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INSIDE POLITICS

Klobuchar Makes Campaign Debut; Virginia Delegate Backs off Impeachment; Negotiators Try to Revive Collapsing Talks. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:24] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Border security negotiations in Congress are at an impasse with another shutdown deadline looming Friday. The president heads to the border tonight for a campaign rally to make his case for a wall.

Plus, new twist in Virginia's political nightmare. The governor refuses to resign and makes another racially insensitive statement. This as lawmakers discuss whether impeachment is the best process to investigate two sexual assault allegations against the lieutenant governor.

And Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar adds a heartland voice to the 2020 Democratic presidential field. This, listen here, is one of her Senate colleagues also in that race, shares a secret.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say you oppose legalizing weed.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's not true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know.

HARRIS: And, look, I joke about it and have joked, half my family's from Jamaica, are you kidding me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever smoked?

HARRIS: I have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Like in college or --

HARRIS: And I -- and I inhaled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you inhale? Did you inhale?

HARRIS: I did -- I did inhale. It was a long time ago, but, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We begin the hour with a perfectly timed blizzard and the latest candidate for president, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. The Democratic senator is the fifth woman and the fifth senator in the 2020 race, and she certainly wins the award for the most Midwestern announcement of this cycle. Snow covering her hair, her supporters, the microphone, pages of her speech, all in just under 25 minutes.

It's a visual Senator Klobuchar hopes you'll remember. She wants to be the unfazed westerner with grits, she says, to withstand the president of the United States and the snowstorm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what I talked about yesterday in that huge snowstorm.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: What do you bring to the race that no one else is offering, that only you are brining?

KLOBUCHAR: Snow. I bring -- I bring a background of growing up in the heartland. I bring some grit to the race. I had grit, as you could see yesterday. Not everyone would have stood out there where I looked like I was getting older by the minute as the snow mounted on my hair.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Snowman woman. So you've got your name -- nickname.

KLOBUCHAR: Snowwoman.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Snowwoman from --

KLOBUCHAR: It could be so much worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me this Monday to share their reporting and their insights, Elana Schor with "The Associated Press," Carl Hulse with "The New York Times," Michael Bender with "The Wall Street Journal," and Arit John with "Bloomberg."

What's the lane for Klobuchar? Obviously she's hoping Minnesota translates well in Iowa. More centrist than many of the other Democrats in the race so far. What's her place?

ELANA SCHOR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Absolutely more centrist. I mean despite the marketing of the grit and the snow, you know, I think Cory Booker would also say, I have family roots in Iowa, and Kamala Harris would say, I have some grit.

What her lane really is, is the fact that she's not a co-sponsor for Medicare for all. She has really stopped short of embracing some of these progressive policies that her rivals have leapt on. And, for that matter, she's voted for quite a lot of this president's nominees, more than anyone else in the field. So she really has a case to make to folks who might have, you know, said, hey, I could have voted for a responsible Republican but this president turns me off. KING: That helps you in October if you're the general election

candidate maybe. Does it help you in February? Iowa votes a little under a year from today. New Hampshire votes a year from today?

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": It's a fair question and that's kind of, I think, one of the most exciting things I think about the Klobuchar candidacy right now is that it gives some shade -- it starts to give some shades in this Democratic field. So far the folks who have gotten in are more toward that Medicaid for all of --end of the spectrum.

Amy Klobuchar's record is tightening restrictions on pool drains and standing up for the nutritional value of pizza. You know, so she is much more in the middle and she's going to give that choice to Democratic voters here in the next couple -- a few months.

KING: And let's listen from the speech in the snow to some of her positions on the issues, because she's certainly left of center. The question is, can she sell herself as left of center but not too far left.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Overturn Citizens United and get the dark money out of our politics.

Restoring the Voting Rights Act.

We will rejoin the international climate agreement.

We must revamp our nation's cybersecurity and guarantee net neutrality.

Comprehensive immigration reform.

