Return to Transcripts main page


Bill de Blasio, Steve Bullock Announce 2020 Campaigns; Trump Pardons Conrad Black; Interview with Lori Lightfoot, Mayor-elect of Chicago. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 16, 2019 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Happening right now, the FBI is briefing Florida's congressional delegation about the Florida counties that were hacked by Russia during the 2016 election. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis revealed this week that at least two counties were breached. Let's speak now to CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

What does this tell us? And there's also been a lot of kind of cloak- and-dagger here, has there not? Because they won't identify those two counties. What's going on?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. I think the FBI is still being very tight-lipped, exactly what are the details behind those two counties that were breached by the -- the Russian military intelligence, the GRU.

We do know from the Florida governor that there were at least two counties. According to him, he said that during the briefing he learned that there was nothing changed. There were no votes changed. But they were able to access the election systems for those two counties.

Now, the Florida delegation has been demanding to know more. Why is the FBI not telling exactly what counties they were, how far this got? When did it happen exactly and what -- what are these counties and what are the states able to do to be able to prevent this from happening in 2020.

SCIUTTO: So do they have a -- because this has been the key. In 2016, it was about disinformation, an information --

PEREZ: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- op. There was no votes physically changed in the system. But that's always been a question for the intel agencies. Would Russia take that step? And I mean, is that the concern, going in to 2020, that Russia has demonstrated a capability of at least being able to do that? Is that what they're concerned about as we look to the presidential election? PEREZ: Well, absolutely. I think they're concerned that, perhaps,

the Russians were able to get into these systems to sort of see how they worked and what they can do to interfere with it the next time around.

And then secondly, you know, just the fact that they're in there could undermine faith into the --


PEREZ: -- of the public in the results of the election. Again, that could be just as harmful as making any changes in the election results themselves -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. Because you wouldn't have to do much, right? You could do it in a couple of counties, and then --

PEREZ: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- people start to raise questions about it across the country --

PEREZ: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: -- and politicians taking advantage of that. Anyway, it's very concerning. Evan Perez, great to have you on the story.

PEREZ: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Joe Biden is setting up shop in a key battleground state. This morning, the Biden campaign announced that Philadelphia will be home to its 2020 headquarters. And numbers suggest it is a great place for the former vice president to start.

TEXT: Who Would You Vote For -- Pennsylvania Voters: Biden, 53 percent to Trump, 42 percent; Sanders, 50 percent to Trump, 43 percent; Warren, 47 percent to Trump, 43 percent; Harris, 45 percent to Trump, 45 percent; Buttigieg, 45 percent to Trump, 44 percent; O'Rourke, 44 percent to Trump, 46 percent

SCIUTTO: A Quinnipiac poll shows that Biden holds an 11 percent lead over President Trump among Pennsylvania voters. CNN political director David Chalian joins me here now.

I mean, he's in Pennsylvania for a reason here, and Pennsylvania will be key to deciding the 2020 race.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: There's no doubt. And it's why Joe Biden is bookending his sort of three-week rollout. His first public appearance was in Pittsburgh. He's doing to wrap up this weekend with a big speech --


CHALIAN: -- on the theme of unifying the country in Philadelphia. He's putting his headquarters there. Clearly, this was one of the sort of states that we called that "blue wall" that Trump busted through to win the White House. And if indeed, you know, as you just looked in that early poll there, Joe Biden is making the case he's better equipped than anyone to make sure that state flips back to the blue column.

SCIUTTO: Right, right. And I'm sure he'll mention it a few times --


SCIUTTO: -- he is originally from Scranton, right?

CHALIAN: Yes, yes. Exactly.

SCIUTTO: You know, Scranton Joe.

The other issue that struck me -- and this is also in the Quinnipiac poll, we don't have it up on screen but -- I think the number was 68 percent of voters believed Biden had the best chance of beating Trump. And the next one down was way down in the low digits, Bernie Sanders.

I mean, this is a consistent thing, is it not, among Democratic voters in this cycle, that the -- the quality they seem to want most from the Democratic nominee is electability against Trump.

CHALIAN: Right. Somebody that can defeat Donald Trump. And that is the case that Joe Biden is making, day-in and day-out. He's trying not to engage in a nomination process, in a primary with his fellow Democrats. He's trying to stay above, keep the focus on Donald Trump and try to convince Democratic voters -- and these polls certainly help that -- that he is the one that is -- can most easily defeat him.

You are right, that's what they're looking for. And a number like that, that you cited, it begets --


CHALIAN: -- you know, more and more confidence among Democratic voters, that he is the one to (ph) take (ph) down Donald Trump.


