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Schultz Defends His Possible 2020 Run As An Independent; Mitch McConnell Pushing For Troops To Stay In Syria And Afghanistan; Poll: Biden, Harris Lead Crowded 2020 Field; Harris Back Medicare For All Eliminating Private Insurance; Competing Tell-Alls Depict More Dysfunction At The White House .Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: So by the day, America is ready for a centrist independent. Democrats say, lifelong Democrat shares most of their views which siphon votes up and then reelect Trump.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The reality here is if you are starting this system all from scratch, never mind the Electoral College, never mind any of this and this might be good conversation. This come an academic exercise if you will. Of course, Washington is broken in some respects.

But they're not starting the rules from scratch. There is a system, right or wrong, so it's very tough for an independent to break through. He has the money to do it to get to ballot excess, that's the most complicated things.

KING: A lot of times.

ZELENY: He can do that, I mean, if he's willing to spend it, OK.

But the reality here is the worry from Democrats is, I think, very real. I mean history would show that it is but Bill Burton, a former Obama campaign adviser who was there from the very beginning of the Obama campaign. He worked for the Gephardt campaign back in 04. He is one of the adviser Steve Schmidt a Republican, McCain and Bush advisers.

Another one, I talked to Bill Burton last evening. He said this. He said, "I don't accept the premise that any of the front-running Presidential candidates can beat Donald Trump. If there's nothing more important than beating Trump, we need to be more creative about how to do that".

So, he's basically saying none of the Democrats can do it, so we're going to try this and run. But, it's hard to imagine it being successful so we'll see how much tolerance he has for being screamed at everywhere he go.

KING: Right you get --

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, because that's going to happen. And that book tour will replay itself over and over again around the country, especially if he starts to get traction.

KING: And it's the traction part is with history. Listen here. If you listen to this he's going to spend -- he has a new book. He says he's going to spend three months traveling the country. He's putting together the staff so that he can if he decides to run. Cost a lot of money, go back and look at Ross Perot's filing way back in the day for an independent to get on the ballot. That would be challenge number one.

But listen to this at the end. This seems to suggest that if he doesn't see a boom in the polls maybe he'll reconsider.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER STARBUCKS CEO: Let me go back to what I said earlier. Nobody wants to see Donald Trump removed from office more than me. If I decide to run for president as an independent, I will believe and have the conviction and the courage to believe that I can win. I can't answer that question today. But I'm certainly not going to do anything to put Donald Trump back in the Oval Office.


KING: It does seem to suggest, you know, he's got a plan. He's going to do this for a couple months, see if he can change the numbers. If it shows him at, you know, 10 or 12 percent in taking votes from Democrats, he'd say no.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. The problem is the timing doesn't work that way. Two or three months from now you have what amounts to sort of irrelevant early polling that doesn't really say a whole hell of a lot about where these candidates are ultimately going to be.

And, if he goes all the way down and jumps in the race and is in the race for months, he could still end up being a spoiler and the question would be does he really say that he'll drop out of the race at the last minute if it looks like that's where things are heading? I mean, that's not human nature. That's once you build the big organization like that, it's not likely that he'll do that, so.

KING: And who knows in the age of Trump? Who knows? We live in volatile times and it's not just President Trump but there we live in volatile times. But, the instant analysis seems to be that he would help Democrats. President Trump kind of bait him into the race yesterday with the tweet saying, "You're gutless. You don't have the guts to do this Howard". Listen to this other Republicans saying, please.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: God bless Howard Schultz. Run, Howard, run. Run, Howard run. MEGHAN MCCAIN, ABC NEWS HOST: No disrespect to you, but you just went on Gwyneth Paltrow's Podcast, you here on "The View". All politics I believe should start local, why aren't you in New Hampshire or Iowa right now?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: My personal opinion is that there aren't enough latte and structures (ph) in America for him to win. But this is America and a competition makes it all better. If he wants to run, I say have at it.


KING: Do you see Senator Kennedy -- latte that you've seen it's on the court all the time?

