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Booker: I Pledge To Support Whoever Wins Nomination; 2020 Voters Weigh In On O'Rourke's Run; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Comments About Control Of Prescription Drug Prices; North Korea Threatens To Walk Away From Denuclearization Talks; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Comments On Negotiations With North Korea; Rick Gates Continues To Cooperate In "Several" Investigations. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 15, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: How do the other candidates make their mark?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, it's interesting because you look at what Beto was saying yesterday and it seems entirely derivative of what Obama was doing in 2008. And even sort of social media strategy of Cory Booker.

Cory Booker was a sensation, right? On Twitter, he was rescuing dogs and cats and shoveling snow and all sorts of things when he was Mayor of Newark and now in some ways he seems like old news. I saw him down in Selma a couple weeks ago. He's certainly able to connect with a crowd like that. It was mostly black people, obviously, and some white Democrats as well, but the sort of, like fire that you see I think presently around somebody like Beto. And even somebody like Bernie Sanders, you don't quite see it around Cory Booker. Listen, it's early still.

He's got this love mantra, which is you know, he's going to work with everybody, and you know, love conquers all and it's Beto's mantra as well. It's Biden's a little bit, too. So we'll see what happens.


KING: That's the challenge, every candidate has a different trajectory. Some come up in like that and never come down, others do a little bit of this, some do a slow build.

COLLINS: And you could do a slow build, but so much of this will come down to what -- how President Trump shapes the race and how he defines that candidate. And you see him already trying to do that with Beto O'Rourke.

He did that once they were both in El Paso, the President was criticizing his crowd size. He's saying that he's already lost.

And then today or yesterday, just right after Beto had put out that video, the President was criticizing it in the Oval Office, talking about his hand movement, which a lot of people agreed with. That what something a lot of people found distracting from that video. The President has a talent at targeting people and finding what is not their weakness, but something that's very defining about them, and something that sticks with people and can help shape his message for them.

So it will be interesting to see as these Democrats try to distinguish themselves from this vast field of candidates, as the President also tries to shape them in voters' eyes.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREA CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: And that's the challenge, right? Defining themselves before the President defines them.


And that is going to be a real challenge for some of the candidates that might not be as well known as some of the others. And you see Cory Booker trying to forge his way. It is still note worthy that the President hasn't comment Kamala Harris yet on Twitter. He just -- he has complimented her crowd sizes. And I mean, not reading the tea leaves too much, but I think that's note worthy and interesting that that has not happened yet and how he's going to try to do that.

KING: And we're showing you Senator Booker, he's at another event in New Hampshire, that's a live picture there from Claremont. So he's trying to navigate this party.

Number one, Hillary Clinton the other female nominee last time. A lot of Democrats sin still have bad feelings, they didn't elect a woman president. You have a record number of women candidates running this time in this field. Here's Cory Booker's solution to that dynamic.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am very confident that this election we will make history, because no matter what, I'm looking you in the eye and saying this, there will be a woman on the ticket. I don't know if it's in the vice president's position or the president's position, but if I have my way, there will be a woman on the ticket.


KING: Nominate me, I'll pick a woman.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: That's what he's saying, right? Like, I think with Booker, we see a candidate who is very organized in Iowa, very organized in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, even, but it still struggling to break through and like, find his lane. And yesterday we saw his actress girlfriend was interviewed in the airport on TMZ and that cut into a little bit of the Beto oxygen in the news. And then today he says, hey, nominate me, I'll put a woman on the ticket. Like, he's trying to make news. Is it working? Like, I don't know.

KUCINICH: But it's so early still in terms of breaking through. We have to say that. HENDERSON: Yes, yes. I do think one of the things to note about Beto O'Rourke is he's unemployed. He can stay in Iowa day in and day out and go all over the country in a way that these folks -- they've got day jobs. They've got to be in Washington voting. They've got a very limited schedule. He's going to be knocking on doors all day and all night in Iowa and I think that's going to give him something of an advantage. And we'll see how these folks can kind of make up the difference by, you know, from not being able to be there in he way that Beto's going to be able there.

