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Dem Candidates Court Black Voters at SC Democratic Convention; Oregon's Dem Governor Orders Troopers to Hunt Down GOP Lawmakers Refusing to Return to Capitol. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 21, 2019 - 16:30   ET


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Clyburn, the highest ranking African-American in Congress, not only defended Biden but said he also worked with segregationists like longtime Senator Strom Thurmond.

[16:30:02] REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I think it's a little bit ludicrous to blame someone for working with people you don't agree with.

ZELENY (on camera): Do you think he was celebrating a racist?

CLYBURN: No, come on. When you celebrate your ability to work with a racist, you're celebrating a racist?

ZELENY (voice-over): The controversy is an awkward backdrop to the state Democratic convention, which is attracting 21 presidential candidates where black voters make up 60 percent of the Democratic primary electorate.

(on camera): Is it Joe Biden's to lose?

CLYBURN: Yes, absolutely, and he can lose it. We have a lot of front runners. I often think about President Howard Dean. How does that sound to you?

ZELENY (voice-over): The respect for Biden runs deep, but voters like Sioux Taylor are looking for a new direction.

SIOUX TAYLOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: Right now, Elizabeth Warren is good to me. I think she's a dynamic speaker. She's certainly credentialed. She has a history of performance.

ZELENY: Bernice Scott said Hillary Clinton's loss still stings. And she sees an important piece of unfinished in 2020, sending a woman to the White House. Her choice this time, Harris.

(on camera): So, it's time.

BERNICE SCOTT, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: It's time. She's intelligent. She just happens to be black and female. And that's a plus.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: So, voters here in the first in the south primary, Jake, will get a first hand look at all of these Democratic candidates. Right now, Joe Biden is meeting with African-American leaders here, right here in Columbia. He's trying to hold a one-on-one discussion with them.

Jake, one goal is paramount for him -- trying to keep his front- runner's hold on this race. Of course, he knows front runners can also -- can often be fleeting. But one thing became clear this week, Jake, so many people came to his defense at least among the party's establishment. The question now is, what rank-and-file voters have to say? Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's chew over all this.

What does Joe Biden need to do and what do his opponents need to do at the fish fry tonight?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Joe Biden needs to -- there's a short time problem which is he needs to get past this problem. He needs to explain it more when he gets to the fish fry. What it really meant. Why he decided to leap over the relations he had in the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s and go back to the relationships he had in the 1970s.

TAPPER: With Democrats, with segregationist Democrats.


TAPPER: And it's not bipartisan.

SIMMONS: Well, as my dad said the other day, he said, you know, the coziness between the establishment Democrats and the Southern segregationist was the very thing that civil rights activists were organizing against in the '60 and early '70s. So, Biden saying this does not make people of his generation feel any better, at least didn't make him any feel better. So, he's got to do it in the short term.

In the longer term, we have to see from Joe Biden that he can navigate and surf the cross currents of the modern Democratic Party. And we haven't really seen that yet starting with Lucy Flores situation, going to the Hyde Amendment and at this point we're talk about relationship with Eastland. He's got to do better to show he can navigate the politics of the current moment if he wants to leapt represent the entire Democratic Party.

TAPPER: And, Jen Psaki, it's also risky for the people taking on Joe Biden at the fish fry, given the support for him among establishment individuals, even -- if they're African-American like Jim Clyburn, which we just heard. And also, Democrats want Democrats to get along, right? They are uncomfortable with fighting sometimes.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's true. But, you know, I don't think that Senator Cory Booker and Joe Biden are going to have fisticuffs at the fish fry.

SIMMONS: I'd buy tickets for that.

PSAKI: Yes, I would. But they're both pretty cordial guys. So, I expect that they will have a greeting, they'll embrace and, you know, engage with one another and certainly people will be watching for that.

But, you know, this is case where -- just to build on what you were saying -- Joe Biden is running like he is the front-runner. He's the best person to beat Donald Trump. Now, the polls are supporting that. But if you hear a lot of people defend him, I think part of that is because they look at the alternative of Donald Trump, and they're like, OK, we can take all this crap he's saying because we still think he's the best guy to beat Donald Trump.

