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Caravan of Migrants Stopped at Guatemala-Mexico Border; President Trump Campaigns on Stopping Caravan of Migrants; Saudi Arabia's Government Admits Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Died in Consulate in Istanbul; Lottery Jackpot Reaches Historic Amount; Bernie Sanders Campaigns for Democratic Candidates for Midterms. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 20, 2018 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:12] LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Saturday, October 20th. I am Leyla Santiago in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I am Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

SANTIAGO: Happening now, thousands traveling in a migrant caravan caught on a border on a bridge between Guatemala and Mexico.

BLACKWELL: Thousands of people are trying to make their way into Mexico, or for some, the United States. For the governments of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, this is an economic issue. A lot of people you see there in this caravan, this is a life or death issue. For the president of the United States, this is a campaign issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new platform of the Democrat Party is radical socialism and open borders. As we speak, the Democrat Party is openly inviting millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders, and overwhelm our nation.


SANTIAGO: CNN special correspondent Bill Weir is in Tapachula. It is the largest city in Mexico that is closest to the Guatemalan border. Bill, you're following this caravan. You were there for some very tense moments yesterday. What are you seeing now?

BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leyla, we're actually in Ciudad Hidalgo right on the river. This is Mexico on this side. We've got Guatemala on that side. That is the bridge that turned into a scene of utter chaos yesterday. It is still full of people who spent the night there and are waiting patiently as they process, the Mexican government, one by one.

But as you can see, those that don't want to wait can pay 50 cents or a dollar and simply float across the border here. It's very loose. But it's an indication of the determination of the folks. And yesterday is just a small taste of what it is like to make this sometimes months long journey north. And for many of them, there is no plan b. Take a look.


WEIR: At high noon, the bridge over the border is empty. But then a crowd of thousands overwhelms a small contingent of Guatemalan police and sprints north.

No, it is closed. It's closed.

The first try to form an orderly line, but it lasts only seconds as thousands more pour across, all with a mixture of exuberance, frustration, and determination.

The surge of the crowd has managed to shove those padlocked gates open. But waiting on the other side of hundreds of Mexican federales in riot gear. They manage to hold back the human tide with the help a single teargas cannister.


WEIR: After a half hour of chaos, the crowd calms itself, even turning on the few troublemakers in the crowd, convincing them to climb back down off the fence. But some can't take the heat and the crowd, so they jump into the river.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our message is we're not criminals. We are coming, we're here because we want to work. We need a job. We need a better life. That's why we're here.

WEIR: You understand President Trump is going to use pictures of thousands of people surging to the gates against you. He is going to point that to people and say it is scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is just politics. We respect he is the president, the president of the United States. And with all due respect, we are not criminals.

WEIR: Donald Trump is the anti-Christ, this man says. If he doesn't repent, he is going to hell. We're not criminals, we are workers and fighters.

Eventually Mexico opens to the caravan, but only a trickle are let through, women and children first, including Marta Torres who tells me her husband was murdered by Honduran drug gangs. After walking for a week, her three other kids are still across the river.

Do you want to go to the United States? Have you heard that President Trump doesn't want more people coming, and he's even separated families that try to come? What should we do now then, she says, breaking down. There's no way you can go back home. I don't want my kids in the middle of crime. I don't want to have the lives of my children further destroyed. [10:05:04] Mexico has taken the rare step on calling on the United

Nations to help sort this crisis. But this standoff makes clear that for most folks, there is no turning back.


WEIR: Now, I saw firsthand how some of the folks on the bridge actually have papers, sort of the most precious piece of paper they can possibly be carrying right now, and are hoping to take proper steps. Mexico says they want to be empathetic toward the cause and tell these folks they understand their plight, but there's rule of law. So they'll be processed one at a time. Those seeking asylum probably have to spend 45 days in a processing center in this area here as well, and those who have no papers and try to cross illegally like presumably some of these folks, if they're caught, they will be turned back, Leyla and Victor.

