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Biden Holds Rally in Philadelphia; Bernie Sanders Expected to Stay in the Race for the Duration; Biden Campaign Kickoff Rally to Focus on Unity; Wave of Abortion Laws Could Put Roe v. Wade At Risk; FAA Issues Warning to Commercial Flights Over Persian Gulf; PGA Leader on Historic Hot Streak. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 18, 2019 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again everyone. Thank you for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield and we are more than 500 days away from Election Day 2020. Right now, 10 of the 23 democratic presidential candidates are on the campaign trail hoping to stand out from the competition. Keep in mind this isn't half the total number of democrats running. But, the big focus today will be in Pennsylvania. Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden will hold his campaign kickoff rally in Philadelphia in just a few hours. Biden's campaign will be based there. The former vice president is a Pennsylvania native and is hoping to turn his birth state blue. CNN Arelette Saenz is at the rally location. So people are starting to gather there. What might be the message from Biden today?

ARELETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, Joe Biden's central message today is going to boil down to unity and he's going to talk about how he thinks he can unify the country. And a short while ago we got a look at excerpts from his speech. I want to read you a line from what he is going to say. Biden is going to say, "If the American people want a president to add to our division, to lead with a clenched fist, closed hand and hard heart, to demonize the opponent and spew hatred, they don't need me. They already have a president who does just that." Biden will say, "I am running to offer our country, democrats, republicans and independents a different path."

Biden's official kick off rally here in Philadelphia today wraps up a three-week tour since he became an official presidential candidate. His first event was held in Pittsburgh, across the other side of the state and it shows you how much of an emphasis they are going to place here in Pennsylvania. Biden was born in Scranton. He served right next door in Delaware as a Senator for 36 years.

Biden and his team believe that the former vice president can appeal to some of the working class voters in the state who maybe voted for President Trump the last time around. This is a state President Trump won in 2016 and was central to his victory but Biden sees a possible opening here. Next week, you're going to see Biden hit the road again. He is going to be heading to Tennessee and Florida for a series of fund-raisers. And then the following week he will be down in Houston and Dallas, Texas. Pretty soon, you are going to see Biden start to roll out some policies, trying to put his platform in front of the American people. He says a major speech on climate change is coming by the end of the month. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Arelette Saenz, thank you so much from Philadelphia. We'll check back with you.

Among the folks on the trail this weekend, Bernie Sanders is on a four-state tour of the south. Sanders is trying to shore up support after a recent drop in the polls after Biden joined the race. Sanders is hoping to make a splash by rolling out some new policies, including a massive investment in education.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

BERNIE SANDERS, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Billionaires do not need more tax breaks. The children of our country need quality education. My plan addresses the serious crisis in our educational system by reducing racial and economic segregation in our public schools, Make sure we attract the best and brightest young people to become teachers, Reestablishes a positive learning environment for children in our k-12 schools.

(END VIDEO)

WHITFIELD: CNN's Ryan Nobles is covering Senator Sanders for us in Orangeburg, South Carolina where he just spoke. Ryan, what more can you tell us about his plan, how this new education plan was even received there.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was received well here in South Carolina, in part because it specifically directed to African-American voters which of course make up a significant portion of the democratic primary vote here in South Carolina. But I have to tell you this is a pretty comprehensive plan that touches on a number of areas, ten points in particular. When talking about the African-American community, this is called the Thurgood Marshall Plan in honor of the 65th anniversary of the Brown versus Board of Education decision that desegregated public schools and Sanders said that he was going to use the federal government to enforce that standard; to make sure public schools are desegregated.

But that was just part of it. He also called for a complete ban on for profit charter schools. He talked about implementing a $65,000 a year floor for teacher salaries across the board. He also wants to invest as much as $5 million or $5 billion I should say in afterschool and summer school programs and he also wants to implement a plan that would allow for universal free school meals across the board. So there's a lot packed into this plan Fred.

It will likely be very expensive and he didn't get into the details as to how exactly he's going to pay for it but in that sound bite you played leading into me, he alluded to what he may do and that's perhaps roll back some of these tax cuts that were implemented during the Trump Administration to pay for it. Fred.

For a bit, it was sanders who was, you know, leading the democratic, you know, cuts implemented to pay for it. Cuts implemented to pay for it. Fred? WHITFIELD: And Ryan for a bit, it was Sanders who was, you know,

leading the democratic, you know, contingents for the White House.

