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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump's No Collusion Victory Tour; A New Fight Over Health Care; Democrats Push for Release of Full Mueller Report; Beto O'Rourke in Third Place in Latest Poll. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 31, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:26] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Trump's no collusion victory tour.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia hoax is finally dead.

MATTINGLY: Democrats say not so fast. They're still demanding Mueller's full report.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: We will not be ignored. It's just a question of time. The sooner the better.

MATTINGLY: Plus Republicans stare back into the health care abyss.

TRUMP: We are going to be the party of great health care.

MATTINGLY: And Beto O'Rourke's campaign kickoff.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am so glad to be here with you today to announce that I'm running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America.

MATTINGLY: He's got money. He's got crowds. But will early buzz translate at the ballot box?

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Phil Mattingly in this morning for John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

President Trump celebrates the end of the Mueller probe. He claims it clears him and the entire investigation was a fraud.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people. They did it all because they refuse to accept the results of what the greatest presidential elections, probably number one, in our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Plus a presidential pivot. To health care? Republicans now wondering why the White House is picking another fight on an issue many see as unwinnable and that helped them lose control of the U.S. House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I'm very disappointed and vehemently opposed to the administration seeking to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act. Clearly there are provisions of the law that do need to be fixed. The answer is for the administration to work with Congress and present a plan to replace and fix the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And another big weekend for the 2020 campaign. Beto O'Rourke kicks off his campaign with three rallies in his home state of Texas and a message of unity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'ROURKE: Whatever our differences, where you live, whom you love, to whom you pray, for whom you voted in the last election, let those differences not define us or divide us at this moment. Let's agree going forward, before we are anything else, we are Americans first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: With us this Sunday to share their reporting, their scoops, their insights, Eliana Johnson from Politico, Jonathan Martin from the "New York Times," CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Seung Min Kim from the "Washington Post".

Total exoneration. That's how President Trump is characterizing the Mueller investigation's final conclusions. The report, it should be noted, does not exonerate him at least on the issue of obstruction. And no one outside the Justice Department has actually seen the 400 plus page report, just a four-page summary from Attorney General Bill Barr.

On Friday Barr told lawmakers he'd release much more of the report by mid-April at the latest saying, quote, "we are preparing the report for release, making the redactions that are required." Barr wrote in a letter to the chairman of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own.

Now Barr also promised not to submit redactions to the White House for approval. Fine with me, says President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I have great confidence in the attorney general. If that's what he'd like to do, I have nothing to hide. This was a hoax. This was a witch hunt. I have absolutely nothing to hide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now the White House started the week in full "I told you so" mode, hoping the end of the Mueller probe would be a turning point for Trump's presidency. But instead a White House victory lap was quickly overtaken by headlines like these, a surprise decision to start a new fight about Obamacare, a threat to shut the U.S.-Mexico border, and a fiasco over funding for the Special Olympics.

OK. So on Monday this was a very good week for the president, or looked like it was going to be a very good week for the president. Then a couple of things happened. The week got a little bit more dynamic which I guess is not super rare. If you want one take on this, take a look at the "TIME" magazine cover of this week which has the president walking along with an umbrella.

[08:05:04] That is the actual virtual version of it. And I believe the title says "Just Singing in the Rain." And I think you can read a number of different things into that.

But, Eliana, you cover the administration as close as anybody. What's your read on what actually occurred this week?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: This was -- this began as one of the weeks for President Trump of his presidency. He -- the cloud that has been hanging over Donald Trump since -- essentially since his presidency began, of the Mueller report which he complained repeatedly had inhibited his ability to conduct foreign policy. Foreign leaders had asked him if he was going to be around when he would need to make certain decisions was lifted when he was cleared of collusion, and that was really, really important for him. And a 100 percent victory.

So his decision to re-litigate Obamacare really befuddled Republicans in Congress and I think around the country because this is not a winning issue for Republicans. They have been there, done that in 2017. Same with the Special Olympics plant, though that was something that was written in the budget, and I think an unexpected stumble for the White House.

