Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Senator Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Primary Edging Out Pete Buttigieg; Democrats Push Forward To Next Round Of Contests; Senator Elizabeth Warren: Democrats "Cannot Afford To Fall Into Factions"; Donald Trump Applauds Bill Barr For "Taking Charge" Of Roger Stone Case; New Questions About DOJ's Independence From Political Pressure. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 12, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King thank you for share your day with us. The 2020 Democrats are feeling the burn. Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary. It is clear proof he is the race's leading progressive but his narrow victory suggests challenges ahead and a protracted Democratic race.

Plus onto Nevada -- Latinos are a major force in the next Democratic contest, a giant test where two Midwestern moderates with the New Hampshire bounce but little support so far in communities of color, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

And President Trump brazenly shows us his post-impeachment lesson purging key witnesses from their government jobs and now pushing the Justice Department to help his convicted ally Roger Stone. Democrats on Capitol Hill say it is an outrage. Republicans prefer not to talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Romney, what do you think about the decision of the Roger Stone case?

SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (UT): General Richard and John say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

ROMNEY: We're all together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to that story in a moment. But we begin this hour with this New Hampshire verdict and fresh scrutiny over which Democratic Presidential Candidates can stay competitive as the race moves on to Nevada, South Carolina and beyond.

Let's take a look at last night. Bernie Sanders with a win in New Hampshire but a very narrow win. 25.8 percent 24.5 for Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the Former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And Amy Klobuchar exceeding her poll numbers surging late into third place 19.8 just shy of 20.

Elizabeth Warren from neighboring Massachusetts that is a big disappointment she led the New Hampshire in summer she fell to single digits so do the Former Vice President of United States Joe Biden another candidate below them there.

If you look at the New Hampshire win yes a lot of blue for Sanders but a very different environment than we have four years ago. Now in some ways, this is unfair for Sanders, this is a two candidate race so he gets progressive votes he gets Anti-Clinton protest votes.

But because he won so big four years ago, many are asking now what the lesson of this narrow victory is? No question, Sanders takes the progressive baton away from Warren the clear progressive leader coming out.

The Nevada's next though then South Carolina that gives Latinos and African-Americans their first big say on this very tight Democratic race. Senator Sanders well-known in those communities because of his run four years ago.

Senator Klobuchar, Mayor Buttigieg, not so much. Buttigieg acknowledging this morning, this road ahead will be tough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, certainly there is another hill to climb each time and we've got more work to do to demonstrate the breadth of our support. But just as we came from zero to top two finishers in the first two states, we believe we will be able to develop, build and grow a fantastic base of support in states like Nevada and South Carolina and of course Super Tuesday is not far behind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast" CNN's Phil Mattingly Jeff Zeleny and Francesca Chambers with "McClatchy". Mr. Mattingly pointing on that and we appreciate that for the program here.

It's a good day for Bernie Sanders. The question is how big of a good day? He wins the New Hampshire primary but with the very narrow margin. No question he does have the progressive baton. He can raise money he is nationally known. But does the narrowness of the victory tell you anything? Are there warning signs for Sanders or are this is full speed ahead.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think warning signs. I think look he owes Amy Klobuchar a big note of thanks. The reality is if Senator Klobuchar would not have surged in the final days, and he could feel it. You could feel it; you could see you were at the event in Salem on Sunday evening with me. You could feel the energy.

So if she hadn't surged, Pete Buttigieg would have overtaken Bernie Sanders. That's the raw math of it. So I guess that he owes the collapse of Elizabeth Warren and the surge of Amy Klobuchar to his victory.

But look it's a good night for Bernie Sanders he won, so win a win. But they have some serious questions about, can he really deliver on the promise to turn out young people and some Trump voters others. They have not proven that yet in the first and second stop. It's early. We'll go on to Nevada, where I think he will do very well. This is not a huge run out of the gate by Bernie Sanders. I don't think by any way.

