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New Poll Indicate Americans Not Confident another Government Shutdown Can be Avoided; President Trump's Schedule Leaked to Media. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 4, 2019 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- not confident the president can avoid another government shutdown. Only 34 percent believe that he and Congress will be able to reach a funding agreement by the deadline, which is 11 days from now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And on the subject of the president possibly declaring a national emergency to build this border wall, two out of three of you believe he should not do that.

Meantime, Virginia's Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is ignoring calls to resign after that racist yearbook photo surfaced. We're learning new details of a meeting the governor had last night with some staffers of color. None of them are pushing for him to stay in office.

BERMAN: Joining us now to discuss, Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political reporter, David Gregory, CNN political analyst, and Errol Louis, political anchor at "Spectrum News." Errol, you are here with us, so I'll put the first question to you. You look at this polling, the president's approval rating steady at 40 percent, which is different than saying it's good, because 40 percent is still historically low, if you look at where it stands in regard to other presidents at this time in their administration. The only one who was lower was Ronald Reagan at 35 percent. It is worth noting Reagan did win reelection, but still 40 percent not good, though not down. The shutdown didn't seem to drive the president significantly lower.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There you go. The president's strategy, that I think was kind of obvious right from the beginning, was that he was going to play to his base. He was going to say what they wanted to hear, the people who like him and were going to disregard all of the negative input from every other source were going to stay with him. That's what he gambled on, and that's what he got. He has decided he can and will govern in the mid to high 30 percent of the electorate with the people who are with him no matter what. That's his starting point. In some ways it's his ending point, and I think it's going to condition what we hear in his State of the Union address. He's going to be talking to those very same people, although he traditionally would be speaking to the entire nation.

HARLOW: Nia, one of the things I found fascinating in this poll is Nancy Pelosi and the favorability boost that she got, albeit from liberal Democrats. But you've got to think those numbers just caused her to dig in the party more against the wall, and these numbers, as Errol just outlined, would cause the president to dig in more for a wall. So we're 11 days out. Where does this go?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And I think that's why you see those numbers, basically, people aren't very optimistic that this thing is going to be resolved with any sort of compromise. I think we have seen over the last couple of weeks with the battle between Nancy Pelosi, the battle between Donald Trump, it's a preview of what we're going to see for the next two years. This change in leadership at the House side, President Trump himself even said at this point he has sort of given up on Nancy Pelosi. He was somebody that he liked a bit, Nancy Pelosi, but after this shutdown, he just feels like there's not much room for working with her.

We'll see. There's always the idea that maybe there's some room on infrastructure, maybe on lowering drug prices. That's something they have talked about. We'll see if he mentions it tomorrow in the State of the Union address. But listen, this is in some ways what Americans wanted. When they voted in 2018, they wanted to put a check on the president. And those 40 folks who flooded into the House and flipped it in Nancy Pelosi's favor, this is, in some ways, what they wanted.

BERMAN: David, what do you make of this? What do you make of what Nia and Errol are saying here? As we head into the State of the Union and what the president chooses to say, and if he chooses to try to reach across the aisle or expand beyond his 40 percent, what do you think it says about what he'll say tomorrow night, and what do you think it say about where we're all headed in tomorrows of the possibility of another shutdown?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think on that last point, I think what you're seeing, the president has a base strategy. He's had it on the wall. Go back to his campaign promise. The Democrats, by the way, wanted to start off their governing with their own base strategy. They wanted to pass a number of pieces of legislation that wouldn't get through the Senate so they could assert their own agenda. Everybody got derailed by this negotiation getting the government back hope, and we could be back there again.

Although I think the president plays with fire and gets worried about getting burned. We saw the LaGuardia slowdown on that last day before they got a deal. No economic growth. I think that spooks him when he gets into that kind of mode like that.

But I still think that this is a speech where he continues to put the thing he cares about, which is border security, this idea that it's a crisis, on the agenda. That's an argument he'll continue to make. He likes to create his own reality around these things. I expect he'll talk about criminal justice reform, which is his answer to racial insensitivity, or working with Democrats or doing something his predecessors haven't done. But I don't think we're in any kind of mode where there's much work to be done between Republicans and Democrats right now.

HARLOW: That's ridiculous, Nia, when you just look at these numbers as well. The likelihood the president and Congress can reach an agreement, 64 percent think it's not likely that they get anything done by February 15th. No lesson learned from the five weeks. And not just the horror that these federal workers and their families had to go through. We lost $3 billion that we're not getting back, our economy.

[08:05:08] HENDERSON: Yes, and no one is optimistic that there will be any movement going forward in terms of any kind of compromise. And if you look at the partisan breakdown, Republicans are essentially like bring it on, in terms of another shutdown. This is something they feel like is worth it because of this promise that the president made around border security and a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

So, yes, it's really hard to imagine what he's going to be able to say in this address where he can find some compromise, find some sort of policy agenda that feels like he'll get some movement and buy-in from Democrats at this point.

