Return to Transcripts main page
State of the Union
Obamacare Hanging in the Balance?; Trouble for Trump; Interview With Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings; Interview With Maine Senator Susan Collins; Federal Judge Strikes Down Affordable Care Act; New Acting White House Chief Of Staff Has Criticized Trump In The Past; Iowa 2020 Poll: Biden In Lead, Followed By Sanders And O'Rourke; Movies President Trump And His Associates Might Star In Is the Subject Of This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 16, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trouble for Trump -- the president's life under a microscope, as more of his associates are headed to prison.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: It's sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.
TAPPER: What new probes might House Democrats launch in January? The incoming chair of the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, will be here exclusively.
Plus: On life support? Health insurance for millions of Americans now hanging in the balance after a federal judge strikes down the Affordable Care Act.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a great ruling for our country.
TAPPER: But could Republicans pay the political price? Republican Senator Susan Collins responds next.
And 2020 vision. As high-profile Democrats make their final decisions...
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I'm not afraid of his nasty language.
TAPPER: ... we're getting a brand-new look at who's already ahead in Iowa. But should Democrats prioritize experience or bet on a fresh face?
REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: I'm more hopeful and optimistic than I have ever been.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is under the harsh light of prosecutors.
It may not be the most relaxing holiday season for President Trump. After weeks of mounting legal revelations, President Trump's heading into his final workweek in Washington this year with nearly every aspect of his professional and personal lives under scrutiny, his businesses, his former associates, his campaign, his inauguration, and his charity.
And the president is facing these probes at one of the more unstable moments in his White House, managing unprecedented turnover in his staff and administration, as the government is now just days away from a potential shutdown.
Perhaps that is why the president was so quick to declare himself the winner on Saturday, cheering a remarkable ruling from a federal judge in Texas, who struck down the entire Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and put health insurance for millions of Americans up in the air.
For now, Obamacare remains in place, pending the appeals process. But the president lost no time declaring himself a victor and calling the decision great.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine joins me now. She's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And, of course, she voted not to replace Obamacare in that famous vote, or infamous, depending on your point of view, I suppose.
Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.
So, millions of Americans, including everyone covered by Medicaid expansion and many with preexisting conditions, are going to lose their health insurance if this ruling is upheld.
You voted for the repeal of the individual mandate as part of the tax reform bill last December. That's the basis of this judge's decision. You heard President Trump call this -- quote -- "a great ruling for our country."
Do you agree?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I don't.
First of all, I would probably any doubt that this ruling is not going to affect people who are currently enrolled or in Obamacare policies, so -- or their policies for 2019.
There is widespread support for protecting people with preexisting conditions. There's also widespread opposition to the individual mandate. And here's why. The individual mandate penalties, 80 percent were paid by people -- 80 percent of the people who paid the penalty earned under $50,000 a year.
So, this hurt low- and middle-income families who couldn't afford the cost of health insurance. And it's telling that, when the tax bill was on the floor, not a single Democratic senator offered an amendment to strike the repeal of the individual mandate. That's how unpopular it was.
I think this will be overturned on appeal.
TAPPER: You do?
COLLINS: I do.
TAPPER: In the Supreme Court or in the Fifth Circuit, or -- or where do you think it...
COLLINS: I'm not sure where will occur, but there's no reason why the individual mandate provision can't be struck down and keep all of the good provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for people with preexisting conditions, the mandated benefits for substance abuse and mental illness treatment, and also allowing young people to stay on their parents' policies until age 26.
TAPPER: All right, let's move on.
I want to ask you. The last two weeks have brought some major developments in the Russia investigation and the Southern District of New York investigation.
Take a listen to what former Trump fixer Michael Cohen said this week about his two campaign finance felonies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me, as I said in my allocution, and I said as well in the plea, he directed me to make the payments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, I understand that's Michael Cohen, and he has a history of saying things that are not necessarily true.
But it's not just him making that assertion. The federal prosecutors, the Southern District of New York stated in their filing that the president directed these illegal payments and they were done in coordination with him.
Does it bother you that the president of the United States is being accused of ordering felony crimes in order to help him win the election?
COLLINS: Well, let me point out that there are a lot of unanswered ethical, legal and factual questions.
But, clearly, this was not a good week for President Trump, nor for his campaign organization. And these allegations are concerning. But we need to wait until we have the entire picture. And that's why it's so critical that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation unimpeded, so that we can have the full picture.
