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Donald Trump Denies Reports Of Post-Impeachment Staff Shake-Up; Donald Trump Hurls Insults At Adversaries in Post-Impeachment Victory Lap; Seven Democratic Candidates To Debate In New Hampshire Tonight; Mayor Pete Buttigieg: I Know Some Of My Ideas Aren't Popular; U.S. Economy Adds 225,000 Jobs In January, Beating Expectations. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired February 7, 2020 - 12:00   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's still, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders led the way in Iowa. Elizabeth Warren and certainly Joe Biden did not. His fourth-place finish will remain the same. And perhaps that is the biggest Iowa takeaway. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Thanks so much stay warm buddy. Thanks so much for joining me. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The economy keeps roaring. 225,000 new jobs added last month. 2020 is off to a strong start, and that's a great gift for the President's reelection campaign.

Plus the Iowa Democratic Party says it is finally done counting. The deadline to officially challenge the Caucus' count is in one hour. The two candidates on top, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, say it's time to move on.

And it is debate night in New Hampshire. The primary there is Tuesday, so the stakes there are giant President Trump among those offering some pre-debate analysis.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's very sad what happened with the Bidens, and it's also very sad how he's doing in the polls. You don't know what happened in Iowa, because if you look, they're essentially tied. Everybody is a threat. I view everybody as a threat.


KING: We begin the hour with a direct denial from the man you just saw there, the President of the United States. There's some new CNN reporting about a potential post-impeachment White House staff shake- up.

(BEGI N VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: That was a false report. I have a great relationship with Mick. I have a great relationship with Mark. And it's false.


KING: That was the President as he left for North Carolina just last hour, telling reporters, not true. His Acting Chief of Staff is on solid ground, the President says. But sources are telling CNN that Mick Mulvaney is very much out of favor with the boss and that the President no longer listens to his Acting Chief of Staff.

These sources, though, are split on Mulvaney's future and when or if the President will replace him. With me this day to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins Toluse Olorunnipa with "The Washington Post" Karoun Demirjian also with "The Post" and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast".

You are part of the reporting on this. We've known for a long time of the dysfunction in the Mulvaney/Trump relationship but during impeachment it was viewed as just an untenable prospect you could not, because he was so essential to withholding of Ukrainian aid, it would be risky to let him go. We've seen the President some embolden right now. Where is this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They essentially just didn't want any more chaos during the impeachment of having to replace a Chief of Staff. And so the President said there that he has a great relationship with Mulvaney by no means it is the state of their relationship similar to what John Kelly's and the President's was when they were barely on speaking terms.

When he was pushed out as Chief of the Staff but it's definitely not a good relationship. The President doesn't listen to Mulvaney's advice, he is pretty dismissive of his suggestions and so it's not essentially seen as this potentially long-term thing.

The question, though, there when Mulvaney's departure could come is who is going to replace him? And we should know that Mark Meadows was seen as one of the front runners to replace Mulvaney is flying on the plane with the President today to North Carolina, along with Mick Mulvaney.

So they're all just be on their together to talk about this reporting, but the question of course is depends on if Mark Meadows would take the job and when?

KING: And even if you want to do that if you're the President even if you don't like your Chief of Staff, even if you have some dysfunction in the White House which he's had to varying degrees since day one, a lot of voters have turned away from the President because of the tweets and the constant chaos.

If you have more turnover in an election year may be that bothers you. But the President says false. You were at the White House for a long time when it was false, he was out of favor with Reince Priebus, it was false when he was out of favor with later John Kelly, Henry McMaster the National Security Adviser, Kirsten Neilson the Department of Homeland Security, Rush Tillerson the Secretary of State James Mattis, the Defense Secretary. The President said in each of those, not true. They're all gone.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They're all gone and a lot of times they were dismissed by tweet and the President like to be the one that breaks his own news. He doesn't like when he gets scooped by us in the media and other reporters that sort of previews what he's going to do before he does it.