[12:05:00]

Now, you know, he has slid, you know, just a bit because of Biden being in. So, is Sanders indicating any kind of change in strategy on the trail?

NOBLES: You know, Fred, this is something I talked to Sanders and his aides about on a pretty regular basis. They insist they are not paying close attention to the fluctuation in polls and that they expected that Joe Biden was going to come into this race with a ton of momentum and that his name recognition was going to catapult him to the top of the hill. They are playing a long game here. The one big difference between Bernie Sanders and the rest of this vast field of democratic nominees is that he is going to be well funded for a significant period of time. He's raised close to $20 million already. They continue to take in online donations on a regular basis. They feel that they're in for the long haul so Fred, they're not going to overreact to a small drop in the polls because they feel like they're going to be here for a long time to come.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Nobles thank you so much in Orangeberg, South Carolina.

We'll head back to Philadelphia in a moment. But before we do that, just another note, Bernie Sanders isn't the only one in the south, another 2020 candidate is also in South Carolina. Andrew Yang tweeting this photo of the Waffle House this morning with a simple caption, "Back in the South."

All right with me now is democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He is on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Senator, good to see you; thanks so much for being with us. Coming to us from Philadelphia there.

SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: We have a gorgeous day here in Philadelphia for Joe Biden's announcement speech. My wife, Annie, and I got here from Delaware. I'm blessed to be the successor to Joe Biden. I hold the seat that he long held on behalf of Delaware and what I'm excited about is to hear his message today.

This is a community that knows Joe, that knows how whole-heartedly optimistic he is about the American people and about what we can do together. His announcement video reflecting on the ways in which President Trump really has divided our country, really has taken us into a place where our international standing has gone down and our internal divisions have been pulled broader apart. It reminds me that the Joe I know is a great fighter for America, somebody who helps represent us bravely and successfully on the world stage and someone who in his heart really understands what it's going to take to get our middle class back and growing and roaring(ph) and our place back on the world stage.

WHITFIELD: And Senator, why are you and Joe Biden, you know, equally confident that Biden can turn Pennsylvania blue again after Hillary Clinton lost that state to Donald Trump?

COONS: Well I think Joe Biden is going to fight really hard for Pennsylvania. Early polls show him up by double digits against Donald Trump in head-to-head match ups here in Pennsylvania but Pennsylvania knows Joe and Joe knows Pennsylvania. My wife is from Pennsylvania. It's a state that has a long and proud history, a strong labor movement, a strong middle class.

Joe is going to contest the state from end-to-end. If you haven't worked a coffee shop, or union hall or fire station with Joe Biden, you haven't seen someone who can really listen and connect to folks who have reason to be angry with the way things have gone in the last couple decades and who need some hope and need someone who can show them a positive path forward. That's why I'm convinced Joe Biden is not going to win Pennsylvania in the primary, but win Pennsylvania the general.

WHITFIELD: And Senator Coons, Biden, he is one of more than 28 candidates, now. We're at what 22 in the democratic field. It's a very diverse field.

COONS: Twenty-two, 23, 24, yes.

WHITFIELD: Yes, you name it. We've got women. We've got minority candidates in the field there, so how does Joe Biden compete with that kind of diversity and even appeal to the younger voters so many of whom have been turned off by the process but may be voting for the first time?

COONS: Well Joe is actually very popular with younger voters, partly because they know him in his service with the Obama-Biden Administration, the ways in which the Obama-Biden Administration fought for LGBTQ rights, fought to advance our concerns about climate change through the Paris Agreement and the Recovery Act.

They know the ways in which the Obama-Biden Administration had a record of making our country stronger on the world stage and safer and more prosperous at home. But frankly, they also respect the fact he is optimistic. He is someone who brings his whole heart to this work and who has spent his adult life as a servant to the public and whose character and capabilities and energy and attitude they respect. He's who can really bring us together and when I have been talking to primary voters in Delaware and around the country, that's what I hear they are looking for.

WHITFIELD: In at least one instance this week, there were a few discussions about Kamala Harris, you know a possible vice president for Biden and take a listen to one of the instances in which that happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

KAMALA HARRIS, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate as vice president he's proven that he knows how to do the job.