But it is just an incredible scene when you realize a few thousand people there, a few hundred crossing here, some wading across, some swimming across. And convincing them to go back is like convincing someone running from a burning building to turn around and go back. Some of them are oblivious of the politics of the United States, don't understand even the family separation, zero tolerance policy, like Marta you saw there. Some are very well aware of the fact that there are 7 million unfilled jobs in America. The unemployment rate is really low and the chances of them actually getting work are higher. But there are 5,000 stories on the bridge. But the one consistence is their determination to get out of here and find another life.

BLACKWELL: They may not be watching the president, but the president certainly is watching them and hoping to use this as campaign issue 17 days out from midterms. Bill Weir for us there in Tapachula. Bill, thank you.

SANTIAGO: All right, so listen, at meetings, at rallies and tweets, President Trump, Victor mentioned it, taking aim at the caravan that is making its way north.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are some bad people coming through. These aren't babies. These aren't little angels coming into our country. These are some hardened criminals coming in, and we're not letting them in.


SANTIAGO: So let's talk about it. This caravan started San Pedro Sula Honduras, right over here. It made it's way over to Guatemala. To be specific, they were in Esquipulas for a few days, and then they made their way to the Mexico-Guatemala border right there in Tapachula, what many know as the gateway to the U.S.

But here's the thing. It's not the first of its kind. Caravans of migrants often form and they do so to find safety in numbers. Some of these are actually annual events with religious roots, again, not a new thing.

So what is new? It's the attention that President Trump is taking on this. Remember, in April we followed another caravan at the center also of President Trump's tweets. I followed them all the way to San Diego. We introduced you to a mother who told us gangs threatened to kill her four-year-old son, a teen who showed us scars rampant gang violence left on his body. Again, they went all the way to the port of entry where they turned themselves in to seek asylum. That is the legal way to do so. That is how you seek asylum.

Human rights advocates working with this caravan, the one that Bill just introduced us to, they tell us that these migrants plan to seek asylum as well. But poverty and violence are not guaranteed factors for asylum in the United States. In fact, migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, they have the highest rates when it comes to asylum in the United States. But odds for asylum, barriers by Mexico, or threats from the president of the United States right now don't seem enough to turn them around at least for now. Victor?

And the expert, we'll get to Victor in just a minute. One expert that we talked to this morning told us if aid is cut to one of these Central American countries, it will actually exacerbate the migration situation. We talked to them and asked how much aid do these countries actually stand to lose? CNN's Sarah Westwood joins me from the White House. Sarah?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Leyla, there is $260 million at stake right now in aid to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, the president is threatening to cut it off if they don't cooperate in stopping the so called caravan from reaching the U.S. border.

And President Trump has been focusing more and more on immigration here in the home stretch of the midterms because with a little over two weeks to go before Election Day, Trump and his allies are searching for a way to extend that so-called Kavanaugh bump, the surge in voter enthusiasm that Republicans say they saw in the wake of the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

[10:10:13] And Trump has seized on the caravan as a symbol of all of the immigration problems that he ran on fixing, although so far he has had little luck two years into his presidency. Last night he threatened that retaliation against those countries. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We give a lot of money to these countries, to, if you look at El Salvador, if you look at what we give to Honduras, and Guatemala, tens of millions of dollars, in one case $400 million. They do nothing for us. I called them, I said very nicely, you're not going to get any money if you let this happen. And all of a sudden they're starting to close it up tightly. They're trying.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WESTWOOD: It's clear President Trump's frustrations with immigration situation are brewing. He is frustrated with lack of progress on his border wall, with the fact that his legislative fixes haven't gained any traction with the illegal border crossing numbers. So the president trying to use this issue to motivate voters to get to the polls. But as we saw with the family separation crisis this summer, immigration can also be a divisive and emotional issue, and it is just not clear whether this will help Republicans in the suburban moderate districts where they're struggling right now, Leyla and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood for us there at the White House. Sarah, thank you.

SANTIAGO: Next, Saudi officials confirm the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. They're saying that he died during a fist fight inside the consulate. We'll have a live report.

BLACKWELL: Plus, no winner is last night's mega millions lottery, called mega billions now. But it all takes just $2 and a dream to win.

SANTIAGO: That's all it takes?

BLACKWELL: All it takes.


