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tv   At This Hour With Kate Bolduan  CNN  January 23, 2018 9:00am-10:00am PST

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welcome to "inside politics." i'm john king. thanks for sharing this busy news day with us. a major development in the russia investigation. jeff sessions interviewed for several hours. a school shooting that left at least one person dead and
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seven injured. the government reopened after the shutdown, but there was no gains made on what led to the impasse. and they are left to referee. >> say what his position is on it. who gets to stay? >> it depends on what we get in exchange. what do we get for border security? what do we get for a wall? >> we begin the hour with breaking news in the russia investigation. cnn learning robert mueller's team interviewed attorney general jeff sessions last week, questioning him for several hours as part of the special counsel probe into russia election meddling in the 2016 election. russia was a central player in the firing of james comey. the special counsel wants to know if he was the final step in that russia investigation. and jeff sessions was involved
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in some campaign meetings when proposals to make ties with russia came up. this is the first time the mueller team has interviewed the attorney general. it's also the first time a member of the president's cabinet has been interviewed by the special counsel team. shim irk shimone is tracking this. tell us about this. >> the comey firing is probably one of the biggest issues the special counsel will be looking at and will be seeking answers from him on. because keep in mind, this is why the special counsel was brought in, to sort of investigate possible obstruction after comey was fired, and the attorney general was key in that he helped draft the memo that would eventually be used as justification by the president to fire the former fbi director. and also the contacts. the contacts that sessions and people on the foreign policy team that he was running in the campaign, some of whom -- some
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of those members have pleaded guilty of george papadopoulos cooperating with the fbi. all of that is things sessions would have had to answer. >> already you see potential tension within the justice department. the fbi relationship reports out that jeff sessions tried to see if number one at the fbi would fire number two. what impact is all of this happening on the justice department? >> it's fair to say based on some of the folks that i have talked to, there are issues between the relationships because really, central is trust. and there really is no trust. i think it's lacking right now between the fbi and the department of justice. because in the end, while sessions is recused from so much, who knows whose interests he has. is it in the president or just the fbi? that's always a concern now for people in the fbi.
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>> thank you for the latest on the investigation. rachel bego of politico, michael bender and the "washington post." you've worked with bob mueller. unlike the president at times and unlike people around the president at times, director mueller has enormous respect for the institution, enormous respect for them. you don't put him in the witness share unless you expect the truth, do you? >> right. that's why he spoke to him. >> sessions said maybe i didn't disclose my contacts fully, but they were nothing. obviously that's one issue. is the bigger issue in your mind the comey firing and potential for obstruction of justice? >> i made a list of about eight
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things that i think if i were mueller i would want to speak to sessions about, and obstruction surely is one of them. and perhaps foremost among them, how did it come to pass that comey was asked for loyalty? how did it come to pass that comey was fired? how did it come to pass that priebus and others were asked to intervene at least publicly with respect to the information that was coming out about this investigation? there is a lot about that which only sessions has direct knowledge of. >> and michael covering the white house every day, what is your sense of what this does? jeff sessions was just there yesterday. he met with the president. we don't know. our sarah sanders, the press secretary, said she doesn't know if they shared testimony with the special counsel. but we do know that this has turned into a great deal of tension with the president furious with jeff sessions for recusing himself, among other things. what do we expect from the president when he says my national security counsel was
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not cooperating -- general flynn -- now my attorney general is in the witness chair. >> we talked a little bit to the president about this in our interview in the oval office. he said, as you know, there is no collusion, and therefore there can't be obstruction since there is no collusion. the white house has done a pretty good job of retaining this. to see the white house's reaction, to see trump's reaction, i don't think he'll look much further than his attorneys. we saw jay sekulow on "hannity." what they're pivoting now to are these missing e-mails to the fbi agents. his quote last night was that five months of missing text messages is a lot longer than 18 minutes of missing tape during watergate. so they're trying to divert attention to this issue and a
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little bit away from -- >> we can't connect the dots, karen, but if you look at the politics of that, for all the democrats now screaming at the republicans, why are you discrediting the investigator, why are you attacking the fbi? clinton did that during the investigation. they always try to get to the motive of it, so are you trying to discredit, raise questions about the integrity, impartiality, fairness of the investigators, and as far as you know, is this investigation reaching an important cro crossroads? >> we've seen that when things get to the president, he's been disappointed in the shutdown. but that's when we have these interruptions. in donald trump's view, the original sin in all of this was jeff sessions recusing himself. >> and one of the issues here, number one, the comey firing as michael laid out quite clearly.