TAPPER: I get that when it comes to the Russia investigation, because we're still waiting to hear the whole picture there.
But when it comes to Michael Cohen, we kind of do have the whole picture. The Southern District of New York said that these payments were illegal, they were campaign contributions. And the prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office there say, President -- they were done in direction of and coordination with President Trump.
I mean, and -- and now Michael Cohen is going to jail as a result of that and other crimes. Don't we have the whole picture there?
COLLINS: I don't think we do.
For one thing, the U.S. attorney's office described Michael Cohen as being deceitful, as being motivated by greed, and pointed out that he was not a cooperating witness. On the special counsel side, the special counsel praised him for his cooperation in the Russian investigations.
So, we have two different pictures of Michael Cohen. And many of the crimes for which he is going to prison had nothing to do with Donald Trump, such as tax evasion. That benefited him. Lying to the Intelligence Committee is another crime for which he was punished.
So, the picture there is -- is still murky, in my view.
TAPPER: So, there -- I mean, there is an audiotape of Michael Cohen talking about these payments with President Trump. I'm sure you have heard the audiotape.
Do you -- do you not believe -- you haven't seen enough evidence to convince you that Donald Trump told Michael Cohen, directed him to make these payments to get Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep their stories quiet?
COLLINS: I'm not going to engage in speculation, because I don't feel that I have the entire picture yet. I have charges and countercharges.
Certainly, this is concerning. I don't mean to imply otherwise. But I'm going to wait until I have the full picture.
TAPPER: There is -- I mean, he is going to jail, but it's not just for that charge.
TAPPER: But, bigger picture, there are ongoing investigations into the Trump administration, the Trump campaign 2016, the Trump transition team, the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation. There was one for the Trump -- for Trump university, and now we found out from "The Wall Street Journal" this week the Trump Inaugural Committee. Given all those investigations, given the fact that the president surrounded himself with people like Michael Cohen and people like Paul Manafort, do you think that President Trump has respect for the rule of law?
COLLINS: I think this reflects the fact that President Trump put together a campaign organization with very little experience, with completely inadequate vetting.
And I think that's what happens. This is what happens when you take that kind of approach.
TAPPER: I want to move on.
You told reporters this week you felt vindicated by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's decision to not want to hear a case involving whether Medicaid can be paid to Planned Parenthood affiliates for non-abortion-related services.
In response to your saying that you thought that had vindicated you for voting for Brett Kavanaugh, Planned Parenthood's political arm tweeted out a link from a liberal Web site that slammed you as -- quote -- "delusional" for thinking that this move means Kavanaugh will support abortion rights, uphold Roe v. Wade in the future.
I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond.
COLLINS: This is what I -- the point I was trying to make.
Planned Parenthood was Brett Kavanaugh's number one opponent. They went after him with everything that they had. And yet, when it came to this case, he was able to put that aside and rule impartially, independently.
And it's notable that he was the key vote. It takes only four votes on the court to decide to hear a case like that. And despite the treat -- the way he was treated by Planned Parenthood, he ruled not to hear the case that would have stripped them of their -- that upheld a lower court ruling that said they could participate in the Medicaid program.
I was trying to speak to his temperament and his fairness and his impartiality, which I think he did demonstrate in this case.
TAPPER: Last question, Senator.
The race for 2020, as you saw from our opening, has already started on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich, who you supported in 2016, has been out publicly considering running against President Trump.
Whether it's Kasich or Flake or Sasse or anyone else, do you think it would be good for the Republican Party and good for the country for President Trump to face a Republican challenger in 2020? COLLINS: It's always interesting when we have -- have primaries, because, a lot of times, it allows different viewpoints to service. It can help influence public policy down the road. And it's healthy for our democracy.
So, it's up to those individuals to decide whether or not they are going to oppose the president. They would probably have an uphill climb, since he is the president and is in office now.
TAPPER: But it sounds like you think it would be a good thing for the country and a good thing for the party for the president to face a primary challenge.
COLLINS: Well, it's really not my choice. It's the choice of those individuals. But I see nothing wrong with challengers. That is part of our democratic system.
TAPPER: And you're not ready to say that you're endorsing President Trump for 2020?
COLLINS: I'm going to talk about 2020 in 2020. That's a lifetime in politics. We haven't even sworn in the new Congress yet.
And I worry that we're getting into this perpetual campaign mode, instead of focusing on governing. That's what I would like to see us do this next year.