KING: That's good point. Again, I agree with you it is early.


KING: We will watch as we're going to try, we would do our best or kind of be fair here and watch the different trajectories, try to carve out a space. Quick programming note, this one goes back a few campaigns. A new four-part CNN original series explores Richard Nixon's rise, fall, and critical comeback and his political destruction. I can't wait for this one. Don't miss never before seen footage in "Tricky Dick," it premieres on CNN, Sunday night at 9:00 p.m.

And before we go to break, back to present day politics they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Not so sure about this attempt, Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw.


[12:35:00] REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R), TEXAS: Tim Apple. Tim makes a lot of money. More money than me? No, not possible. He makes the phones. I make the hotels. He makes little tiny phones. I make big, beautiful hotels.



KING: Topping our political radar today, President Trump nominating a new NATO commander, tapping U.S. Air Force General Todd Walters to lead the U.S. European command and to be the top general overseeing NATO operations in Europe. The North Atlantic Council has approved the General Walters new title, which will be Supreme Allied Commander Europe. His nomination now must be approved by the United States Senate.

[12:40:00]New York Mayor Bill De Blasio heading to New Hampshire this weekend as he weighs a run for president in 2020. And like other progressives, he's already being asked what he thinks about capitalism.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MORNING JOE HOST, MSNBC: Do you believe in the capitalist system? MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: I believe in -- I'm a social Democrat. I believe that we are living in a capitalist system that has strengths and weaknesses, and we have to address it with a strong role of government. And right now that's not happening sufficiently.


KING: Another Democratic contender, candidate Amy Klobuchar telling CNN, Obamacare falls far short when it comes to controlling prescription drug prices. The Minnesota Senator has made high drug prices along with the opioid crisis central issue of her 2020 campaign. She says it's time to address what the affordable care act failed in her view to fix.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So a missed opportunity?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd say yes, that's a missed opportunity, but now we must move forward. And that's why I think both parties have been guilty of not bringing these up, but there's one party in charge right now, and that's the Republican Party.


KING: Beto O'Rourke already making waves as a Democratic presidential candidate. He spoke last hour to voters in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. CNN caught up with some of those voters. Listen here, one says she doesn't want just another celebrity running for president.


DEBRA RODGERS, MOUNT PLEASANT VOTER: I want to make sure that we don't just have another celebrity running for president. I'm not saying Beto's that way, but he's got a celebrity image now already. I think it's wonderful that he started in this section of Iowa because you cannot win a campaign by just going to Des Moines or Iowa City or Cedar Rapids or Sioux City. You got -- you have got to pick up the rural people, too.


KING: I love the last part. Iowans just making, fighting for their turf in Iowa. We're on day two. He got a lot of attention. He got a lot of buzz, had small events on purpose, so they looked packed. They were packed, but I'm not disrespecting the crowds. But that's a smart way to do it. Early events in Iowa.

Our Leyla Santiago was with him and just asked him, how was his 24 hour fund-raising which is one key test said, he wasn't ready to tell us yet. What do we make of day one?

HENDERSON: I'll bet it will be a big number that fund-raising number. I called around of to folks in South Carolina to get a sense of just how they were viewing him on the first day and people are going to be seeing him on TV mainly. Some of the comments I got, he's a kid. My money's on Joe, Joe, Joey. They'll eat him up almost like they did with Obama.

And these were older voters that I talked to and because these are a lot of the voters although he's going to be trying to win that woman there obviously, a senior. So that was just, you know, not a full sampling of how people are seeing him, but just the little kind of flavor for how people saw him on day one.

KING: And you're seeing from the other candidates a, fund-raising of him, b if you read your inbox, I'm sure you select mine or you texts, some complaints. Why's he getting all this attention, what about us?

