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INSIDE POLITICS

White House Prepares to Push Back on Request; House Dems to Condemn Anti-Semitism; Clinton Sits out 2020. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 5, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: But if it does work, it's years away. But it's an exciting development.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Take a breakthrough when you can get it, though, when it comes to this.

COHEN: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you. Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: And thanks, everyone, so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR. "INSIDE POLITICS" With John King starts right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

President Trump lashes out at House Democrats for demanding records from the White House., the Trump campaign and the president's business. Democrats say it's overdue oversight. But some do worry the sweeping request plays into the president's complaints of a witch hunt.

Plus, the House leadership plans another vote to denounce anti- Semitism because one of the newly elected Democrat keeps saying or tweeting things offensive to Jews. Is Ilhan Omar being held to a different standard? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is asking that question today.

And Hillary Clinton makes it official, she is not running in 2020. So the biggest name yet to let us know is the former vice president, Joe Biden. The polls look good for Biden. This, not so much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, ANCHOR, CNN "NEW DAY": How many of you would like to see Joe Biden get in? Show of hands.

What's happening with you all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His time is done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back in 2020 in a moment.

But we begin this hour at the White House, where President Trump's frustration with Democrats is boiling over onto his Twitter feed. This after House Democrats cast a very, very wide net yesterday, dropping a document request on at least 81 people, agencies and entities, including the president's two sons, campaign officials, employees from the Trump Organization and former White House employees, among others. The president clearly distressed, calling it on Twitter, quote, the greatest overreach in the history of our country. The Dems are obstructing justice and will not get anything done. A big fat fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime when, in fact, the real crime is what the Dems are doing, and have done! He added this moments later, all caps, presidential harassment.

Democrats insist this is oversight, not over reach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: All the people on the list have given information already to either the special counsel or the Southern District or somebody, and all we're asking for at this point is information they've already turned over so that it could be done quickly and without questions of privilege.

REP. LOU CORREA (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Oversight. Plain and simple oversight. What's wrong with having a little bit of sunshine on what's going on in Washington? We can never have enough sunshine. We can never have enough transparency. And that's what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us live from the White House.

Kaitlan, very tough confrontational words from the president, from his campaign as well. What about the lawyers behind the scenes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, publicly, right now, John, the White House is saying they're going to cooperate with this request. But behind the scenes they are preparing to actually push back on this because they believe that the president has a right to confidentiality and that that's being violated by this sprawling request from these Democrats.

Now, part of that pushback could include trying to limit the number of documents that they have to produce, especially including those from President Trump's time in the White House, potentially those including his communications with the former White House Counsel Don McGahn as well. So be on the lookout for that.

Now, White House officials have been expecting an onslaught of investigations since the Democrats took back the House in the midterm elections, but they were surprised by just how big and how broad that request from Chairman Nadler yesterday was. And right now they say that they're trying to essentially brace for more like that and potentially including Democrats going after the president's tax returns in the coming -- in the coming days and potentially weeks.

Now, right now, how the view inside the White House is and how they're going to try to spin this publicly, like what we're seeing already, is that they believe that the Democrats have essentially out-kicked (ph) their coverage here. That they have cast too far of a net instead of focusing on targeted lines of inquiry. And now that the Democrats have gone too far and that all of these requests are going to potentially get lost in the noise here, John.

KING: Kaitlan Collins live at the White House.

Out-kicked (ph) their coverage. It's good of you sneaking that one in here.

With me in studio here to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg," Carl Hulse with "The New York Times," Matt Viser with "The Washington Post," and Tarini Parti with "BuzzFeed."

The interesting thing is out of the box. You know the president yesterday had the quick response saying, you know, I cooperate. I always cooperate. Which we could debate that if we will that it's a hoax. But the tough words from the president on Twitter today, this statement from the White House press secretary. This is an official White House statement. Chairman Nadler and his fellow Democrats have embarked on this fishing expedition because they are terrified their two-year false narrative of Russia collusion is crumbling. Their intimidation and abuse of American citizens is shameful. Democrats are harassing the president to distract from their radical agenda of making America a socialist country, killing babies after they're born, and pushing a green new deal that would destroy jobs and bankrupt America.