TAPPER: Senator Susan Collins, it's always a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for being here.
COLLINS: Thank you.
TAPPER: Really appreciate it.
It's beginning to look a lot like 2020, at least in the all-important state of Iowa. We have some of the first polling in the first caucus state coming up.
And House Democrats take control in two-and-a-half weeks. I will ask incoming Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings what he wants to investigate first.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
President Trump's interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, is stepping down from his post just before House Democrats launched investigations into a variety of ethical complaints against him.
And that's just one of many, many probes that Democrats are planning to kick-start in fewer than three weeks. Here with me is the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland.
Congressman, thank you so much for being here.
And probably next time I see you, it will be Mr. Chairman, but, for now, we will call you Congressman.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: That's good enough. I'm honored to be here.
TAPPER: All right.
So, let -- you take the gavel for the House Oversight Committee in January.
TAPPER: You have already mentioned you want to have hearings on prescription drugs. It's a big, big topic of importance for you.
CUMMINGS: Very big.
TAPPER: Your job also includes oversight of the White House and the Trump administration.
What are two or three subjects for hearings you want to hold in the first six months that are about oversight of the Trump administration and the White House?
CUMMINGS: Well, we want -- we have control over security clearances. That comes under our jurisdiction.
And we noticed that there were a lot of problems with security clearances with regard to Mr. Porter, Mr. Flynn, and others, and Kushner. And so we want to take a look at that.
But, more importantly, we want to also take a look at this whole effort of voter suppression, because we think a lot of that sort of filters down from the White House.
Remember, not too long ago, they created that voter suppression committee. I -- that's what I call it. And so we have got...
TAPPER: Oh, the voter fraud committee that disbanded.
CUMMINGS: The voter fraud...
So, we have got a number of things to do. But we're going to take a close look at this administration. But, more importantly, we're going to be fighting for the American people and the things that they want.
TAPPER: So, do you know what the first hearings...
CUMMINGS: No, we haven't decided that yet.
But I can guarantee you that it will likely not be what a lot of people expect. It will probably be something regarding skyrocketing drug prices or possibly the vote, things of that nature that people have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.
We're going to certainly be taking a look at that. And we're going to make sure that it stays enforced.
TAPPER: Over the last two years, as the ranking Democrat on the committee, you have asked Republicans to issue 64 different subpoenas. They have declined to do so.
TAPPER: Are you going to issue those 64 subpoenas as chairman?
We will -- we may very well get to that point. But I plan to run our committee like a federal courthouse -- courtroom. I want civility. And we will address subpoenas in a very systematic way of those 64.
There so many, Jake, that -- so many issues that we bought up that would normally be -- come up, whether they're -- whether the president was Republican or Democrat. But there are so many. So, we are going to have to pull some aside and deal with the ones that are most urgent.
For example, we're concerned about the census, which is right around the corner.
CUMMINGS: And we have got to make sure that we take a look at Wilbur Ross and the question of whether we should have a citizenship question in the census forms.
TAPPER: Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York have said that then candidate Donald Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen, who's now going to prison, to make illegal hush money payments involving these two women that alleged affairs with the president.
Your fellow Democrat soon-to-be-Chairman Adam Schiff says that the Justice Department should reconsider those guidelines that exist that say that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Do you agree? Should the DOJ reconsider those guidelines? CUMMINGS: I think we -- we should always reconsider laws and
regulations. And this is one we definitely should reconsider.
But let me say this, too. I'm hoping that Mr. Cohen will come before the Congress, where he can tell the American public exactly what he has been saying to Mueller and others, without interfering with the Mueller investigation.
I think the American people just voted for transparency and integrity in our hearings. They want to hear from him. And I certainly would like to see him come in the month of January to -- before the Congress, and so that the people's representatives will have an opportunity to ask him questions.
I really think...
TAPPER: Your committee?
CUMMINGS: Yes, he can come in any committee he wants to come to. But I would love -- it would be nice if he came before our committee.
But the fact is, is that I think this is a watershed moment, Jake. Remember John Dean, with regard to the Nixon tapes and the testimony that he provided, he changed the course of America. A lot of people said that he would not -- called him a liar and everything else. But the fact is, is that he came forward.
And I think, surely, Mr. Cohen should come forward and let us know what he has on his mind.
TAPPER: Are -- you think the watershed moment is him going to prison, including for crimes about hush money payments to these women?