So I wouldn't be surprised if the President denies something that's actually true and then he ultimately end up doing what was reported. We've seen that pattern happen multiple times within this administration.

I would say that Mick Mulvaney is someone who is still a part of this Ukraine issue impeachment scandal. We may hear more about his involvement in the holding of aid from Ukraine. John Bolton is about to come out with a book, and he was the one who said, I don't want to be part of this drug deal that Mulvaney is cooking up as part of this scheme to withhold this aid from Ukraine.

So getting rid of Mick Mulvaney is still something that could be a threat to the President even though he survived an impeachment. This information could come out and he could end up being someone who provides information that is negative about the President on the outside, so it might be in the President's interest to keep him close.

KING: It would be risky as - and another thing that came up - came that you heard the President yesterday at his rally at the White House I don't know what else to call it, kind of mocking Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and his brother. Colonel Vindman of course testified against the President in the impeachment inquiry.

The testimony was damaging to the President. He said he wasn't there to oppose the President but the testimony was damning. Now reporting from CNN that Colonel Vindman likely to be reassigned to the Pentagon sooner than expected, he was expected to stay on national security detail for several more months.


KING: Here's the president moments ago.


TRUMP: Well, I'm not happy with him. Do you think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he going to leave?

TRUMP: Don't make that decision. He'll be here--


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he on the way out? TRUMP: I think he'll be making that decision.


KING: That's actually tame in the sense that you know the President is beyond not happy, and yesterday he was more scornful, if you will. In private conversations he has been more so. He's in a good mood and that was pretty tame.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean there is a fine line between looking like it is retribution or looking like it was just time for him to move on given the circumstances surrounding his position there. So it seems like there Trump was trying to walk that line.

Yesterday he wasn't. Who knows where he'll end up? I also think it's also interesting, they will make that decision. Not him, not the President, the decider. They someone else will make that decision.

KING: Well, I think you're right; they're trying to make clear that for the debate about whether it was retribution, he'd like to stay on the safe side of that debate. The President's mindset is interesting at this moment because we're going to talk a little later about the economy, we're going to talk a little later about the Democrats who are off to a messy early start in their race.

The President is in the best believe it or not pos-impeachment the strongest political standing in months, if not the strongest political standing in his Presidency. He's in a very good mood about a lot of things. Not the Democrats.


TRUMP: Well, I think there is a lot of evil on that side. They've gone crazy. They've gone totally crazy. It's too bad. I do work with Democrats, I work with everybody, but that group is - you know, they say Trump derangement syndrome. They've got it. They've got a bad case of it. You saw that. That was on display the other night when she ripped up the speech.


KING: The prospect you hear the President in the context of that question was can you get anything done with the Democrats? You've been on the Hill throughout this whole impeachment thing. There is nothing happening between now and the election. Is there anything significant?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Look the USMCA was the one big thing that had to happen alongside all of this, and it did, and so now we're in a zone where there is not going to be anything new that happens it is major bipartisan legislation.

You saw at the State of the Union, and it's not the speech-ripping moment, it is generally speaking that the Democrats are upset. They're upset with the way Trump was taking - that was the pre-victory lap, I guess, the victory lap he's been taken to victory lap since. They're worried about what this means as you know, you've got a week that started with Iowa and ends up with an acquittal and the President now taking a very highly, sharply tongued charges, basically, at everybody who opposed him from Nancy Pelosi to Mitt Romney.

And so that's the situation which they're dealing right now. There is no goodwill right now on and you were on Capitol Hill to actually do anything that they're not forced to do. So let's watch the budget. Let's see if that actually happens before the election or if it kind of gets pushed later, but that's basically the only question about where they have to work together or could work together at this point of course.

KING: And to the point it's interesting, you're never quite sure which President you get on any given day. It's kind of understated. Today the President there, even though he was denying some reporting about potential personal changes, let's listens to a very different tone on what he called a celebration yesterday.


