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Government Funding Talks Stall Five Days Before Shutdown Deadline; Federal Employee Just Received Back Pay for Historic Shutdown; Senator Amy Klobuchar Announces 2020 Bid for President. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 10, 2019 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: He's now given way to some concern.

Sources tell CNN bipartisan talks have reached a standstill and concern is growing that a deal won't be reached by the Friday deadline. White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney making it clear this morning that another painful shutdown could be looming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": So is it fair to say whatever Congress hands him, he'll sign. He just may not be enthusiastic about it?

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: No, I don't think so.

TODD: You're not ready to go there?

MULVANEY: No, I can't --

TODD: You can't -- we cannot definitively rule out a government shutdown at the end of this week?

MULVANEY: You absolutely cannot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And despite the ticking clock, some lawmakers are holding out hope that a deal can come together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING: I certainly hope we're not headed for another shutdown. I think the president has been clear, and the Republicans in the House have certainly been clear that we absolutely have got to secure the border. I'm hopeful that this committee will be able to come up with a proposal that we can all support, that the president can sign.

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: We are not to a point where we can announce a deal. Negotiations are still going on. There are good people on this committee, so I have confidence that hopefully we'll get something done very soon. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So as we wait to see how negotiations play out on Capitol Hill, another Democrat just jumped into the race for president. Moments ago, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar made her big announcement at a subfreezing rally in Minneapolis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron-ore miner, as the daughter of a teacher and a newspaper man, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KLOBUCHAR: To announce my candidacy for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And we'll have more on the crowded Democratic field in just a little bit. So let's begin with CNN's White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

Good to see you, Boris. So the president is getting ready to make a trip to the border tomorrow. What can you tell us?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, the president is going to be speaking in El Paso, Texas. We will likely hear him bash Democrats. It is still to be a question what the president exactly will say to the American people just five days, four days before a second potential government shutdown. More on that in a second.

Now what I can tell you is that talks so far between Democrats and Republicans have slowed down. Sources have indicated that they are at an impasse over a proposed cap from Democrats on the number of beds at ICE detention facilities. A Republican source has indicated that the number that Democrats are proposing is so low that ICE agents would not be able to do their jobs.

Democrats have argued that they have already offered concessions to Republicans on a number of issues, and this is something that they want. The acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was asked what he believed the most likely outcome of all these impasses and all these disagreements would be. Here's his response on "Meet the Press" this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Whatever he's short of, is he going to find the money somewhere else? Is that what we should expect?

MULVANEY: I think that's fair. That's probably the most likely outcome. Again you cannot take a shutdown off the table. And you cannot take $5.7 off the table. But if you end up some place in the middle, yes, then what you'll probably see is the president say, yes, OK, and then I'll go find the money someplace else.

TODD: You've been looking for the money in the budget.

MULVANEY: I have been.

TODD: There's this national emergency. Are the two the same or different? Do you find money without declaring a national emergency, or do you need to declare the national emergency to use this other money?

MULVANEY: The answer to the question is both. There are certain sums of money that are available to the president, to any president. And there's pots of money where presidents, all presidents have access to without a national emergency. And there's ones that he will not have access to without that declaration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: As for the president's messaging tomorrow, we got a bit of a taste for it. He set the table on Twitter this morning, attacking Democrats in a pair of tweets, suggesting that they are being held back by their congressional leadership and also talking about the controversy at the Governor's Mansion in Virginia, suggesting that Democrats have had a bad week because of that, and positive reviews for his State of the Union address.

I can also tell you, Fred, that a source, a Democratic aide, indicates that if negotiations continue to stall, they will bring to the House floor a bill that would fund DHS at least through September and keep other government agencies open. It's still unclear if the Republican- led Senate would take that up, though -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much, at the White House.

So if there is another partial U.S. government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal employees could soon be working, again, without paychecks. The IRS said Thursday that there are still hundreds of employees who have received some but not all of their back pay, even as we approach yet another potential shutdown.

I'm joined now by Alfreda Dennis-Bowyer. She is a U.S. Agriculture Department employee in Delaware and just received her back pay from the last shutdown on Wednesday.

[16:05:02] But, Alfreda, explain to me, at first you did receive a check, thought it was going to be back pay, but then come to find out it was, what, $250 versus the $9,000 in back pay you were expecting?

ALFREDA DENNIS-BOWYER, U.S. AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEE: Yes, that was a surprise.