SANTIAGO: For 17 days of denials, Saudi officials now say "Washington Post" writer Jamal Khashoggi died in the country's Istanbul consulate.

BLACKWELL: Overnight Saudi officials announced Khashoggi accidentally died in a fist fight after being placed in a chokehold. Khashoggi's editor at the paper responded quickly to the Saudi account, calling it utter BS.

SANTIAGO: After confirming his death, 18 Saudis were taken into custody and five officials in the Saudi crown prince's inner circle were removed from their post.

BLACKWELL: Turkish officials long said that Khashoggi died within hours of entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Part of that assessment was based on reported audio recordings inside the building. Let's bring in now CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. He is in Istanbul. Josh, what are Turkish officials saying now about this weeks on, this late admission from the Saudis?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Victor, so far the silence is deafening here. We have not heard official word from the Turkish government in response to the Saudi developments overnight with a lot of movement within government, and providing information obviously about their version of the investigation.

President Erdogan did have a nationally televised address today, not a word of Khashoggi or this investigation. So again, a lot of questions remain as far as their thinking on what the Saudis have said. Turkish officials have told CNN that they will conduct a comprehensive investigation. They expect results will be issued in short order, but so far, no official word from them.

I will say that it appears as though the ball is now in their court when it comes to providing information, providing evidence. As you mention and we all recall, there are reports of audio recordings from inside this facility behind me. We're at the alleged scene of the crime, the Saudi consulate. And we heard that reporting that the Turkish authorities actually had this facility wired and bugged and actually heard the moments that the missing journalist, now deceased journalist, met his demise. The onus is on them to actually produce those tapes now, the Turkish officials, and actually provide that evidence.

So far a lot of questions, we have seen some strategic leaks to some of the local outlets here. Again, so far not a full accounting of what's on tapes and what they show. But unless they actually come forward with that evidence, obviously there are a lot of questions that are going to remain.

With respect to the Saudi investigation itself and what we saw overnight, a lot of gaping holes in what we heard. A very thin narrative as far as their investigation. One question that looms here is what happened to the body of the missing journalist. Our colleagues at the "New York Times" are reporting that there was a collaborator from this building that actually disposed of the body. Again, questions there, a lot of questions remain. Until we actually get answers, there will be folks wondering exactly what took place in this compound, and what will be the response from the international community.

BLACKWELL: Certainly. Josh Campbell for us there in Istanbul, thank you.

SANTIAGO: Let's get some analysis on today's developments. Joining me now, CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd. Thanks so much for being with us. Let's take a look at what happened just in the last 24 hours, right, an acknowledgment from Saudi Arabia, some arrests, President Trump saying that this is a first step. What do you foresee would be the next big step here?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I just have to say the president's reaction is wholly unsurprising but it's also really dangerous. It's unsurprising because we have several data points that show that President Trump often believes denials or foreign leaders saying they're going to do something to investigate a crime when they're in fact the culprit. Remember, he agreed to a cyber working group with Vladimir Putin when Russia was attacking us via cyber warfare. He took Kim Jong-un at his word that he was going to denuclearize, despite the fact there was likely very little intelligence to support that claim. And now he is taking one of our allies at their word that they're going to launch a credible investigation, which isn't an investigation. It is a charade. This is theater, and he should have in some way pointed that out.

But it is dangerous because I think it is highly likely that members of the intelligence community, our allies, and members of the law enforcement community are pointing out that this investigation truly lacks any semblance of an actual investigation.

[10:20:07] There's not an unbiased investigator, there's no unbiased assets to the suspects or even to the chain of command in Mohammed bin Salman, who, frankly, the point of interest based upon the fact that so many of these men worked for him or with him.

SANTIAGO: And that's a good point. That investigation might be drawing skepticism, not just here in the U.S. but internationally, globally. What should we expect the response to findings of that investigation due out, I believe, in just a few weeks, what should we expect in terms of will that be enough to put this to rest if the person in charge has ties to those who were just arrested for their ties to the crime?

VINOGRAD: Well, there are several different audiences that may react to this investigation when it comes out. In Saudi Arabia, it will be accepted because there's no free speech, there's no free press, and there's high levels of capital punishment and imprisonment. So if you speak out against the royal family, you know what is going to happen.

