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President Trump Blasts Polls Showing He'd Lose in Matchups Against Top Democrats; President Trump and Former VP Joe Biden Trade Jabs in Iowa; Biden Gets Questioned About His Reversal on Federal Funds for Abortions; House Oversight Committee to Hold Contempt Vote Against Bill Barr, Wilbur Ross; Don Junior to Testify Before Senate Panel; Police Fired Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets at Hong Kong Protesters; Second Suspect Arrested in Shooting of Red Sox Legend David Ortiz. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 12, 2019 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: We hope that this can inspire other classes or schools to do the same.

BERMAN: What an amazing kid but I have to say shouldn't take a third grader to fix that problem.

CAMEROTA: To teach us this lesson.

BERMAN: Yes. Or to fix that problem.

CAMEROTA: That's a good point.

BERMAN: If they can't afford their school lunches, why do they need him to fix it?

CAMEROTA: Good point. Where's the school board?

BERMAN: But, thank you, Ryan.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Ryan.

BERMAN: All right, a lot of news. "NEWSROOM" picks up right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour, I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. It is a busy morning on Capitol Hill with implications for the White House, the Trump administration, even for the president's family.

We are an hour away from a vote by the House Oversight Committee to hold the secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, and the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, in contempt of Congress. For Barr it will be the second contempt vote by a Democrat-led House panel. The issue here is the administration's plan to ask non-citizens to out themselves in next year's census.

HARLOW: Yes. It's something the Supreme Court is considering as we speak as well. On the other side of the capitol behind closed doors a Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee is questioning Donald Trump Jr. for a second time but not before serving a subpoena that the president's eldest son initially denied.

So let's go to Capitol Hill, our colleague Lauren Fox begins our coverage this hour. Let's begin with the latest contempt vote and I think the fundamental question of what is the Democrats' hope here of actually accomplishing.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a big deal, Poppy, because they say they have not gotten the information or the documents that they have requested from the Commerce Department or from the Department of Justice so they are planning basically to enforce their subpoenas by holding Bill Barr and Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, but this is a big moment also for the White House because the Department of Justice said last night in a letter that they planned to ask the White House to exert executive privilege over some of that information that the House Oversight Committee has been looking for.

Now that's been expected from committee aides, but I think it's a really important moment. It just sort of reveals this divide between the Trump administration and House Democrats. This fight continues even though there was a little bit of that fever breaking on Monday when the House Judiciary Committee and the Department of Justice came to some kind of an agreement for members on the committee to be able to look at key evidence from the Mueller report.

It's very clear that this fight is still very much ongoing and there are multiple investigations here. This investigation into the census and how a question about citizenship ended up on the U.S. census. Obviously a very key important issue for Democrats and the House of Representatives -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And, Lauren, just before you go on that, because I think this is something that maybe goes over folks' head about what a big deal this is and how we got to this place with the census because the citizenship question was on the census until the 1950s, right, and then it was off. And the question is, was it politics that put it back on, right?

FOX: Well, I think that that's what House Democrats are trying to get at and I think one of the key questions here, of course, is that this is how you draw congressional districts, right. How many people are in the country, how many people are in each congressional district is how these districts get drawn. That has a big impact on who is in power in the House of Representatives. So it's a big political question for House Democrats. It's also one that they say they want to get to the bottom of because they fear that perhaps politics was involved in getting this question added back on to the census and of course there is a deadline, right.

The census starts in just a matter of months. So I think that that's a key question for Democrats and something that they're going to continue to look at. Clearly this vote today showing that they're not giving up anytime soon. HARLOW: Lauren, thanks for the reporting.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's such a key issue because a lot of evidence that non-citizens asked that question, legal non-citizens, mind you, will not take part in the census, therefore, they are underreported and it downplays Democratic representation.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Right? You know, it's --

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: There's a lot of data out there. Important story.

Joining us now CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Jeffrey Toobin, I want to ask you on Bill Barr's strategy here on the use of executive privilege because tell me this as a lawyer but also as a citizen. I mean, it's either privileged information or not. Is it legally sound for the attorney general to say, hey, if we can make a deal here I won't go there, but if you do force our hand we're going to declare it executive privilege information. I mean, is that legally sound? Can he get away with that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the question of -- that you ask can he get away with it, that's really the whole question about all of these disputes.


TOOBIN: I mean, what we are talking about is not just the census information, it's the testimony of Don McGahn, the former White House counsel. We're talking about whether Congress can get access to the president's tax returns. We're talking about whether Congress can investigate how national security clearances were given.

