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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Blasts Sanders Camp For Trying To Trash Her; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) Drops Out Of Presidential Race; Trump Officials Struggle To Defend Claims Of Embassy Plots. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired January 13, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: I hope I get homogenous.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts Right Now. Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, a big week begins, impeachment, Iran and Iowa, and now the president is turns against the idea of having a Senate trial to decide his fate.

Plus, the Trump administration struggles to explain the intelligence that led to the deadly strike on an Iranian general.

Also, on the eve of the last Democratic debate before the primary elections, Bernie Sanders and his campaign are feuding with not one but two rivals.

And the royal crisis gets a royal summit, why Meghan Markle called into the queen's family meeting to discuss her and Prince Harry's dramatic exit from their official roles.

But we begin with a shake-up and tensions in the 2020 race, Senator Cory Booker dropping out just three weeks from the Iowa caucuses. We'll get to that in a moment.

But, first, bad blood suddenly brewing between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The two Democratic presidential hopefuls will face off in a CNN debate in Iowa tomorrow. Warren is blasting the Sanders Campaign for reportedly giving volunteers a script to follow to denigrate her as a candidate only appealing to the elite. But that may now be only part of the story between these two.

Here with me now is CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN Political Correspondent M.J. Lee.

And, M.J. you have some new details about a meeting between these two, a long ago meeting before either of them joined the race. Tell us about this.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have some new reporting on a private meeting that took place between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in December of 2018. You can do the math on the timing of all of this. This would have been when both senators were both preparing to launch their 2020 campaigns, and the two met in Warren's Washington, D.C. apartment, and they discussed a couple of things.

And here's what CNN learned. We learned that the two discussed the importance of staying civil and not going on the attack against one another if the two were to face off in the 2020 election. They thought that it was important to not undermine the progressive movement. We also have reporting that they discussed ways to beat Donald Trump, and that Warren told Bernie Sanders that two major reasons she thought that she would be a strong candidate was because she could mount a robust argument on the economy, and that she thought she could get broad support from female voters.

Now, four sources tell CNN that Bernie Sanders responded to Elizabeth Warren by saying he does not believe that a woman can win. Now, we are also told that Sanders expressed some frustration about the role of identity politics for Democrats and also that Elizabeth Warren disagreed with Sanders' assessment that a woman could not win.

Now, the Warren campaign did not comment in response to the story, but Bernie Sanders has just sent this statement to CNN. I will read it in full. He said, it is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn't win. It's sad that three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could.

Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course. After all, Hillary Clinton beat donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016. So, Brianna, not only is Bernie Sanders aggressively pushing back, he is now accusing the Warren campaign of lying.

KEILAR: Well, it's interesting, the Warren campaign isn't commenting. Elizabeth Warren could say, no, that's not, actually, the conversation didn't happen. So that's really important to note that, Gloria.

But I wonder, how do you think this plays? There's either -- he personally doesn't think a woman can win if you take this conversation a face value or that American voters won't support a woman, in his opinion, does it matter which one?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, both are bad for him. I mean, either way, if he said to her, you know, I don't think a woman can win, I don't think voters will support a woman, she is the woman left standing. And campaigns are about differences, and she's got that big difference. I might point out that in terms of her support among women, she and Bernie Sanders among Democratic women voters, she and Bernie Sanders are about the same. It's not as if she has overwhelming support among women, and neither did Hillary Clinton. And, of course, you covered Hillary Clinton so you remember that that was always a problem.


This may be -- Elizabeth Warren, I'm sure, will be talking about this, and this may be one way she can shore up support with women voters who will say, what, are you kidding? Of course, a woman can win, or of course, a woman should be there.

KEILAR: What do you think, Gloria, about the timing of this and the fact that Elizabeth Warren is -- I mean, she is letting this stand, right? She is letting this stand. If she thought that this was not how the conversation went, you would presume that she would say so. What do you think about the timing?

BORGER: Look, I think this is a race and she wants to win Iowa. And she's going the wrong way in the polls, right, M.J.? I mean, you cover her more than anybody else.

LEE: Her political movement has stalled in recent months. That's absolutely right.

BORGER: Exactly. So what she's trying to do is establish some differences with Bernie Sanders on many fronts. And she attacked him and his campaign for effectively calling her elite, right?

And so I think that's what campaigns are about, and I'm not surprised she's finding a way to do it.

LEE: Yes. I mean, two things really stood out to me from our new reporting. First of all is sort of the gender politics that we're seeing in the 2020 election, as Gloria just talked about, but second, this sort of juggling act that we see between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on sort of managing both their friendship and their political rivalry, right?

It was clear, even before this reporting, that there has been some sort of a non-aggression pact between the two senators based on the fact they have been friends for a long time and they have said that out on the campaign trail, both of them publicly, and also the fact that they are largely aligned in sort of the progressive causes that they are fighting for. I do think that with this and sort of over the last 72 hours out on the campaign trail, we are really seeing any kind of non-aggression pact that might have existed really fraying, and very fascinating that all of this is happening right on the eve of the CNN debate tomorrow.

