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Biden Expresses Regret over Anita Hill Hearing; Trump Again Snipes at Puerto Rico over Aid Money; Janet Napolitano Discusses Puerto Rico, Disaster Money, Climate Change, Southwest Border, Facebook & White Nationalism; Author: Author: Barbara Bush Kept Trump Countdown Clock; Michelle Obama on Track to Make History with Memoir; U.S. Helping Saudis Build Own Air Marshal Program. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 27, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Former Vice President Joe Biden says Anita Hill paid a terrible price when she testified in 1991 that she'd been sexually harassed by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Biden was the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman at that time. He presided over Thomas' confirmation hearings. Biden was speaking at an event in New York on Tuesday when he said that the hearing Hill deserved was one where she was, quote, "respected," where the tone of the questioning was not hostile and insulting.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Anita Hill came to testify she faced a committee that didn't fully understand what the hell it was all about. To this day, I regret I couldn't come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.


KEILAR: Here now we have Tiffany Cross, co-founder and managing editor of "The Beat, D.C., and Washington bureau chief for "The Toronto Star," Daniel Dale.

Tiffany, I wonder what you think about Biden's damage. What strikes me is the distance he creates with is. She faced a committee, my committee. And he was the chairman of it.


KEILAR: He says, "I wish I could have done more." If anyone could have done more, he was the chairman.

CROSS: Right. If only he was in a position to help.

KEILAR: And he was. History has not been kind to where he was in that, nor to his own committee, and nor to the American public and how they responded to this. What should he be saying?

CROSS: Look, the candidate has a chance to explain to the voters, once he enters the race, to tell his story from the past 20 years or 30 years. And I think he has to give people a reason to forgive him for some of the missteps he made. That's not going to work when he's coming out of the gate absolving himself from any responsibility here. People are eager to hear your side of the story, but you have to give them a compelling story. I don't think he's done that. And there's this rumor about him potentially picking Stacey Abrams as his vice- presidential running mate when he enters the rate. Language like that will make him look very dated and alienate a very important voting bloc.

KEILAR: What do you think when you see him managing this?

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE TORONTO STAR: He's starting with a very high approval rating with Democratic women and among African-Americans and there's a lot that can be picked at. I think what we don't know is what happens to those approval ratings once people start picking at it. He enjoys these approval ratings in part because of his association with Obama. When he becomes his own man running by himself and those things start being pointed out, do those hold up and does he keep apologizing and expressing himself away.

KEILAR: He'll have decades to answer for, pre-Obama, right.

As he talked about this, he also criticized the role in the Anita Hill appearance in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing of what he called white man culture. Let's listen.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a woman sees a distinguished professor or lawyer subjected to that kind of cultural backlash, whether it was Doctor Ford or Professor Hill, saw what they endured, it's understandable that they're reluctant to step forward. Folks, I realize I get a little too passionate about this sometimes, but we all have an obligation to do nothing less than change the culture in this country. It's just the laws. We change the laws. Change the culture, the culture.


KEILAR: So the culture he's talking about.

I want to broaden this beyond Joe Biden because this is going to be a struggle for so many candidates on a number of different issues, right? You have this issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Criminal justice I think of Kamala Harris. I think of Bernie Sanders, I think of the crime bill in 1994. Gay rights, Tulsi Gabbard. I could go on and on with the list.

I wonder, how should the candidates, do you think, Dan, will be approaching these tricky issues?

DALE: I think it depends on their own individual identities. I think the question for Biden is whether voters who have shown in the Democratic electorate that they're looking for new faces and diverse faces and often female faces, if Biden can sell himself as the cultural change agent that he says is need. So he can talk all he wants about how all these changes are necessary, but are people going to buy that from a 70-something white man who is the culture. Is that the man to do it? I'm just not sure.

CROSS: To your point, Daniel, if he had said something like, I was a part of that culture and I was in a position to change it and I regret not doing that and here I am today to make amends to that, it will resonate better with voters. Because it isn't necessarily about people of color. For the black community, it's not how black are you, how black are your politics, how black are your policies, how inclusive is your campaign form. And we have yet to see that because he has it entered before the people who have. You see a reckoning now and they have to go through communities of color because the path leads directly to the White House.

KEILAR: If you have to apologize for yourself, you better have a well-thought-out plan.

CROSS: Right.

KEILAR: That's been very clear.

Daniel and Tiffany, thank you so much.

DALE: Thank you.

KEILAR: The governor of Puerto Rico is calling President Trump irresponsible over his latest comments over federal disaster aid.

[13:35:00] And new revelations about Barbara Bush, including a Trump countdown clock that she had.