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jeff sessions, remember, wrote a memo as part of that even though he had recused himself in the russian investigation. the russia investigation was leading at the time. there was also the question he couldn't recall or didn't disclose some of his needs with the russian investigator. then george papadopoulos cuts a plea agreement, and as part of that he has a meeting with the attorney general during the campaign in which he says, we need to reach out with russia, we need communications with russia. jeff sessions' meeting on that, as with several other issues, divulged something. >> i didn't have a recollection of this meeting until i saw these news reports. i do now recall that the march 2016 meeting at the trump hotel that mr. papadopoulos attended. but i've no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. >> that has frustrated the
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democrats as part of the congressional, whether it's the confirmation hearing or the oversight meeting. when they bring the attorney general back, he either doesn't recall or his memory evolves. he's in a different setting with the special counsel. >> i think sitting down with your boss is a very awkward interview, but it was to be expected. efls he was at the center of a lot of these questions. he was in the room with trump when he was considering firing comey because didn't like the russian probe. you have the fbi obviously sticking to their probe and continuing in the direction, getting closer and closer to the president, and then in washington or on capitol hill, i should say, republicans close to president trump totally tuning that out. they really are focusing on these text messages. i can tell you over the weekend, i heard a locality t of house republicans talking about missing text messages between two fbi employees that had
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anti-trump sentiments and were actually removed from the russian probe. they are really winnowing in on that and two parallel tracks that don't run parallel anymore. >> if devin nunez's name is at the top of that, it will be something. i want to come back to the attorney general being interviewed. bob mueller essentially gets the power of the attorney general when you get named to be special counsel. what privilege does the attorney general have? can he look at bob mueller and say that's a private conversation with the president about the comey firing or anything else, i'm not going to tell you? >> if mueller stands in the place of the judiciary when he issues a grand jury subpoena and then you have your separation of
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powers and that's when the executive privilege can be asserted, but it has to be asserted with respect to policy considerations between the executive and the president. i don't think that is going -- and then you have nixon which said in a criminal investigation that privilege falls. at the end of the day, if he had to go to court and request a subpoena for his testimony, he prevails. it's pretty straightforward stuff now that mueller will have the opportunity to get the testimony that he needs from flynn. sorry, from sessions. i said flynn because i was thinking of my next point which is, what would be interesting also, john, is what is flynn and papadopoulos, the two cooperating witnesses, saying about sessions? so sessions comes in and he has presumably no idea what has been represented to mueller from these two cooperators. he has, therefore, a very sort of thin line to navigate.
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if he's going to start forgetting as he did in his congressional testimony, then he's going to put himself in some sort of jeopardy with the special counsel. >> an important point in the investigation. up next, more the role of attorney general jeff sessions who at times has found the lighter side of this russian investigation. >> is ambassador kislyak in the room? before i get started here, any russians?
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sometthat's when he needs the way ovicks vaporub.'s sleep. proven cough medicine. with 8 hours of vapors. so he can sleep. vicks vaporub. goodnight coughs. welcome back. let's continue now on the big breaking news this morning. attorney general jeff sessions sitting down with an interview of robert mueller's team of investigators. critical moment and one that puts a glaring moment on the president's long relationship with jeff sessions. and a key validator with
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conservatives that he was one of them. he was rewarded when he was given the role of attorney general. he became a punching bag for a president infuriated with a single decision and the fallout from it, the attorney general's decision to recuse himself from the russia investigation. we have to have a lawyer in to help me through the legal stuff. this is the attorney general of the united states. if you gist think about it, we've been trying to think how long will this last? will the criminal investigation of the special counsel last? if you're interviewing cabinet members, and specifically the attorney general, at least on some of the big questions mueller must be getting to a decision point. >> i think that's right. let's take a step back, and as trump's attorneys have been saying, they said in the summer this would be wrapped up in the fall. in the fall they said it would wrap up in december.
