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Senate Poised To Vote Against Trump's Wall Declaration; Dems Plan To Launch Probe Of Trump's "Abuse Of Power"; Nadler: Very Clear President Trump Obstructed Justice; Trump Blasts Dem Harassment, Claims Cohen Lied In Testimony. Fmr. Trump Business Associate Felix Sater To Testify Before Congress; Bolton On North Korea: "No Deal Is Better Than A Bad Deal"; 2020 Hopefuls In Selma To Mark 1965 "Bloody Sunday"; Crowd Walks In "Bloody Sunday" March In Selma; Bolton: North Korea Summit Was Not A Failure; Hillary Clinton Calls Out Voter Suppression In Selma; March Across Edmund Pettus Bridge On Anniversary Of "Blood Sunday". Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 3, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone and thanks for joining me. I'm Amara Walker in for Fredricka Whitfield.
Developing today, Republican Senator Rand Paul now saying he will vote to block President Trump's emergency declaration. That now makes four members of the President's own party in the Senate vowing to go against Trump's move to fulfill his biggest campaign promise, building the wall along the southern border. This means the resolution of disapproval will most likely make it to the President's desk where he has warned he will use his first presidential veto.
Let's check in with CNN's White House correspondent Boris Sanchez, and as we were saying, four is the magic number that the Republicans senators needed to pass this resolution, and it looks like we've reached that, Boris.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Amara. We did have an indication that this might happen after all Republicans vote privately and publicly have been warning President Trump about issuing this national emergency declaration, saying that it could potentially splinter the party. And now you have Rand Paul speaking to a group of Republicans last night in Kentucky, saying that he would opposed this measure by President Trump, because he didn't want to give the President what he called the unconstitutional powers.
He's going to this three other Republican lawmakers and Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis. Here's more of what Rand Paul told supporters. He said, quote, "I can't vote to give the President the power to spend money that has not been appropriated by Congress. We may want more money for border security, but Congress did not authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it is a dangerous thing."
So Rand Paul essentially signing the potential precedent that it could set for a future Democratic administration to then declare a national emergency on an issue that Republicans oppose. President Trump has made clear that if this resolution does reach his desk, he would veto it. Listen to this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Will I veto it? 100%. 100%. And I don't think it survives a veto. We have too many smart people that want border security, so I can't imagine it could survive a veto, but I will veto it, yes.
SANCHEZ: So this move is largely symbolic because we don't believe that there are enough of votes in the Senate specifically to overcome the President's veto. Its unclear at this point when the Senate may vote on it, they had 18 days when the House pass it which was on Tuesday. So that gives them about two weeks to hold a vote on this, Amara.
WALKER: Yes, but clearly this -- what isn't extraordinary would be an extraordinary review of President Trump in using his emergency powers, but just to be clear, this is not about partisanship or being against the wall or border security. Republicans -- these four Republicans are backing this bill to say there is a separation of powers as outlined in the constitution and we take it seriously, we hope you do.
SANCHEZ: Yes exactly. And part of their fear is that, let's say in 2020 or 2024, whenever President Trump leaves office and a Democratic administration comes in, they could then cite this as president to go and declare a national emergency on any number of issues, whether it be gun control or other things that Democrats are in favor of that then Republicans would almost be powerless depending on the situation in Congress to oppose.
So in this case, Republicans are trying to step in, we know Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was actually here at the White House just about a month ago, according to sources, trying to warn the President not to do this. Of course the President decided that he was going to move forward in his words yesterday speaking to CPAC, he was looking for a loophole to get around all the loopholes in Congress to get funding for his border wall, Amara.
WALKER: All right. Boris Sanchez live at the White House for us. Thank so much Boris.
WALKER: And the other big story we are following today. Democrats vowing to ramp up their investigations into President Trump. Today the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee says he will be requesting documents from some 60 people as Congress investigate the President for possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Some of those being targeted include top officials at Trump's businesses, and several members of the President's family including Donald Trump Jr.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR: Do you think the President obstructed justice?
REP. JERRY NADLER, (D) NEW YORK: Yes, I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If not --
NADLER: It's very clear that the President obstructed justice. It's very clear. 1100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt. He tried to -- he fired -- he tried to protect Flynn being investigated by the FBI. He fired Comey in order to stop the Russian thing, as he told NBC News. He's dangled -- he's intimidated witnesses in public.
WALKER: Meantime, President Trump is claiming he is innocent, tweeting today, I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad conflicted and corrupt people in a witch hunt that is illegal and should never have been allowed to start, and only because I won the election.
