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Joe Biden Faces Backlash Over Segregationist Comments; Hope Hicks Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee; Iran Claims to Shoot Down U.S. Drone. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2019 - 04:00   ET



[04:01:18] SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know Joe Biden. He is better than this.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cory should apologize. There's not a racist bone in my body.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Biden backlash. The former vice president defending his work with segregationist senators.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hope Hicks gives the silent treatment. The questions she refused to answer before a House committee.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight. An Iranian missile shoots down a U.S. drone in international air space. We'll go live to Tehran.

ROMANS: And this. A fight breaks out between parents at a little league baseball game in Colorado. What set them off.

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good to have you back. Colorado?

ROMANS: What are they doing in Colorado, Dave Briggs from Colorado?

BRIGGS: Hey, man.

ROMANS: Defend your state.

BRIGGS: I will shortly. I will attempt to. I'm Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, June 20th. We'll get to that little league brawl in a moment. 4:00 a.m. in the East. We start, though, with 2020.

A no apology from Joe Biden. The Democratic front runner is under fire for invoking the name of the late senator, James Eastland, a Southern segregationist and staunch critic of the Civil Rights Movement. Biden saying during a Tuesday fundraiser, quote, "He never called me boy. He always called me son. At least there were some civility. We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done." 2020 Democrats quickly seizing on the former vice president's

comments, some calling on him to apologize.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think to be singing the praises of people who were vicious segregationists is not something that anybody should be doing.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not here to criticize other Democrats but it's never OK to celebrate segregationists. Never.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who, if they had their way, I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States Senate, is, I think -- it's just -- it's misinformed and it's wrong.


ROMANS: Biden pushing back saying he was not praising Eastland.


BIDEN: I could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more and he was a segregationist. I ran for the United States Senate because I disagreed with the views of the segregationists. The point I'm making is, you don't have to agree. You don't have to like the people in terms of their views, but you just simply make the case and you beat them.


ROMANS: Later Biden lamenting the harsh start to the 2020 race, saying at a fundraiser late last night, "It's going to be pretty ugly. But here's the deal. I'm not going to participate."

CNN's Arlette Saenz has more.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Christine and Dave, despite facing criticism from some of his 2020 Democratic rivals, Joe Biden is defending his recent comments about working with segregationists in an era that he says held more civility than current times, telling reporters last night that there is not a racist bone in his body.

One of the 2020 rivals that has really gone after Biden on this and asked for an apology is Cory Booker. And take a listen to what Joe Biden had to tell reporters outside of a fundraiser last night.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to apologize --



BIDEN: Apologize for what?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Cory Booker 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, period, period, period.


SAENZ: Now this marks a departure for Joe Biden, who has really refrained from engaging directly with his Democratic opponents in this 2020 race.

[04:05:05] And last night, Cory Booker also weighed in, saying that he's not backing down, that he is not going to apologize. Take a listen to that.


BOOKER: Somebody running to be the leader of our party should know that using the word "boy" in the way he did can cause hurt and pain, and we need a presidential nominee and the leader of our party to be sensitive to that.

I know that I was raised to speak truth to power and that I will never apologize for doing that. And Vice President Biden shouldn't need this lesson.


SAENZ: And you've heard from other 2020 Democrats also criticizing Joe Biden, like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. We'll see going forward whether the former vice president decides to change course or potentially address this further -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: Arlette, thank you.

Meantime, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is on the rise in this crowded Democratic field. A Monmouth University poll showing Warren with a five-point bump in the last month, putting her even with Bernie Sanders. Her progressive message may be more appealing to centrist Democrats than Sanders'. The co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way telling CNN Warren's proposals are, quote, "within the lines of Democratic policies. They're not Democratic socialists policies. They're within the lines of a candidate who says she's a capitalist."

ROMANS: Bernie Sanders looking to capitalize on that, tweeting, "The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly 'anybody but Bernie.'"

Despite her recent success, Elizabeth Warren's campaign plays down the polls, telling CNN, "We don't pay much attention to the polls. They will go up and down throughout the race and focusing on the daily headline, tweet or cable news chatter is not a recipe for long-term success."

