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AT THIS HOUR

CNN Town Hall with Sen. Amy Klobuchar Tonight; Biden Drops Hint of Possible Presidential Run; Source: Grand Jury Convened in R. Kelly Case; California A.G. Talks If, When the State Sues Trump over Emergency Declaration; 5 Americans Arrested as Violent Protests Grip Haiti. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 18, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:30:56] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the special President's Day edition of "AT THIS HOUR."

To mark this presidential holiday, let us talk about 2020 and some of the folks who want to be the next president. The big focus today, New Hampshire, where Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar are hitting the trail.

Tonight, the spotlight is on Senator Klobuchar as she takes to the stage in a live CNN town hall.

CNN's senior political analyst, Mark Preston, is in Manchester, in the debate hall. That's coming soon enough. He joins me now.

Mark, what do you think is the most important thing that Amy Klobuchar is trying to accomplish tonight?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think pragmatism. She wants to introduce herself to America. Most of America has no idea who she is. People in the Midwest, specially in Minnesota where she's a Senator, they know who she is. She is not vying for the same liberal voters that many of these other candidates are. She is trying to take a more center road of it and, in some ways, has a clear path now. When I say that, we'll see who else gets into the race. As you said, we already have several people today in New Hampshire campaigning here. We expect this field of Democrats to grow bigger in the coming weeks.

BOLDUAN: Senator Klobuchar's first campaign stop after announcing was heading to Wisconsin. There was a lot of recent history and symbolism with that choice. How do her midwestern roots and her -- how do her midwestern roots and her midwestern focus set her apart from the rest?

PRESTON: Kate, you are from Indiana so you understand, when Amy Klobuchar talks with a certain way, talks with a certain tone and certain issues because that is how she was brought up. She's not going to talk about an immigrant experience but it's much different from the immigrant experience to say my parents had, when they came over from Ireland into Boston. The immigrant experience for those in the Midwest is that they became farmers. They worked very hard during the day. It was all about hard work. We saw factories pop up. Those factories have since go away. We know that farming has gone very corporate in many ways. It's a touch living. You hear Amy Klobuchar talk about the economy, getting people back to work, but in a pragmatic way, not in a way that a lot of people are talking about specifically when you hear these charges of Socialism being lobbed at the Democratic Party by Republicans, especially when you are hearing new House Democratic freshmen that have come in -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Then there's Joe Biden. Two pieces of sound that I want to play of the former vice president that are worth examining.

First, let me play what he told an audience about his decision-making process if and when he would jump into the race.

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JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I haven't reached a decision. I am in the process of doing that. I will in the near term let everyone know what that decision is. I think there's sufficient amount of time to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But there's more. When the vice president ran into the -- (INAUDIBLE) -- president -- I want to play this for you. Attempt to read their lips. That's the whole part of this. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

BIDEN: (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I watched it like a million times, Mark I cannot believe that they actually understood each other. A lot of people reading lips thinks that Biden said, "I think I may," when asked if he was going to run. What should folks do with all of this? When does he no longer have sufficient time to get in?

PRESTON: If anybody has time it is certainly the former vice president. Remember that moment when he turned to Barack Obama and he said, "This is a big effing deal," when they were talking about health care? He knows how to speak his mind, the vice president does. But, Kate, he does not have to announce right now. He has an infrastructure in place. I do think that he is seriously looking at it. If he does get in, this huge Democratic field will become more complicated as we head into the next couple of years.

[11:35:10] BOLDUAN: It's complicated. Welcome to 2020.

Great to see you, Mark.

PRESTON: Thank you, Kate. Just a reminder, Don Lemon is moderating tonight's town hall with

Senator Amy Klobuchar. You can watch that right here on CNN, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up for us, could R. Kelly be facing charges and facing them soon? There has been a big development in the case against the singer after a shocking new video surfaces. Details after the break.

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[11:40:11] BOLDUAN: A major development in the case against singer, R. Kelly. Sources tell CNN that a grand jury is convening over new allegations that Kelly engaged in sex acts with an under aged girl. This, after Attorney Michael Avenatti said he gave investigators a VHS tape he received from someone he calls a whistleblower alleged showing Kelly in the act.

CNN's Sara Sidner has been following all of this and joins me now.

