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Fight Against ISIS; Democratic Presidential Field Grows. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 16:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the people questioning the legitimacy of your blackness?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they don't understand who black people are.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Harris is not alone.

Her competitors are also discussing their own upbringings and heritage, as CNN Kyung Lah explains.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On syndicated radio today, Senator Kamala Harris, a biracial presidential candidate, addressed the politics of her race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to the people questioning the legitimacy of your blackness?

HARRIS: I think they don't understand who black people are.

This is the same thing they did to Barack. This is not new to us.


HARRIS: They're trying to do what has been happening over the last two years, which is powerful voices trying to sow hate and division among us.

LAH: Defending her past as a prosecutor, to acknowledging she tried marijuana.

HARRIS: I have. And I inhaled. I did inhale.

LAH: The radio host wanted to know if she's ready for President Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to go nasty. You know that.

HARRIS: He will. I agree. This is going to be a knock-down, drag- out.

LAH: Call this weekend a taste of the fight to come.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, and God bless America.

LAH: After Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar's wintry announcement for her candidacy, the president tweeting: "Klobuchar was talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard. Bad timing. By the end of her speech, she looked like a snowman, woman.

KLOBUCHAR: I would like to see how his hair would fare in a blizzard.


LAH: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also officially announced.

The president, who was sparred with Warren about her claim to Native American ancestry, which she has apologized for, tweeted the derogatory name he calls her, then said, "See you on the campaign TRAIL," trail in all caps. The president's son reposting a tweet that interpreted trail as a reference to Native American genocide, adding: "Savage. Love my president."

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation of Native American tribes in the wake of the U.S. government's Indian Removal Act of 1830. Thousands died. Warren, campaigning in Iowa, chose to not respond directly to the tweet, instead bluntly reminding Trump about the legal peril he faces.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.



LAH: And you can hear the applause there. It was sustained. It was certainly very loud.

Democratic voters have said in polls and early polling repeatedly that the most important quality that they want in their nominee is someone, Jake, who can take on Trump, who can defeat Trump -- Jake.

TAPPER: Kyung Lah, thank you so much.

So, everyone, you heard Democratic Senator Kamala Harris addressing the issue of race today. Here's a little bit more of her response when asked about her background.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: I'm not going to spend my time trying to educate people about who black people are.

I was born black. I will die black. And I'm proud of being black. And I'm not going to make any excuses for anybody, because they don't understand.


TAPPER: Now, there was a little bit of a difference when Harris was asked about her race the day she announced her bid. She was at her alma mater, Howard University, historically black college, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and here's what she said then.


HARRIS: How do I describe myself? I describe myself as a proud American.


TAPPER: So I guess different when you're doing the kickoff as opposed to when you're chatting at the Breakfast Club.

Who's bringing up this issue of how black she is? Because is it African-Americans?

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER D.C. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: The media. I don't think it's African-Americans.

She is of a darker hue, if you will. She's always been committed to our communities of color. I knew her socially when she was at Howard. I was at Morehouse College. And so Kamala is -- she's never been uptight, but actually comfortable with where she fits into the communities of color.

That is, her dad was a Jamaican. Her mom was East Indian. And she's never run from that. But she identifies with African-Americans. And so I'm not bringing it up. You -- the press brings it up.

But it's irrelevant, because, if you're not asking white candidates about their heritage and their background, which we do, and they share their background, then why is it any different for her, as a presidential candidate?

TAPPER: And this is another issue going on because, of course, in Virginia, the governor and the attorney general have both admitted that they put on blackface when they were in college in the '80s.

Take a listen to Senator Cory Booker, another presidential hopeful, Democratic senator from New Jersey, talking about this issue. An audience member at an event today tried to warn Booker not to weigh in on the blackface incident. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let the citizens of Virginia handle it.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got it. I got it. Let me respond.


We should all not be judged by the worst things that we have done. This is why I have not called for all three people to resign.


TAPPER: Although he has called the for lieutenant governor who's under fire for sexual assault and rape to resign.

It's an interesting thing for somebody to say, stay out of this issue. Let people in Virginia settle it.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes. I don't think -- I mean, and I don't think it's realistic, actually, in this day and age where a political party -- if you're part of a political party, you often are held responsible for what other people in the party do, and you are expected to weigh in on these issues.