With me now is Michael Shear, who is a White House correspondent for the "New York Times" and a CNN political analyst. Also joining me is Areva Martin, who is a civil rights attorney and a CNN legal analyst. Welcome to you both.
[15:05:03] Areva, let me start with you and get your thoughts on Congressman Jerry Nadler's claim that the President obstructed justice. He said it was very clear. And when it comes to Cohen's testimony, I mean it seems like there were many potential opportunities to obstruct justice, and specifically when Cohen was saying, look, Trump did not tell me to lie, he kind of spoke to me in code to cooperate with his lawyers when it came to his testimony about how long the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations have been going on for and hence he ended up pleading guilty to lying to Congress. How clear do you see a case of obstruction of justice against the President, Areva?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the issue here is not whether Trump obstructed justice but what happens to a sitting President who does the kinds of things, engages in the kind of conduct that President Trump has engaged in. The Justice Department has this regulation and we talk so, you know, much about in the news, about not indicting a sitting President. So the question becomes whether the conduct that President Trump has engaged in, the 1,100 tweets that Congressman Nadler were made reference to the comments that we heard Michael Cohen testify to about, Donald Trump telling him to lie about the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. There's a laundry list of conduct that Trump has engaged in.
So the question becomes, does that conduct give the Department of Justice the kind of evidence they need to file charges against the President? Or, you know, can this President be indicted? I think for me listening to Michael Cohen, the most troubling thing about his testimony was not what happens with Robert Mueller, but what happens with the southern district of New York and other, you know, investigations that may come out of his testimony. So the obstruction of justice, like so many other claims, I think are still on the table.
WALKER: And Michael, I mean Areva does mentioning President Trump has attacked the Mueller investigation whether it was the FBI or James Comey or the intel community, more than 1,100 times, that was a tally from the "New York Times" several weeks ago. But I mean just last week, you had Cohen's testimony. Trump at CPAC blasting the investigation, calling out BS going off on Twitter, I mean extraordinary to hear a U.S. president say, I am an innocent man. Are you getting the sense that President Trump is getting a bit worried about his legal future?
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well -- I mean, I think you've got that sense from the day that all of these investigations started, is that the President was clearly aware of the danger that he was in both politically and legally. And so, you know, that's why he's been lashing out so much in the past two years. I mean the -- that the real question that I think we all have to grapple with, right, is there's a couple of different standards. There is a legal standard and there's a political standard.
And, you know, whether or not the expressions, the public expressions of attacks that the President does, I was at CPAC yesterday when the President gave that very, very long speech. We're all -- we all shake our heads at -- at the kind of President of the United States attacking somebody like Mueller, attacking his own FBI and law enforcement that way. But does that meet ultimately the legal definition of obstruction?
SHEAR: Does -- you know, does that put him in a -- in legal jeopardy for a conspiracy that either Bob Mueller or the other law enforcement agencies can bring? And if not, if it doesn't meet that standard, then can the Democrats, both on the House side and the Senate side, assemble a case that's a political case against them, that it may not meet that legal standard, but that there is enough that the President has done both privately and publicly that they can build a case for impeachment. And I think that, too, is still an open question.
SHEAR: We don't know whether the politicians -- you know, the Democrats can do that.
WALKER: Yes. And that brings me to my next point for Areva. I mean, Democrats they've been making a clear today that they plan to expand their investigations to President Trump, following Cohen's testimony this week. I want you to listen to Adam Schiff this morning.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CHAIMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I made this distinction all along, and that is while there is abundant evidence of collusion, the issue from a criminal point of view is whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy. And that is something that we will have to await Bob Mueller's report and the underlying evidence to determine.
We will also have to look at the whole body of improper and criminal actions by the President, including those campaign finance crimes to determine whether they rise to the level of removal from office.
WALKER: I mean so what we're hearing from the Democrats, Nadler and Schiff are both saying look, it's very clear there was obstruction, there was collusion. My question is what are the legal options for lawmakers? What's the strategy from here on out?
MARTIN: Well what we're hearing is that not likely that Bob Mueller is going to indict the President. Again, I reference that DOJ memo about not indicting a sitting president. But I think what was clear from Michael Cohen's testimony is that he, the President's legal jeopardy goes well beyond anything that Mueller is investigating with respect to Russia.
[15:10:02] We heard about him inflating and deflating his assets for purposes of insurances, for purposes of getting a loan. We heard Michael Cohen testify about that. He brought the check that he said Donald Trump signed that was a part of the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, to prevent that damaging information about an affair coming out right before the 2016 election.
