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Sen. Ben Cardin (D) of Maryland Discusses Rep. Talib Saying Islamophobia on Both Sides of Aisle, Trump's Twitter Attacks on McCain, Graham's Defense of McCain, 2-State Solution for Israel; GOP's Steve King Shares Meme of Modern-Day Civil War; Colorado To Give Electoral Votes to National Popular Vote Winner; Interesting Sermon Trump Heard During Tweet Binge. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 18, 2019 - 13:30   ET

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


[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: She's saying Islamophobia is also present on the Democratic side and it's responsible for attacks on Congressman Ilhan Omar, the other Muslim in Congress. When you see this, do you see Islamophobia at play?

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D), MARYLAND: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's comments were flat wrong. They had to be called out, they should have been called out and they were called out. We should lose focus. Let's stay focused on American values. American values embrace diversity. There's no room for hate. We all need to take responsibility through our words and deeds to make it clear that we won't tolerate hate.

But I come back to the president of the United States. Our challenge is not a political party, it's more the president of the United States who has really missed so many opportunities, from Charlottesville to now in New Zealand, to call out white supremacists, what they are, a threat to this country, a dangerous threat.

KEILAR: So he went on a Twitter rant over the weekend. He continued some of it today, the president did, and he went after one of your former colleagues, the late Senator John McCain. He also falsely said McCain finished last in his class at the naval academy. He falsely claimed that McCain gave the Steele dossier to the media. What do you think when you hear him? You're someone who spent many years in the Senate with John McCain. What do you think about these attacks?

CARDIN: To me, it's horrible to hear the president of the United States talk about a true American patriot and hero the way he has about John McCain. John McCain and I didn't agree on a lot of issues philosophically, but we were partners in promoting American values and standing up for human rights and getting the Global Magnitsky and the first Magnitsky statue passed. Over and over, he has shown his patriotism toward American, his respect with each individual. During the debate with President Obama or Candidate Obama, nobody will forget how he defended the values of this country. By the way, he corrected a question that was asked of him. John McCain is a hero and what President Trump did is inexcusable.

KEILAR: You say what President Trump did is inexcusable. I wonder if maybe -- you also have spent many years with Lindsey Graham in the Senate, so I was hoping maybe you could give us some understanding or perspective of the fact that this is his best friend, John McCain, and he tweeted out a defense of John McCain but it doesn't call the president out by name. What do you make of that?

CARDIN: Well, Lindsey Graham is an interesting person. He's a friend of mine. We've done a lot of business together. He has a method about how he expresses himself. That is not how I would express myself. But he's a very passionate person. Very much motivated by what's in the best interest of this country. And he is a protege of Senator McCain, there's no question about that.

KEILAR: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote an op-ed. She called for a two-state solution for Mideast peace. I wonder what you think about the possibility of Mideast peace with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Israel is only for the Jewish people, and then the White House having unwavering support for Netanyahu. Do you think peace can be achieved?

CARDIN: The only way we're going to move forward with peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis are two states living side by side in peace, a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. The two-state solution is the only way you can have lasting peace in the Middle East. I strongly support that effort. Let's recognize that the prime minister is in the middle of a campaign. I certainly don't condone, in fact, I've criticized the manner in which he's conducted his campaign in Israel. But he's in the midst of a campaign. We saw this the last time he ran for office. I think the leadership of Israel recognizes that the only way for peace in the Middle East is two states. We also need the Palestinians to embrace that. We've had challenges with Palestinian leadership in really sitting down seriously and talking about a peace process.

KEILAR: Do you worry about the chances for this?

CARDIN: Absolutely. The longer this drags out, the more challenges we're going find in the Middle East. I can't tell you how many leaders I met from Middle East countries who tell me that, once peace is achieved between the Palestinians and the Israelis, it opens up incredible opportunity in that region. There are a lot of countries who want to do business with Israel, who are holding out because of the failure of the peace process. It's in the interest of the Israelis, it's in the interest of the Palestinians to move the peace process as quickly as possible. Is that likely in this political environment? No. With the elections in Israel and the failure of leadership on the Palestinian side, no. But we have the responsibility to keep the peace process alive, recognizing the path forward is two states living side by side in peace, and let us try and find a way that we can break through the stalemate.