Wow.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "BLOOMBERG": Well, right.

So the -- the green new deal I think we can take apart and move off to the side a little, but obviously has nothing to do with the investigations into the president's associates.

But the White House received Jerry Nadler's document request early yesterday, yesterday morning. People were still drinking coffee, coming into the office when they received this request. That statement from Sarah Sanders came after dinner, came at the end of the day. And so the White House spent all day poring over that initial request, trying to understand who was -- you know, who was involved, who they were going over, what they were going after, the scope of this, what would be covered by executive privilege, what wouldn't, and then had these strategy meetings about precisely how to respond. That response reflects a very carefully thought through kind of political response to a document that ultimately they believe is at least as much political as it is legal in nature.

[12:05:35] CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, he threw the kitchen sink back at them after they threw the kitchen sink at him, right?

KING: Right.

HULSE: And this is both parties trying to play to their base. The president needs -- he wants his folks to think the Democrats are persecuting and harassing him. The Democrats are in this situation where they need to respond to their base's push to go after the president, but maybe not quite step into the impeachment arena yet. It's a real tricky line they're trying to cross. They want to do as much investigation, show they're doing investigation, but I think the scope of this, obviously, caught everybody by surprise.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BUZZFEED NEWS": I think the messaging strategy on this is almost as important as the legal strategy, which Kaitlan explained to us in terms of what the White House is thinking. This is a president who's been talking about presidential harassment for weeks, for months now. He's been talking about the witch hunt. And this just kind of bolsters his point when you have a request this broad.

And so for the White House and for the administration, they see this as sort of neatly fitting into their 2020 talking points. We saw them bring up the green new deal, socialism. So they're just trying to use this as a way to make it seem like Democrats are doing this because they can't win in 2020 and sort of make this more political, as you were saying.

KING: Well, let's stay on the politics. I want to get to some of the substance of this and the process of how it plays out in a moment, but let's stay on the politics, though.

David Axelrod, who, of course, was the key to the Obama team, two presidential victories, tweeting out this last night. Maybe I'm missing something, but the hazard of an omnibus document demand by the House Judiciary versus discreet serial ones is that, however legitimate the areas of inquiry, the wide-ranging nature of it easily plays -- too easily plays into the witch hunt meme.

So David Axelrod there saying, look, you're probably right on the substance, you probably have a lot of legitimate questions, but you might be playing into the president's hands here.

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think Democrats do run a risk here of being seen as overreaching. Eighty-one different requests to different entities and agencies. And I do think that you don't have the explanation yet of what they're looking for. What are they trying to find out. Whereas --

KING: They just say broadly they think there's obstruction, broadly they think there's a bunch of corruption.

VISER: Yes. And soon we may have, from the House Ways and Means chairman, Richard Neal, a request for the tax returns. That is a more sort of specific thing that I think the public is aware of and there's questions unanswered and what those tax returns hold. But just having a broad request for lots of different things without sort of a clear narrative about what they're looking for, I think, runs a risk of being seen as overreaching.

TALEV: But I do think that --

KING: And just to that point, as you jump in, just the day after -- so, Chairman Nadler sends this request to 81 individuals, entities, agencies, we want all these documents. The day after, two Democratic congressmen, Lieu (ph) and Beyer (ph), sent a letter to the attorney general saying, we want you to open a criminal investigation into Jared Kushner's security clearance. And so if it's ever day, again, there are some legitimate questions about, the president certainly didn't tell the truth publicly into how did Jared Kushner's security clearance played out, but is that -- does that warrant a letter to the attorney general saying open a criminal investigation?

TALEV: Yes, you're talking about the pile on effect.

KING: Right.