CAYGLE: Yes, right. This is a candidate who's very much defined by his personality and his policy prescriptions. And even yesterday we saw on the hill, Speaker Pelosi, we asked her, what did you think about Beto? He was here for six years, what was his signature policy accomplishment? And she was like, well I -- he brought a real vitality to the House, and you know, that was her diplomatic answer. And so we'll have to see how that plays in Iowa and New Hampshire and these early stages.

KUCINICH: And that's going to be one of his biggest challenge, because he's running against policy heavies (ph). These Democratic contenders are really focused on policy. And getting into the nitty gritty early. And so we're not talking about sort of fluff here.

So, and he's going to be pushed to define himself. He can't give these non answers that he was, or going around the question like he was yesterday. He's going to be pinned down.

KING: Old enough to remember a campaign long ago, where's the beef? Where's the line? We'll see if it comes up there.

This is before we go to break, President Trump will veto the national emergency declaration, 3:30 p.m., an event today in the Oval Office. When we come back, North Korea threatening to walk away from nuclear talks. What the United States plans to do in response?



[12:48:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn't do that. You always have to be prepared to walk. I could have signed an agreement today and then you people would have said, oh, what a terrible deal, what a terrible thing he did. No, you have to be prepared to walk.


KING: Well, today some evidence North Korea may be thinking about the same tactic, threatening to walk away from denuclearization negotiations entirely. North Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister accusing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the National Security Adviser John Bolton of creating a, "Atmosphere of hostility and mistrust", and obstructing, "The constructive effort for negotiations." Bolton and Pompeo reacted to that this morning.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that's inaccurate, but the President is our decision maker.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: They're wrong about that and I was there. It's not the first time. I have a vague recollection of being called gangster like from a visit that I took one time previously. And following that, we continued to have very professional conversations where we tried our best to work together and represent our respective sides. I have every expectation that we'll be able to continue to do that.


KING: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins our conversation. Secretary Pompeo, we should know this having lunch with the President right now. I suspect this is probably part of the conversation.

Bluster like this is in the North Korean Playbook, but how significant should we view it in the sense of the sequencing here, where they say we still have great relationships with the President, but?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, right, I see this as a shot across Pompeo's bow right into the Oval Office by the North Koreans. I don't think it means the end of the talks or that they're in some sort of extremist, but I do think it's a signal by the North Koreans that they're not happy where it's going and that they feel like the Trump administration is continuing to put them in a box and leaving them very little negotiating space on the back end of that.

KING: And to the President's point, I mean, he'll be flattered. We want to deal directly with you, but in this case, the President actually did listen to his advisers.

[12:50:02] COLLINS: He did, and he walked away with them. It did not make any concessions. But I think him might be embarrassed that they made that long train trip to Hanoi, they walked away with no sanctions relief which is something the North Koreans were desperately seeking and I think that by criticizing people like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, they can do that without criticizing President directly and hope that he'll soften his stance.

But another aspect that's very much happening in the west wing is White House aides are happy that the President didn't give up anything, that he did walk away without signing some kind of piece of paper that was meaningless, but they're questioning why they even held that summit because clearly you can see the two sides are still so far apart still, so they don't even know why the President went there.

KING: And this is a recurring theme going back three or four administrations. Don't focus on what the North Koreans say, focus on what they do. We have satellite images just released that show -- that show that they have been doing some work at one of their testing facilities and you know with the idea, they haven't agreed to shut these down. There's no deal, but that was part of the good work. No more missile tests, no more firing missiles over, no nuclear tests. You're supposed to scale back here.

And so, Adam Kinzinger, member of Congress, more hawkish than the administration, said, you know what? Let's just stop. If negotiations aren't working, it's time to get tougher.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: We need to go back to having the stick option on the table. That doesn't mean threatening military action, but that means resuming the large-scale military exercises, making clear we're staying in South Korea, making sure sanctions are enforced. This is a time where we have to inflict pain on North Korea to make it clear they're not going to do what they've been doing for 40 years.


KING: Is that a choice now, that especially with the blustery rhetoric out of North Korea, to say fine, you want to talk that way? We're going to have full U.S.-South Korean military exercises again?

