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New Poll: Mayor Pete Buttigieg Rises in Crowded Democratic Field; Florida Mayor Joins Democratic Race for President; In Fiery Exchange Lawmaker to Pompeo: "What's to Like" about Kim Jong-Un; Teen Who Pushed Friend from Bridge Sentenced. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:30:10] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The Democratic race for president just got even bigger with another name entering the race today right here on CNN. We'll get into that newcomer in just a moment.

But first, to the quote, many boomlet for mayor, Pete Buttigieg. That's the term our CNN politics is using after his latest showing in a national poll. It is the best one yet for the candidate from Indiana.

With me now Chris Cillizza, out CNN politics and editor-at-large.

In this poll, he's still way behind the likes of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but he's -- he's moving up in the world.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, look. Mayor Pete -- which I go by because Buttigieg is too hard for me -- Mayor Pete is still back in the pack. It's all about momentum at the moment.

And let's look at where he's at.


CILLIZZA: There he is, by the way. OK. Look, still, if you're Joe Biden, you still feel good about this, 29 percent. Joe Biden is the spent 30 years in the Senate and was the vice president for eight years. Right here, Mayor Pete, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete is tied with Elizabeth Warren, which is sort of remarkable. If you told me that the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Elizabeth Warren would ever have the same amount of support in a 2020 hypothetical poll, Brooke, I would be surprised. Progress matters.

The other number I'll look to is Beto O'Rourke. Got to be happy with where he is. He's above Kamala Harris now. These are -- these two are the two to watch right now. They're the two risers. Everybody else is sort of in a similar place that they've been.

BALDWIN: Well, Mayor Pete kind of crushed it in a CNN town hall. I think that helped him.

CILLIZZA: He did. That was the start of some momentum for him.


Who else is in today?

CILLIZZA: Let's go through this field -- we'll have to get a bigger screen. Mayor Pete is still in the exploratory phase. But we have a Florida mayor -- this came out of nowhere to be honest -- Wayne Messam, who I did not know of. We didn't think he was running for anything. He's now in the race. We expect, obviously, Mayor Pete. We have two mayors. This field is gigantic.

But wait, there's more. Literally. Let's go to the next screen. These are all the people -- you'll notice none of these people were on the graphic before. These are all other people considering the race. Joe Biden in just a matter of time. Michael Bennett, Colorado Senator, basically said he wants to run. Mike Gravel has run before, probably will again. We got word last night, thanks to Jeff Zeleny's reporting, that Terry McCullough, the former Virginia governor and Clinton ally, looking more and more likely to run. Seth Moulton, he could run. Eric Swalwell frequently on our air, California House member, could run.

This isn't just people who we'll put them on the long list. I would say, a half to two-thirds of these people will run. We would have to move them to the previous graphic, Brooke, at which point, you're looking at 16 to 20 credible, serious announced candidates, which would make it the largest field in the history of either sides presidential primary process.

BALDWIN: I'm already thinking about the debate stages and how you're going to fit everyone in and all of that and --


CILLILZZA: It's a good time to be in the podium-making business.

BALDWIN: Exactly. Who can really take on Donald Trump? That's the key question.

Chris Cillizza --

CILLIZZA: There's lots of options. That's one good thing. It's good that a lot of people want to run.

BALDWIN: Options. Options.

CILLIZZA: You have a lot of options. You're going to have so many you can choose from, like Baskin Robbins.

BALDWIN: You can't just pick one.

Chris Cillizza, thank you.

In this case, you have to. How about this, coming up? What's to like about Kim Jong-Un? That is the question posed to the secretary of state by a lawmaker in a tense hearing over North Korea. We'll talk to that member of Congress.

Also just in, a war of words just started between Jussie Smollett's team and city officials in Chicago. Hear Smollett's lawyers and what they're saying to the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, saying he will send the actor a bill.


[14:38:22] BALDWIN: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the hot seat over the Trump administration's plan to cut funding for the Special Olympic. Secretary DeVos had to defend the controversial proposal before the Senate Appropriations Committee. She testified that tough decisions had to be made around the budget process.

And then this exchange erupted with Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.


SEN. DICK DURBAN, (D), ILLINOIS: Did you personally approve the elimination of the $18 million from your budget to help the Special Olympics?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Well, Senator, as you know budget process within the administration is a collaborative one. And it's been my responsibility to present the budget here on behalf of the administration, the president's budget.

DURBIN: I think a yes or no will do. The $18 million cut of the funding for Special Olympics?

DEVOS: No, I didn't personally get involved in that --


DURBIN: Whoever came up --


DURBIN: Whoever came up with that idea gets a Special Olympic gold medal for insensitivity.