It was picked up by the news media, but the Obamacare decision was a conscious decision by President Trump convinced by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that this was an unfulfilled campaign promise and that he should back a long shot court case that seeks to invalidate the entire law and push Republicans in Congress to pass an Obamacare replacement which they failed to do two years ago.

So Republicans are not quite sure why he stepped on his toes when he had a really, really strong start to the week.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And like we're going to get deep in the Obamacare in the next block because we ought to spend a lot of time on that, but to contextualize everything, look at this quote from Mike Murphy in the "Washington Post" on Saturday. Obviously Mike Murphy, longtime Republican aide, obviously no fan of the president to begin with, but makes kind of a decent point here. "We're diving into a wood chipper," he said. "I guess that's the plan, being on the wrong side of issues, on top of head winds we're already facing, with the House Freedom Caucus and Trump's ego providing our political compass."

Again, Mike Murphy, no fan of the president. But he's not actually that far away from where a lot of Republicans are in his policy.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think one of the issues there, the president likes to have someone or something to fight with. So the Mueller investigation is over. So health care has been a favorite thing he loves to talk about, loves to talk about President Obama. He needs an opponent. The reality here is, I cannot recall something that went for -- you know, on Monday, it was the best day of the president's time in office without question. I mean, the week started out that way.

The Obamacare fight just made so many Republicans, as you know, on Capitol Hill throw their hands up. Mitch McConnell said well, the president will have to deal with the speaker on that. He's not interested in this. So the president needs to have a bogeyman, an opponent, a critic until he has a Democratic opponent, he's going to create all these other ones. But it really gave a lot of the Republicans pause this week, what exactly is he doing.

MATTINGLY: Well, one of the interesting things is he still has that opponent to some degree in congressional Democrats when it comes to the Mueller report. And we talked about the kind of the good day for the White House on Monday. Take a listen to kind of how they framed everything related to that report, at least the four-page summary of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction, none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration.

It said no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better.

The result was great, no obstruction, no collusion, no anything.

Total exoneration. Complete vindication.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: A messaged discipline there, as it was throughout the course of the week. Does that hold, particularly given the fact that at this point in time there's still a lot of report left to be seen at some point?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I think he's pretty far out there on a limb given how much is still unknown. That's not unlike the president to vindicate himself like that. But -- JOHNSON: Yes. It doesn't matter what the report says.

MARTIN: No, of course not. But I think this week really, though, captured the challenges that he faces. No, he didn't collude with the Russians. I think anybody who covered the '16 campaign would have probably surmised that from the fact that it was kind of a MacGyver style operation in the first place that wasn't capable of colluding with the Russians. But, you know, immediately after he sort of steps on this rake and it hits him in the face on the Obamacare issue.

And that I think captures his problem, is the chaos in the administration. The concerns that people have in this country about him and the reason why Democrats won 40 seats in the House last year is not because they thought he was a stooge of Putin. Maybe some folks on the left thought that. But most people who are uneasy about him don't like the chaos. They don't like the insults, the tweets, the sort of head-snapping uncertainly day-to-day about policy, about appointments. And that's his challenge. And that's what we saw this week.

[08:10:03] He mentioned the issue of the funding for the Olympics. I mean, this is sort of challenging. He doesn't know what's in his own budget and then he watches the news coverage of his own Ed secretary being roasted on Capitol Hill about it. And then he's now against it? It was in his own budget. A small thing, but it captures the uncertainty and chaos that pervades the administration, that denies them the chance to put points on the board here.

MATTINGLY: Yes. You talk about uncertainty, some chaos to some degree. Want to talk about immigration. Look, the president came out in a tweet, and Seung Min, I know you cover this issue very closely, talking about how he might close the border. The tweet says, quote, "Our detention areas are maxed out. And we will take no more illegals. Next step is to close the border." On top of that, deciding to cut funding to northern triangle countries which is kind of a huge piece --

MARTIN: Right.

MATTINGLY: -- of the diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants. What's your read on -- this seems like it's going to be the big thing in the last couple of days?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think, I mean, if last week's major issue was health care, this week will certainly be on immigration with the president's threat because this is -- he's threatened this before, clearly. But it is the first time he has put a specific timeframe on it. We haven't gotten the details on exactly how this would happen. But the Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, did talk about the ability to actually close ports of entry on the Mexico border and to kind of re-direct the personnel there to dealing with the migrant situation.