(END VIDEO)

WHITFIELD: So how is that being deciphered by Joe Biden?

COONS: Well frankly I think it's very premature for us to be talking about who might or might not be a running mate for which of the candidates. At this point, it's so early in the primary process it's important that the American people get a good look at all the candidates in the field. One of the reasons I think Joe Biden is well respected is because of how well he has served our public and our country and over so many decades.

He's someone who's got a record to run on. So in the end, I do think we'll be asking the question, who will be the best running mate for Joe Biden. But I fully respect the fact that my colleague, Senator Harris, turned it on its head a little bit and said it's early for us to be having that conversation. She might make as good a running mate for the vice president as she would for him. That's a great turn of phrase on her part and frankly it's so early in the process, polls will come and go. What I think matters is that as the average American gets to know the other candidates, they'll get to know even more deeply why they want Joe Biden as their next president.

WHITFIELD: And Senator let put your, you know, let you put your foreign relations committee hat on. You know, as we look at tensions between the U.S. and Iran, you know, intensifying now when the U.S. moved that carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf region. The Trump Administration, you know, had the Pentagon draw up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East. The president saying maybe it will be more. What concerns do you have about how those messages were conveyed as of recent?

COONS: I'm concerned on several different levels, most directly that there's been very little consultation with Congress. Republicans and democrats in the Senate have said that the president seems to be sliding toward an ill-conceived conflict with Iran without consulting Congress and without being forced to articulate a strategy.

We did pass and the president did sign into law a provision that says the president owes us a strategy on Iran; it hasn't been forthcoming. For a second, if we end up in a conflict with Iran in the coming days or weeks, we will be doing it largely alone. Most of the vital allies are questioning the evidence and the judgment that's leading up to the escalation of conflict with Iran.

Last, one of the most important things the Obama-Biden Administration accomplished on the world stage was putting Iran's nuclear weapons program in a box. Maybe not a perfect box, maybe not in a permanent box, but one that for at least a decade put the nuclear weapons program on Iran on ice. Of course President Trump ripped that agreement up and distanced us from some of our core allies and this is just one of many reasons why I think the average American looks at our current situation in the world and says they would welcome the leadership of former Vice President Joe Biden.

WHITFIELD: So the president -- President Trump did say he does not want a war. Was that an attempt and perhaps even successful to cool things down or a little, you know, too late?

COONS: Well, one of the challenges with President Trump, who I'll remind you is the first president with no previous military or elected experience, is that he ran on being an unconventional president. He's outperformed in that category. He will pick a fight in a certain context like with Kim Jong-un and North Korea by using very aggressive saber-rattling rhetoric, and then just as abruptly do a 180 and start talking about how Kim is his close friend and somebody he deeply respects and looks forward to negotiating with.

President Trump did, I think, reduce some of the pressure this weekend by saying he doesn't want a war with Iran but it was just 48 hours ago that he and his senior administration officials were trumpeting the deployment of bombers, Patriot missiles and a new air force carrier task group to the Persian Gulf and the removal of all non-essential personnel from Iraq, from the state department.

So we don't know what the strategy is, what the direction is, until we see the latest tweet from President Trump. That doesn't strike me as a responsible way to lead in foreign policy and in national security.

WHITFIELD: All right, Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much, at the rally that will get under way in about 45 minutes. At least it's schedule to there in Philadelphia for Joe Biden. Thank you so much.

All right, still ahead, the, quote, "unseemly request" that has Ireland balking at President Trump's planned visit next month.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:00]

WHITFIELD: A diplomatic standoff is heating up between White House officials and the team organizing a potential visit to Ireland next month. An Irish government source says tensions erupted after Trump officials demanded that the Irish prime minister host a meeting at Trump's golf course. CNN's Sarah Westwood is following developments from the White House. Sarah, what exactly is going on now?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, these tensions between the planning teams for Ireland and the U.S. are threatening to derail the president's planned trip to Ireland in the beginning of June. President Trump, according to sources, wants to meet the Irish prime minister or Taoiseach at his golf property in Ireland in Doonbeg, Ireland.

But the Irish side thinks that's a little bit improper and they would have extended something of a compromise to the White House and that's that the president meet the Irish Taoiseach at a nearby venue, the Dromadeg(ph) castle. It's somewhere, by the way, when the then Irish prime minister met President George W. Bush in 2004, so it's a familiar diplomatic venue and then potentially have breakfast meeting with the president at his golf property the next day.

