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How Kamala Harris Could Win the Democratic Nomination; Federal Workers Turn to Food Banks to Feed Families; New Book Describes Trump Administration Staff as Out of Control Chaos; Spike Lee Wins Best Director, Best Picture for "BlacKkKlansman". Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 22, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:25] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Depending on who you talk to, some say she could be the greatest threat to President Trump's bid for re-election. Talking about Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris. But first, it is going to be crowded on that debate stage with an expected field of 18 to 24 Democrats vying for the nomination. It's no wonder we're already analyzing this match-up in January of 2019.

CNN politics reporter, editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is with me.

And, Chris, you've been reading the tea leaves on how she could pull it off and the biggest clue is looking at her campaign schedule this week.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's right. First of all, on the coverage, if they're running we're covering them, right? Kamala Harris, she had a little bit of a press conference yesterday. She'll go to Oakland, California, on Saturday and make a formal speech. But where will she go in between, South Carolina, and that's really important.

Let's go over the map and timing. Let me preface this by saying these dates are iffy. They change, they could move up. They could go into January or February. February 3rd, Iowa caucuses. February 11th, New Hampshire primary. These are always the first four states usually they go all in a month.

Here's -- let's pop-up what happened in past nomination fights. Barack Obama wins the Iowa caucuses in 2008, beats Hillary Clinton. She actually finishes third behind John Edwards. He then loses in New Hampshire very shockingly at the time, loses in Nevada, but crushes Clinton in South Carolina and gives himself a huge bit of momentum going into March -- into February at that time because this was actually in January in '08, going into February. He wins a bunch of caucuses. Why does that matter you ask? This vote -- African- American vote in a Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina is almost always over 50 percent of the vote. It sometimes be as high as 60 percent. Kamala Harris, African-American and Indian-American woman. South Carolina is a place she's got to win. My question, if she can't win Iowa or New Hampshire and you've got one, two, three votes before we get here, basically a month of voting before we get to South Carolina, can she wait.

I think the specter was talking about Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was going to skip Iowa and wait until New Hampshire. Then he couldn't win in New Hampshire and he was going to wait until Florida. By the time Florida happened, the race was beyond him and he was done for. Can Harris wait? Does she win, place or show here or here or here. Which is, in California, she'll have geographic connections. The map is interesting. This is a must win. She must win South Carolina. Does she need to come in first, second or third, somewhere else here?

Brooke, back to you.

BALDWIN: Potentially, South Carolina. Early March.


BALDWIN: I hear you. Exactly, the early calendar is key.

Chris, thank you so much.

Speaking of, Senator Harris, a reminder, CNN will host a town hall with Senator Kamala Harris. Jake Tapper will be monitoring, Monday, 10:00 Eastern, from Des Moines, Iowa.

Up next, a new book, a tell-all about President Trump from the perspective of a former aide. And he says the West Wing is out of control. We have his admissions, revelations, and why the president apparently said that Anthony Scaramucci may be on drugs.


[14:38:11] BALDWIN: Federal workers are on the verge of going a whole month now without a pay check. And right this very moment, so many of them are turning to food banks simply to feed their families. They are in utter disbelief that, despite having perfectly good jobs, they need help putting food on the table.

And with me now is the CEO of Feeding America, Claire Babineaux- Fontenot.

Claire, thank you so much for being with me.

And I mean, you're in charge after an extraordinary organization and extraordinary times. Can you just -- you tell me how inundated you all have been in the last 32 days?

CLAIRE BABINEAUX-FONTENOT, CEO, FEEDING AMERICA: Well, first, thank you so much for having us. It probably is a good idea for me to explain how our network works. We participate as a part of a network of over 200 food banks across the United States and we serve every county in the United States. So every displaced worker impacted by the shutdown is within our service area. As you might imagine, the impact has been significant and it's also been varied.

BALDWIN: Been varied, how so? BABINEAUX-FONTENOT: Well, how we responded has depended in large part

on what the need has been. We've had lots of outreach to our food banks asking for help. We've responded in different ways. As an example, sometimes the response has been that we've proactively set up pantries on site inside of food banks. Other times as is the case with some of the TSA workers, we've actually had mobile pantries and we've gone out to where the people are who are in need. We've coordinated with social service agencies, so we've tried to address the need as it has arrived in the varied forms we've seen it.

[14:40:03] BALDWIN: Claire, I think the other piece of the story is, you know, we're so grateful to these federal employees across the country and they're a proud group. And I would bet my bottom dollar that a lot of them have never actually in their wildest dreams thought they would need to be going to you guys or various food pantries or food banks for help. And I'm just wondering if you have spoken to any of them and I know others have about how difficult this must be for these men and women who never thought they'd be in this situation?

