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INSIDE POLITICS

Warren Exploring 2020 Run; Crowded 2020 Field; Democrats Split on Everything; Border Wall Demand. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 31, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:22] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special New Year's Eve edition of INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Phil Mattingly. John King is off today.

Elizabeth Warren, who President Trump calls his, quote, dream come true opponent, makes her first official move toward a 2020 run.

Plus, on day 10 of the government shutdown, the president is -- you're going to be shocked by this -- tweeting for Democrats to give him the votes needed for his wall.

And are we sure tomorrow is really going to be 2019? Defense Secretary James Mattis is referencing Lincoln 1865 in his farewell note. And former CIA Director David Petraeus is quoting Churchill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I don't want to overstate the situation right now, but he had that delightful quote, if you're going through hell, keep going. I think I wouldn't liken what we're experiencing to the netherworld, but this is a tough period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Rather hardening there.

Now, we begin this hour with news from the 2020 campaign trail. And, yes, we are keenly aware that it's technically still 2018. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announcing today that she's exploring a run for president in 2020. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Because no matter what our differences, most of us want the same thing -- to be able to work hard, play by the same set of rules and take care of the people we love. That's the America I'm fighting for. And that's why today I'm launching an exploratory committee for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now, Warren's announcement hardly comes as a surprise. Over the first two years of the Trump administration, she has positioned herself as a major adversary to not just the president but also the Republican Party on the whole. She even sparked a now famous rebuke turned rallying cry from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. You know the one, nevertheless she persisted.

Now, in her announcement video, Warren highlights that persistence by focusing on her efforts to push back on Wall Street and to address economic inequality.

Now my pal, CNN's MJ Lee, joins me now live from Boston.

And, MJ, I guess we all knew it was coming and as a fill in anchor on New Year's Eve I'm thrilled to have the political news. But I guess the big question is, why now?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, what we're hearing today is that her decision to launch her exploratory committee today was actually a decision that was made some weeks ago. Now, the source that I talked to said that this decision really was not about other potential Democrat who could get into the race, though you have to imagine that that somehow did shape their thinking in some way or another.

But I'm told that this was simply about wanting to get the work started. That they are eager to start building out an apparatus and an operation and start making some of the important hires that they need to make to get a presidential campaign off to a start.

Now, the video that you are talking about that was released earlier today gives us a pretty good sense of what kind of a candidate she's going to be and what kind of issues she's going to be focused on. And not surprising there, you mentioned a few of them. She is going to be talking about fighting for economic equality and talking on big banks and big corporation, insurance companies, holding government accountable. These are the themes that catapulted her to national prominence and it is clear that these themes are going to be at the very foundation of her eventual presidential campaign.

Now, in that video, it was not surprising, that we saw some cameos from President Trump. It is a reminder that Senator Warren has been an outspoken critic of the president, but it is going to be very interesting to see how she actually handles the back and forth with the president because a few weeks ago when she released that DNA test, that didn't go over so well and it was actually described by so many people as a major misstep.

And finally, and quickly, Phil, especially because I know you'd appreciate this, I'm curious how she's going to handle dealing with the press. For so long she was known on Capitol Hill as the senator who would not do hallway interviews. They now say that is obviously not the case and that has changed in recent times.

But, again, this is going to be two years potentially of her being on the campaign trail if everything goes her way, of course. So I'm curious how she's going to handle reporters.

Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it. It's a good lesson. She's actually a great hallway interview. All senators take notes.

MJ Lee, keep an eye on her all day, she will be following this story, thank you very much, from Boston.

Here with me now to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev with "Bloomberg," McClatchy's Franco Ordonez, Rachael Bade with "Politico," and Jil Colvin with the AP.

Here we go. Hope you guys all got your rest the last couple of days because the campaign is starting.

Before we get into it, I want to read -- it's not official until there's a tweet, and we now have the tweet from Elizabeth Warren. She says, quote, I'll announce a decision early in the new year, but there's one thing I know, I can't do this alone. This has always been a grassroots campaign powered by 1.8 million in grassroots donations all across the country. This isn't my fight. It's our fight. Join us now.

