Return to Transcripts main page


Democratic Presidential Field Grows; Will Trump Shut Down Government Again Over Border Wall?; Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Under Fire. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Here's the breaking news right now. Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is now apologizing after House leadership and many of her fellow Democrats called on her to do precisely that.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer released this statement about her, saying that -- quote -- "Use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks. And we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologized for these hurtful comments."

And the backlash over this tweet, this is where this all started. She had tweeted -- quote -- "It's all about the Benjamins, baby." And it was her response to the message critical the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, for going after Congresswoman Omar and her support of the anti-Israel movement called BDS, or boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

Later, Omar accused on Twitter the lobbying group AIPAC for paying politicians to be pro-Israel.

So let's go straight to Capitol Hill and CNN's congressional correspondent there, Manu Raju.

So, Manu, what is the response now from Congresswoman Omar?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's offering an apology, as criticism has been building on the left all day long, including from her Democratic leadership, and finally responding after the tweets from last night created such an uproar.

She says: "Anti-Semitism is real, and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti- Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear from me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize."

She goes on to say: "At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, the fossil fuel industry." She said: "It's gone on too long and we must be willing to address it."

So that last part referring to her final tweet from last night referring to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, which she contended that was what her criticism was about, money being -- when she said it's all about the Benjamins.

But she essentially had to do this. She was facing an enormous amount of criticism from her leadership. Republicans are saying she should be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which he sits. There's no indication Democratic leaders are going to do that.

But that's one area where Republicans continue -- plan to continue to push for further action against her. Of course, this comes also in light of previous statements that she has taken, broken from some of the more traditional support of Israel here in this town.

And she has said, trying to make it clear that her criticism is not about the Jewish people, but it's about the Israeli government's policies. People say that is not clear that she is saying that. But, of course, she is also a history-making congresswoman, just her and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim congresswomen here on -- to be elected to the House.

And that's why she says in that statement she talks about people attacking her for her identity, clearly a reference to that. But what she also want to make clear, she says, "I unequivocally apologize," realizing that this firestorm growing so intensely overnight, and she had to say just that to try to calm the waters here on Capitol Hill.

BALDWIN: Yes, it has been swift.

Manu, thank you very much up on Capitol Hill for me.

Let's get some reaction.

Joel Payne was a senior aide for Hillary for America. And Jess McIntosh was director of communications outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Great to see both of you. Welcome.


BALDWIN: Jess, let me just start with you, just to both of you. Your reaction to -- we were just reporting last hour that Speaker Pelosi and House Democratic leadership obviously, hey, they're like, you need to apologize, and, bang, there she goes.

I think it's really important to not be glib about stereotypes that have been used to demonize, oppress and murder minorities. I think she was glib about that. I'm glad she apologized. I think her apology was really thoughtful.

And I tend to believe that she's having these tough conversations because that's the kind of work that she does regularly. Where I need to draw the line is Republicans saying that she needs to be removed from positions of leadership.

The president literally looked at a group of Nazis and said they were made up of some very fine people. Until they are willing to address the violent anti-Semitism -- the ADL put out a study saying every single extremist murder that happened in America in 2018 was right- wing extremism.

That is spurred on by the president. And until the party, until the Republican Party is willing to address that very real threat, they have no business weighing in on this.

BALDWIN: What did you think?

JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think also, when you have 100-plus new members of Congress, you're going to have people who are new with new perspectives.

By the way, we want new perspectives. We want people to change up the debate. I think where the representative was wrong here, again, was feeding into stereotypes. She is a victim of stereotypes herself, being a Muslim congresswoman.

BALDWIN: Still no excuse.


PAYNE: So, no excuse.


But, again, she was able to understand that. By the way, the leadership gave her a path to redemption. They actually said in their statement she had some very real points that she was bringing up about lobbyists and about things of that nature, which she talked about in her statement.

So I think they have bundled this up pretty nicely.


Stand by for me for just one second, because staying in Washington, and shutdown 2.0 is now just four days away, with the government set to close this Friday if no deal is reached. Today and tomorrow really the key days to keeping this whole situation track, and the reason is that the House has a 72-hour rule that requires legislation be released three days before it receives a floor vote.