I do agree with what Cory said, though, that you know, people are not the sum total of their worst moments. And I don't think that we think about that enough. You know, the issue with the governor, I think, is that in the beginning I said, well, this was a long time ago, maybe he had a real -- a moment of conversion and he realized how terrible this was and he became very committed to racial equality.

But unfortunately all the things that he has said, including referring to slaves as indentured servants, sort of suggests that there actually wasn't that much of a transformation. So I'm not -- I'm not entirely sure why Cory would stay out of that one.

TAPPER: I think his office, just to offer their point of view, was asked about it, and he said that one time he referred to when African- Americans were first -- Africans were first taken to Virginia, Jamestown, I believe, against their will.

And he said slaves, a historian had told him actually at that point it was indentured servants. So I think that's where he was coming from.


TAPPER: Senator Santorum, take a listen to Cory Booker, because you heard Elizabeth Warren talking about how President Trump might be in prison in 2020. You heard Kamala Harris talking about a knock-down, drag-out.

But here's Cory Booker, who has a different strategy, and he explained it CNN's Rebecca Buck. Take a listen.


BOOKER: I'm not here to try to emulate the tactics of a president. I'm not trying to match him ugly comment for ugly comment, bashing for bashing.

I'm focusing on the people.


TAPPER: Headline in "The New York Times" by Alex Burns, do Democrats want a fighter or a healer?

What do you think of his approach?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, there are lots of high- profile fighters out there. That's a pretty crowded field.

And I think this is an opportunity for someone, whether it's Cory Booker -- there's going to be another primary out there of the uniters and whether the Democratic Party's looking for a uniter.

There's going to be another primary out there for the middle of the roaders and whether there's someone from the middle of the road that can win. I'm the electable one. I'm a lefty, I'm the crazy, but I'm a nice one.

And then I'm the...


BOLDEN: Why do they have to be crazy?


TAPPER: Because he can't help himself.


SANTORUM: But you understand what I'm saying.

There are lots of different lanes. There was in the Republican primary three -- two years ago. There are different lanes. And someone's going to win each one of those primaries. And Cory is vying for one of them.

TAPPER: Amanda, just to go over again the president's tweet on Elizabeth Warren, who he -- she's gone through her controversy. She's apologized for saying that she was Native American earlier in her life.

President Trump did this tweet. He called her Pocahontas. The last line of hers, see you on the trail in all caps, a lot of people took that to be a reference to the Trail of Tears, which is obviously a tragedy.

And take a look at this. Don Jr. took a screen shot of that tweet and a response to it that says: "The Native American genocide continues with another murder by the president." And then Donald Trump Jr. captions -- quote -- "Savage." I mean, that is blatant racism. And you can -- I guess you could always explain away maybe Trump didn't mean Trail of Tears when he said trail. But then the other two, that's just racism against Native Americans.

And yet, in this day and age, nobody even says anything about it.

CARPENTER: Yes, it is racist, but it's also clownish.

They're playing with people's emotions for fun. And it's absolutely intentional. They're trying to provoke a reaction, and then to make people out to be hysterical who cry foul. They want to keep having this debate over political correctness, mocking their opponents.

And we have seen this movie before. And I think it's best for everyone to say like, yes, you guys are being racist clowns again and keep on trucking.

BOLDEN: But for people of color, it's more than that, Jake.

I mean, I understand your position and your position. But neither one of you all look like me. And racism, whether it's blackface or whether it's against the Native Americans, is...


BOLDEN: Exactly.

And, at their core issue, it's painful, it's hurtful. It reminds us and takes us back to -- quote -- "when you make America great again."

When people of color hear that, well, it's never been better. It's not awesome for African-Americans right now, but if you take me back to when America was great, well, it wasn't great for African-Americans back then either.

And so I think, when we talk about it, we cannot let it be normalized and we have got to hold people accountable. They're talking about impeaching the lieutenant governor over alleged sexual misconduct, right?

But you have an attorney general and a governor who admit they have been in blackface. And that's because of the environment they were in.


We can't let them off the hook because it's some high school prank. We have never let off the hook, because that's the environment they grew up in. This may be the new South, but the Confederacy and everything before the new South is coming home to roost, because their environment, it told them to behave that way.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Can I just clarify that I did actually say he should resign?

TAPPER: Yes, Governor Northam, yes.

BOLDEN: I didn't hear, but OK.