Sara, R. Kelly has been facing allegations and even charges that he beat for decades. This is new and this is troubling. What are you learning now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So what we have learned is that a grand jury has been convened in this case, that it has partly to do with this newly uncovered tape. We want to be clear that the newly uncovered tape that Michael Avenatti says he handed over to the state's attorney's office last week isn't a brand-new incident. It is a tape that was VHS, so it gives you some sense of the timing of this. Everyone uses phones now. Certainly it is something that prosecutors have not seen before and it had not been a part, for example, of the case that they brought against R. Kelly in 2008 in which he was acquitted. In that case, there was some very similar incidents that were brought to the jurors in that particular case. And there was a video tape in that particular case. This is a different tape. That much we do know.

I can tell you I have seen it. It is disturbing if, indeed, the information that is being said by the girl on the tape is true. She refers to her genitalia several times, at least six times, in fact, as being 14 years old. A man that appears to be R. Kelly is completely naked. He is adjusting the camera. He is making a movie. He then repeats the age of her genitalia a couple of times on the tape. There's plenty more, some of which mirrors what happened in 2008 and what prosecutors tried him on 14 cases of child pornography, but he was acquitted on those charges.

I want to read you a statement from his attorney, Stephen Greenberg. We e-mailed him today. He wrote back saying, in part, "The grand jury proceedings, by law, are supposed to be secret, so to the extent people are commenting on what may or may not be going on today, are possibly violating the law. Still, I can tell you that I am unaware of any proceedings."

He said he nor his client have not been contacted by law enforcement, as well. That's where we are right now. We understand it is the court holiday

so it doesn't mean the jury is convened today. We know it has been convened.

BOLDUAN: Important update.

Good to see you, Sara. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

SIDNER: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us still, President Trump predicted that his national emergency would be challenged in court, would be challenged by lawsuits. Next, we will ask California's attorney general if and when he will take the president up on that and take the president to court.

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[11:47:06] BOLDUAN: One line in particular stood out when the president declared a national emergency Friday to pay for his border wall. It was when the president said that he didn't need to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this. But I would rather do it much faster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: No surprise, the White House is quickly trying to clean that up. Here is the case that Trump senior adviser, Stephen Miller, tried to make yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: What the president was saying is that, like past presidents, he could choose to ignore this crisis, choose to ignore this emergency as others have. But that is not what he is going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Is that going to stop the lawsuits that have been threatened even before the declaration was made? Doubtful.

Let's find out. Joining me now right now California attorney general, the former Democratic congressman, Xavier Becerra.

Attorney General, thank you for being here.

XAVIER BECERRA, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Of course, Kate.

BOLDUAN: You said you will be filing a lawsuit against the president imminently, if how you put it yesterday. When is that going to happen? BECERRA: We should be filing sometime today. It's kind of awkward to

say on President's Day we'll be suing the president of the United States but sometimes that's what you have to do.

BOLDUAN: So the lawsuit is not only coming, it is coming today. What are you asking for in the lawsuit?

BECERRA: We are going to try to halt the president from violating the Constitution, the separation of powers, from stealing money from Americans and states that has been allocated by Congress lawfully. We will try to make sure we keep the president from continuing to play this theater by manipulating the office of the president to do his bidding simply because, I think, he is trying to essentially send a message to his base, a shrinking base, that he full fills his promises.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to your lawsuit, is this just California? Are you going it alone or other states joining you in this lawsuit?

BECERRA: There will probably be about a dozen states that join us. We have been working closely with them for quite some time. We are prepared, whether it is Nevada or New Mexico or New York or Oregon, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado. There are a number of states that are ready to go with us, New Jersey -- I can name a number.

BOLDUAN: The president's focus for the wall has been Texas. I'm assuming that Texas is not joining you in this lawsuit. That might be a wild assumption on my part. But if Texas is his focus, Mr. Attorney General, that raises the question of standing coming from the attorney general of California. You said yesterday that you are confident that California has standing in this case. Can you explain to me how if this wall is going to be built in the Rio Grande Valley?

