the energy ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Look, I don't know if you want to be comparing yourself to John Edwards, but does he have a point, though, that the first primary here is almost convincing the DNC or making the DNC's threshold to compete in these debates.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, we've seen it before. People come from behind and all of a sudden they're winning state and they've got all of this momentum. So there is time for these candidates to sort of break through and I think that that's why you see people like Klobuchar and Booker. They're out. They're working through this holiday break, because they also have a time stamp here and that is that they're going to be locked in a jury room, in the Senate during an impeachment trial of the President.

So they're trying to sort of appeal to voters and have that sort of breakout, if Klobuchar can sort of capitalize on that debate performance and actually push through and continue to rise in the polls. She's got to do it now, because she's going to be sort of put away from voters for a while in terms of impeachment.

RAJU: Josh, who do you think the President wants to face?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it seems a bit - he's mercurial about it. There have been times where he says crazy Bernie, he says Pocahontas, sometimes. If you took 1230 [00:04:45] his advisors, they still want a candidate that they see is more left, not a more moderate candidate. They want someone that they see is more left.

They think the President can demonize and can convince voters. His argument has been a lot recently.

[12:35:01]

I know you don't like me. A lot of you don't like me, but you have to vote for me anyway. He told the Jewish group and party, you don't want the wealth tax. He's told different groups various things about policy where he says, you might not like my tweets, you might not like my personality, but you have to vote for me anyway. And they think that strategy works best for the candidate and they can 1235 [00:00:18] and put far left on the spectrum.

RAJU: Yes.

DAWSEY: So I think we'll see them try to do it.

RAJU: Maybe harder with a candidate like a Joe Biden and ...

DAWSEY: Right.

RAJU: ... perhaps Amy Klobuchar, we'll see. But up next for us, John Bolton gives harsh criticism from the President's approach to North Korea. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:39:59]

RAJU: Topping our political radar today, Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but also clears the former top adviser to the Crown Prince. The Saudi journalist and Washington Post Columnist was killed and allegedly dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 by men with close ties to the highest levels of the Saudi government. Khashoggi had long been critical of the kingdom and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman's policies.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton issuing fresh criticism of how the White House is handling North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Bolton tells Axios, "The idea that we are somehow exerting maximum pressure on North Korea is just unfortunately not true."

Bolton also says that the White House were serious about halting nuclear weapons, they would be 'pursuing a different course'. Sharp words from John Bolton there on White House's handling of North Korea.

Josh Dawsey, what is John Bolton up to here? Because he had also been, of course, a central player on the impeachment inquiry. He refused to testify. He asked for a subpoena. He said he would fight it in court, but he continues to say that they will - his lawyer says he can talk about issues of interest that have not been explored by the impeachment inquiry, now he's out there criticizing the President on North Korea.

DAWSEY: John Bolton has a book to sell and John Bolton wants to release a book next year. He's got a number of these interviews where he said, I have a lot to say, we must reengage, must reengaged for national security policies. He tweets this online.

And then he hasn't really engaged much on a lot of the key questions on the impeachment inquiry. He said through lawyers, I have a lot to say, I have a lot of info. He hasn't disclosed it. He's repeatedly kind of criticized the President, but he hasn't said much more than that.

He's kind of playing with proverbial footsie in trying to stay relevant, stay in the news, stay in the headlines without saying too much of anything, because he wants to sell a multimillion dollar book next year.

RAJU: We'll see if he says anything more before he sells that book deal, we'll see. Before we take a break, the latest from Afghanistan where the Taliban is claiming responsibility for the death of a U.S. service member, despite ongoing peace negotiations with the group.

A Taliban spokesman says U.S. and Afghan forces were targeted with IEDs while conducting a raid in Northern Afghanistan. The U.S. military confirmed that a service member was killed in action. Their name being withheld until their family is notified. At least 20 Americans have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:30]

RAJU: Welcome back. Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign out with a new ad today, trying to drive 1245 [00:01:35] stance on big dollar donors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not doing big-dollar fundraisers. I'm not selling ambassadorships to donors. I'm not cozying up to Super PACs and my first priority as president will be to pass the biggest package of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: The ad comes as Warren is having to defend her own wine fundraiser from 2018. Just take a look at these headlines from the Associated Press talking about a souvenir bottle from one of her events, from Mother Jones calling it the wine wars, Fox News saying Warren has been 'called out' for her past events.

