Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) is Interviewed About Trump's Warning of "Obliteration" if Iran Attacks U.S.; John Hickenlooper is Interviewed About His Presidential Run and Seeking Breakout Moment in First 2020 Debate; Melania Trump Announces President's New Press Secretary. Aired on 7-8p ET

Aired June 25, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And she's moving on to new adventures. Carolyn, we wish you all the best. You will be missed. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the fight for 2020 is on, Democrats about to go head to head in their first debate. The candidate on the rise, Elizabeth Warren, is about to speak in Miami. What's her strategy? Plus, Trump takes the bait. The President threatening to obliterate Iran after the Iranian President said the United States has a mental disability. And the White House has a new public face and today's announcement was not made by the President but by the First Lady. So who is Trump's new press secretary? Let's go out front.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the biggest show thus far and the fight for 2020 about to take place. We're talking the first debate between the Democratic presidential candidates, 10 of them will take the stage tomorrow in the first of a two-night sweep and the biggest draw, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

While many of her opponents are behind closed doors preparing for tomorrow night's battle, Warren is out and about. As you can see, about to hold a town hall in Miami where she continues to woo voters with yet another plan today unveiling a new election security plan. Plans that just the concept of I've got a plan for that now defines Warren.



The good news is I got a plan for that.

They're ready for change and I got a plan for that.


BURNETT: And her plans and specifics are defining the playing field right now. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, announcing an even more generous plan for student debt only after Warren launched her own plan. CNN also learning tonight that Joe Biden is spending these final days before he appears on stage reviewing his own record from the past nearly 40 years. MJ Lee is out front live in Miami to begin our coverage this evening.

And MJ, Warren obviously will be the biggest name on that stage, the first night highest ranking candidate in the polls on that stage at the podium. How is she preparing?

MJ LEE: Well, Erin, what is notable is the fact that it is the night before the debate and we are going to see Elizabeth Warren campaigning here tonight in Miami. We are at Florida International University where she is going to have a town hall with voters and with supporters and you could argue that that is a kind of debate prep, because we expect that she is going to take questions from members of the audience.

But advisors that I've been talking to tell me that they are very cognizant of the fact that a town hall is very different from what we are going to see tomorrow at the debate. There is a timer, there are multiple moderators and, of course, the fact that Elizabeth Warren is going to be standing on stage with nine other candidates.

Now, part of the debate prep that we have been told about is that Elizabeth Warren is trying to sort of boil down the many, many policy proposals that she has put forward so far, so that she can be focused and to make sure that she can actually defend every single one of those many ideas that she has put forward. Also, even though she is going to be taking center stage, we do expect a lot of focus to be on Elizabeth Warren.

Of course, Erin, hard to overstate what a big night this is going to be on how high the stakes are for everybody else on stage. For many of them, this is going to be an important opportunity to introduce themselves to voters and really try to have a breakout moment and make an impression on a lot of the voters who might be tuning into their candidate seeds for the first time, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. MJ, thank you very much. And now, the Republican former Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, along with our Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borgia and Paul Begala who served as White House Counselor to President Clinton.

So Gloria, Warren is the only one of the top five Democrats at least in the polls right now who's going to be on that stage on the first night tomorrow. The other four; Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Harris, all are going to be on stage at the same time on Thursday. So is it an advantage to be the only one in that group on the first night or a disadvantage for Warren?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I know lots of folks are saying it's a disadvantage for her, because she's not up against Bernie or Biden on the first night. But I actually think it's an advantage for her because, first of all, you're going to have a big tune in on the first night.


BORGER: She's going to be out there alone, center stage. She's got a lot of room to distinguish herself. She can present herself as the liberal who can beat Donald Trump. And so, yes, I think she's got a lot of room in that group to say, "Look at me, I'm the one to take on Trump." Whereas if she were on the other stage, she'd have a lot of competition there.

BURNETT: So Rick, when you were on stage for the first Republican debate last time around, you were one of seven which, gosh, that seemed like a lot. And then in 2012, you were one of nine and that seemed like a lot. Now, we got two nights of 10 each and some people aren't even included. I mean it is almost absurd.