TALEV: But there are -- so there's like sort of the broad scope of Nadler's request, then there's the more targeted scopes of House Intelligence Committee and Ways and Means Committee, perhaps Judiciary. We'll see how that goes.

I think this all goes to the question of the impeachment strategy in terms of how the Democrats are looking at it. And to Carl's point, there is so much pressure from a section of the Democratic Party to pursue the impeachment track. Actually, I think this is -- Nadler's response is a way to split the difference. Yes, it's true that if you were going to proceed with impeachment, you would need to lay the groundwork in a lot of these ways, but it's also true that you could do all this stuff and never get to impeachment and use the investigations to target the president. And I think that's the balancing act right now that the Democrats are proceeding a pace that the leadership still thinks it would be kind of like reckless. I mean talk about going -- driving straight to the president's message, kind of reckless to speed toward impeachment. This could actually be a way to ease the pressure and slow the path on that march.

KING: Well, part of that is the world we live in. I'll just name me, I won't name Carl, but some of us at the table are old enough to remember when these things were done different ways in this town. You can -- you can have an investigation done by a congressional committee that is requesting documents that we never know about, that the public doesn't know about. The committee has the power of requesting documents from agencies. They build the case. And then if they reach critical mass, then they go public.

We live in a very different world. It's not just the Democrats now. We went through this when the House Republicans were in the majority and they called Rod Rosenstein up and other things as well. There are a lot of -- a lot of Washington now gets to the conclusions before it starts asking the questions.

[12:10:04] To the point about, are the Democrats -- the capability of the Democrats, the process. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, announcing he's now hired Daniel Goldman, who's a former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, has a history of prosecuting organized crime cases, to come in and help with their investigation. That is one of the legitimate questions, how will the Democrats staff up for this?

HULSE: Well, I think this is a really important point. And I think one of the questions you just raised, does anyone here know how to play this game anymore? You know, the old line. The staff on Capitol Hill has been hollowed out over the years. There hasn't been good oversight. You know, there's been some instances of it. But if you remember when Henry Waxman and people like that, they would have a big line-up of attorneys with real experience to conduct these things. I think, you know, that's probably reflective of a realization we don't have the staff that we need. We need to go find them. That's probably a big, important milestone here. Let's get some real prosecutorial experience here so we know what we're doing, so it's just not a bunch of political back and forth.

VISER: I think part of this, too, is, we don't yet know what the Mueller report is going to say and how much of that is going to be public. So this could be an attempt by some of the Democrats to obtain some of that material that then they have the ability to release and make public, things that they are subpoenaing in a way that Mueller and his conclusions may not be fully released to the public.

KING: May not get to the public. We'll continue to watch this one. It's a -- we live in interesting times, to say the least.

Up next, the House Democratic leadership sends a message -- another message to Congressman Ilhan Omar, but will she accept it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:42] KING: Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is again giving the Democratic leadership a headache. And it is again because of anti- Semitic statements.

Adding to the drama today, President Trump trying to stoke this controversy, calling it, quote, a dark day for Israel.

Plus, the most prominent new Democratic member of the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is questioning the leadership's decision to bring up a resolution clearly meant to send Omar a message. Ocasio- Cortez, in a series of tweets, says she worries there's a double standard at play and says, quote, to jump to the nuclear option every time leaves no room for corrective action.

Omar has used several anti-Semitic phrases in recent tweets criticizing the power of the pro-Israel lobby here in Washington and she's clashed with Jewish members of Congress in her own party who have asked her to stop and to speak with them about why they find some of her words so offensive. The resolution set for a vote Wednesday is the second resolution

brought to a vote by the Democratic leadership because of something said or tweeted by Omar. For now, though, the leadership resisting demands from Republicans, and some Jewish groups, that Omar be stripped of her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

How much of a headache is this for the Democratic leadership in the sense that there are a lot of calls to do something more than just -- and here's the resolution -- it does not mention Omar by name, but it does include some of the words, like "dual loyalty," some of the things she has used that have -- that are and clearly have offended, not just Jews in the Congress, Jews, period.