SCIUTTO: It's a self-fulfilling prophecy --

CHALIAN: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: -- is it not? OK.

So Bill de Blasio, mayor of this great city of New York, he's now in the race. Credible candidate?

CHALIAN: Well, certainly a credible candidate. I mean, 8 million people here so (ph) that he oversees -- this is a big city and people say sometimes that job is the, you know, second-hardest job in American politics.

Here's the thing. Bill de Blasio, his local press corps, a lot of his constituents, according to the polls, did not want him to run. It's quite clear it's being met with some jeers.

[10:35:08] His point is, he has delivered on the key policy issues that the Democratic Party is craving right now, whether it's a $15 minimum wage, universal pre-K, guaranteed health care. He is going -- he wants to go out to the country and make the case, "I actually have enacted this agenda --


TEXT: Bill de Blasio: Elected as mayor of New York in 2013; Once served as campaign manager for then-Senator Hillary Clinton; Supports marijuana legalization, combating climate change

CHALIAN: -- and I want to take that nationally." So today, he'll head to Iowa and we'll see if indeed, you know, he gets any kind of a look from voters.


CHALIAN: I will tell you this. He's already hit at 1 percent threshold in three polls, to qualify for the debate stage next month.

SCIUTTO: And, listen, 8 million people is bigger than a lot U.S. states, right?


SCIUTTO: In terms of managing that. Quite a big laboratory for these measures.

OK. Montana Governor Steve Bullock. So he has something that should be a real advantage for a candidate. He's a Democrat with great success in a red state.

CHALIAN: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Does that put him as a credible candidate as well?

CHALIAN: He is a credible candidate. And also governors, you know --


CHALIAN: -- we've seen that sort of pipeline over the course of recent American political history. So he is going out there and saying, not only did he just win in a red state, but he won on the same day that Donald Trump won in Montana by 20 points, Steve Bullock won re-election.

He got a big Iowa endorsement today. He's making his first trip to Iowa. He is not shy and neither is his campaign team, about saying it's sort of Iowa or bust for them. They've got to make something happen in that first state to show that he's a credible contender. So I think you're going to see him just plant himself in Iowa --


CHALIAN: -- the attorney general there --


CHALIAN: -- is helping him out, and he begins that effort to --


SCIUTTO: I mean, that's really the thing. You could have one good result --


SCIUTTO: -- just beaten expectations, right?

CHALIAN: Exactly. Yes.

SCIUTTO: You know, like, if you -- you know, just finishing third could be a win in some of these early states.

All right. Looking at this field, you're going to have 23. I don't know who else can join by the first debate --

CHALIAN: I think -- I think the field is set, right (ph)?

SCIUTTO: How quickly does that pare down or does it not? Because there are going to be a lot of debates, right?

CHALIAN: Yes. And the first two debates, June and July, the DNC's already said 20 is the cap. So they're not looking to shrink the field beyond that yet. We'll see if the threshold starts going up to narrow this down.

Listen, there's already a top tier of five or so. I mean, Biden's in a universe --



CHALIAN: -- himself and there's a top tier of five. So this will become a race that focuses more on the frontrunners. But as you said, we've got a long way to go and results can reshuffle that once --

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

CHALIAN: -- once they have (ph) --


SCIUTTO: Or a big debate moment, good or negative --


SCIUTTO: -- you know, positive or negative. You could have big -- and people are like, "Oh, we forgot about this guy."

CHALIAN: I would say it's going to be crowded for quite a while.

SCIUTTO: All right. Well, great. That will give us a lot to talk about. David Chalian, thanks very much.

The White House has issued two new pardons. So what exactly does it take to get one from this president? We'll discuss next. Maybe writing a good book about the president might be a factor.


[10:42:12] SCIUTTO: President Trump has issued two new pardons, one of them going to a former newspaper publisher who happens to have written a glowing book about him. Both men have been out of prison for several years so they already served their time. And both have very interesting ties, though, to the Trump White House. Joining me now to discuss this, Anne Milgram. She's the former New Jersey attorney general.

Anne, always good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: All right. So Conrad Black, he's written a lot of glowing columns about the president --


SCIUTTO: -- wrote a glowing book about the president.

TEXT: Trump Issues Pardon, Lord Conrad M. Black: Once ran newspaper conglomerate that published papers including "The Daily Telegraph" in London, the "Chicago Sun-Times" and "The Jerusalem Post"; Authored a book titled "Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other"; Convicted on four counts of fraud in 2007; Spent three and a half years in prison

SCIUTTO: I mean, does that raise questions as to why he among thousands and tens of thousands of --

MILGRAM: Millions.

SCIUTTO: -- felons -- millions, millions --

MILGRAM: Millions.