But the question is, is how hard is it to have a breakout moment in a situation like this where you're one of nine and no matter how successful the debate is, a lot of it is kind of, "You go. You go. You go, here's the clock."

[19:05:009] FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Yes, look, I think the opportunity for someone low in the polls is to come out swinging and the person you swing at is the person you can, which is Elizabeth Warren. So in that respect, I think that's probably a negative for her to be on the stage is really the only top dog to go after. The good thing about that is when you do get swung at, you get a chance to respond.

So I suspect you're going to see some people going after her, but she's going to have a lot more time than everybody else, because she's going to have an opportunity to respond. So bad thing going after good thing, she's going to have extra time.

BURNETT: Right. Because she can say, "Wait, I get a chance to respond to that. I can almost hear it, the same tone of voice is I got a plan for that. Don't I get to respond to that?" I can hear it now. Paul, you play George W. Bush and Al Gore's debate prep in 2000, so what is the most important thing these candidates need to do to prepare for at this early stage where it really is important to pay someone who has not broken out, this could be their ticket to do so and it is a very crowded stage.

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: It is, but the strategy is really, really clear. There is only one question, it'll be the first question, it'll be the last question. That question in the mind of Democrats is, "Can you beat Trump? Are you the one to beat Trump?" And that has to be marbled into every single answer that you give.

So I think Rick makes a great point. I think a lot of the people on stage with Senator Warren are going to want to attack her. She has a great response, if she chooses to use it. It's the response, frankly, Bill Clinton used to Bob Dole, when Bob Dole attacked him in their debate in 1996. He said, "I could respond in kind, but that wouldn't solve any of America's problem. It wouldn't educate a child. It wouldn't comfort an elderly person. It would expand healthcare." Elizabeth Warren's answer is a little different, right? She needs to

say or any of the candidates when they're attacked, they need to say, "You have a record too and I could attack it. But I'd much rather attack problems. The biggest problem America has is Donald Trump and I'm the one who can beat him." That's what Democrats want to hear.

BURNETT: So Gloria, what is the goal to tomorrow for the candidates? I mean, because when you're looking for that breakout moment and people don't know who you are and most people - I mean, look, people seem to be introduced to Elizabeth Warren, but I'm not really referring to her when I say that just some of the others on the stage. Do they try to say who they are or is the best way to get attention to still aim at her?

BORGER: Congressman Ryan was on air today and he did a great way of describing it. He said this debate is like speed dating with the American public and I think ...

BURNETT: Tim Ryan, yes, running, yes.

BORGER: ... that's a great description. And remember, sometimes when you attack, attack, attack, you end up being the one who looks bad. So it's a problem, particularly, if Senator Warren has the answer the Paul Begala, which was just given, which I think is a great answer for that.

So I think you have to strike a fine balance, because you have to tell people what you're for and in many of these cases, you have to tell them who you are, and where you came from, and what are you doing there.


BORGER: And so they have a double job and Warren just has to prove that she's somebody who can take on Trump and beat him.

BURNETT: Right. So she deserves to be where she is in the polls and, of course ...

BORGER: Yes, center stage.

BURNETT: ... and higher is the case she's trying to make. I mean, with Trump though - look, he has always done things his own way and just because he does them does not mean it will be successful for anyone else. And yet the fact that he has done them has changed the game and the definition of what success is in the situation. So it's a rock in a hard place. Here's what he came out and did in the debates.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This guy is a joke artist and this guy is a liar.

Nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn't have one endorsement from any of his colleagues. I never attacked him on his look and believe me, there's plenty of

subject matter right there.

He has failed in this campaign. It's been a total disaster. Nobody cares.


BURNETT: Does that only work for one person, Rick?

SANTORUM: Well, first off Donald Trump was a known entity and so I don't think anybody else on that stage has any near the recognition that Donald Trump, so it's a much riskier strategy for someone else. But look, everybody in that field has a lane they're running it and they're going to they're going to try to do what they think is necessary to win their mini primary, whether it's the far left progressive, whether it's the moderate, whether it's the fighter.

I mean everybody has a lane and they've got to make that calculation as to what they need to do to advance in that lane and somebody, no doubt, is going to do the Trump. I mean someone is going to take the train of, "I'm the bad guy that can take on the bad guy."

