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Federal Prosecutors Weigh New Charges for Giuliani Associates; Trump Defenders Dismiss Judge on Stone Case as "Obama Appointee"; Abrams on Being Possible VP Pick: "Of Course I Want It"; 2020 Dem Candidates Hit Nevada Airwaves Ahead of Caucuses; Topless Protesters Disrupt Sanders Rally in Nevada. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 17, 2020 - 12:30   ET



KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: -- through subpoenas have obtained text messages and other documents all relating to this marketing effort. Now, that scrutiny of fraud guarantee does bring this investigation closer to Giuliani though it does raise questions as well as what role if any he had in the marketing of this company.

We we've asked a lot of people around this, and so a lawyer for the man who actually paid that half million dollar investment, he said he invested because of Giuliani's representation and because he believed that Giuliani was going to act as the spokesman for the company. Well, a lawyer for Giuliani said that Giuliani had no communications with Parnas or anyone else about the marketing of the company and never authorized the use of his name. He also says he performed legal work for the company.

Now -- and a lawyer for Lev Parnas said that they are expecting there going to be additional charges and that they are prepared to defend against them.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kara, thank you so much for that great reporting. To you and to Erica, appreciate it.

And here at the table, CNN's Sara Murray joins our conversation. Sarah, put this into context for us. We hear so many names, we hear, you know, Giuliani's name keep bubbling up. Why does this matter?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think the key is what Kara said that this in inch closer to Rudy Giuliani. I mean, it certainly was uncomfortable from the outset when his associates were arrested but the fact that they are continuing to probe this company that paid Giuliani half a million dollars and that they're considering bringing new charges does raise the question of whether Giuliani could face charges down the line.

I also think, you know, what an interesting point with the Justice Department and these various offices. We know that the southern district of New York has an intense sense of independence, but I think that it is -- it's certainly a very odd time to be a prosecutor. It's always difficult if you're looking into a case that could potentially touch one of the president's personal attorneys. But especially when we've seen Bill Barr intervened in a number of these cases that involve Trump associates. So I think that makes this all the more sensitive.

BASH: Especially someone who used to run the southern district of New York.

MURRAY: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) also very awkward.

BASH: He was the U.S. attorney there way back then. But I'm glad you mentioned everything that we saw last week kind of explode and, you know, kind of -- there was like a series of Machiavellian dances going on. I think it's probably the nicest way to say it with the attorney general, with the president, with the White House. Yesterday, I spoke to Marc Short who is the chief of staff of to the vice president but he was coming on, on behalf of the White House. And the way he answered the question about what the president and the attorney general, the kind of the back and forth what, it's just fine because the attorney general is doing what the White House wants him to do.

Listen to how he explained it.


MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRES. PENCE: There has been a bias inside the Department of Justice that Attorney General Barr is trying to correct. I think that he has said that the president has not called him directly to say please do these things. He has acted independently to initiate these reviews. And I think he's doing a fantastic job with it.


BASH: So he's trying to stir up the sort of anti-institutionalist, anti-Washington issues that -- or people and sensibility that helps get the president elected but it's obviously not even close to being that simple.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: No, it's not. I mean, in part because the attorney general is getting involved in cases that have political ramifications to the president of the United States. And in some cases, actually directly involve Bill Barr, right? I mean, after all, he was mentioned in the transcript of the phone call with the Ukrainian president.

The thing I would direct --, great website has an oral history, OK? Part of that oral history has an interview with Bill Barr. In part of the interview, Bill Barr brags about how in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair, he pushed for many more pardons than the White House itself was prepared to seek. This is someone who has long had this view about the executive branch. And I think we can look at it as a much more longer trend than just the Barr and Trump relationship. MURRAY: The unitary executive as he describes it.

BASH: Yes.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: This also just comes in a moment where the White House is feeling very embolden and empowered after the acquittal in the Senate. As we all know, I mean, we've seen this with the president both sort of going on like really a victory tour after the acquittal but also, you know, getting rid of people that he felt were disloyal, bringing in people that he thinks are important to have close to him right now. And, I think you're going to see more of that tone from this White House.