But sources tell CNN that the White House has not yet accepted that offer. Here is something else the source told CNN. They said the Irish government feels that protocol dictates at any event they host for President Trump should be at venue of their choosing and certainly not a hotel owned by Trump. And the source added, it is a bit unseemly to demand that the Taoiseach host President Trump at his hotel.

Now just for context, this would come during the president's upcoming visit to Great Britain and France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day if the president does do this stent in Ireland, it would last two nights. The Irish foreign minister has said that this is still in the planning stages. He hasn't added any details but an Irish diplomatic source does tell CNN, Fred, that this is potentially difficult situation politically for the Irish prime minister because Trump is very unpopular in Ireland.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much for that.

OK, so speaking of Ireland, a little bit of a subject change. You might recall this as the luck of the Irish. Three Irish lads. As the woman is strolling through Times Square to snap a picture because they didn't have a smartphone. So she did just that and then posted it on Twitter to find the gentlemen. It took Twitter users barely 60 minutes to find them

getting nearly 6,000 retweets. Together again.

Up next, as we anticipate Joe Biden's official launch rally in Philadelphia, we'll look at the 2020 field in its entirety. Biden may be the early front-runner, but 22 other candidates want to take that spot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:00]

WHITFIELD: Right now about 35 minutes or so away from the scheduled Joe Biden kick off rally in Philadelphia. We'll take you there live. Meanwhile ten out of the 23 democratic candidates are on the campaign trail, hoping to set themselves apart from the competition. The competition is pretty intense. Look at this crowded field, 23 democratic candidates all hoping to take on Trump in the 2020 election.

Let's discuss this with national political reporter for "The New York Times," Astead Herndon; and White House reporter for the "Washington Post," Seung Min Kim. Good to see you both. All right, Seung Min, you first. Why so many candidates? Wouldn't this hurt the democrats chances by this field being yet so crowded and there's word that there are few others that want to jump in too?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER FOR THE "WASHINGTON POST": Well, the one answer is, why not? We saw a lot of democrats are thinking that they saw the success of President Trump in the 2016 primary field, how he was able to rise above about 15 or 16 other candidates. And after 2016, when it seemed at the outset that Hillary Clinton seemed to be the party's almost predetermined nominee, I think the democrats really wanted a more diverse, more robust primary this time around. But, the vast field does make it harder for any one candidate to

breakthrough, which is part of the reason why Vice President Biden, even though there had been some speculation that once he he gets in the race that he would face a lot of questions and that perhaps he would stumble. Why he's able to - been able to have pretty smooth roll out, keep his place at the top of the polling so far and I think you're going to see - despite all the attempts by other democratic candidates to try to chip away at that lead, it hasn't taken afoot just yet. I mean obviously it's still very early in the race but that's going to be a struggle for the democratic candidates going forward.

WHITFIELD: Yes, so let's take a look at the latest poll numbers, this from "Fox News". Biden increasing his lead, Astead. Sanders falling some but still maintaining double digits. So, you know, how does he maintain that momentum? Talking about Biden.

Sanders falling some, but still maintaining double digits. So, you know, how does he maintain that momentum? Talking about Biden.

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER FOR "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, former Vice President Biden, has, of course, enjoyed a healthy lead at the top of early polling in this democratic race. That comes from a couple places. That comes from the kind of familiarity folks have with him after spending eight years in the White House but it also comes from really robust support from particularly black voters that play a critical role as the primary swings toward the south.

And so it's going to be a challenge for other democratic candidates to try to arrest those communities from them. You have seen people try to attack the former vice president's record, particularly on issues of criminal justice, his involvement with Clarence Thomas hearings, but it's going to have to be more than that. Some of these voters are coming to him not because they love his record, but the perception he can win and is best suited to defeat President Trump. And so they're going to have to make it a primary about ideas and about structural change rather than that question of electability because if that becomes - because if it's centered around that and the kind of gendered notions around that, that's all good news for Joe Biden.

WHITFIELD: And Seung Min, you know, we should point out, overall, this is a historic democratic party. At least the field of candidacy, it's so diverse, yet, at the same time, you still see, you know, at the top, two white men. So, you know, should they remain confident?

