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Alabama Passes Bill Effectively Banning Abortion; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) Presidential Candidate Discusses Alabama Abortion Law, Roe v. Wade, China Trade War, Iran Threat; Some Republicans Question Trump's China Trade War That's Impacting Farmers. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:17] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

What happened in Alabama last night is nothing short of historic. The most restrictive abortion measure in the country passing the Alabama state Senate, effectively banning abortions in the state with no protections, even for rape and incest.

If signed into law, it's very likely the most serious challenge yet to Roe v. Wade since that was decided by the Supreme Court 36 years ago.

All of this, sparking outrage from those who oppose the Alabama bill.


STATE SEN. BOBBY SINGLETON (D-AL): You just said to my daughter, you don't matter. You don't matter in the state of Alabama. That the state of Alabama don't care nothing about you, baby. I got to go home and tell her, the state of Alabama don't care nothing about you, baby. That you can just be raped or one of your uncles or cousin or somebody could just rape you and impregnate you, and you've got to carry this baby under Alabama law.


BOLDUAN: Noteworthy here as we are talking about reproductive rights, all of those votes were from white Republican men.

The state House version of the bill was introduced by a Republican woman.

Right now the bill is on the governor's desk but it sure doesn't look like that is the end of this fight for sure.

CNN's Victor Blackwell is joining me right now.

Victor, lawmakers behind this measure are making no secret of what their intentions are. They want this to go to the Supreme Court. But what do you know -- but do you know, do we know what the governor is going to do here? VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have some signs about what

the governor, Kay Ivey, will do. Republicans say the rigidity of this bill is the point. They want a legal fight. They want this to go all the way to the Supreme Court where they can challenge Roe v. Wade and, hopefully, they say, overturn that ruling and outlaw abortion.

On your screen, this is what is in the bill. It makes performing an abortion a felony and a doctor who does, could face up to 99 years in prison, to avoid serious health risks for the mother, ectopic pregnancy, when the egg attaches outside the uterus or if the unborn has a lethal anomaly. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

The Democratic effort to add an amendment failed.

The person who drafted this official bill is the head of the Alabama pro-life coalition. He says, the proposed amendment was sympathetic and while it, quote, "Deals with very difficult issues," that's how he describes rape and incest, he said, "it would jeopardize the legal standing of the bill."

I want you to listen to the back and forth of this more than four-hour debate last night in Alabama.


STATE SEN. LINDA COLEMAN-MADISON (D-AL): Republicans, you all used to say we want the government out of our life. We want them out of our business. We want them out of our bedroom. Now you're in my womb. I want you out. You don't control this. You don't own this.

STATE SEN. CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R-AL): A life is a life and even if it is -- its origins are in very difficult situations, that life is still precious.

Life is a gift of our creator and we must do everything that we can to protect life.


BLACKWELL: After that bitter debate, the bill passed 25-6. As you showed there, 25 white male Republicans accounted for every single vote there.

And you also asked about Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. She has six days to sign this bill.

She's not commented publicly on it. But I'm looking back at what she said the last time the state was ensnarled in some legislation, anti- abortion legislation.

I want to read you part of the statement she released from August of last year and it was struck down by an appeals court. She wrote, "We should not let this discourage our steadfast commitment to protect the lives of the unborn, even if that means taking the case to the Supreme Court. This ruling clearly demonstrated why we need conservative justices on the Supreme Court. And I look forward to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh."

Well, now, Judge Kavanaugh is Justice Kavanagh. And she has a case that many activists think could challenge Roe V. Wade. But it will have competition, Kate. There's 16 other states have passed or introduced bills that would limit abortion after the detection of a heartbeat. Usually, about six weeks.

BOLDUAN: Victor, thank you so much for laying that out. Really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: This is far from over.

Let's talk about the next steps. Joining me now is Anne Milgram, a former attorney general of New Jersey and a CNN legal analyst.

Good to see you, Anne. Thank you for being here.

[11:05:06] ANNE MILGRAM, Thank you.

BOLDUAN: If the governor signs the bill, let's assume Kay Ivey signs the bill, explain the legal path. What is the timeline? What are you looking at here?

MILGRAM: I would look to see someone would challenge that bill immediately, and then the law would not go into effect until the courts have finished ruling on it.

Here is the question. There are 16 cases that are waiting at the appellate level to go the United States Supreme Court that deal with abortion restrictions. There's a real question as to whether this can case would be the case that goes.

I think, one of the fetal heartbeat cases, one of those cases will go to the Supreme Court. As of now, it is completely contrary to existing American law, which is founded in the Constitution.

BOLDUAN: Assuming it reaches the Supreme Court -- I guess, and every case dependent, generally speaking, of course. That's what the Supreme Court rules on, facts of the case. How do you think this goes if this goes to the Supreme Court when you look at the makeup of the court now?

