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Bloomberg Defends "Stop and Frisk" Policy in 2015 Speech; Michael Bloomberg Crosses $350 Million in Ad Spending; Trump Touts GOP Enthusiasm at Large Rally on Primary Eve. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 11, 2020 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dealing with a new controversy today, this just as there was new evidence that he was rising and somewhat dramatically in the Democratic race. A new national poll from Quinnipiac University put Bloomberg at 15 percent. It also showed significant gains among African-American voters, critical in the later Democratic primaries.

As New York City mayor, Mr. Bloomberg had in place a now quite controversial, at the time controversial policy of stop and frisk by police officers. Listen to this audio circulating today from a speech he gave in 2015 at an Aspen Institute conference defending that policy.


Michael Bloomberg (d), presidential candidate: We put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes. That's true. Why do we do it? Because that's where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of kids' hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.


KING: After this audio surfaced, President Trump posted and then deleted a tweet this morning calling Bloomberg a racist. Bloomberg issuing a statement about the president and noting in that statement that, by the time he left office he said he had cut back by 95 percent the stop and frisk policy. But I should have done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities.

Mayor Bloomberg has as a candidate for president apologized. The question is, when you hear his voice, when Democratic activists, African-American, Latino voters, all any voters, but especially voters who have had to deal with this, what's the impact going to be?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've seen President Trump and his campaign pushing this out as much as possible because they know that when you hear the audio, it has more of an emotional impact. This is raw, unfiltered, Bloomberg talking about sort of having young minority kids thrown up against the wall and stopped and frisked. And he apologized for it earlier this year. But there is sort of a lingering doubt about whether or not he was authentic in his apology.

And when you hear some of his defense of this policy long after it had been controversial, long after it had gone through the courts and been thrown out as unconstitutional, he continued to defend it and talked about how the crime is always in the minority communities. And it is something that President Trump and his campaign are going to seize upon if he -- if Bloomberg continues to rise. You can hear -- you can expect to hear other Democrats talk about it.

I would point out that President Trump has also defended stop and frisk as early as, you know, his campaign. So maybe part of the reason that he deleted his tweet because he also has a lot of tapes and audio recordings of him personally defending stop and frisk.


So, this is an area that's going to be mined by both sides for quite a while.

KING: And in the short term, the issue for Bloomberg is the Democratic primary. It's a very interesting strategy, I say interesting, some people use other words. He sits out the first four contests and then says I'm going to come roaring in on Super Tuesday. He has spent $350 million, $350 million. That's one of the reasons he's up to 15 percent. But he's doing it smartly with ads like this.


BLOOMBERG: Whoever steps into that ring with Donald Trump better win because what's at stake is nothing less than America. So now who do you think is tough enough to go the distance?

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been a leader throughout the country for the past 12 years, Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leadership in action. Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama worked together in the fight for gun safety laws.


KING: The relatively new Obama ad in particular is an interesting strategy from Bloomberg in the sense that, number one, he's trying to take votes away from Biden who was Obama's vice president for eight years. Number two, he's trying to show I have appeal in the African- American community with one of your political heroes. One of your political heroes, Barack Obama liked me, praised me, repeatedly wanted to work with me. The question is, can he navigate now what will be tension?

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And he's really trying to get his record out there as someone who ran the largest city in the country and as someone who has that experience. Obviously, that's been something that comes up a lot in this primary. In terms of experience, Biden, of course, puts himself up there at first.

And so, that's going to be an interesting discussion. But more importantly, even the Democrats are going after Biden. They're saying that he's buying the election and he's not somebody who's really fighting and working hard to basically build up his reputation as someone who deserves this position. So it's going to be interesting when they do come face-to-face eventually and have to have that discussion.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it appears as though the ad, so far, based off of one poll are potentially working. I believe it was the Q poll yesterday which had Bloomberg at 22 percent amongst African-American voters to Biden's 27 percent. So he appears to have eaten into some of Biden's support nationally with black voters. The question is again, as you've mentioned, John, does this actually translate into big-time votes come Super Tuesday?

He's also making a play -- Bloomberg is also making a play for Latinos in states like California. And so he appears as he's though he's on a pretty big collision course not just with Biden but potentially Sanders.