But we can't understate the massive economic impacts doing this will create. I mean, I would be very interested in seeing what John Cornyn, a border state senator, would have to say about this, when $1.7 billion of goods are traded between U.S. and Mexico every day.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No, it's a great point. And look, also the funding cut. The administration has the leeway to do it. But $450 million particularly one day after his Homeland Security announced kind of a groundbreaking memorandum of understanding with those three countries, it's interesting.

MARTIN: He doesn't know that or follow that. And that's the point on all of this stuff. He's not super engaged on the policies of his own administration and he reacts to the news coverage. And that's what creates this chaos week in, week out.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Keep an eye on this. It's going to be a big issue.

All right. Up next, why the Trump White House is trying again to kill Obamacare. But first, politicians say the darndest things, this time with Lindsey Graham's very early Christmas list.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Every day is like Christmas. There's something under the tree with Trump. You just don't know what it is.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: Some days it's that shotgun you've been dreaming for. Right? Some days it's a red sweater and you say, hmm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:16:34] TRUMP: Obamacare is a disaster. It's too expensive by far. People can't afford it and the deductible is horrible. I understand health care now especially very well. A lot of people don't understand it. We are going to be the Republicans, the party of great health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: President Trump shocked even members of his own party this week by launching a new war on Obamacare. His Justice Department took new action to have the entire law struck down with no plan in place about what would actually come next.

Here is why this is a fight that worries a lot of Republicans and energizes a lot of Democrats. First let's take a look at a couple of pieces of Obamacare that have remained very popular even throughout some of the back and forth over Capitol Hill over the course of, let's say, the last decade. Preexisting conditions protections. This was the downfall essentially of the Republican repeal and replace effort in 2017. Kids staying on their parents' plans until 26. Limits out- of-pocket costs, no lifetime caps, no co-pay, no deductible for physicals. This applies to all of Americans and underscores not just the political liability but also the system-wide liability if there is a law that's struck down with no replacement in place.

Now take a look at, at least according to the Urban Institute, the biggest jumps in the uninsured rate if Obamacare is repealed. Pay attention to where some of these states actually are. Montana, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia. What do those states align with? Pennsylvania. States President Trump won when you look at the red here back in 2016. These are red states or in the case of Iowa, Pennsylvania, kind of swing states that the president won on his pathway to more than 270 electoral votes.

This matters politically electorally along with the enormous impact on the policy side of things. This all comes as Obamacare's approval rating, at least at the current moment, is as high as it's ever been. 50 percent approve of the law compared to 39 percent who disapprove. Think about where this law has been over the court of the last 10 years, 50 percent maybe back in 2010, 2011 would be stunning. That's where it sits right now.

However, you want a rationale for why the president is considering this fight, why is the administration or at least some in the administration are urging this fight? Take a look at this middle number right here. Of Republicans, 75 percent still disapprove of the law. The Republican base has never moved on this issue. The Republican base still wants a fight on this issue. The president is willing to fight on this issue. Guess who else is? The Democrats. 80 percent approve. And nothing unifies the Democratic Party as we saw throughout the first term of the president -- the first two years of the president's time in office -- in the midterms quite like Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: The GOP will never stop trying to destroy the Affordable Health Care of America's families.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel very strongly that supposed leaders should stop playing politics with people's public health.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This administration and the Republican Party want to go back to the bad old days where people couldn't get health insurance if they had a preexisting condition.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The president wants to go back to repeal and replace again? Make our day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: I'll get to how this has kind of unified Democrats which at least on the campaign trail have been splitting a little bit on this issue in a moment.

But, Seung Min, I want to start with you because you have a headline in the "Washington Post" that says, "For Trump's party of health care, there is no health care plan." And that's not hyperbole, that's very true. And you've got the on-the-record quote to back that up. What did you find in reporting this out?

KIM: Well, I mean, not that there's just no plan. There's no plans to actually get a plan together which is the problem for Republicans right now. And look, first of all, go to the committee chairman who would be in charge of writing any health care bills.