KIM: I think, again, a lot of the -- first of all, polls are very early. We are so far more than 500 days until the general election and obviously far out from the first democratic nominated contest. A lot of the early lead comes from the universally virtual name I.D. that the former vice president and Senator Sanders does enjoy with their previous national platforms. But I do think that you are going to have to have more democratic candidates doing whatever they can to contrast themselves and showing voters why they are the better option to lead the democratic party and also to take on Trump at this moment.

I think you are already seeing, I mean even from the moment that the vice president announced he was running, you saw candidates really trying to sharpen their differences and make that contrast with the former vice president on policy.

You heard Elizabeth Warren saying I was on -- he was on the side of credit card companies, I was not, making that contrast when it comes to financial policy. You had Bernie Sanders, himself, talk a lot about Biden's support for NAFTA and, TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You had Kamala Harris recently talking about her opposition to the '94 crime bill. So I think you're going to have a lot more of those contrast in policy going forward as, again, democrats try to distinguish themselves from the obvious front-runner right now.

[12:30:00]

WHITFIELD: So Astead, do you see that happening, you know, sooner rather than later? Because we certainly saw that with that Republican field when there were 17 during 2016. They were really -- they were going at -- you know, going for the jugular at each other and here we're seeing kind of a maybe it's a -- maybe a bit more calculated chipping away of each other.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Democrats have kind of pledged to make this a collegial contest at the early outset. But what we're seeing is some of those rules frankly don't apply to Biden as he's saying that they haven't more willing to attack the former vice president on his record. And I think that's going to shift as these debates happen and as we get through the summer as more voters tune in. If you see the former vice president still maintaining that lead on top of polling, I am positive that these other Democratic candidates will come out more forcefully and more clearly around him because these are real ideological differences. I mean, this isn't just a matter of who is best suited, and I know the party says that they will rally around whoever is that nominee.

But there are folks who really truly believe that four years of Vice President Biden would squash the kind of progressive energy that's been so robust over the last couple of years. And these are ideological divides, these are personal divides that may come out more clearly over the next couple months if the former vice president is maintaining that healthy advantage.

WHITFIELD: All right, Astead Herndon and Seung Min Kim, good to see you both. Appreciate it.

HERNDON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, up next, amid protest, Missouri is now the fourth state this year to pass tough anti-abortion legislation. All it needs is now the governor's signature. But how serious is the threat to Roe v. Wade?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:34] WHITFIELD: Missouri is the latest state to pass a strict anti-abortion bill and send it to the governor's desk. There has been a sudden flurry of Republican majority states enacting anti-abortion laws in recent weeks. The Missouri bill bans abortion after eight weeks, it includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. The governor says he will sign the bill.

And this, coming just days after Alabama lawmakers passed one of the country's most restrictive abortion bills into law. That law makes also no exceptions for rape or incest and includes a provision that could send a doctor to prison for up to 99 years for performing an abortion and 10 years for even attempting it. Supporters of these bills admit they are designed to get the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing abortion.

Melissa Murray is a professor at NYU School of Law, CNN's Ariane de Vogues is a Supreme Court reporter. Good to see both of you, ladies.

So Melissa, let me begin with you. So most of these bills will be challenged in lower courts before becoming law. Is there a feeling of how those courts might be stacked up to rule?

MELISSA MURRAY, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Under existing Supreme Court precedent, these laws are obviously unconstitutional because they basically constitute a pre-viability ban on abortion which is prohibited by all existing Supreme Court precedent on the issue. So, lower courts, if they're following the Supreme Court's precedent should strike down these laws.

WHITFIELD: So Ariane, the Supreme Court, you know, has a conservative makeup and anti-abortion supporters are pushing bills, you know, hoping to overturn Roe v. Wade. So listen to the two newest conservative members of the court and what they had to say during their confirmation hearings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT: The Supreme Court has held in Roe versus Wade that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th amendment. And the book explains that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you accept that?

GORSUCH: That's the law of the land. I accept the law of the land, Senator, yes.

JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT: It is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey then reaffirm many times Casey is precedent on precedent which itself is an important factor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Ariane, how much concern or worry is there that the justices said that for confirmation, but their feelings might be different when it comes down to ruling or, you know, ruling on any new challenges that come before them? ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, Fred, it's interesting because most every judge at this confirmation hearing or her confirmation hearing will say that previous decisions are settled law. But the thing is, is once they get on the Supreme Court, they can get a case and they can look at that settled law and the can say, well, things have changed now, and we need to overturn this case.