BURNETT: What do you think, Paul? And especially given the timing here, it's 60 seconds, 30 seconds to respond to a follow up and then not everyone is going to get a follow up, there's too many people and you can't get everybody on every issue. What do you make of the time restrictions?

BEGALA: It imposes a lot of discipline. It really does. And I think that's a good thing. You can say a lot in a little bit of time. For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. That's about six seconds. That's all of Christianity taught to me by my mom, by the way, it's mom's birthday. Happy birthday, mom. Thank you for raising mean the faith. You can do a lot in a little bit of time. I just did.

[19:10:04] BURNETT: You sure did and you did it faster than a drug disclaimer from Pfizer in an ad. I must say I'm pretty impressed.

Gloria, it does impose discipline but does it deprive us of substance?

BORGER: Yes. I think it does and the challenges, particularly for people who have never been up on a stage like this before, who have never been in front of this kind of an audience, I think it does. It's hugely difficult. You have to say who you are and then you have to say who that person running against you is and why that person is not as good as you are.

And I think if Elizabeth Warren is smart, she just keeps talking about herself, because this will give her an opportunity as people attack her to kind of say who she is. But you also have this possibility of turning off a lot of Democrats, who if you look at poll after poll, all they want to do is beat Donald Trump. And as Paul was saying before, all they want is somebody they believe

can take on Donald Trump and beat him. And this is Warren's challenge tomorrow night to say, "I'm that person. I can do it."

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And next, this is what they say publicly.


WARREN: Look, I think Bernie is terrific.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Elizabeth is a friend of mine.


BURNETT: But really they are the biggest rivals in the Democratic race that appears for the press of lane (ph). Plus, President Trump says he doesn't need an exit strategy on Iran. This after he threatens to obliterate the country again. And the President's new press secretary, her message for the world after the First Lady wore this jacket.


[19:15:19] BURNETT: Tonight, the fight for 2020. A senior campaign source for Bernie Sanders says the senator is not conducting mock debates to prepare for his big night on the debate stage. Sanders, of course, comes into this with a huge advantage over many of his rivals. He did nine debates in the 2016 primaries, but the woman who is his biggest threat this time for the progressive vote is not named Hillary Clinton. Jeff Zeleny is out front.



CROWD: It's time. It's time for a woman in the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT(voice-over): Never mind Joe Biden. For now one of the most intense contests unfolding in the Democratic primary is between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.


CROWD: Bernie. Bernie.


ZELENY(voice-over): It's a battle promising Warren's big ideas.


WARREN: This is our chance in 2020. Our chance to dream big to fight hard and to win.


ZELENY(voice-over): And Sanders' pledge for a revolution.


SANDERS: Now, our job is to complete the revolution we began.


ZELENY(voice-over): But this time around, Sanders has considerable competition in his pursuit of progressive voters. Warren is not only stealing a share of his thunder but attracting some Sanders admirers who see her as the fresh face of the left. One who they believe may be more electable. As they prepare for their first democratic debate this week in Miami, their broader policy ideas are similar with calls to implement Medicare for all and to fight income inequality, but there are differences, like their respective plans to relieve student debt.

Sanders would wipe out all outstanding student debt in the country, but Warren is proposing to forgive up to $50,000 for anyone in households making less than six figures a year. It's a subtle but key distinction beginning to frame their dueling candidacies. They insist it's a friendly fight.


WARREN: I think Bernie is terrific. We were friends long before I ever got involved in politics.

SANDERS: Elizabeth is a friend of mine. I think she's running a good campaign.


ZELENY(voice-over): Yet just beneath the surface, tensions are rising. Some Sanders supporters have never forgiven Warren.


WARREN: Now, I'm here today because I'm with her. Yes, her.


ZELENY(voice-over): For endorsing Hillary Clinton in 2016 before Sanders dropped out. And Sanders is making clear he feels footsteps, suddenly painting Warren is more of an establishment candidate after the moderate Democratic group third way recently said they prefer her candidacy to his.


SANDERS: At this third way meeting, I was called, quote, an existential threat to the Democratic Party. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY(voice-over): Sanders made that argument the theme of a weekend speech at the South Carolina Democratic convention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they prefer Senator Warren to you?

