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INSIDE POLITICS

Bernie Sanders: Donald Trump Will Be Hard To Beat, But I Know How To Do It; Democratic Insiders Turn Attention To Sanders In 2020; Poll: Democrats Voters Say Sanders Is Best For Health Care, Environment; House Democrats Defend Speaker Pelosi's Withholding Of Articles; Chuck Schumer Again Urges Donald Trump To Allow Witnesses, Documents. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 27, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

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DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Today President Trump says the best is yet to come, adding talk of the economy and rallying market to his rants about impeachment. Meanwhile, the holiday is over for the 2020 candidates, and Democratic insiders are buzzing about one who is hitting the trail again today Senator Bernie Sanders.

Plus, he's the man tasked with making sure the senate's trial is fair. We'll look at Chief Justice John Roberts' role in impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE NOMINEE: Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules, they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules, but it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And the 2020 campaign trail is back in business today across four states, and one of those candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders, is getting a warm welcome back. Take a look at these headlines just from the last 24 hours or so. "The New York Times," why Bernie Sanders is tough to beat "POLITICO," Democratic insiders say Bernie could win the nomination. "Wall Street Journal," don't count Bernie out, and that's just a few of the headlines we've seen.

They all tout his resiliency and impressive rebound from a heart attack two months ago, and also his consistent slow climb in the polls. But they also emphasize a concern that his quiet rise is being overlooked. A Democratic Chairman in Towa tells "The New York Times" the following. Sanders, is definitely being underestimated in Iowa. Part of his durability is he has 15 to 20 percent of the caucus who are absolutely committed to voting for him no matter what. That counts for a whole heck of a lot.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has been covering the Sanders campaign closely and joins me now. Ryan, what are you hearing from inside about how they feel and from people around the campaign about whether this is real and maybe at the right time to be on the rise?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know Dana, I have a text thread with Gregg Criege and Annie who are helping me cover the Bernie Sanders campaign, and these headlines started to coming out we were texting each other saying, this is what we've been saying for weeks, that the Sanders campaign is a lot stronger than many people are giving them credit for.

And what's interesting when you talk to those aides and associates that are close to Senator Sanders, and even Senator Sanders himself their confidence is a quiet confidence. Usually campaigns sometimes have to overstate exactly where they stand in the polls and where they stand in relation to other candidates.

And what the Sanders campaign is they don't overplay it. They say what they said in the beginning, that they believe he has a strong shot in winning the Democratic nomination and that they're going to continue to stay in their lane. The campaign manager -- says to me that he operates on a scale of 1 to 10 between a 4 and 6. He never gets too excited and he never gets too down based on where they stand in the polls.

But there is no question that there has been a remarkable shift in his position since he had that heart attack Sanders is a different person on the campaign trail. He actually seems to have more energy and it's just a little bit looser. They believe that they can win, and really when you look at where they're standing in many of these polls, they're starting to rise slowly.

They're not rocketing to the top of the polls as some of these other candidates have done. And the big thing you can't ignore, Dana, is the resources that Bernie Sanders has. He's raised more money than any of these other candidates from a wide range of donors. They believe that that indicates that they even have more support than the polls are showing.

People have underestimated Bernie Sanders before it's happening this time around. I think there is realistic shot that he could win the Democratic nomination. There is a long way to go. But do not underestimate Bernie Sanders.

BASH: Ryan Nobles, thank you so much for that reporting. Here with me at the table to share their reporting and insights, Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post," Oliver Knox with Sirius XM, and Francesca Chambers with "McClatchyDC" and CNN's Phil Mattingly. I feel like we've seen this movie before. Oh wait, we did, four years ago.

Except of course the big difference is that he was the only guy in his lane four years ago. Now there are a lot of people who have taken up the Bernie Sanders mantel for fighting progressive ideals, mainly one who is very popular and who has got a lot of support also, Elizabeth Warren.

What do you all hear from your sources about what is happening on the ground, why Bernie Sanders is having a quiet resurgence?

[12:05:00]

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are two things. Look, admittedly not unlike so I've been locked in the Capitol - over the last three months with impeachment, but I think one other thing I was surprised about when reading all the headlines this morning, what changed?

I feel like he's been in this place and for some reason people haven't necessarily been paying attention to it because another candidate was hotter and other people were getting more attention on the floor. The reason why he is where he is right now is because of what that Iowa Democratic Chairman said, which is he has a floor that's not moving.

He has 15 to 20 percent locked in. And when you have a large field even when you have people that share some of the ideals and policy prescriptions that Senator Sanders have been talking about for decades now, if you have that locked in particularly in these early states you're in a very good place.