Yesterday, Warren acknowledged she fundraised a little differently in the past, but she says this time, it's different.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: I've been to those fundraisers and I think we can do better, and that's what I'm trying to do. When I first got into this presidential race, I said I'm not doing these closed door meetings, I'm not doing special call time and special access to people with money. I'm going to run a grassroots campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So Pete Buttigieg just said he doesn't want to engage in purity tests and he was asked actually over the weekend about the optics of this whole wine cave debate and this is what he said in Perry, Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not focusing on optics. I'm focusing on what needs to change in this country. I've made very clear what my positions are and what we're going to do and anybody chipping into this campaign, no matter their background, their story or how much they can get is supporting that vision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So who's winning this messaging war between Warren and Buttigieg?

KNOX: Bernie Sanders. RAJU: There you go.

KNOX: I mean, I'm only kind of kidding. I mean, one of the reasons for her doing this we're building a movement, we're doing small dollar donors is to compete with Bernie, who's done this forever. He's always had the small dollar donors. He's always had this come with me to build this movement thing and while superficially, this is a fight between Warren and Buttigieg.

I think it's much more important look at the Warren/Sanders dynamic here. Unless you're a multi, multi, multimillionaire, billionaire or whatever, you're not going to self fund. So how you go about doing it, you have to raise this cash somehow. But she wants to do it in a way that doesn't give Bernie more space to attack on.

BADE: Also, don't throw stones if you're in a glass house, right?

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: Yes.

BADE: Watch out for those chandeliers. No, I mean, she made herself a target there. All you have to do is look back a couple of years and you see she was doing big fundraisers with big donors at the same time. And I think that clearly there's a debate in the Democratic Party. Well, Democratic primary voters, they do care about money and politics right now. This is something that people are really sincere about.

But to the extent that you start attacking each other when people are sort of moving in that direction, but maybe haven't gone as far as Warren would want them to go, it starts to potentially look a little petty.

RAJU: Yes.

BADE: And then maybe there is no winner, because everybody is attacking each other.

DAWSEY: Well, the interesting thing on the other side is Trump does a huge dollar fundraisers almost every month, $35,000 for a photo with him, $100,000 for roundtable at his hotel, at his properties. And it doesn't seem to be that much cost for it.

Now, if you talk to the attendees what's it like to go to that hundred thousand dollar event with President Trump basically says what he says in his campaign rallies.

RAJU: Right.

DAWSEY: I mean, there's a little bit more attention to individual folks there, but the speeches aren't all of that different. But when you talk about big dollar fundraiser, this president do and get more than any president (inaudible) ...

(CROSSTALK) BADE: And raised a lot of money.

[12:50:02]

DAWSEY: More than Obama. I mean, Obama did a lot of big dollar fundraising and Trump is doing even ...

RAJU: And he started it, right, almost as soon as he became president, which is much a departure from past practices. But also interesting, as you've mentioned, the back and forth between the Democrats and whether or not this is going to be helpful or hurtful ultimately for the eventual nominee over the weekend. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal freshman firebrand from New York who's a Bernie Sanders supporter went after Buttigieg's claim of not engaging in these purity tests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): For anyone who accuses us for instituting purity tests, it's called having values. It's called giving a damn. It's called having standards for your conduct to not be funded by billionaires, but to be funded by the people which is different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Look, these back and forth happening in every primary race. This is going to get increasingly more personal as we get into the voting season next year. But to the Democrats that all be concerned that this could undercut their eventual nominee. Well, the Republicans are in lockstep behind President Trump.

MURRAY: I think all of these spots are always going to raise the little heartburn among Democrats just as it did with Republicans. Everyone freaks out when there's a crowded primary, because they think it's going to undercut them.