We have the intelligence and law enforcement community here in the United States and around the world that will very likely say, again, this was not a credible investigation, we need an independent one. The outlier, of course, is President Trump, and whether he says they investigated, they deny that MBS was involved. Let's just proceed as normal with some minor penalties. But what he cannot account for is what Congress is going to do on something like U.S. arms sales, and he does have a report that's due to Congress in a little under four months where we have to launch our own investigation and report to Congress on who we think is culpable, even if it involves the crown prince.

SANTIAGO: Samantha Vinograd, thank you so much. Good perspective there for us to understand it all.

BLACKWELL: Good news, bad news. Good news is you still have a chance to become a billionaire. Bad news is the $5 you put in on the office pool was wasted.


BLACKWELL: There was no winner for mega millions lottery, but you can try again. Just how big will the jackpot be Tuesday? We'll talk about it.


SANTIAGO: All right, no winner for last night's mega millions lottery. But don't worry, you can try again.

BLACKWELL: This time it is for a world record jackpot. CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval is in New York with more. Polo, I can barely see you through the crowd there. Those who are breaking through to try to buy those $2 tickets.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's because people still have almost four days to make the purchase.

SANTIAGO: That's right.

SANDOVAL: I will tell you that. I will say this, yesterday morning, the crowds were barely there. But towards the afternoon and evening, yes, they did eventually come. And this machine was extremely busy. A gentleman I ran into yesterday said he is back today because that spirit of optimism, yes, it is still alive. As the head of mega millions put it, now it is getting fun because the amount is now, $1.6 billion, that eventually surpassing the record of $1.5 billion set in 2016 with the Powerball jackpot which is now historic territory.

So we can certainly expect more people to take an interest in Tuesday's drawing, and perhaps more people will be participating in these office pools, Victor, that you mention. I will ask you this. I'm not sure if you thought it was worth it. As for me, it is a bit up in the air. Those five bucks, Victor, probably could have gotten me lunch today.

SANTIAGO: Come on.

BLACKWELL: The $5 I gave our producer of this show, Victoria Kennedy, went nowhere. And here she is already this morning walking around with her hand out for five more dollars.


BLACKWELL: She just said in my ear, if you don't play, you don't win. All right, I'm playing. Polo, thanks so much.

SANTIAGO: At Mexico's southern border, a flashpoint for the American midterms. Thousands of migrants are trying to reach the United States as President Trump pushes back.


BLACKWELL: Let's get back to the top stories of this hour. First, the massive caravan of migrants traveling from Honduras on their way to the United States. We've got a few here of the Mexico-Guatemala border. This was Friday afternoon. Look at this. Thousands of people trying to cross over and continue their path north. They are escaping poverty, gang violence in their home countries, in search of a better life for some of them in the United States. But their mission is, once again, a political flashpoint.

SANTIAGO: The president turning the journey into a key issue ahead of the midterm elections. So let's go ahead and talk with our political panel. Let's bring in CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona along with CNN political commentator, "USA Today" columnist, and former special assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings. Good to have you both on. I imagine you both have very strong feelings. So let's first go ahead and listen to what President Trump had to say about the caravan, how he describes the people who are now coming north and find themselves on the Mexico- Guatemala border.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are some bad people coming through. These aren't babies, these aren't little angels coming into our country. These are some hardened criminals coming in. And we're not letting them in.


SANTIAGO: All right, so here's the thing. We have a crew on the ground with them, we were there for some chaotic moments, and we're seeing women, children, families. Scott, how do you make sense of that? The president is calling them criminals and bad people on the way to our country, but look at what we're seeing here, this is a child at the gates of Mexico and Guatemala crying, and a mother, many of whom told us they just want a better life. How do you explain that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the president is responding to the powerful images of the concept of thousands of people pouring across the U.S. border. I'm sure most of these people are fleeing their situation for good reason, because they live in violent places, because the job situation is terrible. They have good reasons for leaving.