CUMMINGS: I think that is also -- I think the watershed moment will be him coming -- first of all, that -- that's already a major problem from him -- for him and for the president.
But I think the public needs to know exactly what happened. And I think that he can shed light on it.
TAPPER: You told CNN earlier this week that you think President Trump directing Cohen to make those illegal payments could probably, probably, in your words, be an impeachable offense.
Does that mean that you think the House should move forward with articles of impeachment against the president for these...
CUMMINGS: I think -- I think that we must -- our major thing right now is to let Mr. Mueller, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, do his job. Let him complete the job. Then let -- then we take a look at what he says and then go from there. But I think it's actually premature to -- right now to do that. But
the evidence is certainly piling up. And I think the president knows that.
TAPPER: On top of all these ongoing investigations, "The Wall Street Journal" broke a story this last week that President Trump's inaugural committee is also under criminal investigation in New York for potential illegal donations from foreign nationals and potential promises of political favors to donors.
Will you investigate that when you take over the committee?
CUMMINGS: More than likely, we will take a look at it.
And, of course, we have got his campaign chairman and his adviser, and then Mr. Flynn, and so many people around him have been already indicted or pleaded guilty. So, there's a lot to look at.
But, Jake, let's not be confused. The American people, they want government to help them, not hurt them. They want us to do our jobs. And so I'm not looking for headlines. I'm trying to get things done for them.
For example, I think the president needs us as much as we need him. He -- we have got a little bit of time to act. You just talked to Susan Collins about the presidential elections coming up. They're right around the corner.
CUMMINGS: And so the president has promised us infrastructure. And he's got to work with the Democrats to make that happen.
And so I'm looking forward to it. He said he wants to do something about prescription drugs. Come on, Mr. President, let's do it. Let's get it done. You have said you wanted to do it. I will hold you to that.
TAPPER: The government is headed toward a shutdown this Friday because the president says he wants to see $5 billion in funding for his border wall in the government spending bill. Democrats say there they're -- that you're not going to approve that much money.
Why not negotiate on it and -- so that this can happen and try to get a priority like DACA or the dreamers attached to it?
CUMMINGS: Well, Nancy Pelosi and Schumer have been trying to do that, and I'm sure that's going to work out.
But whenever I hear a president say to the American people at Christmastime, I am going to shut down your government, it pains me, because I know that that's going to make a bad Christmas for a lot of people.
And I would say to the president, there are a lot of people who have worked hard. And all they want to do is live their lives. They don't want government to hurt them. They want government to help them.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman and soon-to-be-Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, thanks so much for being here.
CUMMINGS: It's a pleasure.
TAPPER: And merry Christmas to you. Hope to see you in the new year.
CUMMINGS: All righty.
TAPPER: President Trump had some lovely praise for his new acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, saying Mulvaney has done an outstanding job at the offices -- Office of Management and Budget.
But Mulvaney hasn't always shared the love. What did he say about Trump in 2016?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was a big ruling. It's a great ruling for our country.
We will be able to get great health care. We will sit down with the Democrats, if the Supreme Court upholds. We will be sitting down with the Democrats, and we will get great health care for our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was President Trump touting a Texas federal judge ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional, the president pledging to work with Democrats if the decision is upheld.
TAPPER: Jen Psaki, former communications director for the Obama White House, obviously, you feel strongly about this. What do you think?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that was certainly some premature celebrating by Donald Trump.
What we have seen is that Republicans are completely incapable of ending health care for Americans, thank God. Democrats now have 40 new members in the House because of their efforts to end health care.
So, there's a couple layers of this. There's obviously the court process here. It's going to go to the circuit court next. There's an interesting op-ed today from both for an opponent and an
advocate for the Affordable Care Act on both sides of the legal case. The legal case made by this judge is ludicrous.
TAPPER: John Adler? Yes --
PSAKI: Exactly, is ludicrous so there's the legal process. But then there's also the political process. And while Donald Trump was just celebrating a lot of Republicans who are moderates, who are in suburbs, who will be up for election in the Senate are probably freaking out right now because this is going to be an issue that Democrats bring to the House floor when they're in-charge in January and February and they get Democrats -- they get Republicans On the Record.
Are you opposed to pre-existing -- covering pre-existing conditions? Are you opposed to Americans having access to health care?
So this is not a win for Trump. This is not a win for Republicans. This is a huge -- in a weird way, an opportunity for Democrats.