MILGRAM: No question that the reason we're seeing all of this and in the last few months, five months or so, is because of Brett Kavanaugh.

We've had an existing precedent from the Supreme Court, which is other courts have to follow the rule of the Supreme Court. That's from 1973 that says there's a constitutional right, founded in the Fourteenth Amendment, right to privacy, that the government can't tell women what to do with their bodies. That's been in existence all these years.

What happened with Brett Kavanaugh, it's a 5-4 Republican to Democratic appointed court now. They have a majority of the court. And Brett Kavanaugh has consistently said he favors rolling back Roe v. Wade and having additional restrictions on abortion. And as a judge he has sided with additional restrictions.

That's the play here. The play is to get this to the Supreme Court and either get an overturning of Roe v. Wade or significant restriction in pulling back of the Roe v. Wade case.

BOLDUAN: You have that in the long term. In the near term, though, you are facing -- what folks in Alabama are facing is the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, likely to be -- assuming that Kay Ivey would sign this into law, she has six days to decide. That's the most immediate impact that people need to look at.

Thanks, Anne. Really appreciate it.

MILGRAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Much more to discuss on this. I want to bring in, joining me right now, the Democratic candidate for president, Senator Michael Bennet, of Colorado.

Senator, thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: On this issue, what is your reaction to this move in Alabama? How big of a threat do you think this is to, as I was talking about with Anne Milgram, federal protections and abortion rights?

BENNET: It's a terrible threat and a terrible thing to have happened. Obviously, there are incredibly strong feelings about abortion in this country on both sides. Roe v. Wade is settled law.

And I have a friend here who said to me that his daughter is having to fight for rights that his wife never had to fight for because her grandmother had won those rights. Now we find ourselves on the front lines of this war once again.

And it just seems to me that we would be a lot better hueing to what Roe v. Wade tells us and leaving this decision in the hands of women and their families. Alabama is doing something here that just shouldn't be part of America in the 21st century.

BOLDUAN: I did hear Kirsten Gillibrand say, if she was president, she would have a litmus test for all judicial nominations, including Supreme Court justices, and that they would uphold Roe v. Wade. Would you do that as well, Senator?

BENNET: Any Democrat would make sure that the justices we nominate would uphold precedent by the Supreme Court, including Roe v. Wade.

BOLDUAN: For a generation, the political energy surrounding abortion and reproductive rights has been on the right as they fight against it.

BENNET: Yes. BOLDUAN: Do you want this to become a centerpiece of the Democratic primary, the Democratic fight?

BENNET: As a father of three daughters, what I care about most is that we don't roll the clock back 40 years on the ability of women to make decisions about their health care and their reproductive rights. That is what I think is most important and what is most at stake here.

You know, I hope the governor of Alabama will think differently about this than she is today, but if we have to fight it, we'll fight it.

I also will say that this is part of a decades' long fight on the right wing to control the courts in this country and the Republican Party here in Colorado.

And I think Democrats need to step up our game. And we have not been great at fighting this. I don't think we've been as strategic as Mitch McConnell has been. And the result of that is that Donald Trump has now proved more circuit court judges than any president in our history. And that's, you know, terrible for the American people.

[11:10:05] BOLDUAN: Interesting take.

I want to ask you, there are many other fires we're putting out that I want to ask you about.

On trade, on the trade war with China, the next president -- I was thinking about this this morning. The next president, be it Donald Trump or not, could be walking into office with these tariffs that we're looking at now, still in place, if not higher.

I want to play for you what Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger said about this today to get your reaction.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Now that we're in it, we have to win. If the U.S. backs away at this moment and, frankly, all over the network we're seeing all these stories of people that are wanting the president to back away. If you back way from this fight right now, the concession extracted from us will be painful and we'll have months and months of talking about why the Chinese are still eating our lunch.


BOLDUAN: Do you think that's right? Now that the United States is in this, the U.S. cannot back down?

BENNET: I think we have to be smart and strategic, as I said earlier. The United States should be mobilizing the entire world against China's mercantilist trade policies. Nobody has an interest in, except maybe North Korea, in China behaving the way they do with respect to trade.

And we have a common interest with people in Europe. We have a common interest with folks in our hemisphere, and many countries in Asia, who don't want to be dominated by China. I think there's an incredible opportunity for us to say, we're not going to accept the way you trade, China.

What's so ridiculous about where we find ourselves, we put on these tariffs that do nothing except raise the price of business for everybody in America. It's a tax on workers. It's a tax on our farmers, on our ranchers. And I also think China is taking huge advantage of it. They're playing Donald Trump for a fool. Just like Iranians are playing him for a fool. He has no attention span.

While we're trying to govern the country in between commercial breaks on cable television or even in fewer increments than that, China is taking a 50-year view and 100-year view.