SANDERS: I don't care who they prefer. That's not what I'm talking about, but I am talking about the need to have a democratic party that represents the working - in this country.


ZELENY(voice-over): Many Warren admires we talked to like Regina Bailey say they like Sanders, but believe Warren can win and favor her softer touch.


REGINA BAILEY, WARREN SUPPORTER: It's not so - it's not as upsetting to other people.


ZELENY(voice-over): But Sanders loyalists like Nina Turner say his ideas are driving the 2020 conversation and only he can bring sweeping change.


NINA TURNER, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, SANDERS CAMPAIGN: So people have to decide do they want the original or do they want copies.

ZELENY: So he's the original.

TURNER: He's the original.


ZELENY: Now, Senator Warren is taking the stage, Erin, right behind me here right now as you can see and she's holding a town meeting here at Florida International University. Several hundred people here to see her plans and hear her ideas. This is something we have seen from state to state, month to month, her candidacy rising. The question here is what is Senator Sanders do in response to that. Their campaign is certainly watching this very carefully and watching Elizabeth Warren on the rise, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny. And now let's go to Democratic Strategist, Aisha Moodie-Mills. And Aisha, so how worried should Bernie Sanders be about Elizabeth Warren who without question has really gotten some recent momentum?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he should be worried because Elizabeth Warren is the person in the race that has momentum. She is rising and almost everyone else in the race is either standing still or declining. And the reality is, is that Elizabeth Warren's base is similar to Bernie Sanders' base, so she's going to keep cutting into that and so he should be concerned about that.

BURNETT: Now, here's the thing when we went back and sort of - there's a plan on student debt and then there's another plan on student debt that he rolls out that's even more aggressive than hers, it's not just that, they sound strikingly similar on quite a few issues, Aisha, like these.


[19:20:00] WARREN: We can cancel student loan debt for 95% of the kids who've got it.

SANDERS: This proposal completely eliminates student debt in this country.

WARREN: I got a lot of problem with billionaires who are not paying a fair share.

SANDERS: The greed of the billionaire class never ends.

WARREN: Yes, we can afford Medicare for all.

SANDERS: We will guarantee health care to all of our people through a Medicare for all single-payer system.

WARREN: I believe that impeachment proceeding should start now.

SANDERS: I believe the House should begin impeachment inquiries on Trump.


BURNETT: I mean it's striking as I've said. So I guess the question though, Aisha, is this if you're Elizabeth Warren should she continue with the same messages and allowing that word repeat to win over, to pick off more Sanders supporters or is it time to distance herself from his positions?

MILLS: Well, Erin, I want to back up for a minute and remind everybody that it was actually - back in 2015 Elizabeth Warren was always the darling of the progressive movement because so many of these ideas were her ideas that she really created and galvanized the energy on the ground around. And so Bernie Sanders ended up running for president in a way that he kind of had a platform that she had started that he kind of took and ran with it.

So it's not surprising that what we're saying now is that her momentum is coming from the fact that she is reclaiming the conversation ...

BURNETT: Interesting.

MILLS: ... and reclaiming her issues and her plans. And so I think that that is absolutely what we're seeing in terms of the differentiation I think what's going to happen at these debates is we're going to see that Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist and Elizabeth Warren is a pragmatic but progressive capitalist and that's where they're going to break down.

BURNETT: Interesting, socialist-capitalist, I think everyone heard what you said there and that is significant because that is going to become important certainly as you move beyond primaries which were far from doing, but at some point will happen. Now, they both support the Green New Deal and they both have appeared alongside Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We've seen it. There she is with Elizabeth Warren. We have seen her with Bernie Sanders.

The question for you, Aisha, is this, obviously AOC as she is known and calls herself gets a lot of attention. She's a lot of followers, millions of them. Is her endorsement important to Warren and Sanders or not though?

MILLS: Well, I would imagine that both of those campaigns sees her endorsement as being important, but I think that AOC is really smart. She's sharp enough to know the value of her endorsement and there's really no reason for her to make one any time soon frankly.