TRUMP: You had some who used religion as a crutch. They never used it before. It's a failed Presidential Candidate, so things can happen when you fail so badly running for President. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.

She said, I pray for the President, I pray for the - if the. She doesn't pray. She may pray but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all. If I didn't fire James Comey, we would have never found this guy, because when I fired that sleazebag, all hell broke out.


KING: It's interesting both with a snapshot into the President and where his mind is right now. Having covered the White House for nine and a half plus years, that's also one of the sacred spots in the building if you will the East Room where you have big announcement and big press conferences the cross hall and corporate down and everything sleazebag, evil.

COLLINS: And that James Comey comments, saying all hell broke loose. Yes, because you fired the FBI Director who was investigating you and that's what launched the Mueller investigation so that didn't had those special counsel being appointed. So yes, that was something of the President own doing but it was remarkable to be in that room yesterday as that was happening, because we had been prepared by A to Z.

You know he has - braised yourselves because he is ready to really, he has felt restrained, he's ready to unleash. So we knew we were going to get something of that nature. But even at some point you saw people in that room, the President's allies kind of like looking at each other or not sure how to laugh when he was reliving the Steve Scalise shooting in like the pretty graphic detail. And it was just a really jarring at event at some times, but you did sense that the President felt this vindication that he was right, and that's why you saw him be so vindictive toward people that he believes try to bring him down like the Democrats and even people like Mitt Romney.


KING: We'll see it today out to North Carolina we'll see what happens there. There is quick programming note. CNN's Jake Tapper has an exclusive interview this afternoon with the Former Top Diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. That's on "The Lead' today at 4:00 pm eastern.

Coming up for us Senator Bernie Sanders gives us a preview of tonight's contentious democratic debate.


KING: Welcome back. It is a very big day in the Democratic Presidential Race. The Iowa Democratic Party, four days later, here is the map says it is finally at - look - 100 percent in its count. And the numbers show Mayor Pete Buttigieg with a very narrow delegate edge over Senator Bernie Sanders.

New Hampshire voters next on Tuesday and seven candidates will share a debate there tonight. The timing and the state of this race make this the biggest debate of the cycle so far. It's a crossroads moment for those who ran third or worse out in Iowa. Testing time for the two candidates hoping they can build on these Iowa results and wake Wednesday with the label early Democratic frontrunner.


KING: Senator Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire four years ago. At a breakfast event today it was clear he sees the Iowa results as no fluke and sees Mayor Buttigieg as his most immediate challenge.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm reading some headlines from newspapers about Pete Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat. That was from Forbes. We are going to need a government that unapologetically represents working people and not wealthy corporations not billionaires. But that is - who saw it all you want.


KING: CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us live from Manchester. Ryan, you're at that event with Senator Sanders this morning. What else did he say about the state of the race?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We know it is interesting John. I actually asked Senator Sanders yesterday that draw the things what Pete Buttigieg and what he told me then was, just wait for the debate, so it was clear that he and his team were primed for this battle against between the Former South Bend Mayor and the Vermont Senator.

They understand now that those results in Iowa clearly show that there is the moderate wing of the party that seems to be on some level coalescing around Pete Buttigieg. But it was clear from his remarks here today John that he understands that this big turnout operation that they were banking on in Iowa has not quite come through the way they expected to.

In order for him to win, he needs to bring in a broad coalition of folks, people that don't often that you can normally rely on to come out in vote Caucus and vote. And the same can be said here in New Hampshire, and he alluded to that this morning. Take a listen.


SANDERS: In my view you do not defeat Trump unless you have the largest voter turnout in the history of this country. If we believe that a large voter turnout is necessary, what campaign has the capability of reaching out effectively to what we call nontraditional voters?


NOBLES: So that's been a big argument from Sanders from the very beginning, that in order for Democrats to beat Donald Trump in the fall they need to expand the universe of voters. Now they attempted to deploy that strategy in Iowa and fell a little bit short at least in terms of the voter turnout.

