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Turkey's President Slams Bolton's "Serious Mistake" on Syria; Kamala Harris Launches Book Tour Amid Speculation of White House Run; Flight Attendants' Union: Shutdown Hurting Safety, Security at Airports; 1.5 Million Ex-Felons Can Now Register to Vote in Florida. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUON, CNN ANCHOR: "A serious mistake," that is how the president of Turkey is describing the Trump administration's new policy on U.S. troops in Syria. President Erdogan refused to meet with National Security Advisor John Bolton yesterday after Bolton appeared to contradict President Trump's announced policy of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. Bolton offering conditions during a stop in Israel. You will remember this.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We are going to be discussing the president's decision to withdraw but to do so from northeast Syria in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and become a threat again and to make sure that the defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured.


BOLDUAN: Now, the Turkish president says, quote, "Bolton's remarks in Israel are not acceptable." And Erdogan says he cannot swallow it. What now?

CNN senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, joining me now.

Joe, Erdogan isn't mincing words here. I wonder what the president is going to do. What are you hearing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Anybody's guess. There's certainly an air of confusion, if you will, all around this situation. One of the big concerns in Turkey is the part of Bolton's statement suggesting Turkey would need to give assurances that it would not attack the Kurdish militia in the event the United States with drew. Turkey views the Kurdish militia, which is a U.S. ally, as a terrorist organization. So it's very hard for Erdogan to square that.

As you said, Erdogan has been highly critical of the Bolton remarks, also suggesting, in his view, President Trump made the right decision on saying he would withdraw, even though now we have what is essentially a step back from Bolton. This is the kind of situation that occurs and I would say the

significance of it is the president making a precipitous decision to announce his withdrawal from Turkey without concerting the allies or anybody at the White House. Next step, anybody's guess. We know Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is seeking to assure allies that there's some form and fashion to U.S. policy when it comes to Syria. Anybody's guess, though, where all of this leads.

Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Honestly, answers are needed. There are now more questions. What is U.S. policy with regard to troop withdrawal in Syria? We don't know who is leading the policy. We assume the president, but we still don't know. Now, with Turkey, what does it mean for a relationship with Turkey? It is now more questions than answers. That's what the problem was in not speaking with one voice.

Great to see you, Joe.


JOHNS: -- allies, it's a big deal.

Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Yes, 100 percent.

Thanks, man, I appreciate it.

Coming up, Senator Kamala Harris says she hasn't made up her mind about 2020 but she is launching a major book tour. Is she running?


[11:37:44] BOLDUAN: Is she running or is she running? Right now Democratic Senator Kamala Harris says she is not really running. She is just rolling out a new book. Listen.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D), CALIFORNIA: I think we are at an inflection moment, not only in the history of our country but in the history of our world. There's a lot that is in flux there, there's a lot that is changing.

There are a lot of people who rightly feel displaced and are wondering, where do they belong, are they relevant, are they seen, are we thinking about them. I think it is clear to me that what we need in this country is leadership that has a vision in the future in which everyone can see themselves.


BOLDUAN: Senator Harris is one of many Democrats taking a serious look at entering the 2020 presidential race. And rolling out a book after making stops in Iowa is doing nothing to tamp down that speculation. Is she running?

Here now, CNN national political reporter, Maeve Reston, and CNN Politics editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

Maeve, is she?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: All signs certainly point to yes. My sources in California are telling me that they expect an announcement later this month most likely out on the west coast where she built her political career as a prosecutor and as California's attorney general. And you have seen in these appearances this morning and in this book a real rallying cry against the Trump administration's policies and what she calls a call to action. Her constant refrain both in Iowa and in this book is that we're better than this. Clearly she, feels that it's time for someone who is a more diverse figure in American politics, someone who can lead the country and represent the voiceless. She sort of positioned herself as a champion for the powerless here.

BOLDUAN: Chris, so much of the discussion to this point has been do Democrats go for a centrist Democrat? Where does Kamala Harris land?

