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Growing Speculation Trump Will Face Primary Challenge; Gillibrand: A More Inclusive America Is a Stronger America; Texas Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare; Father of Girl Who Died in Border Patrol Custody Disputes DHS Claims; Trump to Review Afghan Murder Case Against U.S. Vet. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 17, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] SCOTT MULHAUSER, FORMER DEPUTY CAMPAIGN CHIEF OF STAFF TO JOE BIDEN: If you're a Democratic candidate right now, you can't make the case that you should run for president, you can't make a case against Donald Trump, you likely shouldn't run. I think Democrats are salivating at the opportunity to run against President Trump. I think it's a little more of a challenge to run against someone like a Corker or a Flake who I think is a more well-rounded and I think a less incendiary figure which makes a harder case for them.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Scott Jennings, on that note, we do have a list of possible challengers on the Democratic side. And I'm going to ask you the same question, as a Republican, who would you not like to run against?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the Democrats would be wise to nominate someone who could speak to people in middle America. The very folks that Hillary Clinton lost back in the 2016 election. If you look at the way the Electoral College broke down, she lost by about 80,000 votes in three states that the Democrats did not expect to lose. So finding a way to talk to folks who don't live in big cities and on college campuses is the imperative. You want to find a candidate who can do that. And a candidate who can effectively make a case that the country should be going in a different direction. But not so radical of a different direction that it turns off middle- of-the-road voters, you know, center-left, center-right voters who don't tend to love either political extreme. To me, that's what I would be looking for. I think if you're Donald Trump, it doesn't really matter who you run against. You're going to try to paint them, though, as an extreme leftward tilt, someone who can't be trusted to manage the economy, someone who can't be trusted on national security and so on. I don't know which of these Democrats, though, can run in a Democratic primary and say I'm going to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters when their primary activists are demanding appealing to the far-left edges of the party.

BROWN: I want to put up the full screen of the poll showing the top three contenders. If you look at it, what really jumps out is that it's led by your old boss, Scott Mulhauser, but the top three contenders are white and male.

Here's what Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a potential 20 candidate, said about that. Let's listen.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": In a party as diverse as ours, does it worry you to see the top three being white guys?



JONES: Why? Why?

GILLIBRAND: I just -- I aspire for our country to recognize the beauty of our diversity in some point in the future. That's what makes America so extraordinary. We're all of that, we're everything. A more inclusive America is a stronger America.


BROWN: Scott Mulhauser, women candidates, many of color, won back the House for Democrats. Do you share Gillibrand's concern here?

MULHAUSER: I think Senator Gillibrand makes a fair point. I think the best thing about this is it's December of 2018 right now. I think you're going to see the Democratic Party go through a robust primary process that includes a remarkably talented field, that includes folks, women, includes candidates of color, and just an array of folks across the spectrum. That's great for the party and great for our potential nominee. I think we'll see who ultimately comes out of this thing but having that discussion across spectrum and across the party and to figure out who we are is exactly what we need right now.

BROWN: Scott Mulhauser, Scott Jennings, thank you so much.

And still ahead, a federal judge in Texas puts the Affordable Care Act on life support, striking down the law in its entirety over a key provision. So what's next, as coverage for millions of Americans hangs in the balance?


[11:38:15] BROWN: This is a decision that could affect nearly every American. A federal judge in Texas struck down Obamacare Friday night, arguing that it can no longer stand after Congress removed the individual mandate. Well, the case is likely headed back to the Supreme Court. And if the ruling is upheld, millions of people will lose their health insurance, and millions more with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage.

President Trump calling the ruling, quote, "great news." Republican Senator Susan Collins told CNN she thinks it will be overturned on appeal.

I want to bring in CNN Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue, to walk us through what happens in the case next. A lot of Americans are watching this wondering what it means for them.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Pamela, on the surface, this was a big win for the Trump administration. This judge gave them more than they even asked for. He struck down the individual mandate, but then he said the whole rest of the law must fall. He basically said, back in 2012, you remember Chief Justice John Roberts, he upheld the law under the taxing power. And then in 2017, Congress got rid of that tax penalty. So the judge looked at it and said, you have gotten rid of the underpinning, the legal underpinning of the law. That's what the Supreme Court used to uphold it. And he said the whole thing is going to fall. That's the important part, Pamela, right? Because we're not talking about just the individual mandate anymore. We're talking about a law that most Americans now have gotten used to. And we're talking about issues like cutbacks in Medicaid and Medicare and provisions having to do with people with pre-existing provisions. All of that, if this judge were to be upheld, would go away. And that's why this is such a broad, broad opinion.