[08:20:01] Both of them, just when you ask them, they're like, we're doing something else, we're focused on lowering the price of prescription drugs, we're focused on bipartisan efforts to reduce health care costs in other ways. And Mitch McConnell has no intention of, you know, helping Trump along in any way to become -- to help Republicans become the party of health care. I mean, there's no plan to put a working group together.

He's told Politico that, you know, the president can happily work with the speaker if he wants to do this because, again, as you showed in your poll numbers before, this is not a good issue for Republicans. Now they may be forced into that position if the Supreme Court -- if and when this case does go up there, get up there, strikes down the law. But that is a circumstance that is at least a month if not at least a year away.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I want to tick through some of the quotes from this week which was just a goldmine in talking to Republican senators for those of us who cover Capitol Hill, and it goes, starting with Mitch McConnell. You mentioned it, Jeff Zeleny, mentioned it in the last block. "I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker."

Let me translate that.

MARTIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTINGLY: It's not going to happen. John Cornyn, "What they need to do is tell us what their plans are." Roy Blunt, "I assume the president wouldn't have brought this up if there wasn't a White House proposal." Lisa Murkowski, "Do we have a plan? What's our plan? I guess we'll find out."

That's a not-so subtle way of saying this ain't happening any time soon.

MARTIN: And it's such a slight to the White House because not only are they suggesting that, you know, they're going to wait for the administration to offer a plan, they're kind of mocking Trump, too, because they know he doesn't have a plan. And they're kind of saying, we'll wait for his plan. And he's down there talking about we're going to be the party of great health care which obviously it's a slogan, not a plan. So, I mean, those statements are filled with such contempt, contempt that they can never fully articulate for all the obvious reasons that we know politically. But they really capture the frustration of his own party with him because he's putting them in a tough spot. They don't want to talk about Obamacare again.

ZELENY: Because now it's taking something away from people. It's taking something away from people like what they have.

MARTIN: That's the issue.

ZELENY: So all their constituents, all their voters, they actually like most of Obamacare or at least parts of Obamacare. So there is no conversation about fixing it. I mean, that's one thing we have really not heard from either side over this 10-year debate. This has been going on for so long. There's very few discussions.

I wonder what Senator Mitt Romney has to say about this. I mean, he of course was the governor of Massachusetts, essentially had the same plan.

MARTIN: Yes.

ZELENY: So one thing missing out of all of this is actually any discussion of how to improve the existing Obamacare.

MARTIN: Well, it's a great --

JOHNSON: You know --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Go ahead. Yes.

JOHNSON: So these senators are saying this for two reasons. The first is, in a, quote-unquote, "normal White House," you'd have -- where the White House was pushing repeal of Obamacare, you'd have the White House pushing a proposal, an alternative proposal. Here, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney pitched the president on pushing this path saying it would put pressure on Congress to do that, but there is simply no appetite in Congress to go down this road. So that's why this flopped.

But second and I think less discussed is that this lawsuit that the president has come out and backed is seen by conservative legal scholars as really a long-shot lawsuit that has very little legal merit. And so most Republicans think there's very little chance that this lawsuit will be upheld in the Supreme Court. And so ultimately I think most Republicans believe this will be much ado about nothing because it's unlikely the Supreme Court will actually invalidate all of Obamacare.

It has failed to do so once before. John Roberts upheld the individual mandate. And so I think most Republicans believe, you know, we're having a conversation that will amount to nothing.

MATTINGLY: Right. And on that point, their frustration, take a look at -- there's a poll out about Dems being kind of divided about whether or not they want to fix Obamacare or whether they want to push Medicare for all. We've seen it, on the campaign trail, 44 percent want to improve and protect the ACA, 46 percent want to pass national Medicare for all.

You talked to Mitch McConnell.

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTINGLY: Mitch McConnell's team, this is what they want to fight on, that's for sure.

MARTIN: This what drives them crazy because for the last three months McConnell folks thought, OK, we have now gotten past the failure to replace the ACA. But now we have a gift in our laps because the Democrats feeling pressure from their progressive base are trying to go further and create single payer.