So there is a plethora of information that was provided by Michael Cohen, that we have been told by reports that the southern district of New York is investigating, and that they may not believe that they're prohibited from indicting the President, the way that Mueller and his team believes. So it is very clear that the President faces a significant amount of legal jeopardy both while in office and when he is out of office. If he's no longer the president after the 2020 election, it seems pretty clear that his legal jeopardy and that of his family was definitely heightened or raised after Michael Cohen's testimony.
WALKER: Sure. Yes, absolutely. And Michael, lastly to you, I just want to ask you about our top breaking story about Rand Paul, the Senator joining Republicans now making it four, which is the magic number that they needed to pass this resolution, basically overturning the President's emergency declaration. How big of a blow is this for the President? Because in the end he will still be able to get the funding for his wall since he has a veto power and the Senate cannot overcome that veto.
SHEAR: Yes, I mean I think that's right. I think everybody would, making the political calculation now would believe that the Senate probably doesn't have -- that the Democrats plus the handful of Republicans aren't enough to overcome a presidential veto. I would only caution that, you know, politics can shift pretty quickly in this town and it's possible that something could happen between now and the time that a veto would take place that could change the dynamics. But I think look, you know, what is undeniable is that members of the President's own party are deeply, deeply uncomfortable with this idea because of what was mentioned in the report earlier, which is the precedent that it could set. The next time there's a Democratic president, this lays the groundwork for a pretty dramatic expansion of the idea of presidential power. Can you use a national emergency just in very narrow cases to do very narrow things, or can you, as the President is trying to do, use a national emergency to basically get what you want even when Congress has specifically acted in a contrary way? And, you know, there is a lot of Republicans, more than just those four that have been identified --
SHEAR: -- who are uncomfortable with that. And so, they're not ready right now to oppose the President, but that is there in the Congress.
WALKER: Yes, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell --
WALKER: -- who pleaded to the President, please don't do this, but ended up siding with the President so he can avoid a shutdown. We're going to have to leave it there. Michael Shear and Areva Martin, thank you both very much.
SHEAR: Thank you.
MARTIN: Thanks Amara.
WALKER: Well the other key person Congress will soon be hearing from is Felix Sater. A Russian born business man also linked to the President who claims he led the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations, and he's got quite the resume. In 1991, Sater got into a bar fight and slashed a guy with a margarita glass. In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to a stock fraud scheme involving the mob. Only a few years later, Sater says he began working with the Trumps on real estate deals. In 2015, Sater e-mailed Michael Cohen, then-lawyer for Mr. Trump, and talked about how the Trump Tower Moscow project would help Mr. Trump to convince the nation of his negotiating skills and help win the White House.
CNN's Cristina Alesci has more.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Felix Sater is the man at the center of Donald Trump's Moscow Trump Tower project, and now he'll testify publically before Congress, sharing with the world what he knows about the President's business dealings.
FELIX SATER, FMR TRUMP BUSINESS ASSOCIATE: I was trying to use this opportunity because I had tried to build Trump Towers in Moscow as well as London and Paris.
ALESCI (voice-over): Lawmakers will likely grill Sater on what Trump knew about the deal and when and on possible financing sources. In 2018 Sater told CNN if the Trump Tower Moscow project had moved forward, he would have made sure Trump was hands on.
SATER: I would have -- believe me, I turned over every rock to make sure that everyone --
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I get you. I get you.
SATER: -- was involved.
ALESCI (voice-over): Sater was e-mailing Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen in 2015 and 2016 about the Moscow deal. That deal would have netted the Trump's business a $4 million upfront fee. Special council prosecutor said, if the deal had been successful, it would have earned hundreds of millions of dollars for the Trump Organization. Sater is best known for his role Trump in the propose Moscow deal, but his connection with the President goes well beyond that.
CUOMO: You did licensing agreements involving the Trump name also, which was a huge revenue flow.
SATER: Absolutely. I did it in New York, I did in it Fort Lauderdale, I tried to do in --
SATER: -- Phoenix, Arizona. I worked on numerous Trump deals in my career.
CUOMO: I get.
ALESCI (voice-over): Trump downplayed the relationship during a deposition in 2013.
TRUMP: I don't know him well at all.
[15:15:04] ALESCI (voice-over): But in 2010, Sater had an office three doors down from Trump at the Trump Tower in New York, according to a person familiar with the office layout at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That he had an office in the Trump Tower.
MICHAEL COHEN, FMR ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: And on the 26th floor, Mr. Trump --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the 26th floor is important why?
COHEN: Because it's Mr. Trump's floor.