BABINEAUX-FONTENOT: You're absolutely right. And one of the things that we focus a lot of energy on is insuring that people are greeted with dignity and respect as they found themselves in need. I was surprised to learn that organizations, associations like Feeding America, that we're called upon like last year. We served over 46 million people four billion meals last year alone. On top of that we have the impact of this shutdown and we found across the board that it can be very difficult to reach out for help because many of these people they work hard, they're dedicated, they don't want to ask, so we've worked hard to ensure that it's not difficult to ask. We've tried to come to them when we can. And as I said, we focus a lot of energy on treating them with dignity and respect in their hour and need.

BALDWIN: Kind of you. Kind of Feeding America.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, thank you so much for all that you're doing.

BABINEAUX-FONTENOT: Thank you so much as well for inviting us.

BALDWIN: You got it.

BABINEAUX-FONTENOT: And may I ask that anyone who would like to help with this effort, we actually have set up a fund. And probably the quickest way to do it, there are two paths, one is to reach out directly to your local food banks. And another is, if you want to have an impact on a national level, we set up a text, which is feed at 50555. And thanks again for giving us the opportunity to speak to your audience. We really appreciate it.

BALDWIN: You got it. We'll get it out on my tweet, @brookeCNN.

Claire, thank you so much, with Feeding America.


BALDWIN: You got it.

Just ahead here on CNN, a new twist in the controversy over the viral video, this confrontation between students, what with those Make America Great Again hats, with this Native American elder. Why their classes were canceled today.

Plus, snubs and surprises. And Spike Lee's very first Oscar nod for best director. The headlines and the nomination ahead.


[14:46:59] BALDWIN: A former White House communications aide has a new book out and it is painting quite a vivid picture of the disarray and mayhem that is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. According to excerpts first obtained by the "Washington Post," Cliff Simms is this author. He describes the Trump administration staff as, quote, "absolutely out of control," and describes scenes of chaos, dysfunction and duplicity among the president, his family members and administration officials. The book is called, "Team of Vipers." The author, Cliff Simms, served 18 months in the Trump White House and portrays himself as a true believer in Trump and his agenda.

With me now is Ron Elving, the Washington desk senior editor and correspondent for NPR. He has gotten his hands on this book and has devoured it.

So, Ron, let's get right into the details. Good to have you on, Ron.


BALDWIN: Tell me some stories. Let's start with two words for you, Paul Ryan.

ELVING: There are many scenes between the president and the speaker of the House. In early 2017, the speaker comes up to the White House with Mike Pence, the vice president, to explain how tax reform is going to work in all of its wonderful detail. This does not interest the president very much. And after the conversation has gone on for a while, he literally gets up while Paul Ryan is in mid-description and wanders out of the Oval Office and down the hallway into a side room where one can hear the television being switched on. And eventually Mike Pence gets up, goes down the hall, brings the president back and they finish the conversation. There are a number of stories like that about Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: How about John Kelly?

ELVING: John Kelly came in and, initially, the author, Cliff Simms, felt the general would impose discipline and bring military rigor to the operation and, indeed, he does. The author also says, "I wonder how long this can last." It doesn't. And shortly before John Kelly's own departure, one of the last things he does, some months before, but one of the things he does is put an end to Cliff Simms' career at the White House because he thought Simms was inserting himself too much into Oval Office proceedings and trying to get too close to the president. In the end, John Kelly's imposing of some discipline was not too good news for the author.

BALDWIN: Sounds like he also confided in Simms. The press was reporting this is John Kelly's last day. What did he say to Simms, something to the effect of I hope --


ELVING: He basically said this is the worst job I've ever had. They couldn't do anything to make me happier than to put me out the door. I'm sure he felt much more ambivalent about his own departure from the White House. He did have that. And there were other people who have reported John Kelly saying similar things.

BALDWIN: Yes. He also named names. Who did he name as far as the biggest vipers in the pit that is the White House?

ELVING: He's pretty rough on Kellyanne Conway, calls her the American sniper of all the people who are firing from the rooftop of the White House or taking shots at other people. He's pretty rough on Reince Priebus. In the end, he is a defender of people like Steve Bannon. And generally speaks for the folks that came from the campaign, people who came from outside of Washington, and against the people who are Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, or Sean Spicer, who had been a spokesperson for that organization. He's not trustful. He is distrustful of everyone having to do with the RNC, and defending people the closest to the president, including people around him and his own family, Jared and Ivanka, among them. All praise for those folks.