[12:05:12] I guess, Margaret, I'd start with you. You know, you want to talk about getting in early. There's benefits on the money side. There's benefits on the staff side. What's your view on getting in now before pretty much everybody else?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "BLOOMBERG": I think the surprise challenge for Elizabeth Warren has been on the messaging side. And I think this gives her potentially a little bit of time to kind of have a reset on the message after her attempts to clear the air on her, you know, heritage sort of backfired greatly. So if you get in before this space is ultra-crowded, you get a little bit of time to feel your way around.

And I think that's part of the challenge that she faces. There are going to be this, you know, dozens -- potentially dozens of Democratic candidates. They fall into a few cluster. But the cluster of people who we heard from a lot in 2016, who either were candidates or might have been candidates, is her space. And so how she's going to distinguish herself from the other newer, fresher, younger candidates who are, you know, sort of less of a lightning rod on the Republican side, or the center of America, that's her challenge and she has to figure out her messaging.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": And, logistically, it gives her a head start too, right? I mean there's going to be how many million Democrats running in 2020. Excuse the New Year's Eve hyperbole. But, you know, there only -- there's a limited number of big name campaign staffers who can raise the type of money that you need in win in 2020 and actually. You know, getting those staffers now, getting them early, even though nobody's paying attention to the news right now, she can start hiring and that gives her a head start.

MATTINGLY: So I want to definitely hit on that, but also something you talked about, about the message. And I want to play a piece from her -- from her video where she talks kind of on the policy side of things. So I think there's going to be a huge debate on that on the Democratic side.

Take a listen to just this piece from her announcement today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Today corruption is poisoning our democracy. Politicians look the other way while big insurance companies deny patients life-saving coverage, while big banks rip off consumers and while big oil companies destroy this planet. The whole scam is propped up by an echo chamber of fear and hate, designed to distract and divide us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: I'm just -- I'm going to watch the b-roll of McConnell this from his last campaign on repeat from here on out. But I guess it's a big question. There are legitimate -- there are legitimate policy differences. I think everybody gets kind of pegged into the progressive how left can they go, what's Medicare for all, all that type of stuff. But you hear a lot of the top-line, low hanging fruit issues there. How much, in your sense, can policy, which Warren has a very good track record on in terms of depth, will that matter at all?

FRANCO ORDONEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "MCCLATCHY": I mean I think it will matter a lot to Democrats. I mean she is essentially unloading some red meat for Democrats. These are the issues that they want to hear about. These are the issues that they're very interested in.

At the same time, Warren is obviously a lightning rod and a divisive figure and Trump is likely going to pounce on those same -- those same messages.

I'm very eager to see what tweet he puts out, considering how much leverage he's gotten from Elizabeth Warren. Corey Lewandowski once told some of us reports, Trump's campaign manager, about how one of his political skills, Trump's political skills, is kind of creating a foil. The media, obviously, is one of those. But also Elizabeth Warren is another one of those who has obviously become a very divisive figure.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Yes.

And I think one of the most interesting things early on in congress was -- and I think you reported on this too, where Democrats would meet with him in the White House and he would go on his Elizabeth Warren rant, the president would, for some bizarre reason that none of them could figure out.

So I want to get to you on two quick points. One, what Rachael was talking about, staffing up early. And Warren has had folks in early primary states for months. And I think that's something that made very clear that this was coming. But also the point that Margaret made about, this was -- these are people you saw in 2016. And to go back to "The Boston Globe" editorial from a couple weeks ago, which reads in part, while Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure. A unifying voice is what this country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump. Warren missed her moment in 2016. There's a reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020.

That's the hometown newspaper who wanted her to run in 2020. Is there -- is there something there with the idea that she may have missed her moment in 2016?

JIL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": You know, that's always the question and it's something that people will be asking as well if Joe Biden, the time he decides to formally throw his hat into the ring as well.