[11:39:53] CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: She is not center left. Out of the broad spectrum of the 30 plus candidates who might run, in exaggeration but really only slightly, she is not as far left totally. On policy she is probably close but not as far left as Bernie Sanders. But neither is she the establishment pragmatist we need to work with Republicans. I think Joe Biden represents to people whether or not he will talk like that. She is certainly closer to the left than center-left. I think she views that probably as a good thing if that is where the nominee can from. The left, there will be a lot of candidates trying to be the most liberal candidate. Biden will occupy the pragmatic center candidate. I don't think anyone else could. And then the in-between there maybe that is where the nominee comes from. I'm with Maeve, I think her tough-on-crime background, the attorney general of California, the first Indiana-American and first African-American woman elected to the Senate in California.

BOLDUAN: And that --

CILLIZZA: This is a background that looks like the kind of candidate that the Democratic Party is looking for these days.

BOLDUAN: She is the only woman of color who is considering a run, Maeve. What does that mean for her on how she positions herself?

RESTON: She had this string of historic firsts throughout her career.


RESTON: She is obviously the first African-American Senator from California. And this book really lays out kind of how the story of her immigrant parents shaped her thinking, how she approaches the issue of immigration, for example. And what her team hopes and she does have a good strong team around here, is that she will be able to build a coalition of white progressives coming from that background in San Francisco, women and particularly African-Americans, who will be so key in those early state contests, not just in South Carolina where they made up 61 percent of the electorate in the primary, but also in all of those southeastern states that will come very quickly up on the calendar after those early contests. And if she can rack up a series of wins by consolidating the African-American vote which is a tall task, then she really could be in a strong position early in the presidential season.

BOLDUAN: First, she has to announce and then raise money. She is from California, which is where a lot of money is for a Democratic candidate.

Chris, we were talking about Joe Biden. I spoke with former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, another possible. He told me that his decision to run is separate and independent of Joe Biden's decision to run, if and when he decides. If Biden is the best-known right now, what does Biden's decision to run or not mean for everybody else?

CILLIZZA: Well, I mean, I think most people that I talk to -- if you look at every sign out there, most people assume Biden is going to run barring some last-minute change of heart. I think people are saying he starts the race as the front runner. The question is, how much oxygen is there out there if you are not going to try to be the most liberal candidate, and if you don't have the sort of angle that the historic angle that a Kamala Harris will have, where is there oxygen to get somewhere else. If Biden is the traditional candidate, where do you run and fit? That's where Biden matters. It takes up a big chunk of space that other people can't occupy.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Buckle up, friends.

Great to see you, Maeve.

RESTON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Chris.

Thanks guys.

RESTON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the government shutdown must end -- that is a message from the president of the Association of Flight Attendants. Why she says the shutdown is jeopardizing safety and security at airports.


[11:48:20] BOLDUAN: First it was the pilot's union who warned the president the shutdown was adversely affecting the safety and security of the skies. Now it is the flight attendants' union warning the same. In a new statement, warning this: "This shutdown jeopardizes the job of our members. But even before that, it means that critical functions such as cyber security work and safety reporting systems are unfunded. Aviation takes a full team of people performing multiple functions of safety and security, and the shutdown unravels those protections."

Joining me now is Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Sara, thank you for joining me.


BOLDUAN: The country is now into day 18 of the shutdown into the third week. And the way they are talking is it could be months, not weeks that we continue to look at this shutdown. What are you hearing from your members right now?

NELSON: This becomes increasingly concerning. Our members look at this and understand that aviation safety is a layered approach. So if you just look at going to the airport and these transportation security officers who at the lowest level are making around $24,000 a year, cannot afford to miss a paycheck. This is the first week now that they're going to missing paychecks. That becomes a stress. We need to think about the human factor here. Most Americans cannot afford to miss a paycheck. The late fees start to accumulate, you miss mortgage payments, and you're not able to provide for you family. You have to start thinking about your family, which may require them to go away. That will cut down on the capacity to be able to screen passengers safely. The functions behind the safety recording system, the security recording systems, all the people at DHS and DOT and FA that support these processes and the inspectors who keep us safe are not doing that work right now. So the redundancies and the layers of security are not in place even now. What is going to further happen, then, is people are not going to be able to stay.

[11:50:21] I applaud these patriotic Americans who have been coming to work without any certainty of pay, any certainty of being able to recover the pay they're not accruing now, and now ultimately missing paychecks. And they are coming and they are making this system work as much as they can, keeping it as safe as possible. But the reality is that the infrastructure has already unraveled, and that will continue to exacerbate and ultimately affect the jobs of my members, not only their safety and security at work but put into jeopardy the ability of the airlines to keep the capacity of the airline system running, which threatens our jobs and the jobs of 11 million Americans who depend on aviation.

