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AT THIS HOUR

Sanders Unveils Plan To Erase $1.6T In Student Loan Debt Buttigieg Faces Leadership Test At Heated Town Hall; Trump To Impose New Major Sanctions On Iran; Trump Delays ICE Raids, Gives 2 Weeks To Solve Crisis; U.S. Retaliated Against Iran Spy Group Cyberstrike; Iran Claims Recent U.S. Cyber Attacks Have Failed; W.H.: Trump Sent Personal Letter To Kim Jong Un; Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Prosecutors could ramp up their case within the next day or two. We're going to be watching it. Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "At This Hour" starts right now.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell in for Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me. At any moment, Senator Bernie Sanders will unveil an historic plan that will likely become a cornerstone at his presidential bid.

Sanders will roll out legislation that will erase the student loan debt of every American at 45 million people, $1.6 trillion. It is the most ambitious plan yet to confront the nation's crisis over student loan debt.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill for the event. Ryan, what do we know about the plan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, you're absolutely right. A lot of the 2020 candidates have talked about student debt but no one has gone as far as Bernie Sanders is about to hear in this event that's going to take place right in front of the United States Capitol.

Sanders is ready to submit legislation which will call for the complete cancellation of every penny of student loan debt across the country. That is $1.6 trillion. It could impact 45 million Americans. It has broad implications across the board and, of course, the next big question is, how do you pay for something like this. And Sanders has a plan for that as well.

He wants to institute what he is calling a "Wall Street" speculation tax. Basically, three different types of tax on "Wall Street" trades and derivatives that he believes could raise as much as $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

And what Sanders wants to do is take all of that money, cancel every single person's student loan debt and also set the stage to allow for free college tuition at public universities and community colleges. This is a big deal, a big plan on Sanders' part. And it is also a part of a broader attempt for him to stave off Elizabeth Warren as she is surging in the polls. She is either come in close or is at least is in second place with Sanders in many of these polls.

Warren, of course, has already unveiled her own student debt plan. But her plan is different than Sanders and that there would be some limits to the eligibility of people that could participate in this. There would be income eligibility limits and would also be capped at only $50,000 in debt.

So, Victor, this is a big plan. Some may say it's unrealistic, but this is where we are right now in the Democratic primaries. Bernie Sanders sets the stage leading into the debates later this week.

SCIUTTO: Yes. The timing is no coincidence with the poll position and, of course, Elizabeth Warren there statistically tied in the latest amount of poll. Ryan Nobles, we will check back in with you. Thank you so much.

Let's move to another candidate, Pete Buttigieg, a local mayor now on a national stage and facing a leadership test that could impact his presidential bid. So-called Mayor Pete is facing anger and distrust in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana after the fatal police shooting of an African-American man.

Here is some of that raw emotion. This was at last night's really free wheeling town hall meeting. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get the racists off the streets. It's disrespectful that I wake up every day scared. It's disrespectful that I have three boys that I have to teach to them what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am raising a seven year-old grandson that when he sees the police, he is afraid. That is not what supposed to happen in America and Indiana in 2019.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That technology exists but it's not implemented. I asked --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why we don't trust you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: CNN's Jason Carroll is in South Bend. Jason, there was a lot of raw emotion there and it was clear that this didn't just -- it wasn't created after the latest police shooting. How do we get to this point?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Victor. You're absolutely right. This isn't something that happened overnight. For years and years here, folks in this community in South Bend say that they've been complaining to the police chief, complaining to the mayor about issues and allegations that they've made regarding the police department here, allegations of excessive force, allegations that some of the officers on the force are racist or use racist language. And they -- the feeling is that --

BLACKWELL: All right, this is Bernie Sanders announcing his student loan debt plan. Let's listen here. We'll get back to Jason.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- global economy when we need the best educated work force in the world. This proposal will make it possible for every person in America to get all of the education they need regardless of their financial status.

This means not only a college education but the right to enter a trade school, the right to learn how to become a carpenter or a plumber or a sheet metal worker and get one of the many important jobs that keep our society going. In other words, we will make a full and complete education, a human right in America to which all of our people are entitled.

[11:05:10] This means making public colleges, universities, and HBCUs tuition free and debt free by tripling the work-study program, expanding Pell Grants and other financial incentives. Today, we are entering a proposal which will allow every person in this country to get all of the education that they need to live out their dreams because they are Americans.

Further, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is simply not acceptable that our younger generation through no fault of their own will have a lower standard of living than their parents, more debt, lower wages, and less likelihood of owning their own homes.