Getting to universal health care and bringing down -- bringing down the cost of prescription drugs.

Stand up to the gun lobby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Can she sell that? Is she in the right spot or --

ARIT JOHN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": I think it's interesting, we saw President Trump already trying to paint her as too liberal. His first tweet after she announced was, Amy Klobuchar is talking about climate change when she's in the middle of a blizzard. So I think a lot of Republicans think that she does have the potential to be a moderate Democrat who would be a challenge to him in the general election. The problem is there are -- like, progressivism is the word of the day in the Democratic Party. [12:05:14] KING: Yes, where's the energy in the party. And we don't know -- we're not going to know for a long time. All -- if you look at the polling, all Democrats say we want to beat Trump. But how? How? Can somebody say, look, I can win -- I win in Minnesota. You know, the president almost won in Minnesota. I can -- maybe I can translate that to Ohio. Ohio itself flips back and forth sometimes.

You mentioned the president going after her. I have a seven-year-old. It took about 15 minutes to talk him through climate versus weather. Climate versus weather. Climate versus weather. The president did tweet this yesterday. Well, it happened again, Amy Klobuchar announced that she's running for president, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. By timing. By the end of the speech, she looked like a snowman.

To which this is the challenge for every Democrat, how do you respond when the president comes after you mostly on Twitter? She responded, science is on my side @realdonaldtrump. Looking forward to debating you about climate change and many other issues. And I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I thought that was a good response. I thought, you know, she sort of hit the right note there. I mean that was a great timing blizzard for her.

I think her appeal is this Midwestern appeal. And, you know, she's got a lane in this thing that it's good to be differentiated from your competitors. You want to be able to show that you're distinct from them somehow. She totally has a different approach to politics.

I think she's going to be formidable. I think you mentioned her votes for nominations, but she sort of distinguished herself in the Kavanaugh hearings and was considered to have done a pretty good job there.

I think one of her problems, honestly, is going to be her record as a prosecutor in Minneapolis. She was pretty tough. This is the kind of problem that Joe Biden faces. It used to be good to be really tough on crime, locking people up for drugs and other offenses like that. Now that's not considered so good. She'll going to have to probably explain that a little bit.

But I think that given the cluster on the left, and you heard her litany list of the things she's for, which is pretty much what all Democrats are for, I think that she's got a chance to distinguish herself.

BENDER: I think that's right. I -- but I also -- I was kind of less excited about that tweet. What we saw in 2016, and so far in the first two years of the Trump presidency, is you're not going to out Trump Trump. And if the -- if every presidential reaction is sort of a reaction to the last president, I think you're right, that Klobuchar's lane here, her -- maybe her best bet is the more centrist, more buttoned up appeal. And she has that base. She has this -- a lot has been made about her record in Minnesota. She's won every district in Minnesota. That was -- that's important because you see what happened to Rubio. When things get tough, you have to be able to win your own state. You have to have your base of support to go back to.

But that Midwestern appeal, that's Iowa, right? That should be playing in Iowa. And, what, she's seventh, eighth or ninth in those early -- admittedly very early polls in Iowa with (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Now she --

SCHOR: We also can't forget her staffing issues as we talk about Klobuchar's liability. We've seen multiple stories about the way she's treated her staff. I just wanted to inject that in here. And viewers should know, this is a real problem for her. It's been a bit of an open secret on The Hill for a while that her staff turnover is high for a reason and she addressed that head on, which I thought was so interesting.

KING: Yes, she said she's demanding. She asks a lot of people and she also says she has a lot of long time loyal and there are a lot of people who say, is that sexism? Would you ask that question of a male senator who had high staff turnover who's demanding of his people? But, we'll see, she might have to deal with that going forward.

HULSE: But what I've seen so far on that, I don't think it's a knockout blow of any sort.

KING: Right.

HULSE: I mean there maybe is more coming there, but in some ways -- and someone said earlier -- a previous show here -- it's coming early. That might be an advantage for her.