BERMAN: Some of the numbers also in this poll, we don't have graphics for them, but 47 percent of people strongly disapprove, 43 percent say it's the worst run government ever. So the opposition force the president faces there, I've never seen anything quite like that where that strong opposition is quite that high.

Errol, if we can shift gears. "Axios" had a pretty remarkable report over the weekend where someone leaked years worth of schedules, presidential schedules, to them. Let's just put up some of the figures here. It shows that the president is spending an enormous amount of time in what's call executive time. That's unstructured, unscheduled time he usually spends in the residence often watching television, but also on the phone, 297 hours compared to just 77 hours meeting, 38 hours doing events. What does this tell you?

LOUIS: It tells me, among other things, that there is this principle in the private sector where the higher up you are, the more time you should have to adjudicate disputes, wait for emergencies to arise, and otherwise be able to put your mark on the items that really, really matter. The assumption is that everything else is being taken care of at lower levels. So there could be some element of that if you want to give the president the benefit of the doubt.

It also reminds me in one of his books, Donald Trump in his business life, talked about wanting to come in and have a loose agenda any given day at the Trump Organization, that he'd kind of come in and wait for things to develop and then react. There are people who find that appalling. There are people who find that, yes, that's what a chief executive ought to do. And I think that's what we're getting.

BERMAN: David Gregory, you covered George W. Bush forever. Just how different is this schedule than W's was?

GREGORY: Quite a bit different. But we've seen presidents who get hammered for spending too much time on the golf course, but most presidents adhere to an actual schedule that reflects the rigor of their decision-making and of an actual process, a process where they are in meetings with other principals going through foreign policy considerations, domestic considerations, and then events and so forth.

But again, there are those who are around Trump and supporters of Trump who would say that's old math. That's a different kind of political math. This is a guy that, yes, spends all this time watching television and tweeting to directly reach people who support him in the country or or don't necessarily support him in the country, and he's trying to influence the debate in a way that he uniquely can do that. And so people will have that debate. It certainly should raise concerns about how much process there is around important decision making, and it should tell us something quite interesting and alarming, frankly, about how much is unhealthy within the West Wing that this kind of material is getting leaked, because there's people who are leaking this who think it's horrible that he's spending all this time away from official meeting.

HARLOW: Nia, some of the most, if not the most effective CEOs that I've covered, take a lot of executive time, and they read. You look at Warren Buffett and you look at some of these others. They educate themselves on topics they're not educated on. The reporting here, it's not that the president is sitting reading the 8,000-plus-page intel community report, et cetera, which he did say on CBS that he read. The question becomes, what is he doing with that time, right?

HENDERSON: I think we know what he's doing with that time. Partly it's watching television. Partly it's tweeting in reaction to what he has seen on television. Partly, and there's a story in "The New York Times" about this, partly there's kind of a ritual of getting ready in the morning which includes having his hair air dry in the morning. I think that takes about an hour. So that's probably a part of what he's doing while he's watching TV, just preparing to get ready in the morning.

But you're right. You would imagine, this is a president who can have anyone around him, can reach out to anyone in the world, any expert in the world and get information. He can, obviously, also read anything he wants, but it doesn't seem like he's doing that. And I think what we see is somebody who is essentially getting the same information over and over from the same outlets and the same people. There's a very close circle of people he talks to, a very close circle of programs that he watches, and so I think you see that reflected in most of his public comments because there's kind of a broken record effect, kind of a rapper with the same line over and over again. I think that's what we hear often from this president.

[08:10:08] BERMAN: I'm not sure his toilette, as it were factors into executive time. I just love the idea that Nia brings up there, the Downton Abbey aspect of it, where he schedules a significant amount of time to get ready. It all takes us some time to get ready.

HARLOW: That's longer than I spend on my hair. You're another question.

BERMAN: Hair is a big deal, as David Gregory can attest to right there.

(LAUGHTER) BERMAN: There's another aspect that came up over the weekend about 2020 which I think is really interesting. I'd love to get your guys take on this. "Politico" is reporting that some of the candidates who are not in the race, like Beto O'Rourke and Joe Biden, among others, there is some consideration now that they're watching the race, Errol, and they're waiting for someone to stumble. They are waiting for Kamala Harris to stumble before they get in. And if she doesn't, maybe they won't. They think they need some kind of entry point. Again, this is "Politico's" reporting. Would that be smart to wait?

LOUIS: It would be risky, at best. The last time I can think of where something like that had a plausible shot of success was like in 1968 when Bobby Kennedy sort of waited and then jumped in. And it just doesn't work that way.