KIRBY: Yes certainly, it's a choice, John. I don't know that it's the best choice. I do agree with the Congressman that we need to keep the pressure up. I'm not a fan of the continued scaled-back exercises. I think we should continue to exercise with our South Korean allies. And I do think we need to put more pressure on them to get them back to the table, but I don't know that I would go so far as to suspend the negotiations to say, hey, we're not going to talk anymore.

The North Koreans didn't say they were suspending it, they said they might suspend it. They are clearly trying to send to a signal to Trump that they know there's division on his team and that they don't believe that the conditions that were set forth in Hanoi were acceptable to them. They continue to see, it looks like privately as well as what we see publicly from the administration, that denuclearization has to come first and only, and then you get sanctioned relief. And they want more of a stair step approach.

KING: And now the question is will the President give him that or will he think I gave you what I could at Hanoi? We shall see. I'd like to be at that lunch right now.

Up next, what, if anything, does Rick Gates' continued cooperation tell us about the Russia Special Counsel probe?


[12:52:11] KING: A new court filing from the Russia Special Counsel today, and once again, Robert Mueller raises new questions even as he answers one. So what do we learn today? That the Special Counsel is still not ready to schedule a sentencing date for former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates. The Special Counsel and attorneys for Gates told the court he continues to provide information in, "Several ongoing investigations." Gates and lawyers for the Special Counsel promise to file an update in 60 days.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and CNN's Kara Scannell join the conversation. So, in telling us nothing, what is Robert Mueller telling us in telling us nothing?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well as long as that there are still several ongoing investigations where Gates is a value, and I think, a lot of us thought this week with Manafort sentencing that made of mark the end of Rick Gates' role here, but we're learning now is that in fact Gates is still a key person in a lot of ongoing investigations.

And as part of his cooperation, where I mean, he has to cooperate with any federal investigation or state investigation and we do know that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan is investigating the inaugural fund. They've think of Rick Gates' role. He was on the campaign, he was around during the transition and he was a key senior member of the inaugural committee.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: For me, that's where I think everything is. They can't say that they're done with Rick Gates until he's done cooperating in every investigation.

KING: So Mueller is the front guy. I don't mean it that way --

PROKUPECZ: To me, that's how I read it.

KING: -- that there's other stuff going on and we don't want to talk about publicly, so Mueller says judge, I need more time.

PROKUPECZ: Right. Because if you notice the two names on the -- on that form you have there, on that filing you have there, one of them is Andrew Weissmann. He's leaving. He's leaving the Special Counsel's Office.

They can't reveal who Rick Gates is working with, because they don't want to tell us which office -- which other office is handling this investigation because that's going to give us some clues as to what's going on. So Rick Gates is still very much involved. I think it's not just the Special Counsel's Office. It's the Department of Justice. There are several, as that says, ongoing investigations.

KING: And we know about the inaugural investigation, so we know there are some other Trump organizations Rick Gates may or may not have information about that. But also, the Manafort investigation predated Mueller and Rick Gates has a Manafort business partner could be some of that as well right other, "foreign lobbying and the like."

PROKUPECZ: Right, exactly. There is a lot of foreign lobbying investigations, power is what they are called. There's a lot of concern now out there that there is many investigations going on with and that what this maybe about.

KINH: So some of us -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

SCANNELL: No I was so, I mean, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office this week charged Manafort, so if that goes to trial, Rick Gates will be a key person in that trial, too.

KING: But there were some of us who thought we were going to get a Mueller report last week or the week before or this week. We will reply to you no later than May 14th, 2019. Does that mean anything or is that just a placeholder?

PROKUPECZ: To me, that's just a placeholder. I think, look, what we saw in Michael Flynn, when they were ready to sentence him, they had brought charges in that other case that he was cooperating in -- and this is one out of Virginia.

We could see some more cases being brought in the next 60 days, outside of the special counsel's office, other U.S.. Attorneys. And then, we will know at that point, that they are ready to sentence Rick Gates.