We can just feast on that, and politically, you know, just focus entirely on not what we fail to do, but what they want to do that is unpopular with large segments of the American public when you break down the polls. And instead of doing that, they're now back to this question about what to do with the ACA instead of making Bernie Sanders the sort of face of the Democratic Party and his plan for universal health care.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's going to be really interesting, one, to see whether or not this actually moves forward in any way. Obviously the legal issues as well are going to be fascinating to watch. But also, if this remains an issue more than one week, or else, if the working group and the health care -- party of health care disappears over the course of the next couple of weeks. We'll see.

All right. Next, Democrats strategy in the Mueller report after that report is actually submitted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:29:10] REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: What we have right now is the four-page Barr report. What we actually need is the Mueller report.

SCHUMER: Our main thrust on this issue is simply transparency. Release the report, then come to conclusions.

PELOSI: No thank you, Mr. Attorney General. We do not need your interpretation. Show us the report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. Release the report. That's the Democrats' mantra this week in the aftermath of the Mueller report drop. The Attorney General Bill Barr says Congress and the public will see a redacted version by mid-April. Democratic leaders aren't budging. They want the full, unredacted version, even set a Tuesday deadline for the attorney general, and have said that date still stands. And they say they don't actually the attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: He should not be the one putting his hand on the scale. That report, that Mueller report should have already been produced to the Congress without his commentary. But clearly, you know, Bill Barr views his role in the unitary executive theory as being the hand of the President, the President's Roy Cohen, there to do the President's bidding and his will. And he's doing it just as expected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Bonus points for the unitary executive theory drop in the middle of an interview. But look, what the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- that's what the kids are into -- the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is going pretty far there and it's been interesting the evolution, at least on Capitol Hill, over the course of the week, which started from Democrats being kind of down about what the report was and trying to figure out what was next, to maybe there's a conspiracy that Bill Barr is trying to cover things up. What is the Democratic strategy right now to your sense?

SEUNG MIN KIM, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think the only thing that they can really do right now in absence of more information in just having that four-page summary from the Attorney General is to fight for the full release of the report. And once the Congress gets more information, whatever Barr is willing to submit to Congress, they can look at the information to see if there's any information that they can latch on to.

Because there are some critical lines in the Barr summary. You know, they said Mueller did indicate that while he's not going to, you know -- that there wasn't enough evidence for obstruction of justice, this doesn't exactly exonerate him either.

And I can tell you Democrats will be looking very closely at what parts of the report Mueller felt didn't exonerate the President. But there's no doubt that they are kind of back on their heels after the summary was released early this week.

Obviously Democrats' distrust of the Attorney General goes back to around the time he was nominated and around his confirmation hearing. They really seized on memos that he had written, kind of criticizing the makeup of Mueller's team. And that's where a lot of their, frankly their distrust comes from right now.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean the President and the White House obviously won the early game of defining this. There's nothing to see here, move on.

But the question is, we'll find out in a month or so, voters have consistently said across the board they're ready to move on from this. That's the challenge for the Democratic Party here.

On the one hand having Chairman Adam Schiff who is also trying to do some face-saving here as well, trying to keep this alive and Democratic presidential candidates and others are trying to talk about other issues because voters, this has not been a driving force for them.

So my question here going forward is -- are Democrats able to sort of keep talking about this and keep pressure on it and also change gears to something else. That's been a challenge.

MATTINGLY: You make a good point. Real quick -- listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar who's on the Judiciary Committee, obviously pays attention to these issues very closely. On the campaign trail when she was talking about what she's heard while campaigning for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are very focused on bread and butter issues. They were not asking about the Mueller report in Rye, New Hampshire or in Davenport, Iowa.

They have been asking about things like their health care, things like infrastructure, the floods coming to Iowa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes. Look, I think Democrats this week were searching for an angle through which they could keep this issue alive. But what Barr's summary made clear was that there was no smoking gun in this report. And it was really only a smoking gun that was going to make Americans at large care about this

And I think what Klobuchar and the other Democratic candidates are making pretty clear. They're ready to move on from this.