That is why this proposal completely eliminates student debt in this country and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation to a lifetime of debt for the crime of doing the right thing. And that is going out and getting a higher education.

Ten years ago, the United States government bailed out "Wall Street" after their greed, their recklessness, and their illegal behavior drove us into the worst recession in modern history.

Today, the major "Wall Street" banks are larger than ever, their profits are soaring, and their CEOs receive huge compensation packages. Our proposal which cost $2.2 trillion over 10 years will be fully paid for by a tax on "Wall Street" speculation civil as to what exists in dozens of countries around the world.

The American people bailed out "Wall Street". Now it is time for "Wall Street" to come to the aid of the middle-class of this country. This "Wall Street" tax will have the added benefit of controlling "Wall Street" recklessness and reducing the likelihood of another major economic crash.

In 1944, as World War II was coming to an end, the U.S. government did the right thing and passed the GI bill, which made higher education free to all of those who served in the armed forces. That act not only improved the financial well-being of millions of men and women, but it also laid the groundwork for a great expansion of the American middle class.

In the 1960s, 1970s, the federal government and state government invested heavily in higher education with the result that college tuition was virtually free, virtually free for millions of young people.

Forty years ago, a federal Pell Grant paid for nearly 80 percent of tuition fees, room and board at a four-year college. Well, unfortunately, things have changed over the years and changed in a bad way.

Today, it will cost over $21,000 each and every year to attend some of these very same schools which 50 years ago were virtually free. Today, Pell Grants cover only 30 percent of college expenses. And here are the results of federal and state higher education cutbacks.

Today, the average college senior graduates with about $30,000 in student debt and one out of six seniors will graduate with over $50,000 in debt. The situation is --

BLACKWELL: You've been listening to Senator Bernie Sanders, obviously, 2020 candidate for the nomination for Democrats, pitching his plan to pay off a student loan debt of every American, 45 million people, $1.6 trillion. The plan overall 2.2 trillion.

Let's bring in CNN Political Commentator and former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Governor, thanks for being here with us this morning.

I want to start here with this announcement from Bernie Sanders, $1.6 billion loan debt. You've proposed college loan relief in Ohio. The office has pay for here with these taxes on "Wall Street". Does this work for you?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, first of all, all these taxes on "Wall Street," I don't even know what they are, are used to go willy-nilly taxing things and then thinking it's all going to work out, but let me suggest a couple things.

[11:10:02] First of all, part of the problem is the rising costs of higher education. What we did in Ohio is we offered college credit plus. You could take college courses when you were in high school. It has been an enormous benefit to parents and, of course, the students.

We also know that if you go to a community college where they do work to keep their costs down and you spend a couple years there, you end up having an enormous reduction in your overall costs if you go to the four-year school.

In addition, the four-year schools had better get with the program. You cannot keep rise -- raising your costs. So you pump more money in the system, the costs go up because it's very hard to get involved in the bureaucracy and bring about the change in higher education that we need. Victor, also, if these costs continue to rise, there will be technological solutions.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KASICH: More and more students will get their education online at a fraction of the costs. And, Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue, came up with a unique idea to let businesses be able to invest and help you to get your education. More taxes, more spending, more debt. I don't think it solves the problem and I don't think this is really going to go very, very far. But, look --

BLACKWELL: Well, it will certainly be something that there will be at the center of the debates later this week as he is standing on the same stage with -- within the moderates.

KASICH: Well, I don't really know. I don't know if that's true. I mean, it's being proposed by Bernie Sanders, who is a socialist, you know. So, I don't know how much it will dominate the debate. I think there'll be other things that will dominate the debate. But the bottom line is this overhang on all of our students is a serious problem and needs to be dealt with.

BLACKWELL: Well, let's talk about another candidate here, Pete Buttigieg, who faced some really angry and hurt members of his community, his constituents there. And when you were running for the presidency at the end of 2015, that's when the grand jury in Ohio, a grand jury came back and decided not to file charges in the shooting death which may arise.

KASICH: Right.

BLACKWELL: So you dealt with something similar serving and running at the same time. How do you think he's handled this past week?

BLACKWELL: Well, Victor, this is very interesting because when we saw these decisions coming down, I knew immediately working with some African-American legislators that we needed to create a panel. So we created a community and a police panel where they sat down and put together the guidelines for the use of deadly force, the reporting requirements. It was a very significant effort. And I think in many respects was really good not just Ohio but something to be looked at around the country.