WHITFIELD: And what was that like? I mean, you got the check. You thought, oh, great, here's my back pay. And you eagerly opened it up, and then what was your reaction?

DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, when I checked my account, I saw the $250 and I said, what in the world is this? I was wondering, where is the rest of my money? So later on in the week, I did get pretty much what I was expecting. It wasn't quite $9,000, but it was about getting close to it.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. So that's right, the automatic deposit in your bank account. So then, I understand the $250 ends up being, what, sort of like a reward for working through the shutdown that wasn't necessarily a representation of your pay?

DENNIS-BOWYER: When we found out from the district office, they said that that was a bonus for continuing to work during the shutdown. That allowed the companies to continue to run because mandatory inspection is required in order for the meat and poultry companies to produce products. So that $250 was a bonus.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right. So, Alfreda, what are your thoughts and concerns now? Just, you know, what, five days away from another potential shutdown with a deadline approaching on pulling a budget together. What are your biggest concerns right now?

DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, right now we are concerned. We still have people, at least 120 inspectors at this point, that have not been paid from the last shutdown. And people are beginning -- the ones that do have their money, they're beginning to try to pull themselves out of this predicament they were in because of the shutdown.

So with another one coming on, you're going to have people without pay again, trying to decide how to keep their households running. So I'm hoping that the president is going to make the right decision and look for money elsewhere because it's not fair to us as working employees to work without pay.

WHITFIELD: And what are these colleagues telling you about the fact that they haven't -- they have yet to get their back pay and now they're looking at this, you know, next potential -- I mean, what kinds of adjustments, you know, are they able to make? Remember the president had said, you know, people would be making adjustments. But then what are people telling you about, you know, their worries, how they're going to, you know, pay the rent, pay mortgage, car bills, all that?

DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, people are concerned. Now the good thing, a lot of the creditors and mortgage companies, they are working with us, but it is not fair for people to work, and a lot of them are working overtime, and not getting their money in a timely fashion. The people are concerned. You know, we make adjustments, but it's not fair to the people. They're just -- they're upset.

I just spoke with one of my co-workers yesterday. And he works seven days a week and still has not gotten his money. And he says he's not asking for anything other than what he has earned.

WHITFIELD: Alfreda Dennis-Bowyer, thank you so much. Of course everyone keeping their fingers crossed that people do not have to continue to go without pay and that certainly there will be something expedited so that they can finally receive their back pay. Thanks so much.

DENNIS-BOWYER: Yes, thank you so much. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it.

Let's talk more about all of this. Historian and professor at Princeton University, Julian Zelizer, with us, and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Michael Shear.

Good to see you both.

So, Julian, you know, you hear about the anxiety there from federal workers. And if there is yet another shutdown, you know, how can lawmakers and the president justify this?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well, they can't. This is dysfunction. And this is not something that should be tolerable. We're normalizing government shutdowns as a tactic in negotiation.

I think the Republicans will face a lot of pressure just as they did the last round. This did not sit well with a lot of the public. And as stories of government workers come out, and equally important stories of government services like air traffic control not being provided, I think many Republicans understand this could be very damaging to the party that's already hurting.

WHITFIELD: And Michael, just five days left, you know, for this, you know, government funding deal, there was so much optimism leading into the weekend. What does this lack of optimism on a Sunday evening now tell you?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it is possible that we'll get something before the end of the week. You know, Congress likes to push up against these deadlines until the very last minute. So it's still possible that something happens.

Talking to the folks on the Hill today, what you get the sense is that the Democrats have been willing in the negotiations to sort of go a little bit towards the president on the wall money. There's not as much money as the president would like, but that he'd -- but that they're willing to go a little bit of the way of -- you know, perhaps as much as $2 billion for some sort of funding for a barrier or a wall along the border.

[16:10:10] But they've sort of introduced this new element, which is to say you put the limit on the number of beds that ICE can reserve for people that they pick up. The idea, the Democrats say, is that that will force the administration to only prioritize really truly bad criminals and not do what they've been doing for the last two years, which is to arrest people just for the crime of being in the country illegally, which is something that the Democrats have been really frustrated with over the last two years. WHITFIELD: So, Julian, at issue is still, you know, this border wall

funding. The president keeps, you know, threatening a national emergency, that he would declare it and money would be located elsewhere, but is that still an uphill battle for the president?

