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Amazon Workers Getting a Raise; Status of Kavanaugh FBI Investigation & Should Democrats Accept Results; Desperation Grows in Indonesia as Death Toll Climbs; Toss Ups in Pivotal Senate Races in Missouri & Nevada; Melania Trump Heads to Africa. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 2, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:56] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A major announcement from Amazon this morning. The company raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour effective November 1st. The move comes after critics, including Senator Bernie Sanders, called out Amazon for not paying workers enough considering the company passed the trillion-dollar value mark last month. The Vermont Senator today, after the announcement, now applauding Amazon for this big move.

Joining me now, Amazon senior vice president, Jay Carney. He's also former press secretary for President Obama.

Thanks for coming in, Jay.


BOLDUAN: Bezos in the announcement said you listened to your critics. Decided you wanted to lead. Why now?

CARNEY: Well, for just that reason. We listened to a lot of critics. It's part of our culture to examine ourselves, see if we're doing the right thing. And Senator Sanders was one of the people we listened to, among many. And when we saw the opportunity to raise wages at Amazon, we decided we wanted to lead and not just raise them incrementally or marginally but give a significant boost to 350,000 employees at Amazon by sitting a floor of $15 an hour.

BOLDUAN: That's the difference between Target or Walmart in their incremental moves.

Amazon has been a consistent target, I think we could say, of President Trump's. He's argued that you're taking advantage of the U.S. Postal Service, you're getting a subsidy from the taxpayers, and hurting other retailers because of it. What do you say to the president?

CARNEY: Well, we didn't consult with the White House on this proposal. We certainly hope the administration would support what we're doing for Amazon workers and also support what we're going to be doing with a lot of allies in calling on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. At $7.25 an hour, Amazon's $15 floor is more than twice the federal minimum wage, and hopefully Congress will take action to raise that.

On other issues, look, we focus on our customers. We focus on delivering the best service and convenience we can to them. On postal service, you know, it's not taxpayer funded. Our contract with the postal service is actually profit making for the postal service. We leave that to the experts to assess. And they have made that case.

BOLDUAN: When President Obama was in office, he did not raise -- was not able to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. You know how difficult it is to do. But especially when it comes to, I don't know, Amazon's relationship with this president, how do you successfully advocate for $15 minimum wage on a federal level if you have this kind of relationship with the president of the United States?

CARNEY: It's not about any party or politician. This is really about America's workforce. And you know, we have seen wages depressed for a long time. And they're beginning to inch up. But this was an opportunity for Amazon, a large employer, to take an action that would hopefully make us leaders and create some followers, some other companies that would do the same and also create momentum within Congress to raise the minimum wage at the federal level, the statutory wage. We're not saying what that level ought to be. We know this is going to be something that will be a product of negotiation and debate. Our floor is going to be $15 an hour, effective in just a few weeks.

[11:35:20] BOLDUAN: Gotcha.

Let me ask you about Brett Kavanaugh. You worked for President Obama. You know how important these Supreme Court picks are for a president. Getting his Supreme Court nominee confirmed is top of mind. Do you -- where things are in terms of the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the investigation under way by the FBI, do you think Democrats should accept whatever the FBI ends up presenting in its final report and go to a final vote?

CARNEY: Well, I wouldn't want to speak for Democratic or Republican Senators who ask for an additional investigation. I think they'll have to assess the product. Assess what the FBI produces. What I can say from my own experience, both working for President Obama and prior to that, covering President Clinton and President George W. Bush and their Supreme Court nominees, is that these are lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land. It's an incredibly important position. And there are only nine of them. And it's worth taking time to make sure we get the best possible nominee on the court. In President Obama's time, that was Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. They were both excellent choices and are excellent justices.

BOLDUAN: Jay Carney, it's great to see you, Jay. Thanks for coming in.

CARNEY: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, desperation grows in Indonesia as the death toll climbs following the devastating earthquake and tsunami there. CNN is on the ground. The pictures are just devastating. The conditions they're dealing with even worse. We'll take you there.