We've spent six months in a complete waste of time about the president's $6 billion for the wall or not for the wall while China is building 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable, connecting Latin America with Africa and with China.

In three years, China has poured more concrete than the United States did in the 20th century. And we're screwing around with the stuff that President Trump is screwing around with on the cable.

We should play our hand much more intelligently than we are. If we did, there would be a real benefit for America. We're not doing that right now.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned Iran and I want to ask you about some new reporting out there.

There's now a senior British military official telling our Pentagon officials on the record that he has not seen an increased threat from Iran or allied militias in Iraq or Syria, in contrast to what the Trump administration is saying.

Bernie Sanders told Anderson Cooper he thinks that he is trying to egg Iran here.

Do you question these moves by the Trump administration?

BENNET: I actually do not question the intelligence at all. I can't say what it is. I do not question the intelligence at all.

I do question our complete lack of strategy in the Middle East. Kate, I think the president was wrong to get out of the Iranian nuclear deal. We had absolutely no idea whether Iran would comply.

By the time Donald Trump came to office, every intelligence in the world said that Iran had gone from being two months or three months away from breaking out a nuclear weapon to being more than a year away from breaking out with a nuclear weapon. That was the intelligence when Donald Trump blew up what he called the worst deal ever.

Now in this incredibly malevolent before the Iraq war certainly took advantage of what happened when we invaded Iraq. These guys are not screwing around there.

But the idea that they are also in a position to decide whether they want to nuclearize themselves again because of this administration's policies is pitiful. It is pitiful.

I don't these Republicans in Congress -- I represent -- my state is a third Republican. I don't know how they're supporting this president who plays patsy with dictators all over the world.


BOLDUAN: But on this one, right now, you think that the president is making the right move?

[11:15:13] BENNET: No. No, I don't.

BOLDUAN: By moving the force to the region?

BENNET: No. I don't think he's making the right moves.

You asked me if I believe our intelligence.


BENNET: I believe our intelligence. And I believe because I believe our intelligence. And I believe that Iran is a tremendous threat to our country and to Israel, that the most important thing we could do is rebuild our alliances with the Europeans and make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our allies in the gulf.


BOLDUAN: So starting to evacuate the embassy in Iraq, you think, is premature?

BENNET: It does not -- it does not surprise me. It does not surprise me.


BOLDUAN: Coming from the administration, do you think it's the right move, though? That's my question.

BENNET: Given what I know, it does not surprise me that they are doing it. But what I want to be clear about is we have alternatives to another war in the Middle East. And we should not be going to war in the Middle East.

But if we tear up stuff like the Iran nuclear agreement with no alternative or no strategic alternative at all, bad things are going to happen. And that's what's happening now.

BOLDUAN: Senator Michael Bennet, thank you for coming in. Much more to discuss in the future. Please come back.

BENNET: Great. Thanks. Please let me come back.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, some Republican Senators may now be raising the alarm with the president's trade war with China. That's an alarm that American farmers have been raising quite some time now. We'll speak to one farmer on the front lines next.

Plus, while the president says the threat from Iran is real and imminent, a key ally says something much different. As I was just discussing with Michael Bennet. We'll have much more on that, next, coming up.


[11:21:47] BOLDUAN: Some breaking news just coming in. As the president is digging in his heels on the growing trade war with China, we are learning he's taking a temporary step back on his threat to increase tariffs on cars coming in from Europe. The president is now planning to delay any new tariffs on European car import business by six months. And the markets apparently are welcoming that news as the Dow is shifting into positive territory today.

Meanwhile, I want to read a quote for you this, "It's going to have impact on elections, of course. So far, I haven't seen farmers abandoning Trump but it's going to have some impact."

That is from Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, from Iowa, who has emerged as a chief critic of the president's trade policies in this fight.

He's one example of the growing unease amongst some Republicans about Trump's escalating trade war with China.

The "Washington Post" also reports that the president believes his showdown with Beijing will actually help him win re-election.

Yesterday, speaking with reporters, the president could not have been more optimistic about how he thinks this is all going to turn out.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, we're winning. You know what? You want to know something? You want to know something? We always win. We always win.


BOLDUAN: But some folks who aren't feeling Trump's optimism right now are American farmers and they are stuck in the middle of all of this.

Remember, last summer, I spoke with Christopher Gibbs, an Ohio farmer who said Trump's trade policies were hurting him and that he was not going to stay quiet about it. Listen to that interview. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER GIBBS, FARMER: Farmers don't run. We don't spook. We don't hide. That's fine. But that doesn't mean we can't speak out on policy that is pretty much ill-advised, from my point of view.

Hey, hey, I can take it, sure. But I don't have to be quiet about it. The president calls it like he sees it. I'm going to call it like I see it.


BOLDUAN: And Christopher Gibbs joins me once again from Ohio.