KUCINICH: All the time. Yes, actually, I mean, that man is a quote factory and I think all of us are or going to know are grateful for his presence there day in and day out.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's a reminder too as someone who could have also been a spoiler on the Republican side, Jeff Flake said this morning that he's not going to run in 2020.

KING: Right.

KIM: After teasing it for some time.

KING: All right, we're going to go to this for a little bit and we view this is the idea, we still don't know if there's someone's going to challenge Trump. We don't know if they'll be -- will it be Howard Schultz as an independent? Will it be more than one, will there be two? We don't know, it's really, it's January 2019.

[12:34:24] Up next, one of the President's tough critics in his own party had sung made just to know decisive, skip 2020.


KING: Topping our political radar today, the U.S. military's role along the Mexico border now projected the cost taxpayers about $700 million. That's according to a top Pentagon official.

Meanwhile, the acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan says, several thousand more active duty troops will be needed to fulfill the Homeland Security Departments request for military support. He says their deployments could last through September as they enhance surveillance capabilities and string concertina wire. We're told about 2300 U.S. troops are at the border right now.

The State Department telling Americans in no uncertain terms, do not travel to Venezuela. The advisory and issued a short time ago cites crime, civil unrest, poor health facilities and the arbitrary rest and detention of U.S. citizens in Venezuela. The government there, of course in turmoil as opposition leaders call for massive protest, demanding for President Nicolas Maduro give up power. The Senate majority leader sending a clear rebuke to the White House today, Mitch McConnell announcing an amendment to meet his policy bill saying ISIS and Al-Qaeda are indeed still a threat and urging the United States and allied troops to stay put for now.



[12:40:04] SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores. There's still a great deal of work to be done. And we know that left untended, these conflicts will reverberate right here in our own cities.


KING: So, again, another example -- I don't want to call it cracks, but you see more and more Republicans, including there the leader, standing up and say, "Mr. President you're wrong on a big issue, this time foreign policy".

KIM: Foreign policy is where Republicans on Capitol Hill have been willing more often to defect with the President on these issues, which has been really fascinating to watch. Look over on the House side. They're planning on renewing their push to end the U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and we saw many Republican votes that picked up in the Senate in last Congress. And if the Democratic House pushes that again, it will be real interesting to see what the Republican Senate does.

KING: OK as we head toward a campaign here, Republicans started to put their interest and we'll see. It's interesting, that's the leader of the United Senate. That is not a significant standing up and telling your President, he is wrong.

Up next, new poll numbers with just 644 days left before the election. Write it down, 644 days left before the 2020 election. This number suggest, early trouble for the President? Also some big question marks among Democrats.


[12:45:37] KING: Today, some big early warning signs for President Trump's reelection hopes send some giant question marks about the Democrats and their 2020 field. Brand new "Washington Post" ABC News poll finds 56 percent of all Americans say they definitely would not vote for President Trump in 2020. Even among Republicans and Republican leaning voters, nearly one in three said they would like the GOP to nominate someone else.

Again, it's still January 2019, but those numbers do suggest a 2020 opening for the Democrats. Which Democrat?

Well, a majority of Democrats and Democratic leading voters aren't sure which candidate they want as the party's nominee. No candidate garners double digit support. Former Vice President Joe Biden who hasn't announced yet, if he's going to run or not, leads the pack with nine percent, hardly overwhelming, followed by Senator Kamala Harris, she's at eight percent, Senator Bernie Sanders, an interesting four percent of Democrats say they want President Trump.

Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke maybe still out there driving somewhere is at three percent, 21 others get two percent or less.

So the Democratic race wide open, which was would makes it so fascinating and interesting. It's early. Poll numbers can change and President Trump -- as candidate Trump and President Trump has defied political gravity and political logic too many times to count before.

However, if you look at 56 percent and the country says, definitely not. One in three Republicans say I'd like another choice -- you have a problem. That's mean, no time to fix it but you got a problem.