ZELIZER: It is an uphill battle. If he does that, he'll be challenged both by Congress, which has the ability to challenge his invoking that power, and it will be challenged in the court. There's very few people who agree that we are in the middle of a national emergency other than the fact we can't move forward with a budget. Not an emergency on the border.

So that will be a rough process. But the president doesn't mind. In some ways, it just pushes the battle to another playing field. He can have it again. And there will be some money available without invoking emergency power that he can use. So I still think this is very appealing to him, and it allows him to act like a commander-in- chief in a time of crisis, which politically he finds attractive.

WHITFIELD: So, Michael, does it appear the president might be OK with a second shutdown?

SHEAR: I mean, you know, you heard what Mick Mulvaney said. I mean, I think you have to, you know, believe that this president is willing to push beyond the normal boundaries of political sort of decorum that we'd all grown used to for a long time. I mean, we just finished a 35-day shutdown. That's the longest that's ever happened in the country.

So if I were a betting person, I certainly wouldn't bet that the person is 100 percent going to sign whatever is put in front of him, but I think, as Julian just said, the pressure really, really did mount on the Republican Party, on the president and his Republican allies in Congress, and I think that they are still feeling the pain of that in Congress. And I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on the president as this deadline comes near.

WHITFIELD: The president heading to Texas tomorrow, using, you know, the border as a backdrop for him to continue to, you know, argue that a wall is necessary.

Why, Julian, will this trip be any different from the trip he made just a few weeks ago?

ZELIZER: It won't be any different. We're replaying the same strategy over and over. This is not an idea that sits well with the majority of the public. But it is a tool to keep his own base excited and to keep part of the Republican coalition on board with what he's doing. So I don't think he's going to grow support for the wall. I don't think you're going to see any change in the political dynamics, but he's using this again and again as a strategy to keep the loyal loyal.

And the question remains, what do Republicans do? What does the rest of the Republican Party do? They can join Democrats and override any veto. They have the power to control this. And we just don't know how they're going to respond.

WHITFIELD: Michael?

SHEAR: Yes, I think that's right. And I think, you know, get ready to hear a much more combative tone from the president tomorrow than you did during the State of the Union speech. I mean, you know, this is a rally tomorrow. This is a campaign rally set up and put on by the president's re-election campaign. And it's where he's most comfortable. And it's where the president's really tough rhetoric on the wall and on everything else on immigration tends to come out.

And I think by the end of -- you know, 24 hours from now, I think we'll probably feel less optimistic, not more, given what the president has said. And then the question will be, can the party -- as Julian said, can the party pull him back from the edge over the course of the next several days and the week as we get to the Friday deadline?

WHITFIELD: All right. Michael Shear, Julian Zelizer, good to see you both. Thank you so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And now it is official. Another Democrat challenging Trump for the presidency 2020. But does Senator Amy Klobuchar stand a chance?

I'll talk one-on-one with the adviser who helped her win her Senate seat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:41] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The already crowded Democratic field of presidential contenders just keeps growing. In the last hour, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced she is running for president.

The three-term Democratic senator making the announcement on this very cold, snowy day in Minneapolis. Klobuchar joins a crowded field of Democratic candidates who have already announced their candidacy or have formed exploratory committees, hoping to face off against Donald Trump in 2020.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Minneapolis.

Suzanne, OK, so the crowd has cleared out but not the snow.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You got that right, Fred. I mean, it's expected to just keep snowing all afternoon. It was really quite amazing when you looked at her give that speech, deliver that speech, snow capped, if you will. The snow just kept on falling.

It was an enthusiastic bunch. It just happened within the last hour, as we had all shared that moment, really pitching herself as the candidate from the heartland, someone who has a big heart, willing to cross the aisle to get things done, very effective senator for Minnesota, for her own constituency, but also somebody who was pushing for a traditional Democratic agenda, whether it be for comprehensive immigration reform or for health care reform, as well as cybersecurity and opioid addiction and countering prescription drug, high prescription drug costs.

[16:20:03] And I had a chance to catch up with her afterwards, Fred, to ask her specifically, because it is such a crowded field, what makes her different, what makes her think that she's going to be able to stand out amongst really some of those other top-tier candidates and really make a difference in this primary. And here's how she responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: What makes you a unique candidate at this time? It's a crowded field. What makes you different than all the others?

