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Biden Defiant After Booker Says He Should Apologize for Remarks; Supreme Court to Take Up Case on Puerto Rico Financial Crisis; Trump: Iran "Made a Very Bad Mistake" Shooting Down U.S. Drone; Amazon Blasts Ocasio-Cortez over "Starvation Wages" Comment; 100 Days Since Trump Administration's Last Press Briefing. Aired 1:30- 2p ET
Aired June 20, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:33:55] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Democratic presidential frontrunner, Joe Biden, is refusing to apologize for remarks that he made about his ability to work with segregationist Senators during his time in Congress.
Here is exactly what the former V.P. said during a fundraising event on Tuesday night, quote, "I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me boy. He always called me son. Guess what, at least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you are the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore," end quote.
Biden's Democratic opponents have really seized on this, and that includes Senator Cory Booker who has called on Biden to apologize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to apologize to Cory Booker?
JOE BIDEN, (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apologize for what?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Cory has called for it --
BIDEN: Cory should apologize. He knows better. There's not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): So for his posture to me to be to me, "I've done nothing wrong, you should apologize, I'm not a racist," is so insulting and so missing the larger point, that he should not have to have it explained to him. This should not be a lesson that someone running for the president of the United States should have to be -- to be given.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:35:16] KEILAR: I want to bring in Reverend Joseph Darby. He's senior pastor at Nichols Chapel AME Church.
Reverend, I do want to point out you have defended Biden on this. I wonder, as you watch this back-and-forth between Senator Booker and the former vice president, what is -- what is your impression of this fight that's going on?
REV. JOSEPH DARBY, SENIOR PASTOR, NICHOLS CHAPEL AME CHURCH: I think it's a political fight. My hope would be that folks would take a deep breath, get back to the business of articulating what they're going to do for America.
KEILAR: Were you offended by what Joe Biden said?
DARBY: I was not offended. I would have probably chosen different people to illustrate civility, but I get what he was trying to say.
That filters through my being a product of South Carolina. I remember when Strom Thurmond was a segregationist until black folks were able to vote and he suddenly started popping up at black churches and doing constituent services when he could. I remember when our state NAACP and our state law enforcement were at each other' throats during the day but at night tried to meet and work things out peacefully. So that filters through my life experience. I personally was not offended.
KEILAR: We're seeing as well, between Joe Biden and Cory Booker, there's a generational divide between these two candidates. Do you think that plays out with voters as well on this issue?
DARBY: It very well might. Without that filter, then some younger voters might have difficulty with it, but I think time will tell.
KEILAR: But why -- you've said that Joe Biden should not apologize. You feel that people need to kind of move on here. But why should he not apologize?
DARBY: Well, he said something inartful and inarticulate. I don't know that he apologized -- I don't know that he should apologize for what he said. I don't think either that Senator Booker should apologize for what he said.
KEILAR: And one of the points that Senator Booker makes, it revolves around the connotation of the word "boy," that you heard the former vice president saying that Senator Eastland didn't call him boy, he called him son. Cory Booker has made the point that this has a connotation with the African-American community, specifically black men.
Does Biden need to be more thoughtful in how he talks about things like this?
DARBY: I think that the vice president needs to be himself but, at the same time, be himself through the filter of the present generation.
KEILAR: All right, Reverend, thank you so much for being with us. Reverend Joseph Darby
DARBY: Thank you.
KEILAR: -- from South Carolina. We really appreciate it.
We do have some news right now from the Supreme Court.
I want to go to CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider.
What can you tell us, Jess?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Some late word from the Supreme Court this afternoon, Brianna. This relates to a case out of Puerto Rico dealing with Puerto Rico's debt crisis. The Supreme Court agreeing to not only hear this challenge but also fast track it. They'll be hearing it in the second week of October.
What do this relate to? The Supreme Court will address the constitutionality of a very important board to Puerto Rico, the Financial Oversight and Management Board. This board was created by Congress in 2016 to help Puerto Rico manage and respond to its debt crisis.
Puerto Rico is currently in the throes of a $123 billion debt crisis only compounded by what it suffered after Hurricane Maria, that category 4 hurricane in 2017.
So what's at issue here? Well, the constitutionality of this board.
Basically, challengers, Brianna, saying that the board itself violates the Appointments Clause. Saying the members on the board weren't properly appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
So this is really technical on constitutional grounds here. But obviously it's very important to the recovery of Puerto Rico in the midst of its debt crisis.