BOLDUAN: I flew with my family this weekend, along with millions other Americans, because it was a big travel weekend. Were we less safe flying?

NELSON: We don't have the full layers of security as we do when these agencies are operating at full capacity. So there's an impact on safety there. There absolutely is. And that will continue to grow and exacerbate.

BOLDUAN: Is the border wall in the name of national security? Is there something you could hear from the president tonight when he speaks that would convince you that the border wall for security purposes is worth the government being shut down and worth all the things you just listed out?

NELSON: The thing is aviation workers shouldn't be having to talk about a border wall. We understand the work we do that's important to Homeland Security, that's important to aviation safety, that contributes 5 percent to our gross national product, that supports 11 million jobs, and so we shouldn't be brought into this debate about a border wall. It has nothing to do with us. And we cannot sacrifice safety and security of certain areas of Homeland Security and our aviation system for a talk about another kind of security.

So this is -- what's wrong here is that aviation workers are being dragged into this debate, used as bargaining chips, and these are real Americans who have to provide for their families. This is not right. We have a solution here. We have a solution that the House has passed, that the Senate has previously passed. Let's get that done, let's move this forward. I would implore Leader McConnell to bring this to the floor and get these agencies back up and running so that we can start the programs that are already starting to get degraded, that we're going to have a hard time starting back up already. We need to get this back up and moving. You can continue the debate with the aviation system up and running. And we need that done now. We need the shutdown ended now because every single day that this goes on, we become less safe and less secure. And that, I believe, is the whole point of the debate. So we cannot degrade the safety and security we already have in place to talk about another issue related to our safety in this country.

BOLDUAN: Sara, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. Let's see where things go and what the president says tonight.

We'll be right back.


[11:57:11] BOLDUAN: Right now, the new governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is being sworn into office as we speak. He's coming into office just as more than a million new voters will be able to vote in the state's elections. Why is that? Starting today, most ex-felons will be able to register to vote, and it could reshape the political landscape in that very important state.

CNN correspondent, Rosa Flores, is in Florida with more.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rashawn Welch turned his life around in the nearly five years he spent in federal prison for bank fraud. Now he is a successful entrepreneur in Miami.

RASHAWN WELCH, EX-FELON: Now I'm able to get these young men who had a bad path to be able to change their life now.

FLORES: But one thing has been out of his reach ever since his conviction, the right to vote. Something forbidden for felons under Florida law until now. The Sunshine State overwhelmingly approved an amendment allowing an

estimated 1.5 million felons who have served their sentences and any probation or parole to register to vote, starting today. The new rights don't apply to those convicted of murder or violent sexual offenses.

So 1.5 million new voters in a state already infamous for razor thin margin elections and nail-biting recounts.


FLORES: Political science professor, Charles Zelden, says Amendment IV had the potential to dramatically alter Florida's political landscape.

ZELDEN: It doesn't matter what party they are because this potentially changes the political dynamic across the state in every county, in every voting district.

FLORES: But that no one knows for sure what such a massive potential increase to the voter rolls in such a short amount of time will mean for the political establishment. And that's why Zelden says politicians are rattled.

ZELDEN: They are literally an unknown, which is why the politicians are scared.

FLORES: The ACLU of Florida, which spearheaded the statewide effort, said getting Amendment IV passed was a battle that transcended party politics.

MELBA PEARSON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU OF FLORIDA: This was truly a nonpartisan issue.

FLORES: But acknowledged it's the parties that stand to benefit the fruits of the ACLU's efforts.

PEARSON: This is an equal opportunity amendment, and whoever takes advantage of it is who may see a change in the coming years.

FLORES: As for Rashawn Welch, he doesn't plan to waste any time in exercising his new right.

WELCH: I'm excited to go vote tomorrow. And not only will I go register to vote, I'm going to take some people with me.


[11:29:50] FLORES: And Rashawn Welch kept his word. Take a look at this video. He just registered to vote moments ago. Our cameras were rolling. He had some youth with him as well.

And, Kate, we have spoken with both parties here in Florida, and they tell me that they're going to be zeroing in on this new group of freshly new voters ahead of 2020 -- Kate?