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Supreme Court Allows Political Gerrymandering; Candidates Prepare For Democratic Presidential Debate. Aired 4-4:30 p ET

Aired June 27, 2019 - 16:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Mayor Pete may have to break out not only his Spanish tonight, bus his French, his Italian, his Maltese, maybe even the Norwegian.

THE LEAD starts right now.

In the immortal words of Ernie Banks, let's play two. The man in pole position highlights night two of the first Democratic debates. And if night one is any indication, there could be a lot of left hooks being thrown.

On the world stage, President Trump at the G20, publicly griping about the post-World War II pact with Japan, railing against Germany, railing against India. You will never guess which world leader he did not attack, comrade.

Plus, critics are calling it a case of politicians choosing their voters -- a Supreme Court decision that could decide how votes are counted for generations to come.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the 2020 lead and the second round of Democratic presidential candidates about to get their chance on the debate stage. The luck of the draw means tonight you will see Biden and Bernie, the top two candidates in national and most state polling.

Joining them are a group of elected officials, most of them senators, and some of the, shall we say, wild card contenders.

The lineup in the order of how they will stand on stage in Miami is author Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Michael Bennet, and, last but not least, Congressman Eric Swalwell.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports now on what the candidates saw last night that may have some in the second round reconsidering their strategies. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders side by side tonight for round two of the first Democratic debates.

The two 2020 front-runners offering a stark choice for Democrats trying to win back the White House. On stage tonight, the party's generational and ideological divide on full display, with Biden and Sanders flanked by Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris, and joined by six other rivals searching for a breakout moment.

As Biden checked out the debate stage today, Sanders paid a visit to the Homestead shelter, where around 2,300 unaccompanied migrant children are being held just south of Miami. When asked about his debate strategy, he chose a boxing metaphor.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm thinking like Muhammad Ali. He noticed the weakness in his opponent.

ZELENY: It's a far different Democratic Party than the last time Biden stood on a debate stage as Barack Obama's vice president, but aides say he intends to take a forward-looking approach, with one adviser telling CNN: "There is no need to try and draw contrasts with Senator Sanders. The contrasts couldn't be more obvious or stark."

Yet that is Biden's challenge. It was Sanders' progressive proposals that were largely driving the opening ground of the Democratic debate last night.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, yes, I'm with Bernie on Medicare for all.

ZELENY: Elizabeth Warren raising her hand, along with Bill de Blasio, when asked if they would abolish private health insurance for a government-run plan.

WARREN: There are a lot of politicians who say, oh, it's just not possible, we just can't do it. It's -- have a lot of political reasons for this. What they're really telling you is, they just won't fight for it.

ZELENY: As Warren emerged unscathed from the first debate, Cory Booker snagged the most airtime, as he still tries to introduce himself.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I got out of law school, I moved into the inner city of Newark to fight as a tenant lawyer for other people's rights.

ZELENY: Julian Castro also stepping into the spotlight, challenging fellow Texan Beto O'Rourke on immigration, saying crossing the border should be a civil, not a criminal penalty.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some, like Congressman O'Rourke, have not. And I want to challenge all of the candidates to do that.

ZELENY: And it was Amy Klobuchar who offered a reality check on free college and other pricey proposals.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I don't make all the promises that everyone up here makes.


ZELENY: Now, those promises from progressives will be front and center once again tonight, particularly because many of them in fact are Bernie Sanders' own idea, Jake.

But Joe Biden is going to president an electability argument. He believes he is the strongest Democrat to beat Donald Trump. Now, we do know that both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were watching the debate last evening for style and to see how other candidates were jumping in.

They are expecting a lot of the other Democratic rivals to jump in. But one Joe Biden aide tells us, if other candidates want to make this about Joe Biden and his record, they're happy to do so, because every time he's mentioned, he gets rebuttal time -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny in Miami, thanks so much.

Let's chew over all this with our experts.

Jen Psaki, let me start with you.

What lessons do you think the candidates who are going to be debating tonight could learn from last night?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, watching last night, I was thinking it is an advantage to go the second night, especially since there hasn't been a debate yet this season.

And if I were a candidate or advising them on watching last night, I would say I learned two big things. One is you have to be specific in your answers. It's not going to fly to try to skirt an answer. It comes -- or a question. It comes across poorly.


Obviously, the moderators will go back at you. Beto O'Rourke is obviously a perfect example of what not to do in the debate tonight.

The other pieces that the moderators are going to go right at these candidates on their vulnerabilities. It's quite predictable. But if you're Mayor Pete's team, you should be very prepared to talk about the cop -- the shooting this week. If you're Biden's team, be very prepared to talk about segregationists.