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in december they said it would be january. at some point they have to be right about this, right? they talked to flynn, they talked to bannon, they're on sessions now. i think if anything the sessions interview, we don't have any sign that this is taking a new direction or a new lane but certainly must be getting close if you're interviewing the people who are in the inner circle of the president. >> when you mention the inner circle, i want to show our viewers more than a dozen members of the president's inner circle have been interviewed by the special counsel. steve bannon is coming. they're trying to work out the details of that. they've been playing hardball issuing a subpoena. hope hicks, very important to what do they say, what do they try to spin from the 2016 meeting with russians? jared kushner was at that meeting, and you see these other key players.
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the president met yesterday with his attorney general. he finds out his attorney general has been interviewed by the special counsel. you have to start getting tense about the moment of reckoning. you hope it goes well but you know you're at a crossroads. >> he has to know this is a serious interview, and i think this is not a surprising interview, however. attorney general sessions was intimately involved with the campaign, as you said, one of those initial supporters. the question is, where does it go from here? we go to other senior high-level officials, maybe jared kushner, the president's son-in-law, or other people. that would be a surprising new turn. i think this one is an expected but still worrisome sign and the white house would be on edge. >> where is the relationship today? i'll go back in time. we've seen the president on a number of occasions take shots at his attorney general, which is rather remarkable. and to suggest the attorney general's job is to be loyal to the president, not loyal to the law, which the attorney general's job of all the cabinet jobs, it's unique in the sense you're there to protect the
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constitution. not to protect the president necessarily, if you go back last summer. why are they looking into hillary clinton's crimes? w >> it seems like he's trying to work his way back into the president's good graces. he's had some conservative relations including cracking down on the use of marijuana across the country in states that have legalized it. obviously the fbi is continuing to look into the clinton matter with the state department. i'm curious to see if we hear more about what he said to the fbi, are they just asking about the president or are they also questioning his own motives? there was some news, obviously, last night that he was sort of trying to clean house, that the fbi pushed out chrand wanted ch
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wray to get rid of the fbi director. chris wray threatened to quit. >> it does make you wonder how close we are getting to the armageddon scenario which is the president firing mueller. >> right, and even a lot of leading republicans on capitol hill said if the president took that step, they have tried to be quiet about this, tried to walk away from this, tried to minimize this, that would cause quite a moment of choice with the key republicans. one other thing with jeff sessions, i don't think he can get away with this in the counsel session, when he was on the hill being questioned, let's just say his memory was not as good as the attorney general of the united states. >> i do not recall such a
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conversation. i don't recall it. i don't recall it. i don't recall it. i don't recall it. i don't recall that. i don't recall how that exactly occurred. i do not recall. i did not recall this event. i don't recall. i don't recall at this moment sitting here any such discussions. >> now, to be fair to the attorney general, his team would tell you they thought the democrats were taking political shots in some of those cases, and in some of the cases he didn't recall. but when you get that so many times from the witness who knows the big story, knows the big dynamics, know you're going to ask about his interactions, that's why to democrats on capitol hill he is a more central player than many people thought. they are suspicious about him. the special counsel has their own set of questions. >> let's just remember another thing he didn't recall, which is those meetings with the russian ambassador which caused him to then eventually recuse himself. of course, attorney general
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sessions is the one who authored the reasons for why fbi director comey was fired, and that's going to be central to these questions. the reasons that were stated there are ones that many brought into question and saying, are these the real reasons, or did president trump only direct them to right these reasons after something else? that's what the special counsel will try to get at. and those excuses of not recalling, he'll have to come up with answers. >> that's a key point because the president himself sat down and said he would have to come up with answers. that's why the special counsel is where he is and why jeff sessions is such a special witness. will we play this whole game out again in just a few weeks? can you drive me to jessica's house?