HULSE: Well, I think this is going to be a continuing problem. She -- a conflict. She, obviously, feels very strongly about this. And the Republicans are using this as a hammer on the Democrats, especially after the Steve King resolution.

I will say today I am seeing, though, more pushback on the idea that, well, you still need to be able to criticize policy towards Israel and Israel's policy, so I do think there's becoming more discussion about this and what is actually anti-Semitism and what is opposition to Israel and Bibi Netanyahu.

KING: But even the Democrat members have said that in the sense that you can criticize Israeli settlement policy, you can criticize Israeli treatment of Palestinians over the years, you can criticize Prime Minister Netanyahu, that should all be fair game. And there's plenty of material, actually, if you want to criticize Israel policy.

The issue is, "it's all about the benjamins," or, "dual loyalties," or "pledge allegiance to a foreign country," which are clearly anti- Semitic statements. And the interesting part for me has been the Democratic members, the Jewish members of the Democrats, Elliot Engel, who's her chairman on Foreign Affairs, Anita Lowey tried to do this on Twitter, and she has resisted. So this has become a problem within the family.

VISER: There's clearly a debate among Democrats and I think it puts Nancy Pelosi in an interesting situation where they have the majority. Democrats have been relatively in line, you know, so far. And the shutdown was a good example of Nancy Pelosi being able to keep everybody on the same page.

We're seeing some cracks in that. And this is the latest iteration where there is a big family fight that is becoming more and more public to the point where there's a resolution on the House floor that's clearly aimed at this type of rhetoric.

KING: And early on some people said, maybe she doesn't understand. maybe she doesn't understand how offensive her words are. But this has gone on for weeks now. Aaron David Miller, who's been a diplomat in State Departments in both Democratic and Republican administrations tweeting this, Omar has managed to hit the three-for of anti-Semitic tripe in as many weeks. Jews hypnotize world; Jewish money buys politicians; and dual loyalty. That's quite a record and would prompt even the most obtuse to wonder if it quacks, swims and has feathers, it's probably a duck.

TALEV: Well, and -- and Donald Trump sees a political opportunity here.

KING: Right.

TALEV: I mean there -- when you look ahead to 2020, he's already been focusing quite a bit on Florida with a -- with a different element of the vote in Florida, which is the Hispanic vote, the Latin American vote. His policy is towards Venezuela. His rhetoric toward Venezuela and Cuba. This is now another opportunity. And if the president sees an opportunity to exploit this by trying to push some of the Jewish American vote towards the Republican Party, he'll do it. And so I think that's -- the internal fight inside the Democratic Party is this way of individual members, some of them Jewish-Americans, being offended by her words versus a desire to stay unified and not to seed ground to Trump, who has pursued with the move of the embassy, the declaration of the capitol as Jerusalem, the peace policy, has certainly been courting the Jewish-American folks.

[12:20:05] PARTI: I think the broader fight over Israel within the Democratic Party on how to talk about it, on what the policy is as a party and how they viewed various issues related to it has been a long time coming, and I think this is kind of just one example of when everything is coming to a head, and they have to sort of deal with it, whether it's dealing with, you know, older versus younger members within the House, or, you know, Jewish members and others who feel like -- because there's a broad part about -- in the Democratic resistance who actually, at least on Twitter, are talking about it in a way where they don't see it quite as anti-Semitism. So I think that's a discussion that they are having to have with their base. And you're absolutely right, the president is trying to sort of take advantage of that. They're trying to fracture the Democratic Party wherever they see fit on whatever policy issue, and this is just the latest one.

KING: And it's another reminder of how much the world has changed in the sense that in the older days, a freshman came to Congress, regardless of party, and was kind of quiet.

TALEV: Yes.

KING: Quite for the first term. Yes, right, you're laughing because that world doesn't exist anymore. Well, in --

HULSE: (INAUDIBLE).

KING: In both parties. We saw this when the Tea Party -- when the Tea Party came to power in, you know, in the last decade, in 20 -- after 2010 and after 2014. A lot of the new members were quickly involved in big debates.