[11:40:05] BROWN: And if and when it arrives at the Supreme Court, what do you think the court will do, especially with Chief Justice Roberts still on the bench. Of course, he had the deciding vote last time around.

DE VOGUE: Well, that's what's interesting to look at, because on one hand, this was just one district court judge, right, and he said this law can remain in effect. But California and other states, who have stepped in to defend it, they say they're going to take it to the federal appeals court. But the justices might look at this differently. On that one hand, we do now have two Trump nominees, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, but even Kavanaugh back in 2011, when he was a lower court judge, he was faced with the opportunity to rule that the law should be struck down. He didn't take that vote. Instead, he issued an opinion, and he said that this is premature. Some people might look at this and say the justices Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and others will look at things like it's so broad. Can you really strike down the individual mandate and make the rest of the law go away?

And they might look at the intent of Congress, because Congress had a chance to strike the whole law down, and it didn't. And finally, they'll look at the fact that how many people are relying on it. And they may think this was too broad. This lower court opinion was too broad -- Pamela?

BROWN: So significant that we could be in this again with Obamacare being challenged in the Supreme Court.

DE VOGUE: Right.

BROWN: Very quickly, what are some other landmark cases that could be front and center on the court that directly affect the Trump administration? What's coming up?

DE VOGUE: That's what's interesting. So far, the justices have been -- it's been an under-the-radar docket, but we have an aggressive solicitor general, and he's coming up and asking the Supreme Court to look at some of Trump administration's most controversial policies -- asylum ban, the transgender military ban, DACA, as well as other issues that have been really important to the Trump administration. So that's what's coming up. And on top of that, now maybe the health care law.

BROWN: And you will be very busy covering all of this.

DE VOGUE: I will.

BROWN: Ariane De Vogue, thank you so much.

DE VOGUE: Thanks.

BROWN: Well, Democratic lawmakers are now calling for a full investigation after a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died while in Border Patrol custody. One of those lawmakers joins us up next.


[11:46:46] BROWN: Well, the father of the 7-year-old little girl, migrant girl, who died in American custody, is disputing accounts from U.S. officials who say the child had no food or water for days ahead of her detention. The father says he made sure her daughter was fed and had sufficient water on their journey. She got sick just after she and her father were picked up by U.S. Border Patrol on December 6th, and she died less than 48 hours later at a hospital in El Paso, Texas. The family is now calling for an investigation into her death.

And several Democratic lawmakers have signed a letter calling for an investigation into how Border Patrol handled this case.

I want to bring in Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She's one of the lawmakers, and she joins us right now.

Thank you for coming on.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL, (D), WASHINGTON: Thank you. Good to be with you.

You have asked inspector general for Homeland Security to conduct an investigation. That has begun. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is coming before your committee on Thursday. What are some of the questions you want her to answer?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think the big questions, Pamela, number one, is there's supposed to be immediate reporting to Congress to appropriators if there's a death. And I believe that's supposed to happen within 24 hours. In this case, most of us did not find out until a week later through a "Washington post" story. That's a significant breakdown in the kind of transparency and accountability we need.

But the second question is a bigger one in some ways which is what kinds of medical facilities are being implemented? We're supposed to be having medical care for people. If somebody comes into CBP custody and is suffering a seizure or seems dehydrated, there has to be medical care there. We provide a lot of money to CBP, and we need to make sure the money is actually going to the things that it is supposed to go to. And in this case, it seems that there clearly was no accountability around the medical issues that this Jakelin, this little girl, experienced. I think we have heard stories before about not providing food and water. In fact, I have a bill, the first bill I introduced with Senator Kamala Harris, that is around exactly this issue. These are some of the questions Secretary Nielsen is going to have to answer when she comes before the committee.

BROWN: I want to note what the Border Patrol says in response to the medical attention she received. I think it is important to get their side of the story on this issue: "Border Patrol agents, including trained emergency medical technicians, did everything in their power to provide emergency medical assistance for the little girl immediately after her father notified the agents of her distress. We cannot stress enough the dangers posed by traveling long distances and crowded transportation or in the natural elements through remote desert areas without food, water, and other supplies."