TAPPER: Would it not have been --
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Stated like an Obama spokesperson.
TAPPER: Well, she is.
URBAN: You can tell. Great job. Good spin on it.
TAPPER: Do you agree with Susan Collins' point of view on this, which is it probably would have been better for Republicans and for the country, in her view, if the judge had just said that the individual mandate, that the penalty --
TAPPER: -- was unconstitutional but kept the rest of the law?
URBAN: Yes. You look, the court has said there's no injunction. It's not stayed. Obamacare stays in place -- dependency. There's -- no one is having their health care snatched away.
PSAKI: David Urban is defending Obamacare. Noted.
URBAN: No. I'm not. Listen -- there's a --
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Like a good Obama spokesperson.
URBAN: No, listen. There's lots of -- there's lots of things that I know that Jen and other would disagree -- would agree that need to be repaired, right? Nobody wants to take away the pre-existing conditions or that your kids can't stay on your health care. There were some good things but there's lots of bad things.
We can do better as a country. We should do better.
TAPPER: Symone, take a look at this. The former attorney general Eric Holder who is often talked about as potential 2020 presidential candidate tweeted -- quote -- "After an election in which the fate of Obamacare protections were decisive, a single, hard right judge destroys the system and defeated Republicans support this. It is time to move to some version of Medicare for all and end this nonsense."
TAPPER: Do you think -- do you think that that -- this decision will push Democrats more and more Democrats and Obama is there already also toward Medicare for all?
SANDERS: To be clear Medicare for all builds on the enormous success that is the Affordable Care Act. We -- but we can't move toward Medicare for all when there are currently assaults on the health care system every single day.
Look, the Trump administration has moved to undermine the system in every single turn. So much so that there are career attorneys at the Department of Justice that resigned and took their names off the brief earlier this year when the government said they don't want to defend pre-existing conditions anymore.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is so straightforward. The only reason Obamacare is around is because the court upheld it as a tax. You take the tax away, it is no longer constitutional.
SANDERS: So to be -- to be clear.
CARPENTER: So -- yes, this is a legal argument. The problem with Obamacare is that it's not working. Health care has gotten more and more expensive.
URBAN: More expensive. Right.
CARPENTER: And so either we're going to go in the direction of dismantling Obamacare or Medicare for all.
URBAN: Single payer.
SANDERS: To be clear -- hold on. The Republicans just lost, just lost -- just lost --
CARPENTER: I might be the only person in this table who has bought Obamacare for my family and it is not affordable.
SANDERS: First of all I'm on Obamacare. I am on Obamacare.
CARPENTER: And my family -- two children. (CROSSTALK)
CARPENTER: It's not working.
TAPPER: Let's just do -- let's just do one at a time.
SANDERS: To be clear -- yes. Premiums are too high. There are folks that cannot afford some of these plans. So we have to fix it.
URBAN: Wait. Hold up. Did Symone just say Obamacare is not that great?
SANDERS: No one is arguing. There are things that need to be fixed but what this partisan judge -- yes, partisan judge did was an assault on health care --
PSAKI: Ultimately --
PSAKI: Ultimately this is question (ph). I was in the White House when we did Obamacare. It is not perfect. We need to build on it and fix things that are broken.
However, millions of people were not covered before Obamacare. Pre- existing conditions were not covered before Obamacare. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. This is an important bill we need to keep building on. That's where we are.
URBAN: So where do you come out on the first step back, by the way? I'm just --
TAPPER: OK. I want to change topics because we have so much to talk about. The president finally settled on a new chief of staff, possibly, OMB director Mick Mulvaney is going to serve in the acting capacity. But take a listen to this video of Mulvaney running for Congress in 2016 the resurfaced shortly after the announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, INCOMING ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump, I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now we should point out as spokesman from Mulvaney told "The New York Times" that at the time Mulvaney had not met with President Trump, then candidate Trump and now while working the administration his support of the president has never wavered but it is interesting that the chief of staff is on record saying that the president is a terrible human being. CARPENTER: I'm going to choose to see the silver lining in this, in that President Trump has found room in the White House for people who have been critical of him in the past. This is a hard job to fill because a lot of qualified people would not do it. I'm glad Mick Mulvaney is going to go do it.
He's qualified. He'll be a good voice. He's a strong connection with conservatives. And given this atmosphere President Trump is lucky to have him there.
TAPPER: Is it possible that President Trump didn't know about that quote and then will see it and then get upset about it?