And just last week at the Supreme Court, in a case that had nothing to do with abortion, the five conservatives on this court, they overturned precedent that was some 40 years old, right? Settled law. And in decent, Justice Stephen Breyer and the other liberals on this court, they called the conservatives out on this. And they said, look, the law is based on these precedents. That's where the stability of the law comes. And you're coming in and wiping away something that had been on the books for some 40 years.

And then Breyer took a step further because he, in making his argument, referred to abortion precedent. So clearly, the justices here, the liberal justices are sending a signal to the conservatives, look, we're watching you on precedent. And that brings up the question of this newest justice, Kavanaugh as you said, he said that Roe is precedent.

But everybody is trying to figure out, how is he going to rule on these cases? We know as a lower court judge, he dissented when his colleagues cleared the way for an abortion for an undocumented teen. We know a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court, by 5-4, agreed to put on hold a Louisiana law and he dissented. So everybody is sort of waiting to see, how will Brett Kavanaugh, who took the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy to look at some of these laws as they come up to the Supreme Court, Fred.

[12:40:07] WHITFIELD: So Melissa, what are your concerns when you look at the landscape, you know, of the justices including the newest two?

MURRAY: Well, I testified against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearing so I testified specifically to his record on abortion, which (INAUDIBLE) a sincere skepticism for Roe versus Wade. I would point to Chief Justice John Roberts who also during his 2005 confirmation said that he would respect Roe as precedent. But in 2016, when the court heard its last abortion case, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the conservatives on the court.

I think the only thing we need to think about now is whether going forward, Chief Justice Roberts is more of an institutionalist who cares about the court's reputation and whether he's willing to prioritize those concerns over the conservative interests in legislating abortion out of existence.

WHITFIELD: So Ariane, what do you see is significant about the timing here and these latest bills, you know, whether it be Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and the fact that the president has touted great success in appointing conservative judges in lower courts? Do you see something to the timing of these kinds of legislation and the president, what he believes is a victory in stacking so many lower courts with conservative judges?

DE VOGUE: Well, absolutely. You look at the Alabama law, that goes directly against precedent. It punishes the doctors and there's no exception for rape or incest. These states know that laws like that really -- that go directly at Roe are likely to be overturned by the lower courts, the ones that really are a direct challenge to Roe. But they're emboldened, they're emboldened by the fact that President Trump said at one point that he wanted to put pro-life judges on the bench. They're emboldened by the fact that they got Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Those are two Supreme Court nominees.

And one of the things that people don't usually talk about is the fact that in the last two years, President Trump has really transformed how the lower courts will look at it, that how many nominees he's put on the lower courts. They are going to be looking at this. So the Supreme Court may not get a case like Alabama or may not want to immediately overturn Roe v. Wade, but there are other cases in front of them.

For instance, they're looking at an Indiana law. And this Indiana law says that you have to have an ultrasound at least 18 hours before the procedure. Well, Indiana says, look, this is -- gives the woman the chance to reflect upon her decision. But the other side says, these laws aren't medically necessary and what's going to happen is that you are going to chip away at the right to a woman having an abortion.

WHITFIELD: And Melissa, final thought on that?

MURRAY: Well, I think the one thing that President Trump has been really successful in doing is appointing judges to the lower courts. He just appointed his 100th judge to the lower federal courts. And again, that really changes the climate and it has emboldened anti- abortion forces throughout the country and specifically in those states where we're seeing these restrictive legislation pop up. Those are places where we've seen a shift in the composition of intermediate appellate courts and district courts.

WHITFIELD: Melissa Murray, Ariane de Vogue, we'll leave it there, for now, ladies. Thank you so much.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Coming up next, the Iranian foreign minister says there will be no war. But it comes as the United States issues new warnings about the Persian Gulf. This time for commercial airliners.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:55] WHITFIELD: Amid recent tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Iran's foreign minister says there will be, quote, no war. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made the comments today during a visit to Beijing and added Iran is not seeking war and no one else is under the illusion of being able to fight Iran. Despite that, the FAA has issued new warnings for commercial airliners flying above the Persian Gulf. The FAA issued a statement this week warning commercial flights of a possible risk of miscalculation or misidentification. Samantha Vinograd, former senior adviser to the National Security Council during the Obama administration and a CNN national security analyst with me now. Good to see you, Sam.