I think the other thing that Ryan hit it on this point. He has money, lots of money. He has an operation, a large operation, not just in Iowa and New Hampshire, but what they are doing in Nevada as well as some of the people have continued flagged for me. And the fact is that those donations are not max out donations.

They're grassroots donations that are going to keep coming most of them are I think are set in a way that they're going to come monthly almost no matter what. When you have the resources, when you have an organization when you look under herd and recognize that this is somebody who has done it before four years ago and knows how to correct or improve upon what he did that makes it real, no matter who you're looking at or who the shiny object is at the moment.

BASH: And when this race started and there were several people kind of running in the Bernie Sanders lane, he was the co-classic. He is the original. You guys are too young to know that. Maybe they're just returning to the brand. When I say "they", I'm talking about hard-core progressives who like the idea that he's talking about.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUS XM: I think though that the point that Phil made, essentially that in order to catch lightning in a bottle, you have to have a bottle is really, really important. This is probably the most organized politician I've ever covered. He's extremely organized.

They use social media extremely well. He's hard to quantify as a poll that's 15 percent of Iowans want to caucus with them, but Iowa rewards the prepared mind or the prepared campaign. He's not going to make the same mistake Howard Dean made of coming on passion not gaming out how Iowa actually caucuses. So I think that's it is a big part of this. And he's also been able to merry that to this message and this is to your point about Liz Warren. He's married that to a message that he has come build a movement with me not support me, come build this thing. Across other Democratic politics, you see a lot of other politicians who are mimicking them.

Beto in his fund rising in Texas was all, come build a movement. Elizabeth Warren was doing a version of that as well. So what I'm kind of trying to see is as more people try to match his message and try to match his organization that is going to prevail?

BASH: Let's dig a layer or two deeper on what you're talking about on and on the substance. You talked about the two of them, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. She got a little bit tripped up on her road to being Bernie Sanders on health care. I'm with Bernie on Medicare for all she kind of had to take her a while to adjust. Not Bernie Sanders. He is unapologetically all in on Medicare for all. He was out with a taped interview on MSNBC this morning talking about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Despite the fact that you love your insurance company, you love arguing with them. You could have to find somebody else to argue with. You used to get all the coverage that you need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That idea that somehow it is going away.

SANDERS: But point is how many loves their insurance company, where people love is the doctors and the hospital and you will retain that. And in fact you will have more choice on the Medicare for all, brings everybody in it together you can go to any doctor you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think that ideological consistency, particularly on health care, is a big reason why Bernie Sanders has had that resilience, had that durability, because we've seen how health care, particularly Medicare for all, has tripped up lots of people.

You talked about Elizabeth Warren, and I think her sort of her decrease in the polling and her stature coincided with how much she struggled to explain, for example, how she would pay for a Medicare for all campaign. Whereas Bernie Sanders has been very honest, he says, while costs overall may go down for American families but at the end of the day, taxes could very well go up and he's been trying to very candid and honest about that.

Also I think too the question that I have is when other Democratic candidates start treating him like a frontrunner because that's also something we haven't seen for a while. We've seen a lot of the other candidates take their turn at having all the arrows pointed at them. We saw that with Biden at the beginning of the campaign, Elizabeth Warren a few months later and Pete Buttigieg now. Bernie Sanders hasn't really been treated like that. BASH: Let's look at some of the numbers. This is the latest national poll from Reuters. If you look at Bernie Sanders here, he should be treated as a frontrunner given these numbers. He is this is him in the middle here he is within the margin of error of Joe Biden, for example, on health care and on immigration. On immigration and the economy, on healthcare and on the environment he is way ahead of not just Joe Biden but all the other candidates.

[12:10:00]

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHYDC: But also if you look at Iowa which votes first he has been consistently polling in second place, and when I say second place, I mean a close second place depending on where he's been in first place.

You mentioned about how he's been treated. In some ways being underestimated has benefited Bernie Sanders because Elizabeth Warren was getting attacked on those issues and Kamala Harris before her because they were seen as the frontrunner at that time. Many times on the debate stage, Bernie Sanders has fought back, and while they were all fighting he didn't get involved in the Pete Buttigieg-Elizabeth Warren wine cave thing, even though it was his staff that were wearing wine cave shirts to the debate.

They have sat back and cautiously allowed others candidates to attack each other while he's stayed focused on his specific issues and being invoked. You were talking about also his organization. Everybody has to remember that last time he was running against Hillary Clinton in Iowa, he came very, very close to winning Iowa, and that organization and much of that support, while some of it has gone to Elizabeth Warren, has not gone away.