SCIUTTO: -- in the U.S. gets a pardon and not these other folks?

MILGRAM: I think it does. I think there are a few points to make. First, the president has the power to issue pardons whenever he wants, to whomever he wants. But as a rule, there is a process that should be and has traditionally been followed. And there is no process that we can see in the Trump administration. It's kind of like the friends-and-family-celebrity plan.

And there's a real problem and a real question of fairness, when you rightly point out, there are millions of convicted individuals in the United States of America, millions of people in jail today. And how that works should be equitably done and there should be some sense of fairness.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. I mean, process, it's why we have laws. I mean, and there's so many examples of where the process has been thrown out the window with this administration.

Listen to the other one. Patrick Nolan, he's a former Republican legislator. He was convicted of corruption. Served his time as well, but worked with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, on the prison reform plan last year.

TEXT: Trump Issues Pardon, Patrick Nolan: Former GOP legislator; Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the American Conservative Union Foundation; Allied with Jared Kushner on prison revisions; Pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge after an FBI sting; Spent 29 months in federal custody

SCIUTTO: Does that then -- I mean, first of all, that was a noble project, no question. But does it raise questions about whether that personal connection with Kushner led to this pardon?

MILGRAM: Right. I mean, I think the way Trump is doing all these pardons, including the past ones -- Dinesh D'Souza, Sheriff Joe -- I mean, they all raise issues of political influence --


MILGRAM: -- and just personal connections to Trump that he's essentially pardoning his friends or people he likes.

And the one difference I would make with Pat Nolan is that Pat Nolan, I've known him since probably 2010, 2011. He's been a great leader in the criminal justice reform movement on the Republican side. He's done an enormous amount of service.

My issue with it is that the president has never said what the standards are --


MILGRAM: -- what the process is. So if he came out and said people who provided a lot of service --


MILGRAM: -- to the country can get pardons, I would say, yes, of course Pat Nolan --


MILGRAM: -- could be on that list. But there's, again, it looks like it's all coming through family and friends, celebrities --

SCIUTTO: Political advantage, right?

MILGRAM: -- Elton John -- exactly.

SCIUTTO: Things that win him political points. Is that a misuse, is that an abuse of the president's pardon power?

MILGRAM: Well, the power is -- it is wide-ranging. And the president can do it. But just because he can do it doesn't mean he should do it.

SCIUTTO: He could start war with Canada tomorrow, right?

MILGRAM: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: It's --

MILGRAM: And there's -- there's so many -- you know, 70 million Americans have criminal arrest records. The president should do this process in a way that is fair and equitable, and that lets all the millions of Americans who have been convicted have an opportunity --

SCIUTTO: Opportunity.

MILGRAM: -- to apply. And there should be clear standards for when they can apply. And that's not happening.

[10:45:03] SCIUTTO: Then (ph) oftentimes, presidents issue these pardons on their way out of office. The president -- we just had a picture up on-screen, perhaps we could do it again -- he's issued 10 pardons. You mentioned some of them before. Is that an unusual pace of use of the pardoning power?

TEXT: President Trump's Pardons: Joseph M. Arpaio; Kristian Mark Saucier; Irve Lewis "Scooter" Libby; Jack Johnson; Dinesh D'Souza; Dwight Lincoln Hammond; Steven Dwight Hammond; Michael Chase Behenna; Patrick Nolan; Lord Conrad M. Black

MILGRAM: Well, President Obama did a lot of pardons and a lot of clemency. What he did, though, was he essentially set out, "Here are the criteria," and he made that public and then people came forward. So he did -- there are thousands that Obama -- that Obama pardoned during his presidency. So I don't think it's an unusual pace.

What I think is unusual is that the president hasn't even gone through the Department of Justice process. He's literally changed the way it's been done historically --


MILGRAM: -- and he's just picking, almost out of thin air, the people who he thinks deserve pardons.


MILGRAM: And there's a real lack of fairness in that.

SCIUTTO: Or that Kim Kardashian lobbies for.

MIGRAM: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Anne Milgram, thanks very much.

MILGRAM: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: She is a woman, she's black, she's gay and she's going to be Chicago's next mayor Lori Lightfoot is set to make Chicago history and she's going to join us, next.


[10:50:58] SCIUTTO: Chicago will swear in its new mayor next week. And the woman who is taking over that office is a true trailblazer. Lori Lightfoot will be the first African-American woman to lead Chicago, and the first who identifies as a lesbian. She just finished wrapping up three days of meetings with officials in Washington and she joins me now.

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, thanks so much for joining us and congratulations on your victory.


SCIUTTO: And I should note you're part of our "Game Changers" series. We're speaking to a whole host of politicians in particular who are breaking new ground here.