MURRAY: I think that's true. I mean, I also just think that, you know, it's one thing for the White House and the Justice Department to be on the same page when it comes to things like policy priorities. When they're saying, this is how we want to direct immigration policy, we expect our Justice Department to ort of prioritize this and enforce this, this way. It's another thing when you're saying we expect our Justice Department to get involved in cases that directly have to deal with former members of the White House, associates of Donald Trump and take another look because we've just decided that we don't trust any other prosecutors anywhere in the Justice Department who may have been working on these cases for years.

BASH: And, by the way, it's not just the Justice Department, it's the judicial. And the president going after judges including the judge who is on this Roger Stone case. Listen to Matt Gaetz, one of the president's allies on with Maria Bartiromo.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We want the attorney general acknowledge that there is still some swamp left to be drained at the Department of Justice.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: And don't forget the Obama appointee Amy Berman Jackson, she's going to be the judge assigned to Peter Strzok's wrongful termination suit. So there's that.


BASH: It's an interesting twist there with -- not the congressman, it was the host, but go ahead.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, Look, there has been a refrain that's been repeated by a lot of the president's defenders and a lot of Republicans on the Hill too when you've been saying -- when you asked them, is it appropriate for the president to be basically tweeting (INAUDIBLE) of these judges as well. Oh, the judges are going to be independent, I'm sure that they're not actually swayable.

But, when you create an environment that -- where you get completely (INAUDIBLE) and pressured for any sort of deviance from what the president seems to want is this whim which even Barr was publicly criticized even though I guess this question is about how, you know, coordinated that they were still behind the scenes of Barr complaining about those tweets making it impossible for him to do his job.

You have a GOP who right now, you know, whenever there is an impeachment trial going on or something else huge is confirming judges to kind of change the way that that actual --

BASH: At a rapid looks.

DEMIRJIAN: At a rapid pace. And are being very open about that that's a legacy that they want to set.

So, it all kind of it is in one giant pot of the influence peddling that's going to on right now or the pressuring that's going on. And so to say, well, one judge is going to be able to hold back any sort of that tide or just separate themselves from the environment they're in. Yes, that is their job, but when you're making the environment what it is, that becomes that much more difficult.

BASH: All right, everybody stand by. Up next, she lost the race to be governor of Georgia in 2018, but now Stacey Abrams is making clear she's available for anybody's ticket. Stay with us.



BASH: Topping our political radar, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is not hiding her White House hopes. Telling the View today that she absolutely sees a presidential run in the near future and would be honored to be a vice presidential candidate this year if asked by the Democratic nominee.


STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It would be doing a disservice to every woman of color, every woman of ambition, every child who wants to think beyond their known space, for me to say no or to pretend, oh no, I don't want it. Of course, I want it. Of course, I want to serve America. Of course, I want to be a patriot and do this work, and so I'd say yes.


BASH: Refreshing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she's putting it out there.

BASH: She's not pulling any punches.

LUCEY: No, not at all. Of course, they have miles to go before they sleep on this one. It's a long way before --

BASH: Whoever they are by the way. LUCEY: Exactly.

JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Exactly. It does -- it is interesting that this is -- seems like a recurring cycle where Stacey Abrams says something like this but it does make you want to look at the ticket and see that there is some type of diversity on there. I know that's important for a lot of Democrats.

KNOX: It also sounds like a non-endorsement of anyone, right before the nominee. Doesn't it say I will serve whoever the nominee is as supposed to coming out.

Michael Bloomberg gave a lot of money, you know, $5 million to her voting rights group which has raised about $20 million to date. They met in early January. Ought to be a (INAUDIBLE) in that meeting but I think it's interesting. I mean, she could have come out and said, you know, there are some people for whom I'm -- obviously I'm more closely aligned. That sounded as much as not just self promotion but also declining to pick sides until the voters has their say.