POWERS: Yes, that was at the end of -- I said, I don't know why Cory doesn't want to get involved in this.


BOLDEN: OK. All right. Fair enough.

POWERS: If there's time, I also want to say on these attacks on Warren, there's been this real focus on poor Elizabeth Warren that she keeps getting attacked.

And I think you are rightly focusing on what's important, which is actually it's very traumatizing for the indigenous people, I mean, that are having to live through this now...

BOLDEN: It's horrific.

POWERS: ... and now are really concerned, frankly, that this is going to be the next year of their life.

TAPPER: During the Northam, Herring incident, it made me concerned that African-Americans think that all of us white men used to dress up in blackface. And it's not true.

And when this Native American stuff happened, it makes me worried that people in the Native American community think that the rest of us think that the Native American genocide is funny. None of us do. None of us would make those jokes.

BOLDEN: But I worry more about the impact the president and his sons have on people who -- on white Americans who take that, take their lead on it, and how they act on it, how they verbalize it.

TAPPER: Be sure to tune in to CNN next Monday night for a live presidential town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. You can see that Monday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

While President Trump says the fight against ISIS is over, CNN's team on the ground in Syria woke up this morning to ISIS firing mortars right over their heads. We're going to go live to Syria next.

Stay with us.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Now we're back with our "WORLD LEAD" today. President Trump is chopping at a bit to declare a victory over ISIS, but today the top U.S. commander in the war against the terrorist group General Joseph Votel is warning that despite reclaiming most of the geographical territory from ISIS, tens of thousands of ISIS terrorists remain spread across Syria and Iraq. It's a reality that CNN teams on the frontlines witnessed firsthand this morning while covering the fight to free the last ISIS-held town in Syria.

Our reporter Ben Wedeman was there and he'll join us live from eastern Syria in just moments. But we start with CNN's Barbara Starr, the only television reporter traveling with General Votel. She picks up our coverage from Cairo, Egypt.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, President Trump plans to declare in the next few days that ISIS has been pushed out of all the territory it once controlled in Syria as soon as this last bit of fighting is finished in the southern part of the country. The fighting is very hard right now. U.S.-backed fighters are pushing against the last ISIS stronghold.

But here in the Middle East tonight General Joseph hotel the head of U.S. military operations in the region is sounding a much more long term strategic view of what he thinks ISIS still may be capable of.


GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It's an important objective for us to take that away from them but it doesn't mean the end of the organization. And we are going to have to continue to put military pressure on them, the Syrian democratic forces well and we will help them.


STARR: General Votel, of course, is not contradicting the president but he does point out it's easier to put pressure on Isis if you're right there on the ground.


VOTEL: It's always easier when you're there on the ground. But in this case, our president has made a decision and we're going to execute that.


STARR: And General Votel notes that initially, the U.S. began the campaign against ISIS from bases inside Iraq so working remotely can work out. Jake?

TAPPER: Barbara Starr in Cairo, thank you. Right now U.S. back fighters are locked in what they call the final battle in an attempt to free the last ISIS held town in Syria and CNN's Ben Wiedemann has been on the frontlines quite literally. He joins us now from eastern Syria. And Ben, this is a fight the U.S.-backed troops hope to finish today or tomorrow. You saw firsthand some of the intense fighting still happening.

BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Jake. The offensive began on Saturday night local time. Sunday the SDF, the Syrian democratic forces said they made good progress within the town taking all the locations they'd hoped for and planned to take. But the situation changed dramatically early this morning. We were woken up by a lot of heavy machine-gun fire. We ran up to the roof of the building we were staying in which was just about a mile from the front lines and there were bullets zinging over our head, a mortar round hit the side of the building.

We saw some of the SDF fighters running to the rear even though some of their officers were urging them to go forward. Apparently, they were encountering V-BEDs, Vehicle-Borne Explosive Devices. It appears that the ISIS fighters were able to get into the territory that the SDF was actually holding a few days ago. And it did seem to change the whole picture of the offensive because last night we were drinking tea with some of the SDF commanders who were plotting the battle and they were confidently saying today or tomorrow the job will be done.

They've changed their tune. They seem to realize that it's going to be much harder battle. And another thing they conceded today of was -- as we were leaving the area around that town. We ran into a convoy of 21 trucks full of 700 people who had managed to escape from the town. And officials told us they have underestimated the number of civilians in there. They thought they were around a 1,500. Now they're saying that there could be thousands.

