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DeSantis: Voters Would "Monkey this Up" If They Elect Gillum; U.S. Denies Passports to Some Americans Along Southern Border; China Slams Trump's "Absurd logic" on North Korea; McCain Memorial Service in Arizona to Begin Soon. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 30, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:33:30] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: The Florida governor's race is off to an ugly start. Just hours after winning the Republican nomination, Ron DeSantis, on live TV, said voters would, quote, "monkey this up" if they elected his African-American Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum. Watch.


REP. RON DESANTIS, (R), FLORIDA: We've got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let's build off the success we have on Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a Socialist agenda.


NOBLES: In response, Gillum said that DeSantis is channeling President Trump.


ANDREW GILLUM, (D), TALLAHASSEE MAYOR & FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump. This is a page from his playbook, basically, try to divide this country in my state. Look, I don't know the phrase. Looking at the whole clip, I think he was clear about what he meant and he understood the dog whistle that he was blowing. And I understand that he intends to speak to a particular part of the base to incite them.


NOBLES: If Gillum were elected, he would be Florida's first black governor.

Joining me to discuss this is the incoming minority leader for the Florida state House, Kionne McGhee, who is a supporter of Gillum.

Representative McGhee, you have called DeSantis' comments racist. Before I let you respond to that, I want you to hear his own defense of his comments from last night on FOX. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DESANTIS: It has zero to do with race, Sean. It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to continue to go in a good direction, building off the success, or do we want to turn to left-wing Socialist policies, which will absolutely devastate our state. Here is the thing, I believe people should be judged based on their ability and character, regardless of race.


[11:35:17] NOBLES: Do you believe him?

STATE REP. KIONNE MCGHEE, (D-FL), INCOMING HOUSE LEADER: Ryan, let me first say this. The timing of this is interesting. Correct? Here we are honoring a true American hero in Senator John McCain, and somehow and someway, another Donald Trump political distraction creeps into the media market. This is truly a strategy made by Donald Trump out of the playbook, but has been carried by Congressman DeSantis.

NOBLES: In a tweet, you have said -- you called on Governor Rick Scott, he's running for Senate, and every other Republican to denounce DeSantis. Have any of them responded?

MCGHEE: We haven't heard anything from them. Governor Scott hasn't said a single word as to these statements.

Let's stay on the track here. The reality of it is, they are trying to distract away from the true issues that Floridians are actually suffering from, due to the 20 years of inactiveness based by the Republican Party.

NOBLES: I'm going to challenge you on that point that it's Republicans pushing this out there. I know the first that I heard about this particular flap was a press release from the Florida Democratic Party. There have been several Democrats that have rushed to comment on this particular issue. That's not to say it doesn't deserve credit and doesn't deserve attention. But to your point, is the fact that everyone is talking about this -- and there are just as many Democrats as Republicans talking about I -- does that take away from your candidate, Mayor Gillum, talking about the issues he cares about?

MCGHEE: No. The reality of it is Floridians are smarter than what the Donald Trump campaign and the DeSantis campaign truly give them credit for. We are a state of individuals who have come together time in and time out to come together and realize that we are trying to push Florida forward. The whole objective of what we are trying to do in the state of Florida is to move forward to that more perfect union that our founders so eloquently talked about, getting us there. Divisiveness-types of statements and actions made by the Donald Trump campaign and Ron DeSantis has no place in our environment today.

The reality is, is when FOX denounced DeSantis' statement and pulled away from it, Congressman Curbelo came out and requested that DeSantis apologize for the statement, you know, we recognize what it is, and we move on. But right now, the issues in the state of Florida are most important.

We have algae blooms in our water. We have a transportation infrastructure problem. Our veterans have not gotten the support they need from the leadership here. Our farmers and agriculture industry are suffering. Right now, our educational system needs a boost. The only person in this race that can actually bring everybody together that we have seen is the next 46th governor of the state of Florida, and that's going to be Gillum.

NOBLES: Just quickly, to the point, should the Democratic Party stop sending out press releases on this topic then?

MCGHEE: No. Whether or not they should stop sending press releases on this issue is a side issue. What we should do is, ask the Republican Party to continue to discuss the issues. Allow for us to honor Senator John McCain this day and this week, and stop injecting these negative statements into our environment and into our political world, and allow people to have a great opportunity to participate in the electoral process.

NOBLES: That leads me to my next question. Let's talk about the general election. You have two candidates here who seem to be running to the extreme parts of their base on both sides. Make the pitch for your candidate, Mayor Gillum, to Independent voters. What does he have that would affect those voters that are in the center of the political spectrum?

MCGHEE: Andrew Gillum is what they have been waiting for. Andrew Gillum can talk to the political base, he can talk to the social base, he can talk to the economic base, he can talk to the religious base. Andrew Gillum is the one that gives them a better opportunity. They tried 20 years of failed Republican policy and look at what he has gotten us. We see our educational system is lacking with resources. Again, our veterans. Our veterans in the state of Florida have taken a beating as it relates to resources and housing. Let's talk about affordable housing in the state of Florida. The Republican Party has raided the fund and trust to tune of over $3 billion. A trust that was simply made to assist those who need help with housing. Let's talk about our environment. We are looking at the algae bloom. Now our water is being affected. The reality of it is that has all been created under a 20-year reign from the Republican Party. Now we are at a point where we can change this, change the direction, and get someone in who understands everybody's issue, both Republicans, Independents and Democrats.