I think at the end of the day, this is going to be a relatively small number. Yes, Democrats do care about money in politics, but the thing they care about the most is someone who can beat President Trump. So whoever it is who emerges as the candidate who appears to have momentum appears like they can take on President Trump, I don't really believe that Democrats are suddenly going to say you took money from billionaires and so we're going to offer someone who we believe has no shot of unseating the President.

RAJU: Yes.

MURRAY: I think that that ends up falling down on the list in this election.

RAJU: And the general election season is a totally different ballgame when we eventually get to that. Up next, away from Washington but not necessarily away from Twitter. The President's Mar-A-Lago mindset.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:56:40]

RAJU: President Trump spending this holiday week at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. And although he's far from Washington, politics is always on top of mind, at least on his Twitter feed. Today he tweets, "Pelosi gave us the most unfair trial in the history of the U.S. Congress, and now she's crying for fairness in the Senate, and breaking all rules while doing so. She lost Congress once, she will do it again."

Typically, however, Mar-A-Lago has offered a refuge for the President. He's known to surround himself with friends and allies while he's there, point in case Politico with this headline, "Escaped to Mar-A- Lago: Trump gets a post-impeachment mood lift."

And in that article it goes on to say, "For aides Mar-A-Lago can sometimes be a headache, as there is less control over who gets face time with the President and who might be able to whisper an idea in his ear. But that's the way Trump likes to be, unfettered and be able to do what he loves best - playing host, golfing with friends, watching television and working away from the confines of the West Wing."

What have you observed, Josh, so far?

DAWSEY: So far down there we've Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer, we've seen Rush Limbaugh on the golf course with him. We've seen a lot of the golf. The President usually has kind of a pretty simple routine when he's at Mar-A-Lago. He gets up in the morning, sends a few tweets that send people a flurry back in Washington. Then he goes to a golf course. He's there from about nine till two or three, comes back, watches some television, has dinner at the club, talk to the members, takes pictures and likes to be the star of the show.

He basically does it every day while he's down there for 10 or 14 days. For the journalist down there, it's a lot of sitting in vans outside his golf club and trying to figure out what he's actually doing inside and who he's playing with.

RAJU: (Inaudible) ...

DAWSEY: He loves Mar-A-Lago though. The President, I think, he loves it more than Bedminster. He likes it more than being going back to Trump Tower. It's been the place he's gone the most as president.

I mean, as a whole host of friends of 1255 [00:03:28], the folks who are kind of his informal kitchen cabinet who give him all sorts of ideas, some of them that West Wing staffers have to try to keep them from happening.

RAJU: Clean up. And clear up and Trump's inner circle came and saw him this week and you mentioned some of them, Jerry Falwell Jr., one of them, Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani's spokeswoman also there, Eddie Gallagher, of course, the individual which he intervened in this war crimes case with the U.S. military. But I want to focus on the Rudy Giuliani. I mean, here's a central

player in the impeachment scandal and he's not concerned at all about the optics of being close to the President in the middle of all this.

MURRAY: No. I mean, I think there are plenty of Republicans around the President who are looking at this and cringing and wishing Rudy Giuliani was not hanging out at Mar-A-Lago right now. But so far, President Trump has not really thrown him under the bus. He's made a couple of moves in that direction and at the end of the day, it's always the people around the President who are very concerned about Rudy Giuliani's behavior and it's President Trump who's saying, yes, I'm happy to look at whatever you brought back from your most recent trip to Ukraine.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, these are point where he distance himself from Rudy Giuliani?

BADE: I mean, clearly we've seen no sign of that. I mean, I think that it will be interesting to watch to see if Giuliani can get in his ear about Hunter Biden, because Senator Mitch McConnell has said we don't want to bring in the Bidens, we don't want to make this a whole circus about Hunter Biden in terms of the impeachment trial.

But Rudy Giuliani just got back from Ukraine. What does he got? He's clearly going to potentially spin up the President and it will be interesting to see if he starts tweeting about that and putting more demands on McConnell to consider this.

[13:00:03]

RAJU: And if Rudy Giuliani actually comes to the Senate as Lindsey Graham has suggested, he could come and testify for the Judiciary Committee. A lot to see in the New Year. Thanks for joining us.

END