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Source: Russian Meddling Briefing A Factor In Ousting Of Intel Chief; Donald Trump Lashes Out After Congress Told Russia Is Helping Him In 2020; Senator Bernie Sanders Hit Michael Bloomberg For Nevada Debate Performance; Democratic Candidates Makes Final Pitches Ahead Of Nevada Caucuses; Former Vice President Joe Biden Slams Senator Bernie Sanders On Past Gun Legislation Votes. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 21, 2020 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump lashes out in anger after learning the intelligence officials' briefed discussion with Congress that Russian is again meddling in the elections and that the Kremlin again wants a Trump victory. The briefing is via top intelligence official was fired because his deputies did their job and told Congress the truth.

Plus, one final day of campaigning in Nevada Saturday's Caucuses are the first test of candidates appeal to Latino voters and poor shows could very well make things difficult for several 2020 hopefuls now in a cash crunch.

And the President is shadowing the Democrats with a Nevada rally today. He doesn't have trouble raising money and he has no serious primary opposition. So as he visits early 2020 battlegrounds, there are more than a few Trumpian 2016 flashbacks.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I won every single debate. Trump, almost 50 percent then they ever all the rest of them 14, 4, 3, 2, 2.8 and 2.54 here's another one Trump kicked ass.


KING: Back to the President's campaigning in a bit. We begin this hour with new details and new evidence that the President is willfully ignoring intelligence because he doesn't like its conclusion. That conclusion that Russia is meddling again and that Russian again prefer Donald Trump to win.

President on Twitter this morning calling the assessment "Hoax number 7, a Democratic misinformed campaign". But this is important the information doesn't come from Democrats, it comes from the Trump Administration and it was delivered by a top intelligence official just last week to lawmakers in a classified briefing up on Capitol Hill.

Sources telling CNN the assessment provoked immediate doubt and anger from some Intelligence Committee Republicans. That Committee's Ranking Member on the House side Devin Nunes then informed the White House.

A source says the President did not get a heads-up about that briefing and what his officials were planning to tell the Congress the result of the President's anger? An Oval Office tirade against the soon-to-be out the door Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe McGuire in that heated meeting the President repeatedly cited against his own intelligence community professionals who arrived at the Russia conclusion.

Sources telling "The Washington Post" the President said American officials were getting, "Plagued", and that he did not believe - the President of the United States telling them he did not believe Russia is interfering to help him nor had any plans to do so.

Let's get straight to the White House and CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, here we go again. Number one, the intelligence officials telling the truth as they believe it and number two the President then firing one of them and going off on a rage.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that timeline is critical here because it was last Thursday that this briefing happened when this intelligence official went up to Capitol Hill. Then it was the next day when the President was so furious with his Acting Director of National Intelligence.

And of course this week he now names he is going to put a vocal supporter instead in that spot while he figures out who to nominate permanently to that job. And John, we've been talking to sources about this and essentially it's exactly the same issue that the President had with that assessment of what happened in 2016.

He views any kind of intelligence showing that Russia tried to interfere in the election as an attempt to attack his legitimacy as President, and undermine him and essentially that is what has been described by people who have spoken with the President here as he is looking ahead to 2020, as he believes they're essentially going to try to do that again.

That of course these are not political opinions of these intelligence officials, the President's own intelligence officials. These are intelligence assessments they are giving to lawmakers, that they are supposed to give to lawmakers, but the President's other issue here, John, is that Adam Schiff was in the room.

And of course he is not only the House Intelligence Chairman but also was the one who led that impeachment inquiry against the President last fall. Someone the President has been furious with told people he doesn't even want on White House grounds.

But this is also now a critical look at what's going to be happening over the next several months, because the President is putting a loyal supporter in that position for the time being as he searches for someone else.

And while he chasing those four candidates John we should know that one of the names he floated to reporters last night on Air Force One he was already rebuffed him and said no, Doug Collins doesn't want that job because he is running for that Senate seat in Georgia.