I want to talk to you about what is one of your focuses as mayor of Chicago. You've been speaking to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington. You also spoke to the president's daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, on a whole range of issues including gun violence.

TRUMP: Ivanka Trump: Wonderful mtg Chicago Mayor-elect Lightfoot, the 1st African-American woman & 1st openly gay person to lead the city. Great discussion on topics including economic revitalization, workforce dev, vocational edu, CJR reform & crime prevention. I look forward to working together.

SCIUTTO: And I'm curious. As you spoke to them, did you find any potential middle ground on that issue that has been so divisive?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I'm not so sure about gun violence. But I think the thing that I was encouraged by in my conversation with Ivanka Trump, was her -- one, her deep understanding of things on the ground here in Chicago. She talked a lot about violence, about workforce development, the need to make -- to make sure that we have a real plan for those who are coming out of incarceration, to be able to reintegrate into the city. And then we talked, of course, about Opportunity Zones.

So I think those are things that we'll be able to build upon. Obviously I'm not going to compromise my values in engaging with anyone from the Trump administration. But I thought we had productive conversations.

SCIUTTO: Infrastructure is another priority, and it is one that -- LIGHTFOOT: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- we hear of some discussions between Democrats and the White House, President Trump, Nancy Pelosi. But again, I'm a bit of a skeptic on this just because I've heard that mentioned a thousand times before after any election. Is, like, "Well, that's the one thing Republicans and Democrats can work together on."

I mean, do you see --


SCIUTTO: -- potential for that there? And how would -- what would Chicago want to be the priority?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, look. I think that there has to be some common ground on infrastructure. All across the country, there are great needs for rebuilding our roads, our bridges, tunnels. Our infrastructure is definitely crumbling and we have a substantial number of needs in mass transit here in Chicago.

So I'm hoping that we'll see some movement in the Congress in a bipartisan fashion, to get a bill on the president's desk that he can sign.

My sense is, from the conversations that we had last week, that there is willingness on all sides. But the big question, the long pole in the tent is how are you going to pay for it. And I think that's where the differences arise. But I'm --

SCIUTTO: So Chicago --

LIGHTFOOT: -- hopeful we're going to keep pushing because we need the resources.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And I'm glad to hear you're hopeful. We all need to be hopeful.

On the issue of gun violence, Chicago has had such a problem, as you know. I don't have to tell you. And I think many Americans are aware of that. But in recent months, there's been a decline in gun violence.

And as the country struggles with this issue, particularly the politics of this issue, what lessons can it learn from Chicago? Methods that work, that make a difference to save lives.

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think you've got to make sure that you've got the right data analytics in place. And by that I mean really looking at crime trends over a multiple years, to understand where the hotspots are.

Our situation here in Chicago isn't unique. A lot of times the media paints with a broad brush and says it's gang-related. But a lot of the conflicts that we're seeing are literally block-by-block conflicts that are as much about social issues and spats as they are about drug territory and gangs. So being smart and understanding the nature of what's actually happening on the ground.

And then what we're going to be doing is sending more resources to those areas that are most distressed. We're going to flood the zone with programming, activities that hopefully will give our young people an opportunity to latch onto something positive and let people in those distressed neighborhoods know that we are there for them. We're going to be present and we're going to do everything we can to keep our communities safe.

[10:55:10] SCIUTTO: Final question for you. And we mentioned, you are a groundbreaker in this country. And I know your focus is on making a difference for your city, so I don't want to overemphasize that.

But still, it is important for many people. I mean, to see the first black woman to lead a city of Chicago's size. Tell us what that means to you, and what you want to -- what you want to show people, right? What you want to be not remembered for yet (ph), because you got a long way to go. But, you know, how important is it to you to be that kind of groundbreaker?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, it's really important to me, particularly when I think about the arc of my family history. My maternal grandmother was born in 1898. She was just this side of slavery. And I think about the things that occurred over the course of her life in the early part of the 20th century, and the lessons I learned from her, the lessons I learned from both my parents and my mother.

It's a big historic moment for me personally. But what I hope it is, is an inspiration for young people, particularly young girls, to aspire to achieve really anything that they want. That the sky is the limit.

That's certainly what my parents preached to me. And really enabled me to take advantage of every opportunity that was in front of me. And I want to make sure that I bring those same kind of opportunities to young people in our city.

SCIUTTO: Well, there's no question you're an inspiration to many. Lori Lightfoot, thanks for coming on. We look forward to keeping up the conversation.

LIGHTFOOT: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, just minutes from now, President Trump looks to ease the growing tensions with Iran by speaking with the Swiss president at the White House. Will that work to ease those tensions.