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welcome back. your government is open unlike this hour yesterday. but little else in washington has changed. republicans in the house now making clear this morning that whatever senate republicans said to end the shutdown, it meant nothing. the house wasn't part of that deal. that from steve scalise, the number three republican in the house. he said to politico, the senate can do whatever it wants for immigration, but the house will not pass a bill that doesn't have amnesty. there are things that will anger our base that i don't see us passing in the house. the split over what each republican in the chambers want cross navigation that hasn't been bridged. the president might change things, but don't hold your breath. >> what are the terms and conditions? who does get to say? >> chris, i know you won't be offended on this but i'm not negotiating with you on national television. >> i tell you what. i won't say anything. just say what his position is on it. how do they get to stay, who gets to stay? >> again, it depends on what we
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get in exchange. what do we get for border security? what do we get for a wall? >> not clarity. rachel, i want to start with you. the scalise interview was with and you your team at politico. he sounds pretty conservative. the number two senate republican john cornyn is saying, we need to be magnanimous, a reflection of math. the conservative study group gets up this morning and they're pushing this proposal from the chairman. it can't pass the senate, i'm not sure if it can pass the house, but they're saying we're not interested this striking a deal with the democrats. it ends chain migration, ends the visa program, allows daca visitors to stay and cuts overall immigration status by 25%. that's what conservatives want. it won't go anywhere, but if
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that's a start, how do you get to a compromise, no government shutdown, no daca deal in three weeks? >> i don't think there's going  to be a daca deal. the democrats were shut down so i don't think they'll try it again. you have the schumer sellout, which doesn't help senator schumer to grow his confidence. but the issue here, you're exactly right. the senate has decided they're going to try to move forward on a bipartisan basis. the details of that are still very unclear, so we don't know what that final bill is going to look like. the house, speaker ryan made a promise that he would put no immigration bill on the house floor that does not get the majority of the majority of the republican conference. that's a problem because a majority of the republican conference likes the bill you're talking about. that will go virtually nowhere in the senate, so he's going to have this impossible position. the one way out for him will be president donald trump.
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donald trump has to say what does he want and would he support a bipartisan bill. if he supports one in the senate, the house could potentially get behind this. >> the president would have to come out and say, i want this for the d.r.e.a.m.ers, then i want this -- assume it's the border wall -- and one other thing is what he needs to get the senate on board. then go back and do whatever you want, try a bill. the house conservatives, they see this moment, they lurch right. on the senate side chuck schumer taking a lot of heat from the progressives in his party are affirming from a democratic aide. the president tosenator took thl off the page. now he says never mind and he's going back. a house democrat mad at his party. they blinked because they always
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put the party first and the success of the party first. >> you can't get some things enacted through legislation. another thing they learned is in a government shutdown, the party that has the white house always has the leverage. at this point, you're right, the only thing that has any chance of getting through the eye of this needle is a very narrow, specific package that would deal with the daca kids and would deal with the wall. the only person who can sell that package nixon to china style is donald j. trump. >> the morning after, though, with his budget director and throughout the shutdown, the president was silent. they don't seem to be laying their cards just yet. i guess we could say they have three weeks, why would you do
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that. if you think this is going to be a mess again, why not try to get ahead of it? >> exactly. the president could force republicans to go back on that limited bill and say, we got funding for a border wall. we were able to secure some additional funds and for that we'll do something that the majority of republicans pollingwise say they'll support instead of providing protection for daca recipients. but that can only come from the president. in a universe when he is not providing that cover, in a universe where he is not doing those type of leadership things, the negative side of that will really support nothing that creates amnesty. >> it's interesting, my colleague chris cuomo trying to get the specifics out of nick mulvaney, and i get it, i wouldn't give it, either, unless the president says, we have a deal and i'll stick to it, although he's been fungible in
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the last few weeks. but is this a win? the reason the shutdown ended so quick sl becauly is because thet stayed out of it and let us deal with it. >> he definitely believes it's a win. for democrats it was more of a letdown than a shutdown here. for trump, i understand he stayed kwi tquiet over the week. he skipped his own party down in palm beach. he barely came out of the residence on saturday. he didn't come out in the public at all. i would like to see a comparison to how that compared with president obama's behavior during the 2013 shutdown. i think we know that obama was probably less active on twitter, but obama did the same thing and put it on congress. i think that -- i wouldn't quite characterize it as being sidelined, but, you know,
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carrying out a strategy here that ultimately worked. the shutdown is over, it was only through the weekend. and now he's back -- now we start the immigration deal up again. the problem here for trump is that his brand is as a dealmaker, and we're far apart on the deal yet. and he's got two big voices pushing him away from a deal. john kelly, the chief of staff, who implemented a lot of trump's immigration policies at the department of homeland security, and is a real hawk on border issues. and you have stephen miller who he wants the immigration deal to reflect the electoral victory. he believes that president trump had a sweeping victory in november and that democrats need to give up more in this debate than they have already. >> the question is, can anybody give, especially if you mention three weeks we're in another fiscal standoff. march is the deadline. is the trump administration prepared to start supporting the d.r.e.a.m.ers?