ZELENY: No question and the biggest applause that I heard last night when I was in Des Moines at Town Hall, we did one of several of the Democratic candidates was they want to pick a candidate who can beat Donald Trump.

Who is that? No one has any idea but it truly is the beginning of the shopping season and people don't know these candidates. They're very well, Senators, a few governors out there, some people are picking them over. But as far as the former Vice President Joe Biden, he just said a few minutes ago to Arlette Saenz who is flying with him from Florida. He says, I don' think there is any hurry but there is a bigger hurry to just decide personally and that his family is, "Still thinking".

So this is again a sense, I was asked by several Democrats in Iowa yesterday, "Is Joe Biden going to do this. Is he ambivalent about running? So there's not a sense. We'll see how much time he has here but there's a hunger for maybe someone new.

KING: Right, well, that's always the challenge and if you're someone who's got an established brand. I won't call him old, someone who has been around. You better get in and solidify before it goes away.

You mentioned Senator Harris last night. She was in the Iowa for CNN's first candidate Town Hall of the cycle. Very impressive performance if you watch it play out. The question is, on the substance is she offering (ph) herself up to criticism including here when she's asked about, Democrats want Medicare for all? How would that work?


JAKE TAPPER, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And correct me if I'm wrong. To reiterate, you support the Medicare for all bill.

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Right. I think initially co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders. You're also a correspondent on to it.


TAPPER: I believe it would totally eliminate private insurance. So for people out there who like their insurance, they don't get to keep it?

HARRIS: Well listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to Medical care and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company. Let's eliminate all that. Let's move on.


KUCINICH: I can tell you Democrats on the hill that I spoke to this morning were not jumping on the board. This seemed to be -- they were focused more on fixing the ACA and making sure that people would be able to keep their health care than throwing out the whole system. And I think you're going to hear that from more established Democrats but that this also shows the left is rising in the Democratic party and that's who these candidates, Harris and I think you're going to hear some of the other candidates start to play to that base.

KING: And to that point, the aforementioned Howard Schultz this is why it makes Democrats nervous to a degree. A lot of Democrats say if you want to make this point, come to Iowa, come to New Hampshire, get involved in our primary.

But listen here, he hears Kamala Harris say, "Private insurance, never mind. We're going to have Medicare for all". Howard Schultz says, "Wait a minute".


SCHULTZ: You just played Senator Harris and saying she wants to abolish the insurance industry. That's not correct. That's not American. What's next? What industry are we going to abolish next? The coffee industry?

But to think we should get rid of the insurance industry, again, this is exactly the situation. It's far two extremes on both sides and the silent majority of America does not have a voice.


KING: I don't know about the far two extreme part, that's the point he wants to make, he wants positions of the centrist, but campaigns are supposed to be about ideas.

[12:50:04] So the Democrats or the Democrats going to litigate, let's just fix and improve Obamacare which is one on election it. After losing some elections on it, 2010, 2014, we just want an election defending Obamacare. Let's fix it or let's disrupt the system again and go to this Medicare for all?

ZELENY: Well, and look before you even get to the question of would Howard Schultz take actual votes away from one side or the other, that's man from heaven if you're a Republican seeking to demonize the left and to radicalize -- into sort of describe the Democratic party as on the radical left.

You can point to what Howard Schultz just said and say, see, we're the reasonable ones. We're the ones that don't want to eliminate all private insurance in the country, don't want to eliminate ICE and all that kind of thing. And so, his candidacy, however, long it lasts could be a real help rhetorically to Donald Trump and other Republicans.

KING: And so to the point Michael Bloomberg, the former independent Republican Mayor of New York -- I think he was a Democratic 1.2, now says if he runs for president, he will run as a Democrat. And a lot of people say to Howard Schultz, billionaire Bloomberg gets some criticism from some Democrats, he's more of a centrist guy.

Talked earlier today about pie in the sky ideas from some Democrats. Here he is just moments ago talking about his take on Howard Schultz running as an independent.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Number one, you can't win as an independent because of the Electoral College requiring a majority. And number two, I think all it would do would be to reelect Donald Trump.