BRIGGS: Former White House communications director Hope Hicks spending some seven hours in closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee but not answering any questions about her time in the West Wing. White House lawyers claiming absolute immunity for Hope Hicks, which has House Democrats fighting mad.

More on her testimony from Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.


Now Hope Hicks came before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions as part of the committee's investigation into potential obstruction of justice. But Democrats came away not satisfied because the White House counsels who were in the room made very clear that she would not be answering any questions about her time in the White House.

What they cited was absolute immunity, saying that she is not -- as a former White House official -- high-level White House official, she is not obligated to provide these kind of answers to the committee. Democrats now are threatening to take her to court.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): She answered some of our questions. We learned considerable information. And the White House pleaded a non- existent absolute immunity, and that will not stand.


RAJU: Now she did answer questions about her time during the campaign season, including questions about what she knew about those hush money payments that came from -- that the president was involved with that came from Michael Cohen, his former fixer who is now in jail. When she was asked about her knowledge of that, she denied knowing about the hush money scheme to silence those extramarital affairs.

Nevertheless, this fight not over yet. Democrats not satisfied, warning that this could very well go to court in the coming days. And Jerry Nadler says he will, quote, "destroy" the White House's case in court. Expect that litigation to happen sometime soon -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Manu Raju, thank you for that.

A fiery debate on Capitol Hill over reparations for slavery. Hundreds of people jamming the hallways and filling three overflow rooms.

This is the first time Congress is considering a bill to create a commission on addressing the lingering effects of slavery. Part of that includes possible reparations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes reparations for slavery, arguing, quote, "None of us currently living are responsible."


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We've, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We've elected an African-American president.


ROMANS: Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates strongly rebuking McConnell.


TA-NEHISI COATES, WRITER: For a century after the Civil War black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror. A campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they'd love a word with the majority leader.


ROMANS: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says he expects Democrats will schedule a vote on the bill but he did not name a date.

[04:10:03] BRIGGS: The Trump administration taking its most significant action yet to unwind regulations addressing climate change. The EPA rolling back the Obama era Clean Power Plan which allows states to set their own carbon emission standards for coal fired power plants. The move fulfills part of President Trump's promise to boost struggling coal. But it already faces court challenges. The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut plan to sue to block this change.

Meanwhile, the president's pick to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N. breaking with the White House on climate change during her Senate confirmation hearing.


KELLY CRAFT, U.N. NOMINEE: Climate change needs to be addressed as it poses real risk to our planet. Human behavior has contributed to the changing climate. Let there be no doubt.


BRIGGS: The EPA action flies in the face of the agency's own analysis which says it could result in 1400 more premature deaths by the year 2030 than the Obama plan it is replacing.

ROMANS: All right. No move. The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady but there was news the Fed dropped the word patient from its statement instead it would act as appropriate to sustain the economy, opening up the door for future interest rate cuts. Now that was wildly expected. Markets loved this. They were up on

the news. Trump -- the president has been critical of the Fed and its chair Jerome Powell after several rate increases last year. The president even thought about having Powell demoted. But Powell said yesterday he is undeterred by the president's tweets.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I think the law is clear that I have a four-year term and I fully intend to serve it.


ROMANS: The Fed statement said the labor market is still strong. It expects continued economic expansion. But the president's trade war is taking a toll. The number of jobs added last month was lower than expected and other recent data has shown that manufacturing is slowing. More economic data is coming. And the Fed said it will be watching a wide range of information when making decisions. Right now CME Group's Fed watch tool is predicting a 100 percent chance of a rate cut at the Fed's next meeting in July.

There are those on Wall Street, some big thinkers, who think that perhaps the market has got ahead of itself a little bit here.

The trade thaw, though, I think is really important here. If you get some kind of a trade breakthrough in the next few weeks, that could be good for sentiment.

BRIGGS: But how does the president get to argue that we have the strongest economy ever?

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: Yet we need a rate cut?

ROMANS: And a rate cut would signal something very -- is very wrong in the American economy which could send a different signal.

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: That would undo some of that presidential optimism.

BRIGGS: Makes that an impossible needle to threat.