KING: Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. I'm not sure who would want that job, at this moment, especially. Kaitlan, I appreciate the live reporting. With me here in studio to share their reports and their insights Josh Dawsey with "The Washington Post" Julie Hirschfeld Davis with 'The New York Times" Toluse Olorunnipa also with "The Washington Post" and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast".

Josh you were out front on some this reporting yesterday. Please correct me if I'm wrong. The intelligence community officials do their job. They're supposed to brief Congress on big developments. They go up and give a briefing. They tell him the truth Russia is meddling again, and based on their assessment that the Kremlin prefers President Trump again.


KING: They do their jobs, they tell the truth and the President doesn't like it. Fair?

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Last Thursday they go and they say Russia is preferring President Trump again. There's a dispute among the House members. What then happens is House member allies tell the President that this happens.

On Friday morning, they come into give the President his Presidential daily briefing. They're going to talk to him about election interference and he's apoplectic that he learned about this from the House members that he learns that the briefers went to Congress.

Even though his administration set up this briefing, that he learned about it from the House members and that they said this happened. He said they're getting played. He said Russia is not trying to help me, I don't know what you guys are talking about.

And he lashes out at Joe McGuire, the Former Intel Chief, he left yesterday, he lashes out at him and says why did you let this happen? You didn't tell me this was going to happen. And now, as you see on Twitter, he's denying it repeatedly.

And he says to the Intel folks yesterday in the Oval Office, what's your evidence for this? Why do you think Russia is helping me? I can't believe that you went to Capitol Hill and said that. It was a time where there was quite a showdown between the President and his intelligence committee over something that has been just furious something that just provoked fury and anger from the President repeatedly over and over and over, this idea that Russia wants him to win.

KING: And so I can fathom this in the immediate wake of the 2016 election. He lost the popular vote there was all this talk that Russia intervened, that Russia helped him, so he doesn't want to talk about it because he thinks it undermines his legitimacy. We're three years later now.

Why can't the President of the United States publicly give a speech saying, Vladimir Putin, we're watching. You're at it again. We will not stand for this. Do not meddle. I can win on my own, thank you very much. Go away. What's so hard about that?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He still views that as essentially an admission that he got help that he shouldn't have gotten in the 2016 race that he wouldn't have won without that help. He thinks it undermines him personally.

And let's not forget that there were two things that were said I mean there were a number of things that were said at that briefing based on, Josh's reporting and our reporting and others. One of them was that Russia had developed a preference for Donald Trump.

The other one was Russia is continuing to meddle in this year's election the same way that Russia did in 2016. You would think that that second thing, which I think was actually the primary assessment that the intelligence community was trying to share with these members, would be top of mind and the most important thing on the President of the United States' mind.

In fact, he doesn't separate those two things at all. He cannot bear to admit the first one, which is that Russia is trying again to interfere in our elections, from the second one, which is that he feels like it is a personal affront to ever have it be said that Russia has a preference for him and is trying to help him.

KING: And out of this Devin Nunes the Ranking Republican, now the Former Chairman another Ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, goes running to the White House. He says he wants the President to know this was said at the briefing. And then he goes on Fox News and says this.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): These guys have lost their mind. Vladimir Putin is not running some operation with President Trump. There is no evidence of that. And so all this is they don't have anything to run on, so they've got to make up Russia again.


KING: Who is they? Who is they? In the sense that Putin is not running some operation with Donald Trump, that was not the substance of the briefing. No one was saying Trump was colluding with Russia again.

They were saying Russia is interfering in the election today and it's their intelligence conclusion based on a lot of intelligence that Russia has a preference for President Trump. So Devin Nunes Ranking Member of a Committee that's very sensitive that has to have very sensitive information, has to communicate with the American people at times of crises, says Putin is not running some operation with Donald Trump.

That was not what was alleged, correct? They have nothing to run on. They have to make up Russia again. It is not the Democrats making it up it is the Democrats running President Trump these were people who work for the President.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You hear this sort of slip of words from the President, from his allies regularly saying that the Democrats are trying to use Russia against him, the Democrats have come up with this hoax, not mentioning it's actually the intelligence community, it's actually the people that he has appointed.