But I think Bill Barr is going to taken on a really -- he's already taken on a really important role. And I think the important thing to remember about Barr is he came out and he already said this wasn't a summary. These were the principal conclusions. You know, I wasn't writing a book report about the report.

The other thing he said is I'm not running this by the White House for clearance. And the important thing to remember about Barr is that he was pressed by the White House to take this job. He wasn't one of the people gunning for the job. I don't think he particularly cares if Trump isn't happy with how he behaves.

The White House couldn't find anybody else to take this job. And so Trump really needs him to stay in this position.

They're going to be hard-pressed if Trump gets angry at him and he steps down. He didn't need it. He's done this job before. I think that's important to remember when you're looking at Barr. He's not a Trump suck-up.

MATTINGLY: Yes. JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": The Democratic candidates on the trail are happy to move on from this. Jeff and I are also (INAUDIBLE). But you never hear this brought up at Democratic events in Iowa and New Hampshire. Senator Klobuchar is right. And they're thrilled to have this pivot point to focus on issues where they think Trump is more vulnerable.

But there is this sort of other part of the progressive base that watches a lot of cable TV, frankly, and is consumed by issues like Russia and the Mueller report.

And obviously you're seeing Adam Schiff on the Maddow show sort of capture exactly what I'm talking about there. There's this fascinating duality where you have got that happening days after Jim Clyburn, the third ranking House Democrat right here on CNN's "NEW DAY" said this is our time to move on and we have to be focusing on other issues like health care now.

[08:35:01] That was Monday morning right after the report. So you've got two different statements from House Democrats who both are very influential because there isn't this appetite among broad sections of the party to focus on this stuff. It's more of a niche issue.

MATTINGLY: You owe John Berman money or something with the "NEW DAY" shout out there?

MARTIN: You do a great job. Week days --

MATTINGLY: No but to that point -- a CNN poll kind of a snapshot of the immediate aftermath of the Mueller report being submitted and one of the questions asked was how will these findings affect your 2020 vote. 8 percent said more likely to back President Trump. 6 percent said more likely to oppose President Trump. 85 percent said no difference whatsoever which kind of underscores what you guys were talking about.

(CROSSTALKING)

ZELENY: Because everyone has made up their mind on this already. That's not to say that they can't learn more from this. I think we will all learn more when it's released.

I think Eliana's point about Bill Barr is so smart. He is likely not going to end his career doing something that is going to be a black mark on a longstanding time in Washington here. So I think that's the dynamic. We'll see how long the President remains so happy about release the whole report.

That's what he says publicly. We'll see. I think he's going to get antsy wondering what's actually in it.

MATTINGLY: Yes. We've got a couple of weeks left that Bill Barr is saying he's willing to testify May 1st and 2nd. There's some gamesmanship going on too, in terms of redactions and what's actually going to shop up.

All right. Coming up, on the cusp of a 2020 decision, Team Biden responds to a disturbing new allegation.

And before we go to break, surprise visit from two presidential candidates, Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris appearing on stage together at the NAACP Image awards with this message to black voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the issues that Kamala and I discuss with Americans every day from economic justice to gun violence to climate change to voting rights are on the line right now.

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for us to lead the fights ahead. And that's why we all need to stay active and engaged. We need to register to vote. We need to get out and vote and encourage our friends and our neighbors to do the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:37:06] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTINGLY: Beto O'Rourke officially launched his campaign this weekend starting with a rally in his hometown of El Paso, Texas -- the location just blocks away from the U.S.-Mexico border. Now O'Rourke made immigration a big theme. Another message from the Presidential contender, he says now is his time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment of truth. This is our moment of truth, and we cannot be found wanting. The challenges before us are the greatest of our lifetimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: The former Texas congressman who lost a close race for Senate in 2018 is already in third place in the latest Quinnipiac poll among Democratic voters behind former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.

All right. J. Martin -- you've spent a lot of time looking into Beto O'Rourke. What's your read right now after the official launch?

MARTIN: Has a lot of promise, even more money in the bank. Look, I think he's somebody who scratches an itch that Democrats always have. This is a party that historically loves finding a new next generation fresh face. You've seen it going back to JFK time after time. And what Democrats will say is we win when we put forward a new candidate, an outsider -- Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, Obama. That's when Democrats flourish.