[10:35:06] Not all of these people are perfect people. I'm sure that's also true. I think the greater political implication here, though, are these powerful images of thousands of people moving towards the United States, serving as a powerful reminder that we do not have enough border security in the United States, and that one party wants stronger borders and that one party doesn't. That's the point the president is trying to make. And frankly, he made it perfectly in 2016, and it is why he won the election. And I see this playing out again in 2018.

SANTIAGO: But Scott, so he is saying he doesn't want crowds of people, these caravans coming to the border, and yet he is threatening to cut foreign aid. And anybody who runs one of those programs will likely tell you that if you cut that foreign aid, that's exactly what you're going to see. You're going to see more people at the border. So why threaten them with something that could bring more migration if the priority is to lessen the flow of immigrants?

JENNINGS: I think the president is trying to get the countries to take greater responsibility. He sees these thousands of people moving towards the United States. He sees that the United States is delivering foreign aid to them and he wonders why aren't they taking responsibility for their own population.

This is a complex situation. These people are in fact, fleeing terrible places. But one thing is true, most Americans look at this situation and they say do thousands of people really believe they can just pour across the U.S. border? I am not for that. That is absolutely true, and the president is responding to that sentiment.

SANTIAGO: Maria, to you. You heard Scott say it, you heard the president say it, they're pointing the finger at the Democrats, President Trump tweeting earlier this week about it. Scott mentioning it here, this concept of open borders. Your take on this?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is an absolute lie. But again, what else should we expect from this president. He lied about immigration in 2016, and Scott is right, it did work for him. But the fact of the matter is that there's no Democrat that wants open borders. That is not something that the party or any candidate is running on. In fact, Democrats are the ones who supported comprehensive immigration reform back in 2013 that would have strengthened the border with billions of dollars and thousands more border patrol agents. They want to do it in a way that actually works. They want real, common sense solutions.

The president is once again doing what he does best, and it betrays a fear about the midterm election that he has, and I think rightly so. But he is doing this because he knows fear works, even though it is full of lies and even though it gets nowhere near the real solutions that we have.

Democrats are talking about strong borders. Democrats are talking about health care, and Democrats are talking about the Republican tax scam. That's why Republicans have to then shift to lies and to fearmongering because they have no real issues to run on during the midterm elections.

BLACKWELL: Scott, let's switch to this new report coming from the Saudis, now admitting that Jamal Khashoggi is dead. They say that he died during a fist fight with 15 people, including one that reportedly took a bone saw to the consulate. I want you to hear what the president said, his answer, when he was asked he thinks this report from the Saudis is credible.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do, I do. I mean, again, it is early. We haven't finished our review or investigation, but I think it is a very important first step, and it happened sooner than people thought it would happen.


BLACKWELL: Credible first step, important first step. U.S. officials tell CNN there's no way this happened without MBS, the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, knowing about it. But the president saying that the report is credible. He rejects the assessment of his own government. Why is this happening again?

JENNINGS: Well, this is a complicated situation because the Saudis did something obviously very terrible here. They killed a journalist. That's unacceptable. It has to be condemned in strongest possible terms. At the same time, our relationship with Saudi Arabia has to be balanced against a couple of issues. Number one, our relationship with them triangulating against the Iranian regime, and number two, the thawing that's going on between the Saudis and the Israelis is not something we want to interrupt either.

And so there is eight-dimensional chess going on here, and the Saudis have absolutely screwed this up. They lied. They did something terrible, then they lied. Now they're lying again. And they really put the American president in a tough situation, vis-a-vis the other complicated issues. But I would just stress what I said at the beginning. This has to be condemned in strongest possible terms. This is a baloney explanation. I know there's other things going on in the world, but it cannot be open season on journalists, and regimes have to know that.

BLACKWELL: Maria, let me get back to you here, now. And during our conversation the president just responded to what he's seeing there at the border, tweeting this, "If the Democrats would stop being obstructionist and come together, we could write up and agree to new immigration laws in less than one hour. Look at the needless pain and suffering that they are causing. Look at the horrors taking place on the border. Chuck and Nancy, call me."


[10:40:19] Obviously speaking of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. They called in 2017. Should there be another call? And what do you think about the president's tweet here?