What I was surprised to hear in this reporting is that these complaints have existed for a while, that people have complained to the police chief. They've complained to the mayor. When you hear things like that, you can't put your hip in the sand. You've got to get people in the community united. Police want to go home safe and the community doesn't want to fear the police.

There is a way to get this resolved. And in many respects, we made great progress. So I think the mayor got behind the curve here. I don't know why he didn't get out sooner and maybe he wasn't aware. I can't explain that.

BALCKWELL: Yes.

KASICH: But I'm very pleased with what we did here and the action we did here must be continued.

BLACKWELL: We know that he --

KASICH: And he better start something in his community.

BLACKWELL: The mayor has been in office now for eight years. And, you know, as I was listening to it while I was in the car, most of it, what I kept thinking about is how does the mayor convince a party, the base of a party, that cares about all the things that people in that town hall were talking about, use of force, policy reform, the disparities between the police departments and the communities they serve, criminal justice reform that he should be at the fish fry in South Carolina and the state fair in Ohio at any one of the cattle calls for the primary and not back if South Bend fixing all these problems. How does he go out and convince everyone he should be still part of this race?

KASICH: Well, Victor, I mean I think that he needs to move expeditiously to try to get everybody at the table. What we found is by taking community activists, when we took professors, when we took law enforcement, we took people who have been, you know, we took every kind of folks that we could find and put them at the table, had good leadership and said, together folks, we need to keep our community safe. The people need to feel secure and the police know they need to go home.

If you appeal that they're better angels and you work it and got good leaders in the room, you can make great progress on this. But I don't know if this has been going on for a while. I don't know why they didn't address it sooner, because burying your head in the sand, not just on this issue but many of the issues that we see in this country, Victor, is not the answer, because it's not going to go away.

BALCKWELL: Yes.

KASICH: You must take positive action. And he -- look, he's not going to just quit running for president, but he better move quickly to put something in place. Frankly, he got to take a look at what we did in Ohio.

BALCKWELL: Well, the mayor certainly will say that they have done some work there. And he talked about that yesterday at the town hall. Obviously, he admits and, of course, we heard from the constituents there that it has not been enough.

[11:15:07] Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, thanks so much.

KASICH: Thank you, Victor. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Coming up, the White House set to put new sanctions on Iran. But President Trump says he still open to face-to- face meetings to avert a war. And, new questions after President Trump suspend immigration raids across the country. Its two weeks. Is that really enough time to hash out a new deal with Democrats and Congress? Stay with us. More after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:20] BLACKWELL: Happening today, the Trump administration is expected to impose new sanctions against Iran as tensions ramp up in the region and the President says he believes additional sanctions will bring Iran to the bargaining table and he says he's willing to sit down without preconditions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking for war, and if there is, it will be obliteration like you've never seen before. But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon. You want to talk? Good. Otherwise you can have a bad economy for the next three years.

CHUCK TODD, "MEET THE PRESS" HOST: No preconditions?

TRUMP: Not as far as I'm concerned. No preconditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: But Iranian officials, they're not going for it. They're calling the new sanctions propaganda and they say they will not be pressured into negotiations.

CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House, Kylie Atwood is in Washington. Let's start with Abby. What are you learning about these new sanctions?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, right now we have very little information about the details of what's going to be in these sanctions. But the context here is that the Trump administration is pivoting back to that strategy after several days of really escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran culminating and the President calling off a strike on Iran on Thursday.

But now they're going back to the drawing board trying to come up with some additional sanctions that can continue to increase the pressure on the regime and the goal is exactly what President Trump said in that clip you heard moments ago. He wants them to come back to the table and he's basically saying that if Iran fails to do that the sanctions are going to continue, they're going to escalate and they're going to continue to really put a strangle hole on the Iranian economy.

The question is, will this strategy work, and I think the President's critic say that the mechanism for this would have been the Iran nuclear deal that the U.S. pulled out of, that deal was the place where the U.S. and Iran could negotiate over this, over the issue of nuclear weapons. The Trump administration threw that out. But they are going back to their own strategy of just continually turning up the dial on sanctions and we'll learn more today about what they will actually be.