URBAN: Listen, I'm sure the president knows that people say bad things about him. He has got pretty thick skin. And whenever things --
URBAN: Listen, no, no. Listen, no. No. Yes, he does. No, he does.
SANDERS: -- David Urban.
TAPPER: President Trump has really thick skin.
URBAN: He does. He does. And --
SANDERS: The thinnest skin I've ever seen.
URBAN: Listen -- no. He's a tough guy. He can take it.
And Mick Mulvaney is a true patriot. Really has a -- he'll push back on the president, he's going to be a good chief of staff and he's not going to be acting for very long. I'm sure he will be in that role for quite some time.
TAPPER: It is hard to imagine President Obama even picking somebody for chief of staff that called him a terrible human being.
PSAKI: Well, people actually wanted to be President Obama's chief of staff.
TAPPER: So he had more of a selection?
PSAKI: That is certainly different than the current circumstance. Look, I think this is a smart move for Mick Mulvaney is he stays for a couple of months and gets out and he's ambitious for a reason, wanted this job for a reason.
I think what's more interesting is who becomes the permanent chief of staff. And we'll see how the debate goes around that. URBAN: Mick has been great. You see him behind the podium and the West Wing in the White House there. He's great on TV. He's got great --
PSAKI: But I think, David --
PSAKI: It's not about Mick Mulvaney. It's about we've seen the same exact process here where Donald Trump loves the chief of staff, he talks about them on Twitter which is, you know, his best compliment, and then he starts to trash them. He lifts them up and then trashes them. So it's probably going to happen again.
URBAN: Listen, I think Mick understands what Kelly had said. He's the chief of staff, not chief of the president, right? That's an important distinction.
SANDERS: I think there's also something to be said about Mick Mulvaney doesn't necessarily have too deep hill ties on the folks on the Democratic side of the aisle that will be conducting a lot of these oversight hearings. While he does have good relationships with conservatives conservatives are not the only folks in Washington, D.C. So I think --
CARPENTER: He knows how it works.
TAPPER: But Amanda points out, he knows Capitol Hill.
SANDERS: He knows Capitol Hill but --
URBAN: He's political. He's political.
PSAKI: -- a lot which is good.
CARPENTER: That's the bonus.
URBAN: Run the OMB. He's a very smart guy.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone stick around we've got lot more to talk about.
Tension to the dozens of Democrats trying to decide whether to run in 2020. The first Iowa polling is out. Likely Democratic caucus-goers. Who is ahead? What might it mean, if anything, that's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, I hate to see you go, but you're going to run for president, right?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS: No, no decision on that yet. No decision on that yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Congressman Beto O'Rourke giving a not so convincing denial Friday at town hall in Texas. This as we're getting our very first Des Moines register/CNN poll out of Iowa. And take a look O'Rourke is right up there in third place among likely Democratic caucus goers, right behind former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.
You have spent a lot of time in Iowa, Jen Psaki, we should point out that this early in the process these polls are generally speaking, just name recognition. But look at this. It's Biden, Sanders, O'Rourke and then in single digits Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris in Cory Booker. What do you think?
PSAKI: Well, as you said it's mostly about name recognition and Iowa is a caucus state. So it's really about organizing and people expect that every candidate is going to be in their living room with their sleeves rolled up, eating their jelly rolls. So that's going to happen over the next year.
But what was also interesting in this poll if you delve deeper into it are where numbers dropped. You don't want to be a candidate where numbers dropped.
TAPPER: Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
PSAKI: Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. And specifically Elizabeth Warren, she has over 80 percent name recognition in Iowa and her numbers dropped by a couple of points. That's not a good place to be a starting point.
Joe Biden, well, this is certainly about name recognition. What's interesting too is his fave, unfavorable. So his favorable ratings are over 80 percent which is a pretty good place to be. It is hard to move when you are known by 99.9 percent but that is a good place to start.
So as you said there's a lot to happen here. If you go up, like Beto O'Rourke, that's a good sign. If you go down, not a good sign but we have a long runway here to go.
TAPPER: Just a reality check again because we're discussing these numbers but just to look back at this point, in the Des Moines register poll from this same time in 2015 for the Republican nomination, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker was 15 percent. He dropped out even before Iowa. Rand Paul, 14 percent, Mitt Romney, 13 percent, Mike Huckabee 10 percent, Donald Trump all the way down at 1 percent.