All of these areas are, it seems to me, legitimate areas of congressional investigations and in all of these areas the White House and the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Barr, as you mentioned, is saying, no, you can't have access to any of these documents, any of these witnesses.

[09:05:16] That's what's so important about these fights and what's important about yesterday's vote in the House is that it's going to expedite the process of getting these disputes into the courts.

SCIUTTO: Yes. But doesn't it kind of expose their hand? I mean, if it's executive privilege then you'd come out from day one and say this is privileged information. But doesn't it expose the politics of it by saying we're going to go there unless you deal with us, right? I mean, that's the part that strikes me.

TOOBIN: Yes, well, that is a legitimate argument against the attorney general's position. He would say, look, we're just trying to negotiate, we're trying to operate in good faith here. SCIUTTO: Right.

TOOBIN: I think the important point to remember and, you know, Chairman Cummings of the Oversight Committee said it yesterday, is that they have -- the Congress -- the Oversight Committee has not received a single document in response to any request or any subpoena that's been given since the Democrats took over the House. There's been a complete ban on cooperating with Congress and it's clear that the only way this is going to be resolved to the Democrats' satisfaction any way is if the courts force the issue.

Now the problem for the Democrats is that the courts are probably going to take a long time and why yesterday's vote is important is that it expedites the process of at least starting the legal fights over all these documents and all these testimony requests.

Now how soon the courts deal with it and how soon the appeals are resolved, that's a different question, but at least the fights are going to start relatively soon.

HARLOW: So, Toobin, on the other side of Capitol Hill today you've got the president's eldest son, Don Jr., who is being questioned again by the Senate Intelligence Committee after much negotiation and a subpoena, but didn't Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell and even the president say case closed on this? So, I mean, to what end?

TOOBIN: Well, this was a surprising development because in all the investigations we've seen an almost complete partisan divide, but when it came to Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony you had the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate say, no, we want Don Jr.'s testimony. And that's why he's there, because there was a bipartisan effort to get him to return.

What he will say, how much he will disclose, whether he will contradict himself, I certainly don't know, but it was striking that there was bipartisanship in the Senate in the effort to get Don Jr. to return.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, nice to see that there's a bipartisan interest in trying to figure out if he told the truth, you know. Seems a simple thing.

TOOBIN: There you go.

SCIUTTO: But never simple. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

Donald Trump Jr.'s testimony is just one part of a very busy say on Capitol Hill, as we've been saying. Right now the House Intel Committee is holding an open hearing to discuss the counterintelligence implications of Volume 1 of the Mueller report, according to the committee. The hearing is aimed at understanding the threats faced -- facing still the U.S. democratic system. It will also address possible fixes that could be implemented by Congress and this president. We're going to keep an eye on this. Keep you up to date because

everyone who knows this issue says Russia tried to interfere again in 2018 and will do the same thing in 2020.

HARLOW: All right. Now to Hong Kong. Violent face-off between tens of thousands of protesters if not millions, that's what the organizers say, and riot police there in Hong Kong. Look at this.

The police are saying they had no choice but to use force to keep this crowd from storming into the Legislative Council Building. They resorted to firing tear gas and pepper spray, using water cannons.

The demonstrators are protesting a controversial bill that would allow expedition to courts in mainland China. There are major concerns about human rights abuses in that court system which have been displayed in the past. The concern is, could residents of Hong Kong be extradited for political reasons, et cetera.

Ivan Watson live in Hong Kong. What can you tell us seeing what's happening and also speaking to the protesters?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. Well, just take a look, it's just after 9:00 at night and you can see one of the main arteries that runs through this city is blocked. There are riot police that have pushed protesters back, but they are encircled by protesters who are at barricades that they have set up on some of these traffic -- on these flyways just a few yards away.

[09:10:11] Now we're not seeing right now at this location the scenes of tear gas. There have been some scenes of some more violent scenes in other parts of the city, but there's clearly a standoff and a test of wills here. And this is the worst unrest that this city has seen really in almost five years since there was a previous protest movement and occupy sit-in that lasted for nearly 80 days in these very streets.

I'm just giving you a sense here. Here are some of the demonstrators that are hanging out here. They are against this controversial extradition law that the critics fear could let the Chinese government in the mainland pluck anybody that is a suspect and expose them to the mainland Chinese very opaque judicial system. And that's something that doesn't exist here in this former British colony and that's what people are fighting against.