Tensions rising between the U.S. and Iran. An Iranian missile shoots down a U.S. drone in international air space overnight. We'll go live to Tehran for the latest next.


[04:17:24] ROMANS: All right. U.S. officials tell CNN an Iranian missile shot down a U.S. drone over international air space. It comes as President Trump now downplays these escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington in an interview on FOX News late last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But don't worry about a thing. Everything is under control. Don't worry about a thing. They've got problems.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS' "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": Will you say that they'd never get nukes?

TRUMP: But we'll see what happens.

HANNITY: They'd never get nuclear weapons?

TRUMP: I would say, if I were you, don't worry about a thing.


ROMANS: All right. For the latest, let's turn to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live in Tehran.

Fred, nothing to worry about here.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think quite a lot to worry about right now, Christine. Certainly if you look at the situation here in the Persian Gulf area between the U.S. and Iran, there's a bit of a dispute as to where this drone was apparently shot down. As you mentioned, the U.S. says that it was in international air space above Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians are saying that the drone actually violated their air space and was somewhat south of the Strait of Hormuz. They're putting it over Iranian territory, again south of the Strait of Hormuz.

Now I have a little breaking news for you, guys, because the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps came out just a couple of minutes ago. The Revolutionary Guard Corps of course is the unit that apparently shot this drone down. He says it's a clear warning to the United States and he also says that Iran's air space and its territorial integrity are red lines that anybody who surpasses them or transgresses them will not come back. So it's a pretty bellicose rhetoric going on there from the Iranians. Similar things were also said from the head of Iran National Security Council as early as Monday.

And Christine, the Iranians also about a week ago for the first time showcased one of their new air defense systems which they say was highly technologically advanced. It's unclear whether or not that was involved in this particular incident, but the Iranians certainly have been showcasing their air defense system.

All of this of course coming as those tensions between the U.S. and Iran here in the Persian Gulf area showing no signs of being dialed down. Of course, after that incident took place with those two tankers last week which the U.S. continues to blame on the Iranians, the Iranians saying it wasn't them, both sides saying they don't want war. The Iranians' side, for their side, however saying that if war happens they are fully prepared -- Christine.

ROMANS: We're glad you're there for us in Tehran. Fred Pleitgen parsing all of this. Thanks, Fred.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, two people killed after a semi-truck crashes and explodes on a Wisconsin highway.


JOHN DRILLING, WITNESS: It's the most horrific thing I've ever seen in my life.


BRIGGS: And a brawl breaks out at a little league game.

[04:20:02] What started it all ahead.


[04:25:01] ROMANS: A Wisconsin sheriff calls it the worst accident he's ever been a part of. A fiery truck crash killing at least two people and closing a stretch of the highway for hours. A semi-truck heading southbound hit a construction barrier while making a lane change and then colliding with a median barrier while attempting to correct.


DRILLING: Right in front of me I saw a semi jumped over the median wall and into the traffic that was right in front of me.


ROMANS: The force of that hit so intense it pushed the barrier into the northbound lanes causing three other vehicles including another semi to crash. Both trucks burst into flames. Their drivers killed. The drivers of the other two vehicles are being treated for serious injuries.

BRIGGS: When it comes to little league and youth sports in general, parents and coaches can do the darndest things.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is happening?


BRIGGS: This brawl breaking out during a little league game in Lakewood, Colorado, last weekend. The adults upset by an umpire's call stormed the field and began punching each other, while the 7- year-old players would have done. The umpire, by the way, was a 13- year-old. Lakewood Police cited several people for disorderly conduct. There were multiple injuries, one of them serious. The cops said they were, quote, "disgusted by the violent display." Their message to the parents and coaches, grow up.

ROMANS: That is just embarrassing. My son showed me this video last night. You know, he's like, mom, can you believe this?

BRIGGS: You thought it was in Florida, first, didn't you? Before you realize it was my home state. Usually these things happen in Florida.

ROMANS: I mean --

BRIGGS: No offense, Floridians.


ROMANS: All right, 26 minutes past the hour. The gloves are off. 2020 Democrats slamming --

BRIGGS: Again?

ROMANS: Yes. Joe Biden for promoting his ability to work with segregationists. How the former vice president is defending himself.