[11:41:27] BOLDUAN: More than 1200 people are now confirmed dead following the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Indonesia this week. And officials are fearing still that the death toll is going to rise significantly, saying hundreds of victims are now being buried in mass graves. And also family members are just combing through body bags to find the missing, digging through rubble, desperately in search of their loved ones.

CNN's Matt Rivers has been in Palu, Indonesia, for us. One of the hardest hit areas. He filed this report.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, as the days go on after this earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, we're learning more about the big picture in terms of how wide the impact of these two events were.

Let's start with this concept of liquefication, which sounds like this scientific term, and it is, but basically, if we're going to distill it down, it's when, during an earthquake, the solid ground on which houses rest, takes on the qualities of water. What we saw during liquefaction during this event was entire towns, entire villages essentially swallowed up by the mud. There was a town, which isn't too far away from where we are, 750 or so houses were the victim of this liquefication event, essentially sinking into the ground. It's equal parts fascinating and horrifying. Then there's these before and after pictures that come out. Every time you see these pictures, they're shocking, but in this one, it really is. Look at the before and the after. It just shows you how widespread this damage is. Entire communities just wiped out. And that's why we're seeing scenes like this. This was a multiple story shopping mall that was essentially brought to its knees during this earthquake, in which multiple people died. Search-and-rescue efforts at this very site are ongoing in the hopes of some sort of miracle of finding someone alive.

Now, as for the rest of the people, the people who have lost their houses, they're getting increasingly frustrated with what they're calling a slow government response. We spent an entire day today in these kinds of homeless communities that have just sprung up with people who have lost everything. They complain about a lack of electricity, water, food, hygiene, health care. The list goes on. And they're blaming the Indonesian government for a lack of a swift response. The government here says that they're doing the best they can in a very difficult environment. They have asked for international aid, but it's not changing the minds of people on the ground. They were so affected by this devastating event and they want their government to do more -- Kate?


[11:44:00] BOLDUAN: Matt, thank you so much for bringing us that. Really horrible to look at. Coming up next for us, five weeks until the midterms. President Trump

is telling his supporters the race is all about him. What does that mean in some of the tightest races right now?



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your vote in this election will decide which party controls the Senate. That's how close it is.


BOLDUAN: Even Donald Trump saying the Senate is up -- is a toss-up. President Trump raising the stakes for the midterms in a rally in Tennessee last night. It's one of three critical states Democrats are fighting for as they hope to win back the Senate.

Right now, with a little more than a month to go, two pivotal races remain a toss-up that we're going to focus on. A new CNN poll shows that, in Missouri, a state Trump won, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is edging out her Republican challenger, Josh Hawley, by just three points. That's within the margin of error. Similar case in Nevada where incumbent Senator Dean Heller is now trailing his foe, Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, by four points. That's a state Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. What does it all mean?

Joining me now, CNN political director, David Chalian, and CNN writer and senior political writer, whatever his name is, Harry Enten.

I don't care at this point.

Harry, let's start with Nevada. What do you see in Nevada? What's going on?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS EDITOR: Look, Dean Heller, incumbent, that's a good thing. But the fact is this is a state Hillary Clinton won, a state Barack Obama won twice. If Democrats are going to take back the Senate, they have a net gain of two. The easiest path is winning in Arizona, where McCaskill is leading in the polls. In Nevada, where Jacky Rosen is ahead in our poll. If they can win in those two states and hold the states where they currently have an incumbent Democrat, they'll control the majority of the United States Senate.

[11:50:03] BOLDUAN: That might be the recipe Democrats are looking for.