KLOBUCHAR: OK. What makes me unique is I did this announcement speech in the middle of a blizzard, and I think we need people with grit. I have that grit. And it's really important that we hear from all parts of the country and have someone in the White House that has people's back. And I am going to start here right on the Mississippi River, reach out to the rest of the heartland, and then to the rest of the country.

MALVEAUX: And what about those who say that there are progressives in the party, those on the coasts and the urban areas who say that that's the party -- the direction the party is going? How do you win them over?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think what we all want to see is progress. We want a president that looks people in the eye and tells them the truth and tells them where we need to go, and I don't think that has to be from one part of the country. It's what I've done my whole life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And Fred, one of the challenges that she has is first name recognition. This really is her first big opportunity, this announcement, to really introduce herself to the rest of the country. She is loved and respected here in her home state. She's very well known in Washington, D.C., for getting a lot of legislation passed. And of course, she gained national spotlight at the Kavanaugh hearings, the Supreme Court nomination hearings.

But she is somebody who is not on the left, left leaning side. She doesn't believe in abolishing ICE or Medicare for all, as in Bernie Sanders' position. And so she is somebody who's positioned herself as a moderate in the middle, and the big question is whether or not in the primary that the Democratic Party really has that kind of appetite for that candidate. Is that what they are looking for this go round to beat this president -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much. Hope that hot chocolate or hot cider was good. (LAUGHTER)

WHITFIELD: All right. With me now is Jeff Blodgett, a Democratic strategist in Minnesota who has advised Amy Klobuchar during her Senate runs.

Jeff, thanks so much for being with me. You're looking cool as a cucumber there.

JEFF BLODGETT, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST IN MINNESOTA: Yes, well, I just came inside from that extraordinary event that Suzanne was talking about. It's snowy, cold, a typical Sunday in Minnesota.

WHITFIELD: Yes, so it didn't deter the enthusiasm whatsoever. And in fact, you know, Senator Klobuchar really helped use that, you know, as a great backdrop to say, you know, she is hardy and this fight overall is coming from the heart. So what kind of advice will you be giving her, or would you give her for the road ahead?

BLODGETT: Well, look, I do think it's great that she's in the race. I think she offers some unique things. One of them is that she comes from the Midwest. She really reflects Midwest values. And we've got to win it. Democrats have to win in the Midwest if we're going to take back the White House. So I think that having a candidate who's not from the coast, who can reflect that voice of the Democratic Party is really important.

WHITFIELD: So, Klobuchar, you know, is known as a moderate. And in fact she's also voted in favor of President Trump's agenda about 30 percent of the time, you know, since he has been in office. So how does she use that to her advantage?

BLODGETT: Yes. Well, so I would classify her as a progressive who likes to get things done. And so her orientation is as a problem solver. But there's also her style is upbeat, optimistic, calm, cool, and collected. And I think, actually, the style is maybe a great contrast to the chaos and corruption we have in the White House. So she's right there with the rest of the field in terms of core Democratic values.

You look at her voting record, she's a true progressive. But her orientation is as a problem solver. And so I think that distinguishes her some. And that very well could be what Democrats are looking for right now as an antidote to the current president.

WHITFIELD: And what do you suppose she met when she says, you know, let's see those obstacles, you know, as our path instead of, you know, looking the other way and looking down? Instead we need to look up.

BLODGETT: Well, right. You know, I think, again, like her leadership style has always been very upbeat, always optimistic, always about let's find solutions, let's see if we can bring people together to get things done. So it's a -- so she looks -- you know, so she has that sunny outlook. And I think -- and we need some sun today anyway. So -- no, but I think that sunny outlook is, again, a contrast to the current doom and gloom that we have coming out of Washington. [16:25:13] And I think people actually are looking for a candidate who

can uplift them, who can make them feel good about the country, and good about the future. And she's really skilled at doing that.

WHITFIELD: And you talk about the sunny outlook, maybe there was some symbolism in that, you know, sunny, you know, yellow, that she was -- that golden yellow that she was wearing there that's really stood out in that downpour of snow.

BLODGETT: Yes.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeff Blodgett, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, President Trump reignites his feud with Senator Elizabeth Warren, conjuring up a racial slur. Could the president's rhetoric be his undoing in the race for 2020?

[16:30:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is entering the 2020 campaign, going on the offensive against President Trump. In Iowa today, she called him out for his daily "racist tweets," after Warren officially joined the race yesterday. The president sent one of those tweets that many find very offensive. He called her Pocahontas and wrote see you on the campaign trail, the world trail was capitalized in an apparent reference to the trail of tears.