KING: This -- every candidate gets tested. Every candidate especially any candidate with a record. Ask Joe Biden, ask Bernie Sanders, any candidate with a record, they've been around longer has things. You know, there are very few perfect people in politics. I would argue there are no perfect people in politics.

But this is going to be -- the question will be, put out the statement focusing on President Trump's tweet, he's going to have to spend more time I think, isn't he not in the garden of explaining, here is why I did it, here is why I realize it was a mistake?

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I think the question for most Democrats that we hear privately is what else is out there. What other recordings are out there? What other stories that are currently, you know, hidden right now? Because with Biden, we know his baggage is Ukraine whether rightly or wrongly, right? Some Democrats are worried, can he respond to that in a way that, you know, soothes voters.

With Bernie, it's the socialism tag, right? But with Bloomberg, these things keep coming out like this tape today that we heard that could be very potentially politically damaging. And I think Democratic voters are not as forgiving as Republican voters. I mean, Republicans really rallied around President Trump after the Access Hollywood tape.

Would Democratic voters rally around someone like Bloomberg if something very controversial and politically damaging came out.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And Biden is ready to seize on something like that.

KING: You can bet. You can bet on that. So it's a test. Candidates get tested in long campaigns. We shall see as we go to break. A solemn shift here. We want to note, a very important moment last night at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The president and the vice president both attending, you see it there, this dignified transfer of two soldiers killed during combat operations in Afghanistan. Those deaths on Saturday.

We'll be right back.



KING: Topping our political radar today, the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell up on Capitol Hill reassuring lawmakers on the strength of the U.S. economy. But, he does point out it does face challenge challenges. Among the risks Powell says, the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on China which Powell warns it could be a global economic threat.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Some of the uncertainties around trade have diminished recently but risks to the outlook remain. In particular, we are closely monitoring the emergence of the coronavirus which could lead to disruptions in China that spilled over to the rest of the global economy.


KING: Just moments ago, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer both ripping President Trump's budget proposal calling it, quote, a blueprint for destroying America.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Nine letters sums up the president's budget, H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y, hypocrisy.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The budget in terms of our legislative work is the heart of the matter. It's where it all begins. And this is a heartless budget.


KING: Up next, we go back to the campaign trail in New Hampshire where President Trump says Democrats are struggling to match Republican enthusiasm.



KING: Live pictures here. It's New Hampshire primary day. Those are voters in Nashua, a city just along the Massachusetts border

in Southern New Hampshire. See a few voters there. That's one of the big questions, how big will turnout be today. We'll going to count those votes a little bit later tonight.

It's not just all the Democrats on the ballot today, President Trump is also on the ballot, he faces the former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Well, last night, at a big rally in Manchester, the president didn't sound all that worried about competition from either party.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have more in this arena and outside of this arena than all of the other candidates, meaning the Democrats, put together and multiplied times five.


They always talk about the Democrats, they have enthusiasm, right? We have so much more enthusiasm, and that's not even close. They're all fighting each other, they don't know what they're doing, they can't even count their votes.


KING: Now disruption, we all know as a Trump trademark. The Washington Post today describing his thinking about these campaign rallies this way. "Trump liked that the Democrats who spent millions of dollars to compete in competitive and critical first-in-the-nation caucuses were pushed off the front pages by Trump's re-election machine." A campaign official going on in that story to say, quote, the thinking is if everyone in the world has their eyes on the state, why aren't we there.

To that point, take a peek here, the front page of at the state capital in New Hampshire today featuring Trump supporters lining up for that rally.

Toluse, you're one of the reporters on that piece. It is interesting, he doesn't have real primary opposition. Governor Weld will get what Governor Weld gets. We don't expect. We'll count the votes tonight, we'll see.

Maybe we get a surprise. But he has decided how much is this him and how much is the campaign. Let's go to Iowa, let's go to New Hampshire. And I assume he's going to track them around the country.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. He's going to continue this. And in part, it's because a lot of us are in New Hampshire. A lot of us are in Iowa. He's going to the places where the media coverage is, where he has a captive audience and he can have a contrast between what the Democrats are showing and what he's able to put together in terms of having people stand overnight, stand in line at rallies, fill up these big arenas. And he can show, you know, I have a bigger crowd than what the Democrats have. I have more support among my base than what the Democrats have. And I have the unity of my party while the Democrats are stuck in this nasty primary trying to figure out who they want to be their standard-bearer.