DEVOS: Let's not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative. That is just disgusting and it's shameful --


DURBIN: Madam Secretary, let me tell you what, eliminating $18 million out of an $80 billion budget I think is shameful, too. I'm not twisting it. I asked you to answer yes or no. And you said that you did not personally approve --

DEVOS: It's not a yes-or-no answer. DURBIN: Well, it certainly is, as far as I'm concerned. Someone has

to accept responsibility for a bad decision.


BALDWIN: CNN's Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill and caught up with Secretary DeVos after that hearing.

And so, what did she share with you about what happened?

[14:40:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not a whole lot, frankly, Brooke. We were hoping to give her the opportunity to explain exactly her position on this particular budget proposal. Also to explain how she told Senator Durbin that she was not the one that personally called for this cut to Special Olympics funding. We asked her those questions. She didn't really answer. Take a listen.


NOBLES: Are you concerned about the supporters of the Special Olympics that are upset with the decision to remove their funding?

Is there any other part of the budget, Madam Secretary, that you feel Democrats are incorrectly describing or presenting?

I know you mentioned you thought this was a political issue today during your hearing. Can you explain that more?


NOBLES: So that was only a small part of our interaction. It was like that for about two and a half minutes. She was caught there waiting for an elevator and we wanted to give her an opportunity to explain this. It's important to point out, Brooke, that despite the fact that there has been widespread criticism by this decision from the Trump administration through the Department of Education to slash this funding, that they've not backed away from it at all. She has had multiple opportunities to say that they're going to go in a different direction. It's simply not something that's happened.

We should point out, though, Brooke, there are very few people on Capitol Hill that think that this budget proposal will ever see the light of day. In fact, Roy Blunt, who's the Republican Senator from Missouri, in charge of this section of the budget proposal, said that their budget proposal will include that Special Olympics funding. So it seems as though this is not a real threat to those athletes that participate in this program -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Got you.

Ryan Nobles, thank you, in Washington there.

Meantime, he has been careful with his words on President Trump but all of that just changed. Why Puerto Rico's governor says he would punch the president in the mouth. Plus, the secretary of state finding himself in the middle of a fiery

hearing. We'll talk to the congressman who had this remarkable exchange with Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, about Kim Jong-Un.


[14:46:48] BALDWIN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was just grilled on Capitol Hill, and the hottest exchange in a hearing was this one between America's top diplomat and Congressman Tom Malinowski, a former diplomat himself. Pompeo didn't just take the fire. He served it right back up.


REP. TOM MALINOWSKI, (D), NEW JERSEY: If we're going to be so forceful in denouncing Socialism, why is the administration so high on Communism?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, I mean, that very statement there is pretty outrageous.

MALINOWSKI: I'm talking about North Korea, sir.

There's a whole lot of rhetoric about liking Kim Jong-Un, falling in love with Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Un being our friend. And so let me ask you, why is liking Kim Jong-Un a sufficient reason to cancel or not to pursue sanctions against companies helping his nuclear program, as the White House said last week, including the White House there?

POMPEO: There have been more sanctions put in place by this administration with a global coalition than at any time in the world's history, sir.

MALINOWSKI: And yet, liking him is cited as a reason not to do more.

Is Kim Jong-Un responsible for maintaining North Korea's system of labor of camps?

POMPEO: He's the leader of the country.

MALINOWSKI: Is he responsible for ordering the execution of his uncle, the assassination by chemical agent, of his half-brother?

POMPEO: He's the leader of the country.

MALINOWSKI: Was he responsible for the decision not to allow Otto Warmbier to come home until he was on death's door?

POMPEO: I'll leave the president's statement to stand. He made that statement. We all know that the North Korean regime was the responsible for the tragedy that occurred to Otto Warmbier. I met that family. I know those people. I love them dearly.


POMPEO: They suffered mightily, sir. MALINOWSKI: So what's to like?

POMPEO: They suffered mightily, sir.

MALINOWSKI: What's to like about Kim Jong-Un?

POMPEO: Don't make this a political football. It's inappropriate. It's inappropriate to do.


BALDWIN: Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski, of New Jersey, is with me now from Capitol Hill. He has served on President Clinton's National Security Council. He was assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor under President Obama.

Congressman Malinowski, a pleasure, sir. Welcome.

MALINOWSKI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: You clearly came prepared. You tell me, what was it that you wanted to get out of Secretary Pompeo?

MALINOWSKI: I wanted him to address the rhetoric from the president that I think is completely unprecedented in our history. I've never heard a president of the United States express such love and affection for a brutal dictator. We've always dealt with authoritarian countries. We have to do diplomacy with North Korea. I support the administration and its efforts to reach a diplomatic solution with North Korea. But to say that you're in love with Kim Jong-Un, who imprisons more than a hundred thousand people in concentration camps and who was responsible among many other crimes for the death of an American citizen, it just -- it's unfathomable to me. And then, of course, they made a very foreign policy decision on the basis of liking Kim Jong-Un and I wanted him to explain that.