The forced relocation of Native-Americans in the 1800s that killed 4,000, the tweet has drawn some criticism, but no widespread condemnation. In fact, Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper if she is concerned with the president referencing these tragedies in a joking manner, and here's what the congresswoman had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING: Look, Elizabeth Warren has made herself a laughing stock. And I don't think anybody should be surprised that that's been the reaction to her and to her continued claims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Cheney in her response made no reference to the president, but instead talking about Elizabeth Warren. Today, Warren hit back at the president and implied that he maybe in jail by the time of the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Everyday, there is a racist tweet, a hateful tweet, something really dark and ugly. Are we going to let him use those to divide us? You know, here's what bothers me. By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All of this coming against the backdrop of a political crisis in Virginia after a racist photo on the Virginia governor's yearbook page came to light. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and the state's attorney general also admitting that they dressed in blackfaces years ago, all of this elevating the conversation of race in politics in America.

Let's bring in Rebecca Nagle, an Advocate for Tribal Identity and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and political commentator, and Cornel William Brooks, the Former President and CEO of the NAACP. Good to see all of you.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: So we'll delve into the Virginia case in a moment. But first, you know, Rebecca, I want to begin with you and the language that the president has used, etcetera. You know we've heard him call, you know, Senator Warren Pocahontas, you know, for the better part of two years now. Initially, you know, we saw some outrage.

But then it seems like a lot of that outrage has subsided. You know is it your view that people are not grasping, you know, how insulting this language is?

REBECCA NAGLE, CITIZEN OF THE CHEROKEE NATION: Yeah so, you know, as Cherokee people, when our trail of tears happened, we were rounded up at gunpoint and actually first kept in stockades, where many people died, and then forced on a death march to present day Oklahoma. Many other tribes have their own stories of their own trail of tears. But in Cherokee history at that time, a quarter of our people died.

So it is not a joke and it is not a laughing matter. Similarly, the story of Pocahontas is very tragic. She was kidnapped and raped by white settlers and actually died at the very young age of 21 from disease in England. And so it is inappropriate to treat the genocide of Native-Americans, the largest genocide in the history of human history as a joke.

It's also inappropriate for Senator Elizabeth Warren to appropriate that genocide and to make false claims to Cherokee heritage. And I think what I hope we have in the 2020 election is not having to choose between those two things.

WHITFIELD: And Rebecca, that Warren has apologized a few times, is that not enough in your view?

NAGLE: You know, I think that there -- her public actions created a lot of public confusion about tribal identity, citizenship, DNA tests, blood, and all those myths and that public misunderstanding really undermines tribal sovereignty and our rights as citizens of native nations. And so I think the apologies that she made, both privately and some to the press this week, are a step in the right direction.

[16:34:50] But because of the large-scale public confusion she's perpetuated, she needs to do more. And I think like any politician who is messed up on issues like this, she just needs to make a clear public apology. And I think a private phone call to Cherokee nation's chief and some comments to the press in the halls of Congress aren't that.

WHITFIELD: So Cornell, the president is expected to be the moral leader, you know, among other things for this nation. Does his language via tweet or, you know, at a rally or, you know, in front of the camera, does it demonstrate a willful ignorance, or do you believe he knows what he is doing or knows what he is inciting by using this kind of language so loosely, in such a cavalier manner?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO: Yes. I would love for -- love to be able to say at a moral minimum that the president has engaged in speech that is a result of willful ignorance. But the record indicates that is a matter of willful malevolence. In other words, when he posts a tweet that talk about angry African- Americans in Virginia, he's stirring the racial pot.

When he calls NFL players sons of b's, when he refers to Mexicans as rapists and murderers, when he talks about grabbing women by the genitalia, this is bad intent. But it's not merely bad intent, it's also bad impact. In other words, where we've seen the hate crime viciously go upward over the course of the last 3 years, up 17 percent last year, 18 percent against racial and ethnic minorities.

There's a relationship correlation between presidential speech and the physical safety and well being of people on the street. So in other words, it's not a matter of civility among politicians, it's about vulnerability among people.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, Doug, I'd like to pull up that tweet one more time from the president. Because we're talking about, you know a couple of different things here. It's Elizabeth Warren. It's the language referenced to Native-Americans. And it's even, you know, the issue in Virginia. And now, the president is weighing in on, you know, what is happening in Virginia in that manner.