ALESCI (voice-over): Sater, born in the Soviet Union moved to the U.S. in the 1970s. He's a former felon turned government cooperator, who says he's shared a wealth of information with U.S. authorities on a variety of issues for the last 20 years and soon could share some of that with the American people.
WALKER: And that was Cristina Alesci reporting. As for Sater's testimony, lawmakers were likely want to follow the money and ask about financing for the project during Sater's hearing. President Trump has denied any wrong doing with regards to the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
Still ahead, the White House is on the defensive after President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un left their second summit without a deal. Did that hurt future efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize?
And later, remembering Bloody Sunday. On the anniversary of the March on Selma, several 2020 Democratic hopefuls are making their pitch to potential voters.
[15:20:27] WALKER: I want to take you to Selma, Alabama. Live pictures there of Hillary Clinton. She and other Democratic hopefuls for 2020 and leaders in the community are about to walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 54th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March. We will get that to you when it actually happens, that is suppose to get underway at about 3:30. We can see the weather not cooperating so much, it has been storming much of the day, but it looks like they are out and about ready to do this walk.
All right turning now to another big story. We are following National Security Adviser John Bolton coming out strong today, fiercely defending President Trump's decision to walk out of that meeting with Kim Jong-un. He insists that despite both men leaving without a deal, the second summit was not a failure. And the possibility of a third summit could be on the table, depending on Kim Jong-un's next move. He also says the President laid out a clear offer, and now they will wait and see.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think it was unquestionably a success for the United States because the President protected, defended American interest. You know, the possibility was there for North Korea to make a big deal with us, to do complete denuclearization in exchange for the potential for a very bright economic future. The President wanted to make that big deal. He pushed very hard for it. The North Koreans were not willing to walk through the door that he opened for them.
So now we'll see what happens. If you can't get a good deal, and the President offered North Korea the best deal it could possibly get, no deal is better than a bad deal.
WALKER: Joining me now, former U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus.
Max, a pleasure to have you on, and as you heard there, Bolton was saying that this was unquestionably a success. You have President Trump at CPAC touting it as a success, saying that a lot of progress was made. And -- I mean Trump was hoping that his charm would be able to work and get Kim Jong-un to denuclearize. He walked away empty- handed. Was this a success?
MAX BAUCUS, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Well, I think it was right for President Trump to walk away from the deal that Kim Jong-un proposed to him. The problem is that there was insufficient preparation here. Not the groundwork was not laid, so it's almost impossible that there is going to be an agreement. At this point we have to ask ourselves, where do we go from here? What's next? I think it's important to remember several realities. One is that we've been trying, many administrations have been trying for years to get Kim Jong-un to denuclearize and it's not worked. I was part to his talk many times since China has talking with the Chinese minister dealing with North Korea. We got nowhere.
Second, I think it's important to realize that Kim Jong-un is not going to give up his nukes. That his whole guard, that's what keeps him in power. And after that, I think that we have to recognize that he's not more awful (ph), he has more nukes, he has more missiles than he did a few years ago. So this is going to be extremely difficult, and we have to start asking ourselves the unthinkable, which is, are we prepared to recognize that Kim Jong-un might be becoming part of a nuclear club?
WALKER: Yes. I mean a lot of critics said that -- yes, this summit highlighted the fact that President Trump was badly under prepared for this meeting, way more so than Kim Jong-un who clearly --
WALKER: -- studied up on Trump. The fact that -- because you were saying what happens next? Well, we know what happens next is no large-scale military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. That seems like a major concession, especially since North Korea isn't giving anything up, but the U.S. is, and they're making smaller military drills with South Korea.
BAUCUS: Yes, I'm concerned with that. Basically that allows Kim a free pass. At least it gives Kim something that Kim is not going to balk at when he now begins to negotiation again for United States. This is extremely difficult. Requires a lot of work and let's not forget that China is a major player here. China is will be a part of any solution since North Korea is right next door. I spent a lot of time talking with the Chinese about this. They want stability, they want the status quo, they don't want a peninsula under the control of South Korea or a United States presence. Any deal with Kim is going to very much involve China, whether we like it or not.
WALKER: Yes, you raise a good point. A lot of Korea watchers saying Kim Jong-un never had any attention nor has any intention to denuclearize as it is an insurance for his survival. Ambassador Max Baucus, a pleasure to have you on. Thanks for your time, sir.
[15:25:08] BAUCUS: (INAUDIBLE), thank you. Next, Democrats on the campaign trail today. They are marking the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Why they say now is a critical time for civil rights in America?