But, David, what about Dean Heller? Dean Heller is seen as an evolution. He was having hard time when he was breaking from Trump early on. He's having a hard time now that he's bear hugging the president. What is going on?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Specifically, on the issue of health care, which voters are saying is the most important issue, where's he's been sort of at odds with the president and breaking with the president. What's going on in these two states, Kate, is a different story about Donald Trump. In Nevada, as Harry noted, it's the one state with a Republican incumbent that Clinton won. It's also a state that has Donald Trump's approval numbers upside down. That is helping Jackie Rosen a bit, no doubt, and it's head winds for Dean Heller. In Missouri, what is interesting is Claire McCaskill is running in a state where Trump's numbers are right side up. He has the majority approval rating in Missouri. You look at that number and think, if it weren't for the fact that the wind was at Democrats' backs, Claire McCaskill might be in a tougher fight. You have two incumbents of different parties running on terrain that is sort of opposite of where -- their parties are opposite of the natural DNA of the state is right now.

BOLDUAN: What are you watching, Harry, in Missouri?

ENTEN: I think the question is whether Claire McCaskill is popular enough to win reelection. Incumbents in the opposition party in midterm elections, dating back since 1982, only four of them have lost. Only four. This is a state where Donald, as David pointed out, is still popular. Does Claire McCaskill's popularity outlast Donald Trump's? If it does, she'll win. However, if more voters disapprove than approve, she'll probably lose. Missouri will probably be the one state that I'm paying closet to on election night.

BOLDUAN: Because you are unsure?

ENTEN: Because I'm so unsure of the result there.

BOLDUAN: Got it.

ENTEN: And more than that, it's that perfect state where Donald Trump is popular and incumbent, the Democratic incumbent is really trying to face an uphill battle


CHALIAN: In Missouri, Claire McCaskill is doing so well in this poll or that poll. With Independents, she is winning them by double digits in this poll, which, to me, explains why her new ad on the air today is about professing her independence from either party.

BOLDUAN: This leads me to this. President Trump yesterday made it clear who he thinks the election should really be about. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Congress is on the ticket. And I try and tell my people, that's the same thing as me in a sense. That's the same thing. Think of it as the same thing.



BOLDUAN: Depending on where you are, you're either cringing or your smiling if you're running.

David, how right do you think he is?

CHALIAN: I think he's nearly 100 percent right. This midterm election is about Donald Trump. It is America's first chance to issue a report card of the first two years of the Trump administration. No president who is facing unpopularity in places likes to admit that. But he is right. This is an election about Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: I like to say that about this show. No matter what, it's about me, guys.

Great to see you. Thanks so much.

Coming up next, Melania Trump kicks off her first solo international trip as first lady. Why she chose the African nation of Ghana as her first stop, and where she's headed next.


[11:58:05] BOLDUAN: First lady, Melania Trump, is kicking off her first solo trip abroad with a visit to Ghana, the first of four African nations she'll visit in her week-long tour. Today, in Ghana's capitol, she visited a hospital with Ghana's first lady.

CNN's Kate Bennett is one of a handful of journalists traveling with the first lady. She is joining me now on the phone.

Kate, what was it like being with the first lady on this first day?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (via telephone): You know, she actually said it was a setting which first ladies often do, which is come back on the plane with us and talk with the press for a minute. It was off the record. But she did mention how she had never been to Africa before. Watching her emotion and learn about it and be able to talk about it all. It was an interesting moment for her. She is definitely the most passionate side of the administration. We see her come alive in terms of smiling and her actions. A lot more when she's around children. We've seen her often times at the White House. Certainly interesting to watch her. Again, the first stop on the African tour. I'm told she knew she wanted to visit on her first solo trip long before the planes were made. She wanted to come to Africa first.

BOLDUAN: Do you know why she wanted to go to Africa first?

BENNETT: She wanted to see how children are doing here. It's often been a country or a continent in need. We know Laura Bush -- (INAUDIBLE) -- and HIV. And Michelle Obama came here as well as one of her very first international trips. She went to South Africa and Botswana. She's continuing a legacy of modern first ladies that really - most first ladies are really impressed by their trip to Africa. I think a lot is on the line.

BOLDUAN: We'll see what impact that is when she comes back home.

Kate, great to hear from you. Thank you so much.

And thank you so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.