And shouldn't the president be helping to settle things as opposed to that tweet, which looks like he is also stirring things up?

HEYE: Sure. I think we could have this conversation any time over the past two or three years, where the best course of action for public discourse would be for Donald Trump to not use his phone for any given day or hour.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: But why does he get to keep doing it?

HEYE: Well, he gets to keep doing it because, a, he's the president and he has the right to do it, whether it's right or not. And b, he knows the reaction that it's going to bring. He knows that it's going to bring conversation about him. And whether that's a good conversation or a bad conversation, it's a positive one for Donald Trump if you want to be the center of the conversation for two reasons. One, whether you cheer Donald Trump or you boo Donald Trump, you're

talking about Donald Trump, almost in the way that a bad guy wrestler does on television. But two, it also distracts us from other issues that he doesn't want us to talk about. And so by doing some kind of incendiary tweet, it's almost as if he's in Star Wars saying these are not the droids you're looking for and we focus on something else.

WHITFIELD: But does it also sound like there should be a cacophony of criticism and that perhaps, you know, that's somewhat absent -- Cornell, you're shaking your head.

BROOKS: Absolutely. There has been criticism and calling out of the president, but we need to broaden the base. In other words, this is not merely about Donald J. Trump, not merely about the White House, not merely about Republicans or Democrats. It's about the coarsening of political discourse, and in fact, political discourse becoming more dangerous.

We need to be very clear about this. When you authorize people, when you demean and degrade them, you also make them more vulnerable. It's no accident that we have school children who are being victimized, modeling the behavior of racist, misogynistic, xenophobic adults. And so we need as a country to call out anyone who engages in this kind of conduct, because we have many Donald Trump wannabes in the republic.

WHITFIELD: So is that then, Rebecca, exemplified by -- let's bring up this information, this recent poll in Virginia. It's like 47 percent. Some believe, you know, the Virginia governor should be stepping down as a result of the images of the blackface on his webpage even -- I mean on his yearbook page. Even he admitting to going blackface once upon a time, and then 47 percent saying, you know, no.

I mean so it's split on those who believe he should step down or not. Does that kind of exemplify exactly what Cornell was talking about, Rebecca, in your view?

NAGLE: You know I am a registered Democrat. I've been a Democrat the entire time that I've been a voting adult. And I believe that the Democratic governor of Virginia absolutely needs to step down. You know on the left, we try to position ourselves as the opposite to the racism of Donald Trump, to the opposite of that violent rhetoric.

[16:39:55] And that can't be a hollow promise. We have to follow through with it. So when people, when Democratic leaders act and behave in ways that are racist and concretely harmful to communities of color, as Democratic leaders, we have to call that out. And so I think it's going to harm and undermine the trust of voters in the state and nationally if he doesn't resign.

WHITFIELD: And quickly, Doug, does that though seem to be inconsistent when you talk about other government leaders versus the president of the United States?

HEYE: Sure. But the reality is there's a picture here. And the picture is ultimately -- you know, we talk about it being worth a thousand words. That's what we're reacting to. And then there's his reaction, which has been appalling, not just from the break-dancing press conference or almost break-dancing press conference, but to the interview that he did today where he talked about indentured servitude.

He clearly does not get it. He's frankly acting like a Republican who usually gets these kinds of mistakes on racial rhetoric where they react terribly. We don't expect that from Democrats usually.

WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there. Rebecca, Doug, Cornell, good to see all of you. Thank you so much.

HEYE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

NAGLE: Thank you.

[16:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Johnny Wheatcroft was sitting in a vehicle at a motel parking lot with his children and two other adults when officers approached and asked for his ID. He questioned why he needed to show it. That was when things took a turn. And we want to warn you what you're about to see may be very disturbing for some viewers. CNN's Victor Blackwell has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: July 2017, in a suburban Phoenix, Arizona, motel parking lot, Glendale police approach a car for an alleged traffic violation. Johnny Wheatcroft is in the passenger seat. Another man is driving. Wheatcroft's two children and their mother are in the backseat. A police body cam video given to a CNN affiliate by Wheatcroft's attorneys' shows how things quickly escalated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't reach in your bag, man.

UNKNOWN: Oh, OK. I am sorry.

UNKNOWN: You said you have no ID. I don't want you reaching in there. What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why am I being asked?

