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Bloomberg Apologizes for Stop and Frisk; Trump Veto Unlikely to End Iran War Powers Debate; Trump Weighs In on His 2020 Competition. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:30:53]

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg trying to make amends with communities of color this week. He's once again apologizing for the controversial policing tactic known as stop and frisk. This after an audio clip surfaced this week from 2015 from a speech in which Bloomberg defended the practice. Here's what he said last night in Houston during the launch event for "Mike for Black America".

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MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one aspect of approach that I deeply regret the abuse of police practice called stop and frisk. I defended it. Looking back for too long because I didn't understand then the unintended pain it was causing young black and brown kids and their families. I should have acted sooner and faster to stop it. I didn't and for that I apologize.

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HENDERSON: And this marks the first time that the billionaire has publicly apologized for the policy since launching his campaign for president.

How much do we think these matters for Bloomberg at this point? He's clearly targeting African-American voters. You saw him with that launch, he's been in South Carolina, and just nationally up on air even though he's not on the primary ballot in South Carolina, visiting places like North Carolina and Texas that have a large African- American communities. What's your sense?

TARINI PARTI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: So, Bloomberg knows that he needs black voters in order to do well on Super Tuesday. He's put in all of his money essentially on Super Tuesday states. These are states that have big minority populations and so he's been trying to target them and woo those communities. Since even before he launched his campaign he had publicly apologized after defending stop and frisk for years. He apologized at a black church for this practice. And since then they've been really making the case there, you know, airing an ad with President Obama in it. And when I talk to voters both in Tennessee and in North Carolina, black voters who attended his events, they kind of said that they accept his apology, that they are trying to move on. They oftentimes compared him to President Trump. Now, these are people who live in states that President Trump won, they know people who are Trump supporters. So what they said is what we hear from people around us is so much worse than what we heard Mike Bloomberg say that we think that this guy could actually beat Trump and so we're willing to look past it, is what I heard from at least about a dozen voters.

HENDERSON: And Jeff, (INAUDIBLE), you talked to some voters as well down in North Carolina and here's what they had to say.

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TED RUETER, NORTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think he's the best candidate for the Democrats. I think he's got, obviously, the most money. Definitely the most organized campaign.

SYLVIA SWAYZE, NORTH CAROLINA VOTER: I'm very impressed with his commercials, they're very positive. They show -- they talk about things that people care about, healthcare, gun control. And that's what makes me feel good about him as a candidate.

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HENDERSON: The commercial is inescapable, always on TV. I was talking to an African-American woman, an older African-American who had liked Biden and is now liking Bloomberg and describe Bloomberg oddly enough as a man of the people based on all of the commercials that she's been seeing.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He's basically living with people in their living rooms, around their kitchen tables. He is on television so much he does seem like part of the family in some respects. So, look, I had the same experience talking to voters yesterday in North Carolina as well, but, people also said they wanted to hear him acknowledge it and apologize. He didn't address it at all yesterday while he was in North Carolina. He did last evening in Houston.

Look, no one is going to, I think, very few people will hold it against him until the very end, if he apologizes, but also the language that he used on those audio tapes. And there are certainly more audio tapes out there. He's given so many speeches and things. He'll have to navigate this on a debate stage if he qualifies next week when his other opponents are going after him. We'll see how he responds.

The challenge I think for Mayor Bloomberg is, this has been a very -- you know, he's controlled the narrative. There's television ads, through data and everything. How is he able to stand up in an environment that he cannot control? And I think that that is what we will see, we don't know the answer. But people are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because they want to win.

He project strength (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: Yes. Because of the $60 billion that he has.

[12:35:02]

And Joe Biden talking about the vetting idea and that would be an environment that he can't really control and this is what Joe Biden had to say. "The advantage I have is I've been vetted, re-vetted, and vetted again. If you're reading the paper, they're just starting on Mike."

What's your sense?

GINGER GIBSON, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: I think thus far Mike Bloomberg has been a guy running ads against Donald Trump. And if he makes that debate stage and he keeps going he's going to be a candidate in the primary. And that's going to come with all of the trappings of a candidate.

Not only is he going to have the vetting, he's going to have to answer real-time. I would expect Elizabeth Warren to go right at him on a debate stage and press him not just what the voters want which is acknowledging the language as Jeff pointed out, but explaining what it means for him going forward and what he would do in the White House.

HENDERSON: Right.

GIBSON: And you can give a speech off a teleprompter where you say you regret some of the -- defending it as long as you did. It's different when you have to answer in real-time. And I think that's going to be the big test for him if he can make that debate stage.