The FBI Director who have said pretty clearly that they believe that Russia meddled in 2016 with a preference for President Trump and that they're looking to meddle again. This is something that's been confirmed by the Senate and in a bipartisan way. It's only really the House Republicans who have pushed back against this idea.

They've had access to the same intelligence that the Senate Republicans have, and they've come to very different conclusions as they tried to protect the President's ego. This is a President who has blown up at his intelligence officials when they try to brief him during his daily intelligence briefing about the Russia's efforts. So it's not surprising that he hasn't heard some of these assessments that were briefed to the House in part because he doesn't like hearing it.


KING: But God forbid the truth and say National Security and information would overweigh what the President's ego needs to be stroked. In the sense this is the President's son, Donald Trump Jr. all I want is honesty in these places, whether it's the Justice Department, whether it's there meaning the intelligence community. I just want people who aren't partisan hacks.

These are Donald Trump's Directors of National Intelligence Dan Coats a veteran Republican Senator from the state of the Indiana not known as a partisan hack actually known as a professional, someone who came out of retirement to come back to work for the President of the United States.

He didn't like some of the things that the President said. He was willing to publicly saying yes Russia is still meddling which got the President mad at him because he told the truth. Joseph McGuire the Former Director of National Counterterrorism Senator Retired Vice Admiral U.S. Navy, not a partisan hack.

You can disagree with people you can say, scrub that again. Are you sure? Scrub that again and come back to me. I doubt that. If you want to, you can say, I talked to Putin and he said he's not doing it if you want to try to convince people that that's a believable source. But the idea that everyone is a partisan hack or a deep state out to get the President is dangerous. JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, and the great irony of whole of this is that by putting this all in the public, by Devin Nunes running to Fox, by the President continuing to show mistrust in his institutions it is playing right into Vladimir Putin and the Russians are doing.

This is what they want. They want this discontent they want the continued adversarial nature between the political parties, not in a political way. These intelligence agencies should have oversight. That's why Congress is there. But this is an oversight. This is messaging and this is a way to make the President feel better and perhaps at the cost of the safety of the United States.

KING: Keep on top of it. Okay. Russia, Russia and Russia, as the President likes to say I guess. This might be with us for a while in this campaign. When we come back, Nevada votes tomorrow. It's a chance for Democratic candidates to appeal to Latino voters. And it's a chance for a state that holds caucuses to prove it can count.



KING: Nevada is contest number 3 on the 2020 nominating calendar. Iowa, New Hampshire now to Nevada, its caucuses tomorrow is the first test of candidate support in a diverse electorate. Just to mention word Caucuses of course can cause a shudder given the counting debacle early this month in Iowa.

But let's be optimist for now and take a look at what matters most as we wait for tomorrow's Nevada count. Clark County, the home of Las Vegas, this is biggest piece of the competition because about 73 percent of state's population lives right here in Clark County. Most of the votes are here this is what most of the competition is.

The first big competition for Latino votes, the first big competition for union votes. Most of it plays out down here in Clark County. Then you go up here to the northwest corner of the state, Washoe County home of Reno again more than 15 percent of the population. Add it up 70 plus percent close to 80 percent in Clark, another 15 percent here.

This is where most of the people are, the two corners of the state the southwest in northwest I'm sorry in the southeast of the big competitions.

Carson City down here, a little more, about 2 percent of the state population that's where most of the people are. That's where most of the Democrats will get their votes. You will see more competition in the smaller, more rural counties smaller precincts. Fewer votes but you can get delegates by courting people where the other candidates may not go. That's one thing to watch tomorrow.

Another thing to watch, Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire. Just narrowly, but he won New Hampshire. He thinks he can win Nevada and get momentum in the race. Listen to this preview from a 60 minutes interview that will air Sunday on CBS. It is very clear who Bernie Sanders sees as primary opponent number 1.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, and if that's what happened in a Democratic debate, you know, I think it's quite likely that Trump will chew him up and spit him out.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Are you less worried about Michael Bloomberg if you were worried about him before? Are you less worried now after having that debate?