BACKWELL: This is what happened next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax. Keep your foot in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Stop, please. I didn't do anything wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's the deal, you tense up -- listen to me, listen to me. We're going to do this -- I just watched you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you didn't, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to fight, dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I am not, bro. I am not fighting. I am not doing nothing, man. I am not doing nothing, bro! Man, what the (Inaudible) is wrong with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am. Dude, stop, mother (Inaudible).

BACKWELL: At this point, another officer handcuffs Wheatcroft and deploys his taser again. The officers try to pull him out of the car, but his leg is tangled in the seatbelt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am stuck.

BACKWELL: This is where a lawsuit obtained by CNN claims one officer pulled down Wheatcroft's shorts and stunned him using a taser in the testicles. The video shows officers turn the man over onto his side, and the officer appears to point the taser again at the man's genitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut your mouth. I am done (Inaudible) around with you.

BACKWELL: Wheatcroft is put into a squad car and booked on felony aggravated assault on an officer. The lawsuit says Wheatcroft spent months in jail before those charges were dropped. Wheatcroft claims in the federal lawsuit that officers used excessive and torture force during the arrest, violating his constitutional rights.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Glendale police have released new surveillance video of the incident, which appears to show a woman in the car throwing something at the other officer, apparently knocking him to the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: That was Victor Blackwell reporting. And in a statement to CNN, Glendale police say Mr. Wheatcroft reached below the seat into a backpack and refused to identify himself or obey the officer's instructions to stop reaching beneath the seat. They said for their safety and that of the children in the backseat, the officers tried to remove Mr. Wheatcroft from the vehicle.

The statement goes on to say that as they try to detain Mr. Wheatcroft, the woman hit one of the officers over the head with a bag of bottled drinks, knocking him unconscious. That's when the officer's partner deployed his taser to regain control of the situation. And in the statement, they said methamphetamine was later found in the vehicle.

All right still ahead, music's biggest night riddled with controversy after several high-profile stars refuse to perform at the Grammy's. Some may skip it altogether. We're live from the red carpet next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Music's biggest night is here, the 61st annual Grammy's kick off in just a few hours. And this year, some of the most nominated artists, including Drake and Kendrick Lamar are facing stiff competition from their female counterparts like Cardi B. and Brandi Carlisle. CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the red carpet in ravishing red. Oh, look at you, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Fred.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: You look good.

ELAM: No one wants to hear me sing. No one wants to hear me sing. So I wouldn't do that to anybody, Fred. Trust me. But what I can tell you -- thank you. What I can tell you is that folks are starting to show up and arrive for the red carpet. This is one of the longest red carpets, because there are so many different music genres that up for Grammy's this year.

And despite the fact that it is pouring right now here in Los Angeles, folks are trying to make their way down the red carpet. And, you know what's really funny, is that you look for the performances tonight, obviously it's being hosted by Alicia Keys. You're going to hear performances from Brandi Carlisle, from Kacey Musgraves, you know, also see Cardi B. performing.

And the number of people I've had already do Cardi B.'s OK to me. So a lot of people, even those who not nominated themselves, are looking forward to seeing Cardi B. tonight and to see her performance, see what she does, see what to expect out of that. But when you look at the nominees, the two most nominated artists tonight are going to be Kendrick Lamar and then Drake right behind them.

After that, you'll take a look and see Brandi Carlisle and then Cardi B. Brandi Carlisle, she's been around for a while, but this album just really broke through for her. So she's up for six Grammy's tonight. So that's one thing that people are looking for, to see the female participation tonight. One person who will not be here who everyone expected to see is Ariana Grande.

[16:54:56] Her album came out on Friday. Thank you (Inaudible). She stayed quiet about it until the producers told the Associated Press that she just didn't feel like she could get a show together in time. She quickly went to Twitter and said that was not the case, that she felt her creativity was being stifled. So he declined to come to the show and also to perform. And she's up for two Grammy's herself.

And then on top of it, Post Malone, who has several nominations, himself, if he does decide to perform Rock Star, he will have to do without 21 Savage, who also is on that song with him. Because as you know a week ago, at the Superbowl, he was taken into ICE custody because they're saying he's British born and he's in the country illegally. So people will be watching to see how this plays out. But right now, mainly people are just focused on getting into red carpet and staying dry.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, 21 Savage still in custody. And for Ariana, she is like, OK, Grammy's, thank you, next. Well, Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. We'll all be watching. Thanks so much for joining me. I am Fredricka Whitfield. The news continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)