Ballot access alone requires that you have a well-paid, well-staffed organization that has lawyers that can get you on the ballot in all of these different states. It's just a different kind of a game. It didn't work out for Rudy Giuliani, it didn't work out for Ted Cruz. Waiting to see if there's some lane, some opportunity, some place where you can sort of strike, catch fire, and then all of a sudden win, it hasn't been really that way since '76 when Jimmy Carter surprised everybody by tramping around in the snows of Iowa. That's where Iowa really became the big state, and he just kind of quietly organized. That's the way that you win the early states.

And as we know in the modern media era, you win one of those first four states, and an entirely new sort of media cycle begins where you have an enormous amount of attention. And that's how you win. So Beto O'Rourke and the rest of these folks and the consultants that they are paying to get this advice, I'd be very, very cautious about this idea of jumping in.

HARLOW: And David Gregory, just before I jump to you, everyone should read Nia-Malika's piece on Beto and his road trip. It is great, on David Gregory, what do you think?

GREGORY: And I will do that, because Beto I think is a little bit different. But I think I have a slightly different view, which is I think we're so unsettled on the Democratic side, right, as we look at the Democratic side. I think they're so unsettled as to what direction they're going, and maybe there's a little opportunity to wait. I think Beto is different because I think he's more in line with kind of the vibe of the party on the left. I think some of these others like a Joe Biden is looking to see whether there's an orthodoxy now in the Democratic Party that would leave him out. And may -- he may find is inhospitable to get in until and unless there is some entry point. If you look at the early days and early weeks of the campaigning on the left, there is a leftward tilt to the party that I think some more centrist candidates are afraid of.

BERMAN: Very quick last word, Nia, because I know you think Beto is different?

HENDERSON: Yes, I do think Beto is a little different. I think voters want to see a sense of urgency and some sort of vision. This idea you can wait and see and go on a road trip and do a bunch of navel gazing, I think that isn't going to sit well with voters at this point. We'll see. We'll see if Beto gets in, we'll see if Biden gets in. But this idea that you can wait on the sidelines and game everything out. These folks are hungry. We saw what happened in 2018, all those voters flooding to the polls. They want to channel that energy and they want to channel it now.

BERMAN: Errol, Nia, David, thank you all very much.

HARLOW: Thanks very much, guys.

So talking about potential Democratic candidates for president, are they feeling the pressure to jump into the race and do it soon? We're going to ask a governor who is right there, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state, who is rumored to run, next.


HARLOW: Welcome back, the Democratic field for 2020 now at ten official candidates. Will that number grow? That is not even a question. It will. Just how large will it get? Joining me now, Washington's Democratic Governor Jay. Good morning, sir. We appreciate you being here, and because it's Monday and because I got up early to join everyone on this show, I would love it if you made a little news and tell us, are you in, or are you out for 2020?

JAY INSLEE, GOVERNOR OF WASHINGTON, DEMOCRAT: I'm in doing the important work of being on your show and talking about a potential vision for 2020 that you know I've spent some time developing and fighting climate change over the last decade and a half or so.

HARLOW: We'll talk about that in a moment.

INSLEE: Happy to have that discussion.

HARLOW: But you've got 10 people already in. You know, you've got a crowded field already. Why are you waiting?

INSLEE: Well, we're still talking to people and listening. I was in New Hampshire last weekend and at Dartmouth and setting up an environmental voters group there, and listening to them and it was just stunning how big the appetite it is for a vision of the country to really defeat climate change and build a clean energy economy.

I was in Nevada the week before that and the solar industry is just burgeoning in Nevada. I am talking to the people who see this as an economic opportunity. And what I say is not just a matter of peril, it's a matter of great promise, so I am listening to people around the country and it seems to be universal.

Storey County where I visited the wind turbines in Iowa. So we're still doing that due diligence, but so far all systems go at the moment.

HARLOW: All right, all systems go at the moment. On a very serious note, and that is climate change, I mean, you can't dispute the facts on what is happening to the climate and the peril and the danger to this country. But what is remarkable to me and I think what you're up against if run on a climate change being your headline push here is how the American people really feel about it or don't care as much about it.

Okay, there's a new Pew poll out. I know you've seen it and among policy priorities for American citizens, this year, climate change is 17th out of just 18. They just don't care. How do you change their minds?

INSLEE: Well, I'm not. You need to really listen to people to drill down what this means. People want a vision that will be involved in developing jobs, and there is no single job development program like a clean energy development one and the number one job creation engine right now is clean energy.


INSLEE: Clean energy jobs are growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy. The number one fastest growing job is a solar installer and this is happening all across the country.

So when you tie climate change to all of the other parts of people's lives, it means more jobs. It means better health because our kids are now having trouble breathing with the epidemic of asthma. It means a better national security posture because the Pentagon has really identified this as a national security threat.