But before they can even vote, they need to make a deal. And for all of the talk about money for a wall, it turns out that a new sticking point has also emerged here, detention beds, detention beds for detained undocumented immigrants. Democrats want to cut the number from current levels of about 40,000

beds just under 36,000. Meantime, the White House and Republicans, they want to up that number 52,000.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in El Paso, where this evening President Trump will be making his case to those who live on the border.

And so, Kaitlan, the president is leaving for Texas just in a couple of minutes, but he just huddled with key staffers. Tell me what you learned about that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he had a meeting scheduled with some staffers to discuss not only how they want to fund this border wall that the president says he is set on getting.

But now we're told by sources inside the White House that the president was also going to be meeting with some officials about what their response is going to be to this latest demand from Democrats, that they want to limit the number of illegal immigrants that can be detained in the country, something that you have seen Republicans push back on and now, as our Capitol Hill team has showed, has essentially stalled these border security talks that are happening on Capitol Hill.

So the White House is trying to figure out what their response to that is going to be. You saw the president call the idea, saying it's brand-new, calling it crazy on Twitter earlier this morning. So you can expect it to be something along that line.

And you can also expect the president to bring that up when he's here for that first campaign rally of the year in El Paso tonight.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you in El Paso.

And just turning back to Jess and Joel, you know, so you have the president going El Paso. And we just had the mayor of El Paso on, on Friday, Republican, who was basically saying he's been very wrong on how he's been characterizing the city and our crime, right, et cetera.

But the fact is, the president's going down there. It's his big -- first big rally of the year. And you juxtapose that with this sort of opening or opportunity he's maybe inadvertently given Beto O'Rourke. This is his hometown.

So he -- while Trump is speaking, Trump is essentially gifting him like a megaphone and a stage in prime-time cable news coverage, because the two of these guys are going to be going head to head. Who comes out on top?

PAYNE: Well, look, he's the president , right? He's going to have the bully pulpit. There's always going to be a little inequity in terms of the stage.

But I will say this. Congressman O'Rourke has been very smart about setting up this argument, talking about his perspective of someone who's actually from that region. You cannot underestimate -- you have got mayors, Republican mayors, from that area who say what the president is saying is not true.

Also, every member of Congress who represents a border county all disagree with the president on this issue. So while the president has the bully pulpit, it seems like the facts are on the side of the people who are opposed to him.

MCINTOSH: Yes, I think it's important to remember that 26 percent of the country voted for Donald Trump; 26 percent of the country heard all the racist rhetoric, heard the build the wall, Mexico is going to pay for it at all the rallies, and were like, yes, I'm on board with that. That's it.

So we know who that appeals to. And Trump already has them. What it does is turn off the rest of America, the people who actively didn't vote for him or the people who weren't afraid enough of what he could do before he got elected and started doing it.

So I think, one, I would be happy to put up Beto against Donald Trump as a voice of leadership and reason and sanity any day.

BALDWIN: Which by the way, we still know if he's running.

MCINTOSH: Obviously.


BALDWIN: He says to Oprah he's going to make up his mind by the end of the month, but yes.

MCINTOSH: But I think Joel's point is exactly right.

The fact that a bipartisan group of congressmen who represent border communities all unanimously say what the president saying is wrong and, in fact, detrimental, I think that's huge.

BALDWIN: Which is why so many of these city leaders have to hold his feet to the fire if he goes down there and continues to spout these just false numbers.

PAYNE: But the president feels like he always wins whenever he's talking about the border.

So while I think the facts may lie with where Jess and I are...


BALDWIN: Well, we will see where he wins come Friday, and there's a lot of hundreds of thousands of federal workers at stake, and we're going to talk to one of them coming up in just a little bit.

But also, because of Trump, I would argue, you have a lot of people, a lot of women, a lot of Democrats coming out who are like, we're over it. We're running for president.

And I want to switch gears and talk 2020, because both Senator Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are officially in it to win it. Here they were this weekend.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the fight of our lives, the fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone.

And that is why I stand here today to declare that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America.



SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am running for every parent who wants a better world for their kids. I'm running for every student who wants a good education, for every senior who wants affordable prescription drugs. I am running for every American.