The Supreme Court today saying, yes, we will hear your appeal. We will not only hear it but fast track it. So the Supreme Court will hear it just at the beginning of the next term, which is the second week in October.
So it could mean some very important things for Puerto Rico. The justices obviously taking note of that with four different petitions before the court, urging them to take this case. The Supreme Court saying today, yes, today we will to maybe get some sort of handle on how this board will eventually manage Puerto Rico's very large and consequential debt crisis -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Jessica Schneider, thank you for that report.
[13:39:41] Congressional leaders are heading to the White House for a briefing on Iran as President Trump weighs how to respond and potentially how to retaliate.
KEILAR: We have more now on our breaking news. President Trump responding to Iran shooting down a U.S. unmanned aircraft near the Persian Gulf. The president says that Iran, "Made a very big mistake." But he also says it may have been human error.
We have Jay Carney with us, former White House press secretary for President Obama.
You served in the Obama White House. Important to note you left before the Iran deal.
JAY CARNEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Right before the Iran deal, yes.
KEILAR: But it's something you have obviously watched very carefully with Trump getting out of the Iran deal and watching what we're seeing now. What are your views as you see this development?
CARNEY: Well, as a citizen, I'm concerned. The possibility of another military conflict in the Middle East, I think, is concerning and should be for everyone. Iran is a serious country with a serious military and would be a serious adversary.
[13:45:14] And I think it's unfortunate what happened. There's no excusing Iran's actions if they shot down, and it appears they did, shot down a U.S. drone over international waters.
But I think, as a country, our military leaders, our elected political leaders need to move cautiously and judiciously towards responding to this because we know, from experience, you and I do from in the press and me in the White House, that there are always long-term consequences to taking that major military action. And they're not happy consequences. We can look to Iraq and Afghanistan and agree on that.
KEILAR: I want to ask you about Vice President Joe Biden. In addition to being White House press secretary, you were prior to that communications director for the vice president.
CARNEY: I was.
KEILAR: And you had a very close relationship with the vice president in that capacity and after leaving his office as well.
He's coming under fire. You've seen he made these comments. He was trying to make an argument for, I guess, civility, right, getting things done with people you don't agree with. He talked about some Democratic segregationists in that regard. He's come under fire from Cory Booker and others and now he's saying Cory Booker should apologize to him. What do you make of this?
CARNEY: Well, I have a lot of respect for Senator Booker, Senator Harris and a lot of the candidates that are running. I know that Joe Biden would be a good president. I know that because
I worked for him when he was vice president and because I know Barack Obama believed he would be a good president.
I also know his heart. I know that what he was describing was the dynamic that existed when he entered the Senate. He didn't get to choose who represented Mississippi, for example. But as a Senator, if he wanted to get something done, he had to work with the other Senators who were there.
And I share his view that we need to, as a country, try to find some common ground. A lot of Democrats understandably looking at the experience we had in the White House, the Obama administration, and the frustrations we had with Republicans in Congress, the refusal to compromise with us would say that view is naive. But what's the alternative?
KEILAR: No one is arguing -- I guess my questions is, no one is arguing with this call to civility.
CARNEY: Well, there are some who believe that's naive.
KEILAR: The real issue for Cory Booker, for instance, is the words that he chose, right? And in our reporting -- you can speak to this having had a staff relationship with him -- there was staff who knew of this example and were cautioning against the use of it, and yet he used it. He clearly felt comfortable using it. He felt like it made the point.
When you're looking at his performance on that, does he need to shape up when it comes to maybe taking staff advice or learning what is OK to say, what is not OK to say?
CARNEY: Joe Biden is going to be the person he's always been. And it's ultimately an asset, the fact that he speaks from the heart and off the cuff.
Sometimes he says things that political strategists or a communications director would say don't say it that way, say it this way. Here's the choreographed talking points. But that's not who he is. I do think people like him for that.
There will be other occasions, as there has been in the past, where he says things that people say he shouldn't say that because it's outrageous. But if you know him and know his record and understand what he's saying, I really think that this isn't what it's being made out to be.
KEILAR: You now are working for Amazon, a senior vice president of global corporate affairs.
It's very much in the news right now because Amazon has fired back at Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she accused Amazon of paying its workers starvation wages, which Amazon says that is not at all the case.