BASH: She's no dummy.

KNOX: She's not.

BASH: What do you think?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I mean, you know, she's been a force in the party that's really motivated a lot of people. And I think probably whoever the nominee is, especially if he ends up in a little bit of a run for the delegates towards the end of this would -- it'll be refreshing potentially to have somebody from the outside come in who has been a fairly invigorating force to the Democratic Party.

But, again, you know, she keeps being bandied about and it is not clear quite where she lands. And so, we're kind of have to see how everything else shakes out first to see if she fits.

BASH: Exactly. And again, you know, we've heard similar before but I just do think it's noteworthy that not only is she saying I'm in but she's saying why she's saying I'm in. Because like, why would I say anything else. If I wanted it, I'm not going to mess around, I'm just going to say I want it.

JAMERSON: And it's one of the reasons why people really like Stacey Abrams.

BASH: Yes.

JAMERSON: A lot of Democrats.

BASH: All right, everybody stand by. Don't forget, you at home can tweet us your questions using the hashtag INSIDE POLITICS. You may get your question answered right here at this table. We'll be right back.


BASH: Welcome back.

The Nevada caucuses are this Saturday, and as you can imagine, there are a ton of ads on social media, on radio, and, of course, candidates using the traditional medium, what you're watching right now, perhaps, TV, to pitch themselves.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As president, he'll create good paying jobs, building the infrastructure and affordable housing we need, keep immigrant families together. Bernie Sanders, a president who fights for us.

(Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newtown, Parkland, Las Vegas, gun violence is tearing at the soul of this nation. It has to stop. Joe Biden stood up to the NRA.

HARRY REID, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: She had studied the financial world and had an insight into it that others didn't have.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Elizabeth understands what I strongly believe, that a strong, growing economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're seeing Democrats hungry to win, independent voters who have been turned off buy our politics, Republicans tired of trying to look their kids in the eye and explain this presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom Steyer will beat Donald Trump on the economy. His people over profits plan makes a living wage a right.


BASH: It's always so helpful to look at the ads to really get a sense of where they think that they can be most effective with voters. And now in today's day and age, so many ads are targeted to what you seem to like on your Facebook page or, you know, how you, you know, use the internet and so forth. But, still, first of all just the fact that Joe Biden is really focus on guns. That's not just in the ads, it's also on the stomp recently.


KNOX: Yes, that is very interesting. And that plays to a lot of -- we talked about minority voters before (INAUDIBLE) women voters, the suburban voters, the crossover voter that helped the Democrats win back the House in 2018. The idea wasn't really great but my sense is that the Klobuchar one was someone who can beat Donald Trump which is --

BASH: The audio wasn't great or is it that your French is better than your Spanish?

KNOX: You know, yes, my Spanish is fine, my Spanish is fine, Dana. But when -- but her ad focused on beating Donald Trump and the other ads had some more issue based things. I don't think I heard a healthcare pitch in any of them which is kind of interesting.

LUCEY: It also speaks to how Biden doesn't need to introduce himself to people, right?

KNOX: That's right.

LUCEY: So, people know him, if better for worse, and he can really focus on a target issue whereas Amy and Pete in particular are really doing more of the introduction job in these ads. Trying to explain who -- one of the ads I saw from Klobuchar out there, it really does talk about who her parents are, where she's from. Like, they're still doing some of that work.

JAMERSON: Even Elizabeth Warren's are pretty introductory. That was on an ad featuring Obama and Harry Reid. And I think her campaign is probably of all of them the more skeptical of TV. They've done a lot of more emphasis on digital and social media and stuff like that. But playing up to Harry Reid was definitely, I think it glimpse, you know, where they think they are trying to play up the home field advantage in terms of -- she has a lot of Harry Reid staffers on her campaign.

BASH: OK. So, as we continue the discussion, I just want to show our viewers a broad look at where the candidates spent -- or how much money the candidates are spending on ads. This is not just in Nevada, this across the country. I mean, look at that.