Good to see you, Christopher. Thank you for being here.

GIBBS: Hi, Kate. Thanks for having me, in sunny in Ohio, for once.

BOLDUAN: For once, as we were discussing. You call it like you see it.

That's what people appreciate about our last conversation and the pieces you've written for your paper. How are you seeing it today, right now?

GIBBS: Well, we're in a freefall out here in agriculture. We've seen 30 percent decrease in the price of soybeans.

The markets work in three different ways. It's like a three-legged stool. Technicals, this and that. There's also the fundamentals, which is supply and demand. But the third leg is market confidence. And if the technicals are X and the fundamentals are Y, then market confidence says that the markets should move or stay static in certain predictable behavior.

And with the geopolitical turmoil that the president has thrown into the mix over the last year, the markets just don't have anywhere to go. So they're just sitting and hiding. We've seen a little bit of bump up in the last couple of days but other than that, we're hurting.

BOLDUAN: In a free-for-all.

With that in mind, let me play you something that the president said this week that really stuck out to me and I wanted to ask you about.


[11:25:07] TRUMP: We love our farmers. We take care of our farmers. Our farmers have been incredible. No country could get in the way of our farmers. Our farmers are great patriots and they've done a fantastic job. Our farmers are going to be very well taken care of.


BOLDUAN: The government paid out $12 billion in assistance to help farmers last year. Now they're trying to plan another round something like $15 billion. What do you say to that, Christopher?

GIBBS: Well, the same thing I did before.

And I need to put a clarifying on this. I ended up taking the money, so -- I had to take it. It was $20,000 to me, $14,000 of it went to repair a tractor transmission, $2,000 of it went to a nonprofit or two, and the rest of it back to taxes. I didn't take it and buy a boat with it.

What I said at that time works today as well. It was an indication that the president's policy wasn't working. Or certainly wasn't working fast enough. Now the president comes back and wants to put an additional amount of money in our pocket.

And we have to understand where that money is coming from. Up until yesterday, up until yesterday, the president has been very clear that all of these tariff dollars that he wants to transfer to farmers have been coming from China, Mexico, so forth, but primarily from China. That's just not true. It's just not true.

Those monies, those tariff dollars come directly from American importers, from American companies that hire American workers that pay American taxes. And when those dollars -- when you buy goods from China to send out to U.S. consumers, those companies pay that, and then they turn around and push that out to consumers to pay.

So the president might push out money to farmers, but let be clear in where it's coming from, and let's let the taxpayer know it's not coming from China. They need to know it. It's appreciated by farmers, for sure, but we would rather have trade. We would rather have our markets back.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's for sure. I mean, we talked last time. You voted for President Trump. You liked his -- I remember you saying you looked his can-do, get-it-done attitude. In this moment you say you're in a free fall. What is your message to him?

GIBBS: Well, my message is that, certainly, I did. And I'll say it again. I voted for the president just because of that. But I was on the Trump train. I was off the Trump train, back and forth. I finally got off at Helsinki. That was a mess, to me I couldn't stand the waffling and all of that with Putin. So I'm off the Trump train.

Where I'm going from now, I've got to protect my business. A minute ago, the president -- you played a clip that said we were patriots. I'll tell you what, to me, that's just a design to make me continue to be quiet. And I'm not going to be quiet.

BOLDUAN: You know what, Christopher, that is actually something --


GIBBS: I have to protect my family.

BOLDUAN: I have to ask you, that is so interesting that you heard that and brought that up. That is something I have also heard, if we want to call these chapters.

Something new about this chapter, I've heard the president and other Republicans talk about this in terms of sacrifice and patriotism.

There's a Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, who spoke to this directly this week. Listen to this, please. I do want to get your reaction. I think this is important.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): When I'm home in Arkansas, I hear from farmers who are worried about opening up new markets and getting their products to market. But they also understand that China is a serious competitor to the United States and wants to displace us around the world. And they look at the sacrifices that airmen and soldiers make around the world to ensure our long-term prosperity and security.


BOLDUAN: You speaking out against the trade war, is that unpatriotic, Christopher?

GIBBS: No, it's certainly not unpatriotic at all. I'm not going to have my -- certainly not going to have my patriotism questioned. I'm not sure why the president is even bringing this up.

Listen, for me to be a patriot, the best thing I can do is take care of my family, to take care of my farm, and make sure that I stay viable. Because farmers buy things. They buy things that are manufactured.

By the way, do you know what we buy? We buy things made out of steel, aluminum. So that's our duty.

And why the farming community has to take one in the shorts just so that the president can have a talking point and be tough on China just is a little bit beyond me.

BOLDUAN: I always appreciate your perspective. It is great to see you again. Thank you for coming in. Let's talk soon.

GIBBS: More than welcome. Take care.