KEILAR: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you so much for being with us.

CARDIN: Thank you, Brianna.

[13:35:04] KEILAR: Republican Congressman Steve King is at it again. This time, he's posting a meme that depicts a modern-day civil war. Plus, in the middle of his Twitter binge, the president made a trip to

church. And we're now hearing what the reverend preached. We'll have the tape ahead.

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[13:39:55] KEILAR: We have an update to bring you. Dutch authorities say they have arrested the suspected gunman who opened fire inside a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht. Three people were killed, nine were injured. That, according to the city's mayor. And Dutch officials are considering possible terror motives in this shooting.

Controversial Congressman Steve King is at it again, and this time, the Iowa Republican shared a Facebook post that has many scratching their heads. This is it. You see two figures fighting. They're made up of red and blue states. It says, "Folks keep talking about another civil war. One side has about 18 trillion bullets while the other side doesn't know which bathroom to use." King asked who would win.

We have our Michael Warren here with me now to discuss this.

This is par for the course for Steve King, but this would be, if you just consider from a member of Congress, unusual and largely unacceptable.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: That's right. Steve King has a very active Facebook page that he runs, a personal page. Eads posting memes and other images, sometimes just harmless trolling of Democrats and liberals, and sometimes it bubbles up a lot of ideas and memes from the right-wing Internet world that Steve King is very much a part of. This is par for the course. He seems to spend a lot of time focused on sharing these sort of things that get a lot of likes, a lot of engagement from his fans, including a meme just last week of a man wearing a biker shirt seeming to threaten with sort of physical violence a Bernie Sanders supporter wearing a shirt with Bernie Sanders' face on it.

KEILAR: That's significant because of the timing. The president evoked the idea of bikers. He talked about this last week. Let's listen.

Oh, sorry. This is a full screen, it's not a sound bite.

But here's what he said: "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad."

This is the president saying that.

WARREN: Right.

KEILAR: It's extraordinary. Maybe not for this president -- that a president would talk about that. WARREN: And this idea of a civil war between left and right, or blue

states and red states, the idea of a sort of Second Amendment that people would need to have guns so sort of fight back in some sort of resistance to a deep state or the government, even though Donald Trump is head of the executive branch. This is a very common theme among sort of, again, the Internet world, the fever swamps of the Internet world. What is different about this is that it's trickling all the way up to elected members of Congress and even the president of the United States. That's what is so unusual. This is the sort of stuff that would normally be stuck in newsletters that people pass around. With the Internet, with Facebook, everybody can see them, and it has a very big platform.

KEILAR: Steve King has time on his hands now that he doesn't have committee right, stripped by Republicans.

Mike Warren, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Colorado could make history in 2020. They are joining 11 other states that are looking to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. We'll tell you what this could mean for the presidential election.

Plus, as the battle to push ISIS out of its last enclave in Syria rages on, CNN goes inside the terror group's last camp.

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[13:47:55] KEILAR: A new Colorado law could make voting history in the next general election. Colorado is joining 11 other states that want to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Most states have winner-take-all laws that give the Electoral College votes to the person who wins the popular vote within the state. Colorado's law only goes into effect if enough other states sign on to add up to at least 270 votes, which would be enough to elect the president. So far, a dozen states and the District of Columbia have signed on to this, bringing the current total of no votes to 181. The law is likely to spark a court fight since the Electoral College process is enshrined in the Constitution.

I want to talk about this with attorney and CNN legal analyst, Ross Garber.

Ross, let's start with whether these new popular-vote laws could even stand a challenge.

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. There are two issues. The whole Electoral College process is in the Constitution, and the notion of states giving up their rights to set up their votes in the Electoral College raises the question, isn't that an end run around the Constitution. Most legal scholars have looked at it, and inasmuch as I've looked at it, I think it withstands scrutiny on that point. States --

KEILAR: Really? GARBER: Yes. States in the Constitution are allowed to decide what happens with their electoral votes. And if they decide that the way they're going to allocate their electoral votes is based on the popular national vote, I think that's probably OK.

KEILAR: They're not getting rid of the Electoral College.

GARBER: Exactly. That's exactly right.

KEILAR: They're working around the current configuration of where the electoral votes go.