[14:50:33] BALDWIN: Your reporting on NPR, having read the book, you talk about how this is like Mr. Smith goes to the "Washington Post." How do you mean?

ELVING: "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" is a classical movie from 1939 with Jimmy Stewart. He comes to Washington with ideas and ideals and he has a struggle but, in the end, he sticks by his principles and prevails. This story of Cliff Simms is much more realistic. He's an ambitious and talented young man from the heartland. He comes here with ideas and ideals and runs into conflict with other people with different ideas and different ideals and, in the end, he finds himself swamped and then ejected from exactly the kind of situation that he was trying to get in to, disillusioned and sorry the president didn't do more to save him in the end.

BALDWIN: Ron Elving, with NPR. Thank you so much, Ron, for coming on. And we're laying some of the stories about some of the so-called vipers. Thank you so much.

ELVING: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And stay with me. New details still coming in on how the White House is planning for the State of the Union a week from today, even though Speaker Pelosi still wants to postpone it.

And next, are White House press briefings officially dead? What CNN is learning about a prolonged power struggle within the White House communication team and why briefings have now ground to a complete halt.


[14:56:24] BALDWIN: Oscar nominations are out and everyone is talking about Director Spike Lee. After nearly 40 years of making films, this man has finally nabbed his first nod for not just best director but also for best picture in the summer hit "BlacKkKlansman."




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is Ron Stallworth (ph) calling.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Who am I speaking with?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is David Duke, grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. That David Duke.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Last time I checked.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What can I do for you?.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Since you ask, I hate blacks, I hate Jews.


BALDWIN: It's an incredible film. Spike Lee going on Instagram to celebrate posting six nominations, six boom shackalackcas. Ya dig? Sho-nuff.

Other headlines, Netflix is here to play. It's film "Roma" scooped up 10 nominations and is tied with the favorites.

With me now, Lola Ogunnaike, anchor for "People TV."

So good to see you.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, ANCHOR, PEOPLE TV: Good to see you, too.

BALDWIN: So, Spike Lee.


BALDWIN: Forty years?

OGUNNAIKE: It took 40 years.


OGUNNAIKE: Better late than never. I did not remember that he was not nominated for "Do the Right Thing." That year the big movie to beat was "Driving Miss Daisy."


OGUNNAIKE: Can you imagine?

BALDWIN: We talked about that.


BALDWIN: Sore spot for him.

OGUNNAIKE: As we see on Instagram, he's very happy today. And there was a sign that this movie may do well for him because he did actually win the best grand prize at the film festival in Cannes. There was a sign this was going to do well for him. I don't think he even expected he would get s/so many nominations. Six for this one film, best picture, best director, best supporting, best screen play, best film editing and best original score.

BALDWIN: So several people of color nominated this director, no women, no Bradley Cooper. I had the ugly cry on Sunday finally watching that movie.

OGUNNAIKE: Sure. Sure. Bradley Cooper had the ugly cry today when he realized he wasn't nominated.

BALDWIN: So incredible though.

But "Roma," you're obsessed. Netflix. Tell me about it.

OGUNNAIKE: I'm obsessed with this because the woman who stars in "Roma", only 25 years old, had never been in a film before, beat out 3,000 girls for this one role, 3,000 girls. And now she has a best Oscar nomination. She is the Cinderella story of the year. There should be a film about her story. She was an aspiring preschool teacher and now she's right up there --


BALDWIN: Say the name again.


BALDWIN: Very good.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: "Roma" first Netflix picture got a best director nod. Any huge surprises? Disappointments for you in all of this coming out?

OGUNNAIKE: I was surprised that Emily Blunt was nominated for Mary Poppins." She was stellar in the role, but I guess there was some competition in that role. Mary Poppins -- I forget her name.

BALDWIN: "Sound of Music."

OGUNNAIKE: You've got her.

BALDWIN: Julie Andrews!


OGUNNAIKE: Julie Andrews! An Oscar --


BALDWIN: I'm about to start spinning on top of a mountain.

OGUNNAIKE: No. A best Oscar win. None for Emily.

BALDWIN: There you go.

Thank you for the laugh. I needed that.

OGUNNAIKE: I needed that, too.

BALDWIN: Julie Andrews.

OGUNNAIKE: The Hills are alive.

BALDWIN: See you next time.

OK. Here we go. Hour two, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Day 32 of the government shutdown and it is the show part of showdown playing out right now in Congress. The two parties will present show votes this week, one in the Senate, the other in the House.