WALKER: Welcome back everyone. 2020 Democratic hopefuls are marking 54 years since the events of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. In a few moments, Senators Cory Bookers, Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown will join others including Hillary Clinton in reenacting the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on this rainy Sunday.
It was 54 years ago this week when civil rights activist peacefully organized a march from Selma to Montgomery but were violently confronted by local authorities. This dark moment in history let to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
[15:30:11] This morning Hillary Clinton joined the Democratic candidates in delivering a message of concern about the future of our democracy.
HILLARY CLINTON, FMR DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: But that work and the work that all of you have done and the work of those who came before has never been more urgent than it is today. This is a time, my friends, when fundamental rights, civic virtue, freedom of the press, the rule of law, truth, facts and reason are under assault. And make no mistake, we are living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Democracy and the right to vote is not some esoteric intellectual concept. The people who own America, the people who put hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful, they know about the power of the vote.
SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The call of our country is still clear. The dream of our nation still demands, but the question will be how will we answer? I am proud to be here to remember our history. But I worry now that we are at a point in our country where we see a moral vandalism that is attacking our ideals and beliefs and eroding the dream of our nation.
WALKER: CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is in Selma. Also joining me from Washington is Cornell William Brooks, the former president and CEO of the NAACP, and Michael Eric Dyson, author of "What Truth Sounds Like." Nia, let's start with you. You're standing out in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where this walk is about to get underway any minute now. And -- I mean I guess what is the message when we see so many of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls descending on Selma for this anniversary?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITIAL REPORTER: It's all about urgency, it's all about fighting, it's all about protecting the right to vote. Almost who speakers, if you look at the 2020 candidates, all talked about expanding the right to vote and some of the problems that a lot of the states have seen in terms of access to the polls, in terms of early voting and some of the rollbacks some of the voters have seen going back to 2013 because of that Supreme Court decision.
Right now standing just a few feet away from me, well Hillary Clinton addressing this crowd. She, of course, saw a much smaller pool of African-American voters show up. if you think about 2016 versus 2012, up 2 million viewer African-American voters showed up at the polls. The folks here like Sherrod Brown, like Cory Booker, and like Bernie Sanders are here because they know they've to connect with African- American voters if they've got any shot of winning the Democratic primary and then winning the White House come 2020.
WALKER: And Michael to you, I mean the message from Senators Booker and Sanders, we also heard from Hillary Clinton, I mean they're issuing a stark warning about the democracy being under assault. We heard Bernie Sanders say that, you know, we are still fighting for our right to vote. I guess it's a timely commemoration with a really important message.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, "WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE": Absolutely. When we look at the President's efforts to suppress the black vote, when we look at efforts to undermine and destabilize and deresonate the black voter, it becomes especially clear that Selma is not something a march through memory, it's a march through a map that continues to haunt us.
A geography of segregation, a geography of disinheritance that is before us now. And what these presidential candidates understand that if we are to make a link between what happened then, 54 years ago, when on March 7th, those people were violently repelled. And then on March 9th, marching again and then turning around. And then finally on March 21st, making the move forward to get to Montgomery, that is an extract -- that is a projected trajectory and that continues to resonate with us today.
We have people who are standing in the face of black progress trying to turn us back so to speak symbolically on that Edmund Pettus Bridge. And the question is what we do to acknowledge those forces that attempt to repel us and then move forward with our renewed determination to make the vote real for African-American and other dispossessed peoples in this nation.
WALKER: And Cornell, I mean let's talk more about voter suppression, as Michael brought that up. I mean that is a very big concern heading into the presidential election, and you don't have to look that far. Just during the midterm elections.
[15:35:07] And we look at the Georgia gubernatorial race for example. I mean there was a mass campaign as many would say, a voter suppressions. So that -- this is still a big concern about getting equal access to the polls.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FMR CEO, NAACP: Absolutely. Selma is not only about 1965 but about 2019 and 2020. So as we saw in the midterm elections where we saw hundreds of thousands of people, voters, purged from the polls in Georgia, we have seen in North Carolina, criminal activities in terms of suppressing the right to vote. In North Dakota, we have seen Native Americans have their votes suppressed.
And so we find ourselves in the midst -- I should say in the wake of Selma and in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, in the midst of an ongoing frenzy of voter suppression and a season, if you will, of an ongoing criminal, unconstitutional enterprise to undermine our democracy. We need to be very clear about this. We cannot have confidence in our elections because we have politicians who literally stealing the vote.
WALKER: And --
BROOKS: And so Selma is not about commemoration, it's about consecration and commitment.