The other thing I would say is that the progressive movement is about this election, but it's bigger than that. It's really about ideas. And so whether it'd be AOC or Bernie or Elizabeth Warren, they're really pushing America in a conversation towards progressive values with regards to our policies, with regards to our culture and I think that that's where AOC plays and where the benefit for them of aligning themselves with her and vice versa is that this is about culture shift and moving the needle and that is bigger than 2020 that goes on.

BURNETT: All right. Aisha, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

MILLS: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the disturbing and heartbreaking image of what appears to be a father and a child found lying face down in the water near the U.S.-Mexican border. This is a major House vote comes up tonight to address the growing crisis along the Southern Border. Plus, how will Democrats distinguish themselves when they sound like this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abraham Lincoln is my political hero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly Abraham Lincoln.


BURNETT: Well, John Hickenlooper, 2020 contender will be out front.


[19:28:09] BURNETT: Tonight, obliteration. The president threatening overwhelming force against Iran just days after calling off an airstrike once he found out it could kill 150 people. Trump tweeting today, quote, any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.

The second part of that is both ominous and absurd. "In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration." Except for this isn't absurd, it's not a joke. This is threatening war and mass death or what was it, what was Trump's intended message to Rouhani?


TRUMP: There is no message. I'll tell you what the message is, when they're ready they'll have to let us know. When they're ready, they'll let us know very simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to negotiate you mean?

TRUMP: Ready to do whatever, it doesn't make any difference. Whatever they want to do, I'm ready.


BURNETT: Whatever they want to do, war, negotiate, whatever? Trump's comments coming after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out in very personal terms.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRAN PRESIDENT(through interpreter): They had become frustrated and confused. They did not know what to do. They have become mentally disabled. The White House is suffering from mental disability.


BURNETT: Ah, they, what is that like the royal we? Obviously, this is a childish slam at Trump. As the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today, when he heard about Rouhani's comments.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If your representation of what they said today is right, that's a bit immature and childlike.


BURNETT: More than a bit immature, definitely childlike, he's dead on. Then, why is Trump responding in kind with irresponsible threats of overwhelming obliteration. Boris Sanchez is out front. And Boris, the President today also said after overwhelming could mean obliteration that Iran should take that threat seriously. [19:30:02] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, it's

almost as if the president senses that he is not being taken seriously. It really would have been a surprise to see President Trump show restraint here. He often doesn't when attacked this way.

And where this attack is coming from is also important. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not been someone who's engaged in this kind of bellicose rhetoric before. He is seen as a moderate.

This is really a sign that Iranians are not afraid of Trump's bluster, maybe it's because they have seen it before. It's sort of part of Trump's foreign policy playbook. He makes these outlandish threats, he enacts harsh sanctions to ratchet up pressure. And then he sort of makes the promise of economic prosperity in exchange for favorable foreign policy outcome.

We have seen President Trump do this with North Korea. Remember he used to call Kim Jong-un little rocket man and talk about fire and fury. Now, he's exchanging kind letters with Kim Jong-un. We still don't have a denuclearization deal.

Further, we have seen this with the Middle East. If you look at the economic portion of the Middle East peace plan, he is promising $50 billion in investment in the Palestinian territories essentially in exchange for stability in the region. Still, unclear if that plan is going to work.

At this point, the Iranians have said they are not interested in negotiating with Trump. They don't want to renegotiate a deal with the Americans, in their words, have abandoned, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Boris.

And I want to go now to Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Oversight Committee.

Congressman, I appreciate your time.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): My pleasure.

BURNETT: So, the president is threatening overwhelming obliteration his words. After that he did that, he told reporters that he thinks Iran takes his threat seriously. Again, one of the threats that overwhelming can mean obliteration at sometimes.

Do you think they take these threats seriously?

CONNOLLY: Well, I think Iran is taking and has taken the measures of this president and at best they have seen him as erratic and at the end of the day, he pulls his punches.

So, for a president who can't even follow through on a measured retaliation for the shooting down of an American drone by the Iranians, why should they be afraid of massive obliteration? This sounds like typical Trump blunder and bluster. And you know, I also find it ironic that the secretary of state would

characterize the Iranian leader comments as childish and immature. If there is anyone who ought to be an expert in understanding child-like and immature, it is Secretary Pompeo.