And I think that's the heart of his appeal. 46 years old, somebody who dresses casually. He cusses even more casually. He's someone who is sort of seen as that next generation.

The question that looms over this primary though is, more than any other, it is a viability primary. The litmus test in this primary is can you beat Trump. And I think any questions about your capacity to do that are going to hurt you with primary voters.

I can't recall, Jeff, going to events like what we do -- week in, week out, and talking to voters and hearing the same refrain, can he or she win? That's all I care about. You hear it from voters time and time again.

ZELENY: And that is a central difference I think than the 2008 campaign. Everyone wants to see who is the next Barack Obama. That race is totally different because they were running for an open seat. So that was not an indicator of who can stand side by side with the President.

So we'll see how the growth is for Beto O'Rourke. We'll see how the growth is for Pete Buttigieg. I mean there is a hunger and a thirst for something new. But we also have to remember the older candidates out there are still going to get in the race.

MATTINGLY: YES. And it's an interesting point. And I think to put this -- probably simplistic way to view things but we've kind of been putting people in lanes and who is kind of competing against one another and try and knocking one another out as they move further.

You look at that Quinnipiac poll, perhaps there are some good signs in there for Beto O'Rourke. Would you prefer a progressive or a moderate nominee -- 49 percent progressive, 44 percent moderate. Nobody is totally sure where Beto actually lands on the map so I guess more pragmatic, I guess.

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MATTINGLY: And to that point, more important for a candidate to be a great leader or have great policy ideas -- 64 percent said great leader, which to you point not necessarily in the thicket of the weeds on the policy side. Does that give him an opening?

MARTIN: Yes. Look, I think that they're not going through a sort of ten-point checklist and working at who's going to satisfy those issues. There's an element of the party certainly that is, you know, down the line progressive and is going to demand fidelity, you know, on that litany.

But a lot of them have a name. They're called Bernie Sanders voters. And so I think looking at the broader party, they're more open to finding a candidate who they like, who can inspire them, who they think can win.

And of course, you convince yourself of somebody as being electable after you fall in love with them. You fall in love first and then justify the electability.

And I think that's what you're going to see happen here. They're going to find somebody that they can swoon for and then tell themselves that that person, he or she, is electable. MATTINGLY: Yes. I want to shift -- go ahead.

[08:45:04] KIM: The Quinnipiac poll actually is really interesting, whether you prefer a leader or an ideas policy (ph) which could indicate why perhaps Elizabeth Warren hasn't gotten the traction.

MATTINGLY: Yes.

KIM: I mean she's been really leading in the so-cold ideas primary, putting out new policy, ambitious policy proposals constantly and yet she hasn't kind of gotten that firepower as you would expect from someone who was, you know, a big name.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I want to shift real quick, because Joe Biden has had a rough week I would say. He's not even in the race yet. But you had the issues with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas -- (INAUDIBLE) obviously, you know, the allegations from a former lieutenant governor nominee out of Nevada, Lucy Flores (ph). I'm interested in kind of your perspective about what it all means at this point in time?

JOHNSON: The thing that struck me about Biden is all along, including this week but throughout the kind of wait-and-watch Biden pre-primary, Biden is not even in the race, but he's sort of been apologizing for who he's been his entire career. He's sorry that he's a man. He's sorry he's white. He's sorry that he's been on the more moderate side of the Democratic Party.

Now he is not sort of forcefully refuting this woman's account of what happened. He's saying she deserves to be heard and her story has validity, though he is denying the particular allegations.

It seems to me the polar opposite of what Trump did when he got in the race. He never apologized for anything despite people's incredulity that anybody like him could win. And there seems to be a similar incredulity on the Democratic side that somebody like Joe Biden should win. And it does seem to me that if somebody like Biden is going to get in the race, you just can't apologize for who you are and what you've been your entire career.

Tulsi Gabbard, similarly on the Dems side, who is in the race, she's done a sort of apology tour for who she has been and also hasn't gotten traction.

MATTINGLY: Jeff -- we've got about 30 seconds left. What does this mean given that we're expecting a launch here in the next couple of weeks for the Biden camp?