BECERRA: Remember, Kate, the basis for standing is that there's harm. If the president is essentially stealing money that has been allocated to go to the various states for various purposes, but no longer will, we are being harmed. Our people are being harmed. You don't have to reside in Texas. By the way, on the behalf of the people of Texas, we'll be trying to defend their right to have their right to have their taxpayer dollars used the right way, not in an unconstitutional way. But regardless, the people who live in this country know that under the Constitution, it's Congress who decides how to spend their taxpayer dollars, not the president. Whether or not it's in Texas, if dollars are taken from states that have a purpose for those uses, then we are harmed.

[11:50:32] BOLDUAN: Stephen Miller tried to replay that, tried to clarify what the president was saying, when he said he didn't need to do that emergency declaration on Friday. What Stephen Miller said is the president meant that he could have ignored it, as they argued, many other presidents have. They say the emergency exists but they could have just ignored it. If that is what the president really meant, does that take away some of your argument?

BECERRA: No. I mean the facts are what they are. The president admitted he didn't have do this because it's not an emergency. He admitted that he expects to lose in court. He admitted there's no crisis on the border. And all the facts and his own border control agency and Department of Homeland Security are providing all the evidence for this. And so clearly what the president is doing is more -- as I said, it's more theater in a way, but he's determined in many ways in undermining the Constitution by trying to play to his shrinking base. But be that as it may, our purpose is to go into court and halt him from doing what he cannot do under the Constitution.

BOLDUAN: Congress does have the option here to stop the president. They can pass a resolution that would end the national emergency. That could take a couple of steps. And it's something that's under discussion? Why not let that play out before you file a lawsuit?

BECERRA: Well, that will play out, I hope. And hopefully, Congress will do its job. And it requires a bipartisan effort to do its job because, if the president decides to veto a measure to try to halt this unconstitutional act by the president, then there will be a need for Republicans to vote with Democrats to try to prevent the president from doing what no president has been allowed to do, and that is to raid accounts that have been properly appropriated for other purposes to use for something that has not been given authority. I would hope that Republicans stand up. The party of Lincoln is quickly and perilously becoming the party of Trump. And I hope they recognize they should not be succumbing to this type of unconstitutional activity simply to try to politically protect the leader of their party.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, last year, you sued the president over building a wall, trying to stop any building over environmental concerns. That's was the lawsuit in a nutshell. A federal judge shot that down. Why you do think this time is going to be different?

BECERRA: Well, I think, in this case, we're talking about a clear violation of the separation of powers where the president, after months of trying to get Congress to provide him taxpayer money to build this border wall, which Mexico is not going to pay for, even though the president promised that would be the case, he is now trying to move beyond Congress and do Congress's job of trying to take the money that Congress allocates and spend it on his wall. That's a clear violation of the constitutional prerogative of the Congress and of Article I of the Constitution. It can't be any clearer than that. As the president himself admitted when he announced the declaration on Friday, he understands he's going to go to court and he probably is going to lose.

BOLDUAN: He did definitely say he was ready to go to court and to the Ninth Circuit, nonetheless.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being here. It'll now be up to the court on this one, yet another policy of the president, to decide. We'll see what the next steps are. You are filing that lawsuit today, we now learn.

Thank you, Mr. Attorney General. Appreciate your time.

BECERRA: Thank you, Kate.

[11:54:12] BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, five Americans are arrested in Haiti as violent protests sweeps across the country. We'll take you to hard-hit Port-au-Prince, next.

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BOLDUAN: This morning, a new turn in the political chaos gripping Haiti. The country's foreign minister confirms five Americans have been arrested, held on conspiracy charges. This comes amid an eruption of violent protests that have left several people dead.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Port-au-Prince.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the situation on the ground now is sort of tenuous calm. The government has asked that all sectors come back to work, the businesses to reopen, the schools to reopen, the government agencies to reopen. We haven't seen that across the board. There are more gas stations opened, some businesses have reopened, but the schools haven't come back. And there are rumors, discussions about more protests out there, trying to block more roads around the country. Police have been on alert not only in the capital but across the entire country to stop that from happening. So there's a bit of a standoff.

Regarding the five Americans, eight total people, five Americans arrested. They had a ton of guns on them. Many of them automatic weapons that would have to be registered here in the country. It's not clear what they were up to. Local reports saying they identified themselves as working for the government to police when they were picked up. The police disagreeing. We'll learn more about this. It certainly adds a level of intrigue here. This, as officials that we're speaking to with the government say that the protests that we saw over the last nine days weren't just an expression -

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