BURNETT: Certainly, he recognizes it.

CONNOLLY: That's right.

BURNETT: I just he calls it out selectively.

Look, President Trump said today he does not need an exit strategy. I want to splay play this exchange with reporters if you know what he means. Here he is.


REPORTER: Do you have an exit strategy for Iran if war does break out?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're not going to need an exit strategy. I don't need exit strategies.


BURNETT: So what's he saying there? There won't be war or if he does he doesn't need an exit strategy? Or do you know what he means? Does he have a strategy?

CONNOLLY: Lord only knows what he means. But I will say this: Trump has been a consistent critic of George W. Bush's Iraq war as being a folly and one of the most failed examples of U.S. diplomacy in recent history because in part is it lacked exit strategy.

So, for him to say he doesn't need one is profoundly contradictory from his own criticism of the Iraq war.

BURNETT: Congressman, I want to ask you about a picture we have just coming in. I want to warn everybody about to see it it's incredibly disturbing because I'm explaining what you are see processing. The "Associated Press" just took this picture. I don't know when they took it they are release going.

Congressman, it's a Salvadoran father and his nearly 2-year-old daughter. And they, according to the "A.P.", are dead in this picture. Face down in the Rio Grande River after attempting to cross into the United States.

Look, this is a horrible picture. What can be done to stop this?

CONNOLLY: The crisis at the border is a humanitarian crisis. It's the failure of our government to show any empathy or any concern for the thousands of people who are fleeing violence, gang activity, and dire poverty. This picture in many ways is emblematic of the failure of the policy. Where is your humanity? Why aren't we taking care of children and the

parents who are fleeing with them in a humanitarian way as opposed to turn them away, refusing asylum, insisting that they stay in Mexico? And the risks continue. And we just see that in this picture.

That father risked all to come to another country where he thought he and his daughter would be safe and have a future.

[19:35:04] BURNETT: And I want to just be clear. We do understand that picture was taken Monday. So, it's just from yesterday, again, by "The Associated Press".

Now, I know tonight there is you know a vote set supposedly on a $4.5 billion package of aid that would go to help people along the border, migrants coming on the southern border but there's been a lot of infighting in the party. You guys are fighting over the amount.

Some people say they don't want to give money to the immigration agencies because they are under the boss of them ultimately is a Donald Trump. So don't give them money. You've had infighting in your party.

The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a meeting with the Progressive Caucus. One member described it as very tense with high decibel levels.

Are you concerned, Congressman, that the division in your party between progressives and moderate Democrats is threatening the Democratic Party right now?

CONNOLLY: No. Look, healthy debate is a sign a healthy party. We have lots of healthy debates and always have. I believe in this case that debate led to significant improvements over the supplemental we'll be voting on. There is a manager's amendment that addresses four specific areas that are designed to address the humanitarian crisis you and I were talking about a few seconds ago.

And I think you're going to see broad Democratic support for the supplemental tonight as a result of those changes.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure, Erin. Thank you.

And next, 2020 contender John Hickenlooper is OUTFRONT. How he is preparing to take on the biggest names of the debate race when takes the debate stage this week.

And President Trump tapping his wife's spokeswoman to be the next press secretary for the White House.


TRUMP: Stephanie has been with me from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: OK. So just who is Stephanie Grisham?


[19:40:34] BURNETT: Tonight, breaking out from the pack, 20 candidates will be on stage this week. And they've got to stand out or else. And if their recent interview was "The New York Times" are any indication, the candidates may have a bit of work to do.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Abraham Lincoln is my political hero.



JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In an ideal world, people would not own handgun.

HICKENLOOPER: In an ideal world, no one wants hand guns.


HICKENLOOPER: I would want to go to NATO, to Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your comfort food on the campaign trail?


HICKENLOOPER: M&Ms or mints.


BURNETT: I mean, it's pretty incredible, right? We talk about striking word echoes.

OK. OUTFRONT now, Democratic presidential candidate, former governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper.

Even on M&M's, you know, I guess a lot of people like M&M's. But in all seriousness, it's an important point for a big week and big night, right? And you're on stage with nine other people.