They will -- buddying up with segregationists, I should say.

They, I'm sure, are practicing that, but the moderators find a way to go at each of them. The third thing I would say is that they need to find ways to jump in.

Tonight, I would say Trump is going to be much more present earlier because Biden will want to make him more present. The candidates need to be prepared for that and find -- figure out ways and be prepared to jump in with their best kind of Trump contrast that will help them draw themselves out.

TAPPER: And, Karen, it wasn't just Savannah Guthrie and other moderators who went after Beto O'Rourke for not answering the question.


TAPPER: It was a lot of the Democrats on the stage. Take a listen at our montage here.


BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans, with deep respect to the congressman.

Look, we have learned of painful lessons as Americans, that we have gone to war without congressional authorization.

BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think it's a mistake.



TAPPER: And he wasn't -- I mean, Elizabeth Warren is the poll leader on that stage, but they didn't go after her.

Do you think that that's going to happen to Biden tonight?

FINNEY: Possibly.

I mean, the men went after each other. We were talking about the gender dynamic, right? Nobody went after the women, which was interesting.

The thing with Beto, though, why he was so ripe for being attacked is, he was trying -- it was pabulum. He was trying to do pieces of his stump speech in his 60 seconds or his 30 seconds. And, as -- what Jen was just saying, that doesn't work. He had very little substance.

And so I think they may try to do it tonight, but I think it will be less effective because number one, what you heard de Blasio do, that's a classic tactic of interrupt. And then he raised his voice, right, so that the moderator shifted to him. And he was able to command that moment.

I don't think Biden's going to give up the time. And we may end up with a shouting match. I don't know. We will see. I think one of the things that will be really interesting to see, the

gender gap is going to be so obvious on the stage visually. I'm curious to see if it will sound like a gender gap, because every -- the thing about when Biden talks about segregationist or his old buddies, or when Bernie talks about the '60s, it just sounds like that's not the reality we're living in. That's not the future we're trying to build.

TAPPER: What are you looking for tonight, Mary Katharine?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I will be damned if I didn't sort of enjoy that.

TAPPER: You liked it?


HAM: Yes, surprising at this point.


HAM: I mean, just like the -- just a debate. It was fun to watch.

I think a couple things. I think Biden could learn from Tulsi Gabbard's LGBTQ answer, which I thought was powerful, was sensitive, was sensitive to both sides of the issue and accepted the fact that she -- look, I really did have this different view. This is the reason I had it. I have now stood next to LGBTQ warriors and would die for them.

And that's a pretty doggone great answer and something that Biden should look at, as he's having to repent for several past transgressions.

I think they should learn to talk more about the fact that they can beat Trump and this is why, because I enjoyed the debate partly because it was a lot about issues. But if you look at polling, Democrat voters actually want to just hear how you can beat Trump.

And I thought that, for that reason, Amy Klobuchar's closing was quite strong.

TAPPER: So, Patrick, let me ask you, because take a look at our count of notable names mentioned last night. Candidates only mentioned Trump 19 times in two hours.

That's not really a lot for a two-hour debate. McConnell's name came up four times. He was being asked about it by Chuck Todd. Joe Biden's name not mentioned at all.

What do you think of that? Should they be pressing the case more against President Trump?

PATRICK GRIFFIN, GOP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: but I think tonight they will look, Jake, this is this is Joe Biden's opportunity to press his case. His case is very simple. I can beat Donald Trump. The rest of this crowd has got to earn the right to get where I am right now, in a lane that is small in the progressive Democrats of today.

But, at the same time, he's making this electability case, which, frankly, has gone on far longer than I thought Joe Biden could sustain this, in spite of the gaffes.

I would tell you tonight, Joe Biden is going to mention Donald Trump a lot. I think there will be a lot of engagement of Trump, because the Biden people want to keep this not about this family skirmish. They want to make this about the bigger prize, which is beating Donald Trump.

FINNEY: But you know what? The road to going after Donald Trump runs through the Democratic primary.

So Biden too oftentimes on the trail is so focused on the general, he is not speaking to or doesn't seem to understand the Democratic Party where we are today. And this is all about you got to win the primary in order to get on that stage with Trump. And so this is his first opportunity, I think also to prove that he understands where the party is today.


TAPPER: Julian Castro had a breakout night last night. I think a lot of people agree, strong performance.

Made me actually wonder what would have happened if Hillary had picked him as a running mate, instead of Senator Kaine, as much as everybody here loves Senator Kaine.