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this will be an interesting few weeks ahead. up next, the president on trade. expected next hour, it's all part of what he's called "america first." >> we made clear to all countries that we cannot continue to be treated unfairly when it comes to trade any longer. we have trade deficits with everybody, virtually every country in the world we have trade deficits with. we've had people sitting in this position that have made some of the worst deals i've ever seen in trade. the other countries have become very, very spoiled with taking advantage of us. but take advantage of us no longer.
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welcome back. some new details now about a morning school shooting in western kentucky. at least one person is dead, seven others wounded after a shooter opened fire in a high school in benton earlier today. authorities confirmed the shooter is in custody and firearms and explosives now assisting in that investigation. chuck schumer spoke a while ago about the tragedy in his home state. >> i know there are many people praying in my home state and we send our best to the families affected by this violence. our hearts are with the entire community in marshall county and our gratitude is with the first responders who rushed into harm's way. >> at least three of the victims were airlifted to vanderbilt medical center in nashville. a moeftive for the shooting sti unknown at this point. pennsylvania lawmakers have two to three weeks to withdraw
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their congressional map or they will do it for them. gerrymandering districts like this one violates the constitution. they want them to investigate whether the hush money a trump lawyer supposedly gave to an adult film star just before the 2016 election, it may have violated campaign finance laws. the president hasn't commented on the alleged affair, but officials close to him call those charges baseless. and when the government shuts down, lawmakers need every tool at their disposal to find a way out. it was a colorful stick from africa that helped manage a debate inside her office. anyone who wanted to speak in these bipartisan meetings could do so, but only if they held the baton. word got out that the passing stick not always passed lightly. >> is it true, senator, that
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someone threw the stick during the meeting? >> i think a more accurate word would be that there was -- usually i would pick up the stick and take it to person to person, but sometimes it was tossed. and in this case the toss went slightly amiss. >> the toss went slightly amiss. okay. see if that's used again in the next three weeks. another big story, president trump slapping new tariffs on solar made panels and washing machines. if there is any surprise, it's that it took a week or two into the second year to start this action. he made it clear it would be a priority starting on day one. increasing tariffs seemed like a good idea but said it won't be a
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win for the united states. americans will pay for this, not big companies. these tariffs will help level the playing field and show anyone who tries to cheat our trade laws that they won't get away with it. this is one place during the campaign where donald trump was essentially aligned with bernie sanders. he sounded like a very liberal protectionist democrat, a very different kind of republican, old style republican. it took nearly a year but this was a big deal. >> this is one of the fascinating areas with trump. this is the trump photo, the trump base with these sort of criss-crossing politics between the two parties. it did take a while and i think it's for a couple of reasons. one is there is actually a process to go through some of this here and to get to this point. inside the white house, though, there's been the globalist versus nationalist battle going on for a while. it hasn't exactly subsided with the departure of steve bannon.