How are you going to stand out on Thursday night, Governor?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I'm going to try and really communicate who I am and just be myself. I think I'm the only person up there who, as a small business person, a mayor and governor, I've actually done what other people mostly are saying they'd like to do or talking about doing.

BURNETT: So you're going to be on stage with some of the candidates who have been consistency topping in the polls. So, on your night, Joe Biden will be there. Bernie Sanders will be there.

Are you concerned they could suck all the oxygen out of the room, in particular because if someone goes after them, then they could get the opportunity to reply, and then, all of a sudden, a lot of time goes to just a few people?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, that's the difficulty of being -- some media wag called me the dark horse from the Rockies. My wife sometimes has introduced me as in some of our fundraisers at Sea Biscuit. But she always says sometimes a long shot becomes a legend.

And I think, you know, we just have to keep our eye focused on what we are trying to achieve and talk about all the things that Colorado has done, all the big progressive achievements that people said couldn't be done. We seemed to be doing them in Colorado without massive expansions of government, without even a hint of socialism.

BURNETT: And that's -- that's an important point. Because you're saying you can be progressive but not socialist. Obviously the terms have been perhaps purposely conflated by some in this race thus far.

One of the most recent policy proposal getting a lot of attention Bernie Sanders this week, Governor, saying he is wiping out all 1.6 trillion in college debt for people who have paid off -- not paid off their debt. Here he is.


SANDERS: 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.


BURNETT: So do you support that $1.6 trillion which would I suppose not go to people who have paid off a portion or all of their student debt by putting all the time in but only people who did not pay off?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, certainly, I understand the reasoning behind it. I understand the emotions. My executive assistant had $75,000 in debt, and she had one kid, another kid on the way, and was 38 years old. It is a drag, and it's a burden to people are carrying throughout their lives.

I see that. And I think we got to figure out, A, why is college costing so much, but make sure we allow our kids to refinance their loans, crack down on the predatory lending. But I also ask, what about the 70 percent or almost 70 percent of the kids that don't get a four-year degree and we've cut back all of our vocational training on them? Why don't we have -- I'm pushing a massive expansion of apprenticeships and making sure we have community colleges so that to any kid who can't afraid it, they are-free so that everybody gets a fair chance to learn the skills and create their own version of the American dream. BURNETT: I hope that this conversation happens at least starts to

happen tomorrow night, because I think there is a lot more depth do it appear it can sound good to say something. It's not a bad thing to say it but in practice what does it mean and how is it executed? Some of these plans out there right now have a lot of work to be done.

[19:45:03] I want to play for you what the agricultural secretary said, now, the current one, Sonny Perdue. He was asked about climate change in an interview with CNN. Governor, here he is.


SONNY PERDUE, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: It's weather patterns frankly. And they change. As I said, it rained yesterday. It's a nice pretty day today.


BURNETT: What's your reaction to that?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, I spent my life trying to deal with facts. I've got a masters in geology. I'm the first professional geologist ever to be elected a governor.

And the facts are pretty hard to argue with. We are facing one of the greatest -- probably the greatest existential challenge of our lifetimes if not the last several hundred years. And to have our leaders say, well, I'm not so sure it's that big a deal. We don't have to hurry. Listen, we got to go fast now.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Governor Hickenlooper, I appreciate your time thank you.


BURNETT: Governor Hickenlooper will be on the stage Thursday night.

HICKENLOOPER: And next, Melania Trump announcing a new face in the West Wing. Who is President Trump's new press secretary, Stephanie Grisham?

And Jeanne Moos on Trump's tease that has critics going mad.


TRUMP: He is now president for life.

Maybe we'll have to give that shot someday.



[19:50:08] BURNETT: Tonight an announcement from the East Wing regarding a big job in the West. Melania Trump broke the news that her spokesperson Stephanie Grisham will be the White House press secretary and communications director, both.

So, who is Stephanie Grisham?

Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT.


TRUMP: Stephanie has been with me from the beginning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And she's been defending the Trump since then. Stephanie Grisham caught the attention of then-candidate Trump after she assisted at a rally in her home state of Arizona in 2015.