KEILAR: President Trump has again accused Puerto Rico of mismanaging disaster relief funds, which is something that local officials flatly deny, and which there's no evidence of. In fact, most of the funds allocated have not gone out to areas hit hardest by Hurricane Maria. The president's latest attack on this U.S. territory came during a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans.

[13:40:07] The governor of Puerto Rico says that the president's remarks are, quote, "Below the dignity of a sitting president of the United States. They continue to lack empathy and are irresponsible, regrettable and, above all, unjustified."

And the mayor of San Juan said this.


CARMEN YULEZ CRUZ, (D), SAN JUAN MAYOR: The question for the president is, how many deaths, how many deaths of Puerto Ricans will be enough for him to do right by us?


KEILAR: We have former Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who is also the author of the book, "How Safe Are We: Homeland Security Since 9/11."

Digestible book, I will say.

Thank you very much.


KEILAR: A very good book.

You write in your book, "When an entire society nears collapse, as we say in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, the full arsenal of federal government resources must be brought to bear."

How do you assess this administration's response to Puerto Rico?

JANET NAPOLITANO, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think it's pretty clear they haven't brought to bear all of the resources that can and should be brought to bear. You know, Puerto Rico suffered a massive catastrophe. They lost all of their infrastructure. It's a difficult place to provide emergency relief to because you have to cross the water. It's not in the continental United States, but it's a territory of the United States, and we need to do much more there.

KEILAR: The Government Accountability Office in a very recent report, it says, now more than a year after this money was set aside for disaster-affected areas -- and not just Puerto Rico, we're talking Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a lot of it has been unspent at this point in time. And part of it is because the people who were supposed to get the grants are still in the planning phases. But then, on the other side, you have HUD, Housing and Urban Development, where they just don't have the resources. They haven't prepared and aren't equipped to conduct good oversight. What do you make of that?

NAPOLITANO: I think it illustrates that the government needs to take a step back and say, look, we will have these natural disasters. We will have more of them as a function of climate change. We need to reorganize. We need to up our game. When I became secretary of Homeland Security, FEMA was still in a post-Katrina funk, and we brought in a great director, Craig Fugate, and remade FEMA, so when Super Storm Sandy hit, we were able to deploy massive resources very quickly to the affected area. We need to be able to see that vis-a- vis Puerto Rico.

KEILAR: What's your assessment of FEMA right now?

NAPOLITANO: FEMA is much better. I worry about backsliding.

KEILAR: You worry about backsliding.

You argue -- and this is a very interesting part of your book -- that Americans need to know about threats, but they need to know which threat are real, which threats are not real. Give us some examples, which you do spell out in your book, give us examples of what you mean there.

NAPOLITANO: One very real threat is the impacts on climate change on our safety, when we see extreme weather events and landfall hurricanes and we see wildfires. Those are going to continue to increase. We need to rejoin the community of nations and do our part to reduce global warming. And we also need to do much more by way of adaptation to the warming that's occurred.

Cybersecurity is a real threat. Extraordinarily complicated, mass gun violence propelled by lots of different ideology, a real threat.

What's not a real threat to the safety and security of Americans is the southwest border. The border is a zone. It needs to be managed. It needs to be managed in accord with the rule of law, consistent with our value. But we need to recognize that that border is a zone through which lots of travel and -- excuse me -- travel and trade occurs and it needs to be managed accordingly.

KEILAR: I am struck that when you're talking about cybersecurity and talking about climate change. These are not priorities of this administration. I think of Russian meddling in the election and the president hasn't made that a priority. On climate change, for instance, with wildfires, he blames California inaccurately in its forestry policy, for instance. But when it comes to the border, the president at this point has pulled a billion dollars away from military personnel accounts, I should say. The argument being the military missed its recruitment goals and they don't need the money anyway and this is a national emergency. You say, though, that this is a strategy, this is a symbol. It's not a strategy.

NAPOLITANO: A wall is a symbol, it's not a strategy. A strategy involves manpower and it involves technology, and it involves air cover and it involves strengthening our actual ports of entry. That's a strategy. A wall is a symbol and it won't work.

[13:44:58] KEILAR: You talk about some of the threats, including -- one would be white nationalism. The issue is something that Facebook, we just learned, is tackling at this point in time. They're banning white nationalism. We'll be curious to see how they implement that. And one of the things they're doing is they try to wipe this off of the platform, that if someone goes searching on that on Facebook, they'll be redirected to organizations that fight this ideology.