CARDONA: I am sure Chuck and Nancy would absolutely take the president's call if he were serious about what he just said. But again we know that he is just completely playing politics.

But it's interesting that he is now trying to point to the pain and horror of what these people are going through when he just called all of them hardened criminals and bad people, which we know is exactly what he really feels. What this says to me, Victor and Leyla, is that Republicans are really worried about what happened this summer. Remember the last time these caravans came, remember how the Trump administration responded, by ripping babies from the bosoms of their mothers? Remember how Republicans and especially white suburban Republican women responded and, frankly, decent Americans across the country? They completely said that is unacceptable, that is not who we are as a country. And the Trump administration actually said this is something that they could do again, ripping families apart.

So this to me tells me he is incredibly nervous about what this is going to do in the midterm elections. A lot of the districts where Republicans are running are Latino majority districts. This does not play well with the Latino community or with white suburban Republican women.

BLACKWELL: He thinks it does. He thinks this does play well for his party, their chances heading in 17 days now from the midterm elections. We'll see if we hear more from the president, that coming during our conversation here in morning. Scott and Maria, good to have you both.

CARDONA: Thanks so much, Victor.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

Coming up, Senator Bernie Sanders kicks off a nine-state campaign blitz weeks before the midterms, hoping to make a big difference at the polls. His former 2016 campaign manager joins us next, Jeff Weaver there on the other side of the screen, with the senator's strategy for November and potentially 2020.

SANTIAGO: But first, an ambitious project to clean up plastic in our oceans is under way. CNN's Rachel Crane spoke to the project's founder in this week's Mission Ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we see here, actually the stomach contents of a single sea turtle that was found dead two years ago.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was in one sea turtle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One sea turtle.

CRANE: Look at all of the plastic.

There are approximately 150 million tons of plastic in the world's oceans. And a recent U.K. report predicts that number will triple in the next decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only if we go out and clean it up, this amount of plastic is going to go down.

CRANE: One young Dutch inventor and his team have their sights set on solving the plastic problem. How? Meet Wilson, aka system one. It's an almost 2,000-foot-long floating pipe with net hanging below. Winds and waves propel the U-shaped system, creating a funnel to catch plastics. Every few months, a boat brings the collected plastic to shore. But critics worry about the system's effect on marine life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have anything that can entangles marine life. And what happens is that the current flows underneath it while the place which floats will remain in front.

CRANE: They're starting with the great pacific garbage patch, a floating mass of trash more than twice the size of Texas. But the ultimate goal is to clean up 90 percent of ocean plastic by the year 2040.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the day people said there's no way to clean it up, the best thing we can do is to not make it worse. To me that's a very uninspiring message. Everyone wants the future to be better than the present. That's what we hope to achieve with this cleanup.


[10:48:46] BLACKWELL: Two weeks away now from midterm elections. And Senator Bernie Sanders is stepping up his ground game for Democrats. He kicked off a nine-day campaign blitz, including stops in several states that are crucial for securing Democratic congressional seats. Let's go to Bloomington, Indiana, yesterday. He urged people to get out and vote for Liz Watson, who is challenging Congressman Trey Hollingsworth in that state's ninth district.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: I have zero doubt that if instead of 28 percent of the people voting in Indiana, 50 percent, and that's not a heavy lift, 50 percent of the people come out and vote, this is your next Congressperson.



BLACKWELL: Sanders is on the ballot himself this year, trying to win a third term as senator in Vermont, plus could be weighing maybe a 2020 run for president. Joining me now is someone who knows the senator well, his campaign manager from 2016, Jeff Weaver. Jeff, good to see you again.


BLACKWELL: All right, so let's start here. How does Senator Sanders help in Indiana? You have got Joe Donnelly statewide who is trying to put as much space between himself and Senator Sanders to hold onto his seat. He campaigned for Liz Watson yesterday.

[10:50:00] Trump won the state by 19, won the 9th district by 26 points. How does a Democratic socialist senator help close that gap and help her across the line?