But the message from the administration over the weekend has been, we believe these sanctions are working and we're willing to do more in order to force Iran to come to the table in a way that we want them to come to the table and to do a bigger deal than the Iran nuclear deal was. That's the Trump administration's position, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Independent, Kylie, of the economic sanctions the U.S. is also targeting Iranian intelligence. What are you learning about this operation?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, that's right. Just last week we are learning that the U.S. used a cyber attack to go after an Iranian spy group. That spy group was collecting information about the U.S. and other types of tankers that were in the region so that Iran could then target those ships.

Now, this specific attack we have learned according to a current U.S. official and a former intelligence official we're in retaliation for Iran taking out the two commercial oil tankers that were in the region going after those. But, what we're also learning is that the President when he was given a list of options for how to retaliate for Iran downing the U.S. drone last week, a cyber attack was a possible option presented to him.

Now, we also got a statement over the weekend from the top official at DHS who runs their cyber security division and he warned of increasing cyber security threats from Iran against the U.S. So I'd like to pull that up and just redo a bit of that.

He wrote in the statement, "Iranian regime actors and proxies are increasingly using destructive wiper attacks looking to do much more than just steal data and money. These efforts are often enabled through common tactics like spear phishing, password spraying, and credential stuffing. What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you've lost your whole network."

A pretty stark and very out front statement from DHS warning that it's not just the U.S. that's carrying out these cyber attacks but both commercial and government officials here in the U.S. need to be careful of the attacks on the other end from Iran.

Now, the Iranians today are coming out and saying that the reports of the U.S. cyber attack full, so then that the U.S. is just putting those reports out to try and deny their success in downing of the U.S. drone. But, obviously they were successful in downing that US drone last week and we are still waiting to see the exact response from the Trump administration, which could include sanctions as Abby was referencing earlier.

[11:25:00] BLACKWELL: All right, Kylie Atwood, Abby Phillip, thank you so much.

Let's talk now with CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Contributor to "The Daily Beast," Kim Dozier. Kim, welcome back.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So let's start here. We've seen the economic sanctions that are likely to come today. Now, the report of this cyber attack against a group connected to the IRGC, this Iranian spy group, military not off the table but the pullback from the President, are you seeing the formation of an Iran strategy from this administration or the lack of warning?

DOZIER: Well, I'm seeing a collection of tactics with so far dubious pay back in terms of getting Iran to the negotiating table or getting it to stop it's -- as the U.S. calls it malign activity across the middle east and places like Yemen.

And the U.S. is running out of things to sanction. Secretary Pompeo by his own admission said they have sanctioned 80 percent of the Iranian economy. If you go much farther, if you hit things like the Iranian Central Bank, you risk cutting into humanitarian supplies.

And already over the past year with all of these sanctions, inflation is rising the cost of some basic. Food stuff has gone up between 30 percent to 50 percent. So, the Iranian public is starting to really feel the pain in a way that Iranians tell me makes them less angry at their government and more angry and the Americans. So that's a risky blow back for Washington.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You know, Secretary Pompeo confirm this letter that was sent to Kim Jong-un from the President. But, I want to talk about these parallel diplomatic challenges that are happening because there's really an interesting overlap.

The President seems to at least rhetorically attempt to try to approach Iran the same way he attempted North Korea with the "Fire and Fury," the obliteration. But I want to talk, I don't want war, my button is bigger than yours.

Kim Jong-Un is not the ayatollah. Rouhani is not Kim Jong-un. Could what works to get to Hanoi and Singapore with Kim work with Iran? The President seems to think so.

DOZIER: Well, at least with Kim what you have is China, South Korea. You have some other actors who can also form a bridge and sort of a network of countries that work together with the United States to try to pressure Kim.

You don't have the same pressure available with Iran and that European countries are still trying to stick with the Iran nuclear deal. They're trying to use other methods to pressure Iran and they're being pulled reluctantly into this more aggressive confrontation by the White House.

Some European officials have spoken, too. They have said, look, we were afraid if we pull out of the Iran nuclear deal we give Iran the green light to go back to nuclear production and then we really have no way to stop some sort of all out military confrontation between the U.S. and Tehran.

So they're kind of sitting on the fence, but the other concern that official says the longer that this tension goes on the more likely it is that Iran will do something violent enough that they do have to join the U.S. in some sort of military confrontation.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We'll see what these sanctions are as they're announce expected today and hopefully we'll get more about this cyber efforts that have been reported out as well. Kim Dozier, always good to have you.

DOZIER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Up next, President Trump press his pause on mass immigration arrest and says he's giving Democrats two weeks to strike a deal. Is that enough time? And what's the deal that can't be made? We'll ask a Democratic lawmaker, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:00]