I think what we need to do, and we need a candidate who will, in fact, tie this to all the other parts of what touches us in our lives, and when you drill down in that regard, people respond. I'm seeing it all across the country right now. We are winning, we elected ten new legislators in my state who ran on climate change issues. This country is moving towards that vision, and I'm confident of that fact.

HARLOW: And we heard Intel Community leaders in their testimony last week before the Senate lay out climate change as a national security risk. Let me get you on the issues that matter to most Americans.

First of all, on Medicare for All and where your party and the candidates that have announced so far which way they're going. Do you support eliminating private insurers in this country to pave the way for government-funded, taxpayer-funded Medicare for All?

INSLEE: Well, I support moving to universal healthcare and ...

HARLOW: But specifically --

INSLEE: ... doing the things that we've done in our state.

HARLOW: Specifically, would you be okay ...

INSLEE: I'm getting to that.

HARLOW: ... with eliminating private insurance. INSLEE: I don't think it's necessary and right now, we need to

embrace the things that we can have to move towards universal health care. Like a public option which we're embracing in my state; integrating physical and mental health, like allowing earlier buy-in and an option of Medicare for those who want to enter into the program, like reducing the age in Medicare. These are all things we can do without eliminating private insurance carriers right now.


INSLEE: And I'm glad that we're going to have a candidate I believe ultimately to push that ball.

HARLOW: How about taxes? Are you supportive of a 70% or higher marginal tax rate on the rich as proposed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax that would put an additional tax on all assets above $50 million?

INSLEE: I am very supportive of righting the imbalance we have in our economy where the riches are going to the top, and we are giving tax breaks under the Trump tax break to millionaires and that needs to be repealed as the first order of business, and I think we ought to be willing to recognize that the enormous income inequality that we are experiencing, in part, can be addressed with a more progressive tax system. That's why I've supported a capital gains tax in my state.

I don't know what the right number is, but I would suggest that when Dwight Eisenhower is President, we had a lot higher marginal tax rate on the super rich than we have right now.

HARLOW: It was 90%. He did, he is a Republican and it was a 90% marginal tax rate, but just a quick yes or no before I move on here. Do you support a 70% or higher marginal tax rate on the $10 millionth dollar and above?

INSLEE: I support increasing the progressivity of our tax code. What the right number is, I haven't identified a number, but I've identified a fact and that is we need to address this massive income inequality. And our tax code has gone backwards by giving more to the rich under Donald Trump has got to be reversed and when we have a Democratic nominee, I believe we're going to do that.

HARLOW: Two more quick points for you on 2020, as you know, your fellow Washingtonian, Howard Schultz is seriously considering an independent bid for the Presidency in 2020. How do you feel about that?

INSLEE: I feel it would be an enormous mistake by Howard. He has had a successful legacy as a businessperson and it would be tarnished beyond imagination if he does the only thing that his candidacy would do would to be help the re-election of Donald Trump. What a disaster for any human being.

HARLOW: How do you know that? But just how do you know that? Because I spent an hour interviewing him last week and I looked back at the exit polling from '92 and it's just not clear. Yes, he was a life-long Democrat, but he opposes, for example, Medicare for All, he opposes a marginal tax of 70%. What makes you so sure he would only pull from Democrats?

INSLEE: Well, math makes it sure that he is not going to get 270 electoral votes. Period. No possibility. Zero. And the only thing that could happen is that this could throw the election into the House of Representatives where the Republicans have a majority of the state delegates and every state gets one vote.

No, this would be a disastrous event, and I am strongly suggestive to Howard to keep your legacy intact as a businessperson who has done some decent things.


INSLEE: And not engage in this ruinous project which only has one potential outcome. And I'm hardly the only one who believes that, virtually every Democrat alive and who can count votes believes that.

So we hope he reconsiders this. It would be the right decision.

HARLOW: I will know it. I've got some interesting internal polling from the Schultz team last night. Their internal numbers show him with broader support than a typical independent candidate. We'll watch. We'll see if he runs.

Before you go, we have to get you to weigh in on very serious news and that is what we learned over the weekend and that is Governor Ralph Northam, the Democrat in Virginia, the racist yearbook photo. First he said it was him and he apologized, Friday. This weekend, he says, it's not him. Should he resign?

INSLEE: Yes, I believe that's the only potential avenue for the State of Virginia and ultimately, that's what's important. We have a great Lieutenant Governor who can assume the reins. It's the only right decision right now. I, and most of the folks that I'm aware of think that that's the right thing to do. And it's not an easy thing to ask because he's done some really great work for Virginia.

But this has been so offensive and hateful and the racism that is harkens back to, it's the only choice available to him right now.

HARLOW: Governor Inslee, thank you for being here. Feel free to come back on here when you make your announcement for 2020.

INSLEE: Thank you, you bet.

HARLOW: Okay, thank you, sir.

INSLEE: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN: All right, so what is the President's plan after U.S. troops leave Syria? New details on his latest thinking, next.