KING: Right. It is, you get -- you try and get anything -- ask Elizabeth Warren, ask others, if you have things you have to deal with, try to deal with them as early as possible. Some do it more effectively than others.

To this point, this is not subtle. She's from Minnesota. She knows the electoral map that Donald Trump flipped Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Amy Klobuchar trying to make a point, I'm not Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we're starting in Wisconsin because, as you remember, there wasn't a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016. With me, that changes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not subtle.

JOHN: Right. No, you look at -- I mean she said in her speech, like I'd like to go to Iowa, to go south for the winter. She's talking about Wisconsin. I mean this is what Democrats want. The polls show that Democrats want someone who's going to win those states that Trump won. And if she can convince Democrats she's that person, that might help her.

BENDER: But can campaigning in Wisconsin help her win Iowa. That's going to be the question.

SCHOR: And not only that, some Clinton folks are really turned off by these comments. So, will it backfire on her?

KING: That's a great question. We'll see as this one plays out. You know, they all -- they all think it and they all say it privately, I'll give her credit for at least being willing to say it publically, that, you know, that the last campaign wasn't run terribly well at the end. Let's just say that.

[12:10:03] Before we go to break, a light-hearted gaff from a fellow Democratic contender for the presidency. This is Kirsten Gillibrand in South Carolina. You know, in New York you eat pizza with your hands. Well, in South Carolina, don't get caught eating the local delicacy, fried chicken, the wrong way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Wow, that's really good. (INAUDIBLE), do we use our fingers or forks for the chicken?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grab the chicken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got to use your fingers.

GILLIBRAND: OK. OK. I just want to make sure. I didn't want to be rude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Important new developments today in Virginia's continuing leadership crisis. A state lawmaker who promised to file articles of impeachment against the Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax says he will hold off for now. Two women have accused Fairfax of rape and sexual assault, one while both attended Duke University, the other when she and Fairfax were working at the 2004 Democratic convention. Both women say they are willing to testify at an impeachment proceeding. Fairfax says both encounters were consensual and that he welcomes an independent investigation. Quote, everyone deserves to be heard, Fairfax told "The Washington Post" last night. I am standing up for everyone's right to be heard but I'm also standing up for due process.

[12:15:19] That was the Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, is also trying to hold onto power. In his case, after racist images from his medical school yearbook page emerged and he admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s. Northam says he's ignoring state and national calls to resign. He says he wants to learn from his mistake and dedicate the rest of his term to racial reconciliation. But listen here as he's interviewed on CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: If you look at Virginia's history, we're now at the 400-year anniversary. Just 90 miles from here, in 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores and Old Point Comfort, what we call now Ft. Monroe, and while --

GAYLE KING, CBS: Also known as slavery.

NORTHAM: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Thank you, Gayle King. We'll come back to that one.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now in Richmond.

Ryan, Delegate Patrick Hope today was going to -- he says the lieutenant governor must go, but he was hitting pause on his promise to file articles of impeachment. Why?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big reason I'm told, John, is because he got an earful from his Democratic colleagues last night during a conference call with all the members. We were the first to report that the delegate had sent out an e-mail to his colleagues telling them exactly what he planned to file this morning to begin the impeachment process, and that led to this conference call where many, specifically members of the Legislative Black Caucus, were very concerned with the idea that impeachment was a bridge they just do not want to cross at this point.

That being said, John, it seems as though everyone here in Richmond is interested in some form of an investigation, they just don't know how that investigation would take shape. And this is what Delegate Hope said in a statement this morning. He said, quote, the purpose of the additional time is so that we can find the best process to investigate these crimes with the broadest possible support. The impeachment process is about investigating to find the truth. I am open to discussing other avenues that would accomplish the same goals. We must allow the victims to be heard in the most fair and just process possible.

And I did catch up with Lamont Bagby (ph), who is the chairperson of the Legislative Black Caucus, and he echoed that sentiment. Yes, we want an investigation, we just don't know how that investigation would take place.