BASH: So there's one other thing I want to get to before we move on to a different topic, and that is the outrage that the Sanders campaign is doing to the Latino community. This is a quote from "The Washington Post" on Thursday. As complaints have mounted about other candidates for the Democratic nomination, Sanders has without fanfare, have been building a base of support in Latino communities.

Sanders continue to probably have the best Latino outreach so far. So there is the organization and he also has a very influential supporter and endorser and that is AOC who is very much helping him in this community and beyond this community.

KNOX: I love to see the generational break down of Bernie's appeal inside the Latino community. We have to remember it's not a monolith. Cuban Americans vote differently from the Mexican Americans. The community is very different. I would like to see what the breakdown is.

It's interesting in general because there is a track because of the progressive stuff he does attract a lot of young people. Democrats have had trouble with some Latino populations either because they're very catholic or they were small business owners. I have not seen what AOC is telling Latino voters on behalf of Bernie. MATTINGLY: One thing on AOC which tracks with what she was saying earlier. When you listen to her speak when she is on the trail, all she talks about is the movement. She doesn't talk about Bernie Sanders being the guy or the one or anything like that. She talks about him being kind of the vessel for the movement which is how she got involved when she a volunteer for his campaign and sort of really tracks in her stump speech and her kind of effort tracks in, with I think the broader effort of the campaign.

When you have that highest level surrogate perhaps the highest level surrogate based on these upon Bernie's kind of track inside the party who dovetails so well with the message that you're trying to get out, that can be remarkably effective.

BASH: So it's a little bit of a retro here it's not, I'm with her, it's, I'm with you all, right?

MATTINGLY: Yeah.

BASH: Okay. Thanks. I got it. I understood what you're saying. All right we will stand by. Up next, President Trump has spent the week criticizing Nancy Pelosi on Twitter. Her Caucus and her family are pushing back. Stay with us.

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[12:15:00]

BASH: President Trump is spending yet another day lodging public complaints against the impeachment process, tweeting this morning and quoting, what else, Fox News, complaining about impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Meanwhile, House Democrats they are lining up to defend the Speaker's decision to withhold articles of impeachment from the Senate until she gets more details about the Senate trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): I have complete confidence in the Speaker to make that decision. I would expect that she probably will send them in the coming weeks.

REP. DON BEYER (D-VA): I don't begin to second-guess her. Although I suspect that it won't be that long.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Well, I think she's being smart.

REP: GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): It's not a political play. What people are calling politics and partisan, et cetera, sometimes the question of what is facts and what are not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: We're back with our reporters. Phil Mattingly translates that into non-Democratic Caucus speak. MATTINGLY: We have absolutely no idea whatsoever because the Speaker hasn't told us yet what she's going to do. I think that's the funny part. When you watch Democratic members come on, they don't know. That's not a shot at them. I think the Speaker is just keeping this very closely held at this point in time.

I think the expectation is the first week lawmakers are back for a full week, the articles will be sent over and things will begin to kick out. I think the bigger question right now is the Speaker saying she'll hold out until she has a better idea what the trial is going to look like? And the Majority Leader in the Senate making very clear that what Democrats in the Senate want in terms of locking in witnesses and subpoenas for documents in the initial kind of rules and role for the trial isn't going to happen.

How does this work? Do you eventually just say give up and say, fine, we're going to fight for this later when we have votes on witnesses later on in the trial, or are we just going to kind of let things go? I think we don't have an answer to that and I think we do have a pretty firm understanding. This will start move pretty quick in January.

KIM: Yeah, I just think for it's been -- it will be an unsustainable position for Democrats to hold out sending over the articles of impeachment for a long time, because we've heard over and over again from House Democrats how quickly they had to move in the process. They obviously set that Christmas deadline for the impeachment vote.

They stressed that the primary reason they're not going to courts to fight these subpoenas for witnesses and documents is that timetable. They say part of the President is actively doing this during an active campaign season so we must act right away.

So when you're holding it back and delaying the process longer and delaying one critical part of the Senate impeachment process, I think that's been a difficult position for the Democrats to explain, so I think that's why you have this parade of Democrats saying, we expect her to send them.

BASH: It's not just Democrats in this Speaker's caucus, it's Democrats in the Speaker's family, namely one that she gave birth to, Christine Pelosi, who is her daughter, who also appears to be a Democratic Party official in California. Listen to what she said this morning on "New Day."