He is able to put that contrast before the voters and it sort of a political warfare tactic that he can use to show that he has, you know, the support of his party behind him. And he's going to go out west before the Nevada caucuses. Vice President Pence is going to be in Las Vegas right before the Nevada caucuses. So, we can expect this to continue as part of the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And do not underestimate, whatever your views watching, an incumbent president with a giant campaign war chest, a very professional campaign operation this time, having the advantage for months while the Democrats sort out. Now sometimes Democrats come out with a bunch of energy, sometimes that inspires them. But, the advantage of an incumbent -- we've had three consecutive two-term presidents. That's an anomaly in American history. We'll see if we get it again.

You should jump in, I just want to show, you know, remember, this is in part for fun, the president wants to, you know, mix it up with the Democrats. But in part, New Hampshire's tiny electoral votes, it was very close last time in a close election that could matter. Hillary Clinton, 46.8 percent, Donald Trump, 46.5 percent. Just shy of 3,000 votes separated New Hampshire, so why not, right?

SALAMA: Well, the thing that might clinch it for the president at least in terms of what he hopes is the economy. We're going in with a strong economy and obviously, that is something that's going to go a long way for him. But also, we were just talking earlier in the show about voter turnout. We saw that it dropped a little bit in Iowa. Democrats are a little bit concerned about that. In New Hampshire, that might not be the case.

But President Trump blatantly has the show of enthusiasm. Every single time he goes to hold a rally, he's got tens of thousands of people packing into these arenas because that's the kind of rallies he likes to do. He doesn't do the kind of small schools or diners, that's not (INAUDIBLE), he's not into that. But he shows that enthusiasm, and when Republicans see that, they see that enthusiasm, they see him going out there every week and kind of taking the Democrats head-on.

That's something that they can really get into. Whether or not it inspires the Democrats to go out and try to beat him as we were saying earlier, that's another story.

BARRON-LOPEZ: One point to context is that, yes, Trump is the incumbent and so that tends to favor. The incumbent is typically favored. And yes, his team is projecting that they love this -- they have this dream scenario where Democrats are, you know, fractured and where Democrats are having a difficult primary but that was the reverse in 2016. And Democrats were very gleeful that Republicans had this really raucous and difficult primary, and yet they emerged with a winner.

And so, I think that it show -- just goes to show that none of us really know what could possibly happen at the end of this primary.

KING: Right. We live in such volatile times, anyone that tells you they know what's going to happen is making it up. And to your point, the president is in command of his party, total command of his party but it's a smaller party. If you look at 2018, the suburbs have shrunk, the suburbs have left this president. So he has to be very good and efficient in how he goes through his map.

But one -- if you are a Republican thinking of, should I break with the president, should I run away from the president in this election year, what should I do, he uses these rallies to prove, stick with me or the voters will abandon you.


TRUMP: On Tuesday, I delivered my address on the state of the union and I had somebody behind me mumbling terribly, mumbling. Mumbling.

Crowd: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

TRUMP: But I hear a lot of Republicans tomorrow will vote for the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats. I'm trying to figure out who is their weakest candidate?

Did Don Jr. make a good speech?

Crowd: 46! 46!


KING: 46, there you go.

CAYGLE: Lots of mumbling he says but not actually. She mouthed a couple of things, she ripped up the speech as we remember.


I think for him, Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi is going to continue to be his foil at least until a frontrunner emerges on the Democratic side. You know, she's easy for him to contrast with. But as we've seen in the last week, Pelosi said it herself, she feels liberated and she's not going to stop punching back at him. I mean, they've impeached him in the House. What else can they do, right? So.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) any day. We'll see if Governor Weld can launch any protest vote in New Hampshire. We'll count the Democratic votes later tonight. Hope you can be back to join us for that.

Don't go anywhere right now. See you back here this time tomorrow as well. But Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage, a very important day, after a very quick break. Have a good afternoon.