KLOBUCHAR: I am running for you.


BALDWIN: So that was just a taste of the news and these women over the weekend, competing visions for Democrats.

Warren is obviously more on the left, progressive, Klobuchar maybe more center-of-the-road Democrat. What did David Chalian -- Midwestern pragmatic was how he put it.

But does that sort of -- is that emblematic of the divide within your party?

MCINTOSH: I think, of course, the fact that we have so many women running means that we get to see a spectrum of different styles of leadership from women, which I think is a fabulous thing to happen to our party and to the country.

Amy is one of them. She's the most popular senator in the Senate, right? She has the highest approval ratings from her state. You don't get those just by appealing to your own party. So clearly she's got a lot of Republican support in Minnesota.

BALDWIN: Which is the pitch she's making.

MCINTOSH: That means that she has a more middle-line approach, which I don't know if in a Democratic primary would be the way to go. I get really excited about the kind of radical things that Elizabeth Warren is willing to propose for our economy, because I think our economy is pretty broken.

I think a lot of voters probably agree with me on that, so I'm very interested to see how Amy Klobuchar positions herself going forward.


BALDWIN: So, interested in the divide now, but lest we remember, not too far ago, with the divide between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

And if you were a Hillary Clinton person, as you both were, but didn't -- that was frustrating for you guys.

MCINTOSH: That went poorly.

PAYNE: That was.


PAYNE: So, the way I think about this primary, it's almost like three primaries in one. There's an electability primary going on. There's a base mad as hell primary.

And then there is a charisma-optimism primary going on. I would say like Booker is kind of fighting for that one. And then you have got the base, which is like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders. And then you have got the electability, which is Harris. And if Vice President Biden jumps in, that's where he's going to be.

So it's almost like -- it's almost like the NCAA Tournament, where you have these different regions and where someone's got to win each region. And then you will have a finalist from each area. That's where I think we are in terms of the stage of the primary right now.

BALDWIN: What about -- I have to ask, also, as Hillary Clinton's people, Amy Klobuchar also says she will kick off her campaign in Wisconsin because -- quote -- "As you remember, there wasn't a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016. With me, that changes."

Brr, I mean, it wasn't like Hillary Clinton went to Wisconsin very much.

PAYNE: After we get off the air, we're going to go have drinks about this.


BALDWIN: Look what happened to Wisconsin, which Trump won.

How are you feeling about that?

MCINTOSH: I would hope that she devotes the same amount of attention to voter disenfranchisement in Wisconsin, which we all know cost well more than the thousands of votes that were the margin of error.

PAYNE: She should do what we did not do well. She should also thank Hillary Clinton for blazing a trail for her, because there's a lot of cracks in that invisible wall that Hillary Clinton talked about putting in and a lot of them are going to benefit people like Amy Klobuchar.

BALDWIN: Jess and Joel, well, thank you very much.


PAYNE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Two programming notes. Tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m., Poppy Harlow is moderating a CNN town hall with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering a possible independent run for president, and a- heads up. Next Monday, 2020 presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar heads to New Hampshire for a CNN town hall moderated by Don Lemon.

Again, that is Monday 10:00 p.m. here on CNN.

Coming up, here's a quote for you: "I did inhale." Presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris candidly talking about past use of marijuana, questions about her race and marriage and her record as a prosecutor, so we will dive into all of that.

Also, tax twist. Are millions of Americans in for a serious surprise when they file for their tax refund this year? After major changes to the tax code, is it too late for you to do anything about it?

And the impact of another shutdown -- what it could mean for government workers who still have not fully been paid after the first shutdown. We will talk to one of those workers.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: The very real possibility of yet another shutdown is a major worry for federal employees.

In fact, some workers who were forced to work without pay are back on the job, but still waiting to get their full back pay.

My next guest, Alfreda Dennis-Bowyer, just received her full back pay last week, nearly two weeks after the shutdown ended. She works as a USDA meat inspector.

So, Alfreda, thank you so much for being with me.


BALDWIN: So I want to get to how you're feeling now four days out from another potential shutdown.