WALKER: Very good point. Nia-Malika, let's talk a little bit about Bernie Sanders, because we know that he's been giving some really strong speeches. He's actually changing gears and talking more personal about, you know, about his roots and how he won't forget where he come from and drawing a stark contrast to him and President Trump. But we also know he struggled with the black vote in 2016. I mean he only got 14% of South Carolina voters during the primary. What can he and other candidates learn from that?
HENDERSON: You know, I think they got to show up. If you think about somebody like Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist often thought about a class but didn't think about necessarily the intersectionality of class and race. We also talk about the ways in which Bernie Sanders moved the Democratic Party to the left on any number of issues. What's also true is he has been moved to the left on race by the Democratic Party, primarily African-American voters.
So you see him talking about race in the way that he didn't in 2016. He was shouted down by Black Lives Matter protesters in 2016, and in this go-round, he really is, I think, embracing a lot of the platform of Black Lives Matter and also just black progressives in general. So we'll see if that works for him. Hillary Clinton obviously did very well among African-American voters. She won something like 70% in a state like Alabama, won 70% of the voters altogether, of course powered by African-American voters, primarily African-American women voters, and those are the folks who I talked to here. They say they're ready to fight, they're not angry, but they're ready to fight and they're ready to win. Those are the voters that if you're a Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, vast field of Democrats, those are the folks you need to get there.
They're gathered here today for this march and not letting a little cloudy weather stop them today. So you can imagine that all of these candidates are going to be returning again and again to states like Alabama to make connections with these African-American voters.
WALKER: And Cornell, I mean this Democratic field, we should mention, is the most diverse in history. And because of that, you can't assume voters are going to vote based on skin color. But how much weight will you be putting on a candidate's race, will people be putting on a candidate's race in 2020?
BROOKS: I think people will put a lot of -- they'll put a lot in not so much a person or a candidate's race, but in the degree and on the degree to which they oppose racism. And meaning racial discrimination at the ballot box. Because here we are on this Sunday, recognizing the blood, sweat and tears of our forebearers shed in Selma. And so to the degree to which these candidates are clear about the support for the voting Rights Advancement Act.
The -- to a degree these candidates are clear about their opposition to voter purges, their support for campaign finance reform, their support for those protections that ensure a well-functioning democracy. So it's not about skin color, it's about the aspirations of certainly black and brown people and people of color in terms of America living out and fulfilling its promise. And so to do that, you really got to stand against racism at the ballot box.
WALKER: I want to pose this question to all of you, but Michael, I'll start with you first. I mean President Trump has touted that he's done so much for the black community, more than any other President. What does it say that the administration isn't represented today?
DYSON: Well, it says everything. It says that this administration is tone deaf and really blind to the forces of racism that prevail that come out of their very mouths collectively as an administration, the structural impediments and obstacles that prevent black people from lurching, they barely address.
[15:40:11] They reduce it to personal relationships, so that the other day when, you know, Congressman Meadows brought out Lynn Patton, the friend of Donald Trump to prove that there was no presence of racism. This is not the halcyon days of the civil rights movement when we understood that we were fighting against bigger forces. It wasn't black versus white, it was right versus wrong. And what this administration doesn't understand is that it amplifies the worst instincts of the American soul. It gives voice not to the better angels of our nature, but to the marauding demons that continue to consume the fabric of our very moral in ethical lives.
So what the Trump administration doesn't get by not being there is that they are only reinforcing the notion that they are out of step with the progress of race in this country, and furthermore, they've done nothing to really facilitate a broader recognition of the rights of African-Americans, Latinx, you know, Asian, indigenous people and certainly the rights of those who are marginalize and pushed to the periphery of our political process.
So, this is part and parcel of the very thing that reminds us that Donald Trump has no idea about what race is. The more he evokes his personal bona fide days, he only reinforces the notion that he is not only out of step, but that he is marching the wrong way and that in order to have racial progress in this country, he's got to do an about-face. WALKER: And Nia, just quickly, because historically presidents including President Obama have turned out to commemorating Bloody Sunday in Selma.
HENDERSON: You're right, I mean this has -- also in times been a bipartisan event with members of Congress from the different party's Republicans and Democrats gathering here to commemorate Bloody Sunday and the spirit of that march and the spirit of those young folks all pushing for civil rights, pushing for voting rights in particular, this time not any presidents at all, from -- certainly from this administration. Perhaps there are some Republicans here. I haven't necessarily run into high-profile Republicans from the Hill.
But certainly I think to a different period we're in, in terms of American politics, and the division are often times a racial division that many people certainly feel that this President has stog (ph) and you've heard from the (INAUDIBLE) today, people really condemn Donald Trump and sort of the language and the environment around race that many feel like he has fostered.