Now, we'll see if that holds after the debates as people are getting to know the other candidates. We don't know that yet. But right now, that is saving him I think a fair amount because people are looking the other way even when he's making out of touch and kind of out of sync comments because they are so desperate to beat Donald Trump.

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is going to keep happening. This is who Joe Biden is. I mean, guys, this is why he won't be the nominee. I'm telling you.

This is going to keep happening. If you go back through his massively long, decades-long career, which is another part of what we're talking about here, is how far back he's going, because that's how long he's been in office.

TAPPER: '72 he was elected.

SHIELDS: How many times he's run for president and lost, this is what he does. This is -- he's Bidening. That's what he's doing right now.

SIMMONS: It's not really about him having relationships with these old segregationists. Everybody in politics has the talk to people they don't like. The question is, you feel like it was an onerous thing you had to get through for the greater good, or it's something you look back at with fondness (ph).

PSAKI: And it's because of their work together on busing, which is a controversial issue --

[16:35:03] SIMMONS: If Biden --

TAPPER: Against busing.

PSAKI: Against busing, I'm sorry, against busing, which is a very controversial issue that people who are concerned about his comments are concerned about that policy as well.

MONA CHAREN, CONSERVATIVE SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I agree with everything that's been said at the table. I'll just add that, you know, we're talking about how camp African-Americans are 61 percent of the electorate in South Carolina. Right now, 52 percent of them are in Biden's column.

PSAKI: Right.

TAPPER: It's pretty remarkable.

CHAREN: An amazing, right, amazing head start.

But, look, he does -- there is, as Jake was saying, there is a generational aspect to this. He does not see the way the woke, young people respond to some of the things that he says. He's been saying them again and again for his entire career, sometimes to his sorrow.

At the same time, if the Democrats turn on him and tear him apart, they could be sabotaging their best shot.

SHIELDS: They don't need to.

CHAREN: Their best shot at beating Donald Trump.

SHIELDS: They don't need to turn on him yet. He's doing it to himself. And it's way too early. In a multi-candidate primary, at first, you don't attack.

CHAREN: Cory Booker turned on him.


SIMMONS: We literally have not heard one contested --

SHIELDS: And December, ahead of the Iowa caucuses, there will be attacks. People will be running negative ads against each other. The oppo book on Joe Biden for this stuff is so big. He's going to succumb to events that you can't --

TAPPER: Do you know what you remind me of? There's somebody on Twitter, a young progressive tweeted me. I'm going to mess up what he said exactly. But it was something along the lines of, I've been thinking about how we get rid of Biden as a young progressive, and then I realized, we just need to let him campaign.


SHIELDS: And his staff knows that too, which is why they're trying to keep him out of stuff because he's always going to screw it up.

CHAREN: Well, the problem about running as a guy who can win is when there's nothing else, when it's not your policy proposals or anything else, then the first time you stumble or have a senior moment or do something like this, the bottom starts to come out.

PSAKI: I think that's true, but I also think, you're probably with me at this point, you know, the process works, and we haven't even seen them really campaigning. We haven't seen them on the stage together. I have affection for Joe Biden. No question as I've said on this show before. But, you know, we don't know enough about the other candidates. The

people who decide whose most electable are the American public, not us sitting here.

TAPPER: And one of the things that is interesting, to your point is, Hillary Clinton didn't go through this in her primary really. She had Bernie a little bit poking, but people were very convinced that she was going to be the nominee. And so, anytime Bernie tried to go at her, he got slapped by the party. But this is good for a candidate because if he gets through it then he'll be tougher and the bad stuff will be behind him.


CHAREN: Yes, I just wonder about the African-American vote because the enthusiasm of African-Americans is key to Democrats.