HENDERSON: And Julie, he clearly has the president's attention. He has said that we're scaring the living hell out of Donald Trump and that they're just getting started. Now, the president tweeting about him, the nickname mini Mike.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, clearly, one of his -- the things that he's presenting to people is why he should be an appealing candidate is that he could take to it Trump. And even though I'm not sure this wins him many voters, you've also seen him trying to really get under the president's skin. He tweeted yesterday about how they know the same people in New York and behind his back he says people laugh at President Trump and call him a clown.

And again, I'm not sure that really resonates with voters except insofar as they are really looking for someone who will take on this president in an aggressive ways. And as they look the at the field and as they look at some of the less appealing information that maybe coming forward as the other candidates start to focus on Mike Bloomberg's record, he wants to be able to say we need to pivot and think about who is best equipped financially and otherwise to take on this president. I think that's the case he's going to try to make.

HENDERSON: Yes. He is every where, and we'll see what happens on Super Tuesday and watch this closely. And, as we go to break the first lady spending part of her valentine's day at a children's inpatient facility in Bethesda, Maryland helping the kids with some arts and crafts.

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[12:41:43]

HENDERSON: President Trump threatened to veto the Iran war powers resolution even before it passed in the Senate. And the eight Republicans who joined Democrats in passing it aren't merely enough to make it veto proofed. So that's the end of the story, right? Actually, far from it.

Phil Mattingly, he's here on Capitol Hill for us. Phil, what is next?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Nia, I think what I was struck by with the 55-45 vote yesterday is not necessarily the vote tally but fact that they actually got a majority and not just for the first time, this is the second time a war powers resolution has passed. And so I kind of tried to take a look in a piece that we did today for cnn.com at why this was happening. And what I discovered is that what's actually happening is a shift. For the better part of the last two decades, lawmakers have been extraordinarily reticent to deal with the tissues of sending U.S. troops in the hostilities. And administrations from both parties have taken advantage of that, using authorizations for use of military force from 2001 or 2002 to really justify a lot of the activities and the hostilities you've seen over the course of the last two decades. And that has started to shift.

And one of reasons it's started to shift is because of people like Senator Tim Kaine. And in this process specifically, Kaine was making an extensive effort behind the scenes to meet with Republicans, to bring them onboard, to listen to their concerns, and address their concerns. And I think particularly in the wake of impeachment kind of a visually divisive time in this chamber between two the parties, the fact that he was able to have listened and then actually address concerns really struck a lot of Republicans that I spoke to as odd and they were enjoying it to some degree.

And I think the broader issue here is what is happening behind the scenes here as they're building a coalition. And it might not be able to be signed into law this time around, whether it's war powers- related, whether it's authorization abuse of military force, but in the future there will come a time when a debate about military action comes up and that coalition is there and is bigger and broader and has enough numbers to actually do something, something that hasn't been done in two decades. I think that is probably more important than anything else right now, Nia.

HENDERSON: Phil, thanks so much for that reporting from the Hill. We'll bring it around the table here.

Julie, what do we think this means? Eight Republicans, people like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mike Lee. Is this sort of a blip for the president in terms of Republicans breaking from him or is this sort of pretending what's to come?

DAVIS: Well, listen, eight was not enough, not anywhere near enough to override a veto, and that's the important issue here in terms of substantive action. But I do think it does show a certain shift among Republicans. Now we have seen that while they are very unwilling to criticize this president on most any other issue, Republican senators in particular have been willing to break with him on foreign policy and military matters when they think it really is important. And one of the sort of underappreciated aspects of this particular resolution was, after the strike on Qassem Soleimani last month, there were a lot of Republicans who were very angry and upset with the way that the administration didn't consult with them and then when they asked questions about strategy and what their role would be in future operations of this kind were basically brushed off.

HENDERSON: Yes.

DAVIS: And so I think there is somewhat of a groundswell of concern about that. And President Trump in effect by really not involving Congress at all and acting as if he doesn't need to and his administration acting that way, his advisors acting that way, has really I think supercharged this undergirding or a simmering sort of o worry about this issue.

[12:45:01]

ZELENY: Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah is at the top of that list.

HENDERSON: Very upset with this.

ZELENY: I still remember, he was furious at the briefing or lack of briefing after the Soleimani strike. So look, I think that this is probably a one off in terms of foreign policy but it's not just Murkowski and Susan Collins, Senator Todd Young of Indiana, hardly a -- you know, he's a conservative in every respect but on foreign policy he does believe in the separation of powers.