BORGER: In politics, there is no such thing as a non-aggression pact, particularly when you're so close to the Iowa caucuses and those top candidates are so bunched up. You have to figure out a way to differentiate yourself. That's what she's doing.

KEILAR: Maybe it's an I'll throw you off the lifeboat last pact. Gloria, M.J., thank you both so much. We have some more major news on the Democratic race for president. Senator Cory Booker is dropping out just one day before the CNN Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. Now, Booker hadn't met those DNC requirements to be on the debate stage.

Let's bring in Political Reporter Errin Haines. She's joining us from Philadelphia. So, Errin, Booker says he has no path, right? He doesn't see path now to victory. How much do you think this final decision came down to a lack of money?

ERRIN HAINES, POLITICAL REPORTER: Hi there, Brianna, good afternoon, good to be with you. I had a chance to talk to the campaign this morning, and I think what happened for them is that they -- it really became more and more clear to them over the weekend that Senator Booker did not have a path forward. They talked about the double whammy of really the looming impeachment trial and the fact that he was not able to make the debate stage tomorrow for the second time here.

You know, the debates really had been for Senator Booker, really, a boost for him, particularly in terms of fundraising. If you remember the last time he was on the debate stage in Atlanta, his closing argument was really a pitch to voters to keep him in the race, and that literally bought him some more time in the campaign. So the fact that he wasn't able to do that on his own was certainly a challenge. But combined with the fact that he won't be able to really be on the campaign trail over these next three weeks heading into the Iowa caucuses means that they just didn't really see how he could continue in the race at this time.

KEILAR: Listening to coverage of Iowa caucus-goers talking about Cory Booker, it seems like a lot of Iowans who will participate in the caucuses, they like Cory Booker, right? He just wasn't their top choice, maybe he was their second choice or their third choice. So they like him. And you tweeted that he could still be a big supporter or surrogate or even maybe a vice presidential running mate. Who do you think that would be for?

HAINES: I think that remains certainly an open question. He was a happy warrior who really, early on, was among of the first candidates to really kind of pitch this message of unifying a fractured electorate, right, even more so for him than defeating the president. That seemed to be a priority for him, was really bringing the country together. So it will be interesting to see maybe who absorbs some of those ideas into their platform and who else could carry that message forward. That could maybe be an indication of who he could consider.

I know that right now the senator is mainly focused on his own re- election.


He will be running for re-election in the Senate, but certainly I think continues to have a role to play headed into the primary and into November.

KEILAR: All right. Errin, thank you so much. Errin Haines joining us, it's very nice to see you.

And don't forget tomorrow night, the Democratic presidential debate at 9:00 Eastern, hosted by CNN in partnership with the Des Moines Register. That is 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

The Trump administration struggling with explaining the intel that led to that strike on an Iranian general and they can't keep the story straight.

Plus, why the president insists it doesn't matter whether attacks were imminent.

And hear why Meghan Markle called into the emergency family meeting with the queen as the royals discuss Harry and Meghan's dramatic exit.



KEILAR: The Senate could vote as early as tomorrow on a War Powers resolution to curb President Trump's military strikes against Iran. And this comes as key administration officials struggle to defend or even explain the intelligence behind the killing of Iran's top general.

The White House originally said Qasem Soleimani posed an imminent threat.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Large-scale attacks planned for other embassies. And if those were planned, why can't we reveal that to the American people? Wouldn't that help your case?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies and I think that probably Baghdad already started.


KEILAR: Now, the president says four embassies. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he didn't see the evidence for that but he still backs the president's claim.


MARK ESPER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: He didn't cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is probably -- he believed --

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS HOST: Are you saying there wasn't one?

ESPER: I didn't see one with regard to four embassies.

What the president said with regard to the four embassies is what I believed as well. And he said he believed that they probably -- that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region. I believe that as well.


KEILAR: Now, the president's national security adviser offered this explanation for why the administration won't release the intel to back up its claim.


ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That same intelligence, those same streams and channels are what allow us to protect Americans going forward. So rather than have a short-term political win, release the intelligence and say, I told you so, we want to keep the American people safe going forward.


KEILAR: Now, that intel and its presentation is a huge sticking point right now. CNN has learned that many lawmakers were not satisfied with briefings, particularly chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley's insistence that the intelligence was, quote, exquisite. That was a quote.

Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia is with us. He serves on the Foreign Affairs and the Oversight Committees in the House. Thank you so much for joining us.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Great to be with you, Brianna.

KEILAR: And you were in that briefing where Milley called the evidence exquisite.

CONNOLLY: He did. And the fact he went on to say it was some of the best intelligence he's ever seen in his career, intelligence that certainly was not presented to us, and that today, the president, in a sense, walked away from.

KEILAR: Because he was talking about the intelligence that you have seen though, right?

CONNOLLY: Yes. But the purpose of closed briefings when we have any kind of national security issue or emergency for the House and the Senate is to share the intelligence that justified the action. And we now have the president saying, well, either there wasn't such intelligence or it didn't matter.

KEILAR: Well, that's right. And let's pull up that tweet so we can discuss it. The president tweeted this just a couple hours ago. The fake news media and their Democrat partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was imminent or not and was my team in agreement. The answer to both is a strong yes, but it doesn't really matter because of his horrible past.