So it doesn't necessarily mean anything. But let me go to the other Democrat on the panel and then I'll have the Republicans weigh in.
What do you think? First of all you're still a Bernie Sanders fan, supporter, right? Booster? No?
SANDERS: Jake, what are trying --
TAPPER: I'm trying to get you to commit.
SANDERS: You're trying to get me to commit. Yes, I work for Senator Sanders and I think if he or anyone else would like to throw their name in the hat for president in 2020 they absolutely should.
TAPPER: Keeping an open mind. Keeping an open mind.
SANDERS: They absolutely should, Jake.
Look, I think, we learned in 2016 that nobody wants a coronation. Coronation isn't necessarily good for the party.
will say what's also interesting in this poll is that the overwhelming number of folks surveyed want a robust primary. They want a lot of folks in the race. They don't want it whittled down to just a couple individuals.
And so I think the folks in Iowa but also people across the country are looking for lots of people to get in the race. They want to hear ideas from everybody. They want to make a good decision.
TAPPER: Do you know who else wants lots of candidates in the race? David Urban.
URBAN: I would like to see all 20. Interestingly, that poll was pretty bad. The people they didn't want to hear from was pretty clear in there. They clearly -- 75 percent of people said they don't want to hear from Hillary Clinton --
TAPPER: Right. That's true.
URBAN: An overwhelming number, pretty big rebuke. And then the other people I noted were Howard Schultz, nobody wants Howard Schultz to run according to that poll.
URBAN: And Tom Steyer was way at the bottom that people want him to run.
(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: It was interesting -- it was interesting -- there was a question if this person enters, would the person do more to detract --
TAPPER: -- or to contribute? And most people thought that Hillary Clinton would detract. Michelle Obama was contribute -- people liked Michelle Obama. What do you think when you saw the poll?
CARPENTER: I think bad news for Elizabeth Warren not only because she dropped but I don't think anyone wants it as openly badly as she does.
URBAN: I do. I do, too.
CARPENTER: -- campaigning for this for a long time. Through the -- through the primaries, she was fund-raising for candidates, seating candidates. She did the DNA test, which backfired. She did a clean- up speech this week. She is not getting any traction. And so I think this is just a disaster (ph) for her.
SANDERS: Hold on a second. I'm no -- you know, look, I'm no Elizabeth Warren booster, if you will, but I think to suggest that poll spells trouble for Elizabeth Warren is not good.
TAPPER: She went down. She went down in the poll.
SANDERS: Yes. She went down on her name recognition.
CARPENTER: Beto went up --
SANDER: Beto went up because everywhere you turn, everybody is talking about Beto O'Rourke. I think she has room to grow. I think she (ph) could be at the top of this poll (INAUDIBLE).
PSAKI: Sure. She's known by a huge percentage of people. That's what's troubling. There is good news for a lot of candidates, including many women candidates on the Democratic side.
TAPPER: Let's talk about that.
CARPENTER: I will say, to state the obvious, it's odd that three white guys are leading the top.
TAPPER: And let's talk about that.
CARPENTER: Yes. TAPPER: Three white guys are at the top of the polling results. Van Jones ask Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, also potential 2020 candidate, Democratic senator from New York, what she thought about the fact that the three were Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O'Rourke all white men. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN JONES, CNN HOST, THE VAN JONES SHOW: Does it worry you to see the top three being white guys?
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Yes.
JONES: Why? Why?
GILLIBRAND: I just -- I aspire for our country to recognize the beauty of our diversity at some point in the future and I hope someday we have a woman president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: This is what I love about Senator Gillibrand. One, she's so refreshingly candid. You can ask other folks that question and they might try to pontificate and give you good talking points and she just flat-out said yes I think it's a problem and I hopefully -- I hope one day, sometime soon folks recognize the importance of diversity.
And I like her. I hope she among other people throw their name in the hat. The fact of the matter is though this poll is just so early. And I think that it is incumbent upon the folks that maybe didn't poll well or didn't even register at the 5 percent to get out there, to get on the ground, to get in folks' living room, hit the state fair and make your case.
That's what Iowa voters want to see. That's what will wins election.
URBAN: Nothing to do with this poll but just kind of a snapshot of things to come, right, this is what -- these polls are what going to drive debates. You poll high, you get a front stage at the debate place. If you don't you're in the back stage (ph).
PSAKI: Necessarily the DNC hasn't even announced what their rules are going to be.