WALKER: Rebecca Buck is standing by there on the ground as this march is getting underway. Rebecca, just describe to us what's happening, the atmosphere there. I know the rain kind of -- must have impacted the turnout. So not as many people as I'm sure organizers hoped, but we're seeing live images there where Hillary Clinton, Reverend Jessie Jackson, Senator Cory Brooker -- Booker I should say, all joining hands getting ready to do this march.
REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, that's right. The rain has cleared, Amara, and the clouds have parted. It is now the sun is now shining and the march is continuing as planned. You can see in the picture, I believe, Senator Cory Booker, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Hillary Clinton there in the front row, along with Senator Sherrod Brown and his wife Connie Schultz. And they are making their way slowly but surely of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
You hear I think probably nearby me some of the police trying to direct the traffic as well as secret service who were here with Hillary Clinton. But it is -- it's incredibly moving symbolic, and you can see for these leaders here in the front row that it's incredibly moving for them in this moment and the crowd is very big, bigger than you might expect to given the weather situation we had earlier today, Amara.
WALKER: And Cornell to you, I mean as a Democratic primary is essentially underway, I mean we're hearing from so many of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls. What kind of messaging do you want to hear from the Democrats, especially when we have such a diverse lineup and women and African-Americans the like represented in this lineup?
BROOKS: What I would hope that the Democratic contenders for president embrace the future. And as opposed to clinging on to the past. And we're -- we mean by that is embracing the full diversity of America. Speaking to the serious racial divide in this country, the ethnic divide. The tremendous rise in hate in this country. And speak to where we need to go as a nation. So, in other words, on this Bloody Sunday, as we remember, 3,000 arrests. James -- Reverend James Reeb losing his life in Selma, Jimmie Lee Jackson losing his life in Selma, Amelia Boynton being beaten to the payment in Selma. Even as we remember the past, we ask them to remember our mother (ph), but remember these children, this brothers and sisters all across this country who are looking to the White House for leadership.
[15:45:15] Looking for a White House that will show up. In the same way that the President was absent in Charlottesville, he's absent today. We need Democratic contenders for president to be present and president with and in the midst of today's struggles, and I'm glad to see that they are there.
WALKER: Absolutely. But short is sad, you know, when 50 some years after this march that galvanized the passing of the Voting Rights Act. We're still talking about voter suppression issues, you know, voter restriction. Nia-Malika to you, I mean how is that a problem that can be addressed, because in 2013, the Supreme Court made a decision on the landmark (ph) Voting Rights Act, basically lifting oversight -- federal oversight. So it's going to be up to the states and that's not easy to control.
HENDERSON: I think that's right. I mean you've seen some movement on this. You think about Florida giving the ballot back to certain folks who were restricted because of a criminal background. So you do see some movement. Virginia, for instance, all the same thing. But as well as in the House an attempt to make Election Day a federal holiday. So it would be easier for folks to go and vote on Tuesday. But there is something of an uphill battle because of the way everything is structured in terms of voting they end up to the different states.
So you have essentially different systems of voting, almost county by county. And then your folks can kind of make their own decision about how things operate? Where are polling places are? Whether or not their souls to the polls. You know, which would be on a Sunday, I mean many African-Americans vote on Sunday.
So some of those hours and windows are voting have been cut back. But the urgency you hear today from the poll pits, there was a breakfast earlier in the morning as well, you probably hear Reverend Barbara out of North Carolina behind me organizing folks in North Carolina over this last on many years to put back this focus on voting, in connecting, and obviously, on today to 1965. That, of course, the central cause of that march those many years ago, 54 years ago.
I got to say that 3rd March and you heard Michael Eric Dyson talked about the one that was complete. My father was actually part of that march, and oftentimes when you see those old clips of (INAUDIBLE), I can see a picture of my father marching alongside with Martin Luther King.
So pretty moving for me personally to be here today and think about my father who died number of year ago, but it was 21 (INAUDIBLE). WALKER: All right, it looks like we lost Nia-Malika. As we're saying, the weather is not exactly cooperating. But we're going to leave it there. Nia-Malika, Cornell and Michael and Rebecca, many thanks to you all on this rainy day in Selma. We're going to be right back after this.
[15:52:10] WALKER: Welcome back, everyone. We want to take you back out live to Selma, Alabama. This is where an official march is expected to get under way any minute now. This is the Edmund Pettus Bridge. That is a historical bridge where this 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery 54 years ago ended with many of the peaceful demonstrators being beaten and assaulted, knocked to the ground.