BALDWIN: I'm going out on a limb and guess you did not get what you wanted, perhaps, more forceful language. And my question to you is, why do you think you didn't?

[14:50:13] MALINOWSKI: You know, I would acknowledge Secretary Pompeo is in a very hard position. He represents the president of the United States and the president says these indefensible things and so they're very hard to defend. And I think he got caught in that -- well, in that very hard spot. But I think it's important for the United States Congress to establish that there are some guard rails. Of course, we can all debate and disagree about our tactics, vis a vis, a country like North Korea. But there are lines we should not cross without being embarrassed as I think the administration rightly was after the president of the United States, in a tweet, canceled sanctions that his own Treasury Department put into place against North Korea because, as the White House itself said, he likes Kim Jong-Un. Can you imagine if President Obama had a done that? If he had canceled sanctions against Iran because he said that he liked the supreme leader of Iran?




MALINOWSKI: The Republicans would be up in arms.

BALDWIN: Right. You have to think about if the shoe were on the other foot. And I remember we covered that cryptic tweet trying to understand what sanctions he was referring to. I would say, because we don't have the White House here, but they often point to the fact that the president has spaced North Korea on the list of state- sponsored terrorism. Treasury did announce sanctions against two Chinese shipping companies that were facilitating trade with North Korea. And he did walk away from a bad deal when he was with Kim in Hanoi. I want to just say that.

Also, though, sir, during --


MALINOWSKI: All of that is fair. All of that is fair. But -- you know, there was a decision made by the president using some very, very strange language, and we have our oversight role and we were trying to figure out what was going on there.

BALDWIN: Understand.

MALINOWSKI: And why is it that affection for Kim Jong-Un has any place in our policy towards that country.

BALDWIN: How about this? This came out yesterday. The commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, General Robert Abrams, warned lawmakers that the U.S. might not have sufficient intelligence and surveillance and recognizance capability on the Korean peninsula to see an attack coming. How much does that worry you?

MALINOWSKI: Well, it certainly worries me, in part, because the president has repeatedly said, apparently, and to the Pentagon and internally in the administration and even publicly that he wonders why we should even have troops in South Korea. It's very important to me that we maintain our alliance with South Korea, that we maintain a military deterrent in South Korea to make sure that we can deal with the threat that North Korea still poses. I would love to resolve this through negotiations. Until that happens, there should be no reduction in America's military posture or on American military exercises in South Korea.

BALDWIN: Congressman Tom Malinowski, thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.

MALINOWSKI: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, accusations flying on Capitol Hill as the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee call for Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff to resign. And it has set off this war of words between the party leaders.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It's now up to Nancy Pelosi to remove Chairman Schiff. We need to restore the trust in the Intelligence Committee.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think they're just scaredy cats that don't know what to do, so they have to make an attack. They did the wrong thing.


BALDWIN: Plus, a teen girl shoved off a bridge survived the 60-foot plunge and now the girl who pushed her has learned her fate.


TAYLOR SMITH, PUSHED "FRIEND" OFF 60-FOOT BRIDGE: I'd like to sincerely apologize to Jordan Holgerson, her family and friends, for the pain and humiliation I have caused by my mindless action that occurred last summer.



[14:58:28] BALDWIN: It was the horrifying push seen across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you say no --





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you say no.


BALDWIN: Jordan Holgerson fell a terrifying 60 feet into that water below after she was pushed by her "friend" Taylor Smith last summer. Jordan sustained major injuries from the fall, including punctured lungs and broken ribs.

Earlier this month, Taylor pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment. And just last night, she was sentenced as emotions ran high on both sides.

Jordan's mother slammed Taylor's actions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENELLE HOLGERSON, MOTHER OF JORDAN HOLGERSON: Taylor didn't give her a little push. She deliberately shoved my daughter off that bridge with no care to her life. Taylor has continued to lie about the incident for many months. And has still not shown remorse, in my opinion. I ask that she sit in jail for as long as my daughter had to lay in that hospital.


BALDWIN: Both of the former friends, who were feet apart there, cried throughout the sentencing.

Jordan was so emotional that her statement was read on her behalf.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never wanted to be pushed off that bridge and I said no, as seen in one of the videos. And Taylor had no right taking away my right for making my own decision that day. I was really looking forward to a sincere apology and all I've been receiving from the family is threats and lies. Taylor has made me feel guilty and look like a bad guy in the situation when I need to remember that I have done nothing wrong.


BALDWIN: Taylor then apologized.


SMITH: I'd like to sincerely apologize to Jordan Holgerson, her family and friends, for the pain and humiliation I have caused by my mindless action that occurred last summer.