URBAN: I know but it's going to be --
SANDERS: No, that's not what the rule is going to be. As a DNC member -- as a DNC member there's a very special process that's going to go on in this primary to ensure transparency.
SANDERS: So we don't know what the criteria will be --
CARPENTER: But can you imagine these numbers changing a lot?
CARPENTER: These debates starting? You picture Kamala Harris versus Bernie Sanders, I can tell you who is going to win that debate. So I think this will change dramatically.
CARPENTER: I think Kamala Harris almost certainly.
TAPPER: You think Kamala Harris --
CARPENTER: Just because Bernie is disorganized. Joe Biden goes all over the place.
The think the female senators are very strong. I think Amy Klobuchar is very underrated. And once they get on the stage and start proposing their policies in front of these men they're going to move up.
TAPPER: Yes. I think Barack Obama at this point in the 2007 was in third place.
TAPPER: And he ended up winning Iowa.
PSAKI: And the very good -- the good news for people like Senator Gillibrand is I think if I remember correctly, over 60 percent of people didn't have a view on whether they supported or opposed her. That is a lot to work with, and that's true of a lot of the other female candidates in the race.
I will say, David, to your point on the DNC, I think I would be very surprised if they relied solely on the polls. I don't think they're going to do that. They're thinking in a very smart way about this.
They're going to look at candidates that have the ability to grassroots organize across the country and find a way to reflect that.
URBAN: We'll see. It will be a huge cry of unfair. Listen, we saw it last time. Senator Sanders got locked out because it's --
CARPENTER: No easy way.
URBAN: It was unfair, right?
PSAKI: It's not easy. It will be difficult. But I think they're thinking about this much more broadly than --
(CROSSTALK) TAPPER: As somebody who moderated the debate with 11 candidates on stage, I hope they figure it out better than that because that was very difficult to do a debate with 11 candidates on stage.
Wouldn't Donald Trump be most threatened by somebody who wasn't a white man? Doesn't that pose, electorally, a bigger challenge for him?
URBAN: Listen, I think what poses an electoral challenge is who will win those swing states, right?
You know, we all know the Democrats is going to crush in California, Massachusetts, New York. Who is going to win Ohio, Michigan? Who's going to do the best in those states? Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina? That's what you look at is (ph) electoral college.
SANDERS: Democrats they just do a good job in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
URBAN: Is (ph) electoral college.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all for being here.
URBAN: Electoral college.
TAPPER: Great to have you.
If President Obama and Joe Biden's friendship reminded you of like a buddy flick, what kind of movie might President Trump and his associates star in? That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion," next.
TAPPER: Welcome back. The head of a powerful New York family, a loyal consigliore turned informant, wealthy lieutenants facing time in the slammer, it's the stuff they make movies about, and the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."
TAPPER (voice-over): Folks have been making some really unfair Trump godfather references for quite some time.
TRUMP: I know you're a sophisticated guy. The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets.
TAPPER: Even White House insiders such as Steve Bannon have been known to unfairly and cruelly compare Donald Trump Jr. to Fredo Corleone.
FREDO CORLEONE, "THE GODFATHER" CHARACTER: I was kept pretty much in the dark. I didn't know all that much.
TAPPER: But the mob film that came to our mind this week was -- "Goodfellas."
JIMMY CONWAY, "GOODFELLAS" CHARACTER: Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.
TAPPER: Specifically former Trump fixer, Michael Cohen, in the Ray Liotta role.
RAY LIOTTA, "GOODFELLAS" CHARACTER: It will be a good summer.
TAPPER: Seduced by the high flying lifestyle, but eventually turning informant to the FBI.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP (ph): It's sad I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now take me to jail.
TAPPER: We see former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort as the Paul Sorvino character, perhaps behind bars, managing to wheel and deal his way to a nicer situation.
PAUL SORVINO, "GOODFELLAS" CHARACTER: Don't put too many onions in the sauce.
TAPPER: Then our imaginations went wild and pictured these two former Trump insiders in a "Shawshank Redemption" style partnership on the inside strategizing their way to a prison break.
ELLIS BOYD REDDING, "SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION" CHARACTER: I have to remind myself, some birds aren't meant to be caged.
TAPPER: Only instead of a Rita Hayworth poster, maybe someone else would be more fitting.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't feel like a prisoner.
TAPPER: It's something I think a lot about while scrolling through Twitter. Why are Americans so angry? That's next.