Look, this is such a crowded field. And the fact is that people know Elizabeth Warren. She's got some of the highest name recognition of the field there. And some of the early polls that we've seen suggest that really what the need and the interest in the Democratic Party right now is for fresh voices, for new faces, for younger people, for people who capture kind of this, you know, new movement in the party that we saw through some of the elections to the House in 2018.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I want to bring up -- not to interrupt, but I want to bring up the "USA Today"/Suffolk poll, thoughts on 2020 contenders among Democrats and independents. And if you look at this poll, Elizabeth Warren, people that are excited about Elizabeth Warren, 27 percent. People who think she shouldn't run, 33 percent. This potential candidate is someone entirely new gets 59 percent. So whoever that guy is or woman is should definitely run.

[12:10:12] But continue. I think this is the question, right? Like, is there no excitement or is there a lack of excitement for her?

COLVIN: Absolutely. And then the question is, well, people want a new -- fresh new face. Well, what happens when those people start to gain attention?

MATTINGLY: Right.

COLVIN: Anybody running in this climate is eventually going to become a divisive figure. You're going to have Donald Trump labeling them on Twitter. You're going to have him going to rallies again and again, bashing him with the lowest blows that he can possibly think of. We saw where he went with Hillary Clinton. He's going to be in a much more vulnerable position going into this election. And these people are going to be defined by him. I think there's no way around it.

TALEV: Yes, I also think Elizabeth Warren -- so much of how she came to the Senate, which was to be, you know, sort of a fighter for consumer issues and the individual against the corporation or the individual against the government or whatever. So many of those have become kind of bulwark issues for what's going to be the Democratic ticket and it's got to be tremendously frustrating for her to see so much of what she built her momentum on going to get co-opted by everybody else who, you know, wants to be the fresh, new thing.

MATTINGLY: (INAUDIBLE).

TALEV: But that -- but, again, I think that is part of the timing for her. If you get out ahead of the pack, you can try to reclaim the mantle in theory of some of those issues.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Yes. Her and Bernie Sanders as well looking to say, wait, this was my stuff.

TALEV: Right, this was my thing.

MATTINGLY: Real quick, before we go, the RNC just put out a statement from the RNC chair. Senator Warren couldn't be more out of touch with her lack of support from voters, including in her own home state. On top of her phony claim to minority status, now that she is formally running, Americans will see her for what she is, another extreme, far left obstructionist and a total fraud.

Gentle.

TALEV: Yes.

MATTINGLY: Which I think -- get ready, folks, here we go, I guess.

All right, more on the 2020 race in a moment.

But, before we go to break, right now several cities around the world are ringing in the New Year. Here's a live look at Bangkok, Thailand.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:09] MATTINGLY: The field of could be 2020 candidates for Democrats is quite crowded, but so far only a handful have actually taken public steps towards a White House run. There's obviously Senator Elizabeth Warren. She's the latest hopeful to make a move, announcing her exploratory committee today. She joins Congressman Julian Castro, who announced his committee earlier this month. And Congressman John Delaney has basically been running for -- since I can remember at this point. He announced back in July of 2017. Spent a ton of time in Iowa. And former West Virginia Congressional Candidate Richard Ojeda has also said he's in the mix.

Others possible 2020 hopefuls are keeping the intrigue going, not quite committing to a run, but making sure they contrast their party with the man currently in the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: He is an angry, emotional, unstable man sitting in the White House.

DANA BASH, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Is that your campaign speech for 2020? Is that what we're hearing?

MCAULIFFE: In the history of our country, they want to -- BASH: You sound like a man who's running for president. You want to

announce right now?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I'm not going to announce right now. I'm obviously looking at it. I've got time. You know, I've got a lot of great relationships, 40 years of --

BASH: Do you have time?

MCAULIFFE: Sure. I have 40 years of working for this party. I have plenty of friends in many states. So I don't have to rush into this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Got to love Dana Bash asking questions.

And, it's true, Terry McAuliffe doesn't have to rush. He knows just about everybody who's ever in the history of the Democratic Party, worked for the Democratic Party.