Michael Bloomberg, $417 million so far. And then the next that even comes close is another billionaire, Tom Steyer. Bernie Sanders who I have heard that he doesn't like the billionaires or he doesn't get money from billionaires, maybe you guys have heard that. But he's doing extreme -- he's got a lot of money and he's spending a lot of it on TV ads and then it goes down from there. And we're just only two contests in.

DEMIRJIAN: No I think --

LUCEY: Go ahead.

DEMIRJIAN: I think spending wise it's quite lopsided towards the people who have the resources independently to be putting that in the game. And I think it's going to -- look, the big test is really going to be after the early primary states to see if the numbers and the comeback from this primaries match the numbers that are being -- of the money that's being put in really. And if that is a strategy which is actually working here.

And so, you're going to see this continued I think to play out until you actually get one of those actual really -- sorry, Super Tuesday states because that'll be the first time that everybody's name is actually on the ballot. And you can see if that strategy is really working. LUCEY: And I think one of the things you have to remember too with Sanders looking ahead, of the other candidates who -- candidates who are not self-funded, he is very, very well funded. And he's funded for a very long race.

BASH: And that's what I was trying to say.

LUCEY: Yes, absolutely.

BASH: I forget that he says, I don't get money from billionaires but he gets a lot from of money --

LUCEY: And he taps the small dollar donors again and again and again.

BASH: All right, everybody stand by because we have something really fun after the break.

A racy display in Nevada briefly putting the Bernie Sanders show on pause. You got to stay to watch this.



BASH: Let's end this show with a quick lightning round. And I'm just going to throw to this tape and we're going to talk about it afterwards.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to ask you to stop propping up the dairy industry and to stop propping up animal agriculture. I believe in you --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is Nevada. There's always a little bit of excitement. And no extra costs.


BASH: OK, that was pretty quick witted rejoinder there. A little bit of excitement at no extra cost. That's the Bernie Sanders you've covered for a while.

KNOX: Yes, yes. That was actually better than the Bernie Sanders I covered before. Definitely a lot more limber, a lot more quick on his feet in response to a rather remarkable display. It looked like topless women pouring --

BASH: It didn't look like it was.

KNOX: -- blood colored liquid off out of nowhere.

BASH: We're on a family friendly show so we made it so.

LUCEY: And just when you think you can't be that surprised, that's still a surprising moment at one of these rallies. And yes, he's quick, it's funny, you also see I think what his supporters talk about a lot, and sometimes gets lost in some of these, is that he does have a sense of humor. That he knows how to play with the crowd. He knows --

BASH: Particularly now that he's come back and he's feeling better.

OK. Real quick, Amy Klobuchar is talking about funny. Somebody tweeted in to her campaign that they realized that her campaign colors are the same as hidden Valley Ranch and they hoped that it was part of her master plan to win the Midwest and unite the country. She re-tweeted, busted.

OK. That's pretty funny because it is the same color, but I will say, the real reason her colors are green and white is because it's the same color as Paul Wellstone who was the senator from Minnesota who perished in a plane crash. That's the reason she adopted those colors. But the Hidden Valley Ranch is pretty funny.

JAMERSON: Yes. I do think Amy Klobuchar (INAUDIBLE) that whole campaign sense of humor does kind of play with some of the voters she's trying to take away from Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, like that what your hair look like in the snowstorm joke she did against Donald Trump.

BASH: All right, we have to get to one question that we got from the viewers. This is from at two tweets. "If Bloomberg makes it to the debate, can he opt not to participate? Or must he debate if he qualifies?

DEMIRJIAN: They can't drag him in. It's not like they can send the rangers out to force him on the stage. So if he chooses not to, that's a choice which is probably going to not make anybody not attack him in that debate.

BASH: But why would he not go if he qualifies, right?

LUCEY: What's the downside? I mean, if you're trying to introduce yourself to the country, why would you not go?

KNOX: Getting knocked around by your fellow candidates. I only see down sides.

BASH: All right, everybody, thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for --