And those of we spoke to, the people who fled said that people are being held as human shields, that they're eating feed for livestock, that they're not only getting in coming from the anti-ISIS coalition, incoming rounds are coming from the Syrian regime across the Euphrates River and from the Iraqi army right over the border. Jake?

[16:50:38] TAPPER: Oh it's just horrifying news. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. We're so glad that you and your team are safe. The President doesn't seem to know what climate change looks like, what climate change is. Here it is. Take a look. A football field of U.S. land sinking every hour of every day. We're going to take you to the village that might soon have to move 50 miles away. Stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: The "NATIONAL LEAD" and part of our Earth Matter Series, President Trump continues to confuse weather and climate. He tweeted, "Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for president talking proudly of fighting global warning while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing."

Experts unanimously agree that climate change is happening. In some places, the effects are being felt faster than anticipated. CNN's Bill Weir found one terrifying example right here in the U.S.



BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: When these kids are old enough to start families, their home town will be underwater.


WEIR: Their great-great-great grandparents settled here during the Trail of Tears. And for the first 100 years, they farmed this land.

You just raise that exact house above, right?


WEIR: But in the last 30 years, they had to raise their homes a few feet to stay dry, and then a few feet more, until before-and-after satellite pictures proved what they already knew. 98 percent of Ile de Jean Charles, Louisiana has disappeared.

COMARDELLE: I always talk about water is our life and our death. Once we weren't able to farm anymore that the waters, the shrimp, the oysters, the crabs, that sustain our people now is killing us. It's killing us.

WEIR: Every hour of every day, a piece of Louisiana about the size of a football field slips into the sea, every hour every day. It started when America tamed, locked, and diked the mighty Mississippi choking off the natural flow of mud that built this land. But these days as it sinks, polar ice melts. Seas rise, big storms just keep coming.

TORBJORN TORNQVIST, GEOLOGIST, TULANE UNIVERSITY: There has been a lot of change in just the last say, five years.

WEIR: And those who study the drowning of Louisiana say it is happening faster than anyone ever predicted.

TORNQVIST: What maybe five years ago was the worst case scenario is now what we might call a fairly likely scenario.

WEIR: That's terrifying.

TORNQVIST: It is terrifying. And it basically means that climate change is here in full force.

WEIR: So Ile de Jean Charles won a first-of-its-kind federal grant, $48 million to move them about 40 miles north. The state recently closed on 500 acres of old sugarcane fields.

PAT FORBES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LOUISIANA OFFICE OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: We're going to have baseball fields, fishing ponds, wetlands, homes along the back.

WEIR: But before they can even break ground.

COMARDELLE: We'd like just had a tribal meeting today.

WEIR: They are getting a harsh lesson, and just how hard it is to convince Americans to uproot and retreat.

COMARDELLE: Anybody else is probably not moving.

WEIR: Really? COMARDELLE: So -- yes.

WEIR: Half of the 40 families who live here say they will never leave while others still aren't convinced it's the right move.

CHRIS BRUNET, TRIBAL COUNCIL MEMBER, ILE DE JEAN CHARLES: This so called climate change thing --

WEIR: You put it in quotes.


WEIR: So call.

BRUNET: That's right.

WEIR: But Ile de Jean Charles is just a tiny sample of how expensive and difficult the future will be. According to one estimate from the United Nations, between 50 and 200 million people will be displaced by climate change by the year 2050. And most of those are the planet's most vulnerable, fishermen, and farmers who live on the edge.

And if it is this hard moving a village, imagine moving Miami or New Orleans.

Do you have children?

TORNQVIST: I have an eight-year-old daughter.

WEIR: Do you think she will ever be able to say take out a 30-year mortgage in New Orleans?

TORNQVIST: I don't know. I don't know. That's -- that is -- I wouldn't bet my money on it. Let's put it that way. But he says it is not too late to stop burning the carbon that is cracking up the global thermostat, not too late to stop worst case pain. But that will depend more on human nature than Mother Nature. And as people argue, the seas rise every hour of every day. Bill Weir, CNN Ile de Jean Charles, Louisiana.

TAPPER: And our thanks to Bill Weir and his team for that piece. Be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow night for a live presidential candidate town hall. Our friend Poppy Harlow is going to be joined by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. It all happens at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow only on CNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching THE LEAD.