But it raises the question, given how many people are considering it right now, how many tiers you almost have, what kind of space is there for -- we talked about Elizabeth Warren, somebody who was prominent in 2016. What about somebody like Bernie Sanders, right? Bernie Sanders was the hot kind of outside candidate in 2016. What kind of space is there for him at this point?

BADE: Yes, I mean Bernie Sanders obviously was the trailblazer when it came to the progressive movement. So everybody sort of sees him as that darling. And somebody who could potential run. But he's older, old, he's white, he's a male, he doesn't exactly fit the demographic that the Democrats want to talk about right now in terms of young blood, potentially women, minorities, running in the election.

And then again, you know, one of my colleagues, Alex Thompson, today reported this great story about how a bunch of Bernie Sanders staffers from 2016 are now wanting to sit down with him and say -- talk about a pervasive problem of sexual harassment on his campaign. When you have, you know, the Me Too movement right now sort of pulsing through the nation and, you know, women in particular speaking out, this could be a big problem for him on the campaign trail. So, you know, for him, he's got -- he's got some issues there.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that story was almost mind-blowing to me when I read it. I'm interested to see kind of where it actually goes from here.

I will note two things. First and foremost, Julian Castro is the former HUD secretary. I was talking about his twin brother, which was a mistake that I've made pretty much the entirety of their careers together and I'm sure I will going forward as well.

But also we were talking about Bernie. Bernie Sanders is now tweeting. He just put a tweet out a short while ago saying, we must have the courage to take on the greed and ideology of the billionaire class and to fight for a world of economic, social, racial and environmental justice. Will this be an easy struggle? Certainly not. But it is a fight that we cannot avoid. The stakes are just too high. Tweeting shortly after Elizabeth Warren decided she'd announce her exploratory committee.

TALEV: Right.

BADE: I'm still here! I'm still here!

MATTINGLY: And we also had the -- kind of the skirmishes between Beto land or the outside supporters of Beto and Bernie Sanders as well. What do you -- what do you make of this I guess?

ORDONEZ: I mean I -- this is -- this is what's going to happen. Each candidate is going to kind of try to outdo each other. You were talking about where is this space? This space is trying to get to the left of the other.

When I talk about -- to Republicans who are close to the White House about this, this is actually what they're excited about.

MATTINGLY: Yes.

ORDONEZ: While they're worried about all the investigations, they're telling me, this is a little bit of light for them because they're expecting that the Democrats are going to be fighting each other and eating each other up. And they see that as an opportunity to kind of shift the scrutiny, shift some of the headlines. And they see it as an opportunity for them to, you know, kind of make some progress and paint the left to be even more out there than they are.

MATTINGLY: To some of the issues you're talking about, I want to pull up some of the issues that Democrats are actually divided on, on the policy side of things. Again, you look back to 2016, policy just never seemed to break through, but the Democrats have made a clear play on this.

[12:20:07] And if you pull up some of the major issues, your health care reform, Medicare for all. Where are people going to stand on that? Raising the national minimum wage. Trade and tariffs, which have become such a huge issue. Middle East policy as well. Where do they go on national security I think is going to be fascinating. And I -- what -- what do you think breaks through, given that so many try and align on a specific issue or a specific set of issues, what breaks through, what differentiates?

TALEV: Yes, I mean, I think it's a great question because I think we really don't know. I -- there are some things that I think you're going to see Democrats really sort of lock stock all together on, environmental climate change, that stuff, preserving health -- the health care expansion of Obamacare, I think there will be broad agreement on it. Exactly how you do it, sure, there will be -- but those are discussion points for, you know, debates. Those are -- when you're campaigning on it, in general, the Democratic position is pretty uniform on this.

But on some of these other issues, like foreign policy, like deployment of the military, there are going to be some differences. And trade, I think, is the biggest, most obvious one. The one that President Trump, if he were more disciplined, could absolutely use as a wedge to turn Democrats against one another.

MATTINGLY: No question.

Just, real quick, we've got to head to a break. We're going to keep this conversation going. National security is going to be fascinating to watch, I think. Just me.