SHIELDS: Where is Barack Obama in all of this? Here is his vice president having -- who should have the best bona fides, he was the vice president of the first African-American president in history. He's dealing with multiple race problems. We don't hear a voice anywhere in this.

SIMMONS: I was in Charleston last week and I would tell you, there are a lot of people who liked Joe Biden, I really like Joe Biden. There are a lot of people raiding questions about Joe Biden and whether or not he's going to really be able to navigate this moment.

TAPPER: All right. That was great. Thank you, everyone.

Why are state troopers in one state on the hunt for Republican lawmakers? That's next.


[16:4236] TAPPER: In our national lead now, Republican lawmakers in Oregon are apparently so opposed to legislation to combat climate change that they have literally fled the state. The Democratic governor there has now ordered state troopers to go round up these Republican legislators.

But as CNN's Sara Sidner reports, those lawmakers argue they are just doing their job.


SEN. PETER COURTNEY (D), PRESIDENT OF OREGON STATE SENATE: I'm asking at the highest law enforcement branch in the state of Oregon go out and find my fellow legislatures.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): politics has gotten so ugly in Oregon, the Democratic governor has now ordered troopers to track down Republican state lawmakers.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): They are rogue. They need to get back. They need to do their jobs. SIDNER: It all came to a head Wednesday with a warning from the

governor saying she contacted state police after Republican senators said they would walk out of the legislature to block a vote on a landmark climate bill aimed at dramatically lowering greenhouse emissions.

BRIAN BOQUIST (R-OR), STATE SENATOR: If any of you are offended, that's fine.

SIDNER: One of those senators responded to the governor's warning with a threat of his own.

BOQUIST: This is what I told the superintendent. Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going be a political the prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple.

SIDNER: Thursday, all 11 Republicans made good on a promise to walk out, attacking the Senate president before leaving.

BOQUIST: We're at the 11th hour. If you don't think these boots are made for walking, you're flat wrong, Mr. President. And you send the state police to get me, hell is coming to visit you personally.

SIDNER: The governor followed through as well. In an extraordinary move last night, she ordered the state police to bring them back to work.

(on camera): It's an extraordinary move, would you agree?

BROWN: Absolutely. But I would also argue that the challenges that we face as a state and a nation around tackling climate change also require extraordinary circumstances.

SIDNER (voice-over): The wife of run of the Republican senators said they went out of state to Idaho.

BROWN: This is an embarrassment to the state of Oregon.

SIDNER: The underlying reason for the standoff, Democrats have a super majority, which means they can pass a vote without from a single Republican. But in order to do any of the people's business, they need at least two Republican senators to be in attendance for a quorum.

State police say they will politely ask senators to return and accompany them if need be, but if they can't two senators to agree, they would need permission from their superintendent to use handcuffs.



SIDNER: Now the governor is very clear that if they cannot get those two Republican senators to come in and create a quorum, that she will have to call a special session because this legislative session ends on June 30th. Jake? TAPPER: I thought things were bad in Washington. Sarah Sidner, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

SIDNER: I know it.

TAPPER: No access to soap, toddlers and soiled onesies, teenagers taking care of babies all coming to a head in a dramatic court hearing. That's next.


TAPPER: Time now for our "BURIED LEAD." These were stories which are not getting much attention. Imagine being eight years old being torn away from your family and then being handed a toddler and told take care of this child, soothe him even though you don't have a bed to put him to sleep, bathe him even though there isn't enough soap to go around.

As first reported by The Associated Press, lawyers say that's exactly what's going on right now at a migrant detention facility in El Paso, Texas. And as CNN's Nick Valencia reports for us, conditions could get even worse.


[16:50:29] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A contentious court hearing on the awful conditions in which some child migrants are being held. Conditions described by one inspector who this week visited this Texas Border Patrol station as unconscionable, calling it a pervasive health crisis where toddlers are "left to fend for themselves." One walking- around only in a diaper, another in a filthy onesie, teenagers not faring any better.

Older kids are taking care of the babies, an inspector tells CNN, adding there doesn't appear to be childcare there.