The local authorities have insisted they'll push through with this law and because of their unyielding position look at these scenes that we see in an international financial hub. Tens of thousands of people on Sunday organizers argue more than a million people that's roughly one in seven Hong Kongers showing their distrust of their own government and by extension distrust of the Chinese central government led by Xi Jinping -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Ivan Watson, thank you. It is striking for anyone who's been to Hong Kong to see that. And here we have Don Jr.

SCIUTTO: Arriving up on the Hill. This is going to be a closed hearing. Open questions here and interestingly as Jeffrey Toobin was noting a short time ago bipartisan interest in calling him back to the Hill. Republicans and Democrats -- Senate Republicans and Democrats, there are open questions as to whether he was fully truthful in his prior testimony. This is no small moment.

HARLOW: No, not a small moment at all. We'll keep you posted.

SCIUTTO: Another story we've been following, a second suspect has now been arrested in connection with the shooting of former Red Sox all- star David Ortiz. Ortiz is recovering at a hospital in Boston now after being shot in the back at a nightclub in the Dominican Republic. His family says that he has taken his first steps after surgery and is now resting comfortably in intensive care.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Santo Domingo.

Patrick, what do we know about this second suspect arrested last night and is there any new information about a motive here, why this happened?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're starting to get more details slowly, piece by piece. Police are expected to give -- hold a press conference later today, talk about a second suspect. They are not confirming whether or not he is the shooter, of course. Has been the top target of police in this investigation to capture him, but police have also told us the last two days they don't believe it's just two individuals, they are casting a wider net and increasingly painting a picture of a targeted hit that may have involved many more people than originally they told us.

What they are laying out is that there was a driver, who's the first person charged in this case. His name is Eddy Garcia. He drove the motorcycle and he delivered a gunman who shot David Ortiz in the back. That gunman escaped by foot.

I talked to Eddy Garcia, the driver's mother yesterday and she said he is actually a huge fan of David Ortiz and that he would never have knowingly taken part in any plot to hurt the baseball legend.

David Ortiz is in Boston. He's receiving treatment and we are told that he's actually taken his first steps, the beginning of an amazing recovery.

SCIUTTO: He is lucky to be alive when you see that video of the shooting.

Patrick Oppmann, on the story, thanks very much.

HARLOW: All right. So still to come, the president and the former vice president Joe Biden facing off, tete-a-tete in the battle ground state of Iowa. It got personal no surprise. We'll take to you Iowa next.

SCIUTTO: And one of these is real, the other is not. High tech videos known as deep fakes. How this incredible technology will affect the 2020 election. So hard to tell them apart.

Plus President Trump set to make a, quote, "significant announcement" regarding U.S. troop presence in Poland close to Russia. Remember that, reportedly sending 1,000 U.S. soldiers there. Why now?


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: So, the president out with a new word, words, this morning, "fake polling", blasting what he deems fake polling. This is polling that shows him losing in head-to- head match-ups with several 2020 Democratic contenders. It includes a new Quinnipiac poll --


HARLOW: Which is a very legitimate and reliable source of polling, that shows former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of the president by 13 points nationally.

SCIUTTO: Particularly by the way, the "New York Times" reporting that the White House's own polling shows --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: Trump losing to Biden. Meanwhile, the president and Biden ripped each other before and during dueling campaign events in that crucial early voting state of Iowa.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's the weakest mentally. Obama took him off the trash heap. Sleepy Joe. He's a sleepy guy.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is literally an existential threat to America. Four years of Donald Trump will be viewed as an aberration in American history. A stunning display of childlessness.


SCIUTTO: Well, reportedly, some of the president's own advisors are frustrated with how much he talks about Biden, believing that it actually helps the former vice president in his primary fight. CNN political reporter Arlette Saenz is in Eldridge, Iowa, she's been following the Biden campaign. What can we expect from Biden today?

[09:20:00] I think you can only say that his events yesterday where you had that kind of straight-up Biden versus Trump split screen very much served his interests.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Jim and Poppy, Joe Biden is here in Iowa for the second day in a row, and though his main foil, President Trump is no longer in the state, we still expect Biden to go after the president. And yesterday, throughout the day, it basically looks like a general election match-up if Biden were able to get the Democratic nomination.