All right, up next, 10 days in and counting. The shutdown dragging on into 2019. And, as we head to break, a look ahead to 2020, elections just wouldn't be elections with candidates talking about not running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS (March 11, 2018): I am not running for president in 2020.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, (May 7, 2012): I am very flattered, but I feel like it's time for me to kind of step off the high wire.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (September 29, 2015): The American people should have no regrets that I didn't run four years ago. I wasn't ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:26:21] MATTINGLY: It is now day 10 of the partial government shutdown and, no, there is still not a deal in sight. President Trump, he is digging in on his demand for billions of dollars to fund his signature campaign promise, the border wall. And in what has been a familiar pattern, he's also hitting back on his own outgoing chief of staff, tweeting this morning, in part, an all concrete wall was never abandoned. That wasn't people saying that, that was his current outgoing chief of staff.

That seems to be in response to John Kelly, who told "The Los Angeles Times" over the weekend, to be honest, it's not a wall. The president still says wall. Oftentimes frankly he'll say barrier or fencing. Now he's tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration.

This is -- we've seen this before.

Democrats, for their part, are not budging either, emboldened further by the fact that they control the House as of Thursday. GOP Senator Richard Shelby's message to both sides, enough with the blame game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Whether it's the president tweeting and blaming somebody or blaming the Democrats or whether it's the Democrats blaming the president has brought us to the impasse that we are today. Nobody is going to win this kind of game. Nobody wins in a shutdown. We all lose and we kind of look silly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Yes. Most everyone looks pretty silly in shutdowns and everybody, at least if they're being honest with you, will acknowledge that they pretty much all look silly in this moment.

The president tweeting a lot this morning, including one saying, quote, I campaigned on border security, which you cannot have without a strong and powerful wall. Look, he's made clear this is a campaign promise. He's not going anywhere on it, at least at this moment.

What's -- what's your -- you talk to the White House. What's your sense of kind of how this plays out in the days ahead?

ORDONEZ: I mean they seem to be, you know, digging in their heels, that they're going to stick with this. Trump continues to tweet about it. He is not backing down at all. The funny thing is, so many of his supporters, actually on this specific issue, actually are not so interested necessarily in the wall either. I've talked to a lot of immigration groups who are the most adamant about immigration and border security, but they don't even necessarily think the border wall is necessarily the most effective strategy. And they're actually concerned about the shutdown -- pardon me, the spending bill proposal because it has a lot of guest worker policies in there that they're worried could be pushed through.

So it's an ironic kind of group of allies that's going on with those on the far right and the Democrats who are trying to stop the wall and prevent something that could be worse immigration wise.

MATTINGLY: Yes, if you want folks on the far right, if you will, or immigration hawks, they want interior enforcement far more than anything else in the world.

ORDONEZ: Exactly.

MATTINGLY: But the wall has become this issue right now.

And what's your sense, you know, Rachael, and I've talked to plenty of Democrats, they're not going anywhere. How -- crystal ball this. How does this end at this point?

COLVIN: I mean it's very hard to see how this ends. I think we need to wait for the next couple of days as the impact of the shutdown actually starts to impact people's lives. You know, we've been in this holiday period as we go in to people realizing that if they want their families, you know, to visit Washington, D.C., that they can't go to any of the -- the Smithsonian Museums, things like that will start to feel the impact.

But at this point, it's really, really hard to see how either side decides to -- what will be seen as caving. The president believes that this is a winning issue for him. The White House believes that this is playing well. If he's giving in, he's going to feels like he is, you know, abandoning his base. Something that he's very nervous about going into 2020. And you've got Democrats who, on Thursday, are going to be taking control of the House who have no interest in giving him this win at this point. And why would they?

[12:29:52] TALEV: And yet we know how the next couple of steps plays out, right? We know that when the House comes back, they've got a plan now for how they're going to pass this. They're going to do it in two clumps, right? They're going to do one spending bill that extends into September and one that goes -- the Homeland security part that goes into February, right?