On the ground right now is Rebecca Buck. And Rebecca, tell us more about what's happening around you. And if you don't mind, a brief history lesson here as to what happened there, 54 years ago, on this bridge as hundreds of people gathered to protest.
BUCK: Well Amara, it was here on the Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965, 54 years ago this weekend, that John Lewis and other civil rights fighters walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, trying to march to the capital in Montgomery but were stopped by Alabama troopers who beat them bloody on this bridge. That started a pivot point in the civil rights movement toward the Voting Rights Act, and that today is what we are commemorating here on this bridge.
And fittingly, just a few minutes ago, protesters at the start of this march lay down in the path of the marchers, protesting the Voting Rights Act, protesting to get it approved again. And all of the marchers at the head of this march, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, all of them stopped in their tracks as these protesters laid on the ground for 45 seconds before the march continued again. And now we're about halfway up the bridge, marching forward now slowly but surely.
WALKER: And to you, Michael Eric Dyson, if you're still with us, you know, we heard from Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee. We heard from Cory Booker, who's also running in 2020, along with Bernie Sanders. They were sounding the alarm earlier today as they were speaking at the unity breakfast and at the historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma. And they were saying, look, our fight isn't over. It didn't end here on this bridge. In fact, our freedoms, our civil rights, equal access to the polls, all of that continues to be under assault, Michael.
DYSON: Absolutely. And I think they're right to do so. People tend to in one sense relegate this so the ash bin of history. This is what happened then. Those were great times. Those were fierce times. Those were ferocious times. But those times are basically over. We've achieved civil rights. Let's calm down. Everybody stop talking about race. But we live in what Gore Vidal called the United States of amnesia. And we continue to be addicted to forgetfulness.
[15:55:05] And what these politicians are doing are really chiming in by ringing the bell of memory. We most revoke our citizenship in the United States of amnesia and become members in, you know, the kingdom of memory. And what does that mean that means you can't pretend that this stuff has gone away, that the attempt to deny black people and other people the right to vote is still with us. No, we don't have poll taxes. We don't have literacy tests where black people have to do ridiculous things that even the people administering the tests couldn't answer.
But what we do have is the concerted attempt of many bigoted politicians to deny the legitimate right of African-American and other people to exercise the franchise, to dimple the chad that's gone, but to pull the lever and to register their view through democracy, through the Democratic process of voting. And you would think that in this day and age, that we would want more people coming to the polls. Why are we blocking souls to the polls? Why are we blocking universal registration? Why are we blocking the ability of people to vote and coming up with ID laws? Because there's a concerted effort to deny one group of people, one block of people the right to vote, because they are feared to be Democrats.
Why don't we broaden the process of American democracy so that everybody can vote? And what the civil rights movement did was to remind us then, as those who participate now must remind us again, that democracy is only made healthy when we have millions of people voting, when we have the vast body of American democracy and the citizens who represent it participating legally in that process.
So I think those politicians are here to tell us that the fight is not over, the march continues to go forward, and those of us who are here, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ella Baker and Jo Ann Robinson and the like must continue to hold high the bloodstained banner of that truth in these dark days and times.
WALKER: Well said, Michael. I mean what a timely commemoration, as you say, because the fight is not over for equal voting rights. Rebecca Buck, I know you've been talking to people there on the ground. I know the turnout wasn't as large as organizers had hoped because of the rain, but what are people saying about what this means to them, that we have this conversation about race still being a factor in America, race still being a hindrance when it comes to getting access to the polls?
BUCK: Well absolutely. And this has been -- I mean, not only a conversation here today in Selma, which is obviously such a symbolic place to have this conversation, but also in this Presidential campaign cycle more broadly. We've been hearing from Democratic candidates really in an unprecedented way, having very frank conversations about race and racial justice in America today, including Cory Booker. And we're actually now about to have a moment of silence here at the march. I want to be respectful, so back to you.
WALKER: All right and no problem at all. These are live pictures, extraordinary pictures out of Selma, Alabama, as this re-enactment of Bloody Sunday, the march that started at Brown Chapel across the Edmund Pettus Bridge is happening right now. A smaller turnout, as we're saying, because it's been quite a rainy and stormy day there in Selma.
But of course, the meaning and the accomplishments from that day and the accomplishments that are in danger of being reversed, that is not being lost on anyone, as we watch these live pictures. Reverend Jesse Jackson there as well, a civil rights activist along with many 2020 Democratic hopefuls on the ground.
We're going to take a short break. I want to say thank you to Michael and Rebecca for joining us. We'll be right back here on CNN NEWSROOM.