KING: It is and he has a high floor meeting. He has a dedicated band of supporters wherever you go; it is in the high teens or higher. The question is where is the ceiling? And is he limited 25 percent of the delegates in Iowa, 25-26 percent of the vote, two contests in a row, where are looking at 25-26 percent where do you go from there?

To your point about where we go. Let's just look at the calendar very quickly. February 19th, there's a debate in Nevada. Then the Nevada Caucuses good luck with the count. February 25th, another debate in South Carolina February 29th, the South Carolina Primary then you get the March blur.

Three Tuesdays in March beginning with Super Tuesday at the beginning where organization and more importantly probably resources are going to kick in we're going to talk about Mayor Bloomberg and some of the other challenges there.

[12:05:00]

KING: But in the here and now, because Senator Sanders is well-known because both Senator Warren and Former Vice President Biden are struggling, can he get to Nevada and can he cease the momentum to get another win? We saw a signal from the culinary union last night yes putting out this memo saying hey Medicare for all would take away your healthcare.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. I mean, Bernie Sanders is going to have the resources. He is going to have the money he needs. He is going to have his base of support. As long as that moderate vote is split, that's great news for Bernie Sanders, and he will be able to rack up delegates.

The person who is looming now is Mike Bloomberg. He really hasn't kicked into gear yet. I mean, he's pulling votes, he is polling. But we haven't really seen him - we haven't seen in him the debate. We haven't seen him really in earnest on the trail kicking it into gear.

He's just spending a lot of money and will be in this a very long time. So that will also will factor. Will that continue to split the moderates and allow Sanders to rise even further? That's an open question. KING: And a part of that question is A, can the Former Vice President recovers? Can Elizabeth Warren recover? They say they can and they will. We will see it is coming as hard to raise money now and momentum just the snowball effect has a role in politics.

He also then has Klobuchar and Buttigieg who strong performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire very little history in the Latino community or the African-American community but the Latino community come first in Nevada. Both of them rushing to get on television out there hoping this momentum out of New Hampshire gives them another look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My entire 100 day plan for America won't fit in a TV ad but let's give it a go. Rejoin the climate agreement or prescription drug cost address mental health and addiction, protect voting rights expand job training.

BUTTIGIEG: Providing every single American with quality health insurance isn't just my plan it's our cause. Others say it's Medicare or all or nothing. I approve this message to say the choice should be yours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The health care focus in Mayor Buttigieg tells you something again you see the largest union, huge in Los Vegas especially coming out and mourning its members Bernie Sanders is a threat to your healthcare. But for both of the candidates you know campaigns have to make a choice do you do a glossy well-produced ad with a lot of images? Do you look on camera? They're introducing themselves that's why you see the candidates' you see their faces right there.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is no go ahead.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: No this is the same, Nevada is also very becomes very tough because we don't have strong recent polling on Nevada to tell us actually what actually is happening there?

And for Pete Buttigieg, and the way that Joe Biden is looking ahead to South Carolina to save him. In some ways that Buttigieg campaign is looking beyond South Carolina and Nevada in order for Pete to have the win to his bag. They're looking at that Super Tuesday calendar and saying, while everyone else is focused on California where can we pick up delegates in some of these other states?

Where can we replicate what we did in Iowa which is they performed better than expected in these rural areas. While everyone is looking over here, what can we do over there?

KING: I just want to say as we're starting the conversation we just got a word we will come back to this later in the program but the Former Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, joining Andrew Yang and Michael Bennett and saying good-bye. New Hampshire traditionally we know the field Governor Patrick is spending his campaign but essentially shutting it down.

We'll come back to that later. Let's focus, no offense to the Governor, but let's focus on those who have the momentum coming out of New Hampshire and those who have huge challenges. Senator Warren was leading in the New Hampshire in the summertime.