GARBER: Yes. Yes. The Constitution doesn't say, here's how the states have to do it, here's how the states don't have to do it. The states get to decide. I think that's the issue.

There's a second issue, though.

KEILAR: OK.

GARBER: The second issue is in the Constitution. Any agreements or contacts around states have to be approved by Congress. This scheme, even if it were approved by the states, approved by Congress, I think that's where it's more of an issue. I think it's likely. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court cases that say that doesn't work unless federal interests are interfered with it, I think that's a bigger issue. I think that this agreement, if it were to pass on the states, would still have to be approved by Congress.

[13:50:17] KEILAR: OK. So you look at this and how it would impact 2016. That's the obvious question. But when you look back, there are folks who will remind the president, much to his chagrin, that he lost the popular vote, and that seems to be the point of this.

GARBER: Now, that's exactly this. What he'll say in fairness is he wasn't trying to win the popular vote. He'll say he knew what the game was. The game was to win the Electoral College. That's what he focused on. If he wanted to, he could have, he'll say. Who knows? The bottom line is if this were the game, it would change how all the rules are fought. And it would change how campaigns are run in a very interesting way, right, because, right now, you've got a few swing states that decide the whole thing.

KEILAR: Exactly.

GARBER: You know. Presidential candidates don't visit a whole bunch of states. They don't run ads in a whole bunch of states. If the popular vote were the one that mattered, that would change that game. The presidential candidates would have to go to every state and run ads across the board, and it would be very interesting and different.

KEILAR: Very different.

Ross, thanks so much for explaining that to us.

GARBER: You bet. KEILAR: Coming up, during the president's Twitter binge, he took a little break to head to church and we now know what the reverend preached. We have the tape and we'll play it ahead.

Plus, in the middle of running the country, the president defends a FOX News host who made offensive remarks and demands FOX put her back on the air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:56:25] KEILAR: We've talked a lot today about President Trump's Twitter tirade yesterday, excessive, even by his own standard. Fifteen tweets in one day, not including retweets spread out over 14 hours criticizing the late John McCain, threatening "Saturday Night Live" with action by the FCC or FEC, defending Jeanine Pirro, the FOX News host benched after suggesting a Muslim congresswoman is disloyal to the Constitution because she wears a hijab. He tweeted a video of suspect for his border. And then he took a break for a while. What happened in those three-plus hours? He went to church. That's right. Before he return to Twitter in the afternoon to call out a local auto union chief for the closure of a G.M., retweeted a bunch of people who said, among other things, that they hate John McCain, and wrapped up his day just after 10:00 p.m. with an all caps "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," he was sitting in the pew, the president's pew, with his wife at St. John's Episcopal Church across Lafayette Park from the White House, listening to a sermon about courage, envy, and the importance of confronting hateful rhetoric in the wake of the attack on two mosques that killed 50 people in New Zealand on Friday. The press was kept outside of the church during the service. But St. John's posted sermons online. Here's some of what the president heard from Reverend Bruce in person.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. BRUCE MCPHERSON, ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Perhaps we're called whenever we overhear or oversee hateful slurs against other people, perhaps we need the holy courage to call them out and say that's just not us, that's just not the way we are. It's not easy to confront someone, but I know darn good and well that sometimes at work or in the grocery store or in a restaurant or sometimes even around the dining room table, somebody says something that is downright offensive, and I'm the first one to kind of just let it pass because I'm a peacemaker. But maybe we shouldn't be so ready to do that. We don't want to stop, put an end to hateful rhetoric because it's a nice thing to do or because it offends our sensibilities or because it's not in accordance with the First Amendment. We need to stop that stuff because it's a sin against the Gospel. It takes courage, I know. But it's up to us. Courage is contagious. And acting courageously, especially in the light of some kind of speech like that, catches on and spreads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: After hearing that, the president and the first lady greeted parishioners around them during what's called the Passing of the Peace. Then they received Communion and they left. And at 1:38 p.m., the president began tweeting again.

That does it for me.

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

[13:59:48] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Brianna, we'll take it. Thank you so much.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Monday afternoon.

Let's begin with the president's torrent of tweets that shows he's outraged about all but not the obviously. In a 40-plus tweet binge, the president went after, among other targets, FOX News management, some FOX News anchors, unions, General Motors --

[14:00:00]