[11:40:07] NOBLES: Florida state representative, Kionne McGhee, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

MCGHEE: Thank you very much, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right.

Coming up, the "Washington Post" is reporting passports of hundreds of Hispanic-Americans who live near the U.S.-Mexico border are being revoked. What's behind it? That's next.


[11:45:01] NOBLES: A new report from the "Washington Post" says a growing number of Hispanic-Americans in south Texas are being denied American passports. The reason behind the move? The State Department is accusing them of using fraudulent birth certificates.

Nick Valencia is following the story for us.

Nick, what's the latest on this?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ryan. Good morning. This is evidently new to a lot of us. This is something that's been happening to south Texas residents for years, if not decades, but specifically those born to midwives. What the "Washington Post" is reporting is that under the President Trump administration, there's an uptick, a surge that impacts hundreds if not thousands of people who have been American citizens and lived in the United States their whole lives. In some cases, these are individuals who have fought for our country abroad, who have been Border Patrol agents, individuals who have voted in past elections. Without the raw data, however, which has not been provided to us or the "Washington Post" by the State Department, it's impossible to verify that there has been a surge. We have talked to at least two immigration attorneys who tell us they are seeing this policy and practice by the government being implemented with a lot more fervor.

This is what the State Department is saying to that, quoting a part of their statement: "This has not changed the policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications. The U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud."

Here's what the government alleges, according to the "Washington Post," between the 1950s and 1990s, these individuals were born to midwives, actually babies born in Mexico, that were provided fraudulent documents, birth certificates that were illegitimate, which is why the government says it has to now crack down.

One quick caveat, Ryan, this is happening at a time when President Trump is going after and lobbying for stricter federal voter I.D. laws. This affects a population that's in a heavily Democratic district and predominantly Latino -- Ryan?

NOBLES: Nick Valencia, thank you for that update.

VALENCIA: Thank you.

NOBLES: We appreciate it.

Coming up, China lashing out at President Trump after the president blames Beijing for problems with North Korea. We will break that down, next.


[11:51:33] NOBLES: China strikes back at what it calls President Trump's "absurd logic" in blaming Beijing for problems the U.S. is having with North Korea. This follows President Trump's multi-tweet statement yesterday alleging that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of the trade dispute between China and the United States. China's foreign ministry says that Trump's logic, quote, "Distorts facts and is beyond comprehension." And that "China hopes the U.S. will honor its pledges and commitments regarding North Korea and play a positive and constructive role."

I want to bring in CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, to talk about this. She's a former senior national security adviser under President Obama.

We'll talk about the details of all of this in a second. Let's first talk about the president's tactics here. Releasing a statement, he, himself, calling it a statement, but only through his own personal Twitter feed. Had a couple typos and maybe some grammatical problems. Is this the way you conduct diplomacy on the national stage?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Certainly not. And I've been involved in my fair share of White House statements. This is not how you draft them, verify them, and get out something that accurately represents the views of the White House. This statement was chockfull of nuts. It had so many mistakes in it, starting with, for example, the president references the fact we suspended our joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan. We actually haven't. That's not true. He goes on to blame everybody but Kim Jong-Un for what's wrong in North Korea.

NOBLES: Let's talk about that now. Trump very critical of China during the campaign. He believes that he's made real progress, particularly when it comes to his personal relationship with Xi Jinping and he thinks he's made progress in terms of trade negotiations. What do you make of this latest turn in the conversation? He's been heralding the fact he's been making progress with China, but now it seems like it's taking a step back.

VINOGRAD: It does. Remember, just a few days ago, John Bolton said he's concerned China is trying to interfere in our elections. We now have one more leader that's trying to attack us that President Trump is fighting his strong bond with. He's said he has a great relationship with President Putin while we're under live attack from Russia. And in his Twitter storm or official statement, excuse me, yesterday, he said China was responsible for what's wrong in North Korea, but heralded the strong bond he shares with President Xi Jinping.

NOBLES: And getting to North Korea, he's accusing China of interfering in the negotiations with North Korea. How big of a problem is that?

VINOGRAD: I think it's a big problem. What's a bigger problem, Ryan, is that maximum pressure is off. It's really been replaced by conscious recoupling by South Korea, China, Russia, and maybe even Japan at some point to normalize North Korea on the world stage through integration.

NOBLES: Great.

Sam Vinograd, appreciate it.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

[11:54:14] NOBLES: Thank you for being here.

Coming up, we're just moments away from special live coverage of the memorial service for Senator John McCain. Stay with us.


NOBLES: We're just minutes away from the next round of ceremonies honoring the late Senator John McCain. This is a live picture of the scene in Phoenix where the ceremony is set to begin. Soon his family will arrive at the Arizona state capitol, and they will accompany his casket to the North Phoenix Baptist Church. And 24 sitting Senators and four former Senators are expected to attend services there. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Cardinals player, Larry Fitzgerald, will be among the speakers. Then Senator McCain will leave Arizona for the last time. Tomorrow, he'll lie in state at the U.S. capitol. And Saturday, there will be a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral. CNN has learned that McCain's 106- year-old mother, Roberta, is expected to attend the services in Washington and at the naval academy in Annapolis, Maryland. McCain will be laid to rest there Sunday in a private ceremony.

And thank you so much for joining me today.

Our special coverage of Senator John McCain's memorial service --