Soon after, she joined the campaign and took on the role of traveling press secretary saying of Trump.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's one of the kinder people I've ever worked for.

CARROLL: Grisham quickly rose to the ranks, and became deputy press secretary under Sean Spicer. She then move the to the East Wing in 2017 to work for the first lady. At the time, Grisham said she had reservations given the long hours and being a single mother.

GRISHAM: That kind of a schedule as a single parent, it wouldn't be fair to him. Over here, the hours aren't quite as long. The first lady is very, very supportive of me as a single mother, and, you know, I'll be able to work from home if I need to.

CARROLL: Just a few months into the job in the East Wing, Grisham made a anymore for herself as a fierce defender of the first lady, handling some of Melania Trump's controversial moments such as the backlash with this moment with the jacket saying, "I really don't care, do you?" on a trip to visit migrant children.

Grisham tweeting: If media would spend her time on actions and efforts to help kids rather than speculate and focus on her wardrobe, we could get so much accomplished on behalf of children.

Previously, the first lady's wardrobe raising eyebrows after his critics questioned the choice of wearing high heel shoes to a flood zone in Texas. Grisham at the time to respond, telling CNN: It's sad that we have an active and on going natural disaster in Texas and people are worried about her shoes.


CARROLL: Grisham taking media to task during the Stormy Daniels scandal over allegations Trump had an extramarital affair with a porn star which he denies. Grisham warning reporters to stay away from getting too personal, tweeting: While I know the media is enjoying speculation and salacious gossip, I'd like to remind people there is a minor child whose name should be kept out of the news stories when at all possible.

Grisham's fiery reputation caught the eye of "The Washington Post", which dubbed her the enforcer in the 2018 profile.

In her new role, Grisham will not only be White House press secretary and communications director but she will also remain in charge of communications for Melania Trump.

The first lady tweeting: POTUS and I can think of no better person to serve administration and our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the White House.

TRUMP: The first lady is very happy for her. It's a big job. It's a very big job. But we think Stephanie is going to do a fantastic job.


CARROLL: So, a new press secretary and now, there are new questions about whether or not we're going to start seeing regular press briefings. There hasn't been a regular press briefing in 104 days.

But aside from that, you heard the president today talking about Stephanie Grisham, she has this great relationship with the press. And I can tell you, after working alongside her in 2016, she does have -- did have this good working relationship with the media and press, but we're going to see how things move forward.

BURNETT: Right. And it's interesting, of course, we haven't seen her do a press conference.

CARROLL: We have not.

BURNETT: That is going to be trial by fire.

CARROLL: Trial by fire.

BURNETT: Thank you, Jason.

And next, Jeanne Moos on Trump's running joke to serve more than two terms. Not everyone is laughing.


[19:58:03] BURNETT: Tonight, Trump says he's just joking about serving more than two terms or is he?

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Critics who jab at President Trump love to portray him wearing a crown and he hasn't exactly discouraged such imagery with all those one-liners about extending his presidency beyond the two terms allowed by the Constitution.

TRUMP: Now, if we want to drive them crazy, I'll say in 10 years, they will go crazy. Should we go back to 16 years?

I was going to joke and going to say, at least for 10 or 14 years, but we would cause bedlam.

Unless they give me an extension for the presidency.

MOOS: His supporters eat it up. His detractors spit it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want Donald Trump to be king of the United States. They want him to be president for life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he loses, Trump, he won't.

MOOS: President Trump recently tweeted do you think the people would demand that I stay longer?

He's mentioned China's President Xi.

TRUMP: He's now president for life.

MOOS: As a role model wink, wink.

TRUMP: Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday.

MOOS: But now, he shot down a speculation. In an interview with "The Hill", they asked if he was joking, President Trump responded: Of course. But it drives them crazy.

For instance, the other day when he inserted himself into an old "Time Magazine" cover, as if he were running for president, as if he were running for ever.

Someone tweeted: You are the most successful troll of all time.

(on camera): Little wonder then that President Trump has his own troll doll. He earned it.

TRUMP: See, he is a despot.

MOOS: A despotic troll forever.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: He's got despotic tendencies.

MOOS: -- New York.


BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much for joining us.

"AC360" with Anderson starts now.