You had the former Vice President repeatedly at each of his three events criticizing President Trump, his campaign had released some prepared remarks earlier in the day, kind of outlining some of those attacks that might -- that Biden might lob Trump's way, some of them, he didn't exactly stick to the script and didn't go after all of them, but he did criticize the president on trade and foreign policy.

And President Trump also fought back, even before he left the White House as he made his way here to Iowa, he was attacking former Vice President Joe Biden as you heard in some of that sound earlier. But by the end of the night at his last event, a fundraiser for the state party here, President Trump did not mention Joe Biden once.

And this comes after some of his advisors have expressed concern about how often President Trump talks about Joe Biden, with a concern that it could elevate his status within the Democratic race. Now, while Biden was here going after Trump, he was also still facing questions about that reversal he made last week when it comes to federal funding for abortion.

Take a listen to what he had to say to reporters yesterday in Mount Pleasant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was more clear to you at the end of last week than it was at the beginning of last week.

BIDEN: Yes, don't be a wise guy with me. The answer is yes, exactly right. I didn't consult with anybody but me in that decision because I was sitting on the way down, finalizing the plan. And what hit me was, we're in a situation where when you saw what was going on in Georgia, what's going on in Alabama, Missouri, it's just outrageous.


SAENZ: Now, Biden also insisted that he didn't make that reversal because it was politically expedient. Now, Biden is going to be here in Eldridge in just a short while, meeting with some voters before he heads over to Clinton County in a few hours. Now, that county is notable because it's one that Obama and Biden won in 2008 and 2012, but another that President Trump flipped in 2016. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes, it's important. Now, Arlette, thanks for the reporting. Let's talk a little bit more about this with White House reporter for "The Washington Post" and CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim. Seung Min, to you, what I find striking is that after ripping into Biden before he left the White House yesterday on the south lawn, the president didn't mention Biden once in his speech last night. Do you think his aides got to him?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, certainly people around him would really wish that he would -- or many -- some of the people around him wish that he would stop elevating Biden, because if you look at it, when you have a politician kind of meddling in another party's primary, one that you try to elevate the weakest of -- weakest of the bunch.

I mean, we've seen this happen in Senate Democratic campaigns where one party tries to lift up some of the weak -- who they think they would be weakest in the general. But what the President Trump is doing here because of his fixation, because of his focus on the former Vice President is elevating the person who at this point in the race appears to be the strongest general election match right now.

I mean, you've referenced the Quinnipiac poll earlier, while the president -- while President Trump trails by -- trails a lot of Democratic candidates in a head-to-head match-up, even Cory Booker leading him by 5 points nationally, Biden by far has the biggest lead when you put him up against Trump among the other Democratic candidates which is really bolstering his argument that he for now really is the strongest candidate against Trump.

HARLOW: So, the president as he often does attacks information he doesn't like, whether calling it fake news or fake polling now. Not comfortable -- and we'll put this up on the screen again, this Quinnipiac poll shows him down by 13 points to Joe Biden there and other polls have reflected that, perhaps not with that wide a margin.

But the "New York Times" is reporting today that the White House's own internal polling shows the president losing to Biden. And I imagine those concerns based on your own reporting -- you've been deep into this for a while, make it more understandable why the president is so focused on Biden in his public comments.

KIM: Exactly. And from time to time, I mean, depending on the ebb and flow of the news cycle, certainly the president has made barbs or gone after some of the other Democratic candidates in the race, particularly as some of the Democrats rise and subsequently fall.

But there is no doubt that the president has had his eyes set on Biden for such a long time. I mean, I recall just a few weeks ago when the leader of a prominent firefighter's union endorsed Biden and the next --

HARLOW: Right --

KIM: Morning, the president retweeted what was it almost 60 local firefighters from that union saying they actually supported Trump. So clearly, the former Vice President is on his mind and will be for some time --


[09:25:00] KIM: Because what Biden especially represents to Trump is that really critical state of Pennsylvania that Democrats were supposed to win in 2016, had been a pretty Democratic stronghold and flipped to the president in 2016, and that the president needs again for his re-election race, but Biden is from Pennsylvania --


KIM: He used that state as the launch of his presidential campaign and that's what a lot of this is also about.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and no surprise that that's where he had a lot of his early events in the state of Pennsylvania. Seung Min Kim, thanks very much. Well, Mexico says it is considering a plan to hold asylum seekers on its side of the border. What kind of impact would that have? We're going to ask the acting director of ICE, that's coming up. It's going to be a news-making interview, join us.