But first tell me how tough the last go-round was for you, because I was reading that when you first got your check, when you were beginning to be paid back, and you thought it would be for more than $9,000, it was instead for what? DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, the $250 was a surprise.

I didn't know what was going on. And then later on, when I did some research, I did find out that was a bonus sort of for coming to work during the shutdown, to keep -- in order to keep the companies in business to perform their inspections for them.

So it was a bonus for -- of appreciation for coming to work and allowing the companies to continue to process products.

BALDWIN: Were you feeling appreciated, Alfreda?

DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, I was appreciated. It was nice that they gave us the bonus, but I was really looking for the money that I earned.


BALDWIN: Which you have eventually gotten.


BALDWIN: How rough, how angry, how sad? I mean, run me through the emotions you felt during that shutdown and how you're preparing for it to potentially happen all over again.

DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, in my case, I was not suffering too bad, because I'm pretty much -- I was in a comfortable place.

But it's just the fact that the money that I have worked for was not being readily paid. But now that there is a possibility of another shutdown, I have tried to plan. So whatever bills I do need to pay, I'm in a good position where I can withstand.

But I worry about a lot of my younger colleagues that are in situations where they are a little tighter -- tightly squeezed. My concern is for those that are not in a position to be prepared as well.

BALDWIN: Can you talk to me a little bit about those younger colleagues and what worries you the most as they perhaps aren't as in a comfortable spot as you are?

I mean, where are they most nervous?

DENNIS-BOWYER: Well, we have a lot of younger inspectors who have young families, they have day care, they have mortgages, car payments, utilities and expenses.

And you have a lot of single-parent families. And when you have that kind of pressure on people, everything is budgeted out, and you're -- you have every penny accounted for. And when you miss a paycheck, it's harder for people that are young and starting out.

Now, you have a lot of people that are a little better off in their situation, as far as with their bills vs. their income. But the concern is, when we work, and with us being essential employees, we're expecting to be paid for the work that we -- the work that we have done. That's the concern.

BALDWIN: It's a perfectly normal concern. And I just wanted to know from you. I mean, it sounds like you're the kind of woman who thinks and plans ahead when you can.

But, this Friday, you all may be going through this all over again. Have you -- I mean, have you wrapped your head around that?

DENNIS-BOWYER: Yes. That -- well, we're hoping that the president is going to make the right decision and use whatever other alternatives that he can, because I'm hoping that he realizes that people are real and have real situations out here, that, when he does this type of thing, he's not looking at the big picture of the people that are involved and how he is impacting their lives.

We're real people. And he, I feel, is not in touch with the reality of how people live from day to day, week to week, check to check. I don't think he's ever had that situation to deal with.

And I would like him to think about what he's doing with just a regular person that has to work and live for -- for living.

BALDWIN: Of course.

DENNIS-BOWYER: That's the concern of working people. We're working class people.

BALDWIN: Understand. Understand.

Hopefully, he is thinking, and, hopefully, he is paying attention, and, hopefully, this whole thing gets resolved by Friday.

Alfreda Dennis-Bowyer, thank you, ma'am, so very much.


BALDWIN: Moments from now, speaking of the president, he is set to leave for El Paso, Texas, where he will be holding his first rally of 2019.

That happens tonight.

And next, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris is answering questions about her black heritage, her marriage, her role as prosecutor, and the race for 2020, as it now heats up.



BALDWIN: The field of Democrats running in 2020 is poised to be the most diverse ever to seek the presidency.

And for Senator Kamala Harris, she is facing questions about her heritage. Her mother is Indian. Her father is Jamaican, but the senator says that she will always identify as a black woman. Here's what she told the Breakfast Club.





HARRIS: And raised in the United States, except for the years that I was in high school in Montreal, Canada.

And, look, this is the same thing they did to Barack. This is not new to us.


HARRIS: And so I think that we know what they're trying to do. 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.

And so we need to recognize when we're being played.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad you mentioned Barack, because a lot of black people questioned if Barack was black enough. I see them doing the same thing to you.

So, what do you say to the people questioning the legitimacy of your blackness?

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

I'm not going to spend my time trying to educate people about who black people are, because, right now, frankly, I'm focused on, for example, an initiative that I have.