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it's lessened to a degree but it hasn't subsided. so that is still going on. we know that trump was really pushing his team for tariffs. remember way back at the beginning of the year, the border taxed the house they were talking about to get to some conservatives of trump. he didn't like that because it didn't have the ring of a tariff. the white house launched an investigation into intellectual property and whether or not china is taking advantage of u.s. companies. they ultimately did that but trump didn't like the ring of that. he wanted his tariffs and now here we are at the start of year two and he's got his tariffs. >> he's doing this right before he goes to davos. he goes to the we are the world meeting at davos, so this will be controversial there. we do know the president, in his primaries, it was his hard stance on immigration and it helped him a lot. the president has been clear
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saying the world will be helped through trade. >> during the campaign i traveled the nation and visited the cities and towns devastated by unfair trade policies, probably one of the major reasons i'm here today: trade. nobody has ever made bad trade deals like our country has made. >> i can't really remember since when bill clinton got an after-through -- i've been waiting because i find both the policy and the politics are fascinating, and we've been waiting for this to bubble up in the trump agency. >> the politics around the solar panels, i think, are areally interesting because there was a time when the manufacturer of solar panels seemed to have a great future in the united states. during the obama administration we had something of a controversy because they gave loan guarantees to a company that ended up going under because of cheap chinese imports. this really pits the people who
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want cheap, renewable energy against, again, how are american manufacturers going to take advantage of these big changes that we're seeing. >> can they take advantage of them if the president helps them? and when they do, when people like us go buy something, does the price go up? up next, if the 2020 election were happening today, guess what? polls show president trump losing big to big name democrats like bernie, joe biden, even oprah. where are you heard that before?
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note. the next special election? just 1,014 days away. yes, we're counting. some other numbers not at all encouraging to president trump, but i wouldn't go running off to vegas to make a bet on these. from our new 2020 poll, a few match-ups. vice president biden beats president trump by a whopping 27 points. bernie sanders also wins in our poll. oprah winfrey wins by 9%. >> those numbers are shocking. oprah only wins by 9? >> only wins by 9. again, i asked for fun here. we put these questions at the end of a poll. joe biden will love the fact he fini finishes stronger than oprah. the 2020 matchups are
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meaningless but it says the president is stuck where his approval rating is, where if you're trump politically, that's what you worry about, not the 2020 narrative, right? >> and hillary clinton is one of the few democrats donald trump could have beaten and typically because independence disliked her so much. what this poll also shows that these candidates have high numbers among the independents as would, probably, mark zuckerberg. or dwayne johnson. . we saw the women's march this past weekend. big crowds, big crowds. people think in reaction to trump this will be a huge year for women in politics, women candidates and women driving the midterm elections. not so much the horse race
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matchups, but for the president of the united states, white women voters. biden, 60% to 37% donald trump. sanders, 58 to 41 for donald trump, winfrey, 55 to 41 for donald trump. the hypotheticals are here for sport, but if you look at trump, it's concerning. >> we've seen these hypothetical matchups bear out in sort of an anti-trump, post-trump backlash. not only do you have the approval ratings, we have enthusiasm among democrats and women candidates, as you mentioned, and then you combine those things together. those are warning signs not only for 2020 but for 2018. >> it's early in the president's second year. early in another of the
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president's second year back in 2010 we asked this question. early in the president's political year, they're not in politically good shape. we're seeing it with president obama. they shouldn't go to vegas, right? >> that's why republicans on capitol hill are frankly nervous about midterm elections. they know that traditionally there is this sort of hubbub of energy pushing back against him and they could potentially lose the house, lose the senate. that would be your first telltale sign of resistance against trump there actually is and whether he could win again. >> you want to put the important consequential 2018 midterm elections ahead of oprah versus trump? >> i think trump would react to that poll. he would say bring it on. remember he tweeted right after there was talk about that. he said, i would win. after that poll, i'm not so
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sure. there is a lot of people in his party that could use a lot of help this year, but signs are that he already has his eye on 2020. thanks for joining us on "inside politics." wolf blitzer is up next. have a good day. so, you can watch all your netflix favorites on your new samsung phones. join the un-carrier and get a samsung galaxy s8 free. all on america's best unlimited network.
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