So how common, you know, are commercial flight warnings of that nature?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Fred, even if the president's temper has cooled, threats have not. And this FAA warning is just one indication that there are myriad threat streams in -- affecting U.S. interests in the air, on land, and at sea. This FAA warning has to be considered in the context of our history with Iran in the region. In 1988, U.S. forces mistakenly shot down an Iranian aircraft, Iranian Flight 655 so the FAA is going to be overcautious in this region as elsewhere.

They issued a similar warning in September 2018. This is enhanced threat recording, and it's coming at a time when Lloyd's of London and others have similar re-issued warnings to commercial vessels at sea. We know that Saudi and Emirati ships were sabotaged shortly ago. And we know that also on land there is increased threat reporting against U.S. assets. That's why we drew down personnel at our embassy and consulates in Iraq.

Similarly, Bahrain took action I think today as well to draw down their personnel in Basra. Exxon Mobile is removing stuff. So again, across all these vectors, air, land, and sea, there is enhanced threat reporting despite the fact that President Trump has now decided that he wants to dial down his rhetoric.

WHITFIELD: And the president saying, you know, he doesn't want war.

[12:50:00] Did that assist in potentially, you know, dialing down or at least cooling tensions?

VINOGRAD: Well, actions have consequences in both on the campaign trail and as president up until, I don't know, he woke up on a different side of the bed a few days ago. The president's actions have led us to this point. It didn't happen by accident.

By withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the president knew that he'd be putting more pressure on Iran. When Secretary of State Pompeo designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, he was reportedly warned that this would increase threats to our assets on the ground in the region. And when President Trump has personally engaged in a war of words with the Iranians and information warfare against the regime, he has personally led us to this place. So while he has now decided that he does not want to go to war, thank goodness, the policy team has to play catch up and figure out how to dial down tensions.

WHITFIELD: Samantha Vinograd, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.

VINOGRAD: Thank you. WHITFIELD: And a quick CNN programming note, Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the painkiller capital of the world, Turkey, where they make the most opium but use the least. "Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta" tonight at 9 Eastern.

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WHITFIELD: Tiger Woods may be out, but history is being made at the PGA Championship.

[12:55:00] Andy Scholes is live for us at the course with more. Andy, what's going on?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Fredricka, the reigning champ, Brooks Koepka is having a tournament for the ages here. You know, he played with Tiger Woods in rounds one and two. And the majority of the fans here in New York they came to Bethpage Black to see Tiger, but they may have accidentally seen the passing of the torch.

Koepka is just dominating this field. He's 12 under through two rounds here, and he set a record for the lowest 36-hole score in major championship history. And Koepka could make even more history this weekend. He's already the reigning PGA champ and two-time U.S. Open champ and no one has ever held back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS KOEPKA, SEEKING BACK-TO-BACK PGA CHAMPIONSHIPS: I mean, I like that lead to grow as large is it and possibly can. You know, I still going to go out there and do what I'm supposed to do, keep -- put the ball in the right spot and I should have a good chance of winning the championship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right, Koepka teases off at 2:50 Eastern this afternoon. Tiger meanwhile is going to be watching from home. He just couldn't find the fairways here yesterday and it really fell apart for him on the back nine. He bogeyed 10, 11, and 12. The first time he's ever missed the cut at a major after winning one. And Tiger said afterward, well, he was definitely disappointed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIGER WOODS, MISSED CUT AT PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Well, I'm not playing the weekend so that's disappointing. And just didn't quite have it. I've enjoyed being the Master's champion, again and the PGA was a quick turnaround. And unfortunately, I just didn't play well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Yes, that ball around Tiger yesterday, Fredricka, there were people wearing Tiger costumes, a whole fraternity dressed in red and black. Lots of people having fun out there even though Tiger wasn't playing really well. Unfortunately for them, no one is able to wear those outfits this weekend. Or if they do, they'll do it with Tiger not being here.

WHITFIELD: Right. Well, the agony of defeat, it's palpable. We could feel it for him.

Andy, thank you so much.

SCHOLES: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

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