She was the grow stock in the Democratic race and she was saying go big and bold, go with me, don't be a coward let's do Medicare for all. And then she faced some adjustments including adjusting her Medicare for all plan. Listen to her message last night which she says, I will fight on. Big and bold is gone it is something else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With ads marking other candidates and with supporters of some candidates shouting curses at other Democratic candidates, these harsh tactics might work if you are willing to burn down the rest of the party in order to be the last man standing. We cannot afford to fall into factions. We can't afford to squander our collective power. We win when we come together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Without naming names, that is Bernie's way out there in the left with the revolution. He's not welcoming to moderates. The moderates are now going to be throwing stuff at Bernie saying he can't win he will destroy Democrats down ticket. I'm a unifying force. It's an interesting argument. But primaries are usually about ideology or about a lane. Is that a recovery message?

MATTINGLY: I mean I think that's the big question right? And I think the reason why it is the big question is because there are resource issues and there are organizational issues that are coming forward right now.

Not only moving near to Super Tuesday where you're going to need a lot of money to play if you actually want to play in delegates, particularly when you're talking about a state like California. But I think when you look at Klobuchar. Klobuchar is having momentum, raising $2.5 million over the course of a night.

They don't have necessarily the organization that the others candidates have. When you look at Pete Buttigieg's numbers when it comes to minorities, particularly with African-American in South Carolina but also having any sense of the polling right now in Nevada where he stands with Latino voters.

[12:10:00]

MATTINGLY: But we do know that organizationally in Iowa and New Hampshire his team performed and performed as well or better than anybody else out there. And so I think that we're going into the stage right now where whether it is Warren whether it is Biden or whether it is Buttigieg or whether it is Klobuchar we don't necessarily know what they have waiting for them there?

And I think they still need to develop whether it's message, whether it is organization or whether it is funding. They still need to develop that and they need to develop it very, very quickly.

KUCINICH: But on the flip side real quick, as Warren has had this organization. She had organization in Iowa, she has it in Nevada. It just hasn't worked for her. It hasn't gotten people to the polls. And I imagine they're scrambling to figure out why?

KING: It's the candidate. We learn in every candidate and through that things work differently. Momentum does matter. Klobuchar had one big debate and boom look what happened in New Hampshire? The question is what happens next?

We're going to keep talking about this throughout the hour but I want to close this segment with the Former Vice President. I took a little heat last night when I said it's embarrassing if your title is Former Vice President to come in single digits in the state of New Hampshire took a little heat for that. Joe Biden says and we have to see if this plays out two states hang tight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We just heard from the first two of 50 states, two of them. Not all the nation, not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation, not 10 percent, two. Where I come from, that's the opening bell. Not the closing bell. The fight to end Donald Trump's Presidency is just beginning. Just beginning.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He is right. The nomination contest is just beginning. He is right, it is only two states. But there is a thing as momentum. And especially if you're someone of such stature and you're keep coming in fourth or fifth, it's a problem, right?

ZELENY: It is the opening bell but he is knocked down so the reality is now is can he get out? But his advisers were arguing to me on the night of Iowa, he is going to be much better in New Hampshire. He is going to come into New Hampshire and be Joe Biden unplugged. And we saw that for a minute, he was going after Pete Buttigieg's experience.

But then that stopped. So that is still a mystery to me why he stopped doing the argument. Look South Carolina may be able to revive his candidacy. Their biggest problem is money. He didn't spend a dime on Boston TV, which is you know a huge advertising market in most of New Hampshire, because he couldn't afford it.

That's why he got a fourth place. So the reality here is if he can spend money on South Carolina television he can do better. But that is the biggest question, will people give money or not?

KUCINICH: You can't make electability argument if you're not winning elections.

KING: And he learned this first hand in 2008 the history of the Democratic Party more often than not, is to look for the young fresh face. That was Obama in 2008. You have Buttigieg and Klobuchar insisting it is them right now. You have the Sanders who have his band; we'll see how it goes.

We'll come back to this in a bit. Up next though a very important story dissention at the Justice Department four prosecutors quit the Roger Stone case raising questions about political inference from the Oval Office.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:00]

KING: President Trump today brazenly bulldozing the norm of keeping the Justice Department out of politics and in the process making a mockery of those Republican Senators who predicted the impeachment saga would chasten the President.