You know, John, this has been a series of historic events here in Virginia where they've never been forced to confront issues like these. There simply just is not a mechanism here in the state to allow for an investigation of this sort. There's no special counsel provision like there is at the federal government level. So it's safe to say that many of these lawmakers are just in a standing still phase. They don't know how to proceed. They want an investigation. They just don't know how that investigation could take place.

John. KING: Ryan Nobles, live in Richmond. Ryan, come back to us if they figure this out in this day.

Let's come back into the room.

And this is what makes this so complicated. I mean a week ago everybody thought Fairfax was going to be governor, that Northam was going to be forced to resign. Fairfax would be elevated and he's be the governor. Now he faces what you could argue, I'm not excusing idiot racism, but the lieutenant governor faces more serious allegations here. The question is, how do you get -- what's the process if they don't -- understandably, if they don't -- they're not sure about impeachment, have a conversation, but what's the process?

BENDER: Well, at least Fairfax has sort of a political argument to make right now that -- wanting due process and supporting an investigation. Important questions about what that looks like and -- and -- and the devil is always in the details there but at least you could make that argument with a straight face if -- of, let's get all sides and get this all sorted out.

KING: Although he got -- he got there after -- it took him a few days to get there.

BENDER: Absolutely, but --

KING: He said some -- he said some things that politically were stupid.

BENDER: Which -- yes. But also compares to the governor, who, every time he seems to open his mouth, he gets -- he goes -- he gets himself in more and more trouble here. I mean he's -- and, you know, he's facing pressure from -- locally, from the legislature, nationally, from the presidential candidates. Hard to see where -- where -- how -- you know, what a safe landing for him looks like at this point.

SCHOR: But, however, Fairfax is facing his own pressure from multiple presidential candidates in his party calling on him to resign. So, I mean, I certainly take your point, but especially with female voters being so pivotal to the Democratic Party, I would not be surprised to see the governor hand on longer than the lieutenant governor just because the specificity of two women putting their names on this grievous, terrible allegations, it's a big deal. And post-Brett Kavanaugh, Democrats have a lot to stand up for there.

KING: To that point, you have both Democratic senators from Virginia have called on the governor to resign. They're split on the question of Fairfax. Tim Kaine says Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the commonwealth. We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault. That's Tim Kaine.

Mark Warner, who's up for re-election next year, says, sexual assault is never acceptable and survivors of violence and harassment deserve to be heard. If these allegations concerning Lieutenant Governor Fairfax are accurate, then they are clearly disqualifying and he must resign.

KING: Why the difference?

[12:20:00] JOHN: The problem is that if Fairfax stays, then that angers women. If Fairfax goes, then that angers black voters. And also, how can Fairfax leave but Northam and the attorney general are still there?

And all of this speaks to the larger problem Democrats have of, what does zero tolerance mean? If you're the party of zero tolerance, then when you have two credible allegations, that person has to go. When there's photographic evidence of racist pictures or people are admitting to those pictures, then they have to go.

But you see the counter side of that is, Al Franken had to step down. Kirsten Gillibrand was sort of the first senator to say he has to leave. And now donors and others and voters in Minnesota are upset with her. So there is a backlash -- a risk of a backlash within the Democratic Party if you do say they have to step down.

KING: And there's also cringing in the Democratic Party in the sense that just this weekend the president of the United States and his son tweeting and retweeting things about Elizabeth Warren that scream of racism toward Native Americans and yet they seem -- you know, the Democrats are in this -- they see the president having somehow standing to talk about these Virginia issues about sexual assault and about race in this question.

The governor's redemption tour. We'll call it that. Indentured servants?

HULSE: Yes. It's hard to believe that everything that's gone on her and that this was their prepared --

KING: Is this 1719?

HULSE: Their prepared plan to go on TV and say that. It was just unfathomable that he would do that. But I -- you know, Virginia governors are lame ducks, right? This is the way that it works here. The one -- one and done. And that probably gives him an opportunity to try and weather this, especially with the focus down the spiral of who would take his place.