Obviously the results in Iowa have yet to be determined, but John, this is going to be the argument going forward. The energy, the enthusiasm in the Democratic Party is behind the Sanders Campaign, and that's the case that they're delivering to New Hampshire voters here. They're hoping that those turnout numbers are much different here on Tuesday. John?

KING: Ryan Nobles live for us from Manchester. I appreciate you take a shot at Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the morning. I guess we can probably expect one from Mayor Pete Buttigieg tonight. That will be an interesting debate night. Ryan thanks very much.

And this is an interesting debate night, in the sense that you have the Iowa results. If you're Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar or anybody below that, Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, you're thinking, that you can't keep losing. If your goal is to win the nomination not just be in the race to make a statement, you can't keep coming in third or fourth and then telling voters, I'm the strongest person to beat Donald Trump if you can't beat Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders.

Let's start with Mayor Buttigieg, so he comes out of Iowa with some momentum by all accounts up in New Hampshire. He is in play with Senator Sanders. He had a CNN town hall last night where he says, hey look, I'm different.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that some of my views on what we need to do as a country are not that popular. Frankly I'm showing a level of respect for New Hampshire voters' expectation of my honesty when I share with them a view that might not be popular around here, that I think that the Electoral College has run its course and in the future we ought to pick our Presidents in a way to make sure that the one who got the most votes actually gets to be President. But I say that because I think it's the right thing to do.


KING: So he says I'm the new, young, fresh face, I'm different. I think we're going to hear a lot tonight. You're 38. You ran a city that has 100,000 people or so in it. You're interesting but you're not ready. Is that what we're going to hear?

DEMIRJIAN: Probably a lot of that from various members of the stage. We're also probably going to say, look, getting rid of the Electoral College is a nice theoretical idea but it's not what people care about when they are voting about what's the new idea. They care about new ideas on health care and the economy because they're not sitting around in their kitchen table for 365 days of non-election years thinking about the Electoral College that much.

KING: Am I the only person who does that?



DEMIRJIAN: Anyway, so it's going to be interesting to see what this interplay is with Buttigieg, because that now everybody has to take him seriously. They can't just brush him off as the kid at the table because he did have such a strong showing in Iowa.

But it's going to be a real - much more of a mud fight now about do the things that you say to back up your fresh face actually count as fresh ideas in this party?

KUCINICH: But one of the things you hear on the campaign trail which is probably why he's talking about keeping his promises. You heard it from Biden and Buttigieg about Sanders that he's promising things that cannot be delivered based on his Medicare for all, things that can't functionally happen because of the makeup of the Congress.


KUCINICH: Because who would have to approve it? So I think that's where that's coming from in terms of, what I'm telling you things that you might not like but at least I'm being honest with you.

KING: And Biden was off the trail yesterday doing debate prep. A lot people in New Hampshire kind of rolling their eyes about that. He came back to Delaware. You can do debate prep in New Hampshire and say pop out to Dunkin' Donuts and talk to voters for a two or three minutes. So it has been done for years.

But there are a lot of questions about this. But he did the day before he went after both Senator Sanders said, if he's at the top of the ticket, we're doomed. He is socialist Democrats going to lose all down bow. He went after Mayor Buttigieg on the experience issue.

In "The Post" there is this interesting story about from the Biden Campaign, Dick Harpootlian, a very quotable Democrat from South Carolina and a Biden supporter said, from a Biden perspective, there's going to be a course correction in all three states before Super Tuesday. He's got to have sharper elbows. History may write that the best thing that ever happened to Joe Biden was getting gut-punched in Iowa. It woke him up. It woke his campaign up and his supporters up. They were complacent. You've got to talk about the other guy.

So team Biden suggesting that that was going to happen in the debate tonight boom, boom and boom. That hasn't been his MO throughout his career.