And back in 2016 when I looked at it, I said I did not want to be the one to give us Donald Trump, so I did not run as an independent. Wasn't able to get to either parties through their primaries, and you got Donald Trump, anyway --


KING: He's public make knowledge looking at it in 2016. That's not the only time he's looked at it running as an independent. But his point is and this is the message. A it gives you points with Democrats, some of whom are skeptical as Michael Bloomberg progress and now he says, look at me, I'm gone within the climate changes I am.

But B, he's trying to tell Howard Schultz to go away.

SHEAR: He is and we'll see how all these involve all.

The conversation I had with Bill Burton, he seemed way farther ahead than where Howard Schultz have seen himself so I'm going to look at this whatever but back to the health care born position, everyone second. I think Senator Harris is trying to have a nuance argument.

Let's see how she enters that question the next time if she adds a little more nuance to that because this is definitely, you know, a Bernie Sanders like position she has sign on that bill. She also is a co-sponsor of other bills that allows more of the supplemental insurance out there.

ZELENY: And she remembers the way that Jake phrased the question, about, can you keep your health insurance. That's an echo of what got President Obama. KING: Doctor, you can keep your doctor.

ZELENY: Right.

KING: That turned out to be not true. It's a little more mess. That's turned out to be not true.

ZELENY: Right.

KING: And so it's going to be a fascinating race. There's a lot of big policy discussions as we look at these interesting personalities as well.

[12:53:01] Up next, meet the former White House aide, author of new tell-all book. President calls him a gopher.


KING: Time for the IP book club, competing Tales of Chaos, Dysfunction and Power Struggles. Today is released of two new White House tell-alls. "Let me finish" by Governor Chris Christie, former Governor Chris Christie and "Team of Vipers" by Cliff Sims, former director White House messages strategy. The President choosing to ignore Governor Christie so far, attacking Sims. Sims says, so what.


CLIFF SIMS, AUTHOR, "TEAM OF VIPERS": And one to the thing they try to do in the book is get people inside of Donald Trump's head because like you said, there are sometimes we were just like what are we doing. And one of the things that one other points I make in the book is for him, everything is personal. Everything is a personal relationship so that manifests itself in foreign affairs. It's like with the way he interacts with the staff. It's like that when he has these political vendettas.


KING: And he talks about preparing an enemies list with the President, people on the staff. OK. President calls him gopher.

SHEAR: And I can guarantee you that he and his publisher were not upset when the President called him a gopher in a tweet, because I'm sure that they're happy that gets even more publicity for the book.

KING: Do these books have any impact at this point? When you've got -- you had a lot of talk about a chaos and turmoil.

SHEAR: I think it's just more grips (ph) for what we know is happening inside of this a few more details, but it's not presenting, something that we don't know. But the detail in Chris Christie book, the President thought the Russia investigation would end with a fire with Michael Flynn is just extraordinary.

KING: And Jared Kushner saying he agreed.

SHEAR: Yes, his savvy political advice also firing James Comey. He thought that was a good idea.

KING: He did another thing with Chris Christie writes is I want to know who fired me. He was the transition chief. "I want to know who fired me because Steve -- it's talking about Steve statement -- because I know it wasn't you. You're just here as the executioner. Who fired me? The president elect? Because, Steve, if you don't tell me who it is, I'm going to say it was you".

That we bet that the long running feud go to the internet, Jared Kushner.

KUCINICH: And would say like fix (ph). I don't think he was paying attention. He did put Jared Kushner's father in jail. There really wasn't a whole lot of love there to begin with.

SHEAR: Very diplomatic. Not a whole lot of love not there to begin with.

KING: Interesting folks, we'll see if the President reacts because the book, he said he still loves the president and the President is his friend. He writes a book that talks about all sorts of dysfunction around his friend, the President. We'll see.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. it's a busty news day. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.

[13:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks John, I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters Underway right now.