So they're saying look, this is a tragedy. But this journey is also very, very dangerous. What is your response to that?

JAYAPAL: Well, I will say that I think there are a lot of great Border Patrol agents who are trying to do the right thing. That said, the reality is, we know that as we have hardened the ability through these metering measures that the Trump administration has put into place, the immediate sending back of asylum seekers and people trying to cross the border legally, it has pushed more and more activity towards these very deserted remote areas. Those ports of entry have not been adequately staffed or given the support and the resources they need. This is really a manufactured crisis on many levels. Manufactured by the Trump administration. When you think about the fact that we have had numbers that are just as much or more than the numbers we are seeing today on the border, they have always been managed because we had a process to allow people to come through. I was in Tijuana a week and a half ago and spent a day there. The people really want to do this legally, but we are pushing people to take these incredibly difficult and dangerous journeys. We can't blame people for that.


[11:50:59] BROWN: When you say pushing, what do you mean? Just to make sure we understand. When you say we are pushing them to make the dangerous journey.

JAYAPAL: Well, thank you. We are pushing them away from legal ports of entry that are safer for them to come in legally because we have shut down all of the legal ports of entry. There's a trickle now for people who are trying to get in at these legal ports of entry. A lot of people are being pushed away from legal ports trying to find other means to get in. You see thousands of people who lined up on the Mexican side in Tijuana and other places. That doesn't take away the countability of Border Patrol.

BROWN: Let me ask you -- it was one of the issues in front of the House Judiciary Committee. You were recently asked by a constituent if you would be willing to support impeachment. This is your response. You said, "I was one of 60 Democrats to advance articles of impeachment against Trump immediately in the Judiciary Committee. We will start having hearings on obstruction of justice, collusion, et cetera. These are serious unprecedented issues."

Are you saying it is time for impeachment because the other side argues there hasn't been concrete evidence of collusion or obstruction of justice? That hasn't really been out there.

JAYAPAL: No. If you notice that I said we will start hearings immediately. That is the jurisdiction of the committee. When we had this debate, the Republicans did not allow us to have hearings in committee. Now we will have the gavel. We'll be able to have the hearings on what's happening. We'll be able to question Michael Cohen. We will be able to lay that out for the American people. The seriousness of the crimes being alleged have investigations into the issues and let's see where that leads us. Finally, we have accountability and jurisdiction. And I'm disappointed that the Republicans are not with us finding out what is at the bottom of all these very, very serious crimes.

BROWN: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you for coming on and sharing your perspective.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: Straight ahead on this Monday, President Trump weighs in on the case of a Special Forces soldier charged with murder. Is he tipping the scales of justice or previewing a pardon? More on that up next.


[11:58:04] BROWN: President Trump said he will review the case of a U.S. Special Forces soldier charged with the murder of a civilian in Afghanistan. Army Major Matt Goldstein admitted to the 2010 killing of a man who he said was a suspected bomb maker. It came up first during a polygraph for Goldstein's job interview with the CIA back in 2011.

CNN's Ryan Browne is at the Pentagon.

Ryan, where does the case stand right now?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Pamela, we are being told that Major Goldstein, by his lawyer, was brought back onto active service last week to be formally charged with the crimes. Again, this happened some time ago. It has been a bit of a long developing case. There was the polygraph exam. And he gave an interview to FOX News in 2016 where he acknowledged killing this bomb maker. But again, the Army only last week bringing him back to charge him. The Department of Defense saying they are not going to comment on the matter, calling it a law enforcement issue, saying they will respect the integrity of the process. But President Trump tweeting about the case over the weekend saying that he is taking a look at it and could potentially get involved. This raises questions because he is the commander-in-chief. There are issues with regard to law enforcement in the military regarding undue command influence. Senior commanders are not supposed to comment on cases like these because it can complicate the prosecution and the court proceedings.

So a lot of questions being raised by President Trump's tweet about whether or not he will take any direct action with regard to this case that is now moving forward with charges.

BROWN: Right. Legal experts say it's unusual for a president to interfere in a case like this. But also this case raises questions of why the military is just now charging him with murder when he admitted to this in 2011. As you point out in 2016. A lot of unanswered questions.

Ryan Browne, thank you very much.

And thank you for joining me today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now. I will see you back here tomorrow.