OLORUNNIPA: It hasn't and it hasn't really been successful for him in and when he tries to do it and when he tries to go out against other candidates, it makes it harder for him to get his own message across what he would do for the country? Why he should be President? Why he wants to be President?

And after being Vice President for 8 years, being in the Senate for 36 years, what he would what he would bring that's new to the Presidency, not just how he's different or he's not a socialist or how he has all this experience and Buttigieg has very little experience?

It's not necessarily the best message to just be on the attack if you can't put forward an optimistic message. And I think that's where he has been successful in the past sort of being this happy warrior and having a more optimistic message. Whether or not it's working now or whether or not it can work in the world of Trump.

I think that's the question and I think that's why he went back to Delaware he tried to reset and figure out what message he should put forward to voters before New Hampshire and try to survive until South Carolina.

KING: Now everybody keep saying he's got the fire on South Carolina, but there is just - just looks at past campaigns this campaign could be different. Last campaign was different. But if you commit, if you're the Former Vice President of the United States and you are calling card is I'm strongest to beat Trump, and you come in fourth in Iowa and then if you come in third or fourth again in New Hampshire, it just makes it really hard to look people in the eye and say I'm strong when you're not running strong.

DEMIRJIAN: Well, which is why it is going to be so interesting because they keep saying look at South Carolina, look down the line at South Carolina, but if he doesn't rack up some sort of finish this actually seem like he is the contender, South Carolina may be more of the tie breaker between Buttigieg and Sanders in this race than it is necessarily the win that Bidens back but they are promising everybody will be.

COLLINS: Yes, I think that's an area right there about this being a gut-punch that wakes up his campaign and his supporters is the best case scenario for Joe Biden. If that doesn't happen in New Hampshire, he is going to be in serious trouble.

KING: Had the money has gone. The money he was in money issues to be - he's already in money issues, he is going to have more. Another one is Amy Klobuchar who came in fifth in Iowa. She might get a delegate or two out of there. She's trying to say that's a good thing.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every single time I have exceeded expectations. We came very close in terms of the number of people that turned out to Vice President Biden. Look at the numbers yourself. So we actually left Iowa with a lot of enthusiasm.


KING: Again, it's hard to run for President. And it's very difficult, especially in a crowded field, and a crowded field that's raising a lot more money than you. But saying you beat expectations when you came in behind somebody who performed horribly, it is hard. So, again, this debate tonight is huge, whether it's Warren - huge for everybody, but if you're Warren, Biden or Klobuchar it cannot be the same as Iowa.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. It is an essential moment from them to revive themselves. I mean, Klobuchar cannot be cheering for being runner-up in the number fourth position and really get to more than may another standards.

KUCINICH: But there is really a cage match for this moderate wing since Biden is faltering and Buttigieg is still - people are still trying to figure out if they like him or not, there is an opening for Klobuchar if she's able to go through it.

KING: And if somebody doesn't seize it, a bit later we're going to talk about the guy who is waiting to try to seize it Mayor Bloomberg who is not competing in the first full contest, but is sitting around saying so far this is playing out good for me.

Coming up the Trump economy gets its latest report card. We'll break down the numbers and tell you just how happy the President is?



KING: Fresh economic numbers today show a booming resilient labor market the U.S. economy adding 225,000 jobs in January that's according to the latest jobs report that number beat economist expectations and it gives the President a nice boost to begin the election year.


TRUMP: We just came out with fantastic job numbers. I think it was 230,000, or something thereabouts, which was much higher than projection. So jobs continue to be great, our country continues to do great.


KING: Let's take a closer look at the numbers. CNN's Christine Romans breaks them down.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, the mighty American jobs machine is still churning out new jobs. 225,000 net new jobs in January. That is more than economists have been expecting and likely because of the weather.

Because when you look inside the sectors, you can see construction had a surge in job creation, transportation warehousing, bars and restaurants added a lot of jobs, health care, again, 36,000 jobs there, but manufacturing still a weak spot in this economy. Many say manufacturing is actually in a recession.