CLARA LONG, SENIOR RESEARCHER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It just makes me -- my heart hurt to think about what kind of lasting damage these experiences might have for these kids.

VALENCIA: But before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, a Justice Department lawyer was put on the spot about those conditions.

A. WALLACE TASHIMA, JUDGE, U.S. 9TH CIRCUIT COURT: It's within everybody's common understanding that you know, if you don't have a toothbrush, if you don't have soap, if you don't have a blanket, it's not safe and sanitary. Wouldn't everybody agree to that? Do you agree to that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think it's -- I think those are -- there's fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary --

TASHIMA: Not "may be," "are" a part.


VALENCIA: Responding to allegations in these Border Patrol facilities, a Customs and Border Protection official tells me it's Congress who must act to approve $4.5 billion in emergency funding. It's that they say, Jake, that is -- that will be part of the solution.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia, thanks so much. And obviously, the DHS has been pushing we need more money to help these -- help these facilities. That's not a good look that government now arguing that.

CHAREN: No. You don't -- look, everyone can have their views about how to solve the immigration crisis. But to be purposely cruel and take it out on the kids is as you say an unbelievably callous and cruel posture.

On the other hand, I just have to add that the Democrats have not proposed a solution. The Democrats have been content to rail against what the Trump administration is doing and fine, but they never say what they would do. How do you handle this?

I mean, there are waves and waves of families and people coming who we cannot take in, or at least under current law we cannot. Is it that we should open the border completely and everybody should come or how do they propose that we handle this

TAPPER: And Jen Psaki, we've -- CNN has learned from a senior immigration official that ICE is going to begin arresting and deporting families with court-ordered removals in tent cities starting Sunday following through on the President's tweet from earlier this week.

PSAKI: I mean, look, I have a one and a three-year-old and it's just incredibly difficult to read these stories and hear these stories about children being ripped out of their homes, parents being ripped out of their homes, and I don't know how anyone wouldn't have a human reaction like that including people who are working in this administration.

I think this situation has been created by the decision to separate families. Yes, the Obama administration policy was not perfect either. But the policy was not to separate families. So we're in this situation now because of the Trump administration. I think that there has to be more that can be done.

I don't think blaming it on the Democrats is really fair they wouldn't have separated the families to begin with. But find the money, get the money, do something to deal with this. Because I don't know how -- that woman who is the lawyer, who is that person and who are these people who are watching this and not doing anything?

It's like absolutely outrageous. I can't read any more about this. It's just -- I can't even talk anymore because it can make me upset but -- SHIELDS: Well, just -- CNN reported that the court case they're

arguing was actually started under the Obama administration and the current administration lawyers are now arguing against it in the same position the Obama administration was just to be clear on that.

PSAKI: But we didn't separate children from their families.

SHIELDS: No, but look -- right.

PSAKI: There's a huge difference there, I'm sorry.

SHIELDS: I understand it. Look, we have to be better as Americans and our government, we have better. However, let's look at the bigger picture. Hundreds of thousands of poor people are coming from Central America and flooding our borders. Most of the children are being taken care of, most of the families are being taken care of.

The media coverage is always going to go find the two or three heartbreaking things which has to be made better and not look at the bigger picture. And what's frustrating as a Conservative is then we start to ignore the larger, the larger picture here.

We should have a policy -- we should be able to come together and have a policy that does it -- our current immigration policy is yelling fire in a crowded theater and telling people it's OK to come and flood America when it's not. They're in danger. They're putting children in danger.

SIMMONS: You think they're just separating two or three children from their parents. You think that's --

SHIELDS: They're putting our border security in danger. It is -- it is a terrible overall situation and we shouldn't just focus on this.

[16:55:06] TAPPER: Unfortunately that's all the time we have for this panel. While the world is focused on Iran. North Korea's Kim Jong-un is heading to a very important meeting. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Be sure to tune in to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday morning. We're talking to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Congressman Adam Schiff and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern this Sunday.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a wonderful weekend.