SANDERS: I am worried about an unprecedented amount of money being spent on a campaign. We are a democracy one person, one vote, not a guy worth 60 billion buying an election.


KING: Let's get to CNN's Ryan Nobles. He joins us live from Las Vegas. Ryan, you've spent some time with Senator Sanders of late. He does believe Nevada can be his springboard, correct?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about that, John. They feel very confident about their effort here in Nevada. They're spending a lot of money. They have a ton of organization on the ground here. And he always does well on Caucus days because it requires a level of commitment to a campaign that a primary doesn't and Sanders supporters are indeed passionate.

But you know John one of the big knocks on Sanders is whether or not he has the ability to unify the Democratic Party if he becomes the nominee. To that end it would mean bringing Former President Barack Obama on board.

Sanders and Obama have had somewhat of an uneven relationship, so I asked Sanders about his relationship with Obama and what it could mean about the Democratic Primary and the General Election going forward, and this is what he told me.


SANDERS: If I win, I'm sure he'll be there by my side. If someone else wins, he'll be there by their side. But I expect and know that he'll play an enormously important role in helping us to defeat Trump.

NOBLES: And do you fill the role he has played in the primary to this point it has been appropriate basically just you're staying out of it?

SANDERS: Yes I do. Everybody I'm sure is tugging at his sleeve. I've talked to him a couple times in the last month or two, and I'm sure everyone has.


NOBLES: What's interesting about this, John, is that there are a lot of folks connected to Barack Obama who are not necessarily big fans of Bernie Sanders and have not been shy to share that opinion. According to Sanders, Obama has been fair in his vetting of the Democratic Primary process. He's going to stay out of it and Sanders feels confident that if he's the nominee, Barack Obama will be at his side John that will be very important heading into a General Election.

KING: Ryan Nobles, live in Vegas. We appreciate the live report. It is interesting when you see Senator Sanders. Number one, people, I think, under estimate his underestimate his strategy and his tactical moves. He is thinking long term here. He is trying to project I talked to Obama. Obama would support me.

He's trying to project it to South Carolina and beyond where we get more African-American voters there. It's also he is trying to express some confidence here at a time when many of the Democrats are saying, nominate Bernie Sanders you will flush the party away.


OLORUNNIPA: Yes and he's trying to make some comparisons to Obama. Obama in 2008 was not seen as the front runner or seen as someone who was a little bit out of the mainstream, and he was able to put together what Bernie Sanders would call a revolution of coalition of people who are enthusiastic willing to spend money, willing to spend time caucusing for him and voting for him in primaries, and it's clear that Sanders is trying to make comparison to that and show that he has the most fervent supporters, the most fervor on his side.

And he's trying to put together a coalition of his own, and that will include not only people on the left but figuring out how to reach out to those moderates who are concerned about his policies, concerned that he could not beat Trump and show that he would be able to get the support of someone like Obama who now is seen as much more modern.

DAWSEY: If you talk to Trump folks, some of them do like the idea of running against Bernie Sanders. I think they could demonize him and they could draw a contrast with his policies the socialism I think has embedded. They could talk about that nonstop.

However, they also have noticed, the Trump folks, if he has constituents that sticks with him but he brings young people in on the rise. Several of his advisers that I've talked to this week say he is one of the only candidates that changes what they see as a map and the--

I think they brought certain states back employee take certain states off the map. So there is not as much excitement about Bernie as maybe the President would say. I think folks still seen him as better than some of the other candidates, but there are complicating factors that Bernie Sanders brings to the table for the President.

And in some ways it's a change election. Bernie makes it a change election and that's what the President wants.