But is there anyone you're looking forward to tonight that you think might have a breakout on that stage?

PSAKI: I think there are people who need to have a breakout, like Kirsten Gillibrand, I would say.

She's somebody who I have known her since she ran for Congress in 2006. She's somebody who is probably the strongest advocate on abortion rights and on many women's issues. That really hasn't broken through or broken out. She needs to have a moment, so she can get on the debate stage in September.

If she doesn't, I'm not sure what her path forward is, because I don't know how she's going to raise money and be relevant.

I think tonight also, while there's kind of a tiered-ness about the race at this point, it's so early, that even candidates who are in the higher tier, like a Mayor Pete or -- Bernie and Biden are sort of their own thing. But they also need to introduce themselves to the public.

So I'm less about breakout moments than how they are able to weave in their bios. Some candidates did quite well, like Elizabeth Warren last night did. I also think Cory Booker did it well. But this is really their introduction to the public.

So they need to acknowledge the moderator question, answer it, and then figure out a way to naturally weave in their bio. And that's what I will be looking.

TAPPER: It is early, but I will say, by, I think, July or August of 2015, Trump was first in the polls, and he just -- in the Republican -- within the Republican ranks, and it never went away after that.

So, yes, it's early, but the clock is ticking.

Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

Debate standout Julian Castro will join me live, and we will ask him if there's a feud brewing between himself and Beto O'Rourke.

Plus, the architect of the last successful Democratic presidential run joins me next. That's back in 2012. David Axelrod taking on what Joe Biden needs to do -- needs to do tonight and what he needs to avoid.

Stay with us.


[16:15:55] TAPPER: In our 2020 lead, we're just hours away from round two, with four of the five Democratic frontrunners, Biden, Sanders, Harris and Buttigieg facing off in tonight's debate. What do they and the other six on the stage need to do this evening?

Joining me now is one of the most qualified people in the country to answer that question, David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

David, always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.


TAPPER: What's the main thing you're looking for tonight?

AXELROD: Well, obviously, all eyes are going to be on Biden. He's the frontrunner and there is some expectation that Bernie Sanders will try and engage him. I think that's probably true, not so much to upset Biden -- Biden's support, but because it's a way to certify himself, Bernie as the champion of the left. So, I think he'll use Biden as kind of a foil for establishment, moderate, you know, Democrats.

But Biden himself has some imperatives. The greatest vulnerability he has, as far as I'm concerned are questions about age.


AXELROD: And so his first imperative is to stand on that stage for two hours and look actively engaged and in command. And I think that's very, very important. The second is to not sound like a guy who's living in a sepia-toned

reminiscent of the past, but a candidates who can lead the country into the future.

And the third is to take those attacks from Bernie Sanders, respond to them, but also deflect back to his fundamental argument, which is this is about Donald Trump. Donald Trump has to be replaced, and I'm the man who can do it.

And I think that will be central -- that's been central to his rhetoric from the beginning of his campaign. I think it's going to be central to his message tonight.

TAPPER: Before he joined the '08 Obama ticket as vice president, he participated in a series of debates, because he was running for president himself.


AXELROD: There were a couple standout moments like this one from July 2007.


JERED TOWNSEND, CLIO, MICHIGAN: On we want to know if our babies are safe. This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you what, if that's his baby, he needs help.


TAPPER: Now, popular with that audience of Democrats, but that's the vice president -- or soon to be vice president essential mocking a voter.

AXELROD: Yes. Look, there will be those moments. You get -- with Joe Biden, you get the whole package, you know? He's authentic. Sometimes that authenticity gets him into trouble.

But I will tell you this, Jake. I witnessed every one of those debates close at hand in 2007. And Joe Biden was, on the whole, a very disciplined debater. I think he's underrated in this regard.

He -- it was in fact the way he performed in those debates that prompted Senator Obama to say, I think we ought to consider him for vice president, because he understood that one of the obligations of the vice presidential nominee was going to be a national debate. Now, there were many other reasons why he chose Biden.

So, Biden -- you know, there is no substitute for experience and he does have an advantage on this stage. He knows what it likes to be on these stages. And most of the other candidates, say Bernie Sanders, have never been there. And so, I think that will redound to his benefit. TAPPER: You talked about how he's more disciplined than given credit for. Usually, here's an example of that from a 2007-2008 debate. Take a listen.


DEBATE MODERATOR: An editorial in "Los Angeles Times" said, in addition to his uncontrolled verbosity, Biden is a gaff machine. Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, Senator?