WEAVER: You may remember that Bernie Sanders won the Indiana primary in the 2016 cycle. He is incredibly popular with working class people in Indiana who feel betrayed by the Trump economic agenda, very popular with young people, young people of color. And his presence in many of these places is going to bring out voters who would otherwise not participate in the process. And as he said in the clip, if we can get people to come to the polls, Democrats will win in November.

BLACKWELL: But do you lose votes potentially for the statewide candidate, for Joe Donnelly there, who is, in one of his latest ads called some of the positions that Senator Sanders supports radical?

WEAVER: All these young people are going to come out, and other people, working class people that Senator Sanders is bringing out are going to vote Democratic up and down the ballot. In fact, Joe Donnelly will benefit from that. I think that's the case in places all across the country. When young people come out, this is the most progressive young generation in our lifetime. And they vote consistently Democratic. The working class who support Senator Sanders will vote for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. So even if he is not in Indiana campaigning directly for Joe Donnelly, Joe Donnelly is going to benefit tremendously from Senator Sanders presence in Indiana.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Chris Cillizza has an interesting piece out this week that talks about how health care is the dominant issue when you look at the ad spending across the country for federal office. What do you make now of the president now tweeting, and writing that op-ed a couple of days ago, about protecting Medicaid and going after Medicare for all? What do you think about the turn, this focus from the president?

WEAVER: Well, look, you attack what you fear. Recent polls show overwhelming support among American people for a Medicare for all program that would replace private insurance with a single, much more efficient program that would insure every American. It is wildly popular. It even has majority support among Republicans.

So the president and his cronies in Congress understand that this is wildly popular, and Democrats are addressing what is the marquise issue of the election season and in fact has been a signature issue throughout this decade, which is how do we deal with the high cost of health care, how to make sure people have affordable prescription drugs, make sure they have access to quality, affordable health care.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about 2020. In this political piece, you were interviewed for part of it, in which former 2016 Sanders staff members, supporters were asked about a potential 2020 chances. And the 2016 digital director told "Politico," let's put it on the screen, "It is a sure thing that he will be able to influence 2020 from the outside. But if he decides to run, I doubt many former staffers will return unless directly asked to." This from a 2016 field organizer. "I think that if a younger candidate can pick up the mantle and have Bernie support, I think that would be a better option for 2020. But if Bernie called me to work on the campaign, then I'd do it." Has his moment passed?

WEAVER: Look, he is not focused on 2020 right now. We have these historic midterms coming up. That's why he is going around the country, stumping with Democratic candidates around the country, driving up turnout among voters who might not otherwise participate so we can take back the House and take back the Senate. There will be time to talk 2020 after the midterms are over.

My personal view, as I think it is no secret in the world, I just wrote a book where the last three words are run, Bernie, run. So my views are clear. But he is focused on getting the Democrats elected up and down the ballot this November.

BLACKWELL: Last thing very quickly, former Vice President Joe Biden this week when asked, said that age when considering a nominee or president is totally legitimate. On inauguration day in 2021, Joe Biden would be, I think we have the numbers here, he would be 78, President Trump would be 74. Senator Sanders would be 79 years old. The last three words in your book are run, Bernie run. Is age a legitimate concern?

WEAVER: Well, look, it is not age but it's vitality. You should talk to your own CNN reporter and other reporters who were trying to keep up with him as he led hundreds to the polls in Bloomington, Indiana, yesterday. They were all huffing and puffing, and he was doing great. So Bernie Sanders is incredibly vital, and, as he described it, very blessed with good health. I think he would be a great candidate for president, and he would certainly have the physical stamina to do it. Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: Jeff Weaver, good to talk to you. Thank you.

WEAVER: Always a great time. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What branch are you?

After starting to work with veterans I realized there's a huge gap in services. If you've ever served, you know that if one of your fellow platoon guys, they need help, you help them. What we do here is an opportunity to be stable in some safe and secure place, and then fix what got them there in the first place.


SANTIAGO: To find out more about this program you can go to

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

BLACKWELL: CNN Newsroom continues now with Fredricka Whitfield.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome. Right now thousands of migrants in a massive caravan are waiting on a bridge to cross the Guatemalan border into Mexico, hoping to make it to the United States. Take a look at those images right there, extraordinary.