ZELENY: We are expecting one at the end of April or by the end of April. I think that this is -- he's trying to make himself aright (ph) with the modern-day Democratic Party. And it's entirely different than the base and the challenge that the President obviously faced when he was running.

And Joe Biden has a long record to run against but he wants people to focus on one thing, can you beat President Trump? Can you stand side by side with him? So that's why he's still likely to get in and run. MATTINGLY: Keep an eye on it.

All right. Vice President Biden's accuser -- former Nevada lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores joins Jake Tapper for an exclusive interview on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 Eastern this morning. Don't miss it.

Next, our reporters share what they're hearing from their sources including about Betsy DeVos' future in the Trump cabinet.

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MATTINGLY: Each Sunday INSIDE POLITICS brings top reporters to the table to share their stories and scoops and to give you a sneak peek at tomorrow's headlines today.

Eliana, you're first up.

JOHNSON: I'll be watching Trump's relationship with his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. They had an uncomfortable interaction from afar this week after she had an uncomfortable interaction before congress testifying about the President's budget zeroing out the Special Olympics.

She defended that decision even though she didn't support it. And the President promptly announced that he was reversing that decision. It's one of many times the President has done that to his cabinet secretaries.

And we know the President very closely watches the way his cabinet secretaries -- their appearances on television and their testimony before Congress. He did not like the way DeVos performed before Congress even though she was defending him. So I'll be watching the way that that relationship develops over the next couple of weeks and months.

MATTINGLY: Uncomfortable might be a kind framing of things.

J. Martin?

MARTIN: This is maybe the first big week so far in the race for president because we're going to have real numbers now. Not just polling numbers but we're going to have real data -- money that is.

This week we're going to know who raised what in the first quarter of this year. And we're thinking that the two candidates who are going to be leading the pack are Beto O'Rourke from Texas and, of course, Bernie Sanders.

What do they in common? They raised money online almost entirely. And they're going to be ahead of the pack. Further back in the pack to the surprise of some people, Senator Warren who I think going into this year was widely seen as one of the top candidates in the race, has struggled to raise money. And we have learned that she actually has parted ways with her finance director, long-time aide to her in part because she made this choice not to raise big money, and that prompted him to quit.

It also created a sort of pretty robust internal debate in the campaign. She is deciding to go grassroots only. It's a bit of a gamble for her going forward. But she has decided that that is the best way to go. But unlike Sanders and O'Rourke, she has not raised the money online at least to-date.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Big-time week 2020-wise.

All right -- Jeff.

ZELENY: No question. The second act of the primary is really going to begin this week as well, as well as the money races, Jonathan was saying. But also, six more candidates could get in in the month of April. We think the field is already big but its' going to get even bigger.

Of course, Joe Biden who we've been talking about all morning is one of those. And the questions surrounding him, is can he -- is there anything that will happen that would keep him out of the race?

We know he's likely to jump in. But is there anything that could happen this month that could scare him out.

But also keep an eye on Michael Bennett, Senator from Colorado and at least four others who are thinking about joining. So we're going to see a reordering of the race. No one has really seized control or command in the first quarter. The second one starts this week.

But keep an eye on Joe Biden and others because no one seems to be scaring anyone else out of the race.

MATTINGLY: Jeff Zeleny earning those air miles and hotel points.

Seung min.

KIM: What I'm going to be watching for is actually NATO week here in Washington. The Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is here in Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of that alliance. He's meeting with President Trump later this week, also and delivering an address to Congress.

[08:54:58] But what this visit is going to do is really highlight the long-running tensions that the President has with NATO. Obviously he's complained a lot that other countries in the alliance aren't paying their share of defense spending.

And this is a complaint that he has conveyed several times. He actually relayed it again in a private lunch with Republican senators earlier this week on Capitol Hill. And during that lunch he also complained about NATO's headquarters and that it was all glass.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And there's bipartisan pushback on Capitol Hill on this. Mitch McConnell also invited today the Secretary General.

All right. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thank you very much for sharing your Sunday morning.

"STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER" is next. Jakes sits down with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

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