Today this defiant tweet, congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control. The President there is talking about the Roger Stone case. And his tweet comes after senior Justice Department leadership overruled its own prosecutors telling them the recommendation that Stone spend 7-9 years in prison was too extreme.

The public rebuke prompted a dramatic Tuesday afternoon display of defiance. All four career prosecutors who signed the original sentencing memo quit the Roger Stone case just before that sentencing. The timeline here is key. U.S. attorneys filed the original sentencing memo Monday evening.

Tuesday morning, the President tweeted his outrage about their proposed sentence. Tuesday afternoon came that statement from main justice, then the resignations. But the President speaking yesterday insisted he had nothing to do with the sudden change except?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn't speak to the Justice - I would be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things to the degree people wouldn't believe. I didn't speak to them. I thought the recommendation was ridiculous. I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous. I look at others that haven't been prosecuted or I don't know where it is now. When you see that, I thought it was an insult to our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I didn't speak to them, I stay out of things. CNN's Sara Murray joins us Michael Shear with "The New York Times" joins us as well. I didn't speak to them, I stay out of things. He didn't need to speak to them he told them on Twitter what he wanted. And then, they did it. That's not staying out of things. I want to get to that part in a minute. Just the fact that this happened career prosecutors write a memo, they submit it. Their bosses then overrule them not during the process everybody well of jobs we have editors we have to go through a process. Once it is in the public record then they pull it back after the President tweets.

That doesn't blur, it obliterates the traditional line between the Justice Department and Presidential interference.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does and the question is to what end? I mean, it's not up to Bill Barr as much as he may want it to be and as much as President Trump apparently wants it to be to decide what sentence Roger Stone gets.

Either way this is up to the judge. She doesn't have to listen to any of the memos any of the prosecutors have filed. She can decide this sentence on her own. And secondly if the President feels so strongly about this and Bill Barr knows that President feels so strongly about this as anyone does who has ever seen the President's Twitter account, he can pardon Roger Stone.

And I think a lot us believe and expect that he will pardon Roger Stone if Stone does get a prison sentence. But instead by going about it this way and creating this rift in public that has lead four of these prosecutors to quit the case and two of them to quit their role with D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office you've created this sense in public that it is President Trump pulling the strings of Bill Barr and of the entire Justice Department in way that suits his needs.

[12:20:00]

KING: Right and so there would be Trump supporters out there saying oh no it is just a coincidence. President made his opinion clear, the Justice Department over ruled. What even some attorney say was a pretty harsh recommendation, nine years, they'll say oh it is just a coincidence except for everything else that's happening.

The U.S. Attorney who was the lead - office prosecuted the case was being nominated for another job just yesterday. Same day President Donald Trump on Tuesday abruptly withdrew the nomination for Jessie Liu the Former U.S. Attorney who headed the office that over saw Roger Stone's prosecution to serve in a top treasury department position. This is post Mueller, post impeachment retribution.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And as you say you have to look at the whole context, not only the one that you mentioned but the firing of Alexander Vindman, who was one of the witnesses and Gordon Sondland who was another witness who testified against the President.

You have to also look at the timeline. The Ukraine saga started essentially after the Mueller/Russia meddling investigation had largely sort of concluded, giving Trump the sense that like he was free to sort of be unbound, be unleashed.

Now, the moment that the impeachment ends, you have another example of pushing these boundaries, as you say obliterating the boundaries. I think you have to look at it in that big broad context. Because this is a pattern and it is a pattern that has been going on for a long time now.

KING: So the point of pattern, Vindman, Sondland now this nomination. You essentially tell the Justice Department on Twitter fix this about Roger Stone, sorry that's what the President was doing, and then a tweet about the judge. Pressure the Justice Department, yell at a judge just blur through or blow through every norm.