TAPPER: That's pretty good. And --

AXELROD: Yes, that was a great moment. I will say this. I suspect that that was a prepared moment, and, you know, that his team -- he's got a very experienced debate team, Ron Klain leading that team.

[16:20:06] I'm sure that they have spent a lot of time on this, and rehearsing the obvious questions that will come up, to try to produce moments like that. And if he delivers a few moments like that, he can help solidify his front-runner status here.

TAPPER: David Axelrod, thank you. Always great talking to you. Appreciate it.

AXELROD: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: A momentous day at the Supreme Court, leading President Trump to make an unprecedented legal request. But is that legal request legal?

Stay with us.


[16:25:16] TAPPER: A potentially monumental move in the politics lead today. President Trump says he's asked his lawyers to try to delay the 2020 census in the wake of a consequential Supreme Court decision earlier today. The justices blocked the Trump's administration's attempt to add a citizenship question on next year's survey. Democrats noted that strategist once wrote about the question possibly giving the Republicans an advantage.

Another important decision today kept the court's out-of-state disputes over redistricting.

As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports now, the two huge decisions came down to one man who could be the court's newest swing vote.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two Supreme Court decisions dropping on the last day of the term sure to impact who is representing you in Congress. The conservative justice led by Chief Justice John Roberts ruling that courts cannot decide when politicians have drawn congressional or state legislative district lines to gain political advantage. Partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties.

The decision will leave in place any challenge maps across the country. Opponents contend many districts have been drawn carefully, and often nonsensically in odd shapes to favor one party over another.

Right now, that means Republicans have the advantage. The GOP currently controls both the governorship and legislature in 22 states. Democrats control just 14. And when results from the 2020 census roll around, the party in power will pick how district lines are drawn.

STEVE VLADECK, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: What that means that all of these seats in both the U.S. House and state houses are going to be about the primary, where the candidate who is going to win will be the one who can run furthest to the base of the party and less about the general elections and about trying to actually be a moderate and trying to compromise.

SCHNEIDER: Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent for the liberals, remarking: With deep sadness that the practices challenge in these cases imperil our system of our government. None is more important than free and fair elections.

While the chief justice sided with conservatives on partisan gerrymandering, he lined up partly with the liberals when it came to the 2020 census, a question asking people citizenship will not be added to the 2020 census for now, sending the indicates back to New York federal court to try to determine the administration's true intent. The ruling is a setback for the Trump administration with printing set to begin in just days.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted publicly a citizenship question would help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act.

But challengers claimed that the now deceased redistricting expert study showing counting only citizens would advantage Republicans may have been a driving force for adding the question.

LETITIA JAMES (D), NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Despite the Trump administration's attempt to politicize the census and divide our nation, we the people prevailed.


SCHNEIDER: But there's still an uphill battle for groups challenging the citizenship question. The Supreme Court did say the Commerce Department has the authority to add this question. It just has to better explain the rationale, but this is an inquiry that will be playing out in the lower court for days, if not weeks, Jake, making it unclear when and ultimately if this politically charged citizenship question will actually be printed on the 2020 census -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider at the Supreme Court for us, thank you so much.

I want to bring in Kim Wehle. She's a former federal prosecutor. She worked with independent counsel Ken Starr in the Whitewater investigation and she also is out with a brand-new book called "How to Read the Constitution and Why."

And I should disclose that I like the book so much, I blurbed it at the bottom there. So, I don't want anybody accusing of any malfeasance. It's a great book. Congratulations on that.


TAPPER: So President Trump tweeted as a response to the census ruling, I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter.

Can he do that?

WEHLE: Well, this all comes down to the statute. Congress gave the secretary of commerce the ability to implement the census. April 1st is the date on which the census has to occur under the statute, so I don't know how he can change an act of Congress. This is another sort of standup between presidential power, congressional power.

The majority in this court basically said, Congress calls the shots here. If the agency is going to make rules under the census, they have to have good reasons for it. That's pursuant to a statute.

That's a slow process to go back and fix that. It doesn't happen overnight under the Administrative Procedure Act, which is what the court ruled under in this particular case.

TAPPER: So, in that part of the decision, Robert sided with the liberals. In the other decision about redistricting, Robert sided with the conservatives about redistricting, basically saying that the sky is the limit. States can do what they want.

State politics has often dictated congressional districts. Take a look at this district three in Maryland. "The Washington Post" called that one America's most gerrymandered district.

How do you see this going forward? I mean, Is this going to mean we have the most divided state governments in terms of the legislatures going forward?