What do you think about that and what are your concerns about Facebook actually making that work in a way to reduce this threat?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I actually think it's a great statement by Facebook and a great move forward and much needed. And I love the redirection to platforms that are anti-hate and anti-hate groups. We know that white nationalism is on the rise in the United States, right-wing extremism is on the rise. And a lot of it is propelled and motivated by, you know, things that people read on social media like Facebook. So for Facebook to step forward and say, look, we have a public responsibility here, we will carry out this public responsibility, it's a good move.

KEILAR: Are you surprised they haven't done this before?


KEILAR: It's been in the news before?

NAPOLITANO: Better late than never, right?

KEILAR: Secretary Napolitano, thank you so much.

And your new book, "How Safe Are We."

Thanks so much for coming on the program. We really appreciate you being here.

NAPOLITANO: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: A former Barbara Bush biography revealing stunning admissions the former first lady made before her death.

And Michelle Obama is on track to make history with her memoir.


[13:51:03] KEILAR: A series of admissions from one of the GOP's most iconic figures in a new book called, "The Matriarch." Journalist Susan Page says Barbara Bush told her just weeks before she died that she didn't really consider herself a Republican any more. The book also details Barbara Bush's long-standing dislike for President Trump, including claims that she jokingly blamed Trump for heart complications she had in 2016 during the presidential campaign. Also that she kept a Trump countdown clock next to her bed until the day that she died.

We have CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennett, who's joining us now.

The countdown clock in particular, because you can picture Barbara Bush going to bed and waking up to this clock every day. Do these details surprise you?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: No. I think they're great and classic Barbara Bush. She had a way of speaking her mind that felt like the matriarch is talking but she wasn't afraid to send a message and let you know what she's really thinking. Both of her sons talked about how mom was so good at that. Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and all of her children. So it doesn't surprise me. I think, you know, these were her last thoughts, her last words. I think she wanted the country to know how she felt about President Trump, how she felt about what he said about her son, Jeb, during the campaign. I think these are things she wanted to get off her chest, as Barbara Bush, she often did when she was alive. And here she is now through this book really telling us behind-the-scenes how she was feeling about the angst.

KEILAR: There's another book by a former first lady, Michelle Obama, "Becoming." It is on track to becoming the best-selling memoir ever. Nearly 10 million copies. What's making is so popular? BENNETT: One, Michelle Obama is just a phenomenal writer. We miss

her speeches. She had a way of delivering a message that got people to listen that was very clear. Writing her book, people are really resonating with what she's saying, her story. Two, we're also in the era of the #metoo movement. Watching women be strong and no one has a better story from the south side of Chicago to the White House than Michelle Obama. And I think that's really important. That's resonating right now. And also I think the public misses Michelle Obama. They have not connected in such a deep way with Melania Trump, for example, so there's this need to cling to Michelle Obama and the Obama era. And all those things make for a ginormous best seller.

KEILAR: It's pretty amazing. There's just the success of it is amazing. I see it everywhere. I see it tucked under people's arms.

BENNET: Worth that $30 million book deal.

KEILAR: Kate Bennett thank you.

A new warning from the top U.S. commander in the Pacific that the U.S. may not have enough weapons in a conflict China or Russia if one were to erupt.

And the battle over the Mueller report is intensifying on Capitol Hill as a top Democrat doubles down saying there was collusion.


[13:58:34] KEILAR: In a CNN exclusive, we're learning that the U.S. government is helping Saudi Arabia build its own air marshal program.

This is a story that CNN national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, broke.

Tell us what you're learning.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Brianna, this is a program that hasn't been revealed before. So basically, the U.S. government, through the TSA, is helping Saudi Arabia build up, from beginning to end, an air marshal program that essentially would allow Saudi air marshals to fly with weapons on Saudi-owned airplanes potentially in the future, potentially those flights coming to the U.S. It is a defense for the Saudi Arabia to make sure that the airplanes they are flying are safe. And officials say that this would be a good thing for Americans who are flying on those planes, of course. But they're concerns from members of Congress who haven't been fully briefed and have questions about sharing U.S. defense tactics with the Saudis.

KEILAR: And that's going to be a concern of many people. There are certainly families who have lawsuits pending against the Saudi government because so many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. They're going to have some worries, right?

ATWOOD: Exactly. We're also in this moment in time when the Jamal Khashoggi incident is raising questions about how much trust the U.S. should be putting in its reliance and its engagement with the Saudi government. You have that to consider as well. There's reason for alarm bells here. But the reality is that members of Congress really just want to get the answers as to what the U.S. is actually sharing and what they're teaching the Saudis with this program.

KEILAR: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for our exclusive report.