All Democrats in Virginia are probably pretty certain that not -- those three people aren't going to step aside and put in a Republican -- allow a Republican to take that position, you know, during a period redistricting, that sort of thing. That's what's keeping them in there. And it's just sort of who can survive and what's --

KING: Yes, power over, if they wanted to be consistent with what they have said in previous Me Too moments or on the issue of race when Northam's blackface was first disclosed in the yearbook photo, they said, you've got to go. If they were consistent, all three of them would go.

SCHOR: Well, it's important to remember, yes, that -- HULSE: That's not going to happen, though.

KING: All right.

SCHOR: That's not going to happen, though, yes. But, look at what AG Herring said in his statement. If you contrast how Northam has handled this issue with a terrible statement to Gayle King, and how Herring has handled this issue, coming forward, proactively, yes, it's likely that he saw what happened to the governor and thought, hmm, how can I handle this far better.

KING: After he called for the governor to resign.

SCHOR: True. He did, however, write a statement that was, you know, seemingly heartfelt with a kind of contrition and understanding of how bad what he did was. Whether that changes things for him, who knows.

KING: It's a mess. It's a mess. And we'll stay on top of it.

Up next, shutdown negotiations turn into another shutdown standoff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:27:30] KING: It's a big day in Washington today. The top four lawmakers in government spending negotiations trying to break an impasse that raises the threat -- yes, the threat of another partial government shutdown. As of this hour, no agreement on the path forward and no backup plan if the attempt to bridge this big divide collapses completely. To avoid a shutdown and another painful work stoppage, the negotiators likely need to decide on something by the end of today.

CNN's Phil Mattingly live for us on Capitol Hill.

Phil, help us.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's a good lesson, right, because at the end of last week everybody was very optimistic that these things -- this negotiation was on the path to an agreement. There wouldn't be another shutdown. All the spending talks could essentially be taken off the table for a period of time and then everything blew up, which is, again, a good lesson that nothing's agreed to until everything's agreed to.

Look, the back story here is it's not so much about the barriers or the walls or the funding for one or the other as it is about detention beds. And this is an issue of kind of visceral disagreement between the two parties and one that's kind of always been lying in the weeds as a potential problem and it became a huge problem this weekend.

Now, there had been a negotiation about the overall number of detention beds. What these are is essentially where undocumented immigrants are kept if they're detained by ICE when they cross the border. Democrats have now made clear that they want a cap, not just on southern border detentions, but also on interior detentions as well. They want that cap to be at 16,500. What it essentially would do would reorient the Trump administration's

aggressive posture on immigration enforcement. Republicans have said it's a complete non-starter. They cannot deal with that. They will not deal with that. And if that is the Democrat final offer, there will be no talks going forward, there will be no deal going forward.

I think the big question now going into this meeting of the four corners later today is, is there a way to kind of get through these issues right now. And I think there had been a lot of optimism at the end of last week that they could get there, the border barrier funding. The proposals pinging back and forth seemed to give people some hope that they could get there. But if the issue on detaining beds remains where it is right now, there will not be a deal. If the issue on border barriers, which, frankly, Democrats are saying, we are asking for this cap on detention beds to give you more money for border barriers, if that maintains in the same position, there will not be a deal.

And I think the big question right now is, if there is not a deal on the broader talks, is there an actual plan b. and everybody I'm talking to on both sides say people are trying to figure one out right now, a short term bill, a stop-gap bill. But we've seen this play out week after week, month after month. And, of course, the last four or five months. No one has enthusiasm for a shutdown, but no one has the idea yet of how to get out of one at this point, John.

KING: Fire up the espresso machine, my friend. We'll keep checking in with Phil up on Capitol Hill.

[12:30:01] So here we are yet again. The Democrats feel like they're in solid political positioning when it comes to saying no or very limited money for the president's wall.