The President again on Tuesday - it was a good day yesterday for the President. Is this the judge that put Paul Manafort in solitary confinement, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat crooked Hillary Clinton? Hillary Clinton wasn't charged with anything, thank you just asking. Again, you're pulling a nomination you're firing people and now you're attacking your federal judge.

CHAMBERS: And this is something that we've heard from President Trump with other judges as well. But going back to what you said about the Mueller case, it reminded me of that, I wasn't planning to fire Robert Mueller. I wasn't even going to try but if I wanted to, I could have done it, maintaining that he has the authority to do those things even if that is not exactly what he did. They believe that he does have that authority and that there is nothing wrong with that.

SHEAR: Well and then the evidence comes during the Mueller investigation, then in fact he did pressure you know put pressure on senior officials to do exactly that. So regardless of whatever denials he the President made in public those you that's--

MURRAY: Sounds like he doesn't have a lot of credibility on these kinds of denials.

KING: As says he see himself on the record saying he's President and we're not in the sense that you know people thought, or would he pull back a little bit or would listen at all? The answer is no and now it is on overdrive. And we will see if anybody cares. We'll see if the public cares about this.

Imagine Hillary Clinton as President, Barack Obama as President, tweeting, get off a friend of mine's back, pulling nominations, firing people, the Republicans would be going nuts in this town. However, Phil, Susan Collins who said the President would learn a lesson from impeachment. She was confident he would learn a lesson from impeachment says well the President should not have gotten involved.

Lisa Murkowski, again one of the maverick Republicans if you want to call it that, I would lowercase the m, because they don't fight the President all that often. Says I don't like this chain of events. The President weighs in all of a sudden justice comes backs and says, change the deal, I think most people in America would look at that and say, it just doesn't look right.

And I think they're right. Two Senators saying I don't like this. But they have a majority in the Senate. Would they call a hearing? Would they try to call the President to task?

MATTINGLY: No. Keep saying it. And to look Susan Collins' revised statement is acknowledge that it was asp rational. But I think if you talk to any Republican Senator who believes that. I don't think any of them did. I do think that asp rational is probably the proper way to caveat if whether it was Rob Portman, whether it was Susan Collins.

There is the reality of this is what they've been living through for 3 1/2 years. I had one senior Republican aid text me last night as we were just kind of going through election returns, I asked him how he was doing with all the stuff that was going on with the president?

And he said every day is a nightmare to some degree and the aide's boss will still whole heartedly support the President at every single turn. And I think it is the same dynamic we've been watching now for 3.5 years.

The party is President Trump and GOP Senate is President Trump as well and whether it was impeachment or whether it was wall or whether it was the national emergency. For the most part they will all stick with him. And I think the most interesting element is they abdicated the opportunity and ability to crack down on something or try and rein him in long ago.

Where you could go back to tariffs, you could go back to the national emergency and at this point they're left kind of just shrugging or running away from cameras.

[12:25:00]

CHAMBERS: But will the voters? And I think that that's where we sort of--

MATTINGLY: Nothing is shifted right?

CHAMBERS: --will the voters stick with him on that. I'm hearing from critics of the President, that this was just another example for them of why they think he has got to go. And Republican critics of the President who were telling me this, so maybe not always out in public but certainly privately.

KING: Some of the A and B level outrage is different or disruptions or whatever. The one other things or so many of them it is hard sometimes to just ask people stop, this is up here, this is not something down here. This is up here, telling the Justice Department which supposed to be walled off what to do?

MATTINGLY: I think it is an important point because there is also recognition that in 24-48 hours there was an expectation that this won't be in the news anymore. Republicans have recognized don't all in on something or try and attack the President or try and critic the President on something when it is going to disappear in 48 hours.

MURRAY: And he is not going to forget.

MATTINGLY: He won't forget. KING: But when we talk about the Republicans I've always said I've seen in the "Wizard of Oz," when the lion goes running down the hall, courage, just keep cycling that one. Up next a deeper look at the New Hampshire results and who won and where?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)