He does it sometimes where he sort of refutes all the different arguments, right?


KEILAR: But it doesn't really matter because of his horrible past. What do you say to that?

CONNOLLY: Well, that would be -- that is such a broad justification for the assassination of a foreign leader that it puts a lot of people at risk, apparently, in terms of the belief our president or the secretary of defense might have that you are a danger and need to be taken out.

You know, we live by laws. We live by international code of laws and the United States is a nation that respects laws and legal process, including our constitutional legal process. The War Powers Act requires an imminent threat in circumstances like this. And he sent all of his national security team to Congress to, in fact, ostensibly make the case there was an imminent threat. Now, he's saying it doesn't matter whether there was or wasn't, which seems forensically (ph) they concede there wasn't.

KEILAR: And we're hearing the story and we saw it right there, the stories of all these administration officials are very much all over the place. You've said that you think they're lying. What is the consequence of there not being a clear story or if they are lying?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think they're making it up as they go along to try to provide cover for the president. I really believe what happened here was it was not about intelligence, it was about opportunity. He's here in Baghdad. He's getting in the car. We have seconds to make a decision about whether to take him out or not just because he's a maligned actor, and he is, he's cost a lot of lives, and he has, and that we have this opportunity that might present itself for quite some time.


And that's what they did, and then after the fact have danced around trying to find some kind of rationale.

Why is that important? It's the consequences that action sets into motion, which could lead to lots of terrorism and lots of other deaths, American and otherwise.

KEILAR: But are there any consequences for the fact that these stories are all over the place, revealing that maybe there is something fishy going on with the justification? Is there any? Can Congress do anything?

CONNOLLY: I think that's a really good point, Brianna. I think there should be because it shows a lack of respect to the legislative branch, it shows a lack of respect for the constitutional separations of powers and respect for the constitutional provision in Article I that clearly makes the Congress, Brianna, in making decision about war and peace.

And the fact that you'd be willing to go before the entire U.S. House, the entire U.S. Congress and make it up and put us at risk perhaps for years in terms of tit-for-tat, in terms of retaliation and revenge, in terms of more terrorism, that's a very consequential thing that really has to be looked at very carefully.

KEILAR: The president has tweeted -- he tweeted out his support for the protesters in Iran first in English and then in Farsi. I know you've addressed this, that you've essentially said it's a bit much for the president to be lecturing others about press freedoms considerring how he treats the press here in the U.S. But you did acknowledge there are real forces in Iran that want reform and basically that those forces should be spoken to, right, should be engaged by the U.S.

The Iranian foreign minister though said -- the foreign minister spokesman said the president is dishonoring the Persian language. Do you think he was?

CONNOLLY: No, although it may be too cute by a half to be using Farsi. I will point out --

KEILAR: Why is that?

CONNOLLY: Well, you're the American president and clearly you don't speak Farsi. Your tweets are heavily laden with sarcasm, and in some cases, borderring on the racist, if not, crossing that border for political opponents, for the press, for anybody who is his target. He might be better off simply sticking to English.

KEILAR: So last week, the U.S. and Iran were very much on the brink of war after Iran retaliated by launching missiles at military bases that housed U.S. troops in Iraq. This, of course, was over the death of General Soleimani. Do you think we've seen the end of this back and forth, and if not, what's it going to look like?

CONNOLLY: Clearly, on the military front, restraint was invisible evidence on both sides. But I think that's the tip of the iceberg. I believe you can count on Iran to seek retaliation and revenge in other ways, maybe not the military option. Maybe the asymmetric terrorist option, which is certainly available to them with their cells and with the Hezbollah network throughout the region, and then there's cyber.

And the Iranians have gotten quite sophisticated in the ability to use cyber to attack installations, utilities, banks and military installations. And so I think we have to really be on our guard, not just for weeks but perhaps even for years.

And that is why if you're going to take that kind of action you took with the assassination by drone of Soleimani, make sure you've thought through how we're going to anticipate those consequences and react to them.

KEILAR: Congressman Connolly, thank you so much.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Brianna.

KEILAR: We really appreciate you joining us.

CONNOLLY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Is the president just the first of many Trumps in office? One veteran Republican operative says the Trumps are already making moves to become America's next political dynasty.

Plus, the queen speaks following that emergency royal family conference call, what she is saying about Harry and Meghan's decision to step back from their duties.



KEILAR: Are the Trumps on the verge of creating a political dynasty? Well, one well-known Republican says get ready because it's already happening. Rick Wilson has been a strategist and media consultant for more than 20 years, advising everyone, from Rudy Giuliani to Dick Cheney, specializing in creative, effective political ads for candidates and packs (ph) alike.

And in his new book, Running with the Devil, he predicts that this transition to dynasty will begin shortly after a 2020 victory saying, quote, mark my words, even the respectable elements of the conservative media will soon be producing think pieces on why Don Jr. is the bridge from raw Trumpism to a smoother, smarter, populist nationalism.


And Rick Wilson is with us now.

This piece is pretty funny.