I do also, though, want to play before I have you respond to that what she said that your boss, Jeff Bezos, should do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Well, I think for me, I spend less time thinking about Jeff Bezos and more time thinking about Amazon warehouse workers. I think about the outcomes that I want for those folks.
So whether Jeff Bezos is a billionaire or not is less of my concern than if your average Amazon worker is making a living wage, if they have guaranteed health care, and if they can send their kids to college tuition-free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: What do you --
CARNEY: Well, first of all, the reason why we responded is because we have to correct the record. I'm a progressive. Progressives are out there fighting to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Guess what, Amazon is leading the way. We raised the minimum wage for all of our workers in warehouses to $15 minimum. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said she would like to see them get full health care benefits. They do on day one. They get the same benefits as I get as an executive at Amazon. There's no tiering of benefits. We also prepay tuition for on-the-job learning to get degrees and certificates in other fields that will pay even more money.
[13:50:22] So I think we share the same goal here, we need to raise wages in the United States for American workers.
My team went to Jeff Bezos, my boss, last year. He said he wanted to raise wages. We already pay competitively. The most extreme option was to go, instead of going gradually to $15, was to go right away to $15. That's the option he chose because he knew it was the right thing to do for our workers.
By the way, for Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, we're hiring more people in America than almost any other country. I mean, any other company in America. And we're hiring not just in select cities, but in almost every state in the country.
We're focused on this issue, and we corrected the record because we feel like we're part of the solution not the problem.
KEILAR: I want to ask you as well, on a different topic -- we have so many. You touched on so many topics today.
CARNEY: I'm a generalist, right?
KEILAR: You're one of the few former White House press secretaries. There's not a lot of people that have stood at that podium and know what it means. And also reflecting on what it means when you leave.
As we see Sarah Sanders leaving the White House at the end of the month, we may be remembered for what she didn't do, which is brief, right? It's about 101 days. She will also be remembered for admitting to the special counsel she was lying. She was lying when she said the rank-and-file of the FBI did not support Jim Comey as she tried to support President Trump in his allegations as he fired Jim Comey.
How is her legacy going to impact that role in the White House in general?
CARNEY: I worry about it, because, as you know, I took the job very seriously. The relationship with the press, between the press secretary and the press can be adversarial, frustrating.
KEILAR: It was. I can attest to that.
KEILAR: I covered the White House when you were the press secretary.
CARNEY: And it's supposed to be. If it's not, you begin to worry about our democracy. But it has to be respectful. It has to be -- every president I covered, and the president I worked for understood fundamentally that the independent media is a core piece of the foundation of our democracy.
And the ritual of having someone who speaks for the president, answer questions on a regular basis from the independent media, while imperfect -- nobody would say the press briefing is a perfect vehicle anymore, because it's become theatrical -- it has to happen. It needs to happen for a democracy to function. I think it's important for our country. And I hope we'll return to that at some point.
And if there are ways to improve the dynamic, great, but there has to be some accountability. And if it's -- it's got to be the president or someone who can speak for him.
I was in meetings all morning with senior staff. I would have a prep session making sure I knew everything about where we were on every issue, that I could answer truthfully and as transparently as I could on every issue. And when I wasn't liking what I was reading or didn't know exactly what the president thought about an issue, I would walk down the hall and ask him, if I hadn't seen him already that morning before the briefing, because I thought it was important.
I think your credibility as press secretary is all you have. It's not about you. It's about -- because you're speaking for the president, the White House, the administration and the country. You need to do everything you can to not erode that credibility. And --
KEILAR: What's the legacy? CARNEY: Well, I think the legacy that she leaves and her predecessor
leaves is one where it's not a role that's taken seriously anymore. And it's -- I think that's unfortunate.
KEILAR: All right, Jay Carney, thank you so much.
CARNEY: Thank you. I appreciate it.
KEILAR: Really appreciate it.
[13:54:06] So we're getting new reporting on the Pentagon's thinking behind the scenes after Iran has shot down a U.S. unmanned aircraft. Stand by for that.
KEILAR: More now on our breaking news. The president saying that the world will soon find out if the U.S. strikes Iran after Iran shot down a U.S. unmanned aircraft. We're getting word that the White House will now brief lawmakers very soon. We're also getting new reporting from the Pentagon. We're going to take you to both places.
We're back in two minutes.