Now you have today, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a series of tweets, not saying don't bring the resolution up, but asking, are we going to do this every time? Are we going to -- every time any member, whether it's a Democrat or Republican says something, she says, what about sexist remarks, what about misogynist remarks, what about -- what if it's someone else in the leadership? She's trying to essentially say, are you singling out Ilhan Omar here or do we have a new way of disciplining people?

VISER: And that's tough for Pelosi. And he's harnessing Twitter, which she has done so well since coming in, and that new generation that's not -- that's willing to challenge the party leaders. And I think that's -- the base is riled up on each side, and you now have representatives of those bases who are in there and speaking to their leadership and challenging them in a way that we haven't seen in Washington.

HULSE: Well, there's not that much going on in Washington, either, in substantive ways, so this is how everybody's expressing themselves. There's not votes and policy to fight it out about.

TALEV: In between subpoenas, you mean?

HULSE: Right.

And I did notice yesterday, though, Mitch McConnell did a press conference in Louisville, I think, and just offhandedly referred to AOC, very familiar. And I thought, how many freshman Democrats over the years has Mitch McConnell really --

TALEV: Legitimized them (ph).

HULSE: Or -- and talked about that knowingly? It really struck me how much that she has penetrated the environment here. It's pretty amazing.

KING: Well, we'll watch this one play out in the hours ahead.

Up next, Hillary Clinton says she's not going away in 2020.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:27:22] KING: If you're a Democrat and you were still with her, you need to find a new candidate. Hillary Clinton cleaning up her plans for 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm not running, but I'm going to keep working and speaking and standing up for what I believe.

I'm going to keep speaking out. I'm not going anywhere. What's at stake in our country, the kinds of things that are happening right now are deeply troubling to me. We've gotten not just polarized, we've gotten into really opposing camps, unlike anything I've ever seen in my adult life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In that interview, Clinton telling New York's local News 12, she plans to do, quote, everything she can for the Democratic Party. She says she's already met with several 2020 candidates and advised them to, quote, not take anything for granted.

No surprise, but we were waiting for official word because of her role in the Democratic Party, because there would be some grumbling if she ran, but she'd also have a lot of space if she ran. Now that she steps out, can she be an active voice for the party in 2020? Will she be welcomed as an active voice to the party in 2020? Or will some people think, despite her great resume and her history, don't -- we don't want to do the Clinton/Trump thing again?

HULSE: I mean I think that was definitive, finally.

KING: Right.

HULSE: I think that did seem to be Sherman-esque. So that's done. I think she can be more of a voice now in some ways. Now she's really liberated. Now that may worry both Republicans and Democrats, by the way, that she's going to be full-throated.

She's got a big following in this country among Democratic women, especially older Democratic women. I think there's totally a place for her. And I think, if you're running as a Democrat and weren't talking to Hillary Clinton, you're probably making a huge mistake. She's a serious person and I think will probably be welcome. I mean I'm guessing there, but I think most people want to hear what she has to say and try and tap into both her financial support and her political support.

KING: And just to your point about those who have met with her, we can show you, Vice President Biden, who we still don't know his decision, Amy Klobuchar, she's in, Kamala Harris is in, Cory Booker in, Elizabeth Warren in, John Hickenlooper in. They've all spent time with Secretary Clinton, who has a great perspective both as a former first lady, United States senator and presidential candidate.

I want -- listen to her here. She believes -- and I think this is fair -- she believes she deserves some credit. We just talked about the new Democratic House and the number of the new women in the Democratic House. And also now you have a record number of women running for president. Hillary Clinton says, you know, I blazed that trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm thrilled by the exciting, dynamic women who were elected to Congress. And they're already making their mark.

I've had a lot of them tell me that, you know, my work, my run for president was very influential in their decision to run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:30:04] VISER: I think that's true. I was in Selma on Sunday where she was, and she had several speaking opportunities.