[12:20:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE PELOSI, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, DNC: Nancy Pelosi does everything with the long game in mind. I think that she'll move when the time is right. I think that justice will prevail. She will do what is necessary to make sure that she's done all she can, exhausting all of her constitutional remedies. Any efforts to try to take her off her game by insulting her only fuel her fire to be stronger than ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KNOX: Like that means anything, right? That's almost textbook problem. There's no message there.

BASH: But the reason why we wanted to show it is because it sounds a lot like what Nancy Pelosi says about herself when she's up against a wall.

KNOX: Oh, look I mean the -- this is a fight over whether and how to call witnesses in this trial? Democrats look at the polls that show that calling witnesses is more popular than actually proceeding with impeachment, and they think they've got leverage here. Whether they do or not, I don't know.

When Mitch McConnell talks about following the Clinton model, I'm not sure exactly what he means. The Senate voted in secret on some rules of the road. They didn't have live witnesses, they had some videotape witnesses. They have a lot of options here, but I think at bottom which is like look, the polls are showing something like 60 percent of Americans support calling witnesses, but the number for actual impeachment actual removal is much, much larger.

BASH: No question, and my impression of what he means when he says follow the Clinton rules is let's not deal with witnesses or documents until we start the trial, and then we'll do it the good old-fashioned way, we'll vote. Or I'll find a way to block the votes, is probably what he's really thinking.

CHAMBERS: And of course that's not what Democrats want. They want to agree to these live witnesses before specifically for including Mick Mulvaney, who they had like to hear from but Republicans have made it pretty clear that that's unlikely to happen. And the President also wants witnesses but they have also made it clear that that's unlikely to happen.

And they're running up against a wall in time are whole first bloc we talked about the 2020 Presidential Race. I hate to make this about the 2020 Presidential Race that in many ways it is because you start running against the Iowa voting New Hampshire and you do factually have Senators who will need to be there campaigning who need to be there on the day of the caucus, and how long this impeachment will continue becomes an issue for them.

BASH: And you mentioned 2020 which of course is all about politics and base politics and finding their nominee, but it's also, when you look at the politics of this, there is also a lot riding on how Chuck Schumer handles this? Which is why you're seeing him continue to try to not just get under the President's skin but send up flares to Democratic donors and to the base like, I'm fighting, I'm doing what I can.

Here's what he did in a tweet just this week. President Trump, if you are so confident that you did nothing wrong, then why won't you release the emails and let the witnesses testify under oath? He's not doing that because he really thinks that's going to happen? MATTINGLY: No, look I think the big concern that you've heard from Democrats outside is the Senate just kind of let this happen and let McConnell do what he always does, which is run the show and kind of control the entire process now the difference here is with impeachment unlike I mean regular legislation Majority Leader doesn't necessarily have the kind of rock solid power if he doesn't have 51 votes to back him up here.

That said don't ignore the reality here that Democrats are also use this for the message right?

BASH: Exactly.

MATTINGLY: They know how this is going to end. They know that they are on 67 votes to remove the President and nothing that happens over the course of the next month or too is likely to change that. And so the idea of framing this as the President and Mitch McConnell are rigging the trial and turning it into a sham, and whatever happens here because they're not allowing a fulsome trial to occur benefits them to majority side.

If you know how this is going to end and it's not going to end in a way that you think it should, and then frame it in a different manner. And I think more than anything else that's probably the best way to look at what's going on this past week and half or two weeks and why this will probably come to an end at least the stock of the stalemate once they get back in January.

KIM: And other point to add about Chuck Schumer too he has told his caucus members treat this seriously, treat this soberly because they want to hammer the point that McConnell and Lindsey Graham are out there saying we're not partial people but we also can forget that there are members of this caucus who have said for months that they would already vote to convict the President in a trial obviously Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris when they were running on the campaign trial has been one of those people. So there are a lot of questionable statements all around.

BASH: We have to take a quick break, but I will say Dick Durbin told me last Sunday or the Sunday before, I'm losing track of time, that he admonished Senators in both parties, including in his own Caucus.

All right, everybody stand by, because up next the President's 2020 messaging is not just about Democrats and impeachment, that's what his campaign wants. Stay with us.

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[12:25:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see tremendous job growth because we're setting records, but you know what I also see? The 401(k) s where people are up 90 percent, they're up 97 percent, they're up 82 percent. Did you ever hear the economy is stupid? That was Clinton talking. I have the greatest economy in the history of this country. While Democrats are obsessed with impeachment, we're focused on jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That was President Trump at his latest rally in Battle Creek, Michigan. His messaging is much the same today on Twitter, touting new trade deals and promising the best is yet to come.