KUCINICH: You know I think where you see more glee from Republicans in places like the NRCC and the NRSC where they're looking at Bernie Sanders as a possible top of the ticket as a way to really unlock the socialist box and tag not only Sanders himself but also candidates down ballot in some of these marginal seats, in some of these places where they're not sure that they're going to win right now. And they think Bernie Sanders could scare away some voters that might cross over.

KING: Medicare for all, higher taxes--


KING: --Green New Deal in the moderate to conservative districts. Another big test in Nevada number one Sanders wants momentum he wants sort of the spring board he wants to prove them first of first electorate I won the state. Let's move on to South Carolina and keep going. He has the resource we'll talk more about that later to compete more than some of the other candidates.

The question now is who else emerges? And it's crystal clear from the Sander's 60 minute interview to this I'm about to show you that Michael Bloomberg is the Pinata of the moment for the other Democratic candidates.

Remember in the debate other night Elizabeth Warren turned to him and said, there are all these women from Bloomberg LLP that have these non-disclosure agreements. Why don't you free them up? She had a CNN Town Hall last night before - could ask her a question this--


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I used to teach contract law and I thought I would make this easy. I wrote up a release and covenant not to sue, and all that Mayor Bloomberg has to do is download it. I'll text it, sign it, and then the women or men will be free to speak and tell their own stories. I think that the Mayor should sign this and that we all have a right to see.


KING: Now, a candidate who struggled in Iowa, struggled in New Hampshire, a lot of people are trying to write the final chapter of this story. We should not. We should wait and watch it play out because we're in the early chapters. You heard her there, the women or the men.

Look at this in Nevada in 2016, 56 percent of the participants in the Caucuses were women. In South Carolina in the 2016 Democratic Party, 61 percent of the voters in the primary were women. Pretty clear what Elizabeth Warren is trying to do there.

DAVIS: Absolutely. I mean in the same way that Bernie Sanders is trying to use Nevada as a springboard to show that he can appeal to voters in a more diverse state and has a lot of staying power as a frontrunner, potentially, in this contest.

Bloomberg has to show that he can enter the race with a splash and clearly Elizabeth Warren and the other contenders here are trying to damage him, tarnish him early on so that he will have a harder time doing that. Showing that after that debate where he had a pretty rocky performance and was really the object of a lot of scorn on that stage, that he essentially--

I think the effort is to try to get him to cut him down before he can really emerge. But he has all these ads running he has so much money to pour into this freeze that it really has become a very intense effort that has to take shape pretty quickly if they're going to have an effect here.

KING: And from day one, from day one, and especially after very disappointing showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Joe Biden has said, just everybody calm down. Wait until we get to a real Democratic Party. Wait until we get to a diverse electorate.

He means more South Carolina than Nevada. He means more African- American voters than Latino voters. But the combination of Latinos and African-Americans in Nevada gives you a good test here. Joe Biden needs to come in second, his campaign says. The issue he's focusing on as we close, guns.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is Bernie has had a very different record than me for a long time. For example, I'm the guy that, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, worked to pass very difficult legislation, the Brady Bill that had background checks as well as waiting periods. When Bernie was running for the Senate in Vermont, he said it was a tough state to run in, he voted against it five times in the House of Representatives.


KING: Obviously had recently the massacre in Las Vegas. The gun issue is very important to Democratic Primary voters may be especially so there. But Biden sometimes bristles when you go back at his record. Well, back to the 1984 crime bill. Go back to his views on bussing back in the 70s.

But fair game he seems to think and Bernie has said, yes, I represented Vermont. It's a pro-gun state. My views have changed over time as I've travelled the country and as things have happened in the country I've changed my mind. So there is a bit of a double standard there?

KUCINICH: Though I do think so Bernie Sanders has made part of his candidacy - you hear this from his supporters as well consistency, consistency. He has been the same sense of course his economic views since go. This is one issue that he has changed on, and you hear a lot of Democrats there was frustration that there hasn't been more of a focus on Sanders' past position on the gun issue.

KING: That's an excellent point. Thank you. When we come back, the President is out west, too. Nevada does not have caucuses tomorrow, but guess where the President is.