So, look, this is something that Congress has essentially shirked their responsibility in many people's views for two decades almost here. So Congress has, you know, been -- I mean, people in both parties have been willing to allow, you know, themselves to not to be involved in this. So, I think it's an interesting sign. But Senator Tim Kaine deserves so much credit I think for leading the way on this. And it's a sign that as Phil was saying, there actually can be bipartisan trust.

HENDERSON: Yes. Getting those eight Republican senators to come along with him on this very important issue.

Up next, the father of one of the Parkland shooting victims has a message on the second anniversary of her death.

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[12:50:39] HENDERSON: Topping our political radar, a deal between the U.S. and the Taliban to pause violence in Afghanistan. The Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the seven-day deal this morning and said it would take effect very soon. The temporary stop in violence sets the table for a broader peace deal but it's not unclear if the seven-day stop will hold and what would count as a breach of the short-term agreement.

The White House official report outlining why it killed an Iranian terrorist doesn't explicitly cite an imminent threat. You all remember, of course, that Trump administration officials said again and again they had to act now because Qassem Soleimani had imminent plans to attack U.S. targets. But that word "imminent" appears nowhere in the Trump administration unclassified notification to Congress explaining why the strike was legal. Instead, it cites future Iranian attack plans. Democrat -- Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel calls that explanation absurd.

And happening two hours from now, a moment of silence in Parkland, Florida. Exactly two years after a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since that day many students who survive the attack have become activists helping push Congress to appropriate millions of dollars to improve school safety. Victims' parents have gotten in the act as well like Fred Guttenberg who was escorted out of the state of the union after interrupting the president and he says he'll keep speaking out.

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FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: Because I don't know what my daughter felt, I will never stop fighting to keep somebody else from having that pain in their heart that I have today. Tell those who you love, how much you love them. Look them in the eye as if it could be the very last time. And then promise me, you're going to show up at the polls and you're going to vote for Jamie and all the other victims of gun violence.

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HENDERSON: Next, President Trump shares who he wants to run against in 2020.

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[12:57:17]

HENDERSON: President Trump is weighing in on the 2020 Democratic field tweeting today that people are trying to take the nomination way from Senator Bernie Sanders calling it, quote, a rigged system. Trump has been vocal about his 2020 competition saying he's not afraid of running against Sanders but that he prefer a run against another emerging White House hopeful.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like it. I like him. I'd like any of them. I mean, I think we'd be good with anybody. I think, frankly my first choice would be mini Mike. I think it'd be easy.

I think Biden is shot. He was shot from the beginning. I used to call him one percent Joe, remember one percent. He's going to be back at one percent Joe. You know, it's amazing that it faded fast.

One of the big telltale signs of trouble was when Obama wouldn't endorse him early on.

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HENDERSON: And Ginger, you've been out on the campaign trail and we all know that the main thing that these voters care about is who can beat Trump.

GIBSON: Absolutely. If you talk to voters, their number one priority ahead of ideology, ahead of background, ahead of any perceived flaws in these candidates is whether or not they can beat Donald Trump. And I think that's part of the reason why Donald Trump delights so much in weighing in on the field. He knows that that's what's driving the electorate and he likes to sort of play the game and be like, well, who am I afraid of and who am I not afraid of, and who really gets me going.

He says mini Mike is his favorite as an opponent but I think that really Michael Bloomberg has gotten in his head. We've seen the way he tweets about him. Bloomberg likes to joke that he's paying rent or living rent free and Trump said I think the joke he took from Hillary Clinton. But it's clear that he gets at him a little bit.

And we also saw in that interview him talking about Pete Buttigieg. We saw his very close ally Rush Limbaugh making some inflammatory (INAUDIBLE) inflammatory remarks

HENDERSON: Yes. Saying the country wasn't ready for him kissing his husband on the stage.

GIBSON: I mean, that's a sign of how Trump's allies would go after Buttigieg unafraid of going there for a guy who's own marriage was such a topic of conversation in the last cycle. So it's signs that he's pushing at that -- those guys in the electorate as well.

HENDERSON: And quickly, Tarini, Michael Bloomberg certainly knows that he's in the president's head.

PARTI: Oh, definitely. I mean, their ads are aimed at in some ways at getting under the president's skin. And one thing I will say is that, he president has elevated Bloomberg, you know. He was -- he has not been on the debate stage yet, he's been running a lot of ads, yes, but, the way that he's been able to get voters attention is because Donald Trump keeps tweeting about him.

HENDERSON: And we'll see